Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of John #1 (Intro, 1.1-18)

JohnWith this post we begin reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre. John clearly announces the purpose of His Gospel to be “that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.”  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 Gospel of John is quite differently than the other three. It is organized more in a theological than chronological arrangement (except in the Passion section), it emphasizes Jesus' Divine transcendence more than the coming kingdom, and seems to show later theological reflection, with the direction of the Spirit, on what Jesus said and did. John shows that Jesus is the Light, the ultimate revelation of God; the Life, the One who provides the eternal life from God to people; and Love, revealed by a God who is the Creator (Logos), and yet is willing to wash disciples' feet and give His life, so created beings can gain life.  John calls disciples to strengthen their faith, despite persecution, and live a life of humble service that witnesses to the light, life and love that Jesus displayed.

John is thoroughly committed to the importance of history, but he wants to tell the story of Jesus as interpreted by the abiding Spirit. One of the themes throughout the Gospel is how cryptic Jesus’ words and deeds are within the story. What was cryptic then is now clear in the light of the glorification. John wants us to understand Jesus’ identity and significance in a way no one at the time possibly could, in order that we may respond in faith, continue to respond in faith and thereby share in the very life of God. 24

John proclaims Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament in its legal, prophetic and wisdom traditions and also of all religious and philosophical insight. In part this is accomplished by using such archetypical symbols as light, darkness, wine, water and bread, and also by revealing Jesus as the focal point for such universal religious concerns as truth and love. 34

The Prologue of the Gospel summarizes its message. Jesus, in eternity past, is God and was with God. He is the eternal God who has become a human being. Jesus is the full expression of God the Creator in a fully embodied human being, and ultimate communication of God to the world, so that people would put their trust in him and have eternal life; and that believers live in intimate connection and dependence on Jesus, through the Spirit, to the glory of the Father and Son. That is, Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation of the One God who is the Creator of everything. As God in human flesh He calls people into a relationship of total commitment with him.

Here at the outset we have the two most fundamental affirmations about Jesus in this Gospel, namely that he himself is the presence of God’s own life and light and that he makes this life and light available to human beings. In one profound sentence we have the central assertion of this Gospel concerning the revelation of the Son and the salvation he offers. John 1.1-5, 53

John is claiming that in Jesus we have received the real thing, the truth from which all truth flows and the criterion for recognizing truth wherever it may be found. John 1.6-13, 54–55

To say the Son is full of truth is to claim he is the perfect revelation of the divine reality (cf. 15:15; 17:10), and saying he is full of grace expresses the character of that reality, the truth about God. “The glory of God is shown by his acting in faithfulness to his own character, and by his character’s revealing itself in mercy.” John 1.14-18, 60

Monday, February 19, 2018

Joyce is Back Home

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20180217_140004 (576x1024)27983232_10213919254563235_6940450497373603902_oJoyce is back home. I picked her up at the Sacramento airport Sunday morning at about 9 after she spent about 18 hours in transit. She got home just in time for temperatures to dip down below freezing but I think she is glad to be here. She spent her last day on Guam with our friends Tony and May Vigil. They went out for lunch on Saturday at the Hyatt (above). She even ran into one of our PIU alumni while she was there. (right) I appreciate them taking good care of Joyce while she was there. She will have some more work to do when she goes back to Guam in a couple months. We would appreciate prayers for guidance and timing as we prepare to sell our house there.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Joyce Sent Me Some More Pictures

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20180216_134013 (1280x720)Joyce sent me a bunch of pictures yesterday. She is getting toward the end of her time on Guam. Yesterday PIU hosted a lunch for her. (above) She has been able to get a lot of work done and has been able to see a lot of people. On the right she is with some PIU staff in the office. I really do miss getting to see these people every day. Thank you to our long-time friends Tony and May Vigil for letting Joyce stay with them while she was there and providing transportation for her. The plan is to have her return in April to finish up the packing and begin getting our house ready to sell of rent out.

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Here are a few more!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Joyce Hard At Work on Guam


27983265_10213871191921699_1875452651849479964_oJoyce has only three more days on Guam and still a lot to do. The time has gone by so quickly. Above is a picture of one her many post office trips to mail multiple boxes to California. The plan is for her to return to Guam in April  to finish up packing and begin the process to our house. She has also enjoyed seeing many old friends. She had the opportunity to participate a couple nights ago in the PIU women’s Bible study and enjoyed the fellowship there. (pictured right). Below are some more pictures of Joyce and friends.

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Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #14

BrueggemannThis post continues my reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. Chapters 21-22 continue the section of the theology on Israel's Embodied Testimony, showing how the kingship and prophetic office mediated God’s presence to Israel. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

Chapter 21, The King as Mediator, discusses how God's presence and rule was mediated through the human king of Israel. The constant testimony of the OT is that the real king of Israel is YHWH, but the human king was to represent Him, as a "son," under the authority of the Torah, with the responsibility to administer justice, righteousness and care to benefit all the people, especially the needy. This immediately creates some tension in the text because, from the beginning, the kings acted, as Samuel predicted they would, in a selfish oppressive way. God promises an eternal kingdom to David, yet David himself along with his successors act in a way that makes this seemingly impossible. This ends in exile and the end of the Davidic line ruling in Jerusalem. Yet, despite the prophet's condemnation of the kings, they hold out hope for the fulfillment of God's promises about a Davidic Messiah who will restore the nation and kingship and rule as God intended, extending the blessings of covenant to all the world. At the end of the OT the promise is still open.

Without denying the “warts” of David, Solomon, and their ilk, kingship in Israel emerged, in Jerusalem interpretation, as a great gift from God. The king’s intimacy and congruity with Yahweh indicate that the actual performance of Yahweh’s way in the world is a human possibility. Thus, despite great ambiguity and compromise, it is expected and celebrated that the king will bring the world right for Israel. 611

The prophet equates judging the cause of the poor and needy with “knowing” Yahweh. Note well these lines do not say that judging the poor and needy is the cause and knowing Yahweh the consequence; nor, conversely, that judging the poor and needy is the consequence and knowing Yahweh the cause. Rather, the two are equated. Judging the cause of the poor and needy is the substance of knowledge of Yahweh (cf. Hos 6:6). And so, when the king engages in these practices in the administration of public power, knowledge of Yahweh is indeed mediated in the community of Israel. Jeremiah 22:15-16, Psalm 72, Isaiah 9.2-7, 613

The dynastic promise, rooted in 2 Samuel 7 and explicated in Psalm 89, was turned to the future, so that Israel expected the good, faithful, effective king to come, even though all present and known incumbents had failed. Out of concrete political practice arose an expectation of the coming of messiah: a historical agent to be anointed, commissioned, and empowered out of the Davidic house to do the Davidic thing in time to come, to establish Yahweh’s justice and righteousness in the earth. 616

Chapter 22, The Prophet as Mediator, deals with the very important phenomenon of prophecy, direct revelation from God to a human being, as a means of revelation of YHWH. These prophets claimed to have been in God's presence and received a message from God which (though it may have been rejected at the time) was accepted as authoritative, written down, and placed into the canon of the Hebrew scriptures. The prophet drew His authority from an experience of being in the "Divine Council," in which He received the "word of the LORD" which was to be directed to the nation. This was validated through predictions coming true and adherence to previous prophecies in the tradition of Moses. The prophets brought YHWH's perspective to the nation. They attacked the pride and idolatry of the monarchy in "lawsuit" prophecies of judgment and dealt with the despair of defeat and exile in prophecies of repentance and promise. They called the nation, from the throne room of God, to live ethically with YHWH as the center of life and to trust and hope in His promises to set all creation right at "the end of days."

Prophecy as a mode of mediation begins in the inexplicable appearance of individual persons who claim to speak Yahweh’s revelatory word, and who are accepted by some as being indeed carriers of such a revelatory word. Prophecy culminates as this cadre of individual persons and their remembered, transmitted words (and actions) are stylized into a fixed body of literature and achieve canonical status. 622

Each such prophet does what Moses did, that is, enables Israel in a particular time and place to be fully and intentionally the covenant people of Yahweh. This means, positively, that Israel must reckon with Yahweh’s sovereign intention for its life. It requires, negatively, that Israel must forgo and repent of all of its proximate loyalties, which in the end are idolatrous and which will only lead to death. 635

The prophets are not fortune-tellers or predictors, working with esoteric means or data. They are, rather, those who attend to Yahweh’s resolve, which will not be defeated, even by the “end of history” that comes with failed ethics. Eschatology is simply Yahweh’s capacity to move in and through and beyond the end of history, to reinitiate the life-giving processes of history. 646

Reading Through the Gospel of Luke #10 (22-24)

Bock LukeThis post concludes my reading through the Gospel of Luke accompanied by Luke, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Darrell L. Bock. Chapters 22-24 are Luke’s account of the Passion events including the arrest, trials, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He concludes with the risen Jesus commissioning the disciples to take His kingdom to all the nations.  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.

Chapter 22 begins Luke's account of the Passion events. As Jerusalem prepares for Passover, their event of national liberation, the nation's leadership prepares to murder the one who came to them to complete God's plan of liberation. Jesus celebrates the Passover with His disciples in a way that would teach them how they were to prepare for the complete liberation that would be provided in God's final kingdom when He returns. The disciples still do not understand and get in another argument about who is the greatest, so Jesus again teaches them that greatness is about service, humility and faithfulness to God. Those who are faithful now will rule with Jesus in His kingdom because of the sacrifice Jesus has made. This is what the Lord's Supper is all about

Jesus’ final moments with his disciples involve a farewell meal. As he celebrates the Passover and adds his own new elements to it, Jesus reveals that his work is modeled after that sacrifice. His humility is to mark the disciples’ own efforts to serve others. Their service will occur in the face of rejection, but service is still the disciple’s calling. Luke 22:1-38

The Jewish celebration of national salvation becomes the occasion for a plot to arrest and convict Jesus. Once again, irony abounds. The leadership steers a course of murder in the name of righteousness. Sin always distorts reality. In addition, a cosmic chess match comes to its crucial moment. Satan will put Jesus in check, but Jesus will make the final move that means checkmate. Luke 22:1-6

Peter will be able to strengthen fellow believers after his fall because he will understand how easy it is to fall. He can call on them to embrace God’s mercy, be prepared to suffer and be ready to give a defense because he will have experienced all of these opportunities himself—some with failure and others with success...Even disciples who fail in a moment of weakness can experience the success of God’s work. The lesson is an important one not only for Peter but also for all the disciples he represents. Luke 22:7-38

Humility, dependence, promise of authority and reward, warnings about opposition and the pursuit of faithfulness are the topics of Jesus’ final testament meal. Luke assumes that disciples will engage the larger world and face a great cosmic battle. But they are not to withdraw or be afraid. Rather, with humility and looking to God, they can face suffering and the world bravely and effectively. Luke 22:7-38

After the supper Jesus leads the disciples to the Mount of Olives. He prepares for His ordeal with prayer. Even though he dreads what He is about to go through, He gives Himself over to the will of the Father and receives spiritual care, strength and encouragement to be ready for what is coming. The betrayal by Judas and arrest of Jesus immediately follow. Luke emphasizes the cowardice and hypocrisy of Judas and the Jewish leadership as they arrest Jesus in away from the public and in the dark. He also contrasts Jesus' response to act graciously and heal the high priest's servant with the disciples decision to defend Jesus with violence. This is a battle between darkness and light. Jesus will win the battle with the weapons of faith and trust in God and give Himself over to His enemies to be vindicated by God and completely defeat the darkness.

Our mortality is a frightening thing. Jesus faces it by doing what he always did: he took his concerns to God in prayer...Like many who face death, Jesus would like to avoid dying now. If he were considering only his personal preference, he would rather not experience the pain of mortality and the horror of paying for sin. But Jesus has a more fundamental concern: “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Here Jesus submits to God’s plan and will. Luke 22:39-46

Sometimes disciples believe they must take matters into their own hands to defend Jesus. But here Jesus stops the attempt to defend him with violence. His path takes a different direction. The healed servant pictures the opportunity that exists to experience God’s grace. Here is a man who rejects Jesus and participates in the arrest leading to Jesus’ death. Yet the avowed enemy is not beyond Jesus’ healing touch. A severed ear can always be restored, if one will listen to him. Luke 22:47-53

Jesus then receives six different hearings before Annas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod and finally Pilate brings Him before the people. In all of them Luke portrays Jesus as the innocent sufferer. Jesus is convicted by the Jews as a blasphemer, a charge which is ultimately refuted as God the Father will validate Jesus' claim to be the Son of Man at the resurrection. The accusations before Pilate were clearly false and Pilate pronounces Jesus to be innocent. Through the rest of the trials Jesus remains silent. The irony in the trial is that the people demand, and Pilate gives them what they want, the release of a murderer and the crucifixion of an innocent man. This substitution is a picture of what Jesus will do for all sinners; die in their place as the "lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

Jesus argues that from now on whatever happens at the trial is irrelevant. His rule from God’s side will follow. People may think they have the right to make a judgment about Jesus, but the judgment that counts is the one made by the resurrected Son of God. In sum, Jesus makes himself and his authority the issue. The leaders are astute enough to see the claim...They sense the depth of what Jesus is claiming—that Jesus uniquely shares God’s rule and power. Luke 22:54-71

Jesus is the substitute for the sinner. Barabbas’s release and Jesus’ death make up a portrait of the exchange God engages in to save sinners from the penalty of their ways (Rom 5:5–9). This sacrifice at the altar of injustice is the ultimate expression of God’s love. Amazingly, in the midst of a monstrous injustice God can design a means of victory. Jesus’ death means the possibility of life for another. No matter how severe the sin, release is made possible through Jesus’ death. Luke 23:1-25

The crucifixion quickly follows the death sentence. Luke is concerned to emphasize Jesus as the innocent sufferer. His death was an injustice and He was who he claimed to be. The thief on the cross and the Roman centurion both testify to this. Even nature (darkness) and God the Father (the torn curtain in the temple) testify to the righteousness of Jesus and the coming judgment on the nation for their rejection of Jesus. Ironically, even the official charges posted by the Romans testify to who Jesus was. Even in the face of such terrible injustice, Jesus responds with compassion and forgiveness. As he dies he reiterates His absolute trust in God. The scene ends with the burial of Jesus. "Jesus has been laid to rest in honor. But things will not remain quiet for long."

Jesus prays for those who will kill him. He asks that his executors be forgiven, since they have acted in ignorance. Jesus’ intercession lays the basis for God’s offer of forgiveness. National consequences will follow from Jesus’ rejection, but God’s love expressed here shows that the rejection need not be permanent, neither for an individual nor for a nation. Luke 23:26-49

The criminal anticipates the restoration and resurrection. He asks to be included. His depth of perception stands in contrast to the blindness of those who taunt. This man, despite a life full of sin, comes to Jesus and seeks forgiveness in his last mortal moments. He confesses his guilt and casts himself on Jesus’ mercy and saving power. Luke could not have painted a clearer portrait of God’s grace. Luke 23:26-49

Devout figures surround Jesus at his birth and death. Those who are righteous and seek God respond to Jesus and look forward to what he will bring. Luke 23:50-56

Luke closes his Gospel with his account of the resurrection of Jesus and commissioning of His followers for the task of telling His story and spreading His kingdom message to all the world. A theme that runs through the resurrection account is that the disciples were surprised by the event. The women, the couple going to Emmaus, the group of disciples all had to be convinced of the reality of the resurrection by seeing Jesus. This happened as they had intimate table fellowship with Him. Jesus then prepares the disciples for the coming task of building and spreading His church, a story which will be continued by Luke in the book of Acts. Jesus then returns to heaven from where He will intercede for His people, send the Spirit to equip them for the task and draw them into intimate fellowship with the Trinity.

Though the church proclaims the resurrection confidently today, the original witnesses had to be convinced that it had occurred. Resurrection had been promised by Scripture and by Jesus, but only slowly, grudgingly and methodically did the disciples come to see that it had come to pass. Luke 24:1-12

Here is the major lesson of the Emmaus Road experience. Though resurrection is hard to believe, be assured that it took place. Its reality means that Jesus’ claims are true. He was more than a teacher and more than a prophet. He was the promised, anointed one of God. A host of skeptics saw that this was so, and they believed. Do not be skeptical as these men were. Remember what God required of his Messiah: suffering, then vindication in exaltation. Luke 24:13-35

The church’s task will be difficult; special ability will be needed to accomplish it. It is not to be carried out in mere human strength. Just as Jesus’ presence at the table has shown, God’s intimate, indwelling presence is necessary to make it work. Luke 24:36-53

Monday, February 12, 2018

Some Pictures of Joyce on Guam


20180212_125506 (1024x576)As many of you know, Joyce is on Guam right now taking care of packing up our house and attending to some business affairs there that we have not been able to deal with during the last year. She has been there a week and has already accomplished quite a bit. Yesterday, she mailed several boxes of books to me. We spent some time going through them (by Facebook video chat) to determine which ones we would give away and which ones I needed. I think, sadly, we are leaving more there than she mailed. Also, she completed the sale of my Kia Forte. I will miss that little car, but it now becomes the first car of the son of one my former students and pastor of the Palauan Evangelical Church on Guam, Andrew Immanuel. Enjoy the car and thank you to all who prayed that we would be able to get it sold.

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Here are a few more pictures of some happy reunions. Joyce got to attend a PIU chapel and a session of the annual Ministry Equipping Conference. I wish I could have been there too!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #13

BrueggemannThis post continues my reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. Chapter 19 begins the 4th section of the theology, Israel's Embodied Testimony. This section discusses how God, a "totally other" Being beyond the understanding of humans, communicates or "mediates" His presence in a way that can be understood and practiced in Israel’s experience. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

Chapter 19, Mediating The Presence of YHWH, serves as an introduction to the section. I think Brueggemann's main point is that what we have in the text of the Old Testament is a "mediation" of an immediate God in the experience and religious practices of Israel. This originates from God through his "originary" theophanies (direct manifestations of God's glory in history), especially the theophanies at Sinai to the whole nation and to Abraham, Moses and Elijah. These were rare and provide the basis for the parameters and authority of the rest of the revelation which was mainly mediated through Torah, prophets, the history of the kings, the religious practices and wisdom literature of Israel. Thus, the OT message about Who God is and what are His purposes for His people are not only communicated in words but embodied in the history and actions of His people.

It is impossible to provide a theological critique of theophany, and we must say that it is a primary theological datum itself—that is, a premise of all that follows. In the mode of theophany, Yahweh relates as Yahweh chooses, without condition, reservation, qualification, or explanation. Israel is on the receiving end of holy intrusion, left to characterize in human speech, as best it can, what is unutterable in the sublimity of Yahweh. 569

While the “experience” of Yahweh is valued, what matters in the narrative testimony of Israel is a vocation of obedience that is given, undertaken at great risk, and with weighty implications for the community...These encounters with individual persons are characteristically not ends in themselves, but concern Yahweh’s larger purposes. Individual persons are recruited for great risks. 572

Old Testament theology is not simply an intellectual exercise. Wherever this testimony has been taken seriously, in ancient time or in any time since then, it has been taken seriously in practice...the day-to-day disciplines and practices of the community are indeed theological activities, for such activities are the modes and arenas in which the utterances and gestures of Yahweh can be nurtured. These activities are received as reliable disclosures of the partner in relationship. 575–576

Chapter 20, The Torah as Mediator, discusses the central way YHWH is revealed in Israel's testimony. The revelation of Torah to Moses is originates and defines Israel as a nation. It calls Israel into covenant with God and defines the parameters of that relationship. Torah is much more than a law code. It does provide many commands which Israel is to obey uncompromisingly and establishes authority for the nation. It also, however, provides means for succession of authority, calling new generations into the covenant and updating its regulations to fit new situations. Torah is based on God's character and so provides instruction about how to live before God, with God, and like God. Meditation on Torah becomes worship as it connects the worshipper to God. The Psalms, 1 and 119 for example, focus on the benefits of meditating on Torah. Torah describes the reality of creation, and living within it makes one wise.

Torah means also guidance, instruction, and nurture—a process of exploration and imagination that cannot be flatly subsumed under obedience...Whereas Torah as command is focused on the ethical dimension of existence, Torah as instruction, guidance, and nurture is preoccupied with the aesthetic and artistic, a realm that comes to be expressed as the mystical and sacramental. That is, Torah is as much concerned with the inscrutable mystery of presence as it is with the nonnegotiability of neighborly obedience. 582

Christians who seek to understand what is intended in Torah will have to move beyond conventional, polemical caricatures of legalism, in order to ponder an interpretive practice that is (a) intransigently normative and yet enormously open to adaptation; and (b) has an uncompromising sovereign at its center, but with a capacity to attend in delicate ways to the detail of daily existence. 595

The freedom of the Torah is a freedom in obedience. This freedom is not autonomy, for autonomy is in any case an illusion. It is freedom of living with and for and in the presence of the One whose power is seen in creation, whose passion is evident in Exodus, and whose requirements are known in Sinai. 599

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of Luke #9 (19.45-21.38)

Bock LukeThis post continues my reading through the Gospel of Luke accompanied by Luke, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Darrell L. Bock. Luke 19.45 begins the final section of the Gospel. Luke's concern here is to show that Jesus' resurrection vindicated Him as the righteous sufferer, the rightful authority over the nation as the Davidic Messiah, and the One who would bring all of God's kingdom promises for all the nations.  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. Again, I am not sure why the page numbers in the IVP series do not come up in Logos, but I will reference the quotes with the corresponding scripture reference.

The conclusion to the Gospel begins with a discussion of Jesus' authority over the nation. When Jesus cleanses the temple he brings to a head His claim to be speaking with God's authority as a prophet and to  be the promised Messianic King, as acknowledged in His entry into Jerusalem, with authority over the Temple. The Jewish leaders challenge this claim. Jesus responds with His question about the source of John the Baptist's authority. His point is that the source of John's authority and Jesus' is the same: God, and God has already vindicated this authority by what has happened in both of their ministries. Then the leaders try to trap and discredit Jesus. The hypocritical question about Caesar tries to place Jesus at odds with Roman power. Jesus fails to take the bait because He does not see the solution as being political. Rome is not the key. The most important thing is to respond to God's authority, which these leaders were failing to do. The Sadducee's question about resurrection is an attempt to make Jesus look stupid. His answer shows that He understands scripture far better than the Sadducees. The kingdom of God requires resurrection and immortality which only God can provide. Jesus' resurrection will be the final and greatest indication that His authority comes from God. The leadership's rejection of God's authority fulfills the pattern of rejection of God's authority seen in Israel's history and illustrated in the parable of the wicked farmers.  

Jesus is the issue, and the subject is properly honoring God. Israel thinks God is honored at the temple. Jesus claims the exact opposite. The nation is divided; choices are required. They cannot both represent God’s will. The warning also illustrates the danger of combining religiosity and commercialism at the expense of true worship—a danger to which we also must be sensitive today. Luke 19:45-48

The psalm (118) uses the symbolism of the foundation stone that is crucial to a building. Jesus is the foundation stone of God’s plan. Though some may reject him, God will make him the centerpiece of his plan. Rejection by the Jewish nation is not the end of the plan. There is no replacing this precious and chosen stone. Luke 20:1-19

God’s promises live on for the patriarchs because they still live. In fact, life is in his sovereign hands, and all live for him...Death is not the end, only a beginning. The question is, the beginning of what? Only one’s response to Jesus determines the answer to that question. Childless levirate wives need not worry which man is their husband. All should worry whether they are a child of God. Luke 20:20-40

Jesus now takes control of the discussion and asks a question to the Jewish leaders about Messiah's authority. How can a human Son of David be David's Lord? The point is that Jesus shares the authority of the Father, reigning with Him as the Son of Man. The leaders are not just rejecting a human messiah, they are rejecting the authority of the Father as well. This is illustrated by their use of the temple and the Old Testament system. They use it to enhance their own honor and wealth, rather than its intended purpose: to worship God and serve His people. The faithful widow who sacrificially gives is an example of the good people the leaders were defrauding. Religion can easily become a means to selfish ambition rather than a conduit to God and a way to serve God's needy people.

The Son of David exercises divine prerogatives from the side of the Father in heaven. His authority is shared heavenly authority. To understand who the Son of David is, one must understand that he shares authority with the Father. As Acts 2 shows, authority over salvation comes from the Father through the Messiah, who sits at the Father’s side functioning in “coregent” fashion. Thus the Lord Jesus reigns at the Father’s side. Jesus does not make this explicit point here. But Luke 22:69 and Acts 2 show that ultimately this is the answer to the question. Luke 20:41-44

Sometimes little gifts cost a great deal more than big gifts do, and their merit is in the sacrifice they represent. In fact, real giving happens when one gives sacrificially...In contrast to the scribes’ pride and hypocrisy stands this woman who has sacrificed out of her life to honor God. So Jesus says, “Beware of the scribes, but follow this widow.” When God measures the life of service, he does not just count, he weighs. Luke 20:45-21:4

So, Jesus closes the section with a prophecy of judgment. In 21.5-38 Jesus combines a prediction of the judgment of destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD with the judgment that is coming at the 2nd coming. The two events have commonalities, but will not be the same in all the details and should be kept separate. Jesus predicts the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, the coming persecution of the church and the time gap between the two events. In both events God is in charge and believers should remain patient and faithful, even in persecution, knowing that they have eternal life. Every generation should live in expectation of Jesus' return, not engaged in fruitless speculation about specific times, but by faithful service and hopeful prayer.

We must be careful not to get more specific than Scripture does about the events of the future. Luke 2:5-38

Here is why Jesus has revealed the plan—to call disciples to be on the alert. Heeding, watching and praying lead to endurance. Heeding really means following in obedience. Watching means that our eyes are expectant and looking for the Lord’s return, focused on the fact that he will bring us to himself. Praying means we are dependent, looking to him to give us the strength to walk in faithfulness. No matter how tough things get, we can know as we look to God that he cares for us. Luke 21:25-38

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Joyce Arrived on Guam


Joyce is back on Guam for the next 11 days.27624794_10213822067333615_2742045624443493131_o I dropped her off at the airport at 5 AM on Tuesday morning and she arrived on Guam on Wednesday evening, but while I was sleeping early on Wednesday morning in California.27629523_10213818669848680_6076235954131800878_o I have been doing this for 34 years, but I am always amazed that you can be on one side of the world and then be on the other side in less than 24 hours. As you can see, she has already met many old friends. It looks like it was quite an airport reception. I’m sure Joyce is sleeping now, resting up from the flight and for the busy next few days. She is beginning the task of taking care of our business and personal affairs that have been pretty much left undone for a year and getting things ready to move our belongings from Guam to California. This will be a big task that needs to be done in a short time. I know she would appreciate your prayers for this while she is there on Guam. She will be back in California on February 18th.

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #12

BrueggemannThis post continues my reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. Chapters 17-18 close the section on how God is revealed through His relationships with His covenant partners. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

Chapter 17, Creation as Yahweh's Partner, looks at Israel's testimony regarding God's relationship with creation and human responsibility within it. Again, there are two strains of revelation which seem to be in tension with one another. First, creation is presented positively as blessing, in which God arranges the earth to provide order, fertility, beauty, light and meaning to its people and all created things. This is not a one off where God created it and then left it to work itself out, but continues to provide blessing through childbirth, agricultural fertility, and prosperity. Humans are responsible to live well within this world by being wise, understanding how creation works and living accordingly; righteous, living within God's moral boundaries; and worship, that teaches about and praises God for His gifts in creation. The negative strain in the creation stories is the battle between God and the forces of chaos that disrupts and destroys creation. This is portrayed as both a completed and ongoing battle. God is always at work holding back the forces of chaos, but sometimes seems to purposely let them loose in "wrath" as discipline or punishment. It also seems that creation was designed so that human misbehavior can loose these evil forces as well. The bottom line is that humanity and all creation are completely dependent on God to maintain the order and blessing of creation and to protect it from the forces of chaos and evil. 

It is Yahweh’s will for this newly ordered world that it should be fruitful, invested with “the power of fertility.” Yahweh has authorized in the world the inscrutable force of generosity, so that the earth can sustain all its members, and so that the earth has within itself the capacity for sustenance, nurture, and regeneration. This capacity for generosity is no human monopoly; it is assured that every genus and species of creation can “bring forth,” according to its kind. 529

It (The idea of the power of death still on the loose in creation, which may at any time cause havoc) is not, moreover, a diminishment of Yahweh. To the contrary, it is an assertion of how urgently indispensable Yahweh is to a viable life in the world. Yahweh is the guarantor of blessing; but where that power of blessing is not concretely enacted and guaranteed, the undoing of creation takes place. 537

Yahweh has retained these awe-evoking powers for Yahweh’s own self. Thus while Yahweh can unloose the forces of blessing (or fecundity) into the world, Yahweh can also unloose the forces of curse and death—and will do so, in an extreme case, when Yahweh’s sovereignty is mocked. , 539–540

The rest of chapter 17 shows that Yahweh is committed to ultimately blessing all creation and renewing His blessing on the earth even after the most devastating judgment. God's "resolve" is to complete His plan for a blessed, perfected earth. When humans reject God's blessing, He will withdraw resulting in chaos, exile and destruction. But God is always committed to re-ordering the chaos in a new creation. We can be certain that God will complete this plan because He is committed to His creation.

The poem is a declaration in the mouth of Yahweh, who publicly and pointedly claims authority to replicate the initial creation, only now more grandly and more wondrously. This promised action of Yahweh is clearly designed to overcome all that is amiss...the new creation now promised concerns not only Israel, not only the entire human community, but all of creation, so that hostilities at every level and in every dimension of creation will be overcome. “All will be well and all will be well.” Isaiah 65.17-25, 549

It is not in Yahweh’s character to be a God who settles for chaos. It is in Yahweh’s most elemental resolve to enact blessing and order and well-being. 550

Yahweh promises to overcome all forsakenness and abandonment known in Israel and in the world. When creation is abandoned by Yahweh, it readily reverts to chaos. Here it is in Yahweh’s resolve, and in Yahweh’s very character, not to abandon, but to embrace. The very future of the world, so Israel attests, depends on this resolve of Yahweh. It is a resolve that is powerful. More than that, it is a resolve that wells up precisely in tohû wabohû and permits the reality of the world to begin again, in blessedness. 551

Chapter 18, The Drama of Partnership with Yahweh, closes and summarizes Part III of the theology which discusses the testimony derived from God's relationship with His covenant partners. This is very important because, really, God's character can only be known in the revelation of Himself made to and through these partners. Brueggemann summarizes the OT witness to God's relationship with His partners as a pattern of creation blessing, brokenness from covenant failure resulting in chaos/death/exile, and finally restoration to hope and blessedness. Christianity builds on this pattern with the addition of crucifixion and resurrection. In this drama of partnership there is always a tension between God's freedom and sovereignty to defend His holy otherness and His compassion and commitment to covenant. The partner has an obligation to call out to God and be an active member of this partnership. The OT witness is that God responds to the call from "the pit" and will restore the exile to their land, the chaos to a place of blessing and abundance, the hopelessly oppressed to a viable hope and the dead to life. It is this story of blessing, abundance, restoration, help and hope that provides the needed answer to the enlightenment story of scarcity, loneliness and despair.

The person in the Pit is not to be passive and docile, awaiting the initiative of Yahweh. The whole pattern of the psalms of complaint suggests that in the Pit, the human person can and must initiate the process of rescue by shrill protest and insistent hope. It is not possible or appropriate, in the horizon of Israel, to worry about works and grace in such a transaction, because the mutuality of covenanting requires that both parties should be mightily engaged in the demanding, hopeful act of rescue. 554

Yahweh, who is addressed and reached in the nullity, is known in Israel to be a God willing and able to enact a radical newness for each of Yahweh’s partners, a newness that the partners cannot work for themselves. This newness is deeply shaped by Yahweh’s initial acts of sovereign generosity, but it runs well beyond the imagination of those in the nullity...This drama of brokenness and restoration is the primary outcome of the transactions between Yahweh and Yahweh’s partners. 558

At the culmination of Israel’s portrayal of reality is a certitude and a vision of newness, a full restoration to well-being that runs beyond any old well-being. This culmination in well-being, assured by the resolve of Yahweh, is articulated in the conclusion of most psalms of complaint and in prophetic promises that eventuate in messianic and apocalyptic expectations. Israel’s speech witnesses to profound hope, based in the promise-maker and promise-keeper for whom all things are possible. 561

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Some Thoughts on Turning 62

20180204_093602 (960x1280)Of course my first thought on turning 62 is that I am glad I made it. At this time last year that was certainly in doubt. I don’t remember much about turning 61 because I was so sick and ended up spending much of February 2017 in the hospital. That was also the month the doctors finalized my diagnosis and came up with the treatment plan which began in March. This was what was happening then. Now we are at the other end of 3 separate courses of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. I am feeling better and things look good right now. We wait for the testing in March. I’d like to be able to do a big flex and say “I kicked cancer’s butt!” but it would not be true. Yeah, I was there and had to go through a lot but I was mostly passive through this thing. Right from the beginning, God was leading me to trust Him through the whole treatment process. The doctors and medical staff were amazing and were a gift to me from God. My caretaker Joyce was a constant conduit of God’s grace, love, beauty and care. I know many people labored in prayer for me and I know that is hard work too. Mostly, I know that “cancer’s butt was kicked” at the cross and I am thankful to God for any healing I have received. That God worked is clear. How God worked and is working is awesome and wonderful and beyond finding out.

I had a chance to go up to Camino Community Church and share a short update with them last Sunday. I felt that God was telling me to share with them about “chaos.” I have been thinking a lot about that lately since it seems to have invaded my life. The Old Testament often presents God’s act of creation and His subsequent managing of it as a “battle with the chaos monster.” God starts things with blessing, beauty, order, meaning and purpose; and then His created “imagers,” both human and supernatural, mess it up by going independent and thinking they can do things on their own. Thus the pattern of life portrayed in the Bible is blessing - disobedience – chaos – promise – hope – restoration. Israel’s story is covenant blessing – idolatry – exile – regathering. The New Testament adds advent – crucifixion – resurrection. Nobody gets glory without the chaos in between. God Himself even subjects Himself to that grief by being in relationship with us and becoming one of us through the process.

The outcome of thinking like this is HOPE.  Ultimately, only God kicks the chaos monster’s butt. But in his grace and mercy He lets me get in a few kicks too as I trust Him and live as His imager (that means for me, “follow Jesus”) within the chaos. In the midst of all that chaos God ministered His Presence and blessing to me in so many ways. That is how I can live a hopeful life. As I used to say to my students, “A life philosophy that does not give real hope and joy in the face of the fact that you are going to die someday does not work.” It has not happened without some very dark and scary nights, but that hope and joy is how I am still here today.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Evaluating My 2017-18 NFL Predictions

20180204_130815 (960x1280)Here is something you will not see on ESPN or any other sports network. I promised to hold myself accountable for the NFL predictions I made last Fall and I am doing it. You can see them here. To say the least, I did very poorly, especially with the NFC, missing on all 4 division winners and and both wild cards, although I did have the Falcons in the playoffs. I did better in the AFC getting right 4 of the 6 playoff teams. I got the Steelers and Patriots right as division winners (who didn’t get that one right?) and correctly had the Chiefs and Titans in the playoffs. I missed on both Super Bowl teams. Predicting the Cardinals, Raiders, Giants, and Packers in the playoffs looks pretty bad now, but who could have foreseen Aaron Rogers and Derek Carr getting injured? And, really, did anybody see the Eagles coming? I sure missed that one. I did predict my 49ers to win 5-7 games and they hit that one right in the middle – thank you Jimmy Garappolo. I am pretty sure I’ll be predicting a higher number of wins for my Niners next year. I had a fun football year even though I finished middle of the pack in our family fantasy football league. Congrats to my nephew Jesse Hartt who won it this year. Well here’s to looking forward to next season!

My Super Bowl Birthday Party 2018

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Yesterday I enjoyed my annual Super Bowl birthday party. This year it was a fairly small family event. My mom and dad came by and my sister Jayne and her hubby Nate joined Joyce, Missy, Leila and I to watch the game. I really do miss the big Monday morning Super Bowl parties we used to have on Guam, but family parties are nice too. We enjoyed the game and a lot of good conversation. I did miss Celia’s chili and the hot wings, but Joyce made my traditional amazing quadruple chocolate birthday cake so it was a great day. Frankly, I was just glad to still be around for this event and hope, by the grace of God, to still be here for the 2019 game!