Saturday, April 21, 2018

Reading An Article by John Goldingay

I have been reading books, articles and watching videos about the use  of the Old Testament in the New and I came across this article: The Old Testament and Christian Faith: “Jesus and the Old Testament in Matthew 1–5” in Themelios 8, no. 1 (1982). He is dealing here with the issue of how Matthew handles the Old Testament in the first 5 chapters of His Gospel. If we do not understand the context of the Old Testament passages Matthew is citing as being “fulfilled,” we will miss the significance of what Matthew is saying. I am posting quotes from my Old Testament reading 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 article.

In his genealogy Matthew is making a statement that Jesus cannot be understood without the Old Testament background to his person and work, but the significance of the Old Testament events and prophecies cannot be fully understood without reading back into them their fulfillment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Thus, there may have been "more" to what a prophet wrote than what he fully understood at the time. This is seen in the way Matthew pronounces "fulfillment" in 5 events in Jesus' early life (Matthew 1.18-2.23) of Old Testament prophetic texts. Goldingay would see this insight as a result of Holy Spirit inspiration of the New Testament authors. This is a tough issue for OT scholars, but I like the way Goldingay balances the need to interpret the OT in its context while allowing, as we see in the development of the OT itself, for subsequent events and revelation to provide new insights and meaning to older texts.

On the one hand, understanding the Christ event in the light of the Old Testament story indicates that the contemporary assertion that God is concerned for political and social liberation is quite justified. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is one who is concerned for the release of the oppressed from bondage; the nature of the Christ event does not change that. On the other hand, understanding the Old Testament story in the light of the Christ event highlights for us that concern with the spiritual liberation of the spiritually oppressed which is present in the exodus story itself and which becomes more pressing as the Old Testament story unfolds. Any concern with political and social liberation that does not recognize spiritual liberation as the more fundamental human problem has failed to take account of the development of the Old Testament story after the exodus via the exile to Christ’s coming and his work of atonement. Matthew 1.1-17, 6

In each of these vignettes from the opening years of Jesus’ life, then, a key place is taken by a reference to Old Testament prophecy, as if to say, ‘You will understand Jesus aright only if you see him as the fulfilment of a gracious purpose of God contemplated and announced by him centuries before.Matthew 1.18-2.23, 7

The second part of the article looks at the Old Testament connections between 4 scenes in Matthew 3-5: Jesus' baptism, the temptation, the Beatitudes, and Jesus discussion on Torah and his "fulfillment" of it. The baptism (3.13-17) shows how the OT provides the images and language for understanding for Jesus' identity and mission. Jesus is proclaimed by God as the Davidic king, the servant of the LORD from Isaiah, and the beloved sacrificed son like Isaac and we need to understand the OT context for each of these. From the temptation story, we need to see how Jesus was "steeped" in scripture and how he used it in its context to protect himself from the devil's misuse of it. The Beatitudes describe the kind of life a believer can and should live. Each beatitude is fleshed out in the books of the prophets and wisdom literature and, because of the cross and resurrection, can be lived out as Jesus did in the power of the Spirit. Finally, the idea the Jesus fulfills the law provides the basis for his moral teachings. God is concerned with both our attitudes and actions. Again the key is to read the Old and New Testaments in both directions. The OT provides background, explanation and depth to the NT, while the NT provides new insight and application to the OT.

The New Testament, then, invites us to interpret the Christ event in the light of the Old Testament’s over-all theological perspective, in the terms of its language world. The converse point is that we also have to understand Old Testament theology and images in the light of the Christ event. No-one had ever before brought together the figures of the powerful king, the beloved son, and the afflicted servant. They are highly diverse figures and it would have been difficult to see how one ought to go about relating them. They are only brought together in the light of the Christ event. John Goldingay, “The Old Testament and Christian Faith: Jesus and the Old Testament in Matthew 1–5, 6

Jesus thus sets the clear, direct demand of a fundamental passage in Deuteronomy against the devil’s application of another passage to a particular set of circumstances. The guideline for distinguishing between the use and abuse of Scripture offered here is thus, test alleged application of Scripture by the direct teaching of Scripture elsewhere. The need for a wide knowledge of the over-all teaching of Scripture is underlined by the nature of the devil’s misuse of it. Goldingay, Matthew 4:1-11, 8

The depth of Jesus’ insights on what it means to live with God is in large part due to the extent of his soaking in the Old Testament. Psalms and Isaiah, the books most clearly reflected in these Blessings, are the books most often and most widely quoted in the New Testament. Goldingay, Matthew 5:1-12, 9

The ‘fulfilling’ of Torah and prophets involves confirming them (God really made these promises and warnings, God really gave these laws), embodying them (Jesus’ own life puts into practice what the Torah demands and makes actual what the prophecies picture), and broadening them (you will begin at the Torah, but then go beyond its demands if you wish to understand the full depth of God’s expectations of his creatures; you will begin with these prophecies, but then go beyond what they envisage if you wish to understand the full depth of God’s purpose of salvation). Matthew 5:17-48, 10

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Chart and Outline of the Book of Amos

Amos Chart Structure

Message of Amos

Impending judgment should motivate God's people to examine themselves for signs of complacency, laziness or rebellion, repent and seek relationship with Him so that they will be ready to face God and be part of the blessed minority in His Kingdom.

Outline

  • There are many dangers to being a "religious" person in an affluent society
    • Religious indifference; Taking God for granted.
      • Their relationship with God had become empty ritual. 4:4-6, 5:21-23
      • There was no response to God's discipline. 3:6-10
      • They refused to hear God's Word and even opposed it. 2:9-12, 7:10-1
    • Personal Indulgence  
      • They were full of complacent pride  6:8
      • They were full of self-reliance which God views as "Lo-Debar" (nothing)  6:11-14
      • They loved pleasure and were more concerned about comfort and luxury than service 4:1, 6:4-
    • Social Injustice 
      • Their greed led to the exploitation of others 2:6-8
      • Their value system became distorted and they became blind to their own evil 3:10, 8:5-6
      • This leads to a corrupt society where God's ways are disregarded 5:11-13
  • God's judgment should promote self-evaluation, not condemnation of others
    • Judgment is coming on the unbelieving nations and on God's people 1-3    
      • The nations will be judged based on how they treated others 1-2
      • The list of nations was meant to direct Israel's attention to itself 3:1-15
        • Those who have more privileges will be judged by a higher standard 3:2
        • Abuse of God's privileges, lack of attention to His warnings leads to awful destruction 3:11-15
    • The judgment will be appropriate.
      • The things that take God's place in our affections will be destroyed. 3:15
      • Those that disregard God's ways will have God's Word taken away from them. 8:11-14
      • Those that serve themselves and rely on themselves will have their works destroyed. 6:7-11
    • We are all subject to judgment by God's holy standard. 7:7-
    • The judgment will be complete and terrible. 9:1-10
  • Repent and Live according to covenant so you will be ready for judgment
    • Recognize God's discipline and be prepared to stand before Him in judgment 4:11-12
    • Seek relationship with God 5:4
    • Repent and realize your dependence on God 7:2-5
    • Show the evidence of repentance by good works toward others. 5:14-14, 24
      • Justice is God's character lived out in human relationships
      • Righteousness is God's character lived out in human lives as an offering back to Go
  • The faithful Remnant will be blessed 9:11-15
    • God preserves a faithful remnant for Himself to bring into His kingdom and bless 9:8
    • Blessing will include restoration, rule, fertility, peace, and stability way beyond the best of blessings that we experience in this age

The Day of the LORD Is Coming For YOU

Trying Not To Worry

87626174F058 (1024x819)I am heading into the weekend before we head down to Stanford for another PET scan to see if I am cancer-free. The PET scan I had early in March showed a small spot on one lymph node which the doctor did not think to be significant, but he wanted another scan to make sure. We rescheduled for 7 weeks later (April 24) and he told me not to worry about it. Then he laughed and said “I know you will worry; it’s hard not to.” So it has been over 6 weeks of waiting (Arrg, that world again!) and I have been trying to “not worry about it,” and mostly succeeding, with a couple bad nights where the worry got to me. I thought it might help me to write down a few things about how I’ve tried to avoid worrying. It’s not really profound, but hopefully it might help you too.

  1. Stay focused on God. Honestly, this month it has been hard to pray. I try to imagine myself in the heavenly throne room of God (Hebrews 4.16) and joining in the Trinity’s prayer for me (Romans 8.26). That helps a lot. I also try to focus on hearing God, whether it comes directly, through the Word, through other Christians or however God wants to deliver it to me. It is amazing, when I listen, how often God ministers to me and encourages me.
  2. Spend a lot of time reading and thinking about the words of scripture. This has been important to me for most of my life, but has been especially critical these last couple of years. I try to read something every day and work through the whole Bible over the course of each year. Along with that I try to read books by other people that are “steeped” in the Bible. It is amazing how many times words on the page have come alive and leaped into my situation to bring me God’s peace or challenge me.
  3. Spend time with Christians who encourage me and keep me doing #1 above. I wish I could do this more. So many people have come by “just at the right time” or said something to me or did something that touched a nerve or helped me in ways that went beyond what they thought or did. Interacting with others moves my focus from myself (which can get deep and dark at times) out to the wider world. I like having somebody else to pray for instead of just being focused on my own requests. Besides, having real live people right in front of you is the best way to connect.
  4. Enjoy my family. Joyce and I have been able to spend a week of vacation with the families of two of our children and we hope to go to Cincinnati to spend time with Mike’s family this summer. It is hard to worry when I am watching vintage cartoons with Leila or having a serious conversation about Pokemon. I also look forward to my Facebook chats with my 2 year old granddaughter Arete and laughing at her jokes 2-3 times a week. I also get some face time with her brother and sisters. To be able to go to San Diego and see my grandson play soccer was also a thrill. To have good relationships with my 30-something kids is also a real blessing. I could go on, but you get the idea. This whole experience has made Joyce and I closer than we have ever been. Also a blessing.
  5. Divert yourself by doing things you enjoy. I like watching sports and reading/watching science fiction. When the above things are in line, these can be a real source of blessing too. It was a fun day when my brother, sister and her husband, and my parents came over and we ate junk food and watched basketball. Not everything has to be so serious. I am blessed with family and friends that make me laugh and laugh at my jokes. As an old rabbi said, “if God gives you something to enjoy and you fail to enjoy it, that is sin.”

So that’s basically my way of coping with the temptation to worry. Don’t worry. Instead talk about it with God and with the people he has placed around you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Book of Joel Structure and Message

Joel structure chart

Message of Joel

The Day of the LORD will be a time of terrible judgment from God, but the LORD will deliver His people who repent from the heart and call on Him

Definition of the "Day of the LORD"- A time in which God decisively invades human history to punish sin, purify His people and set things right (God’s kingdom)

  • The Day of the LORD will begin with a terrible judgment
    • Joel compares the coming judgment to an unprecedented locust invasion. 1:1-20
    • Joel describes the invading army of the Day of the LORD in "locust terms." 2:1-17
    • Joel describes its Judgment as a war in which God intervenes and fights 3.1-17
  • The purpose of the prophecy is to bring people to repentance so they will be saved.
    • The proper response is to gather, mourn, fast and pray (turn to God alone). 1:13-14,19
    • Repentance must be heartfelt and appeal to God's gracious character. 2:12-14
    • Repentance must be both private (individual) and public. 2:16-17
    • Repentance is an acknowledgement of who God is and the authority He has over our lives. 2:27, 3:17
  • The judgment of the Day of the LORD will usher in the blessings of God's Kingdom
    • Sin is judged before blessing is poured out. 3.17
    • God's rule will be a time of blessing, peace, prosperity, justice and safety. 3:18-21
      • The greatest blessing of the Day of the LORD is God's presence.
    • God's people will enter the kingdom based on God's forgiveness of their sins. 3:20-21

Reading I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible, by Michael Heiser #3

Heiser i dare youThis is my last post on the read through of the Old Testament section of  I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. The great strength of this book is that Heiser tries to interpret the Old Testament in its ancient context and does not shy away from difficult to understand passages. Again I would recommend his YouTube videos which explain his take on most of these, and many other, biblical issues. I am 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.

In this section Heiser deals with some textual and author issues in the OT. For example, the LXX and MT versions of Jeremiah are quite different. This did not seem to bother the NT authors at all as they quote from both versions of the OT without concern for this. One example of an author issue is in Proverbs, where Solomon is listed as the author, but many proverbs in the book are credited to other authors. The solution (and I think it is true for most OT books) is these books had an original author of the core of the book, but additions and edits were made over the years before the books were collected into the final form of the OT. He also discusses the meaning of the word for "virgin" in Isaiah 7 and concludes that Matthew correctly translates it in the NT. Finally, he shows that the main qualification for a prophet was that they "stood in the council" of God, that is in God's throne room and were privy to at some of God's decision making process. He concludes with the point that this privilege is given to all Christians in the NT who have access to God's throne room through Jesus and hear His council through the Spirit.

The first book of Proverbs announces, “These are the proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel” (compare Prov 10:1; 25:1). By its own testimony, though, the book of Proverbs had many authors: “These are the sayings of the wise [literally, wise ones]” (Prov 24:23). This same idea—that the proverbs in the book were written by a number of sages—is reiterated in Proverbs 1:6 and 22:17...So who wrote these proverbs? Solomon—but he had good (or wise) company. 83, 85

When a prophet “stood in the council,” they had a direct encounter with God in His throne room. This motif of “standing in the council” is a repeated pattern in the Bible...Amazingly, the New Testament applies this commissioning to every believer. Every Christian is united to Christ and is commissioned to not only spread the gospel, but also to be Jesus to the world. Every believer is Christ’s ambassador, having met Christ through the gospel. As the prophets before us, we are now God’s mouthpieces. 92–94

The New Testament writers, working through divine inspiration, weren’t concerned about the issue (of multiple versions of the OT text). There isn’t a single instance that indicates concern over which manuscript was being used or quoted. This lack of concern is reflected in the ministry of Paul, who preached in synagogues all over the Mediterranean. Each synagogue had its own biblical text—its own scrolls, sometimes Septuagint and sometimes MT—and Paul used whatever was at his disposal. The same is true in his own letters. He trusted God’s provision that he was reading and preaching the very word of God. So should we. 97

Heiser concludes the Old Testament portion of the book with discussions about the ark of the covenant, authorship of prophetic books, Ezekiel's vision and the Dead Sea scrolls. He believes the ark of the covenant was probably destroyed by the Babylonian army and it will not be rebuilt. There is no need for it in the coming kingdom because God Himself will be there. The books of prophecy were group efforts in which a lead prophets words were written down by his followers and edited over time by later inspired prophets. Ezekiel's vision of God's "chariot-throne" used ancient Near Eastern imagery to remind the Jewish exiles that God was still in charge despite their defeat and exile. His plan was still in action. 

The passage plainly shows that the ark would be absent because of the exile. Jeremiah 3:16 also insists that “it shall not be made again”—wording that strongly suggests the ark would be destroyed in the impending disaster; if the ark weren’t destined for destruction, talk of rebuilding it would make no sense at all. Jeremiah 3:17 reinforces this point—the ark was God’s throne. He sat “between the cherubim” of the lid known as the “mercy seat.” But the passage speaks of a day when Jerusalem itself will be called God’s throne. We read about this in Revelation 21:2–3: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’ ” A recovered ark of the covenant doesn’t fit this picture—it would be a disappointment.
Jeremiah 3.16-17, 100–101

The “sons of the prophets” served God under the leadership of a main prophet, who did most of the public speaking. We have several specific examples of this: Baruch (Jer 36), Gehazi (2 Kgs 5:20), and Elisha (2 Kgs 2:5). Any of the unnamed prophets within the community could have been tasked with gathering the written words of their teacher, the main prophet, and putting them into a scroll or book. Writing down, organizing, and editing the prophet’s words could have taken place entirely after the death of a leading prophet, under the guidance of the Spirit. This process is similar to the way the Gospels were produced. We don’t know for sure how it worked, but we do know that more than one hand was responsible for what we have today. That these people served God in this way, without recognition, is a lesson to us all. 105

Ezekiel’s imagery sends a message to the Jews in exile—and to their Babylonian captors: Both assumptions are flawed. Yahweh has not been defeated, nor has He turned away from His people, Israel. He remains seated in His chariot throne at the center of His domain—the entire cosmos. When we read Ezekiel 1 through ancient eyes, we can feel the same hope today: Even in the midst of difficult circumstances, we can know that an all-powerful God is active and present in our lives. Ezekiel 1, 109

Monday, April 16, 2018

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #6 (16-18.22)

Larkin ActsThis post continues my reading through the book of Acts accompanied by Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by William J. Larkin Jr..Chapters 16-18 record Paul’s 2nd missionary journey. On this journey Paul and his mission team expand their church planting ministry, based on explicit instructions from the Holy Spirit, into Europe. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Paul's 2nd missionary journey begins in 15.36 and continues to 18.22. Sadly, it begins with a schism between Paul and Barnabas over allowing John Mark to rejoin their team. Barnabas takes John Mark and goes to Cyprus, while Paul adds Silas to his team. In Lystra Paul adds Timothy as well. Paul first revisits the churches he planted and delivers the verdict of the Jerusalem council. Timothy's circumcision can be seen as a response to that decision as it would maintain good relationships with their Jewish audience. Luke emphasizes in this section the Spirit's direct leading in having the team go west into Macedonia rather than east into Asia. Paul connects with people in Philippi through a gathering of Jewish women. Again Luke emphasizes the work of the Spirit in the conversion of Lydia and establishment of the 1st church in Philippi in her house, the exorcism of the girl with the python spirit and the miraculous freeing of Paul from prison. We also can be sure of the Spirit's leading and power to save and change lives as we listen to Him and speak and act boldly for Jesus.

How does God guide his church to the right place for mission? There will be “closed” as well as “open doors.” There will be guidance addressed to individuals as well as to the entire team. There will be guidance via circumstances, sometimes extraordinary, as well as through the use of reason in evaluating circumstances in the light of God’s Word. And specific guidance will come only to those who are already on the road, living out their general obedience to the Great Commission. Acts 16.1-10

The jailer and his household are the quintessential converts. They come to faith through hearing the Word, confess that faith in baptism, experience the eschatological joy of their new vertical relationship, and live out their new life of grace through physical help and hospitality in their horizontal relationships. Acts 16.11.35

This concluding scene yields some valuable principles for guiding Christians in their relations with the state. Paul’s insistence that justice be done encourages Christians to appeal to their legal rights as protection against unjust treatment by non-Christians. The fact that Paul’s request was granted gives us confidence that the state can be reasonable and correct its mistakes. Paul’s innocence of the charges establishes the pattern that Christians are not to be troublemakers; when we do suffer at the hands of state power, it should be as innocent victims of those with questionable motives. Acts 16.35-40

The second missionary journey continues in 17.1-18.22 with visits to Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth with a brief visit to Ephesus before Paul and the missionary team return to their sending church in Antioch. In each of these visits Paul continues his strategy of approaching the synagogue first and making contact through it with the "God-fearers" and then Gentiles. There is a believing response in each place followed by persecution from the Jewish leadership. Each time the persecution drives Paul from one city the gospel message spreads further through the Roman empire. Paul's message in a Jewish context is that their scriptures predict a suffering and resurrected messiah, Jesus life, character and message fit that profile, therefore Jesus is the messiah. In the Gentile context in Athens he connects with their culture, emphasizes the unity of humanity and that there is one God who does not need anything from humans but wants spiritual worship. In both contexts he then emphasizes the resurrection of Jesus as the evidence for the truth of his message and the need for allegiance to Jesus and his message. This will be the basis of God's judgment of humanity. Luke also emphasizes the legality of what they are doing (Gallio's decision), the inevitability of persecution and the need to endure it without reprisal, but also the inevitability of the success of God's kingdom.

To be a believer means having not only noble character that commits itself to the message but also a courageous soul that commits itself to the messenger—and to all who are part of the body of Christ (Acts 16:15, 33–34; 17:4, 7). Acts 17.1-15

The resurrection is, then, the linchpin for both potential ways of applying the death and resurrection of the Christ to one’s eternal destiny. It establishes both the warning of judgment and the promise of salvation blessings...we will be following Paul’s example and spend our energies wisely if we try to help moderns wrestle with the presuppositions that prevent them from even entertaining the possibility of a resurrection, rather than trying to prove its historicity within a modern scientific framework. Acts 17.16-34

Here Paul and we learn that personal desires and divine guidance so interact that all our planning will be implemented only if it is part of God’s sovereign design. This makes us at once more flexible and more confident as we face our future, and more thankful as we reflect on our past. Acts 18.1-22

Friday, April 13, 2018

Ezekiel Structure and Message

Ezekiel Chart

Message of Ezekiel

God's glorious character makes necessary the judgment of sin (Jerusalem's fall, the Babylonian captivity and the judgment of the Gentile nations) but also assures the restoration of a repentant minority of purified people in a new and glorious kingdom.

  1. The appearing and departing of God's glory determine success. When God's glory leaves you cannot win. When God's glory is with you, you cannot lose. 1-3
  2. The disciplinary judgment on God's unfaithful covenant people will be just, equitable,appropriate, complete and devastating.  4-24
  3. The Gentile nations and the spiritual forces behind them will be judged so that they will acknowledge God as their Lord. 25-29
  4. God's judgment will be a resurrection/restoration for His repentant people. 30-35
  5. The new covenant will result in a new order in which God will live with His people. 36-48

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Reading I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible, by Michael Heiser #2

Heiser i dare youI am continuing to read through I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. Heiser’s (and my) goal is to present the Bible as it is and not “protect people from the Bible.” He has YouTube videos which explain his take on most of these, and many other, biblical issues.  I am 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.

In the next sections Heiser looks at some of the most weird, and often horrific, Old Testament stories. These stories must be understood in terms of the contexts of Israel's worldview that the other nations had been given over to the rule of lesser, evil spiritual beings (Chemosh, Milkom etc.); and the overall biblical message about the need for God to rule, redeem and save the world. The people are not held up as examples, but as a way to show the need to submit to God's kingdom. The horrific stories of the rape of the Levite's concubine and Jepthah's sacrifice of his daughter in Judges show the need for a king chosen by God, like David. David is enabled by God to kill the giants, like Goliath, that were the offspring of these evil spiritual beings. Heiser sees Matthew's report of the raising of Jairus’ daughter to be framed as an "undoing" of the Jepthah story in which Jesus, God's ultimate Son and king, reclaims the area for the kingdom of God.

The appalling nature of this story (rape and murder in Gibeah), provides an appropriate context for God’s plan of redemption. It sets the worst of human nature against the need for divine rule. That would come in Old Testament times in the form of David, the chosen king, the man after God’s own heart. And from David, God would produce the King of kings, Jesus, whose mission was to save all humanity, not just Israel, from the curse of sin. 49

This is also the only Gospel event in which Jesus is addressed as “son of the Most High”—the title of God referenced in the Old Testament when the nations were divided and their people were put under other gods (Deut 32:8–9). The casting out of demons marked the onset of the kingdom of God in the Gospels (Matt 12:28). By casting out these demons in what used to be Gilead, Jesus is asserting His kingly dominion over that place. On His way back from accomplishing that mission, Jesus meets Jairus, whose daughter has died. Seeing his faith, Jesus raises his daughter. The gospel writer is, in literary terms, reversing the other horror of Gilead: the human sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter. Judges 11, Luke 8.40-56, 53–54

In the Old Testament, we read that the Israelites believed the gods of other nations were real, assigned to the nations by Yahweh, who was superior and ruled over all other gods (Deut 32:8–9). They believed these gods were demons—real spiritual beings (Deut 32:17). Given the nature of this worldview, it seems the Israelites were frightened by the sacrifice and lost faith, thinking Moab’s god was angry against them and would empower Moab to win because of the sacrifice...Yahweh was not defeated by the god of Moab. He was, and is, ready and able to help His people. But He will not do so if they refuse to believe and act on that belief. 2 Kings 3, 64–65

The next sections deal with some more unusual OT stories, Naaman's request of Elisha for dirt from Israel, God's war with sea monsters and his "need for a co-signer on his covenant; and some apparent contradictions between Samuel-Kings and Chronicles. He sees the lack of mention of David and Solomon's sins in Chronicles as due to a difference in authors' aims, not an attempt to deceive. I would agree. He also gives a plausible solution to the issue of who incited David's census, though his solution brings up other questions. The unusual stories can be explained by their cultural contexts (see quotes below). Naaman believed he needed to stand on Israel's holy ground to worship Israel's God. Thankfully, for us, Jesus has taken back all nations as His holy ground and sends the church out with the authority to reclaim it as we make disciples of all the nations.

Why would Yahweh incite David to do something for which He would later punish him? Both accounts begin by saying Yahweh was angry with Israel, not David. Yahweh chose to use David as His instrument of judgment against the nation, similar to the way He would use Nebuchadnezzar centuries later. As the Babylonian king was still accountable for His actions, so was David. Judgment (and its means) both belong to the LORD, but human agents are still accountable. 1 Chronicles 21, 2 Samuel 24, 73

God didn’t really fight a literal dragon at the beginning of creation. This imagery reflects the mindset of the ancient world, which viewed the sea as unpredictably violent and unable to be tamed. It frightened the ancients. Only the power of a mighty God could produce a habitable world from the chaotic sea—a deed portrayed as a battle with the untamed deep. God was victorious in this conflict, as told in Psalm 74. 78

Jesus, as the son of David, has fulfilled the Davidic covenant of Psalm 89. Since the New Testament presents Jesus as true deity incarnate (true God in flesh), and equal in nature with the God of the Old Testament, Jesus fulfills the role of witness-guarantor eternally. Psalm 89, Revelation 1.4-5, 82

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Brief Medical Update–Physical Therapy

20180410_131207 (1024x768)Joyce and I are back home after spending a few days with Joyce’s mom and dad in Redding. On the way there we stopped off in Sacramento for an appointment with a physical therapist who specializes in lymphedema. The bottom line is that she gave us some hope that the edema can be managed and I may be able to return to a somewhat “normal life” or at least a “more normal life.” I found out that edema is treated mainly through compression-pressure and massage that moves the fluid through the body and helps the damaged lymph nodes. I also learned quite a bit about how the lymph system works. So now I have several compression garments, wraps, socks etc. that will help me begin to move the fluid around. I have been doing the self-massage for several days now. Please pray with me for the success of these treatments. We are also joining a lymphedema support group and will be attending our first meeting tomorrow.

20180410_131234 (1024x768)We also enjoyed our time with Joyce’s parents. They are planning on selling their house in Redding and moving to a retirement community here in El Dorado county. We helped a little bit with the preparation for that. No surprise that Joyce was a bigger help than I was. <smile> We plan on going back a couple times in the near future to continue to help them. It seems like our family is going through a lot of changes right now. We appreciate your prayers that we will be sensitive to the the Spirit as we move forward. Thank you!

Monday, April 09, 2018

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #5 (13-15)

Larkin ActsThis post continues my reading through the book of Acts accompanied by Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by William J. Larkin Jr..Chapter 13 begins Luke's account of the taking of the gospel throughout the Roman world. Again, it begins with the Spirit's express command to the Antioch church to send out Paul and Barnabas. It concludes a few years later with Paul in Rome and churches planted throughout the Roman empire.. 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 Antioch church becomes the base for next step of the Great Commission: the spread of the church to the whole Roman empire. God's call to Paul and Barnabas is communicated by the Spirit to the Antioch church and they send them out to begin the task. Just like in Judea and Samaria, they see tremendous response to the gospel as some Jews and many Gentiles respond in faith, but they also encounter strident opposition and persecution. In Cyprus they receive opposition from the occult. In Pisidian Antioch they get it from the established religion of the Jewish synagogue. Both are overcome by bold scriptural teaching and God's miraculous power. God is accomplishing what He told Paul that he would do when he met him on the Damascus Road.

Antioch, then, becomes a model for the missionary vision and missionary deployment of every church. A church that embodies cultural diversity and has spiritually gifted, sensitive and obedient leaders will release into Christ’s service those so called, earnestly interceding for them and standing in solidarity with them. With more than half the world’s population yet to hear the gospel for the first time, our Lord needs many more Antiochs. Acts 13.1-3

Luke is careful to let us know the necessary interdependence of gospel word and mighty act. He says Sergius Paulus believed, for he was amazed (literally, “struck out of his senses”), not at the miracle but at the teaching about the Lord. With this last little phrase Luke informs us about the proper role of miracle in evangelistic witness. Acts 13.4-12

If we would receive the divinely intended spiritual good from the Old Testament, we must fix our eyes firmly on the fulfillment, Jesus Christ, and ask of each passage of promise, What does it teach us of Christ? What can we learn about the salvation that is appointed for the last day? Acts 13.13-52

Chapter 14 continues the story of the 1st missionary journey highlighting the work in Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. In Iconium the work begins with several miracles followed by proclamation of the gospel. This raised up severe persecution from the Jewish leadership which forced the mission team to move to Lystra. In Lystra Paul heals a lame man which leads the pagan population to believe that Paul and Barnabas were gods and they attempted to sacrifice to them. Paul tries to focus the crowd back on to Jesus, but the mob takes Paul outside the city, stones him and leaves him for dead. Paul is raised and continues to teach in the city. After moving on to Derbe and preaching there the 1st missionary journey concludes with a repeat visit to each of the cities to strengthen faith and appoint leaders. In all these situations the gospel spreads through signs and wonders, bold proclamation of the gospel and the persecution endured by the apostles without compromise or retaliation. 

While Luke gives no evidence that miraculous gifts will necessarily cease with the close of the apostolic age, he does not present them as essential to the church’s advance. When miraculous deeds and gospel proclamation occur together, proclamation is primary...Proclamation—the proper interpretation—is needed to declare the source and purpose of miraculous deeds. What miraculous deeds do accomplish is to manifest the divine power of God’s Word and to authorize the preacher. Acts 14.1-20

An evangelist or church planter who does not make provision for discipleship is like a farmer who harvests well only to see the crop spoil because it is not properly stored. Acts 14:21-28

After the first missionary journey a controversy arises within the church about whether Gentiles must become Jewish proselytes in order to receive salvation. Peter and Paul argue that God's giving of the Spirit to Gentiles based only on a faith response and baptism means that nothing else needs to be added. James adds the biblical basis for this. The church leaders agree that Gentiles do not need to become Jews in order to be part of the church. The church is to be ethnically diverse, but unified around devotion to the person of Christ and accomplishing the mission of making disciples of all nations.

James has replaced a proselyte model of Gentile salvation with an eschatological/christocentric one. The Lord has chosen to place his name on Gentiles as Gentiles, without requiring that they surrender their ethnic identity...Christians’ new identity in Christ both supersedes and allows room for their cultural identity. Christians are saved from the error of prejudicial ethnocentrism. What a liberation, to respect and appreciate differences, not using them as weapons of prejudice but at the same time not being imprisoned by them! Acts 15.1-29

James’s proposal, then, teaches us three things about life together in a culturally diverse church. We must say no to any form of cultural imperialism that demands others’ conformity to our cultural standards before we will accept them and their spiritual experience. We must say yes to mutual respect for our differences. And we must live out that respect even to the extent of using our freedom to forgo what is permissible in other circumstances. Acts 15.30-35

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Reading I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible, by Michael Heiser #1

Heiser i dare youThe next book I will be reading through is I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. In this book Heiser looks at some of the more difficult texts in the Bible and encourages us to interpret the Bible in the context of the cultures to whom the original revelation took place. I am 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.

Heiser starts with a section called "Walk Like an Israelite." The point here is that God revealed himself in a way Israel would understand within their cultural background. For example, God does not change their view of how the universe was put together (3 tiered world, with a solid sky, resting on pillars sunk into the deep waters) but reveals himself within that world view. He meets them where they are to get them where he wants them to be. Another example would be that God takes things they already had or were doing (like temples, sacrifices, circumcision) and repurposes them and gives them new meaning. For us to understand what God was doing and teaching in the OT and then to apply it to our situation, we first need to understand what it meant to them in their context. We have to do more than just read the Bible. We need to study it. We are blessed that today we have tremendous resources to do just that and this book is a good introduction to them.  

Although He could have done so, God didn’t change Israel’s culture when dispensing His truth. He didn’t give Israel a new culture that was dramatically distinct from Israel’s neighbors. That choice would have produced something indecipherable to the people of the time. That would have undermined the whole enterprise of communication. What this means is that inspiration operates within a cultural context chosen by God in His sovereign wisdom. 9

The miraculous nature of Isaac’s birth is the key to understanding circumcision as the sign of the covenant...Everyone in Abraham’s household witnessed the miracle of Isaac’s birth. From that point on, every male understood why they had been circumcised: Their entire race—their very existence—began with a miraculous act of God. Every woman was reminded of this when she had sexual relations with her Israelite husband and when her sons were circumcised. Circumcision was a visible, continuous reminder that Israel owed its existence to Yahweh, who created them out of nothing. 18

Moses stands out against the stories of the ancient cultures because he isn’t promoted like their chosen figures, but saved and demoted to poverty so that he can lead others to salvation. He is the new archetype of the chosen hero—one who is promoted only for the benefit of others. Over and against the stories of worldly kingdoms, Moses’ story articulates God’s remarkable work for His kingdom. His values are different from ours, and as is often the case in retrospect, we can be grateful for that. 21

In the next few sections Heiser tackles some other difficult OT passages that are often avoided. These passages should not be ignored because “if it’s weird, it’s important.” (39). Here he looks at Zipporah's courageous circumcision in Exodus 4, the division of the 10 commandments, the sin offerings in Leviticus, the day of atonement sacrifices, the dirty water test for adultery in Numbers 5, and the translation discrepancies in Deuteronomy 32. One could argue with his conclusions but he does a good job of placing each passage in its cultural context and in the context of its immediate surrounding passages and the context of the whole Bible. I think he does an especially good job with the meanings of the sin offerings and Day of Atonement. This section would be very helpful if you are preaching or teaching one of these passages.

We must not neglect to do what God requires. Had Moses been obedient to the covenant ritual of circumcision after leaving Egypt, his life—and his role as God’s servant—would not have been in danger. We also need the courage to do what’s right, even if it seems out of place. Failure in any of these regards will create obstacles to God’s desire to use us for His glory. Exodus 4.21-26, 26

The real goal of the sin offering was ritual purification...These people (and objects) were not unacceptable because they had done evil, but because they were imperfect—they “fell short” of the holy perfection that God’s presence required. The ritual reinforced the idea of the complete otherness of God...The sin offering was about purification for access to God. Leviticus, 32

God, of course, doesn’t need to be protected by a zealous scribe or anyone else. Israel’s doctrine was that Yahweh was unique and above all other divine beings (Pss 29:1; 89:5–7). In a severe judgment, the nations at Babel were disinherited by Yahweh and given over to the administration of other gods (Deut 4:19–20; 32:8), whose actions would be judged by the God of Israel (Psa 82:1, 6). This paved the way for God to create a new people, Israel, in the very next chapter of Genesis. And ironically, it was through Abraham’s seed that the disinherited nations would be reclaimed (Gen 12:1–3). Deuteronomy 32.8-9, 32.43, 46

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Chiastic Structure and Message of Isaiah 1-12

This is a reworking of an earlier post from a few years ago

Chiastic Outline of Isaiah 1-12

The center of the section is the appearance of God on the throne and the commissioning of Isaiah as a prophet to people who will not listen. The big point is that mission must flow out of worship and an experience of the Presence of God. The flow in Isaiah 6 is…

•Vision of God > Trust > Mission > Hope

The barriers that stop worship from flowing into mission are dealt with by the examples in chapters 2-5 (complacency or misplaced priorities) and chapters 7-11 (idolatry). First, the people of Judah under the reign of Uzziah were guilty of Complacency in 2-5. Thus, God rejected the worship of Israel because they refused to take it outside the walls of the temple (no justice, no mercy, no love). The people were more concerned with comfort than mission (see chapter 3 especially)

Secondly the people of Judah under the reign of Ahaz were guilty of Idolatry in 7-12. Ahaz chose to trust Assyria rather than God and God allowed him to be destroyed by Assyria. The point is that whatever you trust in God’s place (your idol) will destroy you.

Here are three questions about barriers to worship and mission that I think are worthwhile to meditate on…

  1. In what ways have we put comfort, wealth, or status above mission in our lives or in our church?
  2. Where do I place the trust that should only belong to God? Where is the first place I tend to turn to in a crisis?
  3. How do we remove these barriers to mission?

How did Isaiah handle uncertain situations, overcome barriers and move from worship to mission?

  1. Isaiah spent time in the presence of God
  2. Isaiah confessed and repented of his own sin
  3. Isaiah received his status and ability from God
  4. Isaiah was given a mission
  5. Isaiah was given a promise
  6. Isaiah then went out into a difficult situation

Two application questions to think about how you can live out this passage:

  1. How do we facilitate experience of God and calling to mission in our church?
  2. How do we take this experience outside the walls of our church?

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #4 (9-12)

Larkin ActsThis post continues my reading through the book of Acts accompanied by Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by William J. Larkin Jr..Acts 9-12 concludes the account of the beginning and growth of the Jerusalem and Samaritan churches and transitions into the story of the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles and throughout the Roman empire, featuring the apostle Paul. 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.

This persecution of the church leads to the conversion of God's key servant in his plan to extend the kingdom to the Gentiles, Saul of Tarsus. God takes the church's worst enemy, confronts him, and transforms him into the church's greatest spokesman. Paul is confronted by the risen Christ on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus. His task will be to bring the good news of Jesus to both Jews and the Gentile nations and to suffer for Christ's sake. Paul's vision is confirmed to the church in Damascus by God's revelation to Ananias. Paul immediately begins preaching that Jesus is the Messiah there, resulting in many conversions and a plot against his life. He escapes Damascus in a basket being lowered down the wall of the city. Later in Jerusalem, though, Barnabas must provide the bridge to the wary church leaders, Paul is received by the apostles and they verify his commission from God. Paul preaches in Jerusalem with much the same results and is forced to leave. After Paul leaves Jerusalem. the church has a time of peace in which it continues to grow. This period of growth will prepare them for the great outreach to the Gentiles which will soon begin with Peter's trip to Joppa. Peter participates in two great miracles which enhance the church's reputation there and place Peter in position, as the leader of the Jerusalem church, to meet Cornelius and extend the gospel to the Gentiles.

To be converted means to move from self-centered independence to dependence on the Lord and interdependence with fellow disciples. Saul the convert needs the support and encouragement of the church. Today too the gospel witness should emphasize by word and deed that being born again is being born into the family of God, the church. Acts 9.1-19

In a day when we often elevate individualistic, personal, subjective experience over communal, ecclesial, corporate judgments, Saul’s example shines. His call is “for real” because it stands up to the test of the apostles, those charged with guaranteeing the message and mission of Christ’s church. Any contemporary claims to God’s call must similarly be tested by the deposit of the apostles and prophets: the Scriptures. Acts 9.20-31

We need to avoid two extremes. Rather than despising the role of the miraculous in evoking saving faith, we should recognize its legitimate role in giving credence to the preached word. In the end, saving faith must rest not on the impression the miracle has made but on the truth of the message to which it points...When miracles do occur as the gospel is being preached, the evangelist must fearlessly interpret God’s acts by his Word to the audience, so that misunderstanding is put down and Jesus Christ is exalted. Acts 9.32-43

As God places Peter in place, he also prepares Cornelius to hear the Gospel. Cornelius is a "God-fearer," a Gentile who practiced Judaism without being circumcised and becoming a proselyte. Thus, the gospel is going to Gentiles who would be considered "unclean" in Judaism. Peter's vision and testimony of the subsequent events (as with the Samaritans) will provide the bridge for Gentile inclusion for what, up to then, had been primarily a Jewish movement. Luke's emphasis is that this revolutionary change in the way God relates to the world is a revelation from the Spirit and is based on Jesus' words and actions. It is a mandate from God, not a human idea. God now receives all people without regard to ethnicity, without the old Testament rites and codes, who trust in Jesus' resurrection and follow him. The Spirit's filling of the Gentile contingent in the same way he filled the first Christians at Pentecost confirms this.

What we see emerging to this point is the basic outline of the “more light” principle of God’s redemptive mercy (compare Lk 8:18; 19:26). Cornelius has responded in faith and obedience to the “light” he has received, as evidenced by his piety. He fears the one true God, prays to him regularly and acts in love to the needy among God’s people. Such obedience is not a “works righteousness” that earns salvation. This we can see by God’s response. He does not declare Cornelius saved. Rather, he grants him “more light” by which he and his household may be saved (Acts 11:14). Acts 10.1-8

The Spirit’s instruction is Peter’s focal point of illumination concerning the vision. If he will act out “not making distinctions” with these Gentiles even to the extent of table fellowship in their household, he will understand the vision and its implications. And today if we would understand God’s Word, especially where it challenges our prejudices, we too must wrestle with its meaning and its implications. We may expect to understand it more and more fully as we obey it more and more readily. Acts 10.9-23

The ground is indeed level at the foot of the cross. What a comfort to all the racially and culturally despised in our day, who thirst for the dignity that comes from spiritual equality in the “Christ identity.” What a challenge to the church to live out, through acceptance across racial, class, ethnic and gender lines, our profession that we serve an impartial God who has sent us a universal Lord and Savior. Acts 10.24-48

Peter's acceptance of Gentiles into the fellowship creates opposition from some of the Jewish Christians. Peter responds by witnessing to the facts of what happened to show that this was a command and act of God. The 6 Jewish witnesses that went to Cornelius' house with Peter confirm this. The leaders in Jerusalem confirm this and agree with Peter that God is now offering kingdom salvation to the Gentiles. The Gentile mission begins in earnest in the city of Syrian Antioch. Even though the Hellenistic Jews begin there by preaching to Jews only, Gentiles hear the message and are converted. The Jerusalem church sends Barnabas to evaluate the situation and he confirms the work of God in this. Barnabas brings Paul into the ministry and they teach and lead the new converts in Antioch for a full year. The multi-ethnic church in Antioch becomes the base for the Gentile mission throughout the Roman empire and a pattern of the ethnic, class and cultural diversity that the fellowship of the Spirit produces. The predominantly Gentile church in Antioch and the Jewish church in Jerusalem are in full fellowship and lovingly support one another. 

What then should convince us that God is at work even in ways that cut across the grain of our prejudices? A plain hearing of the facts and their interpretation, judged by the promises of God’s Word, is where we start. And when we keep in mind that salvation begins with the gift of repentance, our prejudices, which will always demand that the outsider meet certain performance standards, will melt away. In their place will come wonder and praise to God that his salvation has touched people whom we, left to ourselves, would not. Acts 11.1-18

In a day when a misapplication of church-growth theory’s “homogeneous unit principle” can produce monocultural churches, God’s blessing on inclusive evangelism across ethnic lines at Antioch is a necessary reminder of where God’s heart is. While he may indeed give growth within homogeneous ethnic units, such units are not his ideal, and neither should they be ours. Acts 11.19-30

The success of the Jerusalem church causes concern for the political powers of the day and they begin to persecute the church. Herod executes James, the brother of John, and places Peter in prison to await execution. The power of the kingdom of God is now opposed by Roman might and the dark powers behind it. Luke shows here that God's kingdom will win, despite the death and seeming powerlessness of His people, because God will make it happen. Peter is rescued miraculously from prison while he sleeps (his ability to sleep in this situation is a testimony to his faith) and is restored to the praying church. The only "weapon" they had was their prayer and faith but that was enough. In contrast, the soldiers are executed and Herod is struck by the angel of the LORD and dies from being "eaten by worms." God's kingdom will triumph, not by use of political power and the weapons of this world, but through the power of God mediated through the faith and prayers of His people.

As long as it is necessary that a particular servant of the Lord be actively deployed in accomplishing Christ’s mission, he or she will be rescued. Any martyrdom is still a mark of God’s sovereignty, not a sign of his weakness; his gracious purposes, not his sadistic pleasure, may be traced in it. Any rescue is a sign of the triumphant advance of God’s mission and a mark that nothing can thwart the accomplishment of his purposes. Acts 12.1-17

Worms spread and devour Herod’s body, but the word of God, the Christian message, also spreads and multiplies. This should work confidence in our hearts. We need not cower before threatening political power. We will boldly continue to spread the message of life. Though those in power may stop us, even by death, they cannot stop the gospel! Acts 12.18-25

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Structure and Message of the “10 Words” in Deuteronomy 5-6

Structure of 10 Words in Deuteronomy 5

Message of Deuteronomy 5-6

  • God’s laws are essentially instruction about who God is and how we can properly fulfill our role as the image of God in creation
    • They are built on relationship and the foundation of God’s character and God’s past actions
    • They show us how to love God with all our being within a covenant relationship
    • They show us how to live with and serve God’s creation as God’s image

Brief Owen Prayer Letter Update…

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From our latest email prayer letter…

Belated Easter greetings to everyone. I have been thinking a lot about resurrection lately. I read an article recently that suggested that maybe we don't long for resurrection as earnestly as we should because we have things too good here. I don't know about that, but I have experienced, through the trials of the past year, a deeper longing for resurrection and greater awareness of my need for the power of the Holy Spirit in my life. Last night, I will admit here, I was having a hard time dealing with my edema and runaway thoughts about what we might find on my PET scan three weeks from now, and in the dark I heard, "My peace I give to you, not as the world gives." I heard it over and over in my head. I am thankful for that peace that does not depend on how I feel in my body or in my emotions and yet affects both of those.

Joyce and I are still in waiting mode for my next PET scan. In the meantime we had a fun few days of vacation with Matt and family in Palm Desert and we will be able to go up and see Joyce's parents for a couple days next week. Our decision on what we will do next, is, of course, still pushed back as well, probably to the end of 2018. Until then, when we hope to be able to work again, we are not receiving a mission salary, but continue to use our mission account for ministry or relocation expenses. Joyce will, most likely, return to Guam in the summer to finish our move and take care of personal business.

I will begin physical therapy for the edema on Friday. No one knows how that will go. We pray that I will be able to manage the edema so that it will not be completely disabling. We would ask that you join us in prayer for that and for God's strength and comfort as we wait (that word again!) on the next test. Please pray for a cancer-free scan!

Thank you for your friendship, prayers, concern and support,

Dave and Joyce

PS The picture above was taken in February. I have more hair now!

Monday, April 02, 2018

Romans 10.9-10

poetic structure Romans 10.9-10

Saving Faith proceeds from a “Heart” that trusts (gives full allegiance) in the resurrected Christ, resulting in a “confessing mouth” that demonstrates this trust in daily life.

A Few More Spring Vacation Pictures

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We did enjoy spending time with family in Palm Desert. With four grandchildren we spent a lot of time at parks with playgrounds. Palm Desert certainly has some beautiful public parks. Here are a few pictures of our adventures at the parks.

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Swings are always popular, especially when you can get someone to give you a push.

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Joyce was in grandma heaven