Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Reading Through First Timothy #1, (Chapters 1-3)

cornerstone tim to hebI am reading a new commentary series as I begin my devotional study of the next few New Testament letters. I am reading  Paul’s first letter to Timothy accompanied by The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. The 1 Timothy commentary is written by Linda Belleville. 1 Timothy, the first of Paul’s pastoral epistles is written to Timothy, who Paul left in Ephesus to pastor the difficult church there.  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.

1 Timothy is written by Paul to Timothy (and the church in Ephesus) to deal with a crisis brought on by false teachers who denied the inclusiveness of the gospel of grace and tried to add other mystical, ritualistic or legalistic requirements to participation and leadership in the church. This had set the church at odds and made the worship services a place of conflict. Paul commands and authorizes Timothy to deal with the situation, remove the unrepentant false teachers and reestablish servant leadership and public worship that focused on and glorified God. Timothy will do this effectively, by being an example of godliness, and by teaching and gently, but firmly, leading others to the truth.

Timothy’s task at Ephesus was to command certain persons not to teach false doctrines any longer. Things apparently had not been going well, for Paul begins by urging Timothy to stay put in Ephesus and deal decisively with the false teachers (1 Tim 1:3–6). That this was Paul’s primary reason for writing is clear from the fact that he bypassed the normal letter-writing convention of a thanksgiving section and instead got right down to business. It is also evident from how often the topic of false teaching surfaces in the letter. It consumes roughly 35 percent of Paul’s direct attention and colors much of the rest. 1 Timothy Intro, 9

Paul launches into the false teachers after a brief greeting. He tells Timothy to take a strong public stand against the false teaching that would add to the gospel to the point of removing them from the church if they will not repent. A false gospel inevitably leads to a bad lifestyle, disunity in the church and a poor witness to the community. 

There is no pitting of law against gospel here. The notion of moral standards for the Christian life is wholly consonant with the gospel...Paul defines the law’s legitimate use as that of a social restraint “for the lawless.” Its function is not that of a source for idle speculation or mythmaking, as the Ephesian teachers were making it out to be. Its ethical norms are wholly appropriate as boundary markers for the society of any day or age. 1 Timothy 1.1-11, 35

Christ picked the worst so that he might display his best (“great patience”), thereby encouraging belief in him and the receipt of eternal life. Paul, as a result, became the prototype or “prime example” for all future believers. He was not merely an example but a determinative forerunner. The pattern is an important one; for the outcome is no less than “eternal life” (v. 16). 1 Timothy 1.12-17, 38

The implication is that moral collapse invariably leads to a crisis of faith. Sound ethics and sound theology go hand in hand. When one falters, the other is not far behind. 1 Timothy 1.18-20, 40

In chapter 2 Paul provides some instruction for the administration of the public worship service. It seems that there was open conflict between men and women, and between combatting doctrines, during the worship time. Paul urges the public prayer to be a seeking of God for the church and for the outside community rather than an assertion of rights. Men's prayers should be holy and peaceful, while he urges the women to dress and behave with modesty and to avoid offense. Women are given freedom to learn but not to be domineering teachers (as the priestesses in the Ephesian Artemis cult were), but, as with all teachers, to teach as properly instructed in apostolic doctrine and with humility. 

The target audience for mediation is all-embracing: “He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” But the route to freedom is wholly exclusive. Salvation comes solely through this mediator and none other. 1 Timothy 2.1-7, 47

Proper demeanor of a worship leader is a theological concern. It is always wrong for a worship leader to flaunt wealth (even pretend wealth). It is also theologically improper to behave in a way that distracts from worshiping God. The better “look” in Paul’s opinion is doing good—especially deeds of charity. 1 Timothy 2.8-10, 54

In the Greek, we see a “neither—nor” construction: “neither teach nor domineer” ...This means that women here are not prohibited from roles that involve teaching men. The issue is rather the manner in which they teach—that is, they should not teach in a dictatorial or domineering way. 1 Timothy 2.11-15, 55

Then in chapter 3, Paul gives instruction for training and appointing new leaders. Overseers (pastors, elders) must have integrity and a good reputation in their family life, character and self-controlled lifestyles. Their lives and possessions must be given over to serving Christ. They also should able and trained to teach. Male and female deacons, likewise, should be servants of good character with good reputations in the community. They must lead the church family by examples loving service. This is important because this is how the church will fulfill its mission to be God’s family where Jesus is lived out and the truth is defended and upheld in lifestyle and word. 

The specific duties of an overseer are not spelled out. Instead, Paul targets qualifications. They are not qualifications, however, of which today’s society would immediately think. There is no mention of education or degrees, no talk of job experience, and no request for formal references. Instead, the key issues are character, family, and lifestyle. 1 Timothy 3.1-7, 66–67

By “do well” Paul was not talking about skill competency but what we today call customer-service excellence. For those who excel in serving, there are two job perks. The first job perk is increased respect in the eyes of the community of believers and greater esteem from those they serve. The second job perk is increased confidence...Christ Jesus is the object of all faith and the raison d’etre of all Christian service. 1 Timothy 3.8-13, 76

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets” (Eph 2:20)—that “base” of firm support on which the “pillar” is thrust upward to steady the truth against the storms of heterodoxy and pagan idolatry. The job of every local congregation is to be that unshakable monument for the “truth”—to “Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, till all the world adore His sacred Name." 1 Timothy 3.14-16, 79

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Structure and Message of First Thessalonians

1 thess. color chart

Message of 1 Thessalonians

God will produce holiness in you as stand faithfully on his promises, allow him to love through you and focus on the sure hope of his return, that assures us that we will be with Him and each other forever.

Brief Outline of 1 Thessalonians

  • Past: God’s work in the lives of His faithful people is evidenced by holy changed lives. 1:1-3:13

    • The changed lives of the Thessalonians are evidence of the holiness that God produces through faith 1:1-10

    • The ministry of Paul‘s missionary team is a good example of holy living and holy ministry. 2:1-12

    • Faithful Response to God‘s Word Produces Holy Living and effects the world. 2:13-20

    • Holiness matures as believers minister together, endure hardship together and pray together 3:1-13

  • Present: salvation produces a growing holiness (likeness to the character of Jesus) 4:1-12

    • Our lifestyles should reflect a growing desire to please God by being what He made us to be. 1-2

    • Salvation should produce growing holiness, growing love and growing contentment 3-12

  • Future: The future hope of salvation produces holiness and endurance now. 4:13-5:28

    • The hope of the return of Jesus should comfort us and encourage us to love and serve Christ. 4:13-18

    • The Day of the Lord should warn believers to be vigilant, self-controlled and prepared for eternity. 5:1-11

    • The hope of Christ’s coming should encourage alertness and present living focused on eternity. 5:12-28

Structure and Message of Lamentations

Lamentations Structure

Message of Lamentations

The ultimate end of sin and unfaithfulness to covenant is total and complete destruction, but there is hope for the repentant remnant because of the character of God who keeps His promises with His people.

Theology of Lamentations

  • The Ultimate Consequence of Sin is Total Destruction.
  • The Experience of Covenant Blessing, and favor and the responsibility that goes with that, make one more liable for judgment, not less
  • Judgment brings affliction to the faithful minority, but there is always hope because of God's character and covenant.
  • Sin can remove one from being under God’s protection and thus bring destruction and chaos.
  • The discipline of God is painful and has effects even beyond the unfaithful generation.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Reading Through Second Thessalonians

This is the second post in my devotional study of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians accompanied by Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians, Study Guide Commentary Series, by Robert James Utley. Basically, 2 Thessalonians continues the message of the first letter and deals with the same problems. Paul focuses on the 2nd coming of Jesus as motivation for how believers are to live in the present. All the trials, opposition and difficulties will be worth it because God will use them to produce Christ-likeness in us and will set things right when Jesus returns to set up his eternal kingdom.  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 1 Paul assures the Thessalonians that God's character and kingdom plan assures their growth and eternal well-being despite their present trials and persecution. God’s plan is just and right and He will bring relief to His suffering people and judgment to those who cause the suffering. At the 2nd Coming, Jesus will be glorified in His people and believers will marvel in His presence. In the meantime, Paul prays that Jesus will be glorified in the present as he makes empowers believers to fulfill His calling in their daily actions.

Our standing before God is a gift (INDICATIVE), but also a mandate (IMPERATIVE). One way to express this truth may be with an athletic metaphor. Believers have won the race by their faith relationship with Christ. Now they must run the race for Him in faithfulness. Gratitude, not required performance, drives the Christian to godliness. II Thessalonians 1.1-5, 126

Fallen mankind will flee the glorious presence of the Holy One of Israel. The tragedy of creation is that mankind’s greatness need is fellowship with God, but because of sin and rebellion, we fear Him and flee Him who created us like Himself for glorious fellowship. II Thessalonians 1.6-13, 127

In chapter 2 Paul corrects a misunderstanding that the Thessalonians were already in the "Day of the LORD" end-time events. The Day of the LORD will not come until after the deception and revelation of the man of sin, and any communication claiming otherwise is not from Paul. He remined them to remember that he had taught them that the "man of sin" was presently restrained by God though evil is still active in the present age, he would be let loose and revealed with evil supernatural events that would deceive many, and then Christ would come to judge and set up His kingdom. He closes the chapter with application to the present: Believers were chosen by God, based on His love, from the beginning, to salvation, holiness and glory, so they need to hang on to the truth now and trust that God will empower them to glorify Jesus Christ in their attitudes, words and actions.
Others of us see these eschatological events as referring to both past first-century events and future events. The OT prophets often took the events of their day and projected them into a future “Day of the Lord” setting. In this way the NT has a message to its own day and every succeeding period of history. We must take seriously the historical setting of the original author, but also the surprising 2000 year delay of the Second Coming. II Thessalonians 2.1-5, 132

This spiritual rebellion has been occurring since the Fall. The rebellion will one day be personified. Currently God is restraining this influence. The Scriptures project an end-time confrontation between personal evil and God’s Messiah (cf. Psalm 2). II Thessalonians 2.6-12, 134

The believers’ comfort and hope are based on the grace of God seen and enacted through Christ. Notice the pastoral context of encouragement just like 1 Thess. 4:18. Paul’s insights about the Second Coming were not given to fill out our charts and theories, but to energize our daily Christlikeness. II Thessalonians 2.13-17, 138.

He closes the letter with further application of future truth to the present. First, believers should pray that the gospel with spread throughout the world and that its messengers would be protected. Secondly, they must hold each other accountable to work hard to serve others without demanding one's own rights. When this happens God will provide His peace to His people and the world will notice and be drawn to God.

Evil is always present, but so too, the faithful Lord! He will rescue and preserve His followers from evil men and He will strengthen and protect them from the evil one. II Thessalonians 3.1-5, 143

Believers are not to draw undue attention to themselves by strange, unusual behavior, but by living appropriate quiet, gentle, patient, moral, loving, caring, working lives (the opposite of 3:11). So often in our day believers make the “headlines” because of their strange beliefs or actions! As Paul was an example to working and witnessing, so too, should modern believers. If the message causes conflict, so be it, but not the messengers! II Thessalonians 3.6-18, 145

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Book of Ruth: Structure and Message

Ruth Structure Chart

Message of the Book of Ruth

Because God is faithful under the covenant to love, guide and care for His people, God's people are responsible to respond to Him with covenant loyalty (obedience) and to take the opportunities He puts in their way to participate in His kingdom by graciously serving others.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

We’re Moved In


13081305We are all moved in now to the apartment on the bottom floor of my parents’ house. We started moving our stuff on Saturday and Joyce moved in the last of our stuff last  night. The team from Gold Country Baptist (left) moved our heavy furniture in on Monday night. We appreciated that very much. We slept there for the first time Monday night after moving over several van loads of the smaller stuff. I was exhausted and I did less than a tenth of what Joyce did. We both slept well last night. Then Monday night we had our first guests (right). Joyce’s mom and dad are moving into a retirement home in the area and spent the night with us last night while waiting for their furniture. Thank you to everyone who helped us move. We appreciate it very much. If you are in our area in the next few months please come by and visit us. We anticipate being here 5-6 months and then God only knows were we will end up. <smiling>!

Reading Through First Thessalonians #2 (3.14-5.28)

This post continues my devotional study of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians accompanied by Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians, Study Guide Commentary Series, by Robert James Utley. This commentary is more like a handbook for lay readers that helps with grammatical, background and other issues with some brief commentary. 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 4.1-12 Paul urges the Thessalonians to continue what they have started by taking the resources God has given them and become more Christlike and live this out in loving relationships within the church and to those outside. Christ’s character grows in our life as the Spirit teaches us to control our bodies, as we allow him to love others through us and as we become content by making his ambition for us our own.

Christianity was originally called “The Way” (cf. Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22; 18:25–26). This speaks of an abiding lifestyle faith. Our initial response in repentance and faith must be followed by continuing obedience and perseverance. I Thessalonians 4.1-7, 104

Love is the signature of God. We never love enough...Believers are to use their resources for the needs of the Christian family. I Thessalonians 4.8-12, 107-8

In 4.13-5.11 Paul responds to the Thessalonians questions about the 2nd coming of Jesus and how to be ready for it. The Thessalonians were concerned about what would happen to people that had died before Christ returned. Paul's response was that they would be the first to join Christ in the air and then, with living believers, would receive resurrection bodies and rule with Him forever. The 2nd coming will catch unbelievers unaware, but believers should be vigilant and ready for it. We prepare for the 2nd coming, and are eternally minded, by being faithful to live out our salvation day to day.

The Thessalonian believers did not understand Paul’s preaching about the Second Coming. They wanted to know if those of their church who had already died would participate in the end-time events. This is Paul’s positive response. Not only will they participate, they will receive their new bodies first and will accompany Jesus on the clouds of heaven. I Thessalonians 4.13-18, 109

Believers are going to meet the Lord in the air, because in the NT the air was seen as the realm of Satan (cf. Eph. 2:2) and Greeks thought the lower air (atmosphere) was unclean and, therefore, the domain of unclean spirits. Believers will be reunited with their Lord in the midst of Satan’s kingdom to show its complete overthrow. I Thessalonians 4.13-18, 110

Salvation is not a product, but a relationship. It is not finished when one trusts Christ; it has only begun! It is not a fire insurance policy, nor a ticket to heaven but a life of growing Christlikeness. I Thessalonians 5.1-11, 116

Paul closes the letter by applying the truth that Christ is returning to present, daily life. The hope of Christ’s coming should encourage alertness and present living focused on eternity. This is seen as church relationships are characterized by faithfulness in ministry to one another, attitudes of joy, prayer and thankfulness, discernment that clings to what is of God and avoids what is not, and uses the sufficient resources God provides for holiness.

Leadership is a gift from God (cf. Eph. 4:11–13). When He assigns the task, he honors the task, not necessarily the person who receives it...NT Christianity does not make a distinction between “clergy” and “laity.” We are all God-called, Spirit—gifted ministers of Jesus. Within this family of gifted ministers God does choose leaders! I Thessalonians 5.12-18, 118

Clearly NT prophets are not synonymous with OT prophets. The NT gift usually relates to practical application issues, not new revelatory information. However, there is a predictive element in Acts 11:27–30 and 21:10–11. In I and II Corinthians prophecy and prophesy (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1; 14:1, 39) mean proclaim the gospel. Exactly how this proclamation differed between: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers is uncertain. I Thessalonians 5.19-28, 119–120

Monday, July 09, 2018

Reading Through First Thessalonians #1 (1.1-3.13)

This post continues my 1 year read through of the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries. This post comments on a quick read through of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians accompanied by Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians, Study Guide Commentary Series, by Robert James Utley. This commentary is more like a handbook for lay readers that helps with grammatical, background and other issues with some brief commentary. 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.

1 Thessalonians is a very emotional letter written by Paul to a church that he planted during his 2nd missionary journey. Because of persecution, he had to leave Thessalonica and was unable to disciple the congregation as long as he wanted to. He sends Timothy back to check on the progress of the church and minister to them. The letter is occasioned by Timothy's report on returning to Paul. He brings back a glowing report on the progress of the church, but also reports that the church is still under tremendous persecution and has some confusion about the return of Jesus. Paul encourages the church by praising them and giving thanks to God for their faithfulness. He prays for their ability to withstand persecution and to continue growing in Christ-likeness. He also answers their questions about the return of Christ. The letter encourages the Thessalonians that God will produce holiness in you as stand faithfully on his promises, allow him to love through you and focus on the sure hope of his return to take us to be with Him forever.

The Thessalonian Letters have a threefold purpose: to share Paul’s joy and thanksgiving to God for the faithfulness and Christlikeness of the Thessalonians, even amidst persecution; to answer the criticism of his motives and character which had been brought against him; to discuss the return of the Lord. I Thessalonians Intro, 75

The letter opens with Paul's relieved praise for the progress of the Thessalonian church. He is thankful that the church is acting by faith in the gospel truths which he taught, is working hard to love another and reach out to their community and maintaining their hope with joyful living in Christ despite persecution. Their response shows that the Holy Spirit is acting within their community and that they will be ready for 2nd coming.

The theological concept of “covenant” unites the sovereignty of God (who always takes the initiative and sets the agenda) with a mandatory initial and continuing repentant, faith response from man. Be careful of proof-texting one side of the paradox and depreciating the other! Be careful of asserting only your favorite doctrine or system of theology! I Thessalonians 1.1-4, 80

Salvation is both a message and a person. We receive the gospel message and befriend Jesus. We must trust completely in both. This results in a new life of faithfulness and holiness. I Thessalonians 1.4-10,  81

Paul begins chapter 2 by using his missionary team as an example of how ministry is to be done and the image of Christ is to be lived out. They faithfully and boldly announced the truth of the gospel despite persecution. Their motives for ministry were right. They did not minister for self-glorification, money, or honor. They lovingly met the needs of the Thessalonians like a "nursing mother." No one in this world works harder, gives more with less wages, and has a closer relational connection than the mother of an infant! Paul's ministry was done with integrity and self-sacrificing love. Paul then calls the Thessalonians to faithfully respond to God’s Word in the power of the Spirit and let it produce His character in them. That is how it will affects everyone around them.

The believer’s confidence in Christ’s work on his behalf gives him courage to speak the truth of the gospel. The preaching of the gospel always caused problems. Paul prays for opportunities and boldness, not for tranquility. I Thessalonians 2.1-2, 86

Ministry is not something we do—it is who we are.  I Thessalonians 2.3-10, 88

The gospel focuses around three emphases: (1) personal relationship, (2) doctrinal truth, and (3) lifestyle Christlikeness. The believer must respond to all three for maturity. I Thessalonians 2.11-20, 90–91

He ends the opening section of the letter by responding to Timothy's good news by calling the Thessalonians to become even more mature in Christ. Believers grow in Christ as they minister together, endure hardship together and pray together. They must minister together to one another with self-sacrificing commitment by teaching one another the truths of the faith, encouraging one another to do what is right even in trials, and by holding one another accountable to apply the Word to life. The must live together in the presence of Jesus, basing their lives on His Word and seeking His presence together in prayer. They will then experience God's peace despite difficulty and be able to be a burden bearer rather than a burden to others.

The Bible presents our salvation in a tension-filled pair of truths: (1) it is free, it is in Christ, but (2) it is costly, it is progressive, it is seen in our lifestyle choices. Both are true. This verse emphasizes the first truth. I Thessalonians 3.1-10, 100

Paul prayed for himself in v. 11 but now his petition turns toward the church at Thessalonica. He prayed for their love for one another and all people (cf. Eph. 6:18). He also prayed for the believers’ holiness (cf. v. 13; Eph. 1:4). God’s will for every believer is Christlikeness...God’s love is as wide as the world, so too, must be ours who know Him. I Thessalonians 3.11-13, 101

Saturday, July 07, 2018

We Are Moving Again

20170925_103209 (1024x768)Joyce and I are moving again. We have enjoyed living the past 10 months in the parsonage at Gold Country Baptist Church. It has been a tremendous blessing to us to have a place where I could quietly recover from the stem cell transplant last November and yet still be close to friends, family and help when we needed it. We have been able to stay in the house longer than we expected, but the church has recently hired a new associate pastor who will arrive before the end of July. We are extremely thankful and appreciative for how Gold Country Baptist has provided for our needs.

20170402_165201_002 (1024x768)So we will be moving back to my parents’ place this weekend for probably the next few months. We have an application in at an apartment complex but there is at least a 4-5 month waiting period before we can get in. Our mailing address, phone numbers will all stay the same. Life is always interesting, and, after 15 years of living in the same place, moving around is teaching us again about being flexible and trusting God for our future. Our real life is bound up in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and we are working on applying Paul’s ideal (even though we do have far more) of being content with “food and covering.”

Structure and Message of the Song of Songs

Song of Songs Structure Chart

Song of Songs is most likely a collection of love songs that have been cleverly edited together to form a story that provides wisdom about love and marriage.

Song of Songs xhiastic structure Exum

Song of Songs Xiastic Structure Webster

Here are a couple different ways that Old Testament scholars see the structure of the book

Message of the Song of Songs

Marital love must be monogamous, exclusive, committed and faithful. Love’s power may be celebrated and enjoyed exuberantly within an exclusive married relationship, but it is dangerous when misused.

  • Marriage requires exclusive commitment from both partners and reciprocal methods which result in mutual satisfaction
  • In this sinful world marriage can be dangerous and painful, but one must continue to love despite the dangers
  • Marriage can overcome the curse, or it can magnify the curse
  • Ideally, marriage should reflect the love of God within the Trinity and His love for His people. It does seem that in this world that ideal is never fully reached
  • How much more should we love Christ who loves us with a holy passion, and perfect love

Friday, July 06, 2018

Structure and Message of Colossians

Colossians Color Chart

Message of Colossians

 Faith in Christ, without added human rules or ideas, is enough to move us on to spiritual maturity, which is seen in godly attitudes and actions lived out in daily relationships.

  • The way to maturity as a Christian is deepening relationship with Jesus. This comes through faith, not human rules or ideas.  “Jesus is ALL you need!” 1:1-2:23
    • Relationship with Jesus, through the Gospel, is the only way to Christian maturity.  1:1-2:5

      • Faith in Christ is sufficient to grow the godly attitudes and actions of a successful Christian. 1:1-14
      • Jesus is able to make you into what God wants you to be because He is God. 1:15-20
      • Jesus has provided more than enough to make you what He wants you to be and to prepare you for eternal service to God.  1:21-2:5
    • Maturity comes through continuing faith in the Gospel, not human rules or ideas. 2:6-23
      • Grow in Christ the same way you began in Christ, trust in His promises. 2:6-7
      • Adding to the Gospel does not improve it. Instead, it dilutes it and makes it ineffective. 2:8-2
  • Live maturely in relationships as you live out who you actually are in Jesus Christ. 3:1-4:18
    • The key is to understand who you are in Christ and live it out in the power of the Spirit. 3:1-16
    • The evidence of Christian maturity is Christ-likeness lived out in our closest relationships 3:18-4:18

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Reading Through Colossians #2 (3.5-4.18)

witheringtonThis post concludes a quick read through of Paul’s letter to the Colossians accompanied by The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles, by Ben Witherington III. Colossians’ point is that faith in Christ produces all the Christian needs for a lifestyle that honors God and accomplishes His  purposes for his people. 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.

Life by grace and faith does not mean that believers live without restraint. Because they are new persons they cannot live in their old ways. They must live their lives with the attitude and wisdom of Jesus. Thus, they must "put off," like old clothes, the selfish, unrestrained actions they did before they knew Christ and "put on," the new clothes of Christlike, unselfish, service according to the example and teachings of Jesus and his apostles. This should especially be seen in relationships within the Christian households. Christians, especially those in power, should rethink all their relationships so that they serve Christ and one another. The world should be able to look at a Christian's closest social relationships and see the evidence of Christ's love, submission to one another's needs and high regard for everyone, regardless of social station, as the image of God and equal before Him. 

According to v. 17 the Christian life is also to be characterized by being and showing oneself thankful for all God has done, and by doing and saying all that one does and says in the name and according to the nature of Christ. Colossians 3.5-17, 181

In Christ, whoever one is, one is a new person, because Christ is all and is in all these different kinds of people...Paul does not mean that these distinctions and differences cease to exist when one becomes a Christian. Greeks are still Greeks and Jews are still Jews, of course...What matters is that all are equally new persons in Christ and equally in the process of being renewed. There is then a spiritual basis for real equality in Christ. The basis of any kind of ordering in the church is according to what one is called and gifted to do, a rather bold break from the way things tended to be determined in the pagan world, and also to a larger degree in the Jewish world. Colossians 3.5-17, 179

Paul is, rather, trying to ameliorate the harm the existing structure does and can do. Chrysostom grasped the spirit of what Paul was trying to accomplish in these exhortations to husband and wife: “Observe again that Paul has exhorted husbands and wives to reciprocity.… From being loved, the wife too becomes loving; and from her being submissive, the husband learns to yield” (tenth homily on Colossians). Colossians 3.18-21, 191–192

The head of the household as a Christian must alter his conduct in his relationships with his wife, children, and slaves so that the Lord will be pleased. It is this curtailing and Christianizing of the head of the household’s rights, privileges, and roles that especially stands out in these exhortations as Paul, attempts to transform the character of Christian household relationships by ameliorating the harsh edges of the existing institutions of slavery and patriarchy. 3.18-4.1, 196

Paul closes his letter with one final exhortation and closing greetings from his fellow workers. Ultimately, Paul is all about the gospel so he asks the Colossians to live and talk in a way that draws people to Christ. He urges the letter to copied and read in Laeodicea as well. 

Christians are to “walk wisely” toward non-Christians (this echoes 1:9–10; 2:6–7). This means they are to act in a way that is cognizant of who is watching and of the impact their behavior may have for the gospel. Colossians 4.2-6, 199

What we do have a hint of here is how the process of collecting and later canonizing Paul’s letters transpired. Letters were exchanged or copied and exchanged, and precisely because they were seen as of ongoing value they were kept and reused. Colossians 4.7-18, 206

The bottom line in Colossians is that faith in Christ, without added human rules or ideas, is enough to move us on to spiritual maturity, which is seen in godly attitudes and actions lived out in daily relationships. As we focus on Christ and trust him he enables us to "put on" the behavior and attitudes of Christ. As the Spirit works within the church, His people work together to produce Christlikeness within the church and enables the church to do the mission of discipling the nations. 

Paul in Colossians is dealing with a specific sort of spiritual problem—aberrant forms of worship engaged in by Christians. Christians were striving through ascetic acts to enter the heavenly worship with the angels, perhaps to enter into a visionary or ecstatic state. Here we have the use of ascetic acts in hopes that they will trigger some specific “spiritual experience.” Yet in fact genuine spiritual experiences cannot be triggered by some human “technique.” They are caused by the Holy Spirit, who blows in whatever direction the Spirit chooses. If the Spirit is not moving, the experience either is not happening or is contrived and not genuine. 209

There needs to be a community of saved sinners that is forming into an accountable body of Christ, helping each other to grow in grace. Instead of pointing fingers, we need to hold outstretched hands and help each other follow all the proper moral paths for the Lord’s name’s sake. Tolerance of sin is no more a virtue than hypocritical condemnation of selective sins. We are all called to accountability, and will have to render account to Christ one day as well. 211

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Book of Job–Structure and Message

Job Structure

Themes in Job

  • God is in Control – He operates the universe in sovereign grace not by Divine retribution
    • Point: We cannot fully understand the questions of life but we can trust our sovereign, gracious God to do what is right and best for us.
  • God and Wisdom are incomprehensible
    • Wisdom is very difficult to get, it comes from revelation of God
    • God never answers Job's questions; He just reveals Himself to Job.

Message of Job

God's relationship to man is based totally on grace, not retribution and reward!!!

False religion:

Relationship with God is earned; legalistic, ritualistic

Biblical religion

God is above and beyond our comprehension

Relationship with God and every blessing from God is a gift of grace.

  • The book of Job explores God's basis for His dealings with man. GRACE!!!
    • Everyone in the book assumes that God deals with man based only on retribution.
    • Satan assumes that Job is faithful only because God blesses him (he never understood grace)
    • The three friends assumed that Job was a sinner because Job was suffering.
    • Job assumes God is unjust because he is righteous, yet is suffering.
    • Elihu concludes that Job must be ignorant of his sin, since he suffers
  • Job reveals that God deals with man according to His own free sovereign gracious choice.
    • 2 reasons for blessings are sovereign choice (Eph. 1:3-14) and our obedience (Gal 6:7). We tend to emphasize what we can control and thus over-emphasize the second reason.
    • This leads to theologies which conclude that we can control God. (Word-Faith, legalism, modernism)
    • God’s speeches reveal that man cannot even comprehend God, or what He does, much less control Him.
  • The ultimate basis for God's dealings with man is His absolutely free, sovereign grace.
    • Job is doubly blessed despite his mistrust, doubt and challenge to God.
    • Job's friends are forgiven (through Job’s intercession)
    • All the characters in the book experience unmerited favor and undeserved forgiveness. (Except the satan and Job’s wife who disappear in the epilogue.)
  • God does not always bring justice in this life
    • All people, good or evil, experience God's common grace.
    • God has his own reasons. He brings rain in the desert where there are no people. It is not always about us!!
  • God is superior to the satan (adversaries) – The satan can do nothing but what God allows him to do.
  • We must live by grace through faith.
    • It is basic for our faith to understand that God deals with us on the basis of grace. We do not need to be perfect to approach or serve God. We just must be receptive to allowing His grace to lead, empower and sustain us.
    • Living by grace through faith must always include a spirit of gratitude. God owes us nothing. When we begin to emphasize our rights before God we are sure to fall into sin.
    • Living by grace through faith must always includes a spirit of humility. God controls us, we do not control God. We can count on God's promises, but we cannot make Him do what we want.
    • Submission to God frees us to be what God wants us to be and to receive and enjoy God's blessings. Job’s friends had to swallow a lot of pride to experience restoration.

A Night of NBA Basketball


20180702_211153I enjoyed another nice adventure last night with my brother-in-law Nate Hartt. We went down to the Golden 1 Center and saw the opening games of the California Classic, which involved the newer players from the Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors, LA Lakers, and Sacramento Kings. The 6.00 game was between the Heat and Warriors, followed by the 8.00 game between the Kings and Lakers. We had a fun night talking basketball with each other and the fans around us. The Golden 1 Center is also an amazing place to watch a basketball game. The Kings’ fans, to understate the case, are extremely enthusiastic. I’d love to see a concert there sometime too. We especially enjoyed seeing the Kings unveil their much talked about rookies Giles and Bagley. They did not disappoint. Both teams we cheered for, The Warriors and Kings (well, I cheered for the Warriors – Nate is a hardcore Kings fan and would not do that), won their games. We closed out the evening with burgers, fries, chips and guacamole dip at BJ’s in Folsom. A good time was had by all!

Monday, July 02, 2018

Reading Through Colossians #1 (1.1-3.4)

witheringtonThis post begins a quick read through of Paul’s letter to the Colossians accompanied by The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles, by Ben Witherington III. Colossians and Ephesians are quite similar and provide commentary on one another. 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 Colossians to deal with a teaching in their church that would add other requirements to the gospel to become a complete or an elite Christian. In other words, some were teaching that faith in Christ was enough to get into the family of God, but to take God's blessings fully required additional rites, secret teachings, mystical experiences or ascetic practices. Paul counters that Jesus, who is fully God indwelling human beings, is all one needs to move from entry into God's family to the fulness of glory that will be received in God's eternal kingdom. Jesus is all you need!   

Paul insists that not specific Jewish practices (calendrical, ascetic, ritual, or mystical) but rather a relationship with the one mediator between God and humankind, Jesus Christ, is what ushers one into the presence of God and the doxological center of the universe...Paul shows how Christian belief affects and transforms Christian behavior and relationships. Intro, 114

Paul begins the letter by making a positive connection with the people of the Colossian congregation. He thanks God that they are already making progress in Christian growth and he prays that it will continue. He is thankful that they have already made so much progress toward being complete in Christ. He then reminds them, in a hymn, that Jesus, who indwells them through the Spirit, has all the qualifications (He is God the Creator in human form) necessary to complete God's plan for them. Thus, to add other requirements to Christ adulterates and weakens the gospel rather than making it more effective.

Christ is the key both subjectively and objectively. He will fulfill the objective hope when he comes, but he is already the basis of the Christian’s subjective hope: “Christ in us” is both the foretaste of glory and the solid basis for the hope of human glorification. Colossians 1.1-14, 122

“All things” are repeatedly connected to Christ. Everything points to him... The hymn thus not only makes clear the basis on which the Colossians already have the salvific benefits they need and the reason they need not entertain supplements or replacements for what they have already believed and have been doing, but also provides a pattern or trajectory of the Christian life which involves death, resurrection, and eventual glorification. Colossians 1.15-23, 129–130

He begins to support this argument in 1.24-2.5. First, he points to the Colossians experience of receiving Christ and their initial growth. Their experience of coming to Christ was life-changing. They have already experienced victory over sins and the dark powers that had controlled them. God indwells them and there is no rite or human teaching that can accomplish what God can do in their lives.

In its eschatological sense this term (Teleion, “complete”) refers to a completely Christlike condition, the opposite of being lost, bound in sin, or alienated from God. This is the eschatological hope of the believer: to be fully conformed to Christ’s image and so made perfect by means of the resurrection, which puts one beyond disease, decay, and death, beyond sin, suffering, and sorrow. Such a goal is of course not fully attainable before the return of Christ and the raising of the believing dead. Colossians 1.24-2.5, 147–148

Secondly (2.6-3.4), the methods the false teachers were advocating to become spiritually complete do not work. Asceticism, mysticism, legalism and syncretism are inadequate for becoming what God wants Christians to be. The way one gets into the family of God, by reliance on Christ and what He has provided, is also the way to maturity in Christ. Believers are now called to live under the new covenant and leave behind the "shadows" and rules of the old one. Practically, this is applied as believers focus on Christ and growing in relationship with Him. This begins to change the believer's character and values into those of Christ.

God dwells in the embodied Christ in fullness or in person. This would mean that there can be nothing inherently wrong or evil about matter, which the ascetic teachers may have been suggesting, hence the rules about abstinence, and that the fullness and personal presence of God is to be found in Christ and nowhere else. Colossians 2.6-15, 156

Christians are not under such OT rules. Rather they are creatures of the new covenant...Christ fulfilled or brought to an end (or both) all such rules and paid the price so that believers are no longer in their debt. We owe the rules nothing. As Paul says in v. 17, these rules, while good in their day, are but shadows to be left behind now that the real substance that they foreshadowed has appeared—Christ. Colossians 2.16-23, 160–161

Paul sees the starting-point and source of the believer’s life in the resurrected Christ in heaven, from where it works itself out into earthly life (3:5ff.) and from where it will eventually be revealed for what it is (3:4).” Life, power, and spiritual vitality flows from the heavenly Christ into his body and cannot be grasped by human efforts...Heavenly-mindedness is not an escape from worldly concerns but rather provides the basis for structuring human relations and proceeding in human affairs. Colossians 3.1-4, 166

Friday, June 29, 2018

Structure and Message of Philippians

Philippians Color Chart

Message of Philippians

As citizens of heaven, we must rejoice and endure in the struggle because Jesus’ strength goes beyond any difficult circumstance or suffering we may face.

Outline of Philippians

God, in Christ, will accomplish His plan in His people, His church and in the world despite present circumstances and struggles.   1:1-30

  • The growth in the Philippian church is an example of how God can accomplish His plan.  1-11
    • The Gospel message is that God will complete what He began in His people. 1-6
    • The Gospel message results in brotherly love and concern in Jesus Christ. 7-8
    • The gospel message grows the believer into deeper relationship and imitation of Jesus. 9-11
  • Paul’s experience shows that adverse circumstances cannot stop the Gospel. 12-18
    • His imprisonment advanced the gospel through the palace guard and encouraged fearless preaching. 12-14
    • Even when the motivation is wrong, Gospel preaching will accomplish its goal. 15-18
  • Paul’s conviction is that everything done for and through Christ will be meaningful and successful. 19-26
    • Whether temporary circumstances are good or bad god will enable His people to glorify Him. 19-20
    • Even death cannot stop Christ from being glorified through his faithful people. 21-26
  • Therefore, no matter what the struggle, persecution or circumstance, live according to the gospel. 27-30 

Follow the humble and sacrificial examples of  Jesus, Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus. 2:1-30

  • Have the humble, servant and self-sacrificing attitude Jesus had in His incarnation. 1-16
    • Command: Be unified by a humble attitude and service in the power of the Spirit. 1-4
    • Example: Jesus, God in the flesh, did not grasp his rights. Instead, He gave them up which resulted in the Father exalting Him to the ultimate position of power and authority.  5-11
    • Application: Allow Christ to work in you so that you can live peaceful, holy and contented lives.  12-16
  • Have the Christ-like attitude and actions of God’s servants. (Leaders should model sacrifice and service) 17-30
    • Paul’s life is an example of joyful self-sacrifice for Christ and His people. 17-18
    • Timothy’s life is an example of concern for God’s people and the work of the gospel. 19-24
    • Epaphroditus’ life is an example of the willingness to risk one’s own life for the gospel. 25-30

The confidence and focus of the successful Christian life is relationship with Jesus Christ. 3:1-21

  • The wrong basis for confidence is one’s own life, righteousness and rituals.  1-6
    • Beware of those who encourage legalism instead of relationship with Jesus through the Spirit. 1-3
    • Even Paul’s strict legalistic righteousness as a Pharisee was not enough. 4-6
  • The right confidence is Jesus’ righteousness found in a growing relationship with Him.  7-11
    • Compared to the benefit of knowing Jesus and His righteousness everything else is useless. 7-9a
    • Righteousness and relationship come through faith in Christ alone 9b
    • We experience Jesus’ righteousness and grow in it as the relationship with Jesus Christ grows.  10-11
  • Our goal should be to experience who we are in Jesus Christ. 12-16
    • We must focus on the heavenly goal and work hard to be what He calls us to be. 12-14
    • Maturity  is seen as, in Christ, we live up to the image of Christ. 15-16
  • To focus on the present and live for one’s lusts results in destruction. 17-19
  • You are destined to be a citizen of heaven. Live like you are now. 20-21

Only in relationship with Jesus Christ can we find power for heavenly living on earth. 4:1-23

  • Relationship with Christ gives you the power to stand firm and live in peace and unity with one another. 1-3
  • Relationship with Christ brings joyful, peaceful, pure and righteous thoughts and actions. 4-10
    Relationship with Christ allows you to live above the circumstances of life. 11-19
    • Circumstances do not matter because God can supply what is needed for any situation. 11-15
    • God often provides through the generosity of His people and rewards them for it. 16-19
  • The grace of God brings us together to bring glory to God 20-23

Reading Through Philippians #2 (2.19-4.23)

PhilippiansThis post concludes a quick read through of Paul’s letter to the Philippians accompanied by Philippians (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series) , by Gordon Fee. I enjoyed this commentary and plan on taking a closer look at it as I work through Philippians in the future. 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 now moves into the more applicational part of the letter in 2.19-4.3. He begins with the examples of his co-workers Timothy and Epaphroditus to show the Philippians what a Christ-centered and Cross-focused life looks like. Timothy exemplifies a life based on the truth of the gospel lived out in a self-sacrificial way that considers the needs of others as more important than one's own. Epaphroditus shows that this lifestyle is willing to risk suffering and death to meet the spiritual and physical needs of others and to accomplish the mission of bringing the gospel to the world. Paul then moves to the bad example of the "circumcision party" who were more concerned about their own welfare and wanted to come to God based on their own accomplishments rather than through faith in Christ. Paul could have chosen that path, and lived that way before he met Christ, but now considered any past righteousness he has as "smelly street waste" and considered that only pursuit of relationship with Christ had any value. Though this led to suffering in the present, the eternal payoff was worth it. Knowing Christ, through the Spirit, is the only thing that produces God's righteousness, unity, and the joy and peace of God.

Joy does not mean the absence of sorrow but the capacity to rejoice in the midst of it...The God he serves is full of mercy, both in healing the sick and in sparing the heavy-laden from further sorrow. Note too that Paul simply would not understand the denial of grief that some express today when they rejoice over the death of a loved one. No, death is still an enemy—ours and God’s (1 Cor 15:25–26)—and grief is the normal response; but it is sorrow expressed in the context of hope (1 Thess 4:13). Philippians 2.19-30, 124

What Paul has in view is neither congregational worship nor internal “spiritual” service (personal piety) over against external rite, but two ways of existing: in the flesh, meaning life centered in the creature as over against God, and by the Spirit, as people of the future for whom all life in the present is now service and devotion to God. Philippians 3.1-4, 134

Christian life means to be finished with one’s religious past as having value before God or as a means of right relationship with God; it means to trust wholly in Christ as God’s means to righteousness. But such “righteousness” has as its ultimate aim the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord; and knowing Christ means to experience the power of his resurrection for present sharing in his sufferings, as those sufferings are in “conformity with his death.” Philippians 3.5-14, 151

Paul concludes with some final commands that sum up his example and the Christian life to which believers are called. Christians live a life of joy, despite suffering and persecution, because there is no greater source of meaning and peace now, and, just as Christ rose from the dead and rules, we will share in his kingdom and rule and experience completely the defeat of death, sin, and the evil powers that persecute God's people. Ultimately, the Christian life is not about our current situation or our abilities etc, but it is centered on knowing Christ. Thus, we can always be joyful because, whatever happens in our life, we will end up victorious in Him. It is all about Jesus; knowing and serving Him.

This passage reminds us that despite appearances often to the contrary, God is in control, that our salvation is not just for today but forever, that Christ is coming again, and that at his coming we inherit the final glory that belongs to Christ alone—and to those who are his. It means the final subjugation of all the “powers” to him as well, especially those responsible for the present affliction of God’s people. Philippians 3.15-4.3, 166

These concluding exhortations call us to embrace what is good wherever we find it, including the culture with which we are most intimately familiar, but to do so in a discriminating way, the key to which is the gospel Paul preached and lived—about a crucified Messiah, whose death on a cross served both to redeem us and to reveal the character of God into which we are continually being transformed. Philippians 4.4-9, 181

This passage points up the absolute Christ-centeredness of Paul’s whole life. He is a man in Christ. As such he takes what Christ brings. If it means “plenty,” he is a man in Christ, and that alone; if it means “want,” he is still a man in Christ, and he accepts deprivation as part of his understanding of discipleship. Philippians 4.10-23, 187

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Our Brief June 2018 Prayer Letter


There is not much new to report on our situation but I thought it good to give a brief update. We recently returned from 3 weeks in Cincinnati with our family there. We enjoyed being with the grandkids and were able to help Samantha with the kids while Mike is in Israel for 6 weeks of summer study. It was an opportune time for us to be there as Samantha had to go to Texas to be with her mother who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. We would appreciate your prayers for Martha Santana and for Mike and Sam as they try to help.

It looks like July will be a busy month for us. We have been blessed, since last September, by Gold Country Baptist Church allowing us to stay in their parsonage. It looks like they will have a new associate pastor soon so we may be moving before the end of July. We have put in an application at an apartment in El Dorado Hills but it looks like it will be at least 4-6 months until we hear anything on that. In the meantime, our plan is to move back in to my parents' house and stay in their downstairs apartment. This will allow us to help them out around the house etc. and we hope will become a home base for ministry as I continue to get better and more able to get out. We also have a week of medical testing July 23-26 at Stanford. We are anticipating a good outcome and ask that you be praying for that.

Our plans have not changed much. We are hoping that after all my scans are clear next month, we can begin working part-time with Liebenzell USA and receiving salary support again. I am working on applying to a work program for people with disability that allows this. This would also separate my medical insurance from Joyce's which would help. Please be in prayer for this. This would give us the opportunity to start slow and work our way back into a ministry representing the mission and providing training and assistance to Micronesian groups in the US. I am also hoping to teach a PIU on-line seminary course in the Fall. We have not been able to work out the details on all of this yet, but I would hope we'd be able to restart official ministry in August or September.

In the meantime I get a little stronger and feel a little better every day. My edema is still an issue. It took about 2-3 days to recover from the flights each way. I would say that an international flight is still out of reach. Joyce is doing well and is glad that she is available to help her mom and dad move into a retirement home nearby. She will be close enough to help her dad provide some care for her mom.

I get a little frustrated with the waiting but we are confident in God's care for us. If you have any questions please ask by email or give me a call. We appreciate your prayers and support very much.



Reading Through Philippians #1 (1.1-2.18)

PhilippiansThis post begins the quick read through of Paul’s letter to the Philippians accompanied by Philippians (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series) , by Gordon Fee. In Philippians Paul urges the church to be joyful in the midst of persecution and united in the midst of disagreements. 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.

Philippians is a friendly letter to a church in which Paul has spent a great deal of time and knows the people well. He is confident of their faith and partnership in the work of the gospel. He wants to thank them for the gifts that they have already given to advance his mission work. He also wants to warn them to keep focused on Christ and not succumb to the kind of divisions that result (Galatians and Romans) when the gospel is adulterated with additional requirements or selfish motives. For Paul it is "all about Christ" and he wants to instill this focus in the Philippian church.

God’s essential character on display in Christ, who redeems us to share that likeness—also underlies the other well-known themes in this letter: suffering, joy, unity, pressing on toward the prize...Thus the theology of Philippians is held together by its singular focus on Christ. Philippians Intro, 36–37

Paul begins the letter with a greeting and prayer. The greeting is brief but the prayer goes far beyond the standard friendly letter. Paul views their friendship as a "three-way bond" that is centered around Jesus Christ. He is confident that the work of the Holy Spirit within them will complete the goal of making them over into the image of Christ. He already sees this at work as the Philippian church has participated in the work of the gospel through their finances and sending of Timothy and Epaphroditus to help him. His prayer is that, in the Spirit, they will experience the love of Christ even more deeply, know him in a growing relationship and that this will bear the fruit of acts of righteousness that resemble Christ. Paul himself is an example of this as he lives his life based completely on what Christ has done for him and what He has promised for the future.

Joy lies at the heart of the Christian experience of the gospel; it is the fruit of the Spirit in any truly Christian life, serving as primary evidence of the Spirit’s presence (Rom 14:17; Gal 5:22). Precisely because this is so, joy transcends present circumstances; it is based altogether on the Spirit, God’s way of being present with his people under the new covenant. Philippians 1.1-11, 46

Paul has learned by the grace of God to see everything from the divine perspective. This is not wishful thinking but deep conviction—that God has worked out his own divine intentions through the death and resurrection of Christ, and that by his Spirit he is carrying them out in the world through the church, and therefore through both Paul and others. Philippians 1.12-18, 64

One wonders what the people of God might truly be like in our postmodern world if we were once again people of this singular passion. Too often for us it is “For me to live is Christ, plus other pursuits.” And if the truth were known, all too often the “plus factor” has become our primary passion: “For me to live is my work.” Both our progress and our joy regarding the gospel are altogether contingent on whether Christ is our primary, singular passion. Philippians 1.19-26, 75

Paul now moves to his first main exhortation to the Philippians in 1.27-2.18. He wants them to be the image of Christ as they "stand" for the Gospel, despite the opposition of the empire which declares "Caesar is Lord," and live out the Gospel without "grumbling or complaining," as Christ did, by using his status as God for the benefit of others as he saved us by going to the cross. This makes sense because, just as God exalted Christ through the resurrection and ascension, he will exalt all of Jesus' people when all creation acknowledges that "Jesus is LORD." So Paul calls the Philippians to courage in the face of persecution and unity in relationships within the body of Christ. This is only possible when believers live by the power of the Spirit. Only then can salvation be "worked out" in relationship with one another and in our common mission to proclaim and live out the gospel. 

A crucified Lord produces disciples who themselves take up a cross as they follow him. We are thus to live on behalf of Christ in the same way Christ himself lived—and died—on behalf of this fallen, broken world. That is why salvation includes suffering on behalf of Christ, since those who oppose the Philippian believers as they proclaim the gospel of Christ are of a kind with those who crucified their Lord in the first place. Philippians 1.27-30, 81

Paul’s reason is singular: to focus on Christ himself, and thus to point to him as the ultimate model of the self-sacrificing love to which he is calling the Philippians—and us...In Jesus Christ the true nature of the living God has been revealed ultimately and finally. God is not a grasping, self-centered being. He is most truly known through the One whose equality with God found expression in his pouring himself out in sacrificial love by taking the lowest place, the role of a slave, and whose love for his human creatures found consummate expression in his death on the cross. That this is God’s own nature and doing has been attested for all time by Christ Jesus’s divine vindication. Philippians 2.1-11, 101

The underlying theology in all of this is God’s own character, as that is now reflected in his children who bear his likeness as we live out the life of the future in the present age. Only as we reflect God’s own likeness will our evangelism be worth anything at all, in terms of its aim and in terms of success. Philippians 2.12-18, 113

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Structure and Message of Ephesians

Ephesians Color Chart

Message of Ephesians

The Church is a unity, with diverse members, formed by God’s eternal plan, with a shared salvation in Christ and a shared calling to glorify God in the power of the Spirit.

Basic Outline of Ephesians

  • The basis of the unity of the Church is a common salvation in Jesus Christ. 1:1-3:21
    • Because of God’s grace and peace the church is God’s “holy ones” through faith. 1:1-2
    • Salvation is a blessing from God that we can experience “in Jesus Christ.” 1:3-23
      • The entire Trinity worked together to bring salvation to the Church. 1:3-14 (one sentence)
      • Believers can have the full experience of all of God’s blessings through the power of Jesus Christ 1:15-23
    • Salvation unites people who are diverse and at odds with one another into one unified body. 2:1-3:21
      • Salvation by grace through faith is the one common means of entry into the church. 2:1-10
      • Salvation provides a common basis for peace with God and with each other. 2:11-22
      • Salvation brings a common purpose to life: To glorify God before all creation. 3:1-21
  • The Church must be unified because all its members share a common calling and mission. 4:1-6:24
    • All Believers have a common responsibility: Preserve the unity of the Church 4:1-16
      • The church’s unity is based on the Unity in the Trinity, common hope and common calling. 1-6
      • The church is made up of diverse members who work together with a unified mission. 7-16
    • Believers should have a common lifestyle: Like Jesus’ Lifestyle 4:17-5:14
      • Believers must live as a new creation by renouncing the deeds of the old way to live the way Jesus would. 4:17-5:2
      • Believers must be careful to live a lifestyle that accurately reflects Christ and pleases the Lord. 5:3-14
    • Believers have a common power to live like Christ: The Holy Spirit 5:15-6:9
      • Control by the Spirit provides power to live thankfully and submissively as Jesus lived. 5:15-21
      • Spirit control is measured and seen in loving, transformed Christlike relationships that are mutually submitted to and serve one another . 5:22-6:9
    • Believers have a common battle against spiritual darkness and spiritual attack. 6:10-20
      • Believers must be ready for battle by actively using what Christ has provided. 10-17
      • The main offensive weapon in the spiritual battle is prayer. 18-20
    • Closing: Unity brings fellowship, peace and grace 6:21-24

Jesus Paid a High Price For The Unity of the Church - Don’t Break It

Monday, June 25, 2018

Stuff I like About Being a Grandpa (Cincinnati Version)


Since Joyce and I are back in California I have been reflecting on the three weeks we spent in Cincinnati with Mike’s family. We had a great time there and I am very thankful to the LORD (still fulfilling my vow of praise) that I am still around and healthy enough to make the flight (though with some minor complications) and enjoy most of the activities we had an opportunity to do. So, in no particular order, here are some things that make me glad that I made it to this point of being a grandpa.

  1. 1068The greeting I received each morning from my 2 year old granddaughter Arie as I woke up and came up the stairs to the kitchen to make my coffee, “Good morning grandpa, how are you doing today?” This was pretty much always accompanied by the smile of a person who was genuinely glad to see me.
  2. Listening to my 10 year old granddaughter, Courage, sing along with all the songs from “The Greatest Showman” while we watched the movie on Netflix. This made the movie infinitely better.
  3. 20180612_165330Eating lunch with the 3 older grandchildren at their schools and getting to meet their friends and teachers. I am thankful that they are in very good schools and it was fun to see them in their “natural habitats.” I also learned a lot about video games sitting at a table with six eleven year old boys.
  4. Reading the same books over and over to Arie. I am thankful that all my grandkids love books.
  5. Playing story games with Titus. 1035It was fun to try to top his “out there” stories. How did I get a grandson that is already into reading science fiction and theology?
  6. Hearing Serenity pound out “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” on the piano. Talking with her (well, mostly listening to her) and sharing in her joy in just living life and her keen notice and concern for everything around her.
  7. One of my lifelong dreams was to take my grandkids to a major league baseball game: Accomplished that one as we got to go to a great 12 inning game accompanied by hot dogs, sodas, peanuts, popcorn and cotton candy. A great day was had by all.
  8. 20180612_165411Taking the grandkids to church and meeting their pastor, Sunday school teachers etc. We are so thankful that they are in a great body of people that care about them and support them.
  9. Catching fireflies in the evening in the backyard. It reminded me of summers I spent as a child visiting my grandparents in Missouri. Good memories.
  10. Seeing Joyce so happy to be with her “babies, “ even if a couple of them are almost as tall as she is now.

We miss them already, but are happy about what they are doing and how God is working in their lives. I am sure we’ll find a way to get back there soon. Of course a San Diego version of this post may be coming soon too. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Reading Through Ephesians #2 (4-6)

witheringtonThis post concludes the quick read through of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians accompanied by The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles, by Ben Witherington III. The second part of Ephesians applies the doctrinal truths of chapter 1-3. The Gospel powerfully binds the church together in a way that displays the image of Christ. The Spirit enables believers to live out a godly lifestyle and experience victory over the evil powers and desires that formerly held them in bondage. 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 begins the application of the sermon in chapter 4 with a reminder of the basis of their unity: the relationships within the Trinity, and the one Holy Spirit who produces the character of Christ in believers through the gifted people he has provided. Again, unity is seen as the best evidence of the Holy Spirit working within the church (not just local congregations, but also in relationships among congregations in different places). The church has one foundation which is the teachings and life of Christ which is ministered through Spirit-gifted men and women. The Spirit produces life change in believers (Jew and Gentile) so that they become "new people" with new allegiances and motives. Believers live out their new identity in Christ as they toss away the old lifestyle and "put on" the new lifestyle of the image of Christ which the Spirit has placed within them. This allows the foundational unity Christ has already provided become practical unity as believers diligently, patiently and graciously work with each other to grow, individually and corporately, into the image of Christ.

Moral maturity in the image of Christ is, then, the goal of Christian life and the aim of Christian ministry to those already in Christ...Perhaps v. 13 suggests that since all must become mature, arrive at the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son, and measure up to the stature of Christ, then all must, like Christ, be involved in the tasks of ministry, for ministry will mold them all. Growth in Christ comes in part through ministerial service for the cause of Christ. Ephesians 4.1-16, 292

The old way of life was cast off like an old garment. The old person is not who these Christians are anymore. The old lifestyle was self-destructive, full of wicked desires and deceits. V. 22 refers not just to moral corruption but to a moral corruption that leads to bodily corruption—disease, decay, and death. Ephesians 4.17-24, 298

Paul believes that when Christ becomes the believer’s Lord there is not room for other lordships, or for possession in the believer’s life. One cannot become a tool of Satan unless one gives sin place and commits apostasy. Believers have a choice about their course of life in such matters, and certainly more so than unbelievers, who are indeed buffeted about by various forces larger than themselves. Ephesians 4.25-32, 299–300

Chapter 5.1-21 makes the point that, since the mark that differentiates God's people from the rest of the world is no longer ethnic or racial identity, Christians must show their uniqueness through a lifestyle that imitates Christ. The deeds of darkness must be renounced and believers must live life by means of the supernatural enablement of the Holy Spirit. This life is recognized by thankfulness, service and mutual submission to the needs of one another.

The goal was the molding of character as much as it was the reinforcing of good behavior. Here Christ or God in Christ is the pattern that the audience is called to emulate and imitate, and Christ is the one to whom implicit praise is given, while the pagan lifestyle in various of its dimensions is denounced and renounced. The believer is to be light, as Christ is light, and so to act no longer as though they are or they dwell in darkness where no one notices their conduct. Ephesians 5.1-14, 303

Far from being filled with the Spirit leading to dissipation or drunkenness, Paul affirms that it leads to wisdom and to the spirit of a sound mind and to the proper adoration and singing that all of God’s creatures should render back to God. In other words, it is the key to living the Christian life in a manner pleasing to God and edifying to others as well as one’s self. Ephesians 5.15-21, 312

The key place where this mutual submission needs to be seen is in the Christian home. In 5.21-6.9 Paul describes how relationships are transformed by the filling of the Spirit. In each case, the relationship of the "master of the house" to his wife, children and servants is transformed from a dominating, self-serving one to one of mutual submission in recognition that both the powerful and powerless in relationships have one master - Jesus Christ. Power is to be used to serve and help develop others into what Christ would have them to be. Everyone is this accountable to God for how they treat and serve one another. These transformed relationships become one of the greatest arguments for the effectiveness of the gospel.

If anything is the primary purpose of this code, it is to both ameliorate the harsher effects of patriarchy and to guide the head of the household into a new conception of his roles that Christianizes his conduct in various ways and so turns marriage into more of a partnership and household management more into a matter of actualizing biblical principles about love of neighbor and honoring others. Ephesians 5.21-33 323

The slave’s service is ultimately to the Lord, and the master’s supervision is to be done with full cognizance that he is accountable to the Lord for what he says and does. In other words, the slave’s actions cease to be mere servitude to a human master, and the master’s actions cease to be those of one who has absolute authority over another human being. Both parties are called on to be proactive, not reactive to their situations. In both cases their eyes must be on the Lord and on how to please him, not on mundane or merely human considerations and factors. Ephesians 6.1-9, 339

Paul closes the sermon in 6.10-24 by summing up the main points and with an exhortation to "stand firm" using the resources (armor and prayer) that God has provided in Christ. He reminds believers that they are in a spiritual battle with the forces of darkness. These "powers" have been defeated but Christians need to arm themselves with faith, righteousness and the blessings of their salvation. We experience the victory Christ has provided by means of the message of the gospel and prayer. God has provided all that Christians need to be victorious in this battle, but we are responsible to, daily, submit to the Spirit and and stand on those provisions.

The imagery here also suggests that while the evil age lasts there are still powerful forces of evil that can pester and persecute Christians and that Christians must be equipped to fend off. Believers fight from a position of strength since they are standing on the high ground, but they must never underestimate the power of the enemy...Prayer and proclamation of the gospel of peace are the believer’s two great offensive weapons against Satan. Nothing is said about deliverance or exorcism rituals. Ephesians 6.10-20, 352

All must come to the Father through Jesus the Son, and this is so because only the Son has provided the redemption and salvation which can transform both the world of humans and the cosmic realm and forces as well. The worldwide church inclusive of all human groups then becomes the visible image and microcosm of God’s plan. “As the community of the redeemed, both Jews and Gentiles, the church is the masterpiece of God’s grace (2:7). It is a realm of his presence and authority (1:22, 23; 2:22), the instrument through which his wisdom is made known to the spiritual powers in the heavenly realm (3:10).” Ephesians 6.21-24, 361