Saturday, April 29, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Job #5 (Chapters 38-42)

JobToday we move on to the final section of the Book of Job, accompanied by the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 6: Job, by August H. Konkel. In this section God steps in to provide the final word on the situation. 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…

Now the only one who has the knowledge to defend God, YHWH Himself, weighs in. First, he challenges Job with the scope of creation and his ability to govern it with all its diversity. Creation operates for God's glory and at His direction and its purpose is much larger than that of any one person or humanity in general.  Creation is a beautiful, yet dangerous, place which we cannot understand or control. To presume we have the answers to our life in the face of God who controls it all is presumptuous.

The lament of Job at the loss of all his property and family was understandable. His assumption that this somehow was an indication of a flaw in divine providence was presumptuous. Creation is bigger than Job and his concerns. It is not that the concerns of Job were unimportant to God, for it is evident that God had heard his complaint. However, God’s plans for Job within this vast universe extend beyond his ideas of what constituted a proper and good life. Job 38, 221–222

It may seem strange that God should speak about his creation in such a manner, but violence and the peculiar beauty of violence are the very point of what God has to say to Job. The animal realm is non-moral, and its sharp paradoxes make us see the inadequacy of human moral calculus. Violence in the natural world does not conform to the explanations that Job’s friends give for suffering, but neither does it fit Job’s protesting his integrity in the face of his anguish and loss...In this strange manner, divine providence cares for all of these esoteric creatures. Fecundity and violent destruction are twin forces working together in the imponderable mysteries of how God cares for his world. Job 39, 226

Job's first response is to recognize his limited knowledge, repent of his presumptuous challenge to God and submit to His rule.

The questions forced Job to confess his exceedingly limited knowledge. This is a surprising turn in the function of wisdom, since the purpose of wisdom is to increase knowledge. In this case, the increase of knowledge comes in knowing which things one cannot know. This is a great gain, for there is nothing so damaging as presumptuousness, as the friends have amply demonstrated. The most dangerous situation of all is to not know that one does not know. Job had been demanding answers but came to recognize that he must live within the confines of what he did know. Job 40.1-5, 228

From the beginning, the primary problem of humans has been their inability to accept dependence on God while, at the same time, having the status of representing God. Being representatives of the divine rule does not grant humans the status of determining that rule. The representative of God does not have the power to determine justice in this world...the point is clear: it is man’s place to submit to God rather than the other way around. Job 40.6-14, 230

God then challenges Job with His ability to control the "power and beauty" of the hippopotamus and the "danger and beauty" of the great crocodile. If Job cannot control these small examples of the powerful and chaotic forces of creation, how can he challenge the Creator who made and controls them?

The world is an immense arena of power and beauty amidst awesome, warring forces. This world is permeated with the order of divine providence, but it presents to humans a “welter of contradictions, dizzying variety, energies, and entities that man cannot take in.”...The grandeur of creation is the place where mortals meet God. The home of humans displays the face of a foreign and fascinating divinity. They cannot understand his creation, much less his divine nature. Rather than challenge what they do not know about themselves in their world, they are invited to live in its mystery and to know they stand before its Creator. Job 41, 237

The epilogue ties the themes of the book of Job together. God defends the integrity of Job as the three friends must submit to him for their approach to God. God graciously restores the fortunes of Job, doubly. Job has gained a greater perspective on God from his submission to Him. God does not run the universe based on retribution, but on grace and his love and care for all creation.

Job had now found wisdom, which led him to repentance and submission before God. He now understood that he could not dictate to the Creator what is just and right for his life. Neither could Job determine what is right for his life—in comparison to what happens in the lives of other people. All his comparisons and points of reference were finite and inadequate in his attempt to understand justice. Job 42, 39

In light of God’s speeches, the restoration cannot be understood as a matter of divine blessing for righteousness. Rather, it shows that God provides for those who submit themselves to him. More importantly, the blessing is an expression of God’s grace toward those who trust him; it is not a reward on the basis of ethical obligation...Divine grace in human affairs cannot be predicted or controlled, but it will end favorably for those who have found favor with God. Everything under the whole heaven belongs to God, and, by his grace, he gives it as he wills. Job 42.11-17, 241

Friday, April 28, 2017

Another Medical Update: Fourth Round

20170427_143333_001 (1024x768)Well I have completed the second week after the third round of chemo. It was an interesting week. It began with a bad outbreak of edema, for which I ended up having to see the doctor. The doctor was worried that I had a blood clot, but he thought it was probably a side effect of the prednisone. It seems that he was right because, this week, the edema has been disappearing at the rate of about 2 pounds a day. Yea, that's two pounds of water weight per day. On Tuesday I had ballooned up to above 215 pounds. Today I was 204. To add to the good news, my blood test today showed that I have a good red blood count and a good white blood count. In fact, both were well above the minimum number. So I'm good to go a week from Monday for my fourth round of chemotherapy.

I20170425_165615 (768x1024)'m looking forward to a visit with the urologist next Wednesday afternoon. I've been wearing a nephrostomy bag since mid-February because my right kidney was blocked by the lymphoma and failed. With the bag, the kidney seems to be doing very well. The urologist will be testing that to see if things are back to normal in my urinary system. If they are I may get the bag off. They will leave the internal stuff in my kidney for probably a month to make sure that things are still going well and then I will hopefully get all of that taken care of. It will be really nice not being attached to a bag. So I would appreciate your prayers for that. As always thank you for praying for Joyce and me.

We had another visit from an old friend yesterday. Brad Boydston stopped by and we talked for a couple hours. Brad taught at PIU for three years, back a few years ago. Brad continues to teach for us as an online teacher and makes regular visits out to the islands to work with students. Again, it was good to have a stimulating conversation and get caught up on what's going on in Brad's life.We have long appreciated Brad's Ministry at PIU. So basically, a week that started very bad for me and caused a lot of concern, turned out to be pretty good at the end. Thank God.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know, J. I. Packer #1

Packer2In this post we begin a new book by J. I. Packer, Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know.  In this book he discusses aspects of basic doctrine and why we need to re-commit as a church to the historic teaching and preaching of these doctrines .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.

Packer says that this book is designed to be a catechesis. That is, it is an orderly instruction in the basic things that all Christians should know. I agree with him that this is a great need in all denominations in the American church today. The lack of biblical and theological knowledge in evangelical churches today is astounding. We need to know the basics of who God is and what He has done, especially in His ultimate revelation through Jesus Christ. We also need to understand biblically, the proper response to God; faith, repentance, hope and love.

I am increasingly burdened by the sense that the more conservative church people in the West, Protestant and Roman Catholic alike, are, if not starving, at least grievously undernourished for lack of a particular pastoral ministry that was a staple item in the church life of the first Christian centuries and also of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation era in Western Europe, but has largely fallen out of use in recent days. That ministry is called catechesis. It consists of intentional, orderly instruction in the truths that Christians are called to live by, linked with equally intentional and orderly instruction on how they are to do this.10

My prayer is that God may use this material (1) to ground thoughtful Christians more firmly and clearheadedly in their faith, (2) to stir them out of the sluggishness into which theological and spiritual undernourishment has brought so many of us, and (3) to help us all take to heart the marching orders given us by our Lord and his apostles—who charge us first to be and then to make disciples everywhere, starting from where we are. 15

In chapter 1 Packer asserts that we must return to "Taking Faith Seriously. He sees biblical faith as "two-toned." That it is "intellectual," it has a specific content; and it is "relational," it requires a life-commitment to a person, God, as revealed in Jesus Christ. The basic content of the faith is defined and circumscribed authoritatively in the Bible. The Bible is not the goal of faith and worship. It is both the "God-given and God-giving" means of bringing us into and growing our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our faith must be in the Triune, holy, gracious, authoritative God revealed in the Bible, because faith's effectiveness is only as good as its object.

What did the apostolic writers have in mind when they spoke of faith? Nothing less than what they took to be the distinctive essence of Christianity: namely, a belief-and-behavior commitment to Jesus Christ, the divine-human Lord, who came to earth, died for sins, rose from death, returned to heaven, reigns now over the cosmos as his Father’s nominated vice-regent, and will reappear to judge everyone and to take his own people into glory, where they will be with him in unimaginable joy forever. 19

The Bible is thus experienced as a book that talks, speaking for itself by pointing us to the Father and the Son, who speak for themselves as they offer us forgiveness and acceptance and new life. The authority of Scripture is not just a matter of God putting our minds straight, but of God capturing our hearts for fully committed discipleship to the Lord Jesus. 24–25

A robust return to the older wisdom about faith’s true object is urgently needed if the Anglican Church in particular is ever to impact the surrounding culture again. The same must be said of other churches with Reformation roots, both sides of the border, and elsewhere. All in these communities who take faith seriously should unite to work for this return. 31

The subject of chapter 2 is Taking Doctrine Seriously. Packer defines doctrine as "the revealed truth of God as defined and taught in the church, by the church, for the church, and for the world." (33) It is important that we, as Christians, should read the Bible "with the tradition" under the authority of scripture. We are foolish if we neglect 2000 years of the Spirit's guidance to the church within the basic core of doctrine contained in the creeds and teaching of the gifted leaders of the past. Doctrine provides the framework through which we construct our beliefs, ethics and mission.

Holy Scripture is in essence God testifying to himself via human witnesses and writers. This belief is basic to the concept of doctrine, which is to be formulated, communicated, and defended under the authority of biblical teaching throughout. The trust that doctrine expresses—that is, its account of how things are, and how God knows they are, relationally between us and him—comes to us from God’s own holy mouth. 34–35

Doctrine is the map that guides us on our cross-country journeying through the thousand-odd pages of the Bible, on the one hand, and the complexities of godly living, on the other. Doctrine is the spectacles through which we discern the stepping-stones across the rapids and through the swamps that keep our feet on the path of life. Packer, 37

Right living is a matter of behaving in a way that expresses and celebrates Bible truth, not defies it. The standards of right living are set by right doctrine. Christian morality is rooted in reverence for God’s revealed truth. 47

Reading Through the Book of Job #4 (Chapters 26-37)

JobToday we move on in the Book of Job to Job’s monologue about wisdom and Elihu’s defense of God, accompanied by the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 6: Job, by August H. Konkel. Though both Job and Elihu have some excellent insights, their response is still incomplete. We still are waiting for the final word from YHWH on the situation. 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…

With the dialog at an impasse Job begins a monologue (26-31) about God's wisdom and how far beyond humans it is. In 26 he looks at creation and our lack of understanding of that. Using mythological terminology he notes that we have no access to home of the gods or the place of the dead. We only know a "whisper" of the ways of God.

We are forced to resort to metaphors in talking about the mystery of creation. How then should we expect to understand that rebuke when it thunders in all its force? There is no use in wisdom asserting it has the power to explain how God’s sovereignty operates in the world of people any more than it can explain the earlier mystery—creation itself. Job 26, 166

Job continues this theme in 27-28. He chastises the 3 friends because their wisdom is clearly inadequate for the situation. They want him to repent of something he had not done. However, Job also recognizes that he is not wise enough to understand the situation. 28 is a poem to wisdom that recognizes how valuable and rare it is. The only real source of wisdom  is God. People become wiser as they submit to God, but can never know the universe as God knows it.

Job knew about the justice of God, and he understood retribution. Once retribution comes upon the enemy of God, the time of reconciliation is past, as Job eloquently explained in his description of the wicked (27:13–23). If Job was such an enemy, there was no point in his friends telling him to find divine favor. And if Job was not such an enemy, there was no point in accusing him of being a sinner under judgment. Either way, the friends were wrong. Understanding the mind of God must mean that bad things can happen to good people. Job 27, 169

Absolute wisdom is denied to humans, but humans have access to a more limited form of wisdom. The wisdom of humans is to fear the Lord and to know about morality, life, and appropriate conduct. Humans should know this kind of wisdom, but the wisdom of God concerning the ultimate order of the universe is a wisdom humans often wish they could know but cannot—their attempts to find it may well leave them self-deceived. Job 28, 174–175

In 29-30 Job laments the changes in his life. He does not understand why they have happened. When he was rich and blessed, he shared those blessings with everyone around him. He deserved the respect people gave him. He didn't do anything wrong to bring on the disaster he now faced. He doesn't understand why God is doing this to him.

Purity of life and fear of God do not determine what kind of life we may have, but this does not decrease their importance. Job concluded his speech with a soliloquy on what kind of man he wanted to be (29:19–25), not because it would determine the fate of his life but because that is the wisdom of the fear of God. Job 29, 177

Clothes are more than symbolic; they are also necessary for function and protection. Job’s reference to his change of clothes refers to both aspects...His deprivation left him to be scorned by those who were outcasts, who had no place in society at all. This dramatic change of life had taken place as quickly and completely as a change of clothes. Job could do nothing to change his situation. Job 30, 182–183

Job continues in 31 by describing the "code" (the 10 commandments probably underlies this speech) by which he lived. He not only lived out the "letter" of the law but he was careful to keep the "spirit" of the law by loving God and people who God brought into his life. Job was deeply committed to covenant with God. It did not seem to him that God was keeping His side of the covenant.

It is unfortunate that the Decalogue is often conceived of as only being laws, for in reality it is a summary statement of the covenant relationship...Expressed this way, it is clear that the primary requirement of the covenant is knowledge of the Creator and submission to him. A correct understanding of the lordship of the Creator demands a reverence to him and a respect for all of his creation. Job 31, 187

Job concluded with two affirmations of his integrity before God. His life had been an open book. He had not been afraid to live his faith before others (31:33–34), with the attendant danger that he would be ridiculed or even denigrated and ostracized. He had lived by the dictum that the Lord is the king of all kings and he must fear no other. Divine approval had been his highest goal (31:35–37); the deeds of his life were his signature. Job 31.31-37, 189

The dispute between Job and the 3 friends has ended and the friends have been unable to refute Job. This leaves the argument appearing to vindicate Job and make God the bad guy. This cannot be, so now the young man Elihu speaks up to fix the situation. Elihu will do a better job than the 3 friends but he still does not resolve the matter at hand. They need to have a better and wiser arbiter bring his voice into the discussion.

The poet subtly portrays this arbiter as a brilliant young fool. Eliphaz protested that a wise man does not answer with empty talk (15:2), yet that is exactly what Elihu intended to do (32:17–20); he uncorked himself and let his words gush forth. This pretentious modesty is a reminder that there is no intellectual solution to the problem of Job, which began in the councils of heaven, or to the problem of human suffering in this world. Job 32, 193

In chapters 33-35 Elihu defends God's justice against Job's assertion that God was perverting justice and making him suffer without telling him the reason. First, he says that Job, like all people, is not sinless, and has no right to call for God's justice. Second, God has spoken to him through dreams and through the very pain he is suffering and through angels. God is not arbitrary in judgment. He gives people the government, often oppressive, they deserve. Job has no right to question God's timing and is prideful for doing so. We tend to look at justice personally and want it for ourselves right now, rather than seeing God's overall purpose in it. Our just Creator will judge in HIs own perfect timing.

Moral failure is a matter of pride, for it assumes we know better than God about what is right or at least that we can escape the harm that comes from such actions. Every sin in some sense has its origin in the hubris of humans who think that they can be their own god. Job 33, 198

In demanding to see the Day of Judgment, Job was setting a limit on how God rules his world. God cares about the poor and the needy and hears their cries (34:28). Those who have caused the poor to cry out in this way have placed themselves under judgment. God will crush even the most powerful ruler who has acted in such a harsh manner. The order of equality God has for creation cannot be violated without cost. Powerful leaders need to be especially careful to act with justice because this is the way of God. This is true for God, and it is true for all who represent his rule in his world. Job’s trouble was the mistaken thought that he should be able to determine when this judgment takes place. Job 34, 205

It is the tendency of mortals to expect divine justice to operate according to their immediate personal needs. They never think beyond themselves to ask about what justice might mean from the perspective of the Creator. They want relief from their suffering immediately. They forget that they are but one aspect of the wonder of God’s creation. Job 35, 208

Next, Elihu focuses on the lessons that can be learned through suffering. First, God uses suffering to get our attention so that he can bring us to maturity. Second, we learn that we are not in control. God is. Elihu has done a better job of defending God than the three friends did but he still has not resolved, nor does he understand, Job's standing with God. Thus, even though his theology is good, it is misapplied to Job.

Elihu concluded his speech by pointing to the majesty of God as seen in the tempest, a reminder that the just will emerge from the storm of adversity into the light of divine favor. Instead of a narrow personal concern about present suffering, Elihu wanted to call our attention to the wonder of the works of God. It is the duty of mortals to exalt his glory and not to focus on themselves. Job 36:22–26, 215

God redeems the afflicted by means of their suffering, and he gets their attention through adversity...Suffering is not to be thought of as punishment, for that is reserved for the wicked who go the way of no return. Suffering is a discipline; it serves the purpose of correction. Those who receive it properly will be ever grateful for it. Job 36.1-21, 211–212

Elihu summarized the main lesson (37:19–24). God is concerned that his glory be known by those he created to know him (37:24). God does not accomplish this by simple retribution for bad and good deeds; rather, he acts as a great teacher who knows so vastly much more than his students that they do not always understand his methods. Job 37, 217

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Job #3 (Chapters 15-25)

JobToday we move on to the second and third rounds of the wisdom dialog between Job and  his 3 friends in the Book of Job accompanied by the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 6: Job, by August H. Konkel. The discussion hits a dead end because neither Job, nor the three friends, really understand God or what He is doing, although all four are confident that they do. 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…

Eliphaz begins the 2nd round of speeches with a stinging rebuke of Job for his blasphemy against traditional wisdom. He thought that Job was arrogant to think that he had information that the ancient wise men did not have. Sadly, though much of what Eliphaz said was true, it was misapplied to Job and thus was hurtful and wrong.

The problem with Eliphaz was his failure to understand the limitations of his knowledge. He thought this truth concerning the wicked could account for all the pain in the world. Job 15, 113

Truth is the most powerful of weapons, and in this case Eliphaz meant it to hurt. The pain of truth may be the means to healing, which is what Eliphaz intended. Truth, however, is like a sharp knife. Used correctly it is the surgeon’s scalpel; used incorrectly it is a mutilating instrument causing pain or death. The speech of Eliphaz was a surgery that could only injure the patient further. Eliphaz missed the mark. Job had not been in defiance of God by trusting in his own wealth. The opposite was true; his faith was in God alone, and he had used every possible means to express it. Job had to make clear to Eliphaz that though he was right, he was ever so wrong. Job 15, 114

Job responds that he does not know why God is attacking him, but it is not what Eliphaz is saying. In fact, Eliphaz is making it worse. Job has relied on God in the past and, even though he has no hope that God will help him now, he does think God will justify him in the end.

At this point, Job expressed his lament to God (16:6–17). Though the friends must hear it if they were to learn wisdom, Job had to address God, for God was the source of the problem, and he should provide the solution. One of the most important therapies for all sufferers is the freedom to unreservedly express their complaint to God. Job 16, 116

Job hoped that righteousness would prevail, but he did not have any hope for his present life. His time was short, his spirit broken, his life snuffed out—all that remained was the grave, and in the meantime he must endure the mockers and leave his life to God. Job 17, 120

In his second speech, Bildad refuses to consider that his black and white view of righteousness, sin and retribution may be inadequate. He provides a very eloquent view of the fate of the wicked, not even considering that this may not apply to Job.

Bildad outdid himself in providing a description fitting to Job. Here was a man whose vast properties had been stolen and consumed by fire and whose progeny was extinct. In a world of black and white, there was no need to state the obvious. Job was still alive; he knew his situation and he knew what he must do. Job 18, 124

Job cannot believe that Bildad is pursuing this with him. He again describes the physical and emotional pain he is going through and asks the three friends to show some mercy and warns them that they are in danger of God's judgment for persecuting the righteous. Job is confident that God will show up in the end as his redeemer and vindicate him.

His suffering was not a heroic sacrifice that would achieve some noble end; he did not choose it, and he was not seeking personal affirmation. He was not even seeking sympathy; no one else could understand his situation in any case. All Job was seeking was some of the normal human interaction that should be accorded one still present on this earth. Job 19, 128

Those who persecute the righteous are the enemies of God. Throughout the Psalter, the assurance of receiving mercy is given on the basis that those pursuing the righteous will face divine judgment (e.g., Ps 7:1–6). In Job, there is a double irony on this motif. God had become the enemy in pursuing innocent Job. In their attempt to defend God, the friends had attacked an innocent and righteous man. In so doing, they had made themselves enemies of God and would face his wrath. Job 19, 133

Zophar responds to Job's plea for mercy by adding the accusation that he is  one of the "arrogant rich" whose greed steals food from the mouth of the poor. He adds that the greed of the rich leads to its own punishment as God's wrath lets the full natural consequences of an indulgent, oppressive lifestyle work its way out. Most of what Zophar says is true here, but, again, it does not apply in Job's situation.

In modern Western society, the term “consumer” has a positive sound. Humans by nature must be consumers; consumption is the basis of a good economy and a life that is satisfying for all. There is, however, a very sinister side to consumption. The problem is insatiable desire; those who have the power to pursue physical satisfactions rob others of basic human necessities. This is wickedness, and Zophar depicts it as the chief characteristic of evil persons who bring the judgment of God upon themselves. Job 20, 137

Job counters that any observer would see that the wicked are not always punished and, in fact, the wicked rich live splendid, secure lives which end with a luxurious funeral. the argument that their children are punished is not valid because that does not affect the wicked person who is dead and gone. Job's real problem is with God, who allows the wicked to prosper while the righteous, like Job, receive calamity.

Job would have nothing to do with the rationalizations of the wicked. The wicked are wrong in their thinking, though apparently it does them no harm. Ironically, Job’s integrity was not doing him any good. Thus, Job had a problem with God (21:4), for there was a contradiction and the consequences of it were appalling. Job 21, 140–141

Eliphaz argues that, since Job is suffering, he must be a terrible sinner, and lists several sins of which the reader knows Job is innocent. He is sure that though judgment is delayed, the evil always get what they deserve in this life. This is why Job suffers. Thus, all Job needs to do is repent.

Eliphaz argued, there is a reason for suffering; and it must be self-evident to all that one does not suffer because of excessive righteousness. These words were meant to taunt Job. One axiom of traditional wisdom is that righteousness results in blessing; Job could benefit himself. Though the wicked might be temporarily wealthy, it was unthinkable that the righteous could be temporarily poor. The reasoning of Eliphaz cannot countenance anything of what had transpired in the heavenly places. His certainty blinded him entirely to his error. Job 22, 146

Job responds with two poems about the hiddenness and silence of God. First, Job wants an opportunity to justify himself before God, but God is not responding and cannot be found. Job knows that God will verify his integrity and character before the world but where is He and why is He not showing up to vindicate him? The second poem laments God's silence in the face of evil and the grating oppression that the poor and needy receive in this world. Where is God to make this right?

Job expressed his confidence that his present trials would be for the good because of the integrity of his life. He would be the wise man who receives benefit with God, as Eliphaz had urged, but the benefit will not come in the way Eliphaz had imagined. The benefit would come through his trials, not through some feigned repentance. Job knew the life he had lived, and he was confident that whatever way God was dealing with him, in the end he would emerge as pure gold...the character of Job was his real gold, which is precious to God. Job has not lived his life in pretense, with only the external appearance of righteousness. Job has made his treasure the words God had spoken. Job knew he was upright, and that has its reward. Job 23, 153

Not only is God so hidden that Job cannot bring his case before him, God seems to be oblivious to all the other evil that goes on in the world. Job reasoned that his case was not unique. The world is full of miserable and weak people, suffering at the hands of the wicked who carry on unpunished. Job knew that the times of judgment are not hidden from God. Since this is so, why is it that those who know God never live to see a day of reckoning? Job 24, 156.

The dialog is now at an impasse. The friends refuse to believe that Job is righteous and Job refuses to believe that their traditional wisdom applies to his situation. Bildad finishes the speeches of the friends by reiterating the point that God's rule over creation is always positive for the righteous and negative for the wicked. The fact that everyone dies does not change this.

Bildad had made his point. If even the immortal moon and stars in the purity of the heavens are sometimes disrupted, how much more will it happen to mortal humans? Everyone born of woman will become food for the maggot; they can hardly expect their life to proceed without suffering. This must not become an indictment against divine justice. Job 25, 162

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Momentous Occasion (Well at Least For Me)

20170420_180207 (1024x768)Last night Joyce and I went out for dinner, with my parents, to our friends Mike and Becky Cote's house..It was a momentous occasion for me because it's the first time that I've ever been out of the house to a to a place that was not a family home, hospital or a doctor’s office since December 17th 2016. We enjoyed a delicious dinner of crown cut lamb and salad. We also got to meet 20170420_171114 (1024x768)Al and Linda Bridges, missionaries with BEE in Europe and the Middle East. We had a great far-reaching conversation about mission and church strategy. It was a great evening for me, despite that fact that my legs did swell up a bit and I got pretty tired. Maybe I overdid it a bit, but I need to get out more. It was nice to have a conversation with different people and to get out into a different environment. It also was a great relief from the “laying around all day boredom.” That is Becky on the left with the crown cut lamb. The picture on the right is me hard at work in bed making blog posts and reading on the internet.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Job #2 (Chapters 3-14)

JobToday we look at the first round of the wisdom dialog between Job and  his 3 friends in the Book of Job accompanied by the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 6: Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs, by August H. Konkel and Tremper Longman. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar present a good lesson in how NOT to comfort the afflicted. Much of what they say is true, but misapplied. They misrepresent God and bring more pain to the sufferer. 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…

Job begins the dialog section (3-25) with a speech that curses the day of his birth and wishes for death to come. Job feels that God has abandoned him and life is no longer worth living. He is beginning to doubt God's goodness.

Though Job did not curse God, he felt that he no longer had any place in God’s creation or purposes. Job did not deny the goodness of God’s creation, but he did deny that all of God’s creation is good. He used the language of creation to challenge the goodness of his own existence, which is to implicitly challenge the goodness of God. As happens so often in human passion, his grief made him presumptuous about his relationship with God. His losses led him to assume God was not present with him and therefore that his own presence within creation was not good. Job 3.1-10, 47

The story of Job is a story of resolute faith, however much Job might have been compelled to challenge the Almighty. He did not contemplate suicide. Such an act would have been a failure of faith, a taking into his own hands a life that was not his to take, for it was a gift. Job came to feel that the gift was cruel, but that did not grant him the power to deny that gift. Job 3.20-26, 50

Eliphaz responds with his "comfort" for Job in 4-5. Eliphaz, at first, politely and sympathetically urges Job to take the advice gave others. Take the adversity as discipline for sin, confess it, and learn from it. He rejects Job's assertion that he is suffering righteously and implies that Job has an ungodly source for this idea. Eliphaz simply sees that good is always rewarded and evil punished and, in error, applies this to Job's situation.

The central point of Eliphaz’s lecture is that one reaps what one sows. All analogies, like this one—“you reap what you sow”—are very useful in their power to make a point, but that which is their strength also makes them dangerous. An analogy is not applicable in all respects...The words of Eliphaz did not soothe the wounded Job; rather, they were salt on his wounds. In this way, the author of Job succeeded in exposing this “doctrine” and its oversimplified analogies. Job 4, 52–53

Eliphaz was not saying that trouble is the inevitable result of birth. Eliphaz’s argument is that the fool is the cause of his own downfall; he is not the victim of being born into an unfriendly world. Job 5, 58

Job responds to Eliphaz (6-7) with a defense of his righteousness and a lament that God is making his life miserable, even though he is righteous. He feels that his friends have turned against him and that God is pursuing him to punish, rather than forgive his sin. He wishes that both would just leave him alone. To Job life is "futile and unfulfilled."

This irony of life is heightened through a reflection on the psalms in 7:10; “never to be seen again” is more literally “his place will know him no more” and shares exactly the same words as Psalm 103:16b. In the psalm (103) the brevity of human life is compared to the grass, which disappears when the wind blows over it. The psalm assures us that the merciful God remembers the brevity of our life. He understands that we are dust, and his loyalty to us will never end. For Job, the brevity of life is not a way to be reminded of God’s constant providence; his impending death is simply a reminder that his hopes for success are gone forever—that his life was like the passing wind. Job 7.1-10, 68–69

Bildad drew on ancient wisdom to refute Job. He thought it was simple. The righteous are rewarded and evil punished. Thus, Job and his children were wicked and needed to repent. We know from the prologue that this is not true. Ancient wisdom did not apply in this case and Bildad, by his own criteria, becomes a false accuser and subject to punishment.

Simple retribution is not adequate to describe the complexities of life. Bildad not only assured Job that he would yet have joy but also that his enemies would be destroyed. In this Bildad was again incriminating himself. In the lament psalms, enemies are most often those who judge one to be guilty because some misfortune has overcome them. Bildad has adopted the very role of such an accusing enemy, who will be disgraced. Job 8, 75

Job agrees with Bildad that God is just, but that no human can be just before God and God cannot be held accountable for how He treats his creation. He continues to assert his innocence as a righteous sufferer. He sees God as mowing down the innocent as well as the guilt in natural disasters. If this is the way God treats vulnerable humans, Job thinks it is better not be born.

Though God is not the agent of such suffering, his failure to intervene means righteous and wicked alike are consumed. For righteous Job, this indifferent attitude of God could only be taken as a mockery, and it was none other than God who must be held accountable for having this attitude. In Job’s mind, this was the undeniable truth that emerged from the fact that a man of integrity was left in such hopeless despair. Job 9.1-24, 79

From Job’s perspective, the design of God appears to be to destroy life and reputation; even the innocent cannot have a modicum of self-respect but instead are filled with shame and contempt. Should Job seek a bit of self-worth, God would hunt him like a lion. Thus, his wonders were seen in his destructive judgment (cf. 9:5–10). Any effort on Job’s part to clear his name could only mean more suffering. Job 10, 85

Zophar rebukes Job for thinking that he knows more than he does about God and that somehow God can be held accountable to him. Zophar sees the situation very simply. Job has sinned  and needs to confess. He should not be "hollow-headed," learn and acknowledge sin and everything would be okay. The problem is that Zophar should have taken his own advice. He did not understand Job's situation.

Zophar is at times representative of each of us. Confident of the truth we know and oblivious to what we do not know, we respond with biting criticism to those we perceive as being in the wrong. When we are suffering, it is easy to ignore such individuals or even despise them, but this may be to our own peril. We need to be sure we have fully appreciated the truth they do represent. Job 11, 87–88

In his 2nd longest speech in the book Job addresses the 3 friends (12.1-13.19) and then God (13.20-14). He sarcastically rebukes his friends for their inadequate wisdom. Traditional wisdom is not enough to understand the ways of God. The friends are building their argument on lies, which is a very dangerous thing to do before God. Job asks God to let up on him a little, to apply mercy to him  instead of searching out every sin. He recognizes his lack of perfection, but wonders why God is not giving him any grace.

The problem was the inadequate wisdom of these friends who thought that simple, immediate retribution is somehow the sum total of justice, that it is the very foundation of the divine order, and therefore the basis for all application of wisdom. With their rhetoric they made Job into a proverbial example of self-righteousness under judgment. These friends rewarded calamity with derision; they kicked their friend while he was down. Job could only lament this supreme injustice. Job 12, 95

Wisdom can be wise only in so far as it knows its limits. When wisdom pontificates on what it cannot understand, it mocks the innocent. Job 12, 97

God would not seal up sins for purposes of retaliation. The friends might have smeared (tapal) Job with lies (13:4), but God would cover over (tapal) Job’s sin so it would not victimize him (14:17). Job 14, 107

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I can do all things?

20170328_101648 (768x1024)When we were back on Guam, my son Mike and I preached and discussed a series of sermons on the most misunderstood verses of scripture. We were pretty much in agreement that the most misunderstood verse in scripture is Philippians 4:13. As with most misunderstood versus, it's often divorced from its context, especially verse 12. I call it “the Tim Tebow verse” (I don’t know whether Tim Tebow actually interprets at this way. He just had it written on his face while he was playing NFL football.) This is not an “I Believe I Can Fly” verse that says I can do anything I want and God will give me the strength to do it. In context, the verse means that I can handle anything, that God allows to come my way, with the strength of Christ, applied by the Spirit. When Paul wrote this verse he was incarcerated by the Romans. He was guarded by Roman soldiers and may have even been chained to them or chained to a table. (That's something I can relate to a little bit as I feel a bit chained to a nephrostomy bag.) Basically what Paul is saying is that he can handle the good things in life and the bad things in life, because God promises that the Holy Spirit will provide Christ’s strength to accomplish what God wants to do in my life through these situations. It may not look like “health, wealth, and success” but it will accomplish God’s plan to produce His image in us.

What I've been thinking about lately is how God applies strength in these situations. I'm definitely going through one of the most difficult times of my life over the last 4-5 months, and I have seen God apply his strength to me in a lot of different ways. One of the primary ways that God has applied strength to me is through his people that are surrounding me and praying for me all over the world..I don't know how many times I've received a perfect email, text, or a card that meant so much to me and picked me up just at the right time.I often find my devotional times “jump off the page” and speak exactly to what I'm facing. The word of God has taken on a very precious meaning to me and been a tremendous encouragement.Sometimes it's a feeling that's hard to define. God's presence surrounds me in a way that I just know that he's going to get me through it. I know that seems very subjective, but sometimes that's the way life is. I pray for healing every day and I know people everywhere have been praying for me for the same thing. God continues to tell me to wait and be patient, but I'm confident that he has a good plan for this whole situation. And, hey, that confidence itself comes from God and is part of the fulfillment of this promise of strength in all situations.

Just a little update on my situation: I'm in the second day after my third round of chemotherapy. Again, thank God, the side effects have been pretty minimal. I got a few hot flashes and one sleepless night, but overall I'm feeling pretty good for somebody in chemotherapy. Joyce and I met with a lymphedema massage therapist yesterday. We learned a lot about how to mitigate edema symptoms and I'm hoping to get an edema massage soon. Hopefully, that will help bring the swelling down.We are scheduled to get a PET scan around May 12th to see how things are going reducing the swelling in the lymph nodes and killing off the T cell lymphoma cancer. We appreciate your prayers. We know God is working in our lives. Thank you and we will keep you updated as we continue to move through this adventure

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Affirming the Apostle's Creed by J. I. Packer #6

packerIn this post we finish up J. I. Packer's short book, Affirming the Apostle's Creed.  Here Packer discusses our forgiveness, the resurrection of the body and eternal life.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 next item in the creed is "forgiveness of sins." This means that God takes people back into relationship with Himself and was willing to pay the high price of the cross to make it happen. Not only are sins removed, but the new relationship places the believer into a vital role within God's kingdom plan. It is assured because God accomplishes it through the work of the Trinity.

Forgiveness is pardon in a personal setting. It is taking back into friendship those who went against you, hurt you, and put themselves in the wrong with you. It is compassionate (showing unmerited kindness to the wrongdoer), creative (renewing the spoiled relationship), and, inevitably, costly. God’s forgiveness is the supreme instance of this, for it is God in love restoring fellowship at the cost of the cross. 130–131

Justification is forgiveness plus; it signifies not only a washing out of the past but also acceptance and the gift of a righteous man’s status for the future. Also, justification is final, being a decision on which God will never go back, and so it is the basis of assurance, whereas present forgiveness does not necessarily argue more than temporary forbearance. So justification—public acquittal and reinstatement before God’s judgment-seat—is actually the richer concept. 132

Why faith only? Because Christ’s righteousness only is the basis of pardon and peace, and Christ and his gifts are received only by faith’s embrace. Faith means not only believing God’s truth but trusting Christ, taking what he offers, and then triumphing in the knowledge of what is now yours. 133

The next assertion of the creed deals with the believer's great hope, "the Resurrection of the Body." The Christian hope of resurrection is not the disembodied life of a spirit, but of a new improved, faultless resurrection body living on a fully restored new earth. The assurance of this hope is the bodily resurrection of Jesus. We will be like Him.

In raising believers, God completes their redemption by the gift not of their old bodies somehow patched up, but of new bodies fit for new men. Through regeneration and sanctification God has already renewed us inwardly; now we receive bodies to match. 138–139

Ask God to show you how Jesus’ life, body and soul, was the only fully human life that has ever been lived, and keep looking at Jesus as you meet him in the Gospels until you can see it. Then the prospect of being like him—that and no less—will seem to you the noblest and most magnificent destiny possible, and by embracing it you will become a true disciple. 141–142

The final statement of the creed is about "the Life Everlasting." In our new resurrection bodies we will enjoy the reunited heaven and earth for all eternity. We will enjoy the good things of life fully in the way God intended, beginning with a relationship with God that is unencumbered by sin, death, selfishness etc. Whatever we can think about what it will be like; it will be even better.

Being with Jesus is the essence of heaven; it is what the life everlasting is all about...What will we do in heaven? Not lounge around, but worship, work, think and communicate, enjoying activity, beauty, people, and God. First and foremost, however, we shall see and love Jesus, our Savior, Master, and Friend. 146

As I get older, I find that I appreciate God and people and good and lovely and noble things more and more intensely; so it is pure delight to think that this enjoyment will continue and increase in some form (what form, God knows, and I am content to wait and see) literally forever. 147–148

Monday, April 17, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Job #1 (1-2)

Today we begin the Book of Job accompanied by the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 6: Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs, by August H. Konkel. Job took on special meaning for me this time, considering my current situation. There are no easy answers to the problems of suffering and evil in this world. 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…

The book of Job is one of the most difficult in the Bible to understand. Generally, biblical wisdom states that when one acts wisely one will be rewarded with blessing. Job and Ecclesiastes provide the alternate view that there may be reasons that does not always work out. God is incomprehensible. That is, no human being can fully understand God or His plan for creation. We certainly cannot fully understand why He acts in our lives in specific circumstances. Faith recognizes the basic goodness of God's character and acts and speaks in submission to Him no matter what present circumstances bring.

The book of Job does not resolve the rational question of the problem of the innocent suffering. The story of Job suggests that, in human experience, the cause of individual suffering may remain forever a mystery. Readers are privy to the reason for Job’s anguish, but Job himself will never learn of the challenge in the courts of heaven that so drastically changed his life. The quest for wisdom does not lead us to explain the order of the universe but to live within it under the sovereign control of God. A large portion of the dialog is an attempt to explain the order of the world in terms of justice and retribution; but in the end this effort is condemned by God...Job is a solemn reminder that our attempts to defend the order of God may not be honoring to him at all. 4

The primary theme of the book of Job to be the problem of suffering—or, stated more comprehensively, it is about the mystery of evil. In the book of Job the problem of evil is presented in terms of justice, which is to say that if something is considered to be unjust, it is regarded as evil. Justice and goodness are the products of God’s sovereign rule; they are manifest in his provision for his people. 17

An understanding of God’s justice is not possible for humans, but they are assured of the ultimate triumph of that justice. 23

The prologue sets the stage by assuring us that Job's suffering is not because of sin. He is a righteous man of great integrity. At first, he responds to the situation rightly, by continuing to worship God as good. We are happy to see that his friends show up to comfort him…until they open their mouths.

The prologue presents Job as a paragon of virtue who survives the test of integrity; Job worshiped God in spite of the testing that deprived him entirely of God’s blessing. However, this is not all there is to Job. The virtuous Job provides the perspective from which we can observe the contradictions of human character and faith and evaluate what it means to have integrity of both reason and faith in times of trial. 30

The Accuser serves to remind naive readers that they cannot trust their own judgment of themselves. The use of the word “bless” causes the more perceptive to reflect on their own motives and how their words and actions may be perceived by God (cf. 1:5). 34

The only question for Job was the proper human response to divine providence—in whatever form it is experienced. Job’s answer was that the only possible human response is submissive faith, trust that God knows what he is doing. His response affirms the sovereign providence of God. Job 2.7-10, 42

At such times, it is important to be a friend, most importantly by simply being present. The custom followed by the friends in being silent is prudent; we must not presume we have something to tell people in such circumstances. It is best to let the sufferer speak first, for the comforter has much to learn from the afflicted. When the afflicted does speak, a response must be judicious and not presume too much knowledge, particularly in efforts to defend God or provide explanations. Job 2.11-13, 44

“Pink Cheeks” Medical Update

WIN_20170417_14_38_54_ProAs I posted earlier on my Facebook page, I was able to continue with my third chemotherapy session today, despite the fact that my red blood count was below the lower limit. My count did go up from 8.6 to 8.8, but was still below the lower limit of nine. When I met with the doctor, he was pleased that the color had returned to my face. So I think it was my pink cheeks that led him to approve going ahead with the chemotherapy session.  It was encouraging to hear him say that I was looking healthier and that it looked at him as if swelling was going down. This would also indicate that the swollen lymph nodes were shrinking. Of course, we won't find that out for sure until we go down to Stanford for a PET scan on May 12th. Thank you to everyone who prayed. The prayer was answered, not exactly as I had hoped, but it was still answered. We stayed on schedule and we are moving forward through chemotherapy. (I took the picture today so you can see my position while writing this post.)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Another Day, Another Doctor Visit

20170413_191646 (1024x768)Today was my pre-chemo blood test. The news was not good for me today. My red blood count needed to rise .3 points to get to 9. It actually went down from the Monday test from 8.7 to 8.6. I will go see the doctor on Monday to discuss what the next step will be. What will probably happen is that I will need to go the hospital and get a blood transfusion before I can do another chemotherapy session. I am not sure how long, or even if, this will set us back but we will continue to be patient. This is not abnormal for someone in my situation and we really have had very few setbacks in the chemo process. We do our best to stay positive, but it is not easy to do every day. Honestly, I get a little bored and frustrated with the day to day drudgery of this process. 20170412_123115 (1024x768)Please keep us in your prayers that we can get the process back on track. The deer picture was taken by Joyce from the deck of my parents’ house.

We did get a nice break when our friends Larry and Sharon Bock came up for a visit. The Bock’s were volunteers at PIU Guam for several years. They live in Texas now, but had some business to take care of in California so they came by and spent an hour or so with us. It was great to get caught up on their family and what they are doing now. It was also nice to hear how PIU impacted their lives and reminisce a little about the times they were there. We appreciated the time with them.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Affirming the Apostle's Creed by J. I. Packer #5

packerWe are continuing to work through J. I. Packer's short book, Affirming the Apostle's Creed. In this post, and the next, we finish the book with a section about God the Spirit and the benefits of Christ that He energizes for and within us. Here Packer discusses the Spirit Himself and the church. 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 now turns to the 3rd person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. "I believe in the Holy Spirit." The Spirit is the "Spirit of Christ," drawing attention to the ultimate revelation of God through Christ and applying the benefits of Christ to the believer. The Spirit glorifies Christ by reproducing His image in the believer.

The Spirit now acts as Jesus’ agent—“another Helper” (John 14:16; helper, supporter, advocate, encourager). He shows Jesus to us through the gospel, unites us to him by faith, and indwells us to change us “into [his] image” by causing “the fruit of the Spirit” to grow in us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 5:22ff.). 115

The Spirit is witness and teacher...What the Spirit’s witnessing effects is not private revelation of something hitherto undisclosed but personal reception of God’s public testimony that was there all along in the Scriptures but went unheeded. Packer, 116

What then are the signs that Christ’s self-effacing Spirit is at work?...The only sure signs are that the Christ of the Bible is acknowledged, trusted, loved for his grace, and served for his glory and that believers actually turn from sin to the life of holiness that is Christ’s image in his people. Packer, 117

The next phrase deals with the "holy catholic church." The idea here is that it is a universal fellowship of believers, empowered and gathered by the Holy Spirit, to do the work of Christ in the world. The church should be an outpost of the kingdom bringing heaven's values and presence "on earth as it is in heaven." Christ lives within the church and ministers through the church.

In Scripture the church is the one worldwide fellowship of believing people whose Head is Christ. It is holy because it is consecrated to God (though it is capable nonetheless of grievous sin); it is catholic because it embraces all Christians everywhere; and it is apostolic because it seeks to maintain the apostles’ doctrine unmixed. 122

The church appears in Trinitarian relationships as the family of God the Father, the body of Christ the Son, and the temple (dwelling-place) of the Holy Spirit, and so long as the dominical sacraments are administered and ministerial oversight is exercised, no organizational norms are insisted on at all. The church is the supernatural society of God’s redeemed and baptized people, looking back to Christ’s first coming with gratitude and on to his second coming with hope. 123–124

Each congregation is a visible outcrop of the one church universal, called to serve God and men in humility and, perhaps, humiliation while living in prospect of glory. Spirit-filled for worship and witness, active in love and care for insiders and outsiders alike, self-supporting and self-propagating, each congregation is to be a spearhead of divine counterattack for the recapture of a rebel world. 125

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Another Brief Medical Update

20170411_134026 (960x1280)I had my one week prior to chemo meeting with my doctor yesterday. I had to get my full blood count numbers to determine if I'm ready for another chemo session. My white blood counts are holding very steady and very high so everything is good there. There is a problem with my red blood count. I need to be at 9 to be ready for the chemo, but my red count yesterday was at 8.7. Last time I was at 8.9 and we had to have a long discussion about whether I was able to have my second chemo session. I won't be able to have it without a transfusion if it stays at 8.7. So my big prayer request is that my ccount will get above 9 before I go back for another blood test on Friday afternoon.  Everything else is a go. 

20170409_114459 (1024x768)I am losing more hair as you can see from the picture. It even appears that my mustache is beginning to fall out.  I may be going with the fully hairless look soon..We were able to go up to Redding last weekend to see Joyce's parents. It really is the first time I have gone anywhere since we arrived in December, well except to the doctor.  One of our friends was headed in that direction and graciously volunteered to drive us up. I laid in the back seat for the whole three hour trip. Other than being a little extra tired the trip didn’t bother me much at all. 20170409_115002 (1024x768)We enjoyed the time with Joyce’s Mom and Dad. It was good for Joyce to be able to take take care of her mom and give her dad a bit of a break. We also went out for dinner at Joyce’s sister, Judy's, house. That is the first time I have been out to dinner since we arrived in December. I'm hoping to get a little more healthy and we will actually go out to a restaurant. We do appreciate prayers. I ask again that you would pray for me that I would have good numbers  on Friday so that I can be ready for my chemotherapy. God has gifted amazing doctors with amazing healing abilities. But ultimately all healing is in the hands of the Trinity. Thank you for your prayers. Pictures here were taken in Joyce’s mom’s garden.

Reading Through the Psalms #11 (135-150)

packerToday’s post concludes the reading of the book of the Psalms accompanied by Psalms, vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn. The final psalms, probably mostly post-exilic, call on all nations and peoples to worship and submit to the rule of YHWH., 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…

135 begins the last section of the Psalms, which focuses on praise and worship of YHWH, with a call to praise YHWH because of his sovereignty over creation and the nations, and his choosing of Israel as His special people. 136 is an antiphonal, audience participation hymn that commands worshippers to praise YHWH for his "wonders" done in creation and in the nation's history. 137 is a prayer that justice will be done for the brutal treatment of Jerusalem by Babylon and Edom.

The LORD’s election of Israel is the demonstration that all the gods are idols. That is the theology of the hymn. The LORD chose a people to be his own special possession, defended them from the powers of the world, and gave them their land as a heritage. The LORD rules over all and performs his sovereign will, but his people are his special possession. Their story is the clue to the basic truth about the universe, the clue to who reigns in heaven and on earth. Psalm 135, 461

God’s covenant love/loyalty is always expressed through his creation of the world and the creation of a people. His “loyalty” to the creation is manifested by his sovereign control over it and how he provides for the peoples of the world through it. God’s “loyalty” to his people is manifested as his “grace,” for only by his grace are his people able to survive as a unique people on the face of the earth. That is why God’s people must “give thanks to the God of heaven.” Psalm 136, 463

Lest one forget, this prayer for retributive justice was answered by the psalmist’s God. The “eye for an eye” code was a demand for justice, not revenge, and justice was finally given to Babylon and Edom. Psalm 137, 472

Psalms 138-145 are written by, for, or possibly, in the style of David. They mostly deal with asking for God's help in times of trouble and persecution from enemies. 138 praises God for deliverance from an enemy who has received justice from God. 139 celebrates God's vindication which is sure because God knows us, is with us, is always able and is righteous and just. 140 expresses the psalmist's confidence that evil men and deceptive words would not triumph in the end. 141 is a prayer for deliverance from the temptations that come from being surrounded by evil people. 142 is a desperate prayer for deliverance when all human hope is gone. 143 pleads with God, based on his mercy and compassion, for renewal of fellowship and God's direction, guidance and provision.

There is here “a fine blend of boldness and humility … boldness to confess the Lord before the gods, humility to bow down before Him.” It is as if he is “in your face” with the pagan “gods,” but “on his face” with respect to Yahweh God. Psalm 138, 474

I can be the lowliest of slaves, and yet the Lord knows me when nobody else cares. He knows my name. I can be “attacked” by enemies or rejected by my own family or friends. He knows my name. Though falsely accused, I know God knows the truth, and he knows me better than I know myself. Psalm 139, 476

The reality of the covenant relationship with God was a source of hope and courage to the devout in Israel. And since the psalmist had known God’s protection in a day of battle now past, he could take hope that in time to come, none of the evil plans of evil men would prevail. Psalm 140, 486–487

But in his daily contact with the ungodly, the psalmist may be tempted to compromise his loyalty to Yahweh, even as the apostle Peter denied he knew Jesus. He does not want this to happen, but he is aware of the temptation, and so the prayer. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil (v. 4a). Do not let my heart be deceived by sin’s allure nor be tempted by the delicacies the wicked appear to have in abundance. Psalm 141, 490

The psalm certainly speaks to the heart of all who have despaired at times to the point of thinking that no one really cares and who feel they are praying from prison. Psalm 142, 495

One of the basic concepts of God, the one that underlies all others, is this—he is the God (the only God) who reveals himself and his will to man. He talked with Adam in the garden of Eden (Gen 2:15) and subsequently revealed himself to countless others, including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses, through whom his will for his people was clearly delineated. It is God as teacher, instructor, and guide to whom the psalmist “lifts up his soul” for guidance in his hour of need. Psalm 143, 501

Psalms 144-145 praise God as the true king and protector of the nation who fights their battles and provides for their needs. In 144 the psalmist takes role of a warrior-king who recognizes God's role in the battle and asks God to protect his people and provide for their needs. 145 praises God for His compassionate, just rule.   

Yahweh who has trained the warrior king sustains him, defends him, shields him, and if need be, rescues or delivers him. This is his confidence. This is his trust. This is his cause for praising Yahweh, who subdues peoples under me. Psalm 144, 506

God’s greatness is seen in the glory of his kingdom and dominion. God’s goodness is manifested in detail by his grace exhibited in his support and care for the downtrodden and destitute. Psalm 145, 515

Psalms 146-150 close the book Psalms with one more burst of praise of YHWH as sovereign over creation, provider of blessing to His people and worthy of praise. 146 celebrates the happy state of those who trust and are committed to God's ways, despite exile and trouble. 147 celebrates the fact that the God who is sovereign over nature is very concerned for His needy people and meets their needs generously. 148 calls on all creation in the heavens and on the land and sea to praise YHWH and for Israel to put the words to the chorus. 149 calls on all Israel to praise God for the restoration from exile and to bring justice to the nations that threaten them. Psalm 150 closes the Psalter by calling on all human beings to praise the Holy and Glorious Creator, YHWH, all the time, wherever they are and by whatever means that they have.

Psalm 146 finds God to be praiseworthy for three special reasons. First, he is all-powerful, having made heaven and earth (v. 6a). Also, he is dependable; he “remains faithful forever” (v. 6b). In the third place, he is the divine helper, the hope of all and especially of the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoners, the blind and bowed down, the alien, the orphan, and the widow (vv. 7–9). Psalm 146, 517

The very God who is sovereign over the creation is also sovereign over the salvation of his people. He is building up Jerusalem, gathering the exiles, healing the brokenhearted, and binding up their wounds (vv. 2–3). God has always delighted in those who fear him and put their hope in his covenant love/loyalty (v. 11; cp. Ps 33:18) rather than human (military) power (v. 10; cp. Ps 33:16, 17). Psalm 147, 526

From the heights of the heavens to the depths of the sea, all that exists is by the hand of God—or by the spoken word of God (v. 5)—and is called upon to praise him (by simply being what they are! Psalm 148, 529

The theme of the psalm is the praise of the LORD. Israel is to “rejoice” in him (v. 2) because he takes “delight” in his people (v. 4). His praise is to be in their mouth (v. 6). Is it not because he is their glory and honor? Psalm 149, 535

So the call is directed to all mankind. Yet it is also intensely personal—to “every one who breathes.” Every individual on the face of the earth is called upon to make the praise of God a matter of the highest priority in his or her life. Psalm 150, 540

Friday, April 07, 2017

Affirming the Apostle's Creed by J. I. Packer #4

packerWe are continuing to work through J. I. Packer's short book, Affirming the Apostle's Creed. In this post, and the next, we finish the longest section in the creed about God the Son. Here he discusses the resurrection ascension, and future return 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.

The next phrase in the creed is "the third day he rose again from the dead." The detail of the timing of the resurrection places it into a historical context. It was a real event that happened in space and time and it has had undeniable effect on history for the last 2000 years. Without the resurrection the claims of Christianity are baseless. With the resurrection Jesus identity as God is confirmed and our resurrection with Him becomes a sure hope.

“If the coming into existence of the Nazarenes, a phenomenon undeniably attested in the New Testament, rips a great hole in history, a hole of the size and shape of the resurrection, what does the secular historian propose to stop it up with?” The actual historical effect is inconceivable without the resurrection of Jesus as its objective historical cause. 93

What is the significance of Jesus’ rising? In a word, it marked Jesus out as the Son of God (Romans 1:4); it vindicated his righteousness (John 16:10); it demonstrated victory over death (Acts 2:24); it guaranteed the believer’s forgiveness and justification (1 Corinthians 15:17; Romans 4:25) and his own future resurrection too (1 Corinthians 15:18); and it brings him into the reality of resurrection life now (Romans 6:4). 94

The next phrase, "He ascended into heaven," is very significant but often overlooked in our preaching and teaching. Packer makes the important point that this was a vision shown to the disciples that Jesus had retaken his place in the "throne room" or control center of the universe at the "Father's right hand." He lists three significant truths that result from this: 1) The battle with the dark forces of sin, death and evil has already been won and we can now participate victoriously in that. 2) Jesus is interceding for us as our advocate, providing all the grace and everything we need for life and godliness. 3) God's people now have intimate fellowship with the Trinity "that nothing, not even death, can touch." We have already begun our eternal life.

What happened at the Ascension, then, was not that Jesus became a spaceman, but that his disciples were shown a sign, just as at the Transfiguration. As C. S. Lewis put it, “they saw first a short vertical movement and then a vague luminosity (that is what ‘cloud’ presumably means …) and then nothing.”...So the message of the Ascension story is: “Jesus the Savior reigns!”  98–99

In a weary world in which grave philosophers were counseling suicide as man’s best option,
the unshakable, rollicking optimism of the first Christians, who went on feeling on top of the world however much the world seemed to be on top of them, made a vast impression. (It still does, when Christians are Christian enough to show it!)

The final phrase in the section about Christ is "he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." This is not an escape from the earth, but a culmination and renewal of God's kingdom in which heaven and earth come together for all eternity. Christ will judge all people, when we do not expect, so the bottom line is to be ready by being involved in His kingdom work now.

We think less and less about the better things that Christ will bring us at his reappearance because our thoughts are increasingly absorbed by the good things we enjoy here. No one would wish persecution or destitution on another, but who can deny that at this point they might do us good? 108

In one sense, Christ comes for every Christian at death, but the Creed looks to the day when he will come publicly to wind up history and judge all men—Christians as Christians, accepted already, whom a “blood-bought free reward” awaits according to the faithfulness of their service; rebels as rebels, to be rejected by the Master whom they rejected first. 106

Another Update

20170403_100246 (960x1280)A couple days ago my grandson Titus told me, “Grandpa are you looking more bald lately.” As usual he was right. That seems to be the one side effect of the chemotherapy that is happening to me. So I'm actually very thankful for that. Other than that there's not a lot to update. I have completed the blood boosting shots that I receive after chemotherapy. The good news is that my white blood count is up to 6.5.  5 to 7 is the safe range. My hemoglobin count is also good. I am on schedule now to receive my next chemotherapy session on April 17th. I will go see the doctor on Monday in order to  get the final go-ahead for that. Right now we are up in Redding  visiting Joyce’s parents. We drove up yesterday and we will be driving back on Sunday afternoon. I laid down in the back seat for the whole drive. Edema is still up and down. Please pray that all of my blood numbers stay where they're supposed to be. We appreciate your prayers for us.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Reading Through the Psalms #10 (120-134)

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. This post focuses on the Psalms of Ascent, probably sung as the people traveled to Jerusalem for one of the annual feasts. 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…

Psalms 120-134 are titled "the Psalms of Ascent." They were probably sung by those on pilgrimage to Jerusalem as they ascended the hills into the city on their journey. They praise God's care as king and look forward to the reestablishment of the Davidic kingdom. 120 is a psalm of trust in God when defamed or slandered. 121 celebrates God's commitment to guarding and protecting his worshipers. 122 is a prayer for the peace of Jerusalem. 123 views the relationship with God as master-servant and asserts the psalmist's attentiveness to God's will and trust in His provision.

Some people lie for no reason at all. Others would deal in treachery, fully intending to deceive by making the lie so believable that all accept it for the truth. When this occurs, the innocent victim has no defense except the knowledge of his own integrity and his faith that God will bring the wicked to judgment. Psalm 120, 396

One whose life is founded upon faith in God and who stands firmly upon this rock will be sustained through all trials and stresses of that life. God is his keeper (literally the “one watching over” him) and he is ever watchful; he does not slumber. Psalm 121, 400–401

He has seen already why the city should be accorded peace and prosperity—For the sake of the house of the LORD our God (v. 9a). It is this, and this only, that made Jerusalem any different from any other city in the world, and this made all the difference in the world. Psalm 122, 406

The servant in ancient times always stood ready at his master’s command. Just the slight movement of the master’s hand caused the servant to react...And so the servant’s eyes were ever watchful and desirous of the master’s approval. In his looking upon the hand of his master, he acknowledges both his dependence and his confidence that that hand will be opened to supply the needs of his people. Psalm 123, 407

The next section continues the Songs of Ascent. 124 celebrates deliverance from a powerful enemy. God is the reason Israel has continued to exist. 125 is a proclamation of faith that, despite the prominence of the wicked in the present, God's way will win out  and God's people will be preserved and blessed. 126 celebrates the return from exile as a dream come true, and asks God to restore the blessing of fertility to the land. 127 is a wisdom psalm that teaches the importance of the centrality of God for successful and secure families. 128 celebrates the happiness of a family that walks with YHWH and extends this blessing out to the wider family of God.

With the creator of heaven and earth on our side, Israel would say, deliverance was assured. In the words of the Apostle Paul: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.… You, my brothers [and sisters], were called to be free” (Gal 5:1a, 13a). Psalm 124, 412

So long as God surrounds his people, as the mountains surround Jerusalem, their preservation is assured. Consequently, the godly person may with confidence address his prayer to God to do good to the upright in heart, assured that the LORD will deal with the wicked and grant peace to his people. Psalm 125, 415

Answered prayers are the greatest foundation upon which to pray again. So it is with the psalmist and the community on behalf of which he speaks. While there has been great rejoicing at some great restoration of fortunes, be that of exiles having returned or some other great event that lifted their spirits just as high, the psalmist prepares another request. Psalm 126, 418

The message of the psalm is very clear: only God can provide the best shelter, true security, and essential food (vv. 1–2). But, above all, only God can provide a family, particularly sons to carry on the family line and to care for one in old age (vv. 3–5). Psalm 127, 421

To be blessed in this way is to be “endued with the power” to live a long life in order to see the birth and growth of your children, grandchildren, and perhaps even great grandchildren. The truly happy and blessed life cannot be expressed any better than through a grand and glorious family surrounding one in his or her old age. This is surely the goal of blessing. Psalm 128, 429

The Songs of Ascent continue with 129-134. 129 praises God that despite the unceasing historic opposition to and oppression of Israel by the powerful surrounding nations, God has preserved them. 130 counsels us to wait on God because His covenant forgiveness is our only hope. 131 reflects on a life satisfied in God that does live according to pride and ambition. 132 recounts the Davidic covenant and placing of the ark in Zion and expresses the hope that God's presence will return and the Davidic dynasty will be restored. 133 is a call to God's people to be unified and experience the joy and refreshment that unity brings. 134 ends the Songs of Ascent with a call to the departing pilgrims to continue to bless YHWH and a reminder that He will bless them wherever they go.

The supreme characteristic of God is that he is righteous (צַדִּיק, ṣaddîq, “just”). Being “just” he desires to put things right, especially with regard to his people. God’s people can appeal to his righteousness to save them. Psalm 129, 432

This psalm...speaks to our heart’s need more than most, for indeed we cannot stand before God with any record of our sins in his hands. We are absolutely helpless and totally dependent upon his grace, mercy, and forgiveness if we are to survive, either individually or corporately. We can only put our hope in God and wait—wait for his covenant love and loyalty to come through and bring us “full” redemption. Is there any other way? Psalm 130, 438

Apparently the psalmist looked upon life itself as a gift of God with which he had been entrusted, and he chose deliberately to accept that trust in a spirit of childlike humility. My eyes are not haughty, literally, “I do not lift up my eyes.” I do not fix my sight on the lofty goals determined by the world. Instead, he has deliberately chosen for himself an outlook on life that finds both fulfillment and contentment in whatever role may be his. Psalm 131, 439

For the pilgrims returning to a Jerusalem without a king, the psalm has become messianic and eschatological. Present circumstances do not support the promise, but God’s word is faithful. One day there will be an “anointed one” who will sit on David’s throne and reign forever (see Luke 1:32). Psalm 132, 449

One’s relationship to God then, as now, was as an individual, but it was as an individual in community! The community of believers, God’s community, is to be “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Eph 2:19). To be in the fellowship of God is to be in fellowship with the people of God. Psalm 133, 453

Do not suppose you are beyond his care when you leave the holy city, for the God whom you have worshiped in this temple in Jerusalem is the Maker of heaven and earth (cp. Ps 121:2; 124:8). So go with God’s blessing, wherever you journey. You are never beyond his care. Psalm 134, 456