Friday, March 31, 2017

Latest Prayer Letter From PIU

(Note: Below is the latest prayer and support letter from Pacific Islands University, written by interim president Howard Merrell. Howard has graciously consented to serve in this difficult position while I am receiving cancer treatment in California. I would add a prayer request for Howard that God would give him an extra blessing of wisdom and strength as he leads the school through this difficult time. This has been an unprecedented season of trial for the whole PIU family, that I attribute to a critical bout of spiritual warfare. I would ask for your redoubled prayer for the students, staff and faculty of PIU. Thank you for your continued support of the ministry of PIU.)

Dear Friend of PIU:
Thank you for your continued support of PIU. We are grateful.

I am asking you to join me in prayer. I pastored a small church for four decades. In that time I received hundreds of letters, and phone calls from leaders of ministries, some printed in four-colors on impressive shiny paper. I said then that if I were ever in a position like the one I’m in now, that I would never use the arm-twisting, tear-jerking methods that some of those communications contained. I sincerely hope that my current request does not appear to use those. That’s not my intention.

My wife and I serve at Pacific Islands University as missionaries with Liebenzell Mission USA. LMUSA’s heritage goes back to J. Hudson Taylor. He said something like, “God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack for God’s supply.” I believe that. Right now we find ourselves in short supply of what we think we need. Please join us in praying that God will refine us, and teach us more about the work He has for us to do and the way we should do it. James speaks to people going through trials. He says in Chapter 1 that when we face our trials with a Godly attitude, we will emerge better on the other side.

Please pray that we will learn from current difficulties.

We face difficulties in regard to finances, infrastructure, staffing, and student-recruitment. From what I understand, these are problems with which all smaller Christian colleges struggle. In addition to those concerns, our hearts ache because our President, Dave Owen, and a beloved teacher, April Stone are battling cancer.

Please pray for Dave and Joyce Owen and for April and Howard Stone.*

*As of this letter’s sending, April Stone has gone home to be with the Lord. As son-in-law Ken Dixon wrote in correspondence some weeks ago: “April is someone who truly treasures Jesus and lives for Him! She inspires us all.” PIU will miss this precious servant of the Lord Jesus who so selflessly touched many. Howard Stone, April’s husband and also dear teacher at PIU, appreciates prayers for him and his five children with their respective families.

I determined, as I began this assignment, to do everything I could to cherish and honor the people who serve the Lord at PIU. If I could, I would give all of them a raise, or provide them with nicer tools to use in their work. I can’t, but there is much that I, that we, can do. One of the most basic, yet most valuable ways we can honor those who serve here is to pray for them.

Please pray that the people God has sent here will know how valuable they are. These servants are like Epaphroditus in Philippians 2. Paul says to “honor people like him.” Pray that we will honor the priceless servants God has placed in PIU.

The bottom line is not found on the financial report. It is seen in the lives of our students, who grow and go, making a difference around the world.

Pray for our students, especially those who will be graduating in a few weeks. Pray that the Lord will lead new students to us. Please recommend our school to students who are interested in an education that not only informs, but transforms. Right now (through 4/15) applying students can save up to $340 on first time fees. Encourage them to call and find out more.

Pray that our rich God will supply us with what we need. Since He uses His servants to supply ministries like PIU, pray that God will move hearts to give as they are able.
One more thing, since you are part of the family, I figure that you take joy in the good things the Lord is doing in the lives of our students and alumni. We can rejoice in what they are doing in the communities where they serve.

Please join me in Thanking the Lord for Pacific Islands University.

By His Grace,
Howard Merrell, Interim President, PIU

Update and Some Sad News From PIU

20170330_081823 (768x1024)I have gotten through my second chemotherapy session and I am no longer toxic. My side effects were relatively mild. I had a little bit of the chills and the sweats and one small bout with nausea. Not too bad at all.  I am losing a lot more hair as you can see in the picture. My beard is getting thin so you can see my chin again.  The edema is slowly leaving my body, a little more slowly than I would like. But I am happy for that. Next Wednesday I will get evaluated by the doctor. He will decide when to refer me back down to Stanford to get another PET scan to see how the chemotherapy is affecting the T cells in my lymph nodes.  I'm very curious to know how the chemotherapy has progressed  and where my cancer stands.  I'm thankful for your prayers regarding my chemotherapy.

Today we are also mourning the passing of PIU volunteer April stone.  April was a wonderful woman of God and the students and staff loved her as she came out to PIU for the last few years as a volunteer to teach English.  Yesterday, she went home to be with the Lord.  She will be missed by all of us.  Please pray for her husband Howard Stone and her daughter and son son-in-law, Ken and Ruth Dixon, and their family. This is been a tough semester at PIU. We have been going through a lot of difficult things. I would ask that you remember the staff, faculty and students in prayer.

20170330_084026 (1024x768)Finally, we are enjoying having our son Matt, his wife Kristin and the kids here with us this week.  Joyce especially has been enjoying the baby. Today she is taking the kids up the mountain so that they can have their first experience of being in snow.  I get a quiet day to relax, rest and write. We appreciate all of you who pray for us.  Please continue to pray for healing for me, strength for Joyce and God's provision for Pacific Islands University.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Reading Through the Psalms #9 (119)

Psalms volume 2We continue in the fifth and final book of the Psalms today accompanied by Psalms, vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn. We will focus on the longest Psalm, 119 which brings out almost every theme of the whole book. 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, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Psalm 119 is a wisdom psalm that teaches the absolute necessity of understanding and applying the torah to one's life if one wants live successfully, happily and productively here on earth. It is important to understand that torah does not mean "law" in a legal sense but "a manner of life, not a legal “system” that assures salvation. Only in this sense could torah be the object of such joy, devotion, and acclaim as shown for it in Psalm 119. Torah, then, is a general term indicating “instruction,” whose basic idea is “pointing the way.” (373) 119 is an acrostic poem with each section having 8 verses beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each section brings out a different aspect of the beauty, results and inexhaustibility of the torah. The first half of the psalm (1-88) mentions guidance, direction, help, perseverance, knowledge, steadfastness, courage, safety, ability to serve and preservation of quality of life.

The author of Psalm 119 was one who had tested the word of God even as he himself was being tested severely in the crucible of life. He found that word to be sure and steadfast, an unfailing light for life’s journey, illuminating the pathway of true joy and genuine happiness. This is the theme of his song. Psalm 119, 377

The question is, “How may one avoid the sins and the pitfalls of this world? How can he keep himself pure and blameless?” And the answer, by giving heed to God’s word (v. 9)...However, it is not by God’s word in one’s head. Only as the word is in the heart and in the life does it work its transforming power. It is hid in the heart. Psalm 119.9-16, 378–379

If the LORD will continue to teach him the way, he will let that be his way (v. 33). This is no boast, nor even an assertion of self-confidence. It is an appeal for God’s help. He dares to believe that if God reveals the way for man, he will also enable one to walk in that way, whatever the circumstances may be. Psalm 119,33-40, 380

Psalm 119 continues to describe the amazing and inexhaustible benefits of studying, knowing, obeying and living out torah. It preserves life. It gives wisdom and knowledge for living beyond our experience. It keeps us moving in the right direction. It keeps us within the safe boundaries for successful living. We can recognize the follies of the world around us and not be drawn into them. Our lives our short. Why would we want live apart from torah and make it harder?

Since life is preserved through God’s word according to the psalmist, he concludes with what amounts to a proverb: To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless (v. 96). Psalm 119.89-96, 385

Many young preachers and teachers can testify that an earnest study of God’s word can give one much wisdom beyond one’s years, even though he or she may be spurned, rejected, or ignored simply for being young. But it is not just knowledge of the word of God that counts, it is obedience. Psalm 119.97-104, 386

The psalmist knows that it is not just God’s word or words with which we must deal, it is God himself. He will either be our judge or our hiding place—our refuge and our shield! Psalm 119.113-120, 387

Psalm 119 closes with the psalmist's outpouring of love for God and His word. He sees himself as God's servant who receives his instruction from the torah. He is indignant that, despite the availability of God's word, many people are ignorant of it. Sometimes he wonders why God feels so far away even though he is immersed in torah. Yet he knows that God's word will preserve his life and he pledges to study and worship "seven times a day." He knows his capacity for straying and asks God to continue to seek him out and for God's words to keep him on the right path.

“We live in an age of enlightenment shrouded.” There are so many Bible helps and tools for the study of God’s word today but so few who use them effectively. Biblical illiteracy is so prevalent in the churches that the true Bible student should be totally burdened by righteous indignation, the same as our psalmist. Psalm 119.137-144, 389

His praise is directed toward God alone. He knows the difference between the Scripture, God’s word, and God himself. The psalmist will not be accused of bibliolatry (turning the Scripture into an object of worship!). Such love and devotion to God, demonstrated through regular prayer and praise, lead to great peace. Psalm 119.161-168, 392

The psalmist is acutely aware not only of his potential for straying (v. 10) but also the fact that he had strayed away at one point in the past (v. 67). And now, in spite of his great devotion to God’s word and his commitment to obey it, he feels like a “perishing” sheep who has lost its way on the “journey of life.” Psalm 119.169-176, 392

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Affirming the Apostle's Creed by J. I. Packer #3

packerWe are continuing to work through J. I. Packer's short commentary, Affirming the Apostle's Creed. In this post, and the next, we will continue the longest section in the creed about God the Son. Here he discusses the incarnation and death of Jesus. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

Next Packer discusses the phrase "born of the virgin Mary." Jesus' entrance and exit from the world in His incarnation was marked by two miracles: the virgin birth and the resurrection/ascension. Both attest to His full humanity and full deity.

The entry and exit miracles carry the same message. First, they confirm that Jesus, though not less than man, was more than man. His earthly life, though fully human, was also divine. He, the co-creator, was in this world—his own world—as a visitor; he came from God and went to God. 73

Certainly, if we deny the virgin birth because it was a miracle, we should in logic deny Jesus’ bodily resurrection too. These miracles are on a par, and it is unreasonable to accept either while rejecting the other. 76

But the real Mary, the Mary of Scripture, saw herself simply as a saved sinner. “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:47, KJV). She sets us a marvelous example, not just of the privilege (and the price!) of cooperating in God’s plan to bless the world (see Luke 1:38; 2:34–35), but also of humble response to God’s grace. 77

Next Packer looks at the phrase "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried." He points out that only Christianity focuses on the legal murder of its central figure. The responsibility and guilt for Jesus' murder fell on "lawless men" yet it was also part of God's eternal plan to atone for sin and bring humanity back into relationship with God. In his incarnation, including the cross, Jesus' experienced all the consequences of our sins and triumphed over them. He provided reconciliation with God and defeated all the forces of evil at the cross.

Jesus knew on the cross all the pain, physical and mental, that man could inflict and also the divine wrath and rejection that my sins deserve; for he was there in my place, making atonement for me. 81

As our propitiation, it was reconciliation, the making of peace for us with our offended, estranged, angry Creator (Romans 5:9–11). We are not wise to play down God’s hostility against us sinners; what we should do is magnify our Savior’s achievement for us in displacing wrath by peace. 82

The cross was redemption, rescue from bondage and misery by the payment of a price (see Ephesians 1:7; Romans 3:24; Revelation 5:9; Mark 10:45); and as redemption, it was victory over all hostile powers that had kept us, and wanted still to keep us, in sin and out of God’s favor (Colossians 2:13–15). 82–83

The next phrase "He descended into hell" is somewhat controversial. This was caused by an unfortunate translation of "Hades" into Latin in the 4th century. The meaning here is that Jesus went to the place of the dead. That is, Jesus was really, truly dead. He has overcome the last and greatest enemy, death and because he rose, bodily, to new life we can have confidence that we will also rise in the same way.

Now we can face death knowing that when it comes we shall not find ourselves alone. He has been there before us, and he will see us through. 89

Having tasted death himself, he can support us while we taste it and carry us through the great change to share the life beyond death into which he himself has passed. Death without Christ is “the king of terrors,” but death with Christ loses the “sting,” the power to hurt, that it otherwise would have. 85–86

What the Creed means, however, is that Jesus entered, not Gehenna, but Hades—that is, that he really died, and that it was from a genuine death, not a simulated one, that he rose. 87

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Some Thoughts About Control

20170328_101648 (768x1024)I am not in control.  This is been impressed on me throughout this whole bout with illness.  My hair is falling out and there's nothing I can do about it. But God has every hair on my head numbered. That's an easier task now. I'd like to keep my beard but that's going too. There's absolutely nothing I can do to keep the hairs on my head.

I can't drive a car because of the numbness in my right foot from my edema. So I have to be a passenger dependent on others to drive me around. The normal daily things in life, that I do used to do without even thinking, I need to have a procedure to get through. And sometimes even that process goes horribly wrong. Even more humbling…for 14 years I have been president of PIU. People came to me and asked my advice and got permission from me to do things. Now PIU goes on without me. I don't know if I'll ever be able to come back and I really have no control over whether that happens or not. In fact, humanly speaking, I probably won't ever be back at PIU.  Thankfully, we are not reduced to humanly speaking; we have God speaking into our lives, and it's up to him whether I get back to Guam and PIU, or not.  Right now I am the passenger. I am not driving my life any more.

Of course, as I am sure you know, any thought that I was in control of anything was just an illusion. Last night, as I was lying awake from the prednisone at 4 A.M., it was like God was saying “haven't you learned you really aren't in control?” Then, this morning in my devotions, I ran into two psalms that asked God, “What are human beings that you even think about them?” Like Job we think we can we can hold God accountable, but that almost laughable idea was literally blown away, as God appears to him in the storm and basically says ”you're accountable to me Job, not the other way around.”  We are made in the image of God and God delegates some power and control to us to do His work, but ultimately all that control is God's and it all has to be used for him, in his power and in a daily walk with His Holy Spirit.  We have an illusion of control, but we’re not really in control. It can all be taken away in an instant. Now, that could be a reason to be scared. That could be a reason to worry, but it shouldn’t be. Because the one who is in control of all creation is the one who loves me and is ultimately in control of my life and everything around me. He promises to work all the chaotic events swirling around me to my good and to walk with me as they swirl. And yet day by day I try to run things myself.  God says “let me be in control.  Let me manage your life.” This is the way to go and I know it. The funny thing is that now I really have no choice but to trust. And, you know, it is a good feeling.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Chemotherapy Session #2

20170327_090159 (768x1024)Joyce and I are back home from my latest chemotherapy session.  It went well and so far there are no side effects.  Actually my red blood count was .1 points too low to do the session but the doctor gave the go-ahead to proceed with it. I thought the second session was easier than the first one. We will see if the side effects are also easier. The doctors seem pretty confident that this session would take care of the swelling from my edema. My hair is falling out even more as you can tell from the picture.  Thank you again for praying for me. We are praying that the T cells will die, the lymph nodes will shrink, and my body will be able to handle everything.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Weekend Visitors

 20170325_210057_002 (1024x768)We were happy to have Jim and Kay Sawyer come up and visit us this weekend. They live in San Leandro, but Jim is our Seminary Dean at PIU and comes out every semester for a few weeks to participate in meetings, teach Seminary classes and spend time on the campus with the students and faculty. They c20170326_135327 (768x1024)ame up for the weekend and spent some time with us Friday and Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning.  It was nice to have somebody to talk theology with.  I especially enjoyed  worshipping with them on Sunday morning.  We watched a Francis Chan  sermon on YouTube and then spent some time praying together. It was really great to have some good fellowship  and have some people praying over me and an opportunity to pray for them too: very encouraging.

I am also beginning to lose hair in bunches. So Joyce basically just cut off  most of my hair and left it very short.  At least when it falls out now there's not long hairs everywhere. I'll keep taking pictures of it as it falls out. Here is the latest. Tomorrow is my second chemotherapy session. I would appreciate your prayers for that.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Reading Through the Psalms #8 (107-118)

Psalms volume 2We now move into the fifth and final book of the Psalms (107-150) today accompanied by Psalms, vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn. These psalms look forward to the hope that God will end the exile by sending his priest-king Messiah who will restore the kingdom. 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, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Psalm 107 begins the final (5) book of the Psalms. Books 1-3 have recounted the establishment of the covenant with David, but also the failure of the Davidic dynasty. Book 4 admits the justice of the exile, but asks God how long it will be before He forgives the nation and renews the blessing. The seemingly unsolvable problem is the sin of the nation which must be judged. The answer to the problem is God's passionate commitment, hesed, to His covenant people. He will make a way by becoming a human king Himself and saving His people. 107 opens with this theme, emphasizing that our only hope is to cry out to God in our helplessness and trust in Him alone for deliverance. 108 merges two older psalms into a new psalm praising God's hesed. 109 laments that even close friends will reject hesed and asks God to vindicate the psalmist and bring about justice according to His hesed. YHWH will do this through a coming Davidic descendant (110) a great priest-king who will lead His people to victory over evil, judge the nations and extend God's kingdom throughout the earth. What people could not do, God did by becoming human, through Jesus.

It appears that God’s ḥesed is exercised on behalf of his people at his pleasure, on behalf of those who are absolutely helpless by their own fault or not, sinful or not. The trigger in each situation is the “cry” to the LORD. God hears or sees and responds by “delivering,” “saving,” or “bringing them out” of their distress. These are demonstrations of God’s “wonderful deeds”—his ḥesed. Psalm 107, 303

The perspective of Psalm 108, like that of the Psalter as a whole, is eschatological, for it simultaneously celebrates and asks for God’s help.… Renouncing human help, it affirms that human life and the life of God’s people depend finally on God (vv. 12–13).” Psalm 108, 306

The confident that Yahweh God stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him (v. 31). Hence, “standing at the right hand of the needy one” is God’s normal position, a comfort to all who find themselves part of the “poor and needy.” Psalm 109, 313

It is best to view the term “sit” as a pronouncement of an enthronement at God’s right hand, a corulership with God Himself! Yahweh is king (Psalms 93, 96–99), but now he invites the Lord, a Davidic descendant, to reign with him in order to defeat all his enemies. It is guaranteed! Psalm 110, 320

Psalms 111-112 invite the reader to meditate on God's great works of the past. When the new priest-king comes (110), he will be bringing in an even greater "exodus" than the one from Egypt. 111 celebrates God's mighty works in the exodus and His wisdom in giving the torah to  His people. 112 urges us to respond to God by imitating His just, merciful, gracious and generous character. This is the means to a productive and happy life.

The works of God are worthy to be studied and sought after. They must not be neglected, rather one should “delight in them.” Psalm 111, 337

Those who fear Yahweh learn what true happiness and fulfillment in life is all about: being upright, gracious, and compassionate toward the sinner, generous in giving to the needy, and seeking what is fair and just for the helpless. Psalm 112, 344

Psalms 113-118 are called the "Egyptian Hallel" and invite the reader to praise God for his deliverance in the past from Egypt. 113 calls us to praise the "Name" (character) of God. 114 recalls the parting of the sea and the Jordan River after the Exodus. When God acts amazing things happen! 115 contrasts YHWH and his worshippers with false gods and theirs. Only YHWH is really able to make things happen. In 116, the psalmist vows to serve God because God has delivered him from certain death. 117 calls on everyone, in all nations, to praise YHWH for His covenant loyalty and truth. 118 sums up the themes of the Egyptian Hallel and celebrates God providing victory for their king. It also reminds the exiles that God's past victories give hope for a greater exodus to come and an even greater king.

Only those truly devoted to God have an inner knowledge of God’s Name—Yahweh—its meaning and significance. They have a sense of the great I AM, his divine Presence. Those who know God’s name can say: “He knows my name!” No matter your humble beginnings at birth, your needs at present, or your unfortunate circumstances that linger, you as God’s servant know God’s name. Psalms 113, 345–346

Throughout the psalm ironic twists are presented as a result of the presence of God...bodies of water such as a sea do not “flee,” and a river never stops or turns back. But at God’s presence these two bodies of water did move in miraculous ways. And so the psalmist reasons, “If God can do these things in our past, what could he do in our future?” There is always hope for the people who have such a God. May God’s Presence always be with us!  Psalm 114, 349–350

While the pagan myths present the creation of mankind as an afterthought and as “slaves” for the gods, the Hebrew understood mankind as the crown of God’s creation, corulers on the earth, responsible for its upkeep and care. Only a God who is free to do what he pleases can do this! Psalm 115, 354

God watches over the “little people,” in this case, the psalmist who has experienced a near-death sickness and/or some affliction that he would cry out, “All men are liars” (v. 11b). For emphasis the psalmist literally says: “Me he saved!” In other words, “God helps those who cannot help themselves." Psalm 116, 356

This psalm is a great universal appeal for all nations and peoples to praise the one true God—Yahweh! Yahweh does not exclusively belong to Israel. Rather, Israel’s “chosenness” by God is only a means to an end. All nations will be blessed through Abraham’s seed. Psalm 117, 361

Another double phrase emphasizes the need to take refuge in God rather than mankind (cp. Ps 2:12; 34:8) and to trust God explicitly (Ps 84:12). The term “princes” represents the wealthy political leaders who are able to do their own will with a word or a “gift.” One must not trust in such human power for it corrupts and destroys in the end. It is the choice between two types of power—divine or human. Psalm 118, 366

Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Morning Medical Update

It is Friday morning in California and we have just returned from the doctor, or I should say doctors.  We first went to the urologist to take a look at the nephrostomy hole in my back. It seems that I did not have an infection. It's just irritation from the normal wear and tear on the entry point into my body. So I took the  antibiotics for no reason and got a rash for it. Oh well, it is prudent to play it safe with a compromised immune system. So now I need to drink lots of water to flush the antibiotic out of my system. Nevertheless,this was good news. The second piece of good news that I got was at the oncologist’s office. I was there for a blood draw.  First, my white blood count number was 6.25.  Since the minimum number is 5, that was very good news. Thank you all for praying for my white blood count this week. Your prayers were answered with a “yes.”.  My red blood count was still a little bit low but right on the border. The nurse thought that I should be able to proceed no problem with the  chemotherapy on Monday.  Again thank you everyone for praying. Please continue in prayer for my chemotherapy that's coming up on Monday. Also it seems my hair is coming out and bunches. I will take a picture of that for a later post.

Affirming the Apostle's Creed by J. I. Packer #2

packerWe are continuing to work through J. I. Packer's little book, Affirming the Apostle's Creed. In this post we finish up the section about God the Father and move into the section about God the Son. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday..  I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

The creed affirms God as "Maker of Heaven and Earth." The great difference between the Triune God and everything else is that God is eternal, uncreated, unlimited, while we, and the rest of creation, are time-bound, created, limited and dependent. This affirmation acknowledges our absolute dependence on God for our life and being. We own nothing. God is gracious and merciful to include us in the management of His world.

It was to show us the Creator rather than the creation, and to teach us knowledge of God rather than physical science, that Genesis 1 and 2, along with such celebrations of creation as Psalm 104 and Job 38–41, were written. 54

The Creator-creature distinction reminds us that God does not depend on us as we depend on him, nor does he exist by our will and for our pleasure, nor may we think of his personal life as being just like ours. J. I. Packer, 55

The world exists in its present stable state by the will and power of its Maker. Since it is his world, we are not its owners, free to do as we like with it, but its stewards, answerable to him for the way we handle its resources. 56

The affirmation that we believe "in Jesus Christ" is what makes Christianity unique in the world. Jesus identifies him as a fully human historical person. Christ describes his "office-title" as the expected prophet, priest and king who would set up and rule over God's kingdom. Lord identifies him as the 2nd person of the Trinity. In Jesus, God Himself has come to earth in human form. This is the claim of the whole New Testament.

Christ” is what Presbyterians would call an “office-title,” identifying Jesus as God’s appointed savior-king for whom the Jews had long been waiting. Since the Christ was expected to set up God’s reign and to be hailed as overlord throughout the world, to call Jesus Christ was to claim for him a decisive place in history and a universal dominion that all men everywhere must acknowledge. 60

If Jesus is God the Son, our co-creator, and is also Christ, the anointed savior-king, now risen from death and reigning (sitting, as the Creed puts it, “on the right hand of God the Father almighty,” in the place of authority and power), then he has a right to rule us, and we have no right to resist his claim. 63

Next, Packer discusses what it means that Jesus is God's only son. First it means that Jesus is fully God. Jesus has no less power, authority, position or any other Divine attribute than the Father because both are fully God. Second, he is "begotten" not made. That is He is just as eternal as the Father. The Father-Son relationship denotes a familial love relationship, not a time bound or hierarchical one, into which the Son, through his incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension, brings us.

Jesus was not just a God-inspired good man. Nor was he a super-angel, first and finest of all creatures, called “god” by courtesy because he is far above men. Jesus was, and remains, God’s only Son, as truly and fully God as his Father is. 67–68

The pre-mundane “begetting” of the Son...must be thought of not as a momentary event whereby God, after being singular, became plural, but as an eternal relationship whereby the first person is always Father to the Son and the second is always Son to the Father. 69

Understand it or not, the fact remains that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14); that was the supreme, mind-blowing miracle. Love prompted it; and our part is not to speculate about it and scale it down but to wonder and adore and love and exalt “Jesus Christ … the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). 70

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Another Update: End of Resting Week

20170323_084029 (768x1024)Well it's Thursday here in California and it's the end of my week of “rest.” The biggest issue has been trying to get rid of the infection in the hole in my back. The doctor switched me to a stronger antibiotic and it seems to be doing the job. The infection has been getting slowly better, but the antibiotic seems to be causing a nasty rash. We are trying to call the doctor for this one. I would appreciate your prayers for this. We will be going to the oncologist office tomorrow for a blood test. They mainly will be looking at my white blood count to make sure that I'm ready and able for the chemotherapy session on Monday.  This will be my second chemotherapy session. It'll be interesting to see how it compares with the first one in terms of side effects etc.

I was able to have a nice online conversation yesterday with Howard Merrell and Nino Pate. We discussed the future of our Seminary  and the just completed board meeting. It was great to see them and to be involved, just a little bit, again. PIU is greatly in need of your prayers. The main issue is the need for  an Academic Vice President.  We need to find somebody who has a doctoral degree and some experience in school administration.  This is required for our accreditation. Also please be praying for student applications.  Even though we try to make the school as affordable as possible, many of the students are unable financially to come up to the Guam campus. Thank you for praying for PIU.

This weekend we will be meeting with Jim and Kay Sawyer. Jim serves as our Seminary Dean on Guam  and teaches Theology and church history for us. It'll be fun to meet with them this weekend.  Joyce and I appreciate your prayers and especially pray for us as we move into the second round of chemotherapy next week  God bless.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Another Update: Resting

20170321_084345 (768x1024)I'm at the beginning of the third week after the first chemotherapy session.  This is my “week of rest.”  My next chemotherapy session is scheduled for March 27th.  So right now I'm resting.  There are a couple things going on.  The infection in the hole for my nephrostomy is doing better and under control by the  antibiotics, but it's still a little sore. I would appreciate your prayers that the infection would completely disappear. It also looks like I'm beginning to lose my hair. Everywhere I go I'm finding my hair on the ground, in my cereal bowl, on my shirt. I guess I'll document that with some pictures.  Edema is getting a little better but it's still  a major annoyance. (Below left you can see the lymphoma lesions and swelling on my lower legs.) I was hoping it would go away a little faster. It probably hampers my activity more than anything else.

20170315_112322 (768x1024)With the rest comes the temptation to overthink things.  My mind tends to wander and make plans  dealing with things I have no control over whatsoever. Psalm 131, in my morning devotions, was a good reminder to quit doing that and trust the Lord.  My words from the Lord are still “wait” and “trust.”  It really bothers me sometimes that I'm not in control of anything in my life. Of course, any thought of control in my life before all this was an illusion anyway.  Maybe I'm seeing things a little more clearly.  So, thank you for keeping Joyce and I in your prayers.  We appreciate we appreciate them very much.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Reading Through the Psalms #7 (90-106)

Psalms volume 2We now move into the fourth book of the Psalms (90-106) today accompanied by Psalms, vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn. These triumphant psalms remind us that, despite what we go through here and now, God reigns now and will take all this seeming chaos and work it together for good for His people. 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, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Psalm 90 opens Book 4 of the Psalms. The theme of this section (90-106) is "God reigns." 90 begins with a reflection on the shortness of life and asks God to work in what we do to make it count for eternity.

Death is only a heartbeat away (as America observed on September 11, 2001, when terrorists suddenly in an instant ended the lives of thousands of people! Or earthquakes, or other natural disasters, or even fatal accidents.). How great is our need for God! Psalm 90, 171

In these psalms the theme of trust and joy in God's reign continues. Psalm 91 is a testimony that God will protect and help the committed believer through the troubles and dangers of life. 92 is a testimony that a lifestyle of acknowledging and praising God for what He is doing all around us all the time is beneficial and brings joy and proper perspective to our daily lives. 93 is a reminder that God rules over all creation and it will someday reflect all the aspects of His character. 94 follows with assurance that God will set things right and preserve His people in this evil world until He does. Finally, 95 calls us to worship and obey our Creator/King who also lives intimately with us as our "Shepherd."

In symbolic language the ultimate victory of the devout soul over all adversity and all enemies is depicted. Nowhere is he promised a life of unbroken ease and tranquility. But everywhere he is promised that he does not face life’s exigencies (i.e., hardships) helpless and alone. He is always in God’s care. This is what this psalm is all about.  Psalm 91, 181

They never speak to God in prayer. They may seldom give him a thought, and the praise of God is never on their lips. To such the psalmist would say: “You don’t know what you are missing! It is good to sing God’s praises! It is good, also, in the sense of being what is appropriate or right. To sing God’s praises is good, and it brings joy to the soul.” Psalm 92, 184

As the physical earth is established firmly on immutable principles of dynamic physics, etc., the world of human relationships has a moral foundation equally immutable, firmly established by God himself. One cannot with impunity break the moral law on which God has predicated the world of human relationships any more than he could defy the law of gravity without bringing about his own destruction. Psalm 93, 193

But the vengeance that belongs to God seeks not to “get even” but to “make things even.” Psalm 94, 196

The “great King” gave to Israel a king to rule and shepherd his people in a very real and tangible way. Just as God’s “hand(s)” (vv. 4–5) formed and fashioned the earth and seas, so now God’s people have been fashioned as the covenant people of his pasture, the flock of “his hand.” But all of these blessings were contingent upon one thing—obedience! Psalm 95, 204–205

The next section calls all people to worship YHWH as King, Creator and only God. 96 celebrates God's rule over all the earth and invites all peoples into His royal courts for worship together. 97 presents God coming to rule, judging the earth, setting things right and calling all nations to joyfully submit to Him. 98 celebrates a great victory by God and focuses our faith toward the great final victory of God's universal kingdom. 99 celebrates God's holy and just rule in the present and that He is accessible to His people. 100 invites all God's people to joyful celebration of His righteous rule, dependable commitment to us and provision of a wonderful good creation.

Psalm 96, in addition to issuing the call to evangelism, sets the mood of heart and mind that should motivate the messenger. The heart is joyful in its own experience of God’s grace and glory, and the mind is alerted by its realization that, since there is one God over all, all should come to know and to share in his glory.  Psalm 96, 209

God’s people welcome God’s judgments because they bring about a new order, moral values, and quality of life. To them it is good news. Psalm 97, 220

Israel’s deliverance should lead all people of the earth to join in the praise of the LORD, for he is king over all and in keeping his covenant with Israel he has shown himself to be both trustworthy and righteous. Not only so, but since he is coming to judge the world in righteousness, all people of good will may take heart. Let all creation join in the great anthem of praise! Psalm 98, 223

A holy God demands holiness (see Lev 19:2) from his people; but more than that, God’s character is such that he is the source of what is just and right, and he accomplishes these with equity toward all. Israel is worshiping a God who is altogether just and righteous and impartial. Psalm 99, 232

Yahweh is “good” (טוֹב, ṭôb). Since Yahweh has created all things “good” (Genesis 1), it is expected that when he “created” Israel, all he wanted for her was “good.” Thus, the confession that God is good is a reflection of all the “good” that God wants for his people. Psalm 100, 240

The next few psalms are responses to the truth that "God reigns." The psalmist in 101 pledges that because God is just and loving he also will live a life of integrity, justice and care for others. 102 pours out a lament to God from a destitute person and nation under judgment. Yet, there is hope because God rules and will keep His covenant with His people. 103 is the praise of a mature soul who has truly experienced, despite troubles, God's grace in forgiveness and the blessings of His presence. 104 celebrates God's good creation and praises the Creator for providing and sustaining it with everything His creatures need.

The song is about the love and the justice of Yahweh. And the truth overwhelms him...For the psalmist, it became the directive, the motivation, for his own role as one responsible to establish justice in the land. “This is the way God is,” he is saying, “therefore, this is what I shall do.” Psalm 101, 244

But it is in God’s eternal nature that the psalmist finds hope for a future, even if his own life is cut short. He prays that his own life will not be shortened in any way; but even if it is, God will be there for “a future generation,” “a people not yet created” (v. 18). Psalm 102, 253

Those who fear Yahweh, keep his covenant, and obey his commandments do so more out of gratitude than a requirement. Without God’s forgiveness and grace Israel would not have existed as a people, much less fear him or have the opportunity to obey. Gratitude for God’s grace is a proper motivation to obey. Psalm 103, 262

The distinctive emphasis of the psalmist is his concern with the purpose of God. He observes that in all of God’s creative activity, he has in view the sustenance and well-being of his creatures, especially of man. There is a firmly established earth, engineered precisely to sustain the life that God would put upon it. Psalm 104, 264

Psalms 105 and 106 close book four of the Psalms. They tell the story of Israel's history and God's grace as he preserves, establishes and disciplines the nation. Psalm 105 gives an account of the exodus and God's preservation of the Patriarchs as he establishes and builds the nation of Israel. 106 recounts the seven sins of Israel in the exodus and their long history of rebellion and idolatry. Israel was justly exiled by God and their only hope was God's forgiving and merciful character. God's people will fail, but His promises will endure forever.

It took God’s grace for Israel to remain a people, much less obtain a land! God’s promise, however, is irrevocable. Such is Israel’s hope for the future. Psalm 105, 273

What Israel saw as a barrier, impending slaughter, and impossible odds, became the means by which God would save Israel and destroy the army of the Egyptians! Psalm 106, 285

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Update to the Update to the Update (Brief)

I have been offline for a couple days.  Within that time I've been to the doctor a couple times for my white blood cell boosting shots.  We are still on track to do the second round of chemotherapy on March 27th.  Thank you for praying for my white blood cell count to go up, my kidney count to go down, and for the infection that I had on the hole in my back. The white blood cell count continues to slowly go up , but is not yet to where we need it to be.  Please keep praying for that number to go up. I am happy to report that my kidney numbers are good.  Also it seems that the antibiotics have almost taken care of the infection. I feel a bit better. Next week I will be going in for another blood test that will determine if everything is a go for the second round of chemotherapy on the 27th. 

Thank you for praying for me. Joyce and I appreciate it very much. Sometimes getting through the day, with all the extra things we have to do just to maintain normal life, can get to be a grind. To be able to go on line and see how many people are praying for us and care about us is a real encouragement. Again, thank you!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Brief Update to the Previous Brief Update

There is good news and not-so-good in my last couple trips to the doctor. I mentioned my low white blood cell count in the last post. It needs to be above 5 before I can continue chemotherapy. It was at 1.2 on Tuesday but the good news is that it was up to 3.2 today. Please keep praying that it will continue rising above 5 by next week so that chemo can continue on schedule on March 27th. The other piece of good news is that I have lost 10-12 pounds of water weight. I still have about 20 to go but it seems to be steadily decreasing. I also had a slight infection on the nephrostomy site so now I am taking an antibiotic. That needs to clear up before the next chemo session as well. Joyce and I appreciate your prayers very much. We believe God has led me to this very group of doctors, but ultimately, God is the Healer.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

PIU Days


DSC_0044 (1024x683)I miss PIU, the students, the staff and faculty every day that I am away. This was especially true this past week as I missed both the annual board meeting (right) and the PIU Days celebration that followed. Each year the school divides into three teams for athletic competition  and sharing of songs, dances and other fun events. Each team also leads an evening worship service. This year the theme verse was 2 Corinthians 12.9 and the teams were named Power, Sufficient, and Grace. I was able to glean a few pictures from the students’ Facebook pages. They have also posted several videos there which I enjoyed watching very much. It wasn’t the same as being there but I felt like I was back home for a while.


There were games and athletic competitions watched from under the shade of some large trees17155398_1376352902424264_9089587247276430728_n17191446_1268526893201362_5561233407013192774_n17191537_1378145018911719_7725304725401498572_n17309285_1378144998911721_1357315159762690992_n

The chapel stage was decorated with evening’s theme


There were songs, sermons and cute babies


I miss you guys! Joyce and I wish we could be there.

Affirming the Apostle's Creed by J. I. Packer #1

packerI am back to reading New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday again. This time I chose J. I. Packer's little book, Affirming the Apostle's Creed. In this book he discusses and explains each assertion of the creed. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

Many churches say this creed, which goes back very early in church history, every Sunday. But my evangelical tradition did not do that and tends to be woefully ignorant of church history, especially pre-reformation. I am hoping this will help a little for us to get back in touch with the rich heritage the work of the Spirit has left for us in the last 2000 years.

The first assertion is "I believe in God." Packer focuses here on what faith is. It is much more than intellectual assent or a feeling. It is a commitment, because of what Jesus has done, to let God manage and rule one's life. God and His kingdom becomes the center motivation for living.

The Creed’s opening words, “I believe in God,” render a Greek phrase coined by the writers of the New Testament, meaning literally: “I am believing into God.” That is to say, over and above believing certain truths about God, I am living in a relation of commitment to God in trust and union. When I say “I believe in God,” I am professing my conviction that God has invited me to this commitment and declaring that I have accepted his invitation. 25–26

Christian faith only begins when we attend to God’s self-disclosure in Christ and in Scripture, where we meet him as the Creator who “commands all people everywhere to repent” and to “believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ … as he has commanded us” (Acts 17:30; 1 John 3:23; cf. John 6:28ff.). Christian faith means hearing, noting, and doing what God says. 27

Packer, in chapter 2, identifies the God of the creed as YHWH in the Old Testament, fully revealed through Jesus in the New. The name YHWH reveals God's character as loving, forgiving, righteous and just and his role as judge and provider. This is the One God, the three-in-one, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In the Bible the great divide is between those who believe in the Christian God and those who serve idols—”gods,” that is, whose images, whether metal or mental, do not square with the self-disclosure of the Creator. 32

The historical foundation-facts of Christian faith—a man who was God, praying to his Father and promising that he and his Father would send “another Helper” (John 14:16) to continue his divine ministry—and equally the universally experienced facts of Christian devotion—worshiping God the Father above you and knowing the fellowship of God the Son beside you, both through the prompting of God the Holy Spirit within you—point inescapably to God’s essential three-in-oneness. 34–35

Chapter 3 discusses "I believe in God the Father Almighty." This focuses in on, not just God as Creator but, God the Provider, the initiator, the adopter of his separated children and the model, within the Trinity, of our own human relationships. We have to be careful not to import all of our human father baggage into this picture, but we can be thankful that the universe is governed by a loving heavenly Father.

God’s loving fatherhood of his eternal Son is both the archetype of his gracious relationship with his own redeemed people and the model from which derives the parenthood that God has created in human families... Human families, by their very constitution, reflect the Father-Son relationship in heaven, and parent-child relationships should express a love that corresponds to the mutual love of Father and Son in the Godhead. 41–42

God the Father is “almighty”—which means that he can and will do all that he intends. What does he intend for his sons? Answer: that they should share all that their elder Brother enjoys now...Suffer we shall, but we shall not miss the glory: the Father almighty will see to that. 43

In chapter 4 Packer focuses in more on the word "almighty." This word means that God can do whatever He purposes according to His character. This does not mean that God coerces His people. Human choice created by God is real. But it does mean that God's purposes will be realized and we can take comfort that we live in a universe run a loving heavenly Father.

Men treat God’s sovereignty as a theme for controversy, but in Scripture it is matter for worship. 45

God has a perfect moral character, and it is not in him to deny it. He cannot be capricious, unloving, random, unjust, or inconsistent. Just as he cannot pardon sin without atonement, because that would not be right, so he cannot fail to be “faithful and just” in forgiving sins that are confessed in faith and in keeping all the other promises he has made. 46

The truth of God’s almightiness in creation, providence, and grace is the basis of all our trust, peace, and joy in God, and the safeguard of all our hopes of answered prayer, present protection, and final salvation. It means that neither fate, nor the stars, nor blind chance, nor man’s folly, nor Satan’s malice controls this world; instead, a morally perfect God runs it, and none can dethrone him or thwart his purposes of love. 49

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Brief Medical Update

I went in to see the doctor today for my white blood cell boosting shot. I also had a blood test test to see how my white blood cell count was doing. The news was a bit disappointing. My white blood cell count was 1.2. The doctor was hoping it would be five or six so that I would have an immune system capacity able to handle the next round of chemotherapy. I really need to get that white blood cell count up and I would ask you to pray that would happen. Tomorrow I will be in to see doctor for a follow-up and we will discuss it. I'd like to be able to stay on the three-week schedule for chemotherapy and not delay it too much. So again, I ask for your prayers that my white blood cell count would increase and my creatinine count would keep going down (that is the count that determines kidney health).

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Reading Through the Psalms #6 (73-89)

Psalms volume 2We now move into the third book of the Psalms (73-89) today accompanied by Psalms, vol. 1, The College Press NIV Commentary, by S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn. 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, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Psalm 73 begins the 3rd book of the Psalms (73-89). Most of these songs are laments about the fallen temple and ask God, "How long?" before the fallen temple and fallen Davidic dynasty are restored. Psalm 73 is a "theodicy" asking God why he doesn't deliver on the covenant with David. Psalm 74 asks the same question but answers it with a strong statement about the power and faithfulness of God in the past. Psalm 75 answers the question with its strong hope from the covenant promises that God will come at the perfect time to judge the wicked and righteous.

What shall I lack in heaven with you, [besides you] I desire nothing on earth. Psalm 73, 48

Basically the psalmist is saying that God (Yahweh) is the true King, sovereign over the cosmos, not Marduk (battler of chaos) or Ea (earth) or Shamash (sun). And this sovereignty includes both creation and salvation of a people. Keel notes: “The contexts of Pss 74 and 89 … demonstrate … that the primeval event is by no means separable from the saving acts performed by the deity in the battle against evil ‘in the midst of the earth’ (Ps 74:12).” Psalm 74, 62

“When Ps. 75:3, 4 declare that God will right the pillars of justice in the earth, the upside-down moral world of Psalm 73 is rectified, as is the humiliating situation of Psalm 74.… Psalm 75 promises (vv. 3, 4, 8–10) this long-awaited judgment on the wicked, and thereby rekindles hope in the eventual fulfillment of Psalms 1–2 and 72.” Psalm 75, 68

76-80 are meditations or prayers (probably exilic) focusing in on God's Covenant with David and asking for restoration of the Kingdom or mulling over why it has not happened yet. 76 pictures God as a sleeping "Lion of Zion." They ask the lion to rouse and extend His power over Zion again. 77 is a meditation that sees the tragedy and humiliation in the present, looks to God's amazing national miracles in the past and implores the people of Israel to trust Him to do it again for the future. 78 is a long history lesson about what God did in the past and an assurance to the nation that they will be restored. 79 is a prayer about Israel's humiliation, a reminder of how God has kept covenant in the past, with a vow of worship that will be kept when God intervenes. Finally 80 is a prayer for the restoration of the Davidic kingdom.

The name of God (Yahweh) is not only known and feared by Judah, it is now feared by all the kings of the earth. The “Lion” from Judah cannot be ignored any longer: he is renowned, resplendent in light, awesome, and One to be feared. Our warrior God is triumphant! Psalm 76, 73.

The psalm invites us as readers to ponder the mystery of the ‘unknown tracks’ of God in the midst of our distress. Has his loyal-love (v. 9) failed? Can we still trust his promises? Verses 12–21 give us the basis for an affirmative answer, but the decision is ours.” The psalm is left open-ended! Psalm 77, 79

Therefore, within Book III the final strophe of Psalm 78 (vv. 65–72) is more than a rehearsing of God’s covenant with David, but rather becomes the pledge of an eventual restoration of Zion which now lies in ruins and of another shepherd like David. In the midst of complaints and laments, the promises of Psalms 72, 75 and 76 have been reaffirmed. Psalm 78, 82–83

But Israel had not chosen the Lord; he had chosen them to be his people in accordance with his promise to Abraham, not because they possessed some particular merit. And although they have broken their covenant, they are still God’s people. So they plead for mercy and renew their promise of allegiance to him. They have sinned, but God may forgive. They are in need, and God is compassionate. They are scattered, but the Lord is their shepherd. Psalm 79, 96

Read in its entirety, the psalm is seen to be one of hope and confidence. It is, from first to last, a prayer of confident faith, uttered by a community of believers who recognize God as their shepherd. It is he who first planted this nation as a choice vineyard. In anger he has permitted an enemy to overrun her (because of her sins?). But he who has lavished such care upon the land surely will hear the prayers of a penitent people, rescue them, redeem them, and restore them as his flock once again. Psalm 80, 97–98

This section concludes the section of Book 3 written by Asaph (73-83). Psalm 81 continues the theme of lament for Israel's state as exiled people with a call to remember what God did in the Exodus and to repent and hope in His promise of restoration (celebrate the feast of Tabernacles). In Psalm 82, YHWH presides over the assembly of the "gods" and condemns them for their misuse of power and lack of justice and announces His plan to rule the world with justice and mercy. 83 is a lament over Israel's precarious national situation and  a reminder that God never has, and never will, allow His enemies to destroy His people.

It is the four concluding verses that give the cause for jubilation. Here we have a standing offer of God’s mercy even for his wayward people if they will return to him and walk in his way. And that is surely reason enough to sing hallelujah—then, now, and for all time to come, for this is an “open-ended” offer of mercy, not restricted to one particular group of apostates. Psalm 81, 108

Power should always be used to help the helpless, relieve the oppressed, and lift up the weak. When leaders and judges do not do this, they become the “wicked” and the “unjust.” Psalm 82, 112

Somehow the psalmist desires a positive outcome for all these “cursing” statements—the seeking of God’s name, Yahweh! Here is evidence that the motivation for this outburst is not simply a desire for vengeance. Deal with them, yes. Pursue them, yes, as long as they persist in this plan of conquest. But why should God so deal with them? That they may seek the name of Yahweh. Psalm 83, 120–121

Psalms 84-85 are from the "Sons of Korah." 84 is a lament longing for the free and easy access the psalmist once had to the temple, the presence of God and worship with His people. 85 confesses the sin of the nation and the desire to be restored to the land and its blessings.

With perseverance comes strength and the pilgrim moves from one level of strength to another. Keeping one’s eye on the goal (to see God?) can overcome all kinds of obstacles. Psalm 84, 125

God, in his righteousness, makes a way for a return to him in righteousness—redeemed, forgiven, and reinstated as a true child of God, and dedicated to live henceforth as a child of God ought to live. When this righteousness which is of God would be the possession of the people once again, manifested in their lives, “peace” (šālôm) would be realized—righteousness and peace would have embraced and kissed each other (middle east style!). Psalm 85, 134

Psalms 86-89 bring Book 3 to a close. Psalm 86 is a prayer asking for restored blessing based on God's character as a merciful and compassionate God. 87 praises Zion as the place where God has chosen and names all who trust God as its citizens. 88 and 89 are meant to be read together. 88 is the darkest of all the psalms. It seems to leave the reader hopeless. The answer is God's great promise of an eternal kingdom of a ruler from David's family who will rule with justice and blessing. But, the psalmist sees only a world of exile and oppression and he wonders when the promise will be fulfilled. But, the psalmist knows that God is faithful, the darkness will pass and God's great kingdom will come in its time.

With singleness of purpose, with a united heart, he would reverence the Lord. This is the center of the psalm! This is the heart of his prayer...The desire to know God’s way because he wanted to live it precedes his commitment. Psalm 86:12–13, 141

The land of one’s birth is not an issue. That which is essential is to know God. And for all who know him, Zion, the city of God, is home—Zion is his birthplace. Psalm 87, 146

And so we leave him where we found him at the beginning, pouring out his heart to God from a darkness that has but one ray of light—God is “the God of my salvation” (v. 1). With this faith, no larger than a mustard seed, the devoted servant of God would hold on! Psalm 88.18, 153

Then what became of God’s promise to David of a kingdom with its throne occupied by the seed of David forever? It seems that open-ended question of the psalm will be answered by Books 4 and 5 of the Psalms. In Book 4 the emphasis is “God reigns!” In Book 5 the hope is expressed in a coming “priest-king” who will indeed sit on David’s throne forever (cf. Psalms 110 and 132). Psalm 89, 165

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Chemotherapy Week One Update

20170307_132251 (1024x768)As many of you already know, Monday was my first chemotherapy session.  I received the warning about the side effects and all that kind of thing, but I was  unaware of what would happen during the week.  However, I'm happy to say there really isn't that much to report.  My side effects were pretty minimal.  I had some sleeplessness and the shakes and little bit of sweating one night.  But I was pleasantly surprised to have very little nausea.  My hair and beard are still intact.  We'll see if that continues. Of course, there are no guarantees the second session will go equally as well.

20170307_221620 (1024x768)Joyce is up at her mom and dad's in Redding for the weekend so I'm on my own. Well not exactly on my own, I'm with my parents. I'm getting to where I can handle most of the things I need to do on my own, but still need a little help. Dad drove me to the doctor and mom has been helping me monitor and repair the bandage on my back. I also continue to need a little help with your prayers and I appreciate them very much. (left: I had to wear gloves when I used the bathroom for 3 days after the chemo session)

I'm continuing to get some injections designed to strengthen my white blood cells and immune system. I have three more coming up this week.  I will also have the follow-up appointment with my specialist  to go over my first chemotherapy session.  We're looking forward to the second session probably within the next 2 or 3 weeks. Thank you for your prayers as I go through my cancer adventure.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Christian Doctrine of God, 1 Being 3 Persons, Torrance #5

Today is the final post discussing the very insightful and almost devotional, theology, The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons, by Thomas F. Torrance. I know this was a very heavy book to work through, but this is a key point in the current theological environment and I thought it to be important. I am concerned that the American church is sacrificing the historic understanding of the Trinity to push lesser important theological agendas. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

The chapter ends with Torrance's discussion of God's Providence. His main point must be understood in terms of God revealing Himself through Christ in the incarnation and cross and resurrection events. That is, God's sovereignty must be studied in terms of God establishing personal relationship with His people and with His creation. It must also be understood in terms of the force of evil within creation. Evil exists out of its rebellion. God neither created or permitted it. He forbids it. God gives his people freedom and forgiveness which he also offers to the universe. And yet, God also is always intimately and immanently involved with them. The angels announce God's acts which bring the spiritual and physical together.

In Jesus the Lord God Almighty has come among us to exercise his sovereign power within the frail conditions of our mortal life. This is for us an altogether incomprehensible, inexpressible act of God’s power within the parameters of our little and contingent existence in space and time. Here there is revealed the nature of the sovereignty of God incarnate in Jesus Christ—unbounded omnipotence clothed in creaturely littleness and human weakness. 221–222

We believe that just as he made the crucifixion of Jesus, the wickedest act of evil ever perpetrated, to serve his supreme purpose of love and redemption, so by the same Cross he will make the very worst things that can happen to us in the history of the world actually serve the design of his wisdom and the purpose of his grace. Divine providence is correlative to the Cross, and the obverse of divine redemption. 228

As Creator and Redeemer, God alone holds the key to the mystery of the ongoing created order. We must think of its history as one in which God’s unlimited freedom intersects with and overlaps with the relative independent reality and contingent and limited freedom of the world, in such a way as to make all that happens serve the purpose of his love and reflect his divine glory. 233

The final chapter deals with the unchangeableness of God. God is unchangeable and impassable, but in a dynamic sense. God is always free to create, express love and enter relationship. There was a “time” before God became Creator or human. Instead of being changed by our time bound limitations in relationship with us, He drew us in to his relationships with in the Trinity.

In Jesus Christ God has become what he never was before, a human being, the Creator has become a creature, and the eternal has become time, all that he may share what we are and have become in order to share with us what he is in his eternal Life and Love and ever will be. 241

God’s love knows no why beyond itself—there is no reason for God’s love apart from his love. God loves us because he loves, because his loving is the primary act of his Being, because his loving is his very Being. 244

That ultimate ground is the eternal Love that God is. The Gospel does not rest simply on the fact that God loves us, but on the fact that he loves us with the very same Love which he is in the eternal Communion of Love which God is in his Triune Being. 253

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Poems Resulting From A Sleepless Night

Last night was the second after my first chemotherapy treatment. It was also my second day of taking a hundred milligrams of prednisone. The side effect for me was that I couldn't sleep at all and my mind’s engine was in 4th gear. I wrote theological papers and planned out projects in my head, but that wasn't helping me sleep. Then suddenly I got on to poetry. I started out trying to write serious poetry but that wasn't working out, so I thought some limericks would be more relaxing. I don't want anyone to be offended by limericks about bodily functions but edema and kidney issues can be quite humiliating and embarrassing. This is my reality right now. It would be a blessing to get the edema and kidney issues dealt with. Maybe having a little fun with this helps my mind deal with the bigger issues; like being separated from thirty plus years of a life that I really enjoyed and loved, fear of being useless, and oh yeah, fear of death. Besides I think the limericks are funny and make me feel better.

Left Kidney

Now whenever I need to pee,
I take a plastic urinal with me,
  A unit portable
  Makes others uncomfortable 
So I carry it where they cannot see.

Right Kidney

I pee through a hole in my back,
It drains through a tube to a sack,
  It's rather unsightly,
  Even though bound tightly 
So I keep it in a plain black pack.

And now the serious poems that help me deal with the central issue – T-cell Lymphoma – cancer. The temptation and the fear are not the reality. God’s promises are the reality.

Prednisone Thoughts

Lately I lie awake at night,
Prednisone: eyes wide,
Tempted to anger, feel fear's bite,
Jesus: right beside, 
Whatever! We've already won the fight.

Hebrew Antithetic Style Proverb 

  In the light "God is good" is easy,
  In the darkness "God is good" is real.

And finally...

The Only Good Thing About Medical Leave

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I know my mind will whirl and leap,
If I can't sleep before I wake,
Another afternoon nap I'll take.