Saturday, July 29, 2017

Pool Day

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20170725_150414 (960x1280)Tuesday was “Pool Day” at the cabin. 20170725_150702 (960x1280)After lunch we all headed down to the local pool and enjoyed an afternoon of swimming. For me it was the first time back in a pool in a long time. I am glad that all the holes are healed up so I can enjoy being in the pool again. It was such a blessing to be well enough to play in the water with the grandkids, even though I have to be careful to not overdo it. (Left) Posing with Serenity and Ahni after timing their swims and scoring their dives/belly flops. Right: Arie riding a duckie.

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Joyce arranged the picture of all 8 grandkids at the pool and then posed with 6 of them at the cabin as they all enjoyed a popsicle.

Reading “A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel”, by Bradley Jersak

JersakFor the rest of July and August I will be reading through, for my New Testament devotions, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak. His main point in the book is, "God is like Jesus. Exactly like Jesus" and we must interpret the revelation of God throughout the entire Bible through the lens of the ultimate revelation of God in Jesus Christ. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In chapter 1 Jersak answers the question, What is God Really Like? with "He is exactly like Jesus." This has to be the ultimate answer to the question because Jesus is the final and full revelation of who God is. All of us have filtered our understanding of who God is with preconceived ideas and we often read these ideas into the Biblical revelation. A serious reading of scripture should be a long constant process of tearing down these false images of God and a rebuilding, guided by the Spirit, of a view of God based on the revelation through Jesus. A serious reading of scripture means letting the whole Bible speak to us with its seeming contradictions (A God who is both near and far from us would be one example), multi-faceted descriptions of God (a warrior and yet a gentle mother), weird and hard to explain passages ("texts of terror," supernatural warfare, slavery etc.), but making the revelation of Jesus the driving interpretive key to our understanding of God in all these passages. After all, that is how Jesus instructs us to interpret all scripture (Luke 24.44-45). 

My point here is that those of us who claim to believe in ‘the God of the Bible’ must become more aware of how we read the text through thick lenses of our own unconscious biases. From these distorting filters we are prone to construct idols of God in our own image. 4-5

I’ve come to believe that Jesus alone is perfect theology. When I say that God is exactly like Jesus, I don’t mean we can reduce all that God is to a first century Jewish male. Nor would we claim anyone who encountered Jesus Christ could know all there is to know about God in his transcendent essence. But as we’ll see, Jesus Christ is the perfected and perfect revelation of the nature of God because he is God. There is no revelation apart from him. 9-10

Jesus showed us this supernaturally safe, welcoming Father-love, extended to very messy people before they repented and before they had faith. Or better, he was actually redefining repentance and faith as simply coming to him, baggage and all, to taste his goodness and mercy. 22 

In chapter 2, "Un-Christlike Images of God, Jersak looks at some unbiblical images of God that we humans create. We have a need to worship hard-wired into us in creation. The problem is that we have a tendency to create a god in our own image that corresponds to how we see ourselves in our own culture or family. We create a god that is a "doting grandpa," "a punitive judge," "a deadbeat dad," or a "Santa Claus blend." The antidote is to take a long look at the Jesus of the gospels who loves, seeks and saves sinners. We must view God and the revelation of God in scripture through this hermeneutical lens. 

We can start with a sober awareness of how we obscure God with our own ideas and ideologies. We can recognize our vulnerability to worn out superstitions and hidden agendas. But instead of purging ourselves with the saltwater of scorn, we could cleanse our palates with the living water of Truth. 31

I’ve seen God faithfully answer this prayer, whether in an instant or through a process, for all who are willing to open themselves to God’s love. They come to know God as a continually present, intimately close Parent—neither silent nor distant, regardless of their performance. 40 

Jesus does not come to announce condemnation from the Father, nor even to save us from the condemnation of the Father, but rather to reveal the love of the Father for those already perishing and suffering condemnation. Instead of a punishing Judge, the Father of Jesus waits on, watches for and then runs to those who’ve come to the end of themselves. 45

Matt’s Birthday Party

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With all the kids and grandkids assembled, the first order of business was to head up to my sister’s house and celebrate Matt’s 37th birthday. Jesse, Joanie and Jayna were already there, newly arrived from Guam and it was great to see them. My mom and dad came up for the party. I think Joyce was in grandma heaven. After the party we headed up to our cabin in Pollock Pines for the week.

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Matt blew out his birthday candles as Joyce held babies

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It was fun to just hang around together with nothing in particular we had to do

Monday, July 24, 2017

All the Grandkids Are Here

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20170723_141005 (1280x960)20170723_141658 (960x1280)Matt and Mike arrived with their families on Saturday night, early Sunday morning. We hung  around the house after we woke up late Sunday morning and then went out for a late lunch. We are looking forward to being together for the next five days, all in one house. This is the first time we have had all 3 of our kids and all 8 grandchildren together at one time. The last time we were all together we only had 6 grandkids. The two youngest, Arie and Mika, are in the picture on the right.

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And one more with grandma photobombing in the back

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Some Thoughts on Truth and Certainty

A few weeks ago I made some posts about certainty and control. I have continued to think about these subjects over the last few weeks and wanted to follow up with a post on my own philosophy of truth. This is called "epistemology" and basically discusses how we know what we know or how we apprehend truth. I don't want to get into a heavy theological or philosophical discussion, but I do want to discuss the practical implications of how one can approach truth in a way that avoids the false certainty of a modernist, "scientific" view of truth, or the total chaos of a post-modern view of relative truth that is whatever one wants it to be. This is not meant to be a thorough discussion of the subject. This is the wrong media for that. I just want to focus on some practical implications of this basic idea for how we form our personal worldviews, philosophies and theologies and, maybe start a discussion.

I have somewhat adapted NT Wright's version of critical realism:

I propose a form of critical realism. This is a way of describing the process of ‘knowing’ that acknowledges the reality of the thing known, as something other than the knower (hence ‘realism’), while also fully acknowledging that the only access we have to this reality lies along the spiralling path of appropriate dialogue or conversation between the knower and the thing known (hence ‘critical’). This path leads to critical reflection on the products of our enquiry into ‘reality’, so that our assertions about ‘reality’ acknowledge their own provisionality. Knowledge, in other words, although in principle concerning realities independent of the knower, is never itself independent of the knower. N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, 35

In other words, there is a reality outside of ourselves that we can know by investigation with our 5 senses and logical thinking. The problem is that we are also part of that reality and cannot get outside of it to gain totally objective or complete data. In theological terms, we are only part of creation and cannot see things as God sees them. As God's image we can form a reasonably accurate view of reality, but never a complete or inerrant one. We come at reality with preconceived, untested ideas that will often distort our investigation. As a Christian I believe in revelation and especially the authoritative revelation of God contained in the Bible that is completed in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. I believe this is mediated supernaturally to us by the Holy Spirit. The problem is that we still apprehend this truth through our 5 senses and our brains. Thus, through study, investigation and revelation we can learn real objective truth by which we can live our lives, guide others and understand the world around us. However, it will never be complete and, in our own heads no matter how you view God's revelation in scripture, it will never be without error.

So, some practical thoughts

1) We can be confident of the faith once for all delivered to the Saints. Where scripture is clear and the church historically has been in agreement we can and should take our stand.

2) We need to be humble about our personal theologies and philosophies. We can always learn from others. We should read outside of our own theological tradition. We should avoid living in an echo chamber in which our own ideas are all we listen to. We really need to listen to what others are saying. If the biblical authors could draw truth from many different sources we can too.

3) There are tensions in Scripture. We should not try to explain scripture in a way that removes these tensions.

4) Scripture is inerrant in delivering to us what God intended it to reveal to us. It reveals God and the parameters of relationship with Him and His creation and thus is the “beginning of wisdom,” but does not tell us everything we need to know about how to live life. God expects us to use the capacity for wisdom that he has given us to investigate his creation and learn.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Reading Through the Book of First Chronicles #3 (18-29)

ChroniclesThis week we continue reading through the book of Chronicles accompanied by, 1 & 2 Chronicles, The College Press NIV Commentary, Old Testament Series, by John Mark Hicks. In this section of Chronicles the chronicler records the establishment of David’s kingdom, but more importantly, his preparation for the building of the temple and the worship that will take place there. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…
1 Chronicles 18-22 summarizes the wars of David with 18-20 recording his victories. The point is that God is keeping His promise (17) to protect David from his enemies and give him victory over them. The section is bounded by the victories over the historic enemy of Israel, the Philistines, who are championed by the Rephaim, the supernatural "giants" that Joshua and Israel had been commanded to exterminate. Ammon, Moab and Aram were also enemies that threatened the peace of Israel and the land that God had given them. David was God's agent to rule and protect God's people and their promised inheritance. David did well as long as he stayed within that boundary.
Whereas in 2 Samuel David’s military success is scattered throughout the narrative, the Chronicler connects them. He concentrates the military adventures not only to signal the fulfillment of divine promises, but also to contextualize the census...First Chronicles 18–20 reports David’s victory and 1 Chronicles 21 reports his sin. 1 Chronicles 18-20, 186–187
Solomon used the bronze taken from Hadadezer to make the bronze Sea, the pillars and various bronze articles. This links the Davidic wars with preparations for the temple. Chronicles strengthens the connections within the whole context: God builds David’s house through military victories, and David prepares for God’s house with the spoils of military victories. Dedicating the booty to the temple is David’s grateful response. 1 Chronicles 18, 189
The Chronicler brings the past into the present in order to bear witness to the faithfulness of God. At the same time he calls his postexilic community to hope on the basis of God’s faithfulness to David...David’s conquests garnered him the promised land. God had, just as he promised, given Israel the land through David. His faithfulness engenders hope in the postexilic community. 1 Chronicles 20, 197–198
In the midst of these great victories David sins by commanding a census. The text does not specifically say why the census was wrong, but intimates that David failed to trust God when an enemy (a "satan") was raised up. It may also be that David was greedy for land beyond what God had promised and was evaluating his military might to prepare for conquest. Trusting in military might rather than God was to be a recurring sin in Israel's history. God gives Israel over to a destroying angel and David repents. Most of chapter 21 recounts the story of how David's repentance leads to God's mercy and the establishment of Jerusalem's temple mount as the place of God presence in Israel. The temple would be the place where God's grace and presence would become available to the nation. This leads to the transition, in chapter 22, as Solomon and the nation are commissioned and prepared to build the temple.
In the light of God’s faithfulness and grace, would David be content with his military conquests? To answer the question, God raised up an enemy (śāṭān) that threatened Israel and incited David’s military census. He tested David to reveal David’s greed. David failed the test, and Israel was punished. 1 Chronicles 21, 202
That same grace of God which triumphed over David’s sins and led to the establishment of God’s house remains God’s principal attribute available to human beings. Available through repentance and reaching out to draw and sustain the weak. God himself always takes the lead in lifting up the fallen. The temple, then, is the place of sacrifice. God’s gracious presence redeems. 1 Chronicles 21, 210
The postexilic community, having returned to the land, looks to the promise of David and the election of Solomon with hope. Their temple, just like Solomon’s, is a symbol of God’s redemptive presence among them. 1 Chronicles 22, 216
Chapter 23 moves the story to the end of David's reign as he names Solomon co-ruler and organizes the nation for temple worship and government administration. David functions as a "new Moses" as he authoritatively changes Israel's worship from a movable tent to a settled temple with an administrative structure that lasts into the post-exilic generations. David sets up 24 divisions of priests. He organizes the Levites into 4 groups: 24,000 temple workers, 4,000 gatekeepers (guards, tax collectors, police force), and 4,000 musicians in Jerusalem, and spread 6,000 Levites throughout the nation as officials and judges.
The theological rationale for the move from tabernacle to temple is located in God’s dwelling presence in Jerusalem. Israel is no longer a wandering nation nor is she oppressed within her own borders. At the end of David’s life, God has granted rest to his people and has come to dwell in Jerusalem forever. Now God will have a permanent dwelling place rather than a portable tent. Israel will find security in that permanence since God has determined to give his presence to his people in a temple. 1 Chronicles 23-24, 223
(The singers') proclamation was by the power of the Lord who acted through the singers. “Their praise was effectual because in it they proclaimed the LORD’s name and announced his goodness to his people. Thus, the proclamation of the singers was prophetic in status, manner, function and power.” This is liturgical proclamation. 1 Chronicles 25, 228
The Levites, then, typify the role of prophet, priest, and king. The Levites, more than any other tribe, are God’s royal and priestly nation...The Levites point forward to the priesthood of all believers. As a royal priesthood, they offer spiritual sacrifices to God through the prophetic Spirit (1 Pet 2:5–9). The Levitical function in the temple is the contemporary function of Christians in the service of God (1 Chr 23–26). 1  Chronicles 26, 234
Chapter 27 lists David's administrative leadership of the nation. It begins with the standing army, tribal officials, moves to the stewards of the king's land, herds and agricultural endeavors, and then closes with his trusted advisors. 28 records the enthronement of Solomon and David's exhortation to Solomon and the nation's leaders to be faithful to seek YHWH and His will and build the temple. In 29, David calls the people to give generously, of which he is an example, to the temple building project and they respond as an act of worship. David then thanks God for His gracious provision beyond their needs and for His promises. The nation then acknowledges Solomon as God's king. 1 Chronicles ends with a note about God's calling of David and his faithful life.
David acts on God’s faithfulness, and God blesses his kingdom in preparation for the building of the temple. As SELMAN notes, “the temple preparations bear a sharper testimony to the reliability and effectiveness of the kingdom of God (cf. 17:14; 29:11, 23) than to the kingdom of David.” 1 Chronicles 27, 237
God makes sovereign decisions that arise out of his love, faithfulness, and purposes. The enthronement of Solomon is a divine act. Theologically, election depends on divine grace. Judah did not deserve to be the royal house. David did not deserve to be king. Solomon did not rise to power by his own initiative and power. Consequently, the following exhortations are grounded in God’s active grace rather than human achievement. Divine commands are rooted in God’s gracious acts. 1 Chronicles 28.1-10, 240–241
The task of ministry needs the resolve to seek God’s face. Leaders must orient themselves toward God’s purposes as they accept the lot God has given them. David accepted his role of preparation. But resolve is not enough. Leaders also need a supportive and equipped community who will follow them. Solomon cannot build the temple alone. But even community is not sufficient. The fundamental ingredient to successful ministry is the enabling presence of God who strengthens his people. Thus, personal commitment, community, and divine presence build temples. That combination also builds the church into a holy temple (1 Cor 3:1–18).  1 Chronicles 28, 246
The OT’s “presentation of man’s relationship with God is above all in terms of joy” and wholehearted devotion that rejects “the path of self-gratification.” God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7). 1 Chronicles 29.1-20, 249
Theologically, Solomon did not sit on David’s throne (cf.1 Kgs 2:12). Chronicles places him on the throne of the LORD. The kingdom belongs to God, and the one who sits on the throne does so by grace rather than right. Solomon’s kingdom is a manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth. 1 Chronicles 29.21-25, 255

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Day the Revolution Began, by NT Wright #7

WrightThis post concludes my reading through, for my New Testament devotions and study, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion, by N. T. Wright. This post discusses the final two applicational chapters which look at the church’s mission in light of the meaning of the cross and resurrection. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 14, Passover People, begins the final section of the book, The Revolution Continues, in which Wright applies his view of Jesus' death and resurrection to the ongoing mission of the church. Now that Christ has won the victory over "the powers" and has brought in forgiveness of sins, it is up to the church to live out its role as "image-bearers" who, in the power of the Spirit, work to bring God's kingdom on earth and announce Christ's victory inviting the world to follow Jesus and share in it until the kingdom is consummated at the 2nd coming of Christ. The church does this through cross-shaped suffering love and service that gives up its life for others and proclaims the victory of Jesus through worship and the sacraments.

A mission based on a supposed “victory” that does not have “forgiveness of sins” at its heart will go seriously wrong in one direction...A mission based on “forgiveness of sins” where we see things only in terms of “saving souls for heaven” will go wrong in the other direction. That was the danger of the second view: a message of forgiveness that left the powers to rule the world unchallenged. 362

To reflect the divine image means standing between heaven and earth, even in the present time, adoring the Creator and bringing his purposes into reality on earth, ahead of the time when God completes the task and makes all things new. The “royal priesthood” is the company of rescued humans who, being part of “earth,” worship the God of heaven and are thereby equipped, with the breath of heaven in their renewed lungs, to work for his kingdom on earth. 363

The victory of the cross will be implemented through the means of the cross...The victory was indeed won, the revolution was indeed launched, through the suffering of Jesus; it is now implemented, put into effective operation, by the suffering of his people. 366 

Image-bearing humans, obedient to the Creator, are meant to exercise delegated authority in the world in order that life can flourish...the sacraments are the celebration that Jesus has paid the price and that he has all power on earth and in heaven. They are the powerful announcement of his victory. They can and should be used, as part of a wise Christian spirituality, to announce to the threatening powers that on the cross Jesus has already won the victory. 380

Chapter 15, The Powers and the Power of Love, conclude the book with a discussion of how the defeat of the "powers" impacts the witness and worship of the church. The witness of the church is proclamation that "Jesus is LORD" in both word and deed as the church goes out and proclaims Jesus' victory and all its implications. The battle has been won but God's people live it out 24-7 by following Jesus' cross-shaped example. This affects all aspects of daily life and will often mean suffering and sacrifice in the short term as we speak truth to "enslaving powers" and sacrifice to "wash the feet" of the poor and marginalized. Following Jesus is a "vocation" in which we take up his cross, not just an idea to which we give mental assent.

Resurrection and forgiveness belong together. Both are the direct result of the victory won on the cross, because the victory won on the cross was won by dealing with sin and hence with death. Resurrection is the result of death’s defeat; forgiveness, the result of sin’s defeat. Those who learn to forgive discover that they are not only offering healing to others. They are receiving it in themselves. Resurrection is happening inside them. 386

The attempt must be made—not simply to return to the seventeenth-century optimism, which as we saw could easily lead to some form of triumphalism, but to hold together the whole truth of the gospel, the forgiveness of sins through which the dark power is broken, and to find every way possible, through symbol and action as well as through words and reason, by which it may be announced and applied. The task may seem impossible, but that’s what they said about the resurrection. 394

The gospel of Jesus summons us to believe that the power of self-giving love unveiled on the cross is the real thing, the power that made the world in the first place and is now in the business of remaking it; and that the other forms of “power,” the corrupt and self-serving ways in which the world is so often run, from global empires and multimillion businesses down to classrooms, families, and gangs, are the distortion. 399

Mission, as seen from the New Testament perspective, is neither about “saving souls for heaven” nor about “building the kingdom on earth.” It is the Spirit-driven, cross-shaped work of Jesus’s followers as they worship the true God and, confronting idols with the news of Jesus’s victory, work for the signs of his kingdom in human lives and institutions. 407

Wright sums up the meaning of Christ's death...

The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was a one-off event, the one on behalf of the many, the one moment in history on behalf of all others through which sins would be forgiven, the powers robbed of their power, and humans redeemed to take their place as worshippers and stewards, celebrating the powerful victory of God in his Messiah and so gaining the Spirit’s power to make his kingdom effective in the world. 416

Micronesian Missionary Reunion

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Yesterday was a fun day of blessing. We had some very special visitors: Steve and Anne Stinnette and Steven and Angela Leuice. We were all missionary colleagues back in the mid-80s in Palau and Micronesia. We also worked together in Guam in the 90s. We were trying to figure out when was the last time all 3 of us couples were together. As far as we could remember it was probably 1997 or 98. So this was really a momentous occasion. Steve and Anne's daughter, Amy, and our daughter Missy were with us and we also each had one of our grandchildren playing loudly near us. We spent a lot of the afternoon reminiscing about old times and catching up on what friends and colleagues that we knew are doing now. We talked about future plans and hopes for ministry. For me, it was very encouraging to hear what God is doing in their lives and to hear about how they have been praying for me. It was also good to get their perspectives and advice on our future steps. The Leuices are now ministering close by and I am hoping we can do some ministry together in the near future. I hope we don't have to wait another 20 years before we all get together again!

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Medical Update : Some Really Good News

20170712_132527 (960x1280)Last Wednesday I had my bone marrow biopsy. It went well and there was a lot less pain than I had anticipated. The doctor told us that we would not get the results for another 2 to 3 weeks. However, the doctor called me last night with some preliminary tentative results. It seems there are two tests that are made on the bone marrow and blood that they extracted. The results of the first test came in. The doctor stressed that these are very preliminary results, but that the first test showed that my bone marrow was clear of cancer. I think my oncologist was so very excited to share this news with me that he had to call me as soon as he heard it (just before 7PM on a Friday evening). I was excited and happy to hear it too. We won't know for sure until I meet with my Stanford doctors on August 14th, but this is very encouraging news. So right now we are celebrating this good news and we are praying that it continues through the whole process. Again thank you for praying for me. For now let's celebrate this good news together and pray for positive final test results and that the lymphoma will not recur.

The Day the Revolution Began, by NT Wright #6

WrightI am continuing reading through, for my New Testament devotions and study, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion, by N. T. Wright. This post discusses two chapters which focus in on the meaning of Christ’s death and the atonement in Paul’s letter to the Romans. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 12, The Death of Jesus in Paul's Letter to the Romans: The New Exodus, begins two chapters in the book that deal with Jesus death as it is seen in the Book of Romans. In Chapter 12 Paul focuses on Romans 5-8 and describes Jesus death in terms of the Passover, as a “new Exodus,” but this time the exodus is not from exile in Egypt or Babylon. This time the Exodus is a freedom from sin and death and the powers that that rule because of them. Romans 5-8 is written from the background of Israel's history as prophesied in Deuteronomy 26-32. Israel, and Adam sinned, which brings exile, death and submission to the "evil powers," but all this is according to the plan of God which allows "Sin" and its effects to increase so it can be gathered together, punished and destroyed in the death of Jesus Christ. With the defeat of "Sin," the vocation of humanity as the image of God is restored, creation is made whole again, and heaven and earth are brought back together.

The primary human problem that Paul notes in Romans 1:18 is not “sin,” but “ungodliness.” It is a failure not primarily of behavior (though that follows), but of worship. 268

Paul is hinting that the often dark and sad history of Israel, the long descent into the “curse” of Deuteronomy, was not itself outside the divine purpose. That descent under the law was to be the means by which redemption would come. Even the exile itself, the long sojourn under the law’s curse, was part of the eventual saving purpose. 275

The Messiah’s new life, risen from the dead, is indeed the inauguration of the “age to come,” bursting in upon the “present evil age.” Those who belong to him are to believe and to live by the belief that they died and rose again with him, so that they are no longer under any slavish obligation to obey the old master. 279

Paul does not say that God punished Jesus. He declares that God punished Sin in the flesh of Jesus...The death of Jesus, seen in this light, is certainly penal. It has to do with the punishment on Sin—not, to say it again, on Jesus—but it is punishment nonetheless. Equally, it is certainly substitutionary: God condemned Sin (in the flesh of the Messiah), and therefore sinners who are “in the Messiah” are not condemned. The one dies, and the many do not. 287

The work of the cross is not designed to rescue humans from creation, but to rescue them for creation. 290 

Chapter 13, The Death of Jesus in Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Passover and Atonement, is the longest and most dense chapter in the book. It discusses what is considered by many to be the definitive passage on atonement and the meaning of Jesus' death: Romans 3.21-26. The first half of the chapter discusses the context of the passage in Romans 1-4. Wright insists, correctly I think, that this passage must be interpreted in the covenantal context of Israel's mission and promises from God. God's "righteousness" is seen in his commitment to keep His promise to save the world through Israel in the Messiah, despite their idolatrous failure, and to redeem all creation. This does not contradict the traditional reading of Romans 3, but instead places it in a richer context of the mission of Israel and the church, new exodus and the kingdom of God. It places a stronger emphasis on inclusion in the "family of God" rather than individual status.

Human skill and ingenuity were designed to work for God’s purposes in the world, not to generate alternate gods for people to worship instead. “Sin,” then, is not simply the breaking of God’s rules. It is the outflowing of idolatry. That is the primary problem of Romans 1. 308

When you leave out Israel, your shortened story will easily tip over into a non-Jewish way of thinking, into, as we have seen, a platonic view of the ultimate goal (“heaven”), a moralistic view of the human vocation (“good behavior”), and a downright pagan view of salvation (an innocent death placating an angry deity). 311-312

All this means a vital shift from the usual reading of Romans to a truly Pauline one. Paul is not saying, “God will justify sinners by faith so that they can go to heaven, and Abraham is an advance example of this.” He is saying, “God covenanted with Abraham to give him a worldwide family of forgiven sinners turned faithful worshippers, and the death of Jesus is the means by which this happens.” 314

And with that verdict, announced in Jesus’s resurrection, God also declared the same verdict over those who would be “in the Messiah”: “They are freely declared to be in the right, to be members of the covenant, through the redemption which is found in the Messiah, Jesus” (3:24). Justification takes place “in the Messiah.” What God said of Jesus in his resurrection God says of all who are “in him.”  323

In the second half of chapter 13, Wright zeroes in on the exegesis of Romans 3.21-26. He insists on placing the passage within the OT context of the Passover and Day of Atonement with the idea of the hilasterion, "mercy seat," primarily meaning the place where atonement was made to bring together heaven and earth, God and His people. Punishment was not made in the sense of God being angry at the sacrificial victim, but it consisted of the sacrificial victim bearing the consequences of the sin, so that the worshipper was forgiven and restored to fellowship. Thus, the powers of evil, sin and death are broken and the believer is declared to be "justified" now and assured of being in God's eternal kingdom.

At the heart of that we find not an arbitrary and abstract “punishment” meted out upon an innocent victim, but the living God himself coming incognito (“To whom has the arm of YHWH been revealed?”—in other words, “Who would have thought that he was YHWH in person, in power?”), coming to take upon himself the consequence of Israel’s idolatry, sin, and exile, which itself brought into focus the idolatry, sin, and exile of the whole human race. 337

In this event (the cross), all the early Christians tell us, the living God was revealed in human form, in utter self-giving love, to be the focus of grateful worship, worship that would replace the idols and would therefore generate a new, truly human existence in which the deadly grip of sin had been broken forever. 346 

Paul is not simply offering a roundabout way of saying, “We sinned; God punished Jesus; we are forgiven.” He is saying, “We all committed idolatry, and sinned; God promised Abraham to save the world through Israel; Israel was faithless to that commission; but God has put forth the faithful Messiah, his own self-revelation, whose death has been our Exodus from slavery.” 347

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reading Through the Book of First Chronicles #1 (1-9)

ChroniclesLast week I began reading through the book of Chronicles accompanied by, 1 & 2 Chronicles, The College Press NIV Commentary, Old Testament Series, by John Mark Hicks. Chronicles is the final book in the canon of the Jewish scriptures and presents the history of the Davidic dynasty from a post-exilic perspective. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Chronicles was probably one of the last books of the Old Testament to be completed, late in the Persian period about 400BCE. It was written to the post-exilic Jewish community to encourage them that God's plan for them and His presence with them was still as active as it had been with the kings and kingdom of Israel. If the people would worship God exclusively He would bless them. His promise to David was still as sure as it ever had been. The nation needed to learn from the past so that they could follow the good example of David and avoid the bad examples that had caused the exile.

The postexilic community asked: “Will God still dwell among his people in this new temple?” “Will God take us back as his people?” or “Will God keep his promise to David?” While the Chronicler explains the exile as a divine judgment, he stresses God’s yearning to restore his people. God will keep his promises and God will dwell among his people as in the days of Solomon. If the postexilic community will seek God, then he will dwell among them. 1 & 2 Chronicles, 17

The fundamental theological hermeneutic of Chronicles is “God seeks seekers.” The faithful and gracious God seeks hearts that seek him. The God of Chronicles is a relational God who seeks authentic reciprocal relationship. Those who seek him will find him, but he will forsake those who forsake him. 1 & 2 Chronicles, 26

The genealogies connect the post-exilic community back to the golden age of Israel, creation and to God's covenant promises. Overall, it places Israel at the center with David at the center of Israel. Chapter one connects creation to Israel. It reminds the nation that God's plan for the world involves rescuing all the nations through the covenant with Abraham and the nation of Israel.

This is the story of God among his people. It is the story of Israel. It is the Christian story. Adam, Abraham, and David are our forefathers. God has preserved his family. 1 Chronicles 1-9, 69–70

First Chronicles 1:1–27 teaches, in genealogical form, that Israel is part of a world community. It participates in the “brotherhood” of humanity. The nations are bound together by God’s creation and providence. Israel, however, is the elect nation for the sake of the nations. Through Abraham God will bless all nations. 1 Chronicles 1,  73

Chapter 2 begins the genealogy of the nation of Israel. 2-4 contains the list of the ancestors from Judah and connects them to the Judahites of the post-exilic community. David and his descendants, the kings of Judah, are at the center of the list reminding the people that God will raise up a descendant of David who will save the nation from its oppressors, end the exile and bring in the blessing of God's presence.

God seeks reconciliation with “all Israel,” and “all Israel” is invited to the temple to commune with their God. 1 Chronicles 2, 78

The fact that David’s line remains intact through the exile testifies to the faithfulness of God. He has not forgotten David...the centrality of this list in the genealogical scheme, the importance of David in the coming narrative, and the messianic expectations of the royal line give more weight to future hopeful expectations from the Davidic line than a mere list. While the list may not be sufficient for that hope, without the list there is no hope. 1 Chronicles 3, 87

This story, set in the genealogical list of Judah, reflects God’s gracious promise to hear the prayers of his people, avert disaster, enlarge their territory, and bless his people when they cry out to him (2 Chr 20:9). Jabez epitomizes the situation of the postexilic community. They were born out of pain, and they cry out to God for peace and rest. The assurance of this story is that God will hear the prayer of faith and graciously respond. 1 Chronicles 4, 89

The Chronicler now turns to the genealogies of the tribes of Simeon (4.24-43) in the South and Reuben (5.1-10), Gad (5.11-22), and Manasseh (5.23-26) in the East. He includes several short stories to underscore his theological points that victory comes from trusting the LORD and disaster (exile) comes from unfaithfulness and idolatry. God can work in the post-exilic community the same way he worked in the past.

The Chronicler’s interpretation of Genesis legitimizes Israel’s historical development where Ephraim and Manasseh receive the double portion of the firstborn (territory and population) but the ruler (cf. 1 Chr 11:2; 17:7; 28:4) comes out of Judah...God grants status by privilege rather than right; by grace rather than merit. The older serves the younger. 1 Chronicles 5.1-10, 93

God equips and prepares his people as his agents in the world and intends that they use the best available means to accomplish divine goals. But their victories are by his strength and power. This has a wide application to preaching, apologetics, and evangelism as well as to the perennial problem of human responsibility and divine sovereignty. 1 Chronicles 5.11-22, 95

The genealogy of the Levites sits right at the center of chapters 1-9, just as the tabernacle and temple occupied the center of Israelite life. The first list connects the post-exilic high priests all the way back to Aaron. The second one list the genealogies of the priests, the singers and the Levitical temple servants.

The Levites not only receive the most lengthy attention (except for Judah), but they are the centerpiece of Chronicles’s genealogical structure. This is not simply a structural center, but a theological one. The genealogical structure of the sons of Israel puts “God at the center” and the presence of the Levites bears “witness to the temple.” 1 Chronicles 6, 97

God’s priests do not simply officiate at the temple, but they are scattered among the people throughout the land. They “constitute,” “an indwelling presence of local teaching and example.” Their dwellings among the people represent the God who not only dwells in his temple but also has a holy presence throughout the land. 1 Chronicles 6.50-81, 103

Chapter 7 begins the continuation of the list of the tribes north of Judah. Included are Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, the sons of Joseph, and Asher. For some reason Dan and Zebulun appear to not be included. Chapter 8 again records a genealogy of the Benjamites and 9 provides a list of the Levites and their duties in post-exilic Jerusalem. The chapter closes with a very detailed genealogy of Saul to introduce the narrative of his death and rise of David that will begin chapter 10. 1-9 presents the post-exilic community as a re-creation (Adam, Abraham, David) of God's covenant people with every tribe gathered in Jerusalem awaiting the coming of another David and for the presence of God to return to the temple.

Chronicles maintains the number twelve. If Dan is included at 1 Chronicles 7:12, then the exclusion of Zebulun makes the number twelve since Levi effectively takes his place. However, if Dan is absent, Chronicles counts Manasseh twice (two settlements), so the number is still twelve. Either way Chronicles keeps the important and symbolic number twelve. 1 Chronicles 7, 104

It is sufficient to call attention to the geographical contrast in order to emphasize the difference between Saul of Gibeon and David of Jerusalem. SAILHAMER also contrasts the divine choice of Jerusalem for his resting place (2 Chr 6:6) with the Israelite decision to place the tabernacle in Gibeon (1 Chr 16:39; 21:29). The contrast between David and Saul is also the contrast between divine election and human manipulation. 1 Chronicles 8, 111

All Israel was recorded in the genealogies. The land was settled. The Chronicler yearns for Israel to once again fully occupy the land under the reign of another Davidic king. The genealogies point to the inheritance of Israel and the inclusiveness of the coming reign. 1 Chronicles 9, 112

Just as Judah was unfaithful and went into exile (1 Chr 9:1b), Saul was unfaithful and lost his dynasty (1 Chr 10:13). But Judah returns to possess Jerusalem, and Saul’s descendants live in the city (1 Chr 9:38). This testifies to the grace of God. Saul’s descendants live in Jerusalem alongside Davidic and Levitical families. Postexilic Jerusalem is filled with “all Israel,” and it bears witness to God’s mercy and faithfulness. 1 Chronicles 9, 118

Day 3 at “Cancer Camp”

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Sunday was the last day of camp. It began with breakfast and packing out. As usual the volunteers (the “minions”) took care of everything, including washing our car, while we watched. It was such a blessing to have pretty much everything taken care of for us for a whole weekend. In addition, each family has their own person assigned to them to help with the weekend. Our counselor was Linda, in the picture above, a retired oncology nurse. We really enjoyed talking with her at the meals and getting to know her. She even watched Leila while we got our massages.

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The camp ended with a closing ceremony in the worship center. It was inspirational to hear from the founder of the camp and from many of the campers. We then had to say goodbye to the new friends we had made at the camp.

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We didn’t leave camp empty-handed. They even gave us a $50 gift certificate to cover the cost of our gas to get to the camp. What a blessing! Thank you for a great weekend ME-ONE Foundation!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Day Two at “Cancer Camp”

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Saturday was a full and fun day of activities at camp. Joyce, Missy and Leila flew through the air on the flying squirrel and on the zip lines. I went for the quieter massage and pedicure. It was my first ever pedicure and, yes, my toenails are now green. I let Leila choose the color. We also enjoyed a Mexican food lunch and a Texas barbecue for dinner along with a square dance hoedown. We were all exhausted by the end of the day

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Joyce and Missy did some serious flying

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While Leila got her face painted, I got my toes painted

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We were well fed and had good opportunities to relax and enjoy

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Day One at "Cancer Camp"

Last Friday we arrived at Camp Wieser at the Mission Springs campground. The camp is run by the Me-One foundation (Me One Cancer Zero) for adult cancer patients and their families to provide, at no cost to patient, a fun weekend away from the normal stress of cancer treatment and daily life. It certainly provided that for us. Immediately upon arrival we were greeted and welcomed by a multitude of volunteers who took all our luggage up to our room, parked the car and gave us water, snacks and other gifts. This began a weekend in which our every need was met. Except for Joyce coming down with shingles this was exactly the break experience we needed. Thank you so much Me-One foundation and all its volunteers.

Leila enjoyed playing in the bounce houses and I enjoyed watching her. Joyce and I already have our camp shirts on

Monday, July 10, 2017

Day 2 in Santa Cruz, Beach, Boardwalk and Big Trees

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We were not due at camp until 3 PM on Friday. So after a big breakfast at Auntie Mame’s in Scotts Valley, Joyce, Missy and Leila headed back to Santa Cruz for some more vacation and sightseeing. I decided to stay in the apartment and rest up for camp. Here are a few of Joyce’s pictures from their 2nd day in Santa Cruz.

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They got up close to the big trees on the trails at Henry Cowell Park

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Leila got in some beach time and into the water…

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and some boardwalk rides with grandma