Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Chronicles #7 (2 Chron. 27-36)

ChroniclesToday we finish the story of the Divided Kingdom in the second book of Chronicles (and the read through of the Hebrew Testament begun in 2015) accompanied by, 1 & 2 Chronicles, The College Press NIV Commentary, Old Testament Series, by John Mark Hicks. This section records the final destruction and exile of the kingdom of Judah. God gave them many opportunities to repent, but the nation as a whole failed to trust God so He gave them over to destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. 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…

While the previous kings were mixed bags of good and evil, Chapters 27-28 present one king who was all good (Jotham) and one who was all evil (Ahaz). This will become the pattern through the rest of Chronicles. Jotham receives the standard blessing from the LORD for his faithfulness. Ahaz proves to be the worst king of Judah so far. He worships idols and makes foreign alliances. He tries to make an alliance with Assyria to defeat his enemies, Israel and Aram, who are threatening him. To do this he closes up the temple and sets up an Assyrian altar in Jerusalem. However, the Assyrians do not come in as a partner. They come in as a conqueror.

Jotham demonstrates how blessing can follow punishment. Every generation has the hope of renewal. The postexilic community needs the hope of blessing following punishment, and they need the warning that evil can follow righteousness. 2 Chronicles 27, 433

The Chronicler rebukes those in his own community who enslave the sons and daughters of relatives for economic profit. They must return their fellow countrymen (lit., “brothers”) or else the Lord will turn his anger on Israel. 2 Chronicles 28.9-11, 445

If only Ahaz had humbled himself (like Manasseh; cf. 2 Chr 33:19, 23), God would have reversed the effects of his defeats. However, when Ahaz would not humble himself, the LORD humbled Judah because of Ahaz. The reason for this humbling is twofold: (1) Ahaz promoted wickedness in Judah and (2) he had been most unfaithful to the LORD. Ahaz is the most unfaithful of all kings. 2 Chronicles 28, 448

Chapter 29 of 2nd Chronicles begins the final major section of the book: The Reunited Kingdom. The northern kingdom has been wiped out by Assyria while the southern Kingdom barely survived. There is still great danger from the Assyrians. Will tiny Judah survive?

The reign of Hezekiah begins this final section. The chronicler focuses on Hezekiah's great reforms. Except for David and Solomon, no king takes up more space in Chronicles than Hezekiah. Most of this focus in Chronicles is on the reforms of Hezekiah within the first few months of his reign. The reforms begin with the cleansing of the temple, its rededication, and celebration of its reopening. Chapter 30 records a unique nationwide celebration of the Passover that calls up remembrances of the Passovers of David and Solomon. Finally, chapter 31 tells the story of the Hezekiah as preparation for maintaining good temple buildings and ministries. The people's response is overwhelming. Not only do they give enough for the priests and Levites to live on and maintain the temple buildings, but there are "heaps and heaps" of surplus to store for the future. How do God's people prepare to meet a great enemy? Not with military might, but with covenant faithfulness.

Hezekiah’s reforms contrast with Ahaz’s apostasy. Hezekiah’s faithfulness seeks mercy just as Ahaz’s apostasy engendered wrath. The postexilic community must make their choice: will they follow Hezekiah or Ahaz? 2 Chronicles 29, 460

Hezekiah’s Passover had both Davidic and Solomonic meaning as all Israel celebrated God’s grace. Worship is a time of unity, thankful remembrance and seeking God’s face. “In short,” Graham writes, “it is a time for the reorientation of the human heart—to remember what God has done in the past and to infuse the present with hope for a future life of well-being and communion with God.” 2 Chronicles 30, 467

When Hezekiah saw the heaps, he blessed (praised) the LORD. To bless the Lord is to ascribe to him what is due him, but to bless the people is to place upon them what belongs to the Lord. In gratitude, the people give God credit for his generosity and at the same time ask God to bless his people even more richly than he has in the past. Worship entails both blessing God and his people; it includes praise and intercession. 2 Chronicles 31, 481

After Hezekiah's reforms, God tests his heart with a battle, an illness, and some international intrigue. Hezekiah's problem was pride; a tendency to do things first on his own without asking God for direction or protection. In each case he seems to repent quickly. In the battle, God gives him miraculous victory over the Assyrian army besieging Jerusalem, without the army of Judah doing anything. Jerusalem was the only city in the region that did not fall to Sennacherib's army. God also heals Hezekiah's fatal illness. With the Babylonians, Hezekiah seems to ascribe his great wealth and honor to himself rather than to God. The Babylonians will cause problems later for Judah and Jerusalem.

This (section) demonstrates that Yahweh “really rules in Israel,” and “aims to stimulate faith in Israel’s God rather than admiration for Israel’s king.” The Lord reigns—Hezekiah is only his servant. Confidence and assurance arise out of God’s ability to deliver his people. It is not vested in human kings. God is the one who saves and justifies. 2 Chronicles 32, 485

Hezekiah and Isaiah depend on the faithfulness of God. The verb “cried out” appears 4 times in Chronicles. In every case the people of God are distressed (1 Chr 5:20; 2 Chr 18:31; 20:9; 32:20). When his people cry out, God hears and delivers. 2 Chronicles 32.1-23, 490

Chapter 33 records the evil reigns of Manasseh and Amon. Manasseh causes Judah to sin like no king before him. He is the first king said to "lead astray" the nation. He introduces a wide array of idolatrous beliefs and practices into Jerusalem and even introduces a blasphemous carved image of YHWH. He is captured by the Assyrian king and exiled to Babylon. While in exile he cries out to God, humbles himself and repents and God restores him. When he returns he tries to remove the idolatry he brought in but it is too deeply entrenched with the people. Amon contrasts his father in that he refused to repent and seek God. He is assassinated as an example of what happens to those who refuse to seek God.

The story of Manasseh underscores the grace of God like no other text in Scripture. The evil perpetrated by God’s anointed leader is unimaginable. Its depth and extent rivals Ahaz. But, the grace of God abounds more than sin. “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Rom 5:20). When one seeks God, the grace of God knows no bounds. 2 Chronicles 33.1-20, 505

The Chronicler specifies the manner in which Amon followed his father. However, the Chronicler also specifies the manner in which he differed. Though Manasseh humbled himself, Amon did not. Therefore, he was punished. 2 Chronicles 33, 508

Chapters 34-35 record the reign of Josiah who is characterized as a good king who does not turn away from the ways of David. He becomes king at the age of 8, begins to seek the LORD at the age of 16 and by the age of 20 is beginning national reforms to remove idolatry from the nation. After 65 years of apostasy the temple is in disrepair and he begins a renovation project. In the midst of this a copy of Torah is found. Josiah responds with repentance and asks the prophetess Huldah to intercede. She gives the word of the LORD that the covenant curses are coming on Jerusalem but Josiah will go to his grave before this happens. Josiah responds with even wider reforms. As Josiah truly seeks God, God reveals Himself and His will to Josiah. Chapter 35 records Josiah's leading of the greatest Passover in the history of Israel. He doesn't end well though. Josiah attacks Egypt, against the will of God, and dies in battle much like Ahab did. Nevertheless, the chronicler evaluates him as a good Davidic king.

King and people stand under Scripture as it unveils God’s intent for his people. The reformation begins in Josiah’s seeking God but finds its communal dimension when Scripture is applied to the people. Inner personal piety is incomplete without communal renewal under the authority of Scripture. 2 Chronicles 34, 512

The central motif is the normative function of the Book of the Law in the religious reformation and the confirmation that book receives from Huldah the prophetess. Josiah seeks the Lord through Scripture and prophetess. Thus, Josiah submits to divine authority. The narrative, therefore, offers a model of submissive faith—the people of God hear the word of the Lord and obey. 2 Chronicles 34, 515

Our lives are scattered with acts of unfaithfulness. We are not perfect royal priests anymore than Josiah or David. But God is faithful and gracious as he looks in our hearts and judges us by our intent to seek him...God is gracious, even in an unfaithful act that leads to death...God judges the heart and life rather than one’s last act. 2 Chronicles 35, 528

The exile and end of the kingdom of Judah comes in chapter 36. 4 Kings rule, and all their reigns end in exile and death. Two kings rule for 3 months (Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin) and two rule for 11 years (Jehoiakim and Zedekiah). Jehoahaz is exiled to Egypt while Jehoiachin is taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Jehoiakim and Zedekiah are evil as Ahaz and Manasseh. God will delay exile no longer because, under Zedekiah, the entire nation rejects him and turns to idols. God turns Jerusalem over to Nebuchadnezzar and he totally destroys it. Jerusalem will be unoccupied for 70 years so that the land may enjoy its Sabbaths which were neglected throughout Israel's entire history. The book ends on a hopeful note with Cyrus' decree to invite the Jews to return, occupy the land and rebuild the Temple. Because of God's grace, there is always hope.

God seeks his people, but they reject him. He demonstrates his patience through messengers, but ultimately the king, leaders of the priests, and people forsake him. God, faithful to his relational principle (1 Chr 28:9; 2 Chr 15:2), forsakes those who forsake him. 2 Chronicles 36, 535

God enables his people to go up (עלה, ˓ālah). He is with them, and by his grace, they will go up. This is the last word in Chronicles. It describes the exodus of God’s people from Egypt into the land of promise...The final words of Chronicles, then, bespeak the restoration of God’s people. The people of God are invited to “go up” to worship—to return to Judah, rebuild the temple, and experience the gracious fellowship of God. 2 Chronicles, 539

Monday, August 28, 2017

Old Testament Readings 9-2015 to 8-2017

A couple days I posted an index of New Testament readings that I posted over the last couple years. Today I am posting the Old Testament Readings. In 2015-17 we read through the Old Testament in the Hebrew order accompanied by various commentaries while reading New Testament theologies and devotionals. Starting this September I will reverse this. On Monday, Wednesday, Friday I will be reading the NT accompanied by various commentaries and the Hebrew scritpures accomapnied by theoloogies and devotionals. I’ll be starting in the OT with The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible by Michael S. Heiser. As you can see below, I used The College Press NIV Commentary quite often. I found it to be a reasonable conservative evangelical commentary. There were a few other commentaries that I have been wanting to go through for some time and included them. I have given dates for the postings rather than all the links. My blog is organized by date so that should make them fairly easy to find. Enjoy!

  1. Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, This commentary challenged me to a deeper faith and more radical allegiance to God and His promises. Brueggemann's approach in this commentary is homiletical; he is concerned with how to preach and teach the text. September 8-October 6 2015
  2. Exodus, Philip Graham Ryken and R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory, Ryken devotes about 200 pages of his commentary to Exodus 19-20. October 16-November 17 2015
  3. Allen P. Ross, Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus, I love Allen Ross’ commentaries. Creation and Blessing (Genesis) is still one of my favorites. If you ever decide to preach or teach through Leviticus you need this one. November 21-December 16 2015
  4. Iain M. Duguid and R. Kent Hughes, Numbers: God’s Presence in the Wilderness, January 2-23 2016
  5. Jeffrey H. Tigay, Deuteronomy, The JPS Torah Commentary, The JPS Commentary set is a Jewish commentary that provides traditional rabbinic and halakhic, along with critical, commentary. January 28-February 15, 2016
  6. Mark Ziese, Joshua, The College Press NIV Commentary, I thought this was one of the better commentaries in the series. February 26 and March 5 2016, Ruth: May 12, 2017
  7. Rob Fleenor, Judges, The College Press NIV Commentary, This was my favorite commentary in this series. Judges: March 19 and 26 2016
  8. James E. Smith, 1 and 2 Samuel, The College Press NIV Commentary, April 2-May 10 2016
  9. Jesse C. Long, 1 & 2 Kings, College Press NIV Commentary, May 22-July 13, 2016
  10. Terry R. Briley, Isaiah, The College Press NIV Commentary, August 6-September 6 2016
  11. Leslie C. Allen, Jeremiah: A Commentary, The Old Testament Library, This commentary does a good job of focusing on the forms Jeremiah uses to convey his message, and connects each passage with its Old and New Testament contexts. September 9-October 18 2016
  12. Brandon Fredenburg, Ezekiel The College Press NIV Commentary, October 22-November 19 2016
  13. Harold Shank, Minor Prophets vol. 1, The College Press NIV Commentary, Hosea through Jonah, November 25-December 14 2016
  14. Clay Ham and Mark Hahlen, Minor Prophets, The College Press NIV Commentary, Nahum through Malachi, January 8-25 2017
  15. S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn, Psalms 1, The College Press NIV Commentary, Psalms 1-89, January 30-March 13 2017
  16. S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn, Psalms 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, March 22-April 12 2017
  17. August H. Konkel and Tremper Longman III, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 6: Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs, The authors’ main thesis is that Ecclesiastes, along with Job, provides an alternative view to Proverbs. Wisdom does not always bring success. It has limitations. Something more is needed to give ultimate meaning to life. Job: April 18-April 30 2017, Song of Songs May 19, 2017, Ecclesiastes May 23, 2017
  18. Dave Bland, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Song of Songs, The College Press NIV Commentary, The commentary emphasizes that Proverbs is probably the only book of the Bible that can be read “verse-by-verse,” but even here the sayings are organized and grouped so that context is still important. Proverbs: May 4-May 10 2017.
  19. Timothy M. Willis, Jeremiah/Lamentations, College Press NIV Commentary, Lamentations May 28, 2017
  20. Mark Mangano, Esther & Daniel, The College Press NIV Commentary, Esther June 2, 2017, June 8-18 2017
  21. Keith N. Schoville, Ezra-Nehemiah, The College Press NIV Commentary, Ezra June 23, 2017, Nehemiah: July 5, 2017 
  22. John Mark Hicks, 1 & 2 Chronicles, The College Press NIV Commentary, July 14-August 30 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

New Testament Readings 9-2015 to 8-2017

As we approach August 31, we come to the end of the cycle of New Testament devotionals. Over the last few years I have been organizing my devotional reading on a September 1 to August 31 basis. This last cycle has been a two-year cycle which went from September 1, 2015 to August 31, 2017. What we read during that cycle were several New Testament theologies, devotionals, and other New Testament oriented books. I thought it would be a good idea to look over where we've been and provide links back to those blog posts. My goal is to encourage people to read through these good books and stretch their minds a little bit. I don't always agree 100% with every thing every book said, but I'm a big believer that we shouldn't read only books that we agree with completely. However all these books are edifying and will grow you in your relationship with Jesus Christ. So here is where I've gone with New Testament devotionals over the last 2 years listed out below.

  1. N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, vol. 4, Christian Origins and the Question of God, I spent an entire year on this incredible book on the theology of Paul. I find the need to read Tom Wright several times to really understand what he is saying. He provides a helpful fresh perspective on Paul which is new, but I feel, is not as different as the NPP people and OPP people are making it. The first post is here. I resume the posts here, here, there are 4 posts in March 2016, 3 in April, one here, 4 in June, 4 in July, 6 in August, and the last post in the series is here.
  2. Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. I really enjoyed this book and found it very helpful for gaining cultural background for the stories and speeches in the Gospels. I thought Bailey provided some amazing insights into the parables of Jesus. You can the posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
  3. N. T. Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship. This book is a devotional about discipleship and what it means to follow the real Jesus of scripture. It is a devotional designed to help you think and pray through what it means to “follow Jesus” and encourage us to really do it. The first post is here, followed by here, here, and here. The final post in this series mentions my diagnosis of a “serious blood disease,” and so everything from here on is being posted from my cancer recovery.
  4. A. W. Tozer, And He Dwelt among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John. This devotional book is a meditation on the incarnation, the great truth and mystery that God became a human being, focused on in the Gospel of John. The first post is here, followed by posts here, here, and concludes here,
  5. Thomas F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons. This book is a very insightful and almost devotional, theology. It is a meditation on the great truth and mystery that God is a Trinity. It will certainly stretch your brain and your heart. The first post is here, followed by posts here, here, here and here
  6. J. I. Packer, Affirming the Apostle's Creed. In this book Packer discusses and explains each assertion of the creed. This book was a this will help to get back in touch with the rich heritage the work of the Spirit has left for us in the last 2000 years. The first post is here, followed by posts here, here, here, here, and concludes here.
  7. J. I. Packer, Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know. In this book Packer discusses aspects of basic doctrine and why we need to re-commit as a church to the historic teaching and preaching of these doctrines. The first post is here, followed by posts here, and here.
  8. Ben Witherington III, Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom. In this book Witherington looks at the influence of Jewish wisdom on the teachings of Jesus and how He develops and expands the wisdom tradition. The beginning post is here, followed by posts here, here, and finally here.
  9. Wright, N. T.. The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion. I think this is a very important book which brings the discussion of the meaning of the atonement into the 21st century with a solid biblical basis. The first post is here, followed by posts here, here, here, here, here, and ending here.
  10. Jersak, Bradley. A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel. The 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. God doesn’t turn away from sin or sinners; he seeks out sinners and overcomes sin in His person we might become the image of God restored. The first post for this book is here, followed by posts here, here, here, here, here and finally here.

Reading A More Christlike God, by Bradley Jersak #7

JersakThis post concludes the third and final part of A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak. In this section, Jersak explains how he presents the Gospel from this perspective. 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 Kindle version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In Chapter 14, A More Christlike Message The Beautiful Gospel, Jersak explains how a more cruciform perspective changes his presentation of the gospel. He calls his presentation a "restorative gospel." You can see an example of this presentation, done by Brian Zahnd (who wrote the forward to this book) here: A judicial explanation of the gospel has biblical elements but has some problems when taken too far. The biggest problem is that it splits the Trinity apart at the crucifixion. A divided Trinity is heresy. It also tends to present God as an angry, vindictive Deity. I have spent most of my ministry trying to convince people that God is not mad at them, but actually, really loves and seeks them to save them.. So I appreciated this presentation.

We must affirm both truths: that Christ entered an authentic experience of our sense of abandonment and that he never ceased to be God, nor did the Trinity ever cease to be one. I’ll leave the reader to ponder this mystery. 279

This drama is repeated again and again throughout the Old Testament. God makes a promise, someone turns from him, they experience the tragic results, but God comes to find them.  286

Christ did not come to change the Father, or to appease the wrath of an angry judge, but to reveal the Father...Paul said God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. It’s not the Father that needed to be reconciled to the world. It’s the world that needed to be reconciled to the Father. 294

The final chapter of the book contains a few applicational and reflective questions. How does the fact that God is exactly like Jesus impact the way we look at what it means to become the image of God, or the way we read and interpret scripture? How do we need to read the conquest texts, the God bringing disaster texts, and the imagery of Revelation? I have wrestled with these issues in the past and this book has brought some answers and more questions into my mind. But these are good things to wrestle with and I would highly recommend the book. Jersak closes out the book with quotes from across Christian history on the meaning of Jesus' self-emptying (Philippians 2.4-11)

But in the form of a slave, He bows down to the level of His fellow slaves — or rather, He bows down to His slaves — and takes upon Him a form not His own, bearing in Himself all that I am and all that is mine in order that He might consume in Himself whatever is bad as fire consumes wax or as the sun disperses the mists of earth, and in order that I may partake of His nature by the blending. Gregory of Nazianzus, 305

Therefore, the most we can ascribe to kenosis is a voluntary, self-limitation. For example, he accepts human limitations such as weariness and pain, even ignorance...Perhaps rather than ‘emptied himself,’ it would be better to say that he poured out himself in love, and that love is his nature. Kallistos Ware, 307

What is important to note is that the Cross is not a response to human evil. Rather, the Cross is the means by which God’s eternal love keeps flowing into creation despite human sin. Simon Oliver, 310

Friday, August 25, 2017

Reading A More Christlike God, by Bradley Jersak #6

JersakThis post continues looking at the third and final part of A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak. In this section, Jersak discusses the New Testament metaphors for what the death of Christ accomplished and how it was applied to humanity. 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 Kindle version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In Chapter 12, Unwrathing the Cross part I The Gospel Metaphors, looks at 7 different metaphors that are used by the 4 Gospel writers to describe the "how" of the application of salvation to us. He cautions us that there is a great element of mystery in this and we do not know exactly how God did it. Thus, the different atonement theories derived from these metaphors should be "held lightly" and one should not be considered superior to the others. All the biblical metaphors must be considered in a full biblical view. In these metaphors the problem, sin and death, is seen as being lost, sickness, snake venom, alienation from covenant, the enslaving destroyer, debt, and bondage to death. Jesus/God is seen as the seeker and finder, the Great Physician, the "lifted up" antidote, the sacrificial goat and scapegoat, the Passover lamb, the kinsman-redeemer and ransom payer. All of these should make us thankful and full of praise for what Jesus has done for us. 

God’s saving work through Jesus is so multi-faceted that Christ and the apostles found it necessary and helpful to use a constellation of metaphors to describe its benefits. Each metaphor serves to clarify, but can also obscure. Every metaphor can extend our understanding, but can also be over-extended such that we corner ourselves into error. So our theories about the metaphors need to be held very lightly— no theory holds a monopoly on the gospel, nor should it lay claim to actually being the gospel. 229

Christ is the sacrificial gift of grace for all. All who receive him by faith (including those sinners and enemies whose judgment God had forestalled) are forgiven and reconciled to God. God did not need to be reconciled to us—he was never our enemy. It is we who had fled and were lost, we who were hostile and rebellious, we who needed reconciliation and atonement. God did not need a sacrificial Lamb, we did. And so God sent his Son for us so that, like the scapegoat, he could carry away our sin, guilt and punishment forever. 238

When Jesus gave his life for ours, to whom did he give it? The life of Christ was given over to death itself. But, as in the case of Satan, Christ did not ‘owe’ death anything. He did not ‘owe’ Hades (the Greek god of death) a life. Instead, death is the gate by which Jesus entered hades (death) and plundered its captives.  247  

In Chapter 13, Unwrathing the Cross part II The Pauline Metaphors, Jersak unpacks Paul's two favorite metaphors to interpret the cross: victory and justification. The victory of the cross over sin, death, and the evil supernatural powers was the most popular way to describe the atonement for the first 1000+ years of church history. At the cross Christ provides forgiveness and his resurrection overcomes the forces of evil for all of us. Justification can refer to "moral purity" or "legal innocence." Jesus sacrifices himself to rescue us from sin and death, absorbs them into Himself and then overcomes them. Christ identifies himself with us in all of our sinful mess and offers Himself as substitute. Thus, he can offer His Divine nature for our human nature which was always the Father's loving plan.

The Cross, especially as it symbolizes forgiveness, is what defeats the enemy, because without those charges, those laws and those debts, the accuser’s got nothing on us. When on the Cross, Jesus Christ asks the Father to forgive us, for complete pardon, and he does! And the enemy’s armaments and arguments dissolve in his hands. 251

The meaning Christ attributes to sacrifice is simply this: laying one’s life down for someone else (1 John 3:16). Anyone who gives their life to rescue another—whether it’s a fireman dying while pulling someone from a flaming building; a policeman who’s fatally wounded while rescuing a hostage; or a martyr stoned to death for preaching the good news—is ‘paying the ultimate price.’ Here, the metaphors are off the table. Here, sacrifice (laying down your life) is raw actuality—the events as they really happened. 256

In the one person of Jesus Christ, God identifies with a man and a man identifies with God. Fully God and fully man, in Christ, humanity and divinity come together to restore humanity. 259

Round 2 Medical Update

20170824_184853 (960x1280)First off, Joyce is back to her old self again. It appears that the fainting spell was due to nothing other than low blood pressure. Joyce thinks it was due to dehydration from having an allergic reaction that day. After they gave her fluids she seemed to have no further problems. So she's back to her usual agenda, taking care of the people around her, working in the garden, and just enjoying life.

For me things are a little bit more complicated. I'm in a lot less pain and nausea. That's a very good thing. The immunotherapy seems to be working very well. The doctors expected the pain and nausea to go down even during the first week after chemo and it is. I'm still struggling a little bit with digestive issues, but these are getting much better. I'm hoping in the next two weeks that the pain and nausea will completely disappear. I am struggling with some back stiffness and soreness issues. I was wondering when this was going to happen since I've spent almost 9 months flat on my back. I'm still trying to figure out ways to work through this. The edema also seems to be improving slightly. For the first time since I was diagnosed, I've been able to sleep some on my side, which provides some relief to my back. So these are all good things and show improvement. I can tell people are praying for me and I appreciate it.

Plans are moving forward for the stem cell transplant. We've made our arrangements with Stanford for our consultation with the doctors and social worker. We will be down there on September 6th all afternoon. My second round of chemo will be September 8th. I know I'm not sure what will happen after that but I know there will be some kind of assessment and then we will hopefully go right into the transplant process. That means they will have to harvest the stem cells ASAP and store them for later transplant. After that I'm not sure how the schedule goes. Joyce and I appreciate your prayers. We are very encouraged to have such a large and worldwide prayer team behind us.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Chronicles #6 (2 Chron. 17-26)

ChroniclesToday we continue in the story of the Divided Kingdom in the second book of Chronicles accompanied by, 1 & 2 Chronicles, The College Press NIV Commentary, Old Testament Series, by John Mark Hicks. This section evaluates the reigns of several kings who had compromised reigns. When they followed God they received great blessing, but when they were unfaithful He let them experience the consequences of the loss of His protection. 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…

Chapters 17-20 record the reign of Jehoshaphat. Like Asa, Jehoshaphat was a good king who received great blessing from God, but whose bad decisions had a terrible effect on his legacy and his nation. 17 portrays Jehoshaphat as another king with the blessings of David and Solomon. However, he compromises all of this through his alliance with evil Ahab. Chapter 18 pictures God's heavenly court at war with Ahab to bring about his demise. Despite all his precautions, God brings the judgment of death on Ahab. Sadly, Jehoshaphat got himself caught up in this, placed himself in danger and received rebuke from the prophet. Jehoshaphat repents (in  contrast to Asa) and brings reform and justice to Judah. When God tests him through an overwhelming invasion (20) Jehoshaphat passes the test with a faithful and worshipful response and God removes the invader, without the army doing anything, just as He did with the Egyptians at the Red Sea. Jehoshaphat is a good example of how God rewards a faithful heart but, sadly, also epitomizes the devastating results of compromise with evil people.

Jehoshaphat’s heart was lifted up to the Lord. While wealth, honor, and power turned to pride in Uzziah and Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat’s heart remained devoted. 2 Chronicles 17, 363

Jehoshaphat is rebuked but restored. This models postexilic Judah’s own rebuke and restoration. Moreover, God examines the heart rather than the technicalities of a person’s life. God looks at the heart’s direction rather than perfection. 2 Chronicles 18, 374

Judicial authority in Israel was not the prerogative of autonomous power; rather it depended upon and expressed the rule of Yahweh and was to reflect his own attributes of righteousness, justice, and fairness. 2 Chronicles 19, 377

The prophet announces that God will deliver his people, just as he did in the Exodus. The God of the Exodus still reigns over the earth. The God of the Exodus is the God of the Restoration as well. Just as God delivered his people from Egypt and from this invading army, so God delivered his people from Babylon and can yet deliver his people from Persia. The hope of Judah is Yahweh. 2 Chronicles 20, 385–386

After Jehoshaphat's death, the consequences of his foolish alliance with Ahab come horribly to fruition. His son, Jehoram murders his brothers in order to secure his throne. The wealth, power and influence gained in 66 years of godly rule in Judah quickly dissipate. Jehoram is punished with an intestinal illness and dies after only an 8 year reign. His son Ahaziah rules only a year and is killed by Jehu in the purge of Ahab's family. Jehoram's wife, the granddaughter of Ahab, then murders the next generation of the Judah royal family to take over the kingdom for herself. Only Joash is spared. Compromise and unfaithfulness has come very close to destroying the nation and covenant.

Jehoram lost everything his father left him...The price of his sin is the near extinction of the house of David. Yet, God preserves a remnant—one son of Jehoram to whom God will show his faithfulness. Even in the midst of punishment, God remembers his promises. 2 Chronicles 21, 398

Judah, in the space of nine years, went from the wealth, territorial integrity, and peace of Jehoshaphat’s reign to the near annihilation of the Davidic line. While spiritual renewal is a long process of faith formation, degeneration can happen swiftly. 2 Chronicles 22, 402

The postexilic community hopes in God’s ability to preserve his people. They know he can raise up a nation from an infant. The postexilic community lives in the day of “small things” (Zech 4:10), but God uses “small things” to deliver his people. The preservation of Moses was a small thing, and so was the birth of Mary’s son in Bethlehem. Both, however, became deliverers, and the kingdom of God now fills the whole earth. 2 Chronicles 22, 404

When Joash turns 7 years old Jehoiada begins the coup which will crown Joash as the king and remove Athaliah from the throne.  Joash turns out to be another king that starts well but ends very badly.  When Jehoiada was alive, Joash did well. But after the death of Jehoiada, Joash listened to the advice of his flattering friends and reinstated Baal worship in Judah. When Jehoiada was alive the Covenant was renewed, the temple was restored and the people were blessed with the Davidic blessing.  After Jehoiada dies, the Arameans invade Judah and defeat a large Judean army with a small army, and carry off all the temple treasures back to Damascus. Joash is wounded in battle and killed in a conspiracy as punishment for his murder of Jehoiada's son. This section shows very graphically how, when we are unfaithful, God may remove his hand of protection from us and we become subject to all kinds of dangers and temptations. 

The joy of the people was a cultic celebration. The quietness of the city is God’s blessing. The term “quiet” is part of the Davidic promise (1 Chr 22:9; 2 Chr 20:30). Israel rejoices in their worship, and God blesses his people with peace. 2 Chronicles 23, 408

The reign of Joash underscores the value of spiritual mentors. But mentoring only lasts so long. At some point, Joash must adopt his own faith. Instead of following his godly mentor, he listened to others. This epitomizes the fallen heart. While Joash did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh, he only did so under the tutelage of Jehoiada. Ultimately Joash did not have a heart for God. When unrestrained, that heart killed God’s prophet. 2 Chronicles 24, 417

Chapters 25-26 describe two more kings, Amaziah and Uzziah, that start their reigns well with God's blessing, but their pride causes them to rebel against God. God gives Amaziah victory over Edom and then he adopts the Edomite gods into his own pantheon. When confronted by God's prophet he responds with insolence. This is followed by a series of bad decisions which leave Jerusalem's wall broken, Amaziah taken as a hostage and, eventually assassinated. Uzziah started even better and God blessed him with expanded territory, powerful army and wealth. However, Uzziah is not satisfied with being  just king and tries to usurp the priestly role by burning incense in the Holy Place. God punished him with leprosy. The irony is that Uzziah's grasping for power ended up restricting him from the power he already had as king.

Amaziah is the second of three kings (Jehoash and Uzziah) who started out good, but ended up bad. The theological point is perseverance and consistency...the stories remind us that God is patient. They warn us about our own temptations. No one “is immune from pride and complacency,” and perseverance is a necessary virtue. 2 Chronicles 25, 419

The irony is that the very gods that Amaziah brought into Jerusalem to worship are the reason Jerusalem is plundered. The gods of Edom could not protect Edom, and they could not protect Jerusalem. Yahweh alone reigns. 2 Chronicles 25, 425

Prosperity was the occasion of Uzziah’s fall. Faithfulness in the midst of prosperity demands integrity. Uzziah failed the test of prosperity. 2 Chronicles 26, 430

Monday, August 21, 2017

“How ya doin’”

WIN_20170821_11_11_35_ProI get asked a version of this question quite often, especially on Facebook. It's hard to answer because it does kind of change every day. I am in the third day after chemo. According to what the doctors tell me I should be feeling a lot better from here on out until the next chemo. I have to say this was a very tough weekend. I experienced some dizziness, even took a couple tumbles. However no damage done. Some of the issues are happening because of the way the cancer is manifesting itself now. These would mainly be pain in the back and the nausea that the pain is causing.My other issue is eating. Right now there is no food that sounds good to me. God has intervened in my digestive tract issues and I'm hoping that will change soon. I've been eating a little better the last 2 days. Thank God for frozen yogurt.Overall, again, the chemo has not been as painful as the cancer. That has been a blessing. So the answer to “how you doing” is “pretty terrible right now,” but things are improving and I should be getting better each day. We appreciate your prayers. I’d just ask that you would pray through this entire process. It looks like it's going to take us into October. And look at all that hair on my head and chin!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Reading A More Christlike God, by Bradley Jersak #5

JersakThis post begins the third and final part of A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak. In this section Jersak is “Unwrathing God.” That is we need to read the descriptions of the very active wrath of God as a metaphor for what Paul calls “a giving over” of sinners to the natural consequences of their idolatry. 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 Kindle version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 10, Love and Wrath as Consent, begin Part III of the book, 'Unwrathing' God. In this section Jersak is trying to correct what he sees as misunderstandings of the wrath of God that move our view of God away from the way Christ reveals Him. He defines biblical wrath as "a metaphor for the intrinsic consequences of our refusal to live in the mercies of God." (199) I do agree that any time God is portrayed with human emotion there must be metaphor in play, because God's "emotions" would be far above humans', especially fallen humans. Jersak will defend this definition in the next 5 chapters of the book so I will deal more with it in the commentary there. I agree with his point that God's wrath is not an angry flare-up, but is built into the fabric and order of the universe. Natural consequences eventually will bring justice and wrath. I am still not fully convinced that there are not some situations in which God might directly intervene, like protecting His plan or people.

The Bible itself takes us on a progressive, cruciform pilgrimage from primitive literal understandings of wrath, where God appears to burn with anger and react violently, to a metaphorical reading of wrath, in which God consents— gives us over—to the self-destructive consequences of our own willful defiance. 185

Scripture describes mercy as an everlasting, unfailing attribute of God...It strikes me, then, that our experience of divine mercy must therefore also somehow be intrinsic—contingent on our willingness to receive it …or rebuff it. But from God’s side, his mercy is not given at times and revoked at others; it is always available. 196

(Jesus) has not always prevented my willful disasters, but he has repeatedly welcomed me into the Father’s banquet of redemption and mercy. 199

In chapter 11, Divine Wrath as Giving Over, Jersak sees God's "active wrath," as portrayed in many biblical passages, as metaphorical for a wrath that is indirect and "gives over" the sinner to the consequences of their actions. When later scriptures explain earlier ones, they often explain actions which were attributed directly to God as being caused secondarily. The classic example is the book of Kings saying God incited David's census while Chronicles attributes this to Satan. Paul often does this with no OT validation. Of course, the key passage on this issue is Romans 1, in which Paul defines God's wrath as the giving over of idolaters to the results of their own sin. God is ultimately responsible for the way the world is, but his consent to our freedom provides the entry of love in Jesus Christ into creation and He has overcome the evil and suffering and will bring about His good purpose for it.

Paul is careful here (1 Cor. 10:9-11) to distinguish: yes, the people tested God, but what actually killed them? First of all, sin. And ‘the serpents.’ And ‘the destroyer.’ Paul’s warning is not, “God will get you,” but that the intrinsic consequences of sin opens the door for ‘serpents’ or ‘the destroyer’ to lay waste to our lives. 204

What Paul actually says (in Romans 5.9, the phrase "of God" is added by most English translations, is that God through Christ was saving us from the wrath. Period. We are not to believe that Jesus is saving us from God the Father, but from the consequences intrinsic to sin itself, namely death. 209 

Thanks be to God, at the pinnacle of humanity stands Jesus Christ. His nonviolent consent to the Cross—the intersection of humanity’s affliction (our freedom-to-violence) and God’s radical forgiveness—becomes the occasion whereby supernatural love flows through God’s own wounds into the world. God’s love, far from being weak or impotent, will eclipse violence, might and force as the relentless catalyst for the renewal of the world. 212

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Unusual Day at the Cancer Center

20170818_113753 (960x1280)Yesterday was definitely a very unique experience at the infusion center. We had been concerned about the things that normally concern people that are getting a new round of chemo with drugs they're not familiar with. How's my body going to handle the chemo?  Will this round of chemo work better than the last one? Will it hurt? We were very familiar with the the old routine and this would be a very different routine this time. Well, even if we were at are worrying best we couldn't have come up with yesterday’s scenario. We got into the infusion center at about 10:40. I like that place because it's quiet and very relaxing. The nurse gave us a very detailed explanation of what we should expect and what we should expect in the aftermath of the chemotherapy. She explained to us that this was not strictly chemotherapy but this was immunotherapy which is a much more targeted treatment. She thought that one of the things that we might experience in the first couple days is nausea and so I have lots of nausea pills. She told me “don't wait till you throw up! Take the pills whenever you feel funny.” The first round of chemo took about two to three hours each time we were there. This one will take about an hour to an hour and a half since there's only one chemical going in me. Most of that time is spent on loading the prep stuff into me. 

So most of the things we were concerned about didn't happen. My body seem to handle the chemo going in very well and it didn't hurt at all. In fact it was a very uneventful infusion. As they were disconnecting me from the iV’s Joyce went to get herself some tea and came back to her chair.  Next thing I knew she was sliding down in her chair and 5 nurses were instantly in action trying to catch her before she hit her head on the floor. They did a good job of letting her down very slowly but she did take a bit of a bump on the back of the head on the wheel of the IV cart. So instead of going home we got to ride in the ambulance to the emergency room at Marshall Hospital. They wanted to observe Joyce and make sure that there wasn't something else that was causing this. Fainting is something she had not done in a long time. So the end of all this was that she came home about 5 in the evening and she seems to be no worse for wear, although her blood pressure at one point got down into the forties. I'm pretty sure that's not good. Thank you for your prayers. You didn't really know what you were praying for but God did. Also a big thank you to the nurses and paramedics who did a great job handling the situation. Once we got to the hospital Missy took me back to my parents house and she stayed with Joyce for a while. Hopefully the next infusion will be a little less eventful.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Round 2 Begins

OK I wrote this yesterday but then fell asleep and forgot to post. I thought I’d post  it anyway since it reflects a lot of what we were thinking about as we began this new phase. I just got back from the latest session and I will make a report on that soon.. I am feeling ok now.

Round two of our battle with T-cell lymphoma officially begins tomorrow at 10:40 AM.. My first chemotherapy session will begin then. This will be a very different type of chemotherapy then what I did before. Last time we infused the CHOP combination. This time the drug is Brentuximab Vedotin, also known as adcetris. Side effects are supposed to be much less. The chemical is delivered by antibodies directly to the lymphoma so hopefully it will work faster and I will retain my hair and the other things I lost at the last one. Even though the cancer is the same it feels quite different. This time it is pushing on organs and nerves which causes a lot of pain. In the first chemotherapy group I rarely needed to use pain pills or nausea pills. I haven't even gotten to the chemo yet and I've been regularly using the pain pills. The good news is the doctors expect the lymph nodes to shrink and the pain to dissipate very very quickly over the next week or so. Of course, anytime you're using a new chemical you really have no certainty when and exactly how it's going to affect your body. That's a little scary. I am hoping and praying that my body handles this just as well as it handled the first round.

Joyce and I were talking in the car today and discussing how we are feeling about this.  To me the scary part is the harvesting of stem cells and then transplanting them back into my body at a later time. Anytime the word transplant is used that seems pretty serious. I know that we will have to be at Stanford hospital for that and I don't know how long we will be staying there. At least with the first round of chemo we got used to what was going on. I am feeling this will be a whole new experience. Things got a little more serious. Nevertheless God is not overwhelmed buy a more serious cancer situation, nor does it matter whether by a little or by a lot he overcomes. That's what we're praying for and that's what we're asking you to pray for.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Chronicles #5 (2 Chron. 10-16)

ChroniclesToday we move into the story of the Divided Kingdom in the second book of Chronicles accompanied by, 1 & 2 Chronicles, The College Press NIV Commentary, Old Testament Series, by John Mark Hicks. This section sees the division  of the kingdom as judgment on Rehoboam and Jereboam for their unfaithfulness to covenant and its continued effect into the reigns of Abijah and Asa. 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…

Chapter 10 begins the story of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah which will lead up to the exile. Chapters 10 to 12 discuss the origins of the division under King Rehoboam. Rehoboam has the opportunity to keep the kingdoms united, but ineptly and self-servingly fails to be a servant leader to the people. Jeroboam takes advantage of this and leads a rebellion which establishes the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam then leads the northern kingdom into apostasy against YHWH with calf and goat idols. Rehoboam attempts to strengthen the southern Kingdom of Judah but fails to maintain faithfulness to the Covenant. Thus YHWH strips both kingdoms of their wealth by allowing the Egyptian king Shishak to devastate the land. Rehoboam repents and God allows the southern Kingdom to continue. Overall, the chronicler evaluates Rehoboam's rule as evil. Sadly, neither Jeroboam nor Rehoboam understood that it is fidelity to the covenant that will make the nation strong and they failed as leaders.

Contemporary theology must never forsake the central importance of divine covenant and presence as Jeroboam did. At the same time, partakers of the covenant must not abuse their privilege as Rehoboam did. The schism might have been avoided if Rehoboam’s inexperience and self-righteousness did not abuse his northern brothers and if Jeroboam had remained committed to the Davidic covenant. Despite Rehoboam’s faults, he is the bearer of the covenant and God’s representative. Faithlessness, however, reverses Rehoboam’s fortunes. 2 Chronicles 10, 315

God receives those who seek him, and if Israel will seek God through the Jerusalem temple, God will hear and forgive just as God has received Judah back from the Babylonian exile. God is gracious to those who seek him. Even in the midst of rebellion (or a dead church; Rev 3:4), God will be found by those who seek him (2 Chr 7:14).  2 Chronicles 11, 324

Worship renewal, seeking God, and humbling ourselves before him are expressions of our continued yearning to know God. Despite failures and sins, God is gracious toward those who seek him. The critical point is whether the heart is dedicated to seek him, because God already seeks us. 2 Chronicles 12, 329

Chapters 13-16 record the reigns of Abijah and Asa, with the greatest emphasis on Asa. Abijah was evaluated as an evil king in Kings but the chronicler chooses to record a positive action of Abijah's reign. As he goes to battle against the  Northern Kingdom he offers peaceful reconciliation first. Even though Jereboam refuses the offer and uses it as an opportunity to ambush Abijah's army, God rewards him by giving him a decisive victory against overwhelming odds. God still wanted repentance and reconciliation with the rebellious north. Asa started well and ended badly. He was faithful to God and God gave him a great victory against an overwhelming enemy. Asa responded with a covenant renewal ceremony and removed idols from the land.  He even removed his own mother from the court because of her idolatry. However, he failed to trust God when Baasha attacked him by bribing Ben-Hadad of Aram to turn against Baasha. This gave Asa the victory, but the prophet told Asa God was displeased and he would no longer have peace. Asa rejected God's discipline, oppressed the people and failed to experience God's full blessing. He forgot that God is looking for people who will trust Him so he bless them.

The southern kingdom, as the Davidic kingdom, is true Israel. Nevertheless, the Davidic kingdom stands ready to reconcile with the north if they will acknowledge the Davidic king and the city where God has placed his Name...The theme is the hope of reconciliation and the necessity of faithful obedience to Yahweh. As long as the northern kingdom exists, Judah does not give up that hope. 2 Chronicles 13, 330–331

The blessing of peace is threatened by an invasion from the south. Asa defends this peace by relying on God rather than depending on a foreign alliance (cf. 2 Chr 16:1–10). Peace is given by God, and it is defended by trusting the giver. 2 Chronicles 14, 344

Judah dedicated its whole heart to God through swearing a covenantal oath to him, and God blessed Judah with rest. God is faithful; he is with those who are with him. Worship arises out of covenantal relationship and the joy of communion. Worship is our response to the experience of God’s gracious faithfulness. 2 Chronicles 15, 350

Asa limited his vision. If he had sought the Lord, God would have given him the whole land of Israel, including the regions of Syria. Instead of faith in Yahweh, he believed in Ben-Hadad. So, instead of ruling over the whole of the land, Asa only maintains his small kingdom in Judah. The postexilic community should learn that God can restore the kingdom in response to a people who seek him. 2 Chronicles 16, 356

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Adventures With Doctors and Hospitals

20170807_143239 (960x1280)If you have been following my blog or Facebook you know that we had a bit of a setback in our fight against T-Cell lymphoma last week We headed down to Stanford for what I hoped would be a “clear confirmation.” It turned out the other way as the PET scan showed the lymphoma lesions were back in my pelvic area. I had suspected something was up before the scan because I’d had a lot of pain in my lower left back area. I thought it might be my kidneys, but yesterday’s ultrasound (right) confirmed that my kidneys are OK. Today I will go see the oncologist to talk about our plan for the next round of chemo. I know the Stanford doctors would like me to begin ASAP. 20170815_110619 (960x1280)I agree because I’d like to see the swollen lymph nodes shrink and stop pushing on organs and causing pain. I have been taking pain pills for almost a week now, which I hate to do, and am hoping I can get off them soon. Some of the symptoms are very similar to what I had before (constipation yuk) but others have made this a new experience. So I am looking forward to getting treatments started again. This round of chemo is supposed to have less side effects, but it acts differently on everyone. As always, prayers for Joyce and I, and for doctors and medical staff are much appreciated. I included the picture on the right, not to show off my bare midriff, but to show how much the edema has come back there in the last week. The weird thing is that the edema has moved. We will see how that goes.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Reading “A More Christlike God, by Bradley Jersak #4

JersakThis post completes our look at Part 2 of A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak. Part 2 of the book describes The Cruciform God. Jersak’s point again is that God does not run the world through coercion, but through consent and participation. God wants real relationship with His creation. 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 Kindle version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In Chapter 8, The Cross as Divine Participation, Jersak shows how Jesus' consent leads to God's participation in the world. God does not overcome the "necessities" of the world He created by negating them, but by participating in them with us and overcoming them. He then invites us, all by grace, to participate with him in doing this. He not only provides the power for us to do this through His self-revealing love, but even gives us the ability to consent. God actively participates in this creation through his upholding and sustaining of it, through his willing human partners, the incarnation of Jesus (the ultimate participation), through the church, His "kingdom priests," and through humble, self-emptying prayer.

By grace God assumes, undergoes and overcomes necessity. He partners with us in and through Jesus, so that he can also save and heal us through Jesus. Christ takes all the afflictions of necessity on and up onto the Cross and, by grafting himself to us, exchanges our curse for his blessing, our death for his life. 142

The love of God and world of humanity meet and unite in the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth. Again, our participation is mutual but not equal. He is the Gift-giver and we are the recipients. He is the Savior and we are the saved. He is the Lover—we, the beloved. 154 

Just as Christ unites (participates) with both God and humanity in order to be a living bridge for the love of God, so his kingdom of priests unite with Jesus (by faith) and with those in need (by compassion) to become channels of the gospel of grace. This ministry of mediation is entirely kenotic and cruciform in that it involves emptying ourselves of ego and willfulness, consenting to be filled with Christ’s own love. And then we emulate the cruciform God by pouring out that divine love into the world for the sake of others. 156

Chapter 9 is entitled God is Good & Sh** Happens An Anti-Theodicy of the Cross. Jersak calls this chapter an anti-theodicy (basically a theodicy explains how an all powerful and loving God allows suffering and calamity in the world) because he believes that all theodicies are overly rationalistic and end up reducing the God of the Bible to less than He is. We end up like Job's friends reasoning about what we do not understand. The biblical answer to this issue is the cross. God approaches this world in a cruciform way. He has voluntarily given up coercion and, in a fully relational way, participates with us as Creator in the "necessities" (disasters) of a world in which He can be fully relational and, in the crucifixion, receives all the evil and its effects that the sinful world can heap upon Him. This kind of "powerlessness" is really all-powerful because it takes evil, redeems it and makes it accomplish His purpose of producing image-bearers.  

On the Cross, we see that God is neither the triumphant intervener nor the passive non-mover. He has always suffered the sowing and reaping of our sin and violence, but nowhere more so than on the Cross...only a cruciform God can account for the human predicament and only he can resolve it. 165

Jesus is here with you now. He co-suffers with you here, even in your experience of his absence! His co-suffering love does not mean he’s in the same helpless state of suffering or despair that you are in. Co-suffering means he wants to graft your pain to the resources of his divine love. We can welcome his self-giving love to transform your pain and bring redemption, even in the dark night of absence and affliction. Let’s meet him at the Cross. 174-175

God neither controls the situation nor is he found sulking in the corner, passive and idle. Behold: he’s there on the Cross. And he takes up all the evil and suffering and sin and sorrow into himself. All the despair and selfishness that leads to suicide; all of the perversion and obsession that leads to sexual assault; all of the powerless and desperation that leads to terrorism; all the pride and power that leads to domination and slavery. Christ takes it all up into himself on the Cross. 177

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Chronicles #4 (2 Chron. 1-9)

ChroniclesThis week we move into the second 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 looks at Solomon as an example of what the nation could be if God (temple, worship, covenant) was the center of national life. 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…

2 Chronicles begins the story of the reign of Solomon focused on his building of the temple. Solomon is presented as both a new Moses and new Joshua. He brings the ark and tabernacle back together in the temple and brings the nation into an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity. Before he begins his work God appears to him and offers him an unbounded granting of his wishes. Solomon passes this test by asking for God to keep His promise to David and to give him the ability to govern and lead the people well. Because Solomon's goals were right, God gives him the resources he needs to represent Him well. This is the same offer Jesus makes to His followers ("whatever you ask in prayer") and we must respond to His offer the same way.  

Typology is the Chronicler’s hermeneutical method for homiletical applications... Redemptive history, then, “is a series of decisive interventions, with each new intervention marked by features comparable with earlier revelations.” Consequently, the postexilic community anticipates renewal and NT writers proclaim its arrival. Christians anticipate a fuller experience of the presence of God in the new Jerusalem (Rev 21). Typology recognizes recurring patterns in redemptive history. 2 Chronicles 1, 257

Solomon’s request is granted because his heart is properly oriented toward God’s goals. Solomon’s interests are communal rather than individualistic. He seeks the welfare of his people rather than his own glory. The result is that God’s blessings overflow beyond the bounds of mere wisdom and knowledge to include wealth, riches and honor. 2 Chronicles 1.7-13, 263–264

Chapters 2-4 record the building of the temple with its elaborate furnishings and materials. The temple is God's palace and is built to reflect the wonder and greatness of God and as a testimony to His provision. It does not contain God, but it is the place where God meets His people, provides for their entrance into His presence and fellowships with them. It is the place where Israel was to draw the Gentile world into contact with God, as Solomon does with Hiram of Tyre. This role was fulfilled in Jesus and is now played out by the followers of Jesus as we live our lives, in the power of the Spirit, as the body of Christ.

This text does not encourage churches to build elaborate buildings. This misreads the typology, and it ignores the NT’s application of this principle. Christians do not seek bodily adornment or material extravagance. Rather, since we are the temple of God, we seek a holiness that reflects God’s glory. We honor God with our bodies and our lives. The Solomonic temple is not paradigmatic for building church buildings, but for building holy lives. 2 Chronicles 2, 268

Theologically, the postexilic community seeks God’s grace on Mount Moriah. There the reality of God’s presence is experienced. The sacrifice of Isaac, the sacrifices of David (1 Chr 21), and the temple sacrifices typologically anticipate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who died in the vicinity of that mount. 2 Chronicles 3, 273

The temple is a copy of the heavenly sanctuary and thus the temple is filled with symbolism as it proclaims God’s presence. The majesty, glory, and strength of the Lord are taught by the greatness and luxury of the building. In Christ we are a building of God, a holy temple in which God dwells by his Spirit (Eph 2:19–22). The majesty, glory, and strength of God are manifested through us as the Spirit transforms us into the image of God. 2 Chronicles 4, 279

Chapters 5-7 describe the great covenant ceremony as Solomon brings up the ark to the newly built temple. This is a critical moment in Israel's history as God shows his commitment to the Davidic promises by coming to the temple in a "glory cloud" as He did with the tabernacle of Moses in the wilderness after the exodus. Solomon calls the people to covenant commitment and prays asking God to be faithful to the covenant. God answers (7.11-22) with a resounding "yes" displaying His openness and willingness to forgive. Chronicles reminds us that God desires real relationship with us and is willing to receive sinners, forgive sin and bring blessing.

The dedication of the temple and the divine response are the theological heart of the narrative. God comes to rest in his temple through atoning sacrifices, the people celebrate and worship, and God responds graciously. The temple is not about a building but about the gracious and redemptive presence of God who sanctifies a people for himself in order to dwell among them. 2 Chronicles 5, 279

Second Chronicles 6:24 locates God’s presence in the temple. The ark is his footstool though he fills the whole earth with his presence. His presence in the temple is a “gracious condescension” which, indeed, is the incarnational character of God himself that culminates in the Incarnate One, Jesus Christ. 2 Chronicles 6, 288

God knows his people need atonement, so he provides a place. God’s intent is openness. His disposition is inviting—my eyes will be open and my ears attentive. The sacrifices and prayers of God’s people are means of mercy, and the temple epitomizes God’s graciousness. God provides forgiveness and healing. God dwells in the temple as a testimony of his intent. 2 Chronicles 7, 295

Chapters 8 and 9 conclude the story of Solomon by recounting his wealth and his influence throughout the ancient near east. The chronicler did not include Solomon's sins in his story because he wants to emphasize the temple and use Solomon's rule as a paradigm for what God wants to do among the nations. The Queen of Sheba serves as an example of how wise living before God can influence the nations. Solomon rules for God and God blesses the nations through Solomon. This is how it was meant to be. Sadly, Solomon's actual reign did not measure up to the ideal.

Theologically, Solomon extends Yahweh’s influence beyond the borders of Israel and blesses the nations surrounding him. Indeed, all wealth and wisdom flow to Jerusalem, and then it flows out again to bless the nations. 2 Chronicles 8, 302–303

Theologically, this wealth praises God, not Solomon. This is God’s kingdom, not Solomon’s. All that Solomon possesses is by grace. Since Solomon sits on God’s throne, his reign must reflect God’s glory. Solomon’s wealth, then, is a testimony to God’s splendor and majesty. Consequently, this is no mere accumulation of luxury, but rather the testimony of heaven on earth. The streets are paved with gold in the new Jerusalem because God lives there (not for our reward). 2 Chronicles 9, 307

The main topic of 2 Chronicles 1–9 is not Solomon but the God of Israel. Chronicles omits the sins of Solomon because the “reign of Solomon” is not the topic. The subject of the narrative is God, not Solomon. Chronicles tells the story of Solomon to bear witness to the glory and grace of Yahweh, the King of Israel. Solomon is his representative. 2 Chronicles 9, 309–310

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Not-So-Good Medical Update

Joyce and I got the medical report from my PET scan results a few days early. I had been at my brother’s place visiting for the last few days and was having a lot of pain in my back. So Joyce called the doctor at Stanford to see if it was possible that there was something they had seen on the PET Scan that would explain the pain in my back. The doctor called us back and said the results of the PET Scan would explain that. He said he hated to deliver bad news on the phone, but the urgent nature of my situation demanded it. The bottom line is that the lymphoma lesions are back, especially on the left side of my abdomen. This was not the news we wanted to hear, but we knew that this was a distinct possibility from the beginning. So, what this means is that I will be doing another round of chemotherapy very soon, only this time it will be antibody therapy (antibodies deliver the chemo straight to the lymphoma cells). The doctor said that the side effects of this type are not quite as bad as what we did before. The purpose of it would be to quickly clear out the lymphoma again so that stem cells could be harvested for a longer-term solution. The longer-term solution would be a transplant of my own stem cells back into my body. This solution has a good likelihood of success, but it does mean that our treatment is going to go on for quite a bit longer.The other related piece of bad news is that this also puts my kidneys in danger again. This time it could be both kidneys. We will go in to see the urologist on Tuesday and he will determine whether I may need a stint in one or both of my kidneys, or perhaps another nephrostomy bag will have to be attached. None of this is what we wanted or exactly what we prayed for, but we know that God is working in the midst of all this. He hasn't gone anywhere. He still loves us and He is good.

Please pray for us as we go through this weekend with some uncertainties. Pray that we'll be able to get the new chemotherapy set up as soon as possible. Pray that it will be successful and will be able to harvest good stem cells in the near future. Please also pray for my appointment with the urologist that they will make the right decisions and things will go well in whatever surgery I will need to protect my kidneys. We value your prayers, especially in times like this. Thank you for praying for us. God is good all the time.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Reading “A More Christlike God, by Bradley Jersak #3

JersakIn this post we begin looking at Part 2 of A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak. Part 2 of the book describes The Cruciform God. In this section Jersak shows that Christ crucified is the ultimate revelation of the nature of the Trinity and how God works in the world. 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 Kindle version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In Chapter 6, Of Lions, Lambs and Donkeys Kenosis—Cruciform Power, Jersak's main point is that Jesus’ incarnation, kenosis (self-emptying) and crucifixion are a revelation of God's glory and nature and how he brings about His plan to judge, reconcile and remake the world. Instead of coming as a conquering king on a war-horse Jesus comes humbly on a donkey. Even in Revelation 5, when Jesus as a ruling lion is announced, John sees a pierced lamb and announces a victory won by the blood, not of the enemies, but the blood of the lamb. It is the nature of God to win and rule through self-giving love and this is how the church should advance His kingdom as well.

Wherever God, wherever Christ, wherever we risk emptying ourselves of self-will and self-rule to make space for the other, that is where the supernatural kingdom-love of God rules and reigns. Thus, kenosis, which is to say love (!), is the heart of who God is. Not lording over, but always coming under; not triumphing through conquest, but through the Cross. 101

Jesus is a Lion because he is the king who has already overcome; he is a Lamb because that victory came, not someday through violence and conquest, but already, through kenosis— through sacrificial love. And this Lion-Lamb is worthy to rule, why?...Jesus’ global, universal and eternal kingship was established at the Cross and confirmed by his resurrection. His dominion over every people group will not be won through a someday-sword, but has already purchased by his blood. 106-107

The fact is, in John, Jesus virtually treats the Cross as the Final Judgment! The world is judged, Satan is defeated and Jesus is glorified. He is given all authority and reigns in a kingdom that advances in the same way it came: through the kenotic power of love...the crucified and glorified Christ—the apex of God’s kenotic power and ‘cruciform’ love—is our clearest image of God’s very nature from beginning to end! The Cross is the all-encompassing revelation of the Christlike God.  115-116

Chapter 7 is titled The Cross as Divine Consent. The main idea here is that God does not act in the universe, or interact with people, through coercion and control, but through consent and participation. God has created the universe in such a way that its forces (gravity etc) are permitted to operate freely. Human beings are created with personal freedom of choice. God desires a universe in which human beings are in relationship with him based on free response to his love. This creates the possibility of evil and disaster, for which God is not directly responsible, but is a "necessity" of a relational creation. But, God also actively limits Himself to participate in this universe, ultimately allowing human choice to nail him to a cross. He thus accomplishes what He has planned for the universe to be. Jersak says that God is "in charge," but has relinquished "control." Human beings must respond in the same way, relinquish power and submit to God, to become the image of God they were created to be.

The fullness (in Greek, the pleroma*) of God’s saving comes as God participates fully in the human condition—from birth to death—and consents to enduring temptations, trials and even the extreme humiliation of crucifixion. The fullness of our salvation comes as we participate in Christ’s death and as we fully consent—cooperate and surrender—to his grace. 121

So we say, in God’s good order, human agency and natural law (the secondary causes) are necessary conditions. Necessity is established by a good God for our good—thank God we are free to fall in love and able to stand upright on the ground—but necessity can also cause human affliction, from broken hearts to broken bones, from horrific to mundane. In short, God creates and then consents to necessity, for better or for worse, even while we invoke “deliverance from all danger and necessity.” 132

Satan offered a shortcut to power, bypassing kenosis and consent and a cross. But Christ saw through it, passed the test and truly fulfilled what humanity was destined for—the perfection of the divine image—by laying down power, yielding to the Father and mediating God’s redeeming love to the whole world. 138

Monday, August 07, 2017

Family Pictures

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When you have this many family members together you have to pose for family pictures. We started with Joyce and I with my parents and 9 of their great-grandchildren of which 8 are our grandkids

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Our grandkids with Jayna replacing Mika for this picture. My parents with great-grands

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Four generations of Owen’s with Matt (left) and Mike’s (right) families

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Jessie and Joanie with grandma and grandpa, Joyce with her babies and one more cute grandkid picture