Thursday, March 22, 2018

Structure and Message of the Book of Jeremiah

Jeremiah Chart

Message of Jeremiah: Judah has failed to keep the covenant so righteous, faithful YHWH must punish them by sending them into exile in Babylon. But, because YHWH loves His people, He will restore them under a new, eternal covenant under the rule of the righteous Davidic king (ultimately Jesus) who will justly judge Israel and the nations.

Sometimes God is most clearly seen through our tears!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Leila’s Birthday Party


20180319_154141 (768x1024)28828911_10214164993506555_6060964953351760727_o (762x1024)We had a nice gathering of family and friends for Leila’s 6th birthday party on Monday. This is one of the advantages of living closer to family. As you can see, the theme this year was Pokémon.  Joyce and Missy did some amazing work with the cake (I know that icing that cake took about an hour) and I know Leila and her friend had a great time. We also enjoyed some good food and good fellowship. It was nice for me to be around people again. It was a fun time for all. Happy Birthday Leila!

20180319_163917 (1024x768)20180319_174746 (1024x768)20180319_175613 (1024x768)

Leila enjoyed the presents and the piñata. She smashed it pretty good and provided candy for all. She was also quite serious about getting those candles blown out.

Outline of Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost Acts 2.14-47

Acts 2.14-47 Chiastic Outline

This is from today’s “reading through Acts” post. I thought it important to highlight what Peter thought was important in presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ. The key is to focus on the story of Jesus and what he did. The disciples were focused on being witnesses of that story. We also need to keep that story in the forefront and then be witnesses of what he has done for us.

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #1 (Intro, 1-2)

Larkin ActsAs we continue reading through the New Testament this year, we begin our reading through the book of Acts accompanied by Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by William J. Larkin Jr..Acts is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke and completes the story of what Jesus "began to do" in the incarnation by sending His Spirit to the church to complete his plan to preach "the message about repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations." (Luke 24:47) 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 Acts, the church begins with 120 disciples in Jerusalem and ends with Jesus communities planted and trained throughout most of the Roman empire. The message of Jesus Christ, empowered by his Spirit and lived out through his people, becomes an unstoppable force, despite opposition, to accomplish God's plan for these last days.

The twentieth century’s crimes against humanity and the future prospect of doom—whether by limited or not-so-limited nuclear war or by environmental pollution—has turned many postmodern persons into cynical pessimists. The postmodern does not think it’s possible to make sense out of history. But Acts has good news. God is at work in history. He brought his salvation near in Jesus Christ. Now in preparation for his return, he continues to do his work through the church, bringing the saving message to people to the ends of the earth. Acts Introduction,

With this stance the scope of the gospel message’s audience, “all nations,” Jew and Gentile alike, is affirmed, and the dynamic of the mission—“witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)—continues until the King returns. By the time Theophilus reached Acts 28:31, he must surely have known that the gospel message is true and that it was indeed for him and his compatriots (Lk 1:1–4). That same sure knowledge should be ours as well. Acts Introduction

Acts 1 records the preparation of the church before the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. The ascension of Jesus completes his work on earth and is necessary so that he can distribute the Spirit. Though the disciples thought he would immediately establish the final kingdom, he tells them they must wait for the Father's timing. In the meantime, their role would be to be witnesses of what Jesus had done throughout the entire world. The task of the church would be to spread the message of Jesus worldwide and make new disciples from all the peoples of the earth. The group that had been with Jesus throughout his entire ministry would be the base group from which all the church would grow. It was thus necessary to replace Judas as the 12th apostle. With Matthias chosen the church was ready to do its task to take the good news of Jesus to the Jewish nation and then to all the world.

The fact that the Great Commission is the last instruction of the risen, now ascended and imminently returning Lord gives it great weight. He is not mentioning an optional ministry activity for individuals with crosscultural interests and churches with surplus funds. The Great Commission is the primary task the Lord left his church. The church must always be a missionary church; the Christian must always be a world Christian. Acts 1.1-11

Luke concludes by noting that the full complement of the twelve apostles has been restored. By principle, Matthias’s election teaches us that restoration of integrity within the body of Christ is essential to preparation for revival. Wherever sin has created a breach and compromised the church’s integrity, discipline, repentance and restoration must be pursued. Acts 1:15-26

Just as Jesus promised, the present age of the kingdom was inaugurated with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit comes with all the Old Testament picture of a theophany, a manifestation of God's presence. However, now the flame of fire is not a pillar, but tongues divided and resting upon each person, symbolizing the presence of God now residing in individuals instead of a temple structure. Also the Spirit is given to all without regard for social divisions. All (male-female, slave-free, old-young etc.) can live in God's presence and minister to bring others into his presence. Pentecost also undoes the confusion of languages at Babel as everyone can hear the good news in their own language. God will now retake rule over and redeem all the nations as intended in creation.

Peter's sermon focuses on the disciples' witness of the gospel events: the resurrection, ascension and the giving of the Spirit by Jesus. The gospel is the good news that Jesus is Lord as attested by these events. 

Chiastic Outline of Peter's Pentecost Sermon Acts 2.14-47

  • 1. Explanation of Pentecost 14-21
    • 2. Presentation of the Gospel and the Need for it 22-24
      • 3. Quote of Scriptural Proof of Jesus Resurrection from Psalm 16 25-28
        • 4. Scriptural Interpretation of Psalm 16 29-31
  • 5. Gospel Witness: We are witnesses of Jesus' resurrection, ascension and giving of the Spirit! 32-33
        • 4' Scriptural Interpretation of Psalm 101, 34
      • 3' Quote of Scriptural Proof from Psalm 101 34-35
    • 2' Presentation of the Proper Response to Gospel 36-39
  • 1' Response to the Gospel and Results of the Pentecost Event: Establishment of the Church 40-47

Peter emphasizes the need to respond to the gospel with repentance (trusting Jesus and no longer rejecting him) and identification with his people and community. This is exactly what happens as 3000 confess sin and show their allegiance (in what would be a hostile environment) by being baptized. The church is then established with its 4-fold mission of corporate worship, fellowship, care for one another and devotion to learning the teaching of the apostles. The early church was committed to spending time with one another in the presence of God in the power of the Spirit.

This multilingual witness coheres with the universal offer of salvation in the church’s message and its consequent worldwide mission. It also highlights the church’s multicultural character. God affirms people as cultural beings. As many a Bible translator knows, our native language and culture is natural, necessary and welcome to us as the air we breathe. Acts 2.1-13

Peter calls his listeners to know for certain that God has openly avowed Jesus to be Lord and Messiah. Jesus may now rightfully be declared Messiah, since he has done Messiah’s saving work and has been vindicated by God, who raised him from the dead. He may properly be proclaimed Lord in the highest sense of the word, as the respectful designation of the unpronounceable name of God (YHWH). For by his resurrection-exaltation he has demonstrated that he is the ever-living and life-giving God, whom death cannot hold and who pours out the Spirit. Acts 2.14-41

God’s plan is for churches to grow. The challenge for us is, “Will we meet the Scriptural conditions for growth: a dedication to be a learning, caring, fellowshipping, worshipping church?” Will we meet the one essential condition? “As empowering follows petition, so evangelism and Christian unity or community follow Pentecost. The empowering, moreover, is repeatable. So pray!” Acts 2:42-47

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Structure and Message of John 1.1-18

Basic Chiasm John 1.1-18

Message of John 1.1-18: Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation of the One God who is the Creator of everything. As God in human flesh He calls all of us into a relationship with Him that demands “total buy-in” to His Kingdom program.

Basic Chiasm John 1.1-18 (2)

Jesus is the One who “was” before He “became” so we can “be” after we have “become”

Chiastic Structure John 1.1-2

Deity and Trinity

Chiastic Structure John 1.14-18

Chiastic John 1.14-18 fulfilment

Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God

Reading Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology by John H. Walton #2

Walton GenesisToday’s post begins my read through of Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, by John H. Walton. Chapter 4 discusses Genesis 1 and its relationship to the ancient Near Eastern worldview he has surveyed in chapters 2-3. 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.…

He begins with a detailed look at Genesis 1.1. He analyzes the literary relationship of the verse to rest of the  chapter and book of Genesis and does word studies on the word "beginning," "create" and its related word, "make," which is also used to describe God's creative work in other biblical texts. First, he concludes that 1.1 does not describe a separate creative act before the days of creation begin, but is a summary of the acts of the 7 days beginning in verse 3. I would tend to agree with Walton here because this understanding fits best with the grammar of the text, as it is in our traditional Hebrew Bible, and also fits better with the literary tôlĕdôt structure of the book of Genesis. If one wants to change the pointing (vowel markers of the text which were added sometime later) of verse 1, it could be a subordinate clause to verse 2 (in the beginning when God began...the earth was formless). I think that is possible but less likely. The verb bārāʾ, create, is only used in the OT with God as the subject, implying that it is only a divine activity. However, the objects it takes make it clear that it does not always deal with material creation. It can mean to organize, designate, animate or assign function to already existing material, as in the creation of humans from clay. The same is true of the Hebrew verb ʿāśâ, "make," which is a more general word for "doing." Walton's conclusion here is that Genesis 1.1 is a summary statement of the 7 days of creation which primarily describe God's ordering, organizing and assigning functions to material creation. I would agree with him that Genesis 1.1 is not talking about the original creation ex nihilo (other scriptures make this point), but would not rule out materials being created here. What we have in Genesis 1 is an organization of nonfunctional, unusable material into a world prepared for God's people. How God's original creation became "formless and empty" (or whether God created it that way) is not explained in the text here. 

The ‘beginning’ is a way of labeling the seven-day period of creation described in the remainder of Genesis 1 rather than a point in time prior to the seven days. As an independent clause, it offers no description of creative acts but provides a literary introduction to the period of creative activity that then flows into the tôlĕdôt sections that characterize the remainder of the book. 127

The verb only appears with deity as its subject in the approximately 50 times it occurs in the Hebrew Bible. This is an important observation: it has led to the common conclusion that the activity denoted by bārāʾ is a prerogative only of deity and not an activity that humans can undertake or even in which they can participate. 128

If we do not arrive at the text of Genesis 1 with the preconception that the focus is on the bringing into existence of the material world, the context itself would not lead us to think in predominantly material terms. In the initial period, God brought the cosmos into existence (by setting up an ordered system and giving everything its role within that system). In this proposal, the text is making no comment on material origins. It is more interested in indicating how God set up the cosmos to function for human beings in his image. 139

The next section describes the pre-creation situation as it is presented in Genesis 1.2. Walton again points out the similarities to the "cognitive backgrounds" of other ancient texts. The key concepts that are discussed here are tōhû and bōhû (usually translated formless and empty), Tĕhôm (the deep) and rûaḥ ʾĕlohîm (the spirit of God). The earth or land is described as tōhû and bōhû. Though many see "chaos" as proper translation for this phrase, Walton prefers non-functional based on Egyptian background. That is the earth is awaiting God's creation to assign it function and meaning. The earth is also described as Tĕhôm, deep waters. Israel did not see Tĕhôm as a god/monster to be defeated but as non-functional waters awaiting the hand of the Creator to give them order and purpose. He uses the tradition translation of rûaḥ ʾĕlohîm as "spirit of God" rather than "mighty wind" as suggested by some scholars. The presence of God is there and his word will be activated to create everything in the world to meet his specifications and purpose. A key point in Genesis 1 is that God is the Creator of all that exists. There was no “battle of the gods” to form the universe. Creation is done with God’s personal, purposeful design.

Gen 1:2 is the biblical text that describes the precosmic condition as it was understood in Israelite thought...Whether the topic is geographical areas, nations, cities, people, or idols, the term refers to that which is nonproductive, nonfunctional, and of no purpose. This conclusion is fully supported by the contexts in which tōhû is used and by the terms that are used parallel to it. 139, 141

The Israelite portrayal does not present the precreation state as negative or personal/personified; instead, it is a neutral, functionless ambiguity. 145

It is evident that the rûaḥ ʾĕlohîm is not only superintending the work of creation but in fact brings creation about through the word. The passage is emphasizing the actual powerful presence of God, who brings the spoken work into reality by the Spirit. Thus, the Spirit and the word work together to present the fact that the one God is responsible for all that is seen in the physical universe. quoting Wilf Hildebrandt, 150

Monday, March 19, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of John #6 (18-21)

JohnIn this post we conclude our reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre.Chapters 18-21 conclude John’s Gospel with an account of Jesus’ passion, resurrection and  commissioning of the disciples. God’s glory is revealed through the incarnate Jesus and will be revealed through the church which ministers Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.  I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 18 begins the final section of John and provides the climax of the Gospel as Jesus reveals the Father most completely in his self-sacrificial death and renewal of creation made possible through the victory of his resurrection. In the arrest of Jesus, John portrays Jesus as being in control of the situation, as his powerful word knocks the arresting force to the ground and protects his followers. Jesus clearly lays down his own life. John then moves to the trial before Annas. Again, Jesus boldly confronts Annas as though he were the one on trial. John emphasizes Caiaphas' statement that it is better to for Jesus to die on behalf of the nation. John also contrasts Jesus' testimony with that of Peter. Peter fails because he does not stay close to Jesus.

In the half-light, separated from Jesus, Peter encounters temptation for which he does not have the resources to resist. The only hope for any of us in the time of temptation is to remain close to Jesus. John 18.1-18, 432

Jesus has completed his witness by word. There remains only the climax of all his ministry as he witnesses to the Father through his death, resurrection and ascension. It is now up to those who have heard him to bear witness to him. Such remains the case today. His abiding presence remains with believers, but those who abide in him are to bear witness to him before the world. John 18.19-27, 433

Next Jesus is taken before Pilate for trial (18.28-19.16) This section is an elaborate chiasm in which Jesus' kingship is emphasized. In the center of the chiasm the Roman soldiers mockingly crown Jesus king and pay homage to him.

  A Outside (18:28–32) The Jews demand Jesus’ death
     B Inside (18:33–38a) Pilate questions Jesus about kingship
       C Outside (18:38b–40) Pilate finds Jesus not guilty; Barabbas choice
          D Inside (19:1–3) Soldiers scourge Jesus
       C´ Outside (19:4–8) Pilate finds Jesus not guilty; “Behold the man”
     B´ Inside (19:9–11) Pilate talks with Jesus about power
   A´ Outside (19:12–16a) The Jews obtain Jesus’ death 435

The point is that both the Jews and Gentiles reject the king who came from God and is there to bring God's kingdom from heaven to earth with truth and love. Ironically, that very rejection will be used by God to bring in his kingdom, defeat sin and death and the powers of evil, and gather the community of Jesus who will spread the kingdom throughout the world. Some of those who are part of the rejection will become members of the kingdom (Acts 2). Jesus' bold, but loving, behavior before the Jewish leadership and before Pilate demonstrates the kind of kingdom Jesus brings and provides the example for believers who will be persecuted.

Jesus says that he came into the world not to be king of the Jews, but to testify to the truth. This language makes obvious the contrast between his identity and mission on the one hand and the falsehood of his opponents on the other. “He is the king of Truth, and He manifests His royal power not by force, but by the witness He bears to the Truth.” The truth he refers to is the truth of God. John 18.28-40, 442

Pilate’s fear is quite justified. He will be held accountable to God for how he exercises his authority. His sin may not be as great as someone else’s, but he is in fact sinning. Furthermore, this indictment of Pilate implies something about Jesus’ own identity and role, for he is claiming to know God and God’s will. Indeed, Jesus himself is the point of reference for sin in that to reject him is sin (16:9) and to receive him is to obey God. John 19.1-16, 452

19.16 begins John's "amazingly brief" account of Jesus' crucifixion. John continues to emphasize the revelation of God's glory through Jesus' self-giving death on the cross. He is the king who brings in the kingdom through his self-sacrifice to take on the full human experience of sin, death and evil and defeat it on behalf of the world. He is the righteous sufferer who willingly gives up his own life and fulfills scripture. In his death, He creates a new community that will follow his self-giving example.  

Jesus was forming a new community around himself...This community is the fruit of his death, for it will be the locus of the divine life on earth. The divine life is characterized by love and therefore requires a community to express itself. The life of the community derives from Jesus’ own giving of himself, and in turn such self-giving is to typify the community itself. Jesus’ death is both a revelation of the love of God and an example of such self-giving love. Such love is only really possible when sin has been taken away, since the essence of sin is a false self-love that prevents one from sharing in the life of God, which is love. John 19.16-30, 461–462

Jesus has no ancestral tomb but rather has begun a new family of those born from above who will never die (11:26). John 19.31-42, 468

John 20 begins the account of Jesus' resurrection appearances which provide the climax to his revelation of God's glory. There are 5 encounters with the resurrected Christ that enlarge the disciples' understanding of who Jesus is and increase their faith. These real experiences of the risen Christ will provide the basis for the gospel and the future faith of those who will come to Christ. In the first scene, Mary Magdalene and two disciples come to the tomb and see the stone rolled away and the empty grave clothes. They know something significant has happened but they do not fully understand. When Mary comes back to the tomb she appears and speaks to her. She is the first one sent out as "a disciple to the disciples" to tell the good news of the resurrection. Jesus next appears to a group of the disciples and announces to them the "shalom" and joy of the salvation that has come. He "breathes" (an act of new creation) the Spirit on them, empowering his commissioning of them to witness to what has happened. Finally, he appears to Thomas who makes the climactic confession of Jesus as "my Lord and my God." This confession is the goal of the church's witness and was John's purpose in writing the Gospel. 

In his resurrection appearances Jesus continues to reveal the glory of God by manifesting the grace and love that characterize God. This love is seen in the gentleness, care and humility with which he deals with his disciples. This section contains a series of encounters with Christ that show him overcoming a variety of barriers to faith, including ignorance, grief, fear and doubt. John 20, 471

The message Jesus gives Mary shows the christological basis of the new relationship. “Because God is Jesus’ Father, he is also their Father; because he is Jesus’ God, he is also their God. They are taken up into the fellowship that unites Jesus and the Father.” Jesus is the point of contact between the disciples and the Father. The Father is the Father of the disciples in this new intimacy precisely because he is Jesus’ Father, for the disciples are now Jesus’ brothers. John 20.11-18, 477–478

Thomas confesses Jesus as God when he sees that the crucified one is alive. It is in the crucifixion that God himself is made known, for he is love, and love is the laying down of one’s life (1 Jn 4:8; 3:16). But God is also life. In John, this God is revealed perfectly in the death of the Son, but this death would be nothing without the life. When Thomas finds death and life juxtaposed in Jesus he realizes who the one standing before him really is. John 20.24-31, 485–486

The final chapter of the Gospel of John records an appearance of the risen Jesus to a group of disciples at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus appears to them on the shore when they are in a boat fishing on the lake. They have caught nothing but Jesus tells them to cast their nets to the right of the boat and they get a huge catch of fish. Jesus then provides breakfast for them. It is again a picture of the abundance that Jesus provides and a reminder that they can do nothing without him. Jesus then talks with Peter to forgive and commission him. Jesus performs "painful, but necessary surgery" on Peter's pride to prepare him for the task of self-giving leadership that will model the character and actions of Jesus. The Gospel closes with a statement of the truth of the events related by the those who witnessed it. The glory of God has appeared on earth in human form in the person of Jesus Christ and this is truly good news to those who believe and commit themselves to him. 

Jesus now appears to another partial gathering of the group, an appearance that reveals the same key characteristics as were manifested throughout the ministry, namely his lordship, his servanthood, his character as gracious giver of abundance and his love. He has met his disciples at a point of failure and revealed himself as the awesome Lord of creation who cares for them. John 21.1-14, 493

Jesus himself is the Good Shepherd and now he commissions Peter to care for the flock that belongs to Jesus, for they are my lambs … my sheep. The community has already been established, and now Peter is given authority, though of a particular kind. The key qualification for this task, as this chapter indicates, is a love for Jesus that is characterized by humility, dependence and obedience. John 21.15-23, 496–497

Jesus is the very presence of God come into our midst. All authority has been given to him, and judgment is in his hands. He is quite strict regarding obedience, but he is full of mercy. He has revealed the Father, overcome the prince of this world and taken away the sin of the world. He also washed his disciples’ feet and served them breakfast. No human being has ever dreamed up such a God—we have a hard enough time remaining true to the witness he has left us through his servants, in particular, through John, the Beloved Disciple. John 21.24-25, 501

The Goal of the Christian Life: Outline John 15.1-17

Outline John 15.1-17

The Goal/Result of the Christian Life is an intimate connection with the Trinity through Christ and enabled by the Holy Spirit. It happens as we love by remaining in Jesus’ word and obeying his command to love as He loved. Our love for God is seen as we reach out in love to others with the self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ. As we more deeply connect with God, we experience deep love and connection in Christ’s community (the church) and a joy that goes beyond anything else we can experience or explain.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Message and Basic Chiastic Outline of John 13-17

Basic outline John 13-17

Message of John 13-17

The essence of the Christian life is an intimate connection with the Trinity (in the way the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are connected) through Jesus. What Jesus did through his connection with the Father we also can do through the connection with the Father and Jesus that we have in the Spirit. The evidence of this intimate connection with God is acts of loving service done for God’s people that produce a unity which attracts the world to Christ. Discipleship is essentially sharing the intimate connection we have with the Triune God, and its results, with those with whom we come in contact. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Reading Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology by John H. Walton #1

Walton GenesisToday’s post begins my read through of Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, by John H. Walton. In all his books Walton makes the important point that we must read the Bible through the eyes of its original audience before we can understand its message and apply it to our own culture. This is notoriously difficult to do, so there will be disagreements, but I think it is very important to have these discussions. 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.…

I have used Walton's Introduction to the Old Testament and read some of his "Lost World" books so I thought it would be good to go back to the basics with his viewpoint. I also like to use his basic biblical hermeneutic that "the Bible was written for us, not to us." The preface to this book lays out his premise quite clearly and succinctly.

I contend that Genesis 1 never was an account of material origins but that, as in the rest of the ancient world, the focus of the creation accounts was to order the cosmos by initiating functions. I further contend that the cosmology of Genesis 1 is founded on the premise that the cosmos should be understood in temple terms. ix

In Chapter 1, Cosmology and Comparative Studies: Methodology, he explains how he would use the Ancient Near Eastern backgrounds to understand the text of the Bible. This was not a case of the biblical writers just completely adopting ANET ideas and copying them into the biblical texts. The idea is more that God revealed Himself to Israel in terms they would understand and they wrote the revelation in terms that would be understood in an ancient worldview. Thus, when we read the text through our modern worldview; if for example we see a blue planet in a solar system when we read Genesis 1; we will tend to misinterpret the text and miss its main message. For example, many poetic texts in the Bible adapt the "battle of the gods" motif, but they do it to assert Yahweh's uniqueness in the supernatural world, his unquestioned ability to bring order and beauty to the chaos, and maintain it; not to explain natural phenomena. I think it is also clear that temple imagery is there in the creation stories and continues to be used to reveal God's relationship to His creation. I would have to say that the idea of functional creation is there in Genesis 1, but not sure that it completely negates the idea of material creation. 

All literature is dependent on the culture from which it emerges and on the literature of the cultures with which it is in contact...That all literature is dependent, however, does not rule out the possibility that new ideas or perspectives may emerge; it only recognizes that no literature or idea is without a precursor of some sort, even if there is something in the “new” literature that departs from the “old.” For interpretation to be legitimate, it must acknowledge the debt that the “new” owes to the “old” and explore the intertextual linkage between the two...We should not be surprised, then, that understanding the Hebrew Bible requires its interpreters to recognize the pervasive connection that ancient Israel had with the legacy of ancient Near Eastern literature and thought. 12–13

Israel’s adaptation of ideas or materials from surrounding cultures was guided by what the people of Israel believed about their interaction with Israel’s god, Yahweh, and modern interpreters can choose to agree with the Hebrew Bible’s perspective or not. Whatever the modern interpreter’s assessment of the divine role, the Israelites’ self-identity was based (eventually—we need not quibble about the time-frame here) on the belief that there was only one God, and God chose their forefathers to be in a unique relationship with them (a relationship defined by the covenant). 15

Chapters 2-3 are a survey of Ancient Near Eastern creation stories. Chapter 2 is short and contains a helpful chart that overviews references in the various creation stories and can be used to quickly compare the emphases of the various stories. Chapter 3 is much longer and surveys the major themes of these creation stories. Basically, the point made from this survey is that ancient creation stories were more about organizing material and corralling powers, rather than creation of matter, to accomplish something. Creation is about organizing, naming, separating and assigning function. Instead of viewing the universe as a machine, Walton compares the ancient view of the universe to a business. Creation was thus an organizing of the "powers" by the gods, to give order, mission, purpose and function and to assign the various parts of creation their separate roles. All of these various parts were sacred and inhabited by the gods. Part of the purpose of Israel's revelation is to "desacralize" the objects of creation, without removing the One God from His intimate Presence and control over the purpose, functions, and His mission for His creation. Thus, creation in Genesis 1 is an organization of the chaos (creation ex nihilo is found in other passages), giving it order, meaning, purpose, and beauty.

Cosmic creation in the ancient world was not viewed primarily as a process by which matter was brought into being but as a process by which functions, roles, order, jurisdiction, organization, and stability were established. This makes it clear that creation in the ancient world was defined by the determination of functions and, in turn, demonstrates that the ontology of ancient peoples was focused on a thing’s functional, rather than its material, status. 34

When we moderns think about the ancient world (including the Bible), it is most natural for us to imagine that ancient peoples simply thought of the world as a machine with Someone running it, rather than seeing that they did not in any respect conceive of the world as a machine. In the ancient functional ontology, the cosmos is more like a business. In this metaphor, it is clear that a business only functions in relationship to people, both the company’s employees and its customers. 45

The main gods (Anu, Enlil, Enki) would be the officers of the company or the board of directors, and the lesser gods would have the role of vice-presidents. Kings would be something like department supervisors and priests similar to managers and, in some senses, like union bosses. Temples and cities would be roughly equivalent to the departments of the company or, perhaps, franchises, and people would be the employees, whose rituals are akin to punching the clock and putting in their time to help the company run; their only lot in life is to work their fingers to the bone until they are fired or reach retirement, having given their blood, sweat, and tears in service to the company and its officers, with little to show for their efforts. 48–49

Chapter 3 continues by describing the roles of gods and humans, "cosmic geography," and temples in the ancient Near Eastern worldview. The gods in this view were inside and part of creation rather than separate from it. They were defined by their functions within the cosmos, whether it was direct (driving the sun across the sky for example) or administrative (ruling and supervising other lesser gods). Humans were created mainly to relieve the gods of menial work and to meet the gods' needs through worship, and sacrifice. Cosmic geography was concerned, less with the materials of the universe as in our modern "machine view," than with who is in charge of its functions (a bureaucratic business view of the universe). Ancient views generally agreed that the universe was three-tiered with the land in the center, a solid dome or tent sky above which held back chaotic waters, and the netherworld below which were more chaotic waters. Temples were very important because they were both a representation of the universe and the hub from which the gods operated it. They provided a link between heaven and earth, and gods and men. The deity was at rest when the temple was functioning as it should be. The biblical revelation happens in this ancient environment and speaks in its language to these ancient people to reveal the True Creator (who is separate, holy, from creation but works inside it) and correct their misunderstandings. Our job is to take this revelation, understand it in its original context, and explain its unchanging theological truths within (and to correct) the worldviews we encounter today.

The roles of the gods...all concern functions, not material origins, and the functions all operate from within the system rather than acting on it from outside. The authority and jurisdiction of any god is circumscribed by his or her relationship to the components of the cosmos or to other deities. 68

Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Canaanites, Hittites, and Israelites all thought of the cosmos as composed of tiers: the earth was in the middle, with the heavens above and the netherworld beneath. In general, people believed that there was a single, disc-shaped continent. This continent had high mountains at the edges that some believed held up the sky, which they thought was not vapors or air but solid (some envisioned it as a tent, others as a more substantial dome). The heavens where deities lived were above the sky, and the netherworld was beneath the earth. 88

Individual temples were designed as models of the cosmos, but in addition, and more importantly, the temple was viewed as the hub of the cosmos. It was built in conjunction with the creation of the cosmos. Gods took up their rest in the temple for a variety of reasons, one of which was the ruling of the cosmos as they continued to maintain the order that had been established and to exercise control of destinies. 119

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

March Madness Picks

This is my favorite time of year to watch college basketball. I already enjoyed two excellent games in the “first four” last night. I do have to say that the recent scandals in the NCAA make the whole thing a little less appetizing, but I want to enjoy the games this year before greed of the NCAA, college administrations, coaches, agents and other con men kill it off. So here are my picks for the tournament this year all the way to the championship game. And yes, I have filled out multiple different brackets on the bracket challenge on ESPN.

First Two Rounds:  East: Purdue, Florida, West Virginia, Villanova

                  Midwest: Kansas, Clemson, Michigan State, Duke

                  South: Cincinnati, Miami, Arizona, Virginia

                  West: Missouri, Gonzaga, Michigan, North Carolina

Sweet 16: East: Purdue over Florida, West Virginia (upset special) over Villanova; Purdue over West Virginia

               Midwest: Clemson over Kansas (another upset); Michigan St. over Duke; Michigan St. over Clemson

               South: Cincinnati over Miami; Arizona over Virginia; Arizona over Cincinnati

               West: Gonzaga over Missouri; Michigan over North Carolina; Michigan over Gonzaga

Final Four: Arizona over Michigan; Michigan State over Purdue

Championship:   Arizona 81  Michigan State 75

Last year my best bracket was in the 68th% in ESPN’s bracket challenge. So don’t take these picks to the bank!!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Thoughts on Cancer, Sin and Leprosy

ribs (2)Forgive me here as I think out loud a little. Yesterday I heard a sermon on Romans 8 in which the preacher talked about cancer as a manifestation of the “groaning of creation” that awaits its renewing at the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ and the final phase of the kingdom of God. I think cancer, much like leprosy did in the 1st century, provides a graphic picture of sin’s pervasiveness and insidiousness in the modern world. It affects everyone, as there is hardly a family anywhere that has not been touched by the devastation a cancer diagnosis brings. It separates us from one other, whether by intention or circumstance. I have spent more time alone in the last 16 months than ever before in my life. It, for me at least, draws attention to our own mortality – death is coming for us all, and maybe sooner than we think. But, (my experience again) it also brings about the best in God’s people. The outpouring of help, prayer and encouragement from the church all over the world has been overwhelming. We have truly experienced the “touch of Jesus” through my lymphoma experience.

In biblical times leprosy was a graphic picture of sin and its effects. (I saw a post once in which a prominent preacher tried to make the point that “sin is not a sickness.” It made me wonder if he had ever read the Bible carefully. Sickness and sin are intimately linked throughout scripture. Jesus likens himself to a “doctor” who heals the sickness of sin and its effects.) Skin diseases and rashes were prominent in the ancient world and were often dangerously infectious.  The suffering from them were often separated from society to mitigate spreading of the disease. Its effects were visible and debilitating. Old Testament law pronounced unclean anyone who had contact with lepers and excluded them from temple fellowship. Jesus overturned that as his touch, rather than rendering him unclean, healed lepers and made them clean. Jesus would, at times, also announce that with the healing sin was forgiven.

Cancer, although not quite so contagious, is pervasive and often sentences its sufferers to separation from society in hospitals and homes. At least, it separates one from “normal” human daily life. It changes one’s plans and it certainly has curtailed my own ideas about “my own ministry.” Like sin, it does bring a little bit of death into one’s daily life. I have been thinking about this as I wait for another PET scan in about 6 weeks to see if my cancer has been eradicated from my body. I know God has directed me to trust that the doctors are part of his work of healing in my life. Whether that is a “complete” healing that will give me 5, 10 or 20 more years I don’t know. I do know that I, like all you reading this, await real complete healing in resurrection. I pray that the kingdom will break out a little here and defeat this lymphoma, but I know that in the resurrection at least I will stand whole. Not only will disease be removed, but the real cancer, the disease of sin, will be removed and I will be as God intended. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, if there is no resurrection we Christians are the most pathetic deluded people on earth. But, as we will soon celebrate, Christ is risen and has defeated sin, death, cancer and leprosy. We need to live each moment in this age of “groaning” living in the light of that soon to come resurrection. My cancer is telling me that anything else is an illusion. 

Reading Through the Gospel of John #5 (13-17)

JohnIn this post we continue reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre. Chapters 13-17 contain Jesus' last instructions to His disciples. The main theme of the passage is the love and unity of Jesus' people that comes from being centered and grounded in Christ through the enablement of the Spirit. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Jesus begins his teaching of the disciples with a graphic demonstration of what he means by love. Love means the humble giving up of one's own life to serve others and give them life. Jesus gives up his dignity and privilege as a leader to serve the disciples as he will give up his life on the cross to provide life to all the world. He commands the disciples to follow this example. This makes Judas' betrayal the ultimate act of evil. Even though Jesus has loved him, and given him the place of honor at dinner, Judas turns against Jesus for his own selfish reasons and ends up doing the work of Satan. God will work through this to the ultimate revelation of God's glory, the cross, as Jesus loves the disciples and the world to the max by giving up his life to save them and provide a way that all can have a relationship with the Father life Jesus does.

John’s introduction to the event ensures that we understand God’s glory is revealed in Jesus in this sign. This is what God himself is like—he washes feet, even the feet of the one who will betray him! Thus, the footwashing is a true sign in the Johannine sense, for it is a revelation of God. John 13.1-20, 328–329

We are all quite capable of the worst sin. If we think otherwise, we are deluded and have no real idea how much we owe to the grace of God. John 13.21-30, 334

The disciple, therefore, is one who is characterized by love, which is the laying down of life. The disciple, like the Master, reveals the Father...John is quite clear that this divine love, in which the disciples are to share, is for the whole world. Indeed, their love for one another is part of God’s missionary strategy, for such love is an essential part of the unity they are to share with one another and with God. John 13.31-35, 343–344

In chapter 14 Jesus begins his teaching by telling the disciples that he must go away to the Father. This is not a bad thing because he will enable the disciples, and the world, to go to the Father as well. Jesus is the revealer of the Father and, through his death and resurrection makes the way to the Father, and eternal life available. In addition, he will not really leave because the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, will minister connection to the Presence of Jesus and the Father within the community of believers and join them to the fellowship contained within the Trinity. The church will be a witness to this community. This manifestation of God within human relationships is far beyond the theophanies of the previous age.

This verse brings out how Jesus’ fulfillment of the roles of revealer and life-giver is unique. Jesus’ unity with the Father means he is not just a law-giver, prophet or sage who conveys God’s truth, but, like God, he is the truth. Similarly, he is not simply one through whom God rescues his people. Rather, he was the agent of the creation of all life, and the Father has given to him to have life in himself, like God himself. Here Jesus, like God himself, is truth and life, and yet he remains distinct from God and is the way to God. John 14.1-7, 351–352

Praying “in Jesus’ name” does not refer to some magic formula added to the end of a prayer. It means to pray in keeping with his character and concerns and, indeed, in union with him. The disciples, through their union with Christ, are taken up into his agenda. This agenda, as throughout his ministry, is to bring glory to the Father (v. 13) John 14.8-21, 355

The peace Jesus is talking about is not the cessation of hostilities from enemies, but rather the gift of calmness and confidence that comes from union with God and faith in him and his purposes. The world’s idea of peace is something that comes through destroying of enemies and consists of physical and emotional comfort. The peace that Jesus gives is grounded in God and not in circumstances. John 14.22-31, 365

Chapter 15 moves into the center of what Jesus is teaching the disciples as he describes the nature of eternal life. Eternal life begins now as the Spirit connects the believer intimately with the Father and Son, as a branch is connected to a vine and draws sustenance from it. As believers remains connected to God, they experience union with the love and mission of Jesus and are connected to each other. They being to "bear the fruit" of intimacy with God and grow to resemble and image God to the world. This will draw some to God, but it will also cause opposition because believers will be at odds with the values of the world.

Remaining is not simply believing in him, though that is crucial, but includes being in union with him, sharing his thoughts, emotions, intentions and power. In a relationship both parties must be engaged. The divine must take the initiative and provide the means and the ability for the union to take place, but it cannot happen without the response of the disciple. John 15.1-6, 376

The obedience Jesus is talking about is an obedience not to societal rules, but to the Father who is all love. To obey him is to conform one’s life to the very pattern of God’s own life. Such obedience shares in his life, which is characterized by harmony, grace, goodness and beauty. We are in intimate union with him and swept up into his dance for which we were created and which brings the deepest fulfillment and deepest joy to our lives. John 15.7-17, 378

Many Christians are indeed undergoing the most horrid persecution and suffering for the Name. Jesus’ words of encouragement here speak directly to his disciples in such situations. He gives them the larger perspective, helping them understand that what they are going through is part of the world’s rejection of the Father and the Son. John 15.18-27, 383–384

Chapter 16 describes the persecution that this opposition will bring. The Paraclete will give the disciples deep insight into who Jesus is and what his teaching is all about and will create a community that represents Jesus. This means that often the church will be rejected the same way Jesus was. The 1st century church, including the disciples and like Jesus, pointed out the exclusiveness of Jesus' revelation of God and thus were rejected and killed like Jesus. A church that refuses to live like the world will always be persecuted to some degree. However, the believers' grief in persecution will be temporary. The disciples grief at Jesus’ death changed to joy after the resurrection. Our grief, likewise, is changed to joy through the intimacy we experience with the Father now, despite persecution, and will be complete when we are resurrected with Christ in the coming age. 

More generally speaking, it is primarily the community’s life together that witnesses to Jesus and, by the same token, exposes and condemns the world, in particular by their love (13:35) and unity (17:21). Such love and unity reveal that they are sharing in God’s own life, and, consequently, their rejection and persecution show that the opponents are acting against God. The very judgment that Jesus brought into the world continues through his disciples and elicits the same hatred (7:7). John 16.1-15, 391

Until death itself becomes a revelation of God the disciples can be troubled in the world, the place of death. Their joy cannot be stable and secure until they see him again (v. 16, 19) and he sees them (v. 22). Then will they reap the benefits of his conquest by becoming one with him as he pours out the Spirit. They will not ask him, but rather they will be one with him, asking the Father in his name. So their joy will be full—the joy of union with God in Christ by the Spirit. They will know God’s glory and will manifest his glory as they, in union with the living Christ by the Spirit, bear fruit as Jesus did, asking for what Jesus did. Their focus and source will be God, and thus they will have peace no matter what the world may throw at them. John 16.16-33, 401–402

Chapter 17 concludes Jesus' teaching of the disciples with a prayer for the continued glorification of the Father through the love, unity and ministry of the church, founded on relationship with Jesus, beginning from the disciples and extending throughout the world. Jesus begins by thanking the Father, in anticipation of his death and resurrection, that his mission is complete. He has fully revealed the Father. He then prays for the disciples. He thanks the Father that they have responded with faith and they are now united with him. He prays for their continued growth in that relationship (sanctification), protection from the opposition of the evil one and their continuing mission to glorify the Father by revealing Jesus. He then prays for the world, the people who will come to believe in the message the disciples will bring. He prays for a unity, based on relationship with the Father through Christ, that will draw the whole world into relationship with the Father. He, thus, closes the loop on the teaching session by going back to the self-sacrificing love he shows by giving himself on the cross, that produces a unity of being and mission and glorifies the Father as God intended for the creation of the world. 

The Son will glorify the Father through giving eternal life to those the Father gives him. And the Father’s glorification of the Son is in keeping with his having given him authority over all flesh. Thus, the flow is from creation to new creation. In both cases the Father is the ultimate source, and the Son is God’s agent. The Son has given life to all creation, and now it is time for him to give eternal life to those within creation given him by God. John 17.1-5, 405

Here is the fundamental truth of this Gospel—the oneness of the Father and the Son—expressed in terms of possession. The disciples’ very relations with the Father and Son bear witness to this foundational truth. They have been given to the Son and yet remain the Father’s because of the divine oneness. Here, as throughout this Gospel, Jesus’ deeds and words make no sense unless one realizes he is God. John 17.6-19, 410–411

The love of God evident in the church is a revelation that there is a welcome awaiting those who will quit the rebellion and return home. Here is the missionary strategy of this Gospel—the community of disciples, indwelt with God’s life and light and love, witnessing to the Father in the Son by the Spirit by word and deed, continuing to bear witness as the Son has done. John 17.20-26, 420

Friday, March 09, 2018

PET Scan Update

28238879_10156230183234312_4537359472903167754_oThis is the latest prayer letter from us…

Dear Prayer Partners

Today was the big day: We got the results of my PET scan from our doctor at Stanford. The result was mostly good, but mixed. The areas that were treated with chemo were all clear. There were two small areas in my pelvis that were lit up in the scan. The doctor thinks recurrence of lymphoma is unlikely. It could be a false positive or minor infection but he wants to be sure. So we will have another scan the last week of April. So we'll wait and pray a little more.

We also saw a lymphedema specialist last week. His diagnosis was that my edema is chronic but manageable. He prescribed some pressure garments and physical therapy. There are a few other treatments they will try and we will see what works. We would appreciate your prayers for this too.

So it looks like our lives and plans are still somewhat up in the air. We are getting used to that. On the positive side I seem to be improving health-wise every day. I am working on being more active and hope to get out and about more. We continue to pray for direction as we move forward. We don't like to wait, but we trust the Father who is taking us down this road. We do appreciate you coming down the road with us as you partner with us in prayer, care and being there.

Thank you and God Bless

Dave and Joyce

Reading Through the Gospel of John #4 (9-12)

JohnIn this post we continue reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre. In Chapters 5-8 John has shown Jesus to be the fulfillment of the Torah (5) and the Jewish temple and feasts (6-8). He is the Light of the World who brings the ultimate revelation of God to his creation and chapters 9-11 present two more spectacular miracles that illustrate this. Jesus brings division between His followers and the official Judaism of his day and he begins to gather his followers into a new "flock" that is characterized by allegiance to Jesus. 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 9, Jesus illustrates and demonstrates that he is the Light of the World by healing a man with lifelong blindness. The OT prophesied this miracle as a sign of the New Covenant and the coming of the Messiah who remove both physical and spiritual blindness. Jesus uses clay, as God did in the creation of Adam, in the miracle to signify new creation and sends out the blind man to witness to what happened. The Pharisees reject the plain working of God in front of them and put the man out of the synagogue, showing their spiritual blindness. The separation between Jesus' followers and those of the Pharisees increases. 

Our sufferings are opportunities for God’s grace. If our suffering is indeed a punishment for sin, then it becomes an occasion for repentance and thus the manifestation of God’s grace as we are restored to fellowship with God. If our suffering is not a direct punishment for sin, then it is something God allows to happen in our lives, usually for reasons beyond our knowing, which nevertheless can help us die to self and find our true life in God. God does not allow anything to enter our lives that is not able to glorify him by drawing us into deeper intimacy with him and revealing his glory. John 9.1-23, 236–237

The Scriptures, in and of themselves, are not an infallible guide either, as the example of the Jewish opponents reveal. It depends on one’s interpretation. The Christian claim is that the Scriptures are an organic whole that make sense when interpreted in the light of Jesus the Christ under the guidance the Spirit has provided the church. The bottom line is that we need God to guide our understanding of both the Scripture and our experience. Once again we see the importance of humility and openness to God as a core attribute of true discipleship. John 9.24-34, 248

We need to realize our own utter poverty, blindness and need apart from Christ. We need to see with his eyes the desperate condition of all who have not been illumined by him, the light of the world. We need to consider before God whether there are ways we reject the evidence of our own experience because we have a faulty understanding of him and his ways. We need to consider before God whether we have God too figured out...we need Jesus to be our center of reference. John 9.35-41, 253–254

In chapter 10 Jesus reveals himself as God come to shepherd His people in a new community. He is qualified to do that because he has come from the Father as the full revelation of God's salvation and he will give his life and "take it up again" as the good shepherd to provide that salvation. The requirement to be part of that community is to "hear his voice" and respond by following him. The chapter ends Jesus’ public ministry with a very clear claim by Jesus to his shared Deity with the Father. John returns to his introductory idea that Jesus is one with the Creator who fulfills the Torah and brings the promised full salvation and revelation of God himself in human form. 

The Jewish leaders have rejected Jesus on the basis of their knowledge of God and his ways. They have expelled the man healed in chapter 9 from the people of God on the basis of his confession of Jesus. They believe they have consigned the former blind man to death, that is, to separation from God and his people. But Jesus has found him and incorporated him into his own company. John 10.1-10, 258

This new community is based in his death (10:15). The very pattern of life in this new community is that of life laid down for one another, a cruciform life. The possibility of such a life and the power for such a life come through the life of the Son of God poured out on the cross, thereby uniting God and mankind by taking away the sin of the world and revealing the glory of God. John 10.11-18, 263

Jesus does not claim to be Messiah in their understanding of that term, but all of his words and deeds have been those of the Messiah in truth. But the Jews were not expecting a messiah who shared in God’s divinity, and thus these opponents could not see his messiahship and were scandalized by his claims to equality with God. John 10.22-42, 271

In John 11 we see the climax of Jesus' miracle signs which point to Jesus as being the One who brings life and light. Jesus links the raising of Lazarus to the healing of the man born blind when he says that both happened to reveal God's glory. This ultimate sign done by Jesus shows that he is the one who will bring in the "age to come" with its great eschatological resurrection, judgment and an eternal life that begins in the present. Faith in Jesus is the key to being part of the people of God who experience eternal life now and in the incorruptible bodies of the future. Jesus is one who defeats death and sin and thus provides life.

In all that Jesus does we see the glory of God (1:14), for we see God’s love and life-giving power. Now, in the raising of Lazarus, we will have the most spectacular manifestation of this glory. God is the one who brings life to the dead out of his love for those in such need. This is the heart of the Gospel. John 11.1-16, 279

Jesus’ claim is mind-boggling. He says it is faith in him that brings one back to life at the resurrection at the last day. He is the ground of eschatological hope. But then he goes even further. “I am the life”: and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (v. 26). The life that comes through believing in Jesus is not interrupted by physical death...By taking humanity into Himself He has revealed the permanence of man’s individuality and being. But this permanence can be found only in union with Him. John 11.17-44, 286

Each aspect of the Gospel needs to be in place, or some deformed shape will emerge. The period of the New Testament saw the articulation of a variety of ways to express the Gospel, with the Holy Spirit guiding and protecting. The unity and diversity we now have in the canon provides a composite shape to the faith that is a guide to the truth of the Gospel—that is what “canon” means. John 11.45-54, 297

John 12 ends John's account of Jesus' public ministry. In this section we get a picture of what real and false disciples look like and a final summary of Jesus' teaching and a call to respond. Mary's extravagant anointing of Jesus for burial typifies the kind of worshiping disciple desired by God, while Judas' selfish money-loving attitude is condemned. The climax has come and God is about to be glorified through Jesus. The response to Jesus will determine one's judgment. Even when God speaks in the thunder only the true disciples understand. Though the crowd follows Jesus, they do not fully understand him. There are also others who believe him but will not follow him openly because they fear the opinions of others. These are also inadequate responses. The true disciple will believe Jesus and follow him in self-sacrificing love. This is the full revelation of God and also will reveal who his followers are. These are the ones who live out and will inherit eternal life.

The Good Shepherd is indeed gathering his flock from the whole world (10:16) in fulfillment of the prophecies of the universal messianic kingdom such as those found in Zechariah and Zephaniah. Jesus continues to form his community apart from the official structures of Judaism. John 12.1-19, 308

It is precisely the victory of the cross that enables the believer to hate his life in this world and keep it for eternal life (v. 25). Believers can claim the defeat of Satan at the cross, and they can effectually break his spell through union with Christ and, by God’s grace, through focusing attention on God and detaching attention from that which is not of God. As one is united to Christ one comes to share in his own life of sacrifice. John 12.20-36, 316

God’s sovereign action is never a violation of our moral responsibility, for such determinism would turn us into robots and preclude love and relationship. “The divine predestination works through human moral choices, for which men are morally responsible," as is made clear in the next section (12:47–48). But the human responsibility never violates the necessity of divine grace.  John 12.37-50, 323

Monday, March 05, 2018

Sunday Worship at Gateway Church

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Joyce and I had an enjoyable Sunday yesterday as we worshiped at Gateway Church. We had the privilege of fellowship at the Lord’s table with our friends there yesterday. This is the church I grew up in and it was good to see so many old friends.

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It was good to see Eugene (center) again and get to meet his son. Eugene played shortstop on the Baymonte team I coached in 1982. After church we went to lunch with Dave and Sally Beck (left). We also went out to Boulder Creek to have dinner with Jo and Chuck Romaniello. We forgot to take a picture there. It was great to see everyone at Gateway again.

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #17

BrueggemannThis post concludes my read through of Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. Though I have posted some of my disagreements with Brueggemann I have enjoyed reading through his OT Theology and have received several insights from his treatment of the text. His recognition of the tensions in the OT text which should not be flattened out is especially helpful . 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.…

As he moves his theology toward conclusion Brueggemann, in chapter 28, Some Pervasive Issues, deals with four key issues that keep coming up in Old Testament theology. The first is the relationship to historical criticism. He wants scholarship to move beyond criticism, which assumes a rationalistic worldview that eliminates the supernatural and removes YHWH from the discussion, but also resists "fideism" which assumes a flat reading of the text according to dogma. One can bring in the results of critical scholarship to better understand the text without compromising its message. A second issue is the relationship of the New Testament to the Old. He sees the use of the OT in the NT as an "imaginative," but legitimate, enterprise. While there is some "imaginative" exegesis there, I would see the NT as the intended conclusion of the OT. This also speaks to the third issue of the relation of Jewish tradition to the OT in Christian thought. I would agree that we need to avoid supersessionism, respect the Jewish origins and character of the Bible without mischaracterizing the Jewish environment it came out of, and that we need to be in friendly dialog and cooperation with modern forms of Judaism. But, I would disagree that we need to let go of the exclusive claims of Christ on Jews or any other nation or culture. Finally, I agree with Brueggemann that the Bible's call for justice requires us to apply the OT emphasis on taking care of the poor and marginalized without losing its call to order. How we do that is certainly up for discussion, but the church should be in the forefront of making that kingdom vision of everyone having what they need happen. 

We may now be at a moment when totalizing fideism is exposed as inadequate and when skeptical positivism is seen to be equally inadequate, when a genuinely thoughtful criticism can engage the density and depth of the text, which is available neither to fideism nor to skepticism. 729

The task of Old Testament theology, as a Christian enterprise, is to articulate, explicate, mobilize, and make accessible and available the testimony of the Old Testament in all of its polyphonic, elusive, imaginative power and to offer it to the church for its continuing work of construal toward Jesus. 732

A study of Old Testament theology must recognize, with social realism, that both advocates of distributive justice and of order are present and vocal in the community, and both claim the support of Yahweh in their theological testimony. At the minimum, it is important to recognize and explicate this tension. In my judgment, however, one may go further to insist that while both sorts of advocates bear testimony to Yahweh, there can be little doubt that the adherents of distributive justice occupy the central space in the theological testimony of Israel, so that in canonical Yahwism, distributive justice is indeed a primary urging. 738

Chapter 29, Moving Toward True Speech, concludes Brueggeman's theology by summarizing his main points and calling the church as a community to do Old Testament theology in a way that reflects commitment to the truth of the text and to being a relevant witness to the world in its words and practices. One cannot do good OT theology without being willing to order their lives around what God is saying in the text. All the voices of the OT, with the tensions and interpretive difficulties they bring, must be heard and applied in the church. We cannot, for example, hear only the voices of order and purity without also hearing the "disruptive" voices of the prophets calling the powerful to accountability and calling everyone to reach out to the needy and marginalized. We have a responsibility to make the witness of the OT text known in a world with many other competing worldviews.

It is my impression that the church in the West has been sorely tempted to speak in everyone’s idiom except its own. Liberals, embarrassed by the otherness of the biblical idiom, have kept control of matters through rationalistic speech that in the end affirms that “God has no hands but ours,” issuing in burdensome self-congratulations. Conservatives, fearful of speech that is undomesticated, have insisted on flattening biblical testimony into the settled categories of scholasticism that freezes truth. In both sorts of speech, the incommensurate, mutual One disappears. 746–747

The testimony of Israel concerning Yahweh is always of two kinds, one to reorder the internal life of the community in ways faithful to Yahweh, the other to invite the world out beyond this community to reorder its life with reference to Yahweh. Both enterprises are preoccupied with the recognition that the acknowledgment of Yahweh at the center of life (the life of Israel or the life of the world) requires a reordering of everything else. 747

Stanford Trip and Doctor Appointments

20180302_160403Last week was a week of doctor appointments for us. We started with an appointment with the local oncologist on Wednesday, with a blood test preceding it on Tuesday. That went well. The blood test was clear and all my numbers were good. The doctor was very encouraged by how much my health had improved since I last saw him. We also enjoyed seeing the nurses at the infusion center in Cameron Park. They celebrated my recovery with Joyce and me. We have been quite blessed by their care for us over the last year.

20180302_133215 (1024x560)Friday we headed down to Stanford for another PET scan and an appointment with an edema specialist.  The PET scan went well and we will be back at Stanford on Thursday to hear the results from our transplant doctor. Joyce was able to listen to some music (left) while I being scanned. We would appreciate your prayers for that appointment. 20180302_161209 (768x1024)We spent about an hour with the edema specialist. He thinks that the edema is going to be chronic, but he thought that there could be ways to manage it. It seems likely that the lymphoma damaged enough of my lymph nodes so that water will never drain properly through my body. He referred us to a physical therapist who may help. He also gave us prescriptions for various types of medical garments that will help my body process the water through me, like compression socks and shorts, special shoes etc. We are also waiting to see if our insurance will allow us to purchase some medical devices which the doctor prescribed. Joyce and I went out on Saturday and bought some of the clothes he recommended.. These are the most expensive clothes I have ever owned, but, if they help me become more mobile and able to function, they will be worth it. It feels a little weird to own an $80 pair of socks. We are thankful to those who donated to our medical fund so that we were able to go right out and buy this stuff.

Thank you for praying for us last week and for praying for us as we see the doctor on Thursday the 8th. It looks like our life will be a little different than it was before, but we are thankful for life and for healing and are looking forward to where God takes us in the next years.