Sunday, August 31, 2014

Reading Through Micah

Micah ChartThe prophet Micah has sometimes been called the “Amos of the South” because his message is so similar to that of the prophet who preached on the imminent doom of Israel in judgment for their greed and complacency. Micah’s main point was that real holiness and righteousness are not seen in ritual acts or temple sacrifice but in practical righteous and holy acts that submit to God and help and serve God’s people. Micah’s message is “God’s covenant people express their faith by living according to God's standards of righteousness which emphasize mercy to the needy, justice in human relationships and submission to God’s standards.

As Ken Barker (New American Commentary, Micah used for all quotes below too) says,  “Robinson states, “His whole message might almost be summed up in this one sentence: Those who live selfish and luxurious lives, even though they offer costly sacrifices, are vampires in the sight of God, sucking the life-blood of the poor. …The book has a vital, much-needed message for today, and it applies to people in any age and of every generation. For God always requires justice, faithful covenant love, and humble obedience to him.” 36-37

In 2:1–11 Micah states the reasons for the previous devastation, charging that those in positions of leadership, wealth, power, and control were guilty of the sins of greed, covetousness, oppression, corruption, fraud, and theft. And their highly paid false prophets predicted nothing but prosperity for them, thus encouraging them in their evil acts. These and other sins brought stern discipline from their covenant Lord. Micah 1.1-2.11, 62.

“Blessings abused are at last removed.”  Micah 2.4, 65.

“Micah’s diagnosis warns that it is still possible for a theologian to become more concerned about fees than faith, about honoraria than honor.” Micah 3.7, 78.

It is so easy for our religion to become a cover for greed. There is something wrong when the church is the most luxurious, opulent and expensive building in town.

The deliverer has come to this world in the person of Jesus; like David, Jesus is the new Shepherd of God’s sheep, offering security from external enemies and a life of security. Jesus, of the Davidic line, is above all a gift of God to this world. To those who feel shut in on every side, like the besieged citizens of Jerusalem who first heard these words, Jesus brings the prospect of deliverance and security. And that is the essence of the Christmas message: God makes a gift to a besieged world through whom deliverance may come. Micah 5.4, 101.

Recognizing the need for practical holiness becomes even more important when we realize that Jesus will take sides against the oppressor, against the greedy and against the ones who misuse his blessings. At the first coming of Jesus it was the religious leadership, in cahoots with the political leadership, that missed the significance of this prophecy because they were so consumed with preserving their wealth and power.

Our forms of idolatry may be more sophisticated than those that Micah encountered, but they are basically the same. We trust in our own skill and ingenuity to lead us through our problems. We feel more secure trusting the works of our own hands rather than trusting God supremely. And this is what idolatry is all about. Micah 5.12-14, 106.

What we trust in the most is really our god. Where do we go first when we get in trouble? Who do we thank first when something good happens? There is our god.

The law therefore was given to the redeemed people of God as a means of expressing their love to God as well as a means of governing their relationship to God and to each other. The law “was not a way of salvation but a way to enjoy an orderly life and God’s fullest blessing within the covenantal, theocratic arrangement. Micah 6.3-5, 110.

It was instead a call for the natural consequence of truly forgiven men and women to demonstrate the reality of their faith by living it out in the marketplace. Such living would be accompanied with acts and deeds of mercy, justice and giving of oneself for the orphan, the widow and the poor. Micah 6.8, 115.

Yahweh is the God of (1) forgiving love (v. 18), (2) redeeming power (v. 19), and (3) perpetual faithfulness (v. 20). Micah 7.18-20, 133.

We obey because we are thankful for our salvation and trust our king to lead us in the right direction. We don’t obey to get saved. We forgive because we have experienced forgiveness.

The oracle is the counterpart to the Christian doctrine of the Last Judgment. In traditional language which Israel could understand it expresses the assurance that deficits in the moral balance sheet of the world are eventually to be paid, while the kingdom of God is to be established in triumph. Micah 6-7, 130.

Faith makes sense because God will set things right.

First Chapel of the Semester

SAMSUNGThis past Friday the first regular chapel of the semester was celebrated. As usual, SAMSUNG            I had the privilege of being the speaker. The tradition is that we focus on the mission of the school to explain to the students why PIU is here and how they fit in. This was especially timely for me to speak on as I spent most of my summer meeting with our supporting churches in Oregon and California talking about the same thing. So the chart below of the “Flow of the Biblical Narrative should look pretty familiar to those who saw us this summer. First chapel is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s all new so all the students really seem to listen to what I have to say. Smile Here are a few pictures of the chapel and a summary of the message below.


The PIU family was pumped up for the first chapel

Bible Message Chart

The basic message of my sermon was that if we want God to direct our lives in specific ways, we need to be moving in the general way he reveals in the Bible. In other words, we need to “make God’s mission our mission.” The mission of God and message of the Bible is about the kingdom of God, “GOD WILL BRING ABOUT HIS PERFECT WORLD OF LIFE, PEACE, BEAUTY, AND ORDER THROUGH HUMAN AGENCY.”

The story of creation at the beginning of the Bible is balanced by the story of re-creation at the end. God begins by creating a beautiful world of life, order and light and commands his image, the humans, to fill, rule and subdue it. Of course they fail. The story ends with the God-Man, Jesus, accomplishing everything Adam was supposed to do so that the garden extends over the whole world and God’s plan is accomplished.

The rest of the Bible is concerned with God’s plan to accomplish this. The story of Israel in the OT is about God’s mission, given to Abraham to “go and bless” the world. Abraham’s mission was to make God and his blessings accessible to all the world. Despite his failings, Abraham began the mission well, but as a whole, Israel failed in this mission.

The 2nd phase of the story is the entrance of Jesus. Jesus accomplished and fulfilled everything that Israel was supposed to do and inaugurated the church with everything it needed to accomplish the continuing mission in the next era. Jesus gave the church an ethic in the Sermon on the Mount and greatest commandment. He defeated sin and death in the cross and resurrection and rules from the right hand of God after the ascension from where he distributes the Spirit to his body on earth, the church. All scripture must be interpreted in reference to Jesus.

Finally, the church has the mission to “go and make disciples.” It is the same mission given to Abraham, but now empowered by Jesus’ victory and the indwelling Spirit. Thus, this becomes a mission of transformation. As we make the blessings of God accessible to the world (key blessing being God’s presence in our lives) the Spirit transforms us more and more into God’s image. Our mission is as Paul says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

PIU core values

The three core values of PIU flow from this biblical mission. Excellence from the creation story as God desires to produce order, beauty, light and fullness through his people. Accessibility, from the Abraham story as God distributes his blessing through his people to the world. Transformation comes from the church’s mandate to “make disciples.” This is God’s kingdom work and this is what we are about at PIU.

Reading Through Jonah

The story of Jonah is a picture of the story of Israel. God put himself into covenant with Israel and promised to bless them so that they could be a blessing to others. Jonah ChartInstead, for much of its history, Israel selfishly used the blessings God gave them on themselves. This led to complacency, corruption and finally God’s judgment. Instead of being a blessing to the nations around them, they became just like them. So Jonah was written to remind Israel of their covenant obligation to be a blessing to the nations and to point out the selfishness of people unwilling to share God's blessings. God wanted Israel to be the means of saving the world because he is a compassionate God who desires all the world to come to Him. He shows compassion to His people so that we can be compassionate to the world by taking the message and blessings of relationship with God to them.

The quotations below are taken from the New American Commentary, Jonah by Franklin S. Page

First, God calls people to his service. Here Jonah is called to preach to a foreign city, Nineveh. Second, God cares enough about sinners to send a word of hope, love, and grace. Finally, implied here and told later in the story, no one can run from God.  Jonah 1.3, 228.

Superficial solutions to the entanglements caused by our rebellion and disobedience seldom work. Repentance often requires radical action. Jonah 1.13, 236.

Jonah ran from God because he did not share God’s compassion for people. Like Israel, he was full of national pride that assumed Israel was chosen because they were better than other nations. His wrong ideas led to wrong actions that could only be remedied by the extreme action of tossing him into the water. The irony is that the Gentile sailors (who Jonah looked down on as idolaters) displayed God’s character and obeyed YHWH  much better than Jonah did.

In this text Jonah sermonized during his prayer regarding an issue where he himself had failed. While he advocated total dependence upon the Lord and the forsaking of idols, his recent history showed that he was the one who fled and forsook God. Jonah 2.8-9, 252.

Jonah is like many believers who are more than happy and expect to receive God’s forgiveness and grace for themselves but would, judgmentally, deny it to others, especially people who are different than themselves.

The very thought of God “changing his mind” causes difficulty for some believers. In perfect consistency with his justice, righteousness, and mercy, he spared Nineveh. There is absolutely no contradiction here. God’s character and his promises do not change. But many other verses show that God does change his plan of action according to his purposes...Again and again the Old Testament relays the truth that God is responsive to his creation. Jonah 3.10, 269.

God truly does enter into relationship with his creation. He responds to our prayers. He takes joy or is hurt by our actions. Yet in all of this he still remains God.

God attempted to deal with Jonah’s inconsistency by asking him, “Do you have a right?” The question is identical to the one God asked in v. 4. Stuart is right in saying that this question is central to the whole book. “What right do we have to demand that God should favor us and not others?..As Wolff explained, Jonah “neither wished to live under the governance of free grace (vv. 1–3), nor was he prepared to live under a government without grace. Jonah 4.9, 280–281.

The issue is that of grace—grace and mercy. Just as Jonah’s provision was the shade of the vine he did not deserve, the Ninevites’ provision was a deliverance they did not deserve based upon a repentance they did not fully understand. God’s wish for his creation is salvation, not destruction. He will work to see that the salvation is accomplished if there is willingness on the creation’s part. Can a person ever rightly resent the grace of God shown to another? Jonah 4.11, 282.

An experience with the forgiving, gracious, compassionate heart of God obligates us to show His heart to the world by forgiving those who hurt us and showing grace and compassion to those who are unlike us, outside our circles, or, even our enemies.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Birthday Party

SAMSUNG            Last Saturday we attended the third birthday party of Gwen Pate, daughter of PIU’s Executive VP, Nino Pate. Many of you prayed for Gwen a few months ago when she underwent SAMSUNG            surgery and I thought it would be appropriate to post a few pictures that show how well she is doing now. The party was a nice time for the PIU family and the extended church family to get together and celebrate. I think all the kids enjoyed that too. As you can see from the pictures, the theme was Hello Kitty.


Adults and kids all had a good time


The kids enjoyed the games


It is interesting to me the different ways that kids play.

Reading Through Obadiah

obadiah chartObadiah is a prophecy of judgment against the nation of Edom. This seems like a big “so what” until one considers that “Edom” here functions as representative of the fate of all enemies of God’s people and God’s plan for the world. That is, Edom's total destruction because of their pride and mistreatment of Israel is a picture of how God will judge all the nations. As Edom took advantage of Israel when they were in trouble, so Edom would find no help or rescue when they are in trouble. The driving principle here is that your attitude toward God and His authority will come out in your treatment of His people and will form the basis of His judgment. “As you do to others it will be done to you. It is impossible to love God and hate the people He created.

Quotes below are from the New American Commentary, Obadiah by Billy Smith.

Edom represents the enemy of God’s people in all generations, as well as perpetual world power over against God. The ultimate destiny of such enemies is destruction. God is unalterably opposed to such enemies. No mountain is high enough, no fortress is strong enough, no military force is large enough, and no hiding place is dark enough to secure such an enemy from the judgment of God. Obadiah 10, 190.

Edom’s major sin was pride. They believed that they did not need to live in dependence on God and this came out in behavior that took advantage of others, especially God’s people.

Edom did not lift one finger to help. Their behavior showed that they were on the side of their brother’s enemies. Refusing to come to the aid of someone in need is the same as rendering the harm yourself. Obadiah 11, 192.

It is not enough just to live without hurting your fellow human beings. We also have an obligation to help them when they are in need. For believers this is especially true of helping God’s people. Note that Jesus judgment of the nations is “whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me.”

What Edom did to others would be done to them (v. 15). They too would be “destroyed” (v. 10, the same verb as the one here translated “cut down”). Edom deserved the judgment of God because of their deplorable attitudes and actions toward their brothers, who were in addition God’s people. Obadiah 14, 194.

God’s people may suffer temporary defeat for their sins, but God will intervene to rescue them, to judge his enemies, and to establish his kingdom. In the end God’s kingdom will come, and he will reign over all peoples of the earth. Obadiah 21, 201.

As the people of Judah went into exile in Babylon it appeared that the wrong people were being punished. Edom took advantage of Judah’s defeat to enrich themselves. But judgment came for Edom as Nebuchadnezzar came back for them a few years later and within a couple hundred years they ceased to exist as a nation. Meanwhile, God restored Judah to its homeland and His people will reign with him in His eternal kingdom. Short-term injustice seems to reign but it will be set right.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Some More Pictures From the First Week at PIU


The first week at PIU started with registration, orientation and welcome activities. It was a busy, but fun week. It is so nice to have a campus full of students again. Here are some pictures


Joyce’s crew worked hard to get things ready


Students and staff also had an opportunity to cool off


Saturday included some wild water games


including a greased watermelon relay


The PIU team played a league basketball game in the morning


The fans were very enthusiastic


More work: The library was cleaned to get ready for the start of classes


Fun, fun, fun; but now it is time to get classes going!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Reading Through Amos

Amos ChartAs I work through the Minor Prophets I always hate to come to Amos because he is so convicting. We all have a tendency, as Israel did, to read the Word of God and apply it to someone else. Amos does not allow us to do that. His point is that God’s judgment is coming and it is coming first for God’s people. To those who have more information and more blessing more is required. Blessings are to be shared. We should not become complacent within the blessings of God. The theme of Amos is that God’s judgment, the Day of the LORD, is impending and it is coming for YOU!

Billy Smith, writer of the Amos section of the New American Commentary sees this as the main message of Amos,

The sovereign Lord commissioned Amos to bear his message of judgment upon Israel, a judgment so destructive the nation would not survive. Israel’s sin against God caused God’s judgment against Israel. The coming day of the Lord would be a day of darkness and destruction, not light and salvation for “the sinful kingdom” 31.

Or my take on the 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.

In the words of W. Eichrodt, there is “a universal ethical will of God, which gives the moral norms established within his covenant people validity for the whole world.” The view that the cosmic Lord will judge the earth, he says, “drives prophetic thinking on to the unity and universality of the morality required by God, which is binding on all who bear the face of Man.”  Amos 1.3-5, 46.

God has a low tolerance level for those who break treaties, who take away human freedom and dignity, and whose motive is material profit. Such people should brace themselves for the destructive judgment of God. Amos 1.9, 53.

As J. Niehaus explains: “Crimes against humanity bring God’s punishment. This observation is a powerful motivation for God’s people to oppose the mistreatment and neglect of their fellow human beings.” Amos 2.1, 58.

All nations are accountable to God when they oppress, dehumanize, and take away the rights of people, especially helpless people. God’s judgment is severe against those who exploit, abuse, and oppress fellow human beings. God judges indiscriminately. Claims of a special relationship to God does not immunize such people from his judgment. Amos 2.14-16, 69.

Amos begins with a section of prophecies of judgment on the nations around Israel. All nations are accountable to God for how they treat their people and relate to other nations. YHWH is the God of all creation, not just Israel.

Israel’s privileged relationship to God carried with it heavy responsibility to God. As seen in the Book of Deuteronomy, living in relationship with God demanded loyalty and faithfulness. If the people failed, judgment and punishment would come. God holds his people accountable for their sins. Amos 3.2, 71.

The enduring principle here is that God will destroy elaborate altars, expensive houses, and other accoutrements of an extravagant lifestyle when these items are acquired through oppression, fraud, and strong-arm tactics. The idolatry of the people led to their opulent lifestyles. Amos 3.15, 83.

But Amos’ main reason for the section on judgment of the Gentiles was to get Israel to look at themselves. Spiritual privilege leads to a higher standard of judgment. Thus, God's judgment should promote self-evaluation, not pride or condemnation of others.

Worshipers must practice a constant vigil as regards motive in performing religious rituals. Is the motive to show love for God or only to show love for the practice of religion? Amos 4.4-5, 88.

Just as Israel had the power to change (or overturn) some things in their society, so God had the power to change (overturn) things in his universe. To that powerful God Israel was accountable. Amos 5.8-9, 101.

Seeking what is good is not the same as seeking God, but it is a corollary. Seeking God and seeking good represent the two dimensions of true religion, not rituals and forms but relationships with God and other persons.  Amos 5.14, 106.

Then as now, God’s acceptance or rejection of human expressions of worship is based on his assessment of the motives of the heart... Religious activity is no substitute for national or personal righteousness. It may even sometimes be a hindrance. Amos 5.23-24, 113.

God does not tolerate a self-indulgent lifestyle... When the worship of God’s people fails to produce justice and righteousness in society, God’s judgment cannot be far behind. Amos 6.7, 119–120.

“The mighty fortress is their god. Its security and power make God’s protection and blessing irrelevant crutches in the real world of economic and political influence.” God hates anything that replaces him in the lives of his people, especially when it is associated with wickedness. Amos 6.8, 121.

The major focus of Amos is that real religion is relationship with God that flows into loving treatment of others, especially the poor and needy. It is very easy for the church to focus on ritual or calling and become complacent. When churches are spending the bulk of the budget on making themselves more comfortable in their “worship” services they are dangerously close to the complacency of the people of Israel.

Primary loyalty to God in their service to Israel would have eliminated conflict between the king, the priest, and the prophet. The answer to conflict among God’s people is always to place loyalty to God above all else. Amos 7.10-17, 136.

Putting chaff and trash with good grain to sell to desperately hungry poor people was the ultimate in greed. Human greed for profit at the expense of the innocent brings down a society in the just desserts of divine recompense. Amos 8.6, 146.

Israel’s trouble was theological. Their false gods could never raise them up if they fell down. Only the Lord could do that...Such judgment forces us to ask: What are our oppressive acts, and what are our pagan deities? and then forces us to answer honestly and quickly. Amos 8.14, 152–153.

The Lord they expected to meet at Bethel would be there, but not to receive them favorably. His presence would be for evil and not good. When God’s people steadfastly refuse to seek good rather than evil (5:14), they can expect God’s gaze to be upon them for evil, not good. Amos 9.4, 157.

Israel tried to combine worship of God with their own agenda. This always results in conflict and ultimately judgment. Symptoms of idolatry include immorality, lack of concern for the poor and greed. These will all bring God’s judgment.

God is the one who restores, builds, plants, and blesses. It will not be by political coup, social revolution, or military maneuvers that Israel will regain its ascendancy. It will be by the coming of the Lord, who will heal his people and their land.  Amos 9.15, 170.

God does promise to bless those who take a good look at themselves and repent. Amos is convicting because he requires us to take a hard look at ourselves and at out churches to see if we are doing the things that really please God.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

PIU Welcome Day #1

SAMSUNGOn Friday we welcomed our new and returning students to PIU for the Fall semester. Thursday and Friday were registration days but it was not all work for the SAMSUNGstudents as we began with some games and activities in the afternoon and evening. There would be additional activities over the weekend culminating in the greatly anticipated all PIU barbecue on Sunday evening. The students were divided into three teams for the weekend: The Vines (John 15), The Coals (Isaiah 6) and The Bones (Ezekiel 37). Here are some pictures from Friday...


The students and staff came out for the “obstacle course” game


They had to navigate the obstacle course while blindfolded

Here is a video of the obstacle course run….


It was a fun time with the students; family and friends too

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Each team had to decorate their own T-shirt uniforms to prepare for the games…


Basketball and fellowship followed