Monday, August 31, 2015

PIU Basketball

First Bball Game (3)With the start of the Fall semester we also start basketball season for our PIU team. We are playing in the Guam church basketball league. We have started the season 0-2 but we are enjoying the time. This week we have a couple games to look forward to. First Bball Game (8)I am coaching the team right now and enjoying it very much. It gives me some good time to get to know the students and I have a good time being back on the coaching bench after about 10 years away from it. I originally came out to Micronesia as a high school teacher and basketball coach at Emmaus High School in Palau in 1984. Here are a few pictures of last Saturday’s game. Joyce and I took some of the pictures, but the good ones were taken by Billy Edwin.


Some action shots. The other team was definitely taller than us

11894643_10156011268065427_8880030581448221083_oFirst Bball Game (6)

I am trying to coach ‘em up

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Conclusion to Goldingay’s Theology

Goldingay3Today is my final post on Old Testament Theology, by John Goldingay. We have worked through all three volumes: Israel’s Gospel, Israel’s Faith and Israel’s Life. Though I don’t always agree with all his conclusions, I have enjoyed very much working through these volumes. What I most appreciate about Goldingay is that he seems to let the text set the direction of his thinking rather than trying to fit the text into his theology. I also appreciate the humility in his conclusions highlighted by the frequent use of the word “perhaps” to introduce them. Thinking through the Old Testament with him  has been a good growth experience for me in both my personal theology and Christian faith and walk. I hope you have been blessed too. Next year I will be working through various and different Old Testament commentaries and a New Testament theology.

Goldingay sees the Old Testament as a story that reveals who God is, and who humanity (through the representation of Israel) is in response. Its gospel is the story that provides the framework for self and God-understanding. Placing it in narrative form “provides it with a way of discussing tricky theological questions.” Israel’s faith deals with how the natures of Yhwh, Israel, the world and all humanity fit together. Israel’s life is how about how this is lived out in practice, pattern and performance. Goldingay then discusses several New Testament passages that discuss the nature of the Old Testament.

2 Timothy 3.16-17 says that the OT is Useful for Teaching. Though this statement is true for the entire Bible, its original context was directed at the OT. The New Testament was never designed to be complete in itself and, in fact, I would say that the NT cannot be fully or sufficiently understood without the background and context of the OT. Many issues are dealt with in the OT and don’t need to be touched in the NT. The disciples and Jesus assume a knowledge of the OT when they teach. To not understand the OT is to not understand the NT.

From the beginning the New Testament was designed to be a supplement to the First Testament that took the First Testament for granted. It was not designed to be a balanced account of the Christian faith. So the perspective of the New Testament in isolation from the First Testament is bound to be skewed. And this is reflected in the skewed nature of Christians' usual perspective on Christian faith, based as it is merely on a reading of the New Testament, and a selective one at that. (2 Timothy 3.16-17), 833

Hebrews 1.1 says that God spoke in the OT In Many Ways but in Jesus Through a Son. The point is not so much that Jesus provided new revelation but that he fully embodied in human form everything that God is and that God had revealed about Himself in the Old Testament. The purpose of the OT is not to just give us a bare history, but it is theological; to reveal God in the events of that day, the ways people thought about those events and responded to those events.

But, (Hebrews implies) the content of what God said through the prophets and through Christ is the same. There is consistency between God's speaking in the Scriptures, though there is also sequence and story. 834

Romans 4.3, 22-23 tells us that the OT was Written For Us. It was not written to us. It was written to people of a different language, culture and time and we have to interpret and apply it to our time accordingly. However, this does not mean we need “update” its truths to our time. We need to understand our personal story/self assessment/worldview according to the story of God that it tells, not the other way around. The big revelation of the OT is that life is about God, not about us.

The irony is that many evangelicals have come unconsciously to share in modernity's assumptions about the relationship of Scripture's story and our story. Whereas once the principle was to understand our story in light of the scriptural story, now that order is reversed. Whereas once the principle was that the scriptural story is true and my experience needs to be interpreted in its light, now the principle is that my experience is true and the scriptural story needs to be interpreted (which often means "evaluated") in its light. 835

Key to the achievement of God's purpose in the world is acts God undertook once and for all. That is integral to the notion of Christian faith being a gospel, a piece of news about something God has done. 836

Matthew 5.17 says that Jesus has come as the culminating revelation of God Not To Abolish, But To Fulfill. “when Jesus fulfills prophecies, commonly he does not merely do what the prophet encouraged people to expect; he “fills” the prophecies, fills them up, or fills them out, overfills them.” Jesus provides the example in the flesh and empowers through the Spirit of what the gospel community should look like. Israel’s commission in the OT was expanded to the whole world by Jesus, as God always intended.

God was realistic about the fact that the people of God remained one characterized by hardness of heart, by stubborn attitudes, by closed minds, and made allowance for that, but God also held a vision before it and sought to win it to commitment, with the prospect of the blessing that would issue from following God. It was designed to be an alternative community. In practice the church is often simply an alternative version of the same old godless community, an embodiment of that community with nominal reference to God tagged on. 838

Finally Ephesians 5.18-20 command us Be Filled With the Spirit. The Old Testament gives us a tremendous amount of guidance as to what this looks like, but it is largely ignored by the church. The OT shows us how to live in the world and enjoy God’s creation, while at the same time being that alternative gospel community through whom the Spirit convicts of sin and draws people to the love of Christ. It has a lot to sat about how to look like Jesus.

In the twenty-first century, what might be the structure of a life shaped by the First Testament? Here is a Decalogue. You can choose which you obey. But do some of them.

  • Praise God at dusk and at dawn.
  • Relax and sleep for the time in between.
  • Grow things to eat.
  • Tithe what you grow.
  • Keep out of department stores and shopping malls (beware the Internet too).
  • On Thursdays pray laments for people who are suffering.
  • On Fridays think about the fact that you are going to die.
  • On Saturdays, have a day's rest (you can tend your garden if it's not your regular work).
  • On Sundays, talk with your friends or family about scripture.
  • Three times a year, hold a week-long holiday with your friends or family, and celebrate what God has done for us in nature and in delivering us. 839

First Chapel of the Semester

First Chapel (2)

First Chapel (1)Well First Chapel (3)technically it was not the first chapel of the semester but it was the first regular PIU chapel of the semester. PIU Chapel coordinator Mike Owen got the PIU chapel band organized and ready to go for the first worship service of the semester and I gave my traditional opening sermon highlighting the biblical basis behind the PIU core values of accessibility, excellence, and transformation.



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We sang the doxology in several languages including Chuukese, Tagalog and Hawaiian. Mike is looking for the words to the Doxology in all the other languages too

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It is nice to have all the chapel seats full of smiling students, staff and guests again. We introduced the Mullers and Sengs to the students. They are retired Liebenzell Missionaries who served many years in Chuuk. We also introduced the Folkers, new Liebenzell missionaries who will serve at PIU in Chuuk this semester.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Reading Through Jude

51wtZdiia5L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. This post quotes from the book The Message of 2 Peter and Jude: The Promise of His Coming, written by R. C. Lucas and Christopher Green. My analysis of the letter by Jude is in black below. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I post quotes from these commentaries on my Facebook page and periodic summaries of the commentary here on my blog. I welcome discussion on these post on my Facebook page. As always, quotes from the author are in blue font.

The traditional author of the Epistle of Jude is Jude the brother of Jesus. Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 name Judas (Jude) and James as brothers of Jesus. The simple identification of Jude in the letter is appropriate for Jesus' brother. The recipients of the letter were possibly Christian Jews in Palestine. There are several references to the Old Testament and other Jewish literature. It was probably written around 67-80 AD. The references to false teachers would indicate a date several years after the beginning of the church and the Jewish revolts of 66-70 that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem.

Jude chartJude wrote to urge believers to see the urgency of opposing false teaching and to fight against apostasy and to preserve the apostolic faith. The message of Jude is that "God condemns the ungodly and apostates but preserves the righteous who hold on to the truth. Therefore we need to recognize that there are people in the church who are trying to destroy the faith, and prepare ourselves to rescue the church from them in God's strength."

Believers are called, loved and kept safe in the faith by God's mercy, peace and love. Leaders should “slaves” of Jesus Christ. True believers are called into and kept in the faith by the love of God and need the continuing work of God in their lives. 1-2

It is urgent that true believers defend the apostolic (scriptural) faith because false teachers have infiltrated the church to corrupt and destroy it. It is important to defend the faith because God has entrusted us with the special revelation of God contained in scripture and, thus, we must work hard to make sure truth continues in the church and overcomes falsehood. False teaching comes from ungodly, immoral people who deny the Deity and authority of Christ. Defending the truth is critical because those who deny it will be condemned. 3-4

To be rescued from that, and to be allowed to change from having ‘clothing stained by corrupted flesh’ (23) into being ‘without fault’ (24), is to experience the full scope of God’s rescue plan. Until we are in ‘his glorious presence’ (24), we can only wait for his mercy (21). Jude 3, 172

We need to be able to recognize false teachers so that we can oppose them and avoid their judgment. Examples of apostasy from the past are warnings of the danger of rejecting the truth. A chief characteristic of false teachers is lack of submission to God and overreaching, abusive authority. Because they act in only their own interests, they will be destroyed. False teachers are seductive dangers that do not deliver what they promise and they will be severely judged for their prideful words and deeds. 5-16

But there are people in our churches who look and sound like the people of God, but who will not be saved on the last day, because they rebel against God’s promises and rule. Like the Israelites in the desert, they do not believe, and in consequence they will face the Judge. That was the case in the wilderness, it was the case in Jude’s day, and it will be the case in ours. Jude 5, 184

The lessons we have learned from Cain and Balaam are still in place. Once again, in Korah we have a man who ruminates over God’s order of things and decides that God cannot have meant what he said. So, for reasons of greed, an attempt is made to replace God’s laws with another set dreamed up by a man. The new element in Korah’s case was the way the rebellion ended. Jude 11, 200–201.

But the position that faith takes is that God is God even over rebels, and if he knew how to judge Cain, Korah and Balaam, he will be able to judge any who oppose him. Jude 12-13, 204

Believers must remember that this was predicted and God is in control of the situation, and then take action to defend the church from false teachers. Scriptures predicted that there would be false teachers who lack the Spirit and would try to divide and deceive the church. We must take preemptive action to keep people in the faith by building each other up, praying, and focusing on the hope of the return of Christ. We must help those being deceived by mercifully confronting them with their errors and leading them back to the truth. We need to hate the error but love the deceived person. God is the one who will ultimately preserve the truth, grow believers into maturity and keep believers safe in judgment. 17-25

But when people want to set up smaller, ‘truer’ churches within other churches, using those churches as recruiting-grounds rather than bringing non-Christians to Christ, we can be sure that something is very wrong. Jude 19, 216

As we pray for and talk to our friends who think like that, we must keep before ourselves the fact that, without being offensive or insensitive, we are instructed by Jude to save them; the fire is near and coming closer, and we must watch that we are not sucked into its path as well. Snatch them, says Jude. Jude 23, 228

Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?’ The correct answer is that no-one is able to stand on the basis of the lives we have lived. Yet Jude has seen that a wonderful transformation will have occurred, enabling Christians to face that holiness without flinching. Jude 24, 232

It is our responsibility to preserve the truth of the Word and pass it on to the next generation

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Start of the Fall Semester at PIU

SAMSUNGWe started classes at PIU yesterday. The Fall semester is in full operation with classes, the first chapel yesterday, the first basketball game last night (we lost 90 something to 50 something) and I have my first class of the semester this afternoon. Freshman Old Testament Survey is one of the classes I most enjoy teaching – I love seeing the moment of recognition in their faces SAMSUNGwhen they see that there is a consistent story to the OT and that it suddenly opens up all kinds of insights into who Jesus is. We have already completed student and staff orientation and enjoyed the opening of the semester fellowship barbecue. We don’t have a final number yet on how many students we have on Guam because some students have not been able to get here because of delayed flights. We also are still working on getting the semester up and running in Chuuk, Palau and Pohnpei and expect students in our distance education programs there. We appreciate your prayers for our students.

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Joyce instructs the students about the “clean and green” program for the dorm students (left) while Kaki (right) informs the students about the counseling options they have available to them


More students eating barbecue and responding to my comment about trying to get a picture of a student with food in their teeth.

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Faculty orientation and workshop was on Saturday

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A couple more barbecue pictures

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Nino explains to the students who does what at PIU and introduces the faculty and staff in the first chapel

An Old Testament Theology of Leadership (Goldingay)

Goldingay3I am almost finished working through Volume 3 of Goldingay’s, Old Testament Theology, Israel’s Life. In this volume Goldingay is looking at how Israel was to live, “not the life Israel actually lived”, but “the life the First Testament reckons it should have been and should be.” I have been posting quotes from Volume 3 on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. There will be a link to this blog post on my Facebook page where you can comment. Please comment there. The final chapter in volume 3 deals with Leaders and Servants. Goldingay says that "leadership is not a category that the First Testament or New Testament works with." The idea of "servant-leadership" is western, not biblical…

Having some human beings in authority over others is a weird notion. It is a condescension to human sinfulness. Further, leaders tend to be at least as sinful as those they lead, and leadership is commonly a form of oppression. The notion that leaders must be subordinate to Torah has the potential to safeguard against the temptations of power, though this potential is not much realized. 708

So basically in part 1, Servants and Leaders, Goldingay sees the need for leadership as a necessary evil in this sinful world. Humans were made to serve the ground and mutually serve each other, not to be regularly in a subservient position to another. The words used for Israel's leaders throughout the OT are "servant" and "shepherd." However, the OT is a story about good leaders going bad, corrupted by power and abusing authority. In fact the main reason good leaders are needed is to rescue people from bad leaders. The main quality for good leadership in the OT is faithfulness to Yhwh and submission to Torah. God did not choose particularly skilled people to lead Israel, but it seems that these "weak" people, when they gained power, abused it and oppressed the people they were to serve. The OT looks forward to the day when Yhwh will lead his people directly rather than impose human leaders.

The New Testament congregation has been described as a community of conversation guided by the agents of direction (prophets), agents of memory (scribes or narrators), agents of linguistic self-consciousness (teachers) and agents of order and due process (overseers, elders, shepherds). 712

Having gifts of leadership or being put into a position of leadership... does not depend on being more committed to God than other people. Nor does it carry with it any resources that lead to greater such commitment. Indeed it brings with it various pressures that drive a person in the opposite direction. In the church it is hard for power not to corrupt people, and so it was in Israel. 720

The era of Kings in Israel was relatively short within its history but is important because of the OT space given to it and the Davidic promise. However, the OT seems to be conflicted about the necessity of kingship. In the ancient world the king was the image of God, but in the OT all people, male and female, are the image of God. The king's job, in this sinful world, was to defend the weak and fight for God's truth but the kings of Israel and Judah tended to oppress the weak and lead the nation astray. Thus, the exile was God's rejection of the Davidic kingship until Jesus himself would restore it. The point would be that really it is God that rules and any authority a human has is limited and derived from God.

In practice, Israel's monarchy never became Yhwh's means of governing the world nor of implementing compassion and faithfulness in Israel, and this was in keeping with the uneases about kingship that Yhwh expressed in connection with its introduction. (Judges 9.8-15, 1 Sam. 8) 732-733

The king's vocation is not to fight for his country (Ps 45) but to fight for a truthful purpose and a faithful cause...It is the king who fights; they are awesome deeds of his right hand. But God works with him and through him. His victories reflect the fact that he sits on God's throne, ruling Israel on God's behalf and destined to rule the world on God's behalf. 737

The monarchy, denounced, by and large, for its actual practice, could be rescued as a critical ideal by putting it at the service of one of Israel's original political aims: God's liberating justice for the oppressed. There were signs that David could do that, but he could not be faithful and decisive in private as well as in public, and this rebounded on his leadership, and even his religious commitment was mixed up with political calculation (1 Sam 6) 739

The Ministers of the Old Testament were the priests, Levites and their servants. This stands in some tension to the original commissioning of the entire nation to be "a nation of priests," but when a "sanctuary" is set up people are needed with authority to manage it. In Israel these chosen people were the sons of Aaron and the Levite tribe. These ministers were ordained (given authority) to manage the tabernacle (later the temple), offer sacrifices, lead festivals, manage the holiness codes, lead in worship (not just music) and teach the people. They failed as spectacularly as the kings. The Northern kingdom even substituted their own non-Levitical priests to lead their worship. Though their worship services thrived God condemned their unauthorized cult and this false worship led to the exile of both kingdoms. In the New Testament the most vehement opposition to Jesus came from the priests.

Having priests stands in some tension with Israel's being a priestly kingdom in which all serve. The arrangement again parallels that in the Christian faith, where the New Testament sees the Jewish-Gentile church, a renewed version of Israel, as itself a priesthood (1 Pet. 2.9) and leaves no room for an arrangement whereby one man rules a congregation, but the church subsequently invents the position of senior pastor. 747

The fact that leading music in (Old Testament) worship is primarily a matter of providing a rhythm would mean music leaders would not need the kind of musical gifts presupposed by the Western tradition. 751

The (time of Hosea) was one of flourishing religious life, but that very passage referring to the gift of written torah also makes clear that the multiplying of sanctuaries and priestly activity does not mean a flourishing of true religion (Hos. 8.11-12). The more the priesthood has flourished, the more spectacularly it has failed. 756

In the section, Prophets, Central and Marginal, Goldingay discusses the nature of the Old Testament prophet, his task and the prophecies themselves. He defines the prophet through a "set of family resemblances"...

A prophet shares God's nightmares and dreams, speaks like a poet and behaves like an actor, is not afraid to be offensive, confronts the confident with rebuke and the downcast with hope, mostly speaks to the people of God, is independent of the institutional pressures of church and state, is a scary person mediating the activity of a scary God, intercedes with boldness and praises with freedom, ministers in a way that reflects his or her personality and time, is likely to fail...Their task is to confront people and king with the demands and the resources of Israel's true faith, which people and king are commonly inclined to ignore. 760

Thus, the prophet is a person "who stands in God's counsel" and brings that word to God's people. There were both institutional court prophets (Isaiah), who often tended to corrupt the Word of God to please the ruler, and "free" or "peripheral" prophets (Elijah, Amos) who were private people driven to prophecy by God. Prophecy runs through the most of the OT history and usually stands in some tension with the king and priesthood. Methods of discerning God's word that put the prophet in control, rather than God, were banned and indicated a false prophet. False prophets could be prophets of Baal, self-deceived prophets who thought they were hearing the words of Yhwh but were speaking out of their own dreams, or those who pretended to speak for Yhwh. These false prophets could expect only sure and severe judgment.

The first testament puts a ban on divination, the use of technique to discover what is happening or what is going to happen. It does not imply that such techniques cannot work. They are banned because Israel is to seek such revelation from Yhwh. 765

Yhwh's word can be more like rain that encourages growth (Is. 40.6-8). But the point about prophecy is to confront the thinking of the people of God, and the people of God often need shaking out of a sense that it is okay. 774

The next section deals with the characteristics of True Prophets in the Old Testament. These are people who are "claimed and consecrated by God, not based on their own abilities, but to just be speakers of the word God gives them and followers of His orders.” The prophet was to fulfill Israel's role as God's servant while helping Israel grow into that role themselves. Thus, the prophet must be a student of God and His Word, be "mentored" by Yhwh so he can mentor others. The prophet is a "herald" announcing the word of God appropriate for its time. The prophet functions in a pastoral ministry as a "strange shepherd" who leads and helps the people honestly (telling good news or bad news) to do the right thing. Finally the true prophet (like Habakkuk) engages God in discussion/prayer and waits patiently and faithfully for his answer.

The prophet is someone whose whole life work is to embody what it means to be Israel and thus to be the means of displaying God's splendor in the way the entire community was supposed to do but cannot do because if its resistance to its Master. This becomes the prophet's task, though the prophet may fulfill it through a ministry to the community that enables it to become what it was called to be. 778

One might have thought that being a student was a harmless occupation, harmless to the student and harmless to other people. When Yhwh is the mentor, matters turn out differently...When God speaks, it can seem a threat to the people of God and also to the world. 780

Habakkuk too could not will a response from Yhwh, nor think up a response and assume it was Yhwh's. Prophecy and theological reflection are two different things. He has to wait. But he commits himself to waiting that will not give up until there is a response. 788

Though true prophets speak God's words as they hear them spoken "in Yhwh's court." However, they often speak them in imaginative ways as Poets, Visionaries, Actors. To get attention and make people think, they often speak metaphorically, obliquely, provocatively or subtly. Sometimes Yhwh will speak through the prophet in a way that is very visual, dramatic, indelicate, grippingly realistic or even in the grossly disgusting. "Yhwh will use any means to communicate, and bad taste is certainly among them." (798) The prophet will often take the normal and familiar and stand it on its head to make a point (the potter for example). Sometimes God will even arrange tragedy in the prophet's own life and experience (Hosea and Ezekiel's wives) to drive home a point to his people. It seems God will do almost anything to get people to pay attention and listen to His word.

Prophets use their imagination, and they appeal to the imagination of their hearers. Even when they describe some event in apparently straightforward terms, we have to be wary of understanding it prosaically. 794

It is characteristic of the prophets the Psalms and other poetic books to make use of paronomasia, repetition, irony, metonymy and metaphor. Such literary devices presuppose a sense that there is a unity of reality, grounded in God. Things that do not look as if they connect actually do so. One God lies behind them. The First Testament can presuppose connection and relationship even when things look unconnected or conflicted and can assume there is meaning and coherence even when things look meaningless and fragmented. 798

For Yhwh the rights of the individual are not the ultimate priority. Yhwh is concerned to communicate with Israel and is prepared to use individuals such as Hosea, Gomer and their children to that end, even if this makes things hard for them. There are "bigger goods" than their rights as individuals...Perhaps Yhwh takes the view that being drawn into the divine purpose is a privilege that outweighs the cost. 808

Sometimes being a prophet is not pleasant as they must, like Jeremiah, take on the role of Victims, persecuted for speaking the word of God. Jeremiah is forced to bring a message of destruction and judgment to the leaders of Jerusalem because their lives did not match their profession of faith in Yhwh. This was seen as treason by Jeremiah and put his life at risk. What made it worse was that Yhwh delayed judgment so that Jeremiah looked like a lying false prophet. Jeremiah prayed and complained to God, but was given no word that the persecution would stop, only that he would be protected. Jeremiah wanted out but Yhwh would not release him from his prophetic commission. Through this, Jeremiah began to feel God's pain, grief and anger about His people and could speak God's heart. The servant prophecy in Isaiah talks about the need for suffering before exaltation. The servant not only suffers on behalf of his people, but along with them. The surprising thing is how much he has to suffer before he is exalted. This is the kind of servant one must be to be the kind of leader that God works with.

Being a prophet is no calling to seek. It can mean being put at risk, put under pressure, treated roughly, driven to prayer for redress, having no way out of your ministry, wishing you have never been born, feeling pain and grief, sharing your people's suffering. But it can mean being Yhwh's agent in bringing about their restoration and eventually being triumphant and vindicated. 811

Fundamental to a prophet is a fellowship with the feelings of God, a sympathy with the divine pathos. Jeremiah embodies that most clearly. He is full of God's wrath; he also has to identify with God's attachment to Israel and learn the grief of God in having to spoil what is intimately precious to Him...Jeremiah's grief will be a mirror of Yhwh's. 819

Christians traditionally see Jesus as the fulfillment of the servant vision, but the New Testament does not see the passage as a "prophecy" of which there is one "fulfillment," nor does it use the passage to prove Jesus is the Messiah. It sees Jesus as one fulfillment of this vision, but not the only one. It also applies this passage to the church. (1 Pet. 2.21-22) The passage indicates how servanthood can work, whoever the servant is. It can involve hurt and pain, but a hurt and pain that are productive for other people and are not the end of the story for the servant. 822

(The servant) thus carried the failure of many. They themselves were carrying their failure, bearing their responsibility for it, living with the consequences of it. He joined them in this when there was no moral reason why he should do so. And all this put him in a position to appeal for them as one identified with them, and to turn his experience into a reparation offering. The First Testament does not lay before us a challenge to be leaders - it is disillusioned about leadership. It does lay before us such a vision of servanthood. 830-831

Monday, August 24, 2015

Stuff We Do on Guam

2015-08-19 12.47.57DSC07292 (1117x1280)I was at a government meeting the other day and someone asked me why we stayed on Guam. Of course the main answer was that this is the place where God has called us to ministry, but the other answer is that we really like it here. Over the last few days we have enjoyed several ministry and fun activities (most activities we do fit both of those categories) with our friends and PIU co-workers. Here are a few pictures from this week, mostly from the weekend. They include some work at PIU, a birthday party for Gwen, the daughter of Nino and Glenda Pate (PIU finance super couple), ministering at the Palauan church and a couple meals out.

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The girls got their faces painted at Chuck E Cheese

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I preached Sunday at the Palauan Evangelical Church of Guam and got to hear two very good choirs

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After church we went out to Tu Re restaurant, got some sandwiches and sat in the beachfront dining area. Joyce had to take a picture of the funny sign.

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I also had to throw in a little older picture of my two grand-daughters helping grandma get the apartment ready for the Hembachs before they arrived.

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And a couple more cute pictures from the birthday party

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sunday Reading: 2 Clement, An Ancient Christian Sermon

During the month of August, I am reading through some of the very early writings of the Christian church. I am focusing on the Pre-Nicene Church Fathers; that is Christian writings before the 300’s AD. Most of these writings can easily be found for free on the internet with a Google search. You can find 2 Clement here. I am using the Logos version of The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, by Michael William Holmes. There is a post on my Facebook page which links here and where we can discuss this post. If you would ever like to suggest a book for Sunday reading commentary on this blog send me a Facebook message or comment here.

Second Clement is not really a letter, but an early Christian sermon. In fact it is the earliest complete Christian sermon that we still have today. It is variously dated from 100-150 AD/CE. It contains the earliest instances of the New Testament being quoted as scripture and references Matthew, Luke, I Corinthians, and Ephesians, as well as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of the Egyptians. The sermon is based on a text from Isaiah 54 and  “presents a call to repentance, purity, and steadfastness in the face of persecution.” (102)

Now when he said, “Rejoice, O barren woman, who bears no children,” he spoke of us, for our church was barren before children were given to it. (2) And when he said, “shout, you who have no labor pains,” he means this: we should offer up our prayers to God sincerely, and not grow weary like women in labor. (3) And he said, “for the deserted woman has more children than she who has a husband,” because our people seemed to be abandoned by God, but now that we have believed, we have become more numerous than those who seemed to have God. 107–109

The sermon emphasizes that Jesus called us as sinners and urges its audience to show their faithful response by their works. There is also a deep acknowledgement of the human continued capacity to sin and need for reliance on the Spirit of God to do right. The need to be ready for the coming judgment is one of the speaker’s main motivations for righteousness although he also often speaks of reward and the present joy that comes from living as God has called us to live.

But how do we acknowledge him? By doing what he says and not disobeying his commandments, and honoring him not only with our lips but “with our whole heart and with our whole mind.”  3.4, 109

This age and the one that is coming are two enemies. This one talks about adultery and corruption and greed and deceit, but that one renounces these things. We cannot, therefore, be friends of both; we must renounce this one in order to experience that one. 6.3-5, 111–113

Charitable giving, therefore, is good, as is repentance from sin. Fasting is better than prayer, while charitable giving is better than both, and “love covers a multitude of sins,” while prayer arising from a good conscience delivers one from death. Blessed is everyone who is found full of these, for charitable giving relieves the burden of sin. 16.4, 123

He concludes the sermon with both positive and negative motivation to serve God in practical, measurable ways…

For I myself am utterly sinful and have not yet escaped from temptation; but even though I am surrounded by the tools of the devil, I make every effort to pursue righteousness, that I may succeed in at least getting close to it, because I fear the coming judgment. 18.2, 125

But do not let it trouble your mind that we see the unrighteous possessing wealth while the servants of God experience hardships. Let us have faith, brothers and sisters! We are competing in the contest of a living God, and are being trained by the present life in order that we may be crowned in the life to come. 20.1-2, 127

Friday, August 21, 2015

Reading Through 3rd John

index johnI am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. This post quotes from the book The Message of John’s Letters: Living in the Love of God, written by David Jackman. My analysis of the letter by 3rd John is in black below. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I post quotes from these commentaries on my Facebook page and periodic summaries of the commentary here on my blog. I welcome discussion on these post on my Facebook page. As always, quotes from the author are in blue font.

The 3rd Epistle of John is also authored by "John the Elder," traditionally considered to be John the Apostle.  The opening, closing, style, and outlook are so similar to 2nd John that both epistles must have been written by the same hand. It was written to Gaius. He was probably a Gentile member of one of the churches of Asia Minor which John had charge after the death of Paul. It seems that Gaius was showing hospitality to traveling teachers who had been sent to the church by John. He was being opposed in this by Diotrephes who was rejecting the authority of John and trying to establish his own. John wrote the letter to commend Demetrius to be received as a teacher of the truth and encourage Gaius. This letter was most likely written at about the same time as 2nd John.  

The letter was written to encourage believers to support ministries of teachers of the truth and to remind believers that love results in practical action. 3 John chartThe message of 3rd John is "Faithfulness to the truth is seen in loving actions that promote the spread of the Gospel. Those that do the right thing show that they know God and are His children." That is, Love is Acting on The Truth

Faithfulness is shown by daily practical actions based on God's truth. Believers should be concerned for each others' well-being. Gaius showed his faithfulness to truth by supporting the ministries of apostolic teachers. We show what we really believe in by what we support. Disciples bring joy to their mentors when they act according to the truth. 1-4

Every Christian has a responsibility to work for the cause of the truth, and the extent to which we are prepared to do so, whatever it may cost us, may well be the most reliable indicator of the true depth of our believing. One of the greatest joys of Christian dedication is Christian teamwork. 3 John 1-8, 195

Gaius' good example shows that faithfulness is seen in meeting the needs of God ministers and showing love to God's people. Hospitality to God's people, even those we don't know and partnership with God's ministers is an important evidence of faithfulness. We must continue to support Christian ministry and Christian ministry should be supported from within the church, not from outside it. Those who support Christian ministry become partners in the ministry and share in its reward. 5-7

Very few churches have cause for satisfaction when they look at their level of support for world mission, or even for their own missionaries. One still hears of missionaries who are able to stay on location abroad only with the financial support of their fellow missionaries. If local church leaders are to be held ‘in the highest regard in love because of their work’ (1 Thes. 5:13), surely that applies even more strongly in the case of those who have left home and family for the sake of the Lord and the gospel. Providing for the financial needs of those who have been sent out for the sake of the Name is a spiritual work in itself. Those who represent the Lord should be supported worthily, not in luxury but adequately. Some churches need to take these principles much more seriously. 3 John 1-8, 196

Diotrephes bad example shows that lack of support for God's ministers reflects a selfish desire for control and lack of understanding of God's truth. Love of control and power reveal a lack of truthful living. Those that do not live by truth (false leaders) reveal themselves in their loveless words and actions, rejection of the apostolic authority of the scriptures and abuse of their authority. 8-10

Whenever we start to serve ourselves rather than Christ, or to use our fellow Christians for our own ego trip, or to become concerned about our status within the church, we need to recognize the Diotrephes syndrome and take whatever strong action is needed to eliminate it. 3 John 9-10, 199

Believers must continue to love God's people, respect God's word and promote the Gospel despite the opposition of false leadership. Your relationship to truth is most clearly seen in your actions. 11-14

As we have looked at these three very different, and yet representative, church members around whom the letter revolves, we cannot fail to be challenged concerning our own discipleship. The ultimate proof of the truth we profess to believe and the love we profess to exercise will be seen neither in words nor in feelings but in the progressive transformation of our character, and therefore of our lifestyle, into the image of Christ. The challenge to us now is how much are we really prepared to let Jesus Christ change us. Is it to be my will or his? 3 John 13-14, 202

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fall Registration at PIU Begins

2015-08-19 09.24.12Today is the first day of registration at PIU. Students have already begun arriving and several have moved into the dorm. DSC07285 (1280x1000)Yesterday was the first day of orientation for new students. I would appreciate your prayers for several new students who have not been able to get flights to Guam from their islands. Flights are full. We are praying that they will be able to get here before classes begin next week. I am enjoying having a lot of students around again. I had the chance to pray with the new students before the orientation began. In the pictures, PIU registrar Urte Scherer (left) is instructing the new students about the intricacies of the registration process.

DSC07286 (1170x1280)DSC07287 (1280x768)We have also spent a lot of time at the airport recently picking up the new students (and staff) and delivering them to the campus. We try to make sure everyone feels welcomed. Above the Student Development Team is arriving at the airport. Here we are waiting for the Tuesday flight to come up from Chuuk. The PIU banner always prompts conversation with people in the airport. Tuesday I met one of our alumni who is working with the FSM government office here on Guam. So we got a double blessing as we picked up the students. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Reading Through 2nd John

index johnI am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. These next few books are short so the posts will be coming quickly, This post quotes from the book The Message of John’s Letters: Living in the Love of God, written by David Jackman. My analysis of the letter by 2nd John is in black below. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I post quotes from these commentaries on my Facebook page and periodic summaries of the commentary here on my blog. I welcome discussion on these post on my Facebook page. As always, quotes from the author are in blue font.

The author of the 2nd epistle of John is "John the Elder" Traditionally this was considered to be John the Apostle. The letter is too short for there to be much external evidence of authorship. Iranaeus and Origen considered it to be written by John the apostle although there are other early sources that refer to both 2nd and 3rd John as disputed. John may have used the title “elder” in the sense of “old man.” He was always reluctant to draw attention to himself. Style, vocabulary and outlook are so similar in 1st, 2nd and 3rd John that it is very likely the same man wrote all three epistles and the Gospel of John. The letter was written to the “elect lady.” 2 John chartThis is most likely a metaphorical reference to a church in Asia Minor that was some distance from Ephesus. It was probably written around 90-95 AD, between the Gospel of John and Revelation. 

The letter was written to to motivate believers to exercise discernment and not to invest in the work of heretics and to remind believers to love another. That is we must live in Truth and Love. The message of 2nd John is that "Truth and Love must go together. The only foundation for a proper loving relationship with God and with other people is the truth of the apostolic teaching found in God's Word.  Truth defines what real love is."

When the truth of God lives in us, the true love of God will come out of us. Love must be based on the truth of God and committed to the truth of the Gospel. Love and Truth must always be balanced in order to live effectively. 1-3

So the truth of who Christ is and what he has done for us always exists side by side with the love we experience as we believe in him. The objective reality that the man Christ Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father, the only true God, undergirds our personal experience of that love in salvation and guarantees its eternal validity. 2 John 1-3, 177

Love is directed by the commands of God and is motivated by the desire to obey and please God. Daily life must be directed by the truth of God. The motivation for love is God's command. Essentially love is obeying God. Obedience to the commands and example of Christ as taught by the apostles is what love is all about. 4-6

As we believe and appropriate all that his Word promises—that eternal life which is ours by our union with Christ—so we grow in truth and love, receiving more and more his grace, mercy and peace. These are the divine priorities we are called to develop. 2 John 4-6, 180

Love resists and exposes false teachers who deny and oppose Christ. There are many false teachers in the world who deny the truth and present a false Jesus. The content of their teaching was to deny the full humanity of Christ and believers must be discerning to recognize and oppose false teaching. Being deceived by false teachers could result in loss of eternal reward and loss of one's experience and blessing of relationship with God. Thus, anyone who supports, encourages or in any way helps spread false teaching becomes a partner in evil. 7-11

It is a fundamental principle of the New Testament writers not to devote themselves to the detailed dissection or even analysis of the false teaching they were combating. Rather, they give themselves to the positive proclamation of the truth, confident that it will, in and of itself, undermine and destroy the error. 2 John 7-11, 180

Balancing truth and love will ultimately result in the true joy of fellowship. You cannot separate truth and love. 12-13

We all have so much to learn from other Christians who hold the same truth and seek to exercise the same love as we do. We are all children of the same Father, members of the same family. The more we can live together in truth and love, the more will that climate be produced in which, together, our obedience to the Head of the church can flourish. 2 John 12-13, 188