Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Day at the Zoo–Family Vacation

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20180327_124430 (768x1024)20180327_124522 (768x1024)Last week we were blessed to be able to spend Spring vacation with Matt and family down in Palm Desert California. Missy, Leila, Joyce and I drove down on Monday morning and we came back home on Thursday evening. It was nice to be able to spend some time with them, although we missed Mike and family with the other half of our grand-children. We stayed busy with a trip to the Living Desert and Zoo on Tuesday. We did a lot of hiking (I walked more than I have in a long time, but I survived). It was nice to be warm again too. Here are a few pictures from the day at the Living Desert.

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We enjoyed the touring the zoo sections with the animals of Africa and North America. The kids got to pound on the African drums for a while. They also went on a desert hike. I sat out of that one.

Reading Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology by John H. Walton #4

Walton GenesisToday’s post concludes my read through of Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, by John H. Walton. This section will discuss “rest” of Day 7 and present a summary of his conclusions. I strongly agree with Walton’s main points that Genesis must be read as an ancient document and that it presents creation as a cosmic temple. I am not convinced that Genesis deals only with functions, but I think it is an important discussion.  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 theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.

Walton closes chapter 4 with a section on Day 7 entitled "Temple and Rest in Genesis." His point is that Day 7 portrays God as "resting" on his throne in his "cosmic temple" on Day 7 and assuming rule over his creation and its functionaries that were created on the previous 6 days. This makes the seventh day the climax of the creation story, unlike the way it is usually portrayed in a more traditional material creation. Thus, the creation is a temple building project. The entire universe functions as a temple (Psalm 132, Psalm 78.69, Ezekiel 47, Isaiah 66.1) and the garden of Eden is the hub, control center, of the universe. Unlike other ANET texts, humans function with God in the temple and share in its rule. I would see the command to "subdue" the earth as God tasking humanity with spreading his rule and garden throughout the entire earth as happens at the end of the book of Revelation. Thus, rest is not God disengaging from the work of maintaining the universe. It is God taking control of his creation and ruling it in partnership with the human imagers he has created on Day 6. 

As is the case in temple construction, the mere completion of the material construction phase does not produce a functioning temple. Only when the functions are identified, the functionaries installed, and the deity has entered the temple does it begin to function. This is creation as it was understood in the ancient Near East. 183

God’s presence in Eden is understood to be the source of all life-giving waters. “It is not only the dwelling place of God. It is also the source of all the creative forces that flow forth from the Divine Presence, that energize and give life to the creation in a constant, unceasing outflow of vivifying power.” In conclusion then, the Garden of Eden is understood to function as the antechamber of the holy of holies in the cosmic temple complex. 186

The creation account at its core is a narrative of the initiation of the functioning of the cosmos by recounting the primary purposes for which the elements of the cosmos have been put in place and by officially installing the appropriate functionaries in their place. The entire cosmos is viewed as a temple designed to function on behalf of humanity; and when God takes up his rest in this cosmic temple, it “comes into (functional) existence” (real existence in ancient thinking) by virtue of his presence. The rest that God thereby achieves and enjoys facilitates his rule of the cosmos by providing the means by which he engages in the control of the cosmos that he has set in order (which is what is meant, in modern terms, by “he created”). 190

Chapter 5 is a short chapter summarizing the basic conclusions of the study. His main point is that Genesis is written to ancient people in a form they would understand, not to answer modern questions of material origin. Thus, Genesis shares much of the cosmology of the ancient world, but reworks what is shared to reveal information about the nature of God, the functions of the cosmos, and the identity and functions of human beings. For example, Genesis does not correct the three-tiered (waters below, waters around and waters above) ancient material view of the cosmos, but instead corrects its view of God:one God, not many, who is separate from His creation and has no beginning. There is no "battle of the gods" for control of the universe, but the One God who has designed and manages the universe to bless his human image bearers. Humans are not slaves to God, but are in covenant relationship with Him, with an important task to care for his sacred temple space (Eden), which ultimately extends to the entire cosmos. The key to reading Genesis is to read it as an ancient book which is revealing answers to timeless questions. We must understand it within its own time and context before we can apply its timeless answers to modern questions.

The God portrayed in Genesis 1 does not set up the cosmos to function for himself but for humanity alone, though his presence in the ordered cosmos is important for maintaining this order. Finally, the role and station of humanity in the cosmos is different. The archetypal presentation in Genesis relates people to God only through his image, thereby delegating to them a ruling role in the cosmos (not just over other people); furthermore, it views them as serving deity not by meeting his needs but by caring for sacred space. Thus, Israel shares with the rest of the ancient Near East the idea that cosmology deals with questions regarding human archetypes, but the archetype that is developed has a different shape entirely. 194–195

The greatest differences in both degree and number pertain to the divine world. Israelite thinking has no element of theogony, for the Creator-God of Israel has no beginning, and there are no other gods whose existence needs to be explained. Furthermore, divine functions are not related to cosmic functions in Israel as they are in the rest of the ancient world, so the origins of cosmic functions (i.e., their existence) is not related to the existence of deity. 198

The most important result of this study for the interpretation of Genesis is the realization that the Genesis account pertains to functional origins rather than material origins and that temple ideology underlies the Genesis cosmology. 198–199

Friday, March 30, 2018

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #3 (6-8)

Larkin ActsThis post continues my reading through the book of Acts accompanied by Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by William J. Larkin Jr..Acts 6-8 records the beginning of the transition of the church from a Jewish only movement to its extension to the Samaritans and a preview of the Gentile outreach with Philip’s ministry to the Ethiopian eunuch. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries 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 6 presents 2 "problems" that will lead to further growth for the church: an internal administrative problem and an external threat from persecution. With the growth of the church the Grecian Jews felt their poor were being treated unfairly by the Hebraic Jews in the distribution of resources. The disciples did not want to be distracted from their pastoral ministry and work with all sides to appoint some godly men to handle the issue. The second issue was the lynching of Stephen. A group of Hellenistic Jews accuse him of blasphemy and take him to the Jewish authorities who condemn him to death. Luke notes that Paul takes part in the execution. However, instead of slowing church growth, this persecution will incite the Samaritan and Gentile missions and bring about growth the church never could have imagined.

The proposed solution reveals the values that guided the decision: commitment to unity, to a holistic ministry and to growth by means of preaching and teaching. The decision-making process reflects equally important values for church order...If unity and growth are to be promoted, then, structures in the church must be flexible. Decision-making must be participatory, with distinctive roles for leaders and congregation. Acts 6.1-7

Should we expect more “Stephens” today? Though normally signs and wonders are the work of apostles and prophets at particular junctures of God’s salvation history, Stephen’s activity is witness to the fact that even “this restriction is not absolute.” Let us pray to be full of the Spirit and let God’s “gracing” do what it will. Acts 6.8-15,

Chapter 7 recounts Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrin after their pronouncement of death. He defends his actions and message from the story of Israel in the Old Testament. His first point is that the most important events in God's revelation, the appearances and promises to Moses and Abraham, happened outside the land and required the recipients to take bold stands of faith which required them to leave their comfortable lives and be misunderstood by those around them. The rejection of Moses and Abraham by their own people led to them missing out on God's blessings. The second point is that God and his revelation initiate worship, not human desire. Thus, a temple building is not necessary to worship God in spirit and truth. The leadership was in the same danger as the generation that missed the Promised land after Moses and that went into exile. They were about to miss God's promised salvation in the Messiah Jesus.

This encounter in the desert at Sinai should remind Stephen’s audience, Luke’s readers and us that wherever God chooses to make himself known, there is holy ground. For a second time outside the Holy Land, God had appeared to a person of his choosing and made known a portion of his covenant promises and saving will. This presents a challenge to first-century Jews, so jealous for “this holy place,” the temple, and to all others who cling to certain sacred spaces of their religious heritage. Acts 7.1-43

Today too the church may face the temptation of an “edifice complex,” assuming that unless a visible structure for the worship of God is raised and maintained, we haven’t truly worshiped or borne an effective witness. Stephen gives us perspective. Remember, it is the transcendent God we are worshiping. He does not need our buildings to receive our praise. We may need them to facilitate worship and witness. But we must make sure we need them and use them for the right reason. Acts 7.44-50

Like his Lord, Stephen dies at peace with God, himself and the world—even his enemies. He fell asleep. By showing us how to die, he also shows us how to live and models the secret of staying power of Christian witness even to death. If he can die for his Lord like that, confidently, forgiving his enemies, there must be something to this Jesus who he says reigns at God’s right hand. Acts 7.54-8.3

The aftermath of the death of Stephen is a great persecution of the church, that drives most of the church leadership, except for the disciples, away from the city. This leads to the church beginning ministry to the Samaritans and Gentiles as Jesus commanded. Philip preaches the gospel to the Samaritans with a great response. When Peter and John come down to see what has happened and place their hands on the new believers they receive the Spirit with the same signs as at Pentecost showing that God has opened new covenant blessing to these believers. When Simon the magician tries to buy this authority Peter strongly rebukes him. There can be no syncretism with the old occult and magical ways. Jesus must be the only LORD. Philip then proceeds to the wilderness road and meets a Gentile, Ethiopian court official who was a Jewish convert. He preaches the gospel from Isaiah and the Ethiopian believes and is baptized. The gospel is going out to all nations, all ethnic groups and God's plan is beginning to be accomplished.

What makes the difference is repentance from a magical mindset through an affirmation of the sovereign power of God, who grants salvation blessings when and where he will. We must affirm that it is not the power of miracle, so easily seen in our unregenerate mindset as magic, that saves us, but the power of the Word of God which by the Spirit we receive, believe and follow and so are liberated.  Acts 8.1-25

The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch graphically demonstrates the inclusiveness of the gospel. No apparent obstacle—whether physical defect, race or geographical remoteness—can place a person beyond the saving call of the good news. Acts 8.26-40

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #2 (3-5)

Larkin ActsThis is my second post on my reading through the book of Acts accompanied by Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by William J. Larkin Jr..Acts 3-5 records the initial phenomenal growth of the Jerusalem church. The main factor was the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit through the apostles and other followers of Jesus. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries 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.

Chapters 3-4 record an incident which explains why the church was to grow so fast and persist as a movement until now. The entire passage revolves around the life and resurrection of Jesus and the apostolic witness to it in the words and actions of the apostles. John and Peter heal a lame man in the "name of Jesus." Peter explains that this powerful miracle was done in the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and that this means that the promised age of salvation had arrived. The needed response was to repent of their rejection of Jesus and place their trust in Him. This creates opposition from the established powers. The Sadducees cannot deny the miracle that happened in front of them, nor do they deny the resurrection of Jesus. They try to use their authority to command them to stop preaching, but the disciples will not recognize authority that forbids them to do what God commands. This leads to their arrest, but the rulers are afraid to hold them because of their popularity with the people. The church has grown in a just a few weeks from 120 to 5000 people. The church gathers together and reminds themselves of God's promise that his kingdom will be victorious in the end despite the persecution they will face. The church's faith in the face of threats, persecution and even murder, itself becomes a powerful means for the church to grow.

A name is an expression of a person’s very essence. The power of the person is present and available in the name. In the case of Jesus, the invocation of his name is a direct link between earth and heaven. It is not a magic formula but a simple recognition that if any salvation blessings are to come, they must arrive in and through the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus so commissioned his disciples and the disciples so preached and ministered. Acts 3.1-16

Witnessing miracles may contribute to a person’s embrace of faith, but it cannot produce faith. That is why God’s Word must now be preached. It will interpret the extraordinary and call for a decision. By the Spirit’s power this proclamation will work repentance and saving faith in its hearers. Acts 3,17-26

Today the church faces the same challenge when confronted with human authorities that demand that it stop advancing in its mission. The church’s willingness to keep spreading the Word despite threats of peril is clear evidence that its message is truly from God. 4:1-31

4.32-5.11 provide a brief glimpse into the life of the Jerusalem church. The people looked at themselves as God's community on earth and focused their priorities on God's mission and lovingly taking care of one another. This is seen as members of the community sold property and gave it to the apostles to distribute to those who had needs. Luke says that this resulted in there being no needy person among them. This kind of unity must have been a powerful draw into the church, so much so that some would fake it to get in. Ananias and Sapphira provide an example of this and their punishment was a powerful warning to those who would use the church for their selfish benefit. Giving was not mandatory, but devotion to Christ should compel us to see his blessings as not our own and make us willing to share whatever he gives us to further Jesus' mission and to help those in need.

From this unity comes a mindset. Each member chooses not to look at his possessions as first and foremost his own. Rather, he chooses to see them as first of all available for common use. Acts 4:32-37

Christians must realize that the selfless, transparent fellowship of the church must never be violated by selfish hypocrisy. Further, it is proper to employ discipline to guard the church’s integrity, unity and purity. For the non-Christian, this account is a warning: Think twice before joining this holy fellowship. Are you willing to pay the price—fully renouncing wicked ways and full-heartedly embracing Christ and other believers in his body, the church? Acts 5:1-11

The rest of chapter 5 continues this look at the Jerusalem church and its growth. The main factor in the church's growth is God's supernatural power through the Holy Spirit who empowers the bold gospel preaching of the apostles and great miracles through their hands that brought glory to God throughout the city. This also caused persecution from the leadership which threatened the lives of the church leaders. But even the persecution becomes the opportunity for God to reveal His glory, this time through miraculous deliverance for the apostles. Whatever is done in God's power will accomplish his purposes and, ultimately, bless his people.

A church alive with the power of God will be a growing church, with individuals regularly coming to the Lord for salvation and incorporation into his body. Taking note of the circumstances, but even more taking hold of God’s power, would you say that your own church is thriving in this way? Acts 5.12-16

Who’s in charge? In no uncertain terms Luke lets us know it is God who desires to save. What does he want of us? An obedience that embraces the good news and knows the presence of the Spirit...Who’s in charge? A God who empowers and leads his church in carrying out his mission in spite of opposition. Acts 5.17-42

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Reading Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology by John H. Walton #3

Walton GenesisToday’s post continues my read through of Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, by John H. Walton. This section of chapter 4 discusses the first 6 days of the creation week. Again Walton emphasizes that “creation” here is not discussing material creation, but an organization of material to assign functions as in other Ancient Near Eastern texts. While I would agree that Genesis 1 pictures God as organizing the chaotic situation from Genesis 1.2, I am not sure I would not necessarily agree that this precludes, at least some, material creation as well.  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 theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

The next section of chapter 4 looks at days 1-3 of creation. Creation on these days is characterized by God's actions of "naming" and "separating." Again Walton makes the point that creation is not bringing new material into existence but ordering material, giving it function and purpose. On days 1-3 God designs creation to provide for the basic needs of human beings. On day 1 God creates light and organizes it into periods of light and darkness, thus creating time. On day 2, God divides the waters above from those below with a hard surface that holds the cosmic waters above and provides a space between them and the waters below. He organizes this space to regulate the waters and thus provides weather. Finally on day 3, the dry land is separated from the waters below and made to produce vegetation that would nourish people. God pronounces this to be "good," that is it is now operating according to the functions he has designated. God has now provided an environment that meets the needs for his plans to be accomplished.

The text implies that God is indeed involved in creation on Day 3 just as much as on any other day, once the text is understood in its ancient context: creation is an ordering activity rather than a manufacturing enterprise. On Day 3, God created the basis for fecundity, fertility, vegetation, and agriculture—in short, he provided what was necessary to make the earth a source of food. 162

In Genesis Yahweh is outside the cosmic system, although in the ancient Near East the gods are viewed as inside the system. Thus, the Mesopotamian gods are subject to the MEs (cosmic destinies), while Yahweh controls them. This is similar to the idea that in Israel Yahweh is considered the source of law, whereas in Mesopotamia Shamash is the guardian of law. 167

The three functions—time, weather, and food production—are called into existence by the utterance of God and are given their functions through acts of separating and naming, with both the functions themselves and the actions that make them operational having precedents in the cognitive environment of the ancient Near East. They are evaluated and found to be perfectly functional (“good”) for the human world...The creative activity therefore involves bringing these functions into action in a system ordered around human beings. 170–171

The next section covers days 4-6 of creation in Genesis 1.14-31. On these days God creates the agents that fulfill the functions and occupy the spaces created on Days 1-3. The sun, moon and stars are assigned to the firmament to fulfill the functions of marking times and seasons. The sky and sea animals are created (The word bārāʾ, is picked up again for days 5 and 6) to fill the areas created on Day 2. On the 6th day land animals and humans are created to occupy the land and eat the food created on Day 3. God also blesses the creatures on Day 5-6 to be productive. The longest description is of the creation of humans for whom all of creation happens and who will represent God to the rest of creation. Though this reflects ANET backgrounds, Genesis presents a very different view of humans. ANE stories present humanity as menial slaves of the gods whose main role is to serve beer and barbecue (sacrifices), and are often pests that the gods need to control. Only kings were thought to be made in God's image. Genesis extends the image of God to all humanity, including females, and God works in creation to provide food and a wonderful environment for people. People, as God's imagers, are to be partners with God in his maintenance of creation.

The choice of the term “lights” need not be polemical; the label is, instead, the clearest functional term. It is possible, however, that the biblical author wanted to be clear that he intended no decreeing of destinies for lesser gods in this context, which was often the case in the Mesopotamian accounts. This is especially important because the function that is attributed to the lights is ruling. 171–172

Genesis elevates the portrayal of people, treating them not as cattle but as rulers. Thus, Genesis merges ideas from different ends of the cognitive environment: all humanity is in the image of God and collectively functions in a ruling capacity. People are central in the account of Genesis 1 (all functions are directed toward them) and central in the cosmos, functioning as rulers in the image of deity. 176–177

By the way in which Genesis 1 uses the shared ancient Near Eastern cognitive environment, it asks the same questions that lie behind all of the other ancient cosmologies and operates from the same metaphysical platform but gives quite different answers that reflect the uniqueness of the Israelite world view and theology. 178

Friday, March 23, 2018

Structure and Content of the Creation Story

Structure and Outline Genesis 1

One way that I try to observe the content of scripture is through charting. In this one i wanted to focus on the verbs, God’s actions, of creation. I think charting helps you to see things you may have missed in just reading the passage. It forces me to look at both the details and the big picture and gives me a concise way to record my observations.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Structure and Message of the Book of Jeremiah

Jeremiah Chart

Message of Jeremiah: Judah has failed to keep the covenant so righteous, faithful YHWH must punish them by sending them into exile in Babylon. But, because YHWH loves His people, He will restore them under a new, eternal covenant under the rule of the righteous Davidic king (ultimately Jesus) who will justly judge Israel and the nations.

Sometimes God is most clearly seen through our tears!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Leila’s Birthday Party


20180319_154141 (768x1024)28828911_10214164993506555_6060964953351760727_o (762x1024)We had a nice gathering of family and friends for Leila’s 6th birthday party on Monday. This is one of the advantages of living closer to family. As you can see, the theme this year was Pokémon.  Joyce and Missy did some amazing work with the cake (I know that icing that cake took about an hour) and I know Leila and her friend had a great time. We also enjoyed some good food and good fellowship. It was nice for me to be around people again. It was a fun time for all. Happy Birthday Leila!

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Leila enjoyed the presents and the piñata. She smashed it pretty good and provided candy for all. She was also quite serious about getting those candles blown out.

Outline of Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost Acts 2.14-47

Acts 2.14-47 Chiastic Outline

This is from today’s “reading through Acts” post. I thought it important to highlight what Peter thought was important in presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ. The key is to focus on the story of Jesus and what he did. The disciples were focused on being witnesses of that story. We also need to keep that story in the forefront and then be witnesses of what he has done for us.

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #1 (Intro, 1-2)

Larkin ActsAs we continue reading through the New Testament this year, we begin our reading through the book of Acts accompanied by Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by William J. Larkin Jr..Acts is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke and completes the story of what Jesus "began to do" in the incarnation by sending His Spirit to the church to complete his plan to preach "the message about repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations." (Luke 24:47) I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries 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 Acts, the church begins with 120 disciples in Jerusalem and ends with Jesus communities planted and trained throughout most of the Roman empire. The message of Jesus Christ, empowered by his Spirit and lived out through his people, becomes an unstoppable force, despite opposition, to accomplish God's plan for these last days.

The twentieth century’s crimes against humanity and the future prospect of doom—whether by limited or not-so-limited nuclear war or by environmental pollution—has turned many postmodern persons into cynical pessimists. The postmodern does not think it’s possible to make sense out of history. But Acts has good news. God is at work in history. He brought his salvation near in Jesus Christ. Now in preparation for his return, he continues to do his work through the church, bringing the saving message to people to the ends of the earth. Acts Introduction,

With this stance the scope of the gospel message’s audience, “all nations,” Jew and Gentile alike, is affirmed, and the dynamic of the mission—“witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)—continues until the King returns. By the time Theophilus reached Acts 28:31, he must surely have known that the gospel message is true and that it was indeed for him and his compatriots (Lk 1:1–4). That same sure knowledge should be ours as well. Acts Introduction

Acts 1 records the preparation of the church before the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. The ascension of Jesus completes his work on earth and is necessary so that he can distribute the Spirit. Though the disciples thought he would immediately establish the final kingdom, he tells them they must wait for the Father's timing. In the meantime, their role would be to be witnesses of what Jesus had done throughout the entire world. The task of the church would be to spread the message of Jesus worldwide and make new disciples from all the peoples of the earth. The group that had been with Jesus throughout his entire ministry would be the base group from which all the church would grow. It was thus necessary to replace Judas as the 12th apostle. With Matthias chosen the church was ready to do its task to take the good news of Jesus to the Jewish nation and then to all the world.

The fact that the Great Commission is the last instruction of the risen, now ascended and imminently returning Lord gives it great weight. He is not mentioning an optional ministry activity for individuals with crosscultural interests and churches with surplus funds. The Great Commission is the primary task the Lord left his church. The church must always be a missionary church; the Christian must always be a world Christian. Acts 1.1-11

Luke concludes by noting that the full complement of the twelve apostles has been restored. By principle, Matthias’s election teaches us that restoration of integrity within the body of Christ is essential to preparation for revival. Wherever sin has created a breach and compromised the church’s integrity, discipline, repentance and restoration must be pursued. Acts 1:15-26

Just as Jesus promised, the present age of the kingdom was inaugurated with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit comes with all the Old Testament picture of a theophany, a manifestation of God's presence. However, now the flame of fire is not a pillar, but tongues divided and resting upon each person, symbolizing the presence of God now residing in individuals instead of a temple structure. Also the Spirit is given to all without regard for social divisions. All (male-female, slave-free, old-young etc.) can live in God's presence and minister to bring others into his presence. Pentecost also undoes the confusion of languages at Babel as everyone can hear the good news in their own language. God will now retake rule over and redeem all the nations as intended in creation.

Peter's sermon focuses on the disciples' witness of the gospel events: the resurrection, ascension and the giving of the Spirit by Jesus. The gospel is the good news that Jesus is Lord as attested by these events. 

Chiastic Outline of Peter's Pentecost Sermon Acts 2.14-47

  • 1. Explanation of Pentecost 14-21
    • 2. Presentation of the Gospel and the Need for it 22-24
      • 3. Quote of Scriptural Proof of Jesus Resurrection from Psalm 16 25-28
        • 4. Scriptural Interpretation of Psalm 16 29-31
  • 5. Gospel Witness: We are witnesses of Jesus' resurrection, ascension and giving of the Spirit! 32-33
        • 4' Scriptural Interpretation of Psalm 101, 34
      • 3' Quote of Scriptural Proof from Psalm 101 34-35
    • 2' Presentation of the Proper Response to Gospel 36-39
  • 1' Response to the Gospel and Results of the Pentecost Event: Establishment of the Church 40-47

Peter emphasizes the need to respond to the gospel with repentance (trusting Jesus and no longer rejecting him) and identification with his people and community. This is exactly what happens as 3000 confess sin and show their allegiance (in what would be a hostile environment) by being baptized. The church is then established with its 4-fold mission of corporate worship, fellowship, care for one another and devotion to learning the teaching of the apostles. The early church was committed to spending time with one another in the presence of God in the power of the Spirit.

This multilingual witness coheres with the universal offer of salvation in the church’s message and its consequent worldwide mission. It also highlights the church’s multicultural character. God affirms people as cultural beings. As many a Bible translator knows, our native language and culture is natural, necessary and welcome to us as the air we breathe. Acts 2.1-13

Peter calls his listeners to know for certain that God has openly avowed Jesus to be Lord and Messiah. Jesus may now rightfully be declared Messiah, since he has done Messiah’s saving work and has been vindicated by God, who raised him from the dead. He may properly be proclaimed Lord in the highest sense of the word, as the respectful designation of the unpronounceable name of God (YHWH). For by his resurrection-exaltation he has demonstrated that he is the ever-living and life-giving God, whom death cannot hold and who pours out the Spirit. Acts 2.14-41

God’s plan is for churches to grow. The challenge for us is, “Will we meet the Scriptural conditions for growth: a dedication to be a learning, caring, fellowshipping, worshipping church?” Will we meet the one essential condition? “As empowering follows petition, so evangelism and Christian unity or community follow Pentecost. The empowering, moreover, is repeatable. So pray!” Acts 2:42-47

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Structure and Message of John 1.1-18

Basic Chiasm John 1.1-18

Message of John 1.1-18: Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation of the One God who is the Creator of everything. As God in human flesh He calls all of us into a relationship with Him that demands “total buy-in” to His Kingdom program.

Basic Chiasm John 1.1-18 (2)

Jesus is the One who “was” before He “became” so we can “be” after we have “become”

Chiastic Structure John 1.1-2

Deity and Trinity

Chiastic Structure John 1.14-18

Chiastic John 1.14-18 fulfilment

Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God

Reading Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology by John H. Walton #2

Walton GenesisToday’s post begins my read through of Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, by John H. Walton. Chapter 4 discusses Genesis 1 and its relationship to the ancient Near Eastern worldview he has surveyed in chapters 2-3. 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 theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

He begins with a detailed look at Genesis 1.1. He analyzes the literary relationship of the verse to rest of the  chapter and book of Genesis and does word studies on the word "beginning," "create" and its related word, "make," which is also used to describe God's creative work in other biblical texts. First, he concludes that 1.1 does not describe a separate creative act before the days of creation begin, but is a summary of the acts of the 7 days beginning in verse 3. I would tend to agree with Walton here because this understanding fits best with the grammar of the text, as it is in our traditional Hebrew Bible, and also fits better with the literary tôlĕdôt structure of the book of Genesis. If one wants to change the pointing (vowel markers of the text which were added sometime later) of verse 1, it could be a subordinate clause to verse 2 (in the beginning when God began...the earth was formless). I think that is possible but less likely. The verb bārāʾ, create, is only used in the OT with God as the subject, implying that it is only a divine activity. However, the objects it takes make it clear that it does not always deal with material creation. It can mean to organize, designate, animate or assign function to already existing material, as in the creation of humans from clay. The same is true of the Hebrew verb ʿāśâ, "make," which is a more general word for "doing." Walton's conclusion here is that Genesis 1.1 is a summary statement of the 7 days of creation which primarily describe God's ordering, organizing and assigning functions to material creation. I would agree with him that Genesis 1.1 is not talking about the original creation ex nihilo (other scriptures make this point), but would not rule out materials being created here. What we have in Genesis 1 is an organization of nonfunctional, unusable material into a world prepared for God's people. How God's original creation became "formless and empty" (or whether God created it that way) is not explained in the text here. 

The ‘beginning’ is a way of labeling the seven-day period of creation described in the remainder of Genesis 1 rather than a point in time prior to the seven days. As an independent clause, it offers no description of creative acts but provides a literary introduction to the period of creative activity that then flows into the tôlĕdôt sections that characterize the remainder of the book. 127

The verb only appears with deity as its subject in the approximately 50 times it occurs in the Hebrew Bible. This is an important observation: it has led to the common conclusion that the activity denoted by bārāʾ is a prerogative only of deity and not an activity that humans can undertake or even in which they can participate. 128

If we do not arrive at the text of Genesis 1 with the preconception that the focus is on the bringing into existence of the material world, the context itself would not lead us to think in predominantly material terms. In the initial period, God brought the cosmos into existence (by setting up an ordered system and giving everything its role within that system). In this proposal, the text is making no comment on material origins. It is more interested in indicating how God set up the cosmos to function for human beings in his image. 139

The next section describes the pre-creation situation as it is presented in Genesis 1.2. Walton again points out the similarities to the "cognitive backgrounds" of other ancient texts. The key concepts that are discussed here are tōhû and bōhû (usually translated formless and empty), Tĕhôm (the deep) and rûaḥ ʾĕlohîm (the spirit of God). The earth or land is described as tōhû and bōhû. Though many see "chaos" as proper translation for this phrase, Walton prefers non-functional based on Egyptian background. That is the earth is awaiting God's creation to assign it function and meaning. The earth is also described as Tĕhôm, deep waters. Israel did not see Tĕhôm as a god/monster to be defeated but as non-functional waters awaiting the hand of the Creator to give them order and purpose. He uses the tradition translation of rûaḥ ʾĕlohîm as "spirit of God" rather than "mighty wind" as suggested by some scholars. The presence of God is there and his word will be activated to create everything in the world to meet his specifications and purpose. A key point in Genesis 1 is that God is the Creator of all that exists. There was no “battle of the gods” to form the universe. Creation is done with God’s personal, purposeful design.

Gen 1:2 is the biblical text that describes the precosmic condition as it was understood in Israelite thought...Whether the topic is geographical areas, nations, cities, people, or idols, the term refers to that which is nonproductive, nonfunctional, and of no purpose. This conclusion is fully supported by the contexts in which tōhû is used and by the terms that are used parallel to it. 139, 141

The Israelite portrayal does not present the precreation state as negative or personal/personified; instead, it is a neutral, functionless ambiguity. 145

It is evident that the rûaḥ ʾĕlohîm is not only superintending the work of creation but in fact brings creation about through the word. The passage is emphasizing the actual powerful presence of God, who brings the spoken work into reality by the Spirit. Thus, the Spirit and the word work together to present the fact that the one God is responsible for all that is seen in the physical universe. quoting Wilf Hildebrandt, 150

Monday, March 19, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of John #6 (18-21)

JohnIn this post we conclude our reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre.Chapters 18-21 conclude John’s Gospel with an account of Jesus’ passion, resurrection and  commissioning of the disciples. God’s glory is revealed through the incarnate Jesus and will be revealed through the church which ministers Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.  I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries 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 18 begins the final section of John and provides the climax of the Gospel as Jesus reveals the Father most completely in his self-sacrificial death and renewal of creation made possible through the victory of his resurrection. In the arrest of Jesus, John portrays Jesus as being in control of the situation, as his powerful word knocks the arresting force to the ground and protects his followers. Jesus clearly lays down his own life. John then moves to the trial before Annas. Again, Jesus boldly confronts Annas as though he were the one on trial. John emphasizes Caiaphas' statement that it is better to for Jesus to die on behalf of the nation. John also contrasts Jesus' testimony with that of Peter. Peter fails because he does not stay close to Jesus.

In the half-light, separated from Jesus, Peter encounters temptation for which he does not have the resources to resist. The only hope for any of us in the time of temptation is to remain close to Jesus. John 18.1-18, 432

Jesus has completed his witness by word. There remains only the climax of all his ministry as he witnesses to the Father through his death, resurrection and ascension. It is now up to those who have heard him to bear witness to him. Such remains the case today. His abiding presence remains with believers, but those who abide in him are to bear witness to him before the world. John 18.19-27, 433

Next Jesus is taken before Pilate for trial (18.28-19.16) This section is an elaborate chiasm in which Jesus' kingship is emphasized. In the center of the chiasm the Roman soldiers mockingly crown Jesus king and pay homage to him.

  A Outside (18:28–32) The Jews demand Jesus’ death
     B Inside (18:33–38a) Pilate questions Jesus about kingship
       C Outside (18:38b–40) Pilate finds Jesus not guilty; Barabbas choice
          D Inside (19:1–3) Soldiers scourge Jesus
       C´ Outside (19:4–8) Pilate finds Jesus not guilty; “Behold the man”
     B´ Inside (19:9–11) Pilate talks with Jesus about power
   A´ Outside (19:12–16a) The Jews obtain Jesus’ death 435

The point is that both the Jews and Gentiles reject the king who came from God and is there to bring God's kingdom from heaven to earth with truth and love. Ironically, that very rejection will be used by God to bring in his kingdom, defeat sin and death and the powers of evil, and gather the community of Jesus who will spread the kingdom throughout the world. Some of those who are part of the rejection will become members of the kingdom (Acts 2). Jesus' bold, but loving, behavior before the Jewish leadership and before Pilate demonstrates the kind of kingdom Jesus brings and provides the example for believers who will be persecuted.

Jesus says that he came into the world not to be king of the Jews, but to testify to the truth. This language makes obvious the contrast between his identity and mission on the one hand and the falsehood of his opponents on the other. “He is the king of Truth, and He manifests His royal power not by force, but by the witness He bears to the Truth.” The truth he refers to is the truth of God. John 18.28-40, 442

Pilate’s fear is quite justified. He will be held accountable to God for how he exercises his authority. His sin may not be as great as someone else’s, but he is in fact sinning. Furthermore, this indictment of Pilate implies something about Jesus’ own identity and role, for he is claiming to know God and God’s will. Indeed, Jesus himself is the point of reference for sin in that to reject him is sin (16:9) and to receive him is to obey God. John 19.1-16, 452

19.16 begins John's "amazingly brief" account of Jesus' crucifixion. John continues to emphasize the revelation of God's glory through Jesus' self-giving death on the cross. He is the king who brings in the kingdom through his self-sacrifice to take on the full human experience of sin, death and evil and defeat it on behalf of the world. He is the righteous sufferer who willingly gives up his own life and fulfills scripture. In his death, He creates a new community that will follow his self-giving example.  

Jesus was forming a new community around himself...This community is the fruit of his death, for it will be the locus of the divine life on earth. The divine life is characterized by love and therefore requires a community to express itself. The life of the community derives from Jesus’ own giving of himself, and in turn such self-giving is to typify the community itself. Jesus’ death is both a revelation of the love of God and an example of such self-giving love. Such love is only really possible when sin has been taken away, since the essence of sin is a false self-love that prevents one from sharing in the life of God, which is love. John 19.16-30, 461–462

Jesus has no ancestral tomb but rather has begun a new family of those born from above who will never die (11:26). John 19.31-42, 468

John 20 begins the account of Jesus' resurrection appearances which provide the climax to his revelation of God's glory. There are 5 encounters with the resurrected Christ that enlarge the disciples' understanding of who Jesus is and increase their faith. These real experiences of the risen Christ will provide the basis for the gospel and the future faith of those who will come to Christ. In the first scene, Mary Magdalene and two disciples come to the tomb and see the stone rolled away and the empty grave clothes. They know something significant has happened but they do not fully understand. When Mary comes back to the tomb she appears and speaks to her. She is the first one sent out as "a disciple to the disciples" to tell the good news of the resurrection. Jesus next appears to a group of the disciples and announces to them the "shalom" and joy of the salvation that has come. He "breathes" (an act of new creation) the Spirit on them, empowering his commissioning of them to witness to what has happened. Finally, he appears to Thomas who makes the climactic confession of Jesus as "my Lord and my God." This confession is the goal of the church's witness and was John's purpose in writing the Gospel. 

In his resurrection appearances Jesus continues to reveal the glory of God by manifesting the grace and love that characterize God. This love is seen in the gentleness, care and humility with which he deals with his disciples. This section contains a series of encounters with Christ that show him overcoming a variety of barriers to faith, including ignorance, grief, fear and doubt. John 20, 471

The message Jesus gives Mary shows the christological basis of the new relationship. “Because God is Jesus’ Father, he is also their Father; because he is Jesus’ God, he is also their God. They are taken up into the fellowship that unites Jesus and the Father.” Jesus is the point of contact between the disciples and the Father. The Father is the Father of the disciples in this new intimacy precisely because he is Jesus’ Father, for the disciples are now Jesus’ brothers. John 20.11-18, 477–478

Thomas confesses Jesus as God when he sees that the crucified one is alive. It is in the crucifixion that God himself is made known, for he is love, and love is the laying down of one’s life (1 Jn 4:8; 3:16). But God is also life. In John, this God is revealed perfectly in the death of the Son, but this death would be nothing without the life. When Thomas finds death and life juxtaposed in Jesus he realizes who the one standing before him really is. John 20.24-31, 485–486

The final chapter of the Gospel of John records an appearance of the risen Jesus to a group of disciples at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus appears to them on the shore when they are in a boat fishing on the lake. They have caught nothing but Jesus tells them to cast their nets to the right of the boat and they get a huge catch of fish. Jesus then provides breakfast for them. It is again a picture of the abundance that Jesus provides and a reminder that they can do nothing without him. Jesus then talks with Peter to forgive and commission him. Jesus performs "painful, but necessary surgery" on Peter's pride to prepare him for the task of self-giving leadership that will model the character and actions of Jesus. The Gospel closes with a statement of the truth of the events related by the those who witnessed it. The glory of God has appeared on earth in human form in the person of Jesus Christ and this is truly good news to those who believe and commit themselves to him. 

Jesus now appears to another partial gathering of the group, an appearance that reveals the same key characteristics as were manifested throughout the ministry, namely his lordship, his servanthood, his character as gracious giver of abundance and his love. He has met his disciples at a point of failure and revealed himself as the awesome Lord of creation who cares for them. John 21.1-14, 493

Jesus himself is the Good Shepherd and now he commissions Peter to care for the flock that belongs to Jesus, for they are my lambs … my sheep. The community has already been established, and now Peter is given authority, though of a particular kind. The key qualification for this task, as this chapter indicates, is a love for Jesus that is characterized by humility, dependence and obedience. John 21.15-23, 496–497

Jesus is the very presence of God come into our midst. All authority has been given to him, and judgment is in his hands. He is quite strict regarding obedience, but he is full of mercy. He has revealed the Father, overcome the prince of this world and taken away the sin of the world. He also washed his disciples’ feet and served them breakfast. No human being has ever dreamed up such a God—we have a hard enough time remaining true to the witness he has left us through his servants, in particular, through John, the Beloved Disciple. John 21.24-25, 501

The Goal of the Christian Life: Outline John 15.1-17

Outline John 15.1-17

The Goal/Result of the Christian Life is an intimate connection with the Trinity through Christ and enabled by the Holy Spirit. It happens as we love by remaining in Jesus’ word and obeying his command to love as He loved. Our love for God is seen as we reach out in love to others with the self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ. As we more deeply connect with God, we experience deep love and connection in Christ’s community (the church) and a joy that goes beyond anything else we can experience or explain.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Message and Basic Chiastic Outline of John 13-17

Basic outline John 13-17

Message of John 13-17

The essence of the Christian life is an intimate connection with the Trinity (in the way the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are connected) through Jesus. What Jesus did through his connection with the Father we also can do through the connection with the Father and Jesus that we have in the Spirit. The evidence of this intimate connection with God is acts of loving service done for God’s people that produce a unity which attracts the world to Christ. Discipleship is essentially sharing the intimate connection we have with the Triune God, and its results, with those with whom we come in contact. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Reading Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology by John H. Walton #1

Walton GenesisToday’s post begins my read through of Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, by John H. Walton. In all his books Walton makes the important point that we must read the Bible through the eyes of its original audience before we can understand its message and apply it to our own culture. This is notoriously difficult to do, so there will be disagreements, but I think it is very important to have these discussions. 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 theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

I have used Walton's Introduction to the Old Testament and read some of his "Lost World" books so I thought it would be good to go back to the basics with his viewpoint. I also like to use his basic biblical hermeneutic that "the Bible was written for us, not to us." The preface to this book lays out his premise quite clearly and succinctly.

I contend that Genesis 1 never was an account of material origins but that, as in the rest of the ancient world, the focus of the creation accounts was to order the cosmos by initiating functions. I further contend that the cosmology of Genesis 1 is founded on the premise that the cosmos should be understood in temple terms. ix

In Chapter 1, Cosmology and Comparative Studies: Methodology, he explains how he would use the Ancient Near Eastern backgrounds to understand the text of the Bible. This was not a case of the biblical writers just completely adopting ANET ideas and copying them into the biblical texts. The idea is more that God revealed Himself to Israel in terms they would understand and they wrote the revelation in terms that would be understood in an ancient worldview. Thus, when we read the text through our modern worldview; if for example we see a blue planet in a solar system when we read Genesis 1; we will tend to misinterpret the text and miss its main message. For example, many poetic texts in the Bible adapt the "battle of the gods" motif, but they do it to assert Yahweh's uniqueness in the supernatural world, his unquestioned ability to bring order and beauty to the chaos, and maintain it; not to explain natural phenomena. I think it is also clear that temple imagery is there in the creation stories and continues to be used to reveal God's relationship to His creation. I would have to say that the idea of functional creation is there in Genesis 1, but not sure that it completely negates the idea of material creation. 

All literature is dependent on the culture from which it emerges and on the literature of the cultures with which it is in contact...That all literature is dependent, however, does not rule out the possibility that new ideas or perspectives may emerge; it only recognizes that no literature or idea is without a precursor of some sort, even if there is something in the “new” literature that departs from the “old.” For interpretation to be legitimate, it must acknowledge the debt that the “new” owes to the “old” and explore the intertextual linkage between the two...We should not be surprised, then, that understanding the Hebrew Bible requires its interpreters to recognize the pervasive connection that ancient Israel had with the legacy of ancient Near Eastern literature and thought. 12–13

Israel’s adaptation of ideas or materials from surrounding cultures was guided by what the people of Israel believed about their interaction with Israel’s god, Yahweh, and modern interpreters can choose to agree with the Hebrew Bible’s perspective or not. Whatever the modern interpreter’s assessment of the divine role, the Israelites’ self-identity was based (eventually—we need not quibble about the time-frame here) on the belief that there was only one God, and God chose their forefathers to be in a unique relationship with them (a relationship defined by the covenant). 15

Chapters 2-3 are a survey of Ancient Near Eastern creation stories. Chapter 2 is short and contains a helpful chart that overviews references in the various creation stories and can be used to quickly compare the emphases of the various stories. Chapter 3 is much longer and surveys the major themes of these creation stories. Basically, the point made from this survey is that ancient creation stories were more about organizing material and corralling powers, rather than creation of matter, to accomplish something. Creation is about organizing, naming, separating and assigning function. Instead of viewing the universe as a machine, Walton compares the ancient view of the universe to a business. Creation was thus an organizing of the "powers" by the gods, to give order, mission, purpose and function and to assign the various parts of creation their separate roles. All of these various parts were sacred and inhabited by the gods. Part of the purpose of Israel's revelation is to "desacralize" the objects of creation, without removing the One God from His intimate Presence and control over the purpose, functions, and His mission for His creation. Thus, creation in Genesis 1 is an organization of the chaos (creation ex nihilo is found in other passages), giving it order, meaning, purpose, and beauty.

Cosmic creation in the ancient world was not viewed primarily as a process by which matter was brought into being but as a process by which functions, roles, order, jurisdiction, organization, and stability were established. This makes it clear that creation in the ancient world was defined by the determination of functions and, in turn, demonstrates that the ontology of ancient peoples was focused on a thing’s functional, rather than its material, status. 34

When we moderns think about the ancient world (including the Bible), it is most natural for us to imagine that ancient peoples simply thought of the world as a machine with Someone running it, rather than seeing that they did not in any respect conceive of the world as a machine. In the ancient functional ontology, the cosmos is more like a business. In this metaphor, it is clear that a business only functions in relationship to people, both the company’s employees and its customers. 45

The main gods (Anu, Enlil, Enki) would be the officers of the company or the board of directors, and the lesser gods would have the role of vice-presidents. Kings would be something like department supervisors and priests similar to managers and, in some senses, like union bosses. Temples and cities would be roughly equivalent to the departments of the company or, perhaps, franchises, and people would be the employees, whose rituals are akin to punching the clock and putting in their time to help the company run; their only lot in life is to work their fingers to the bone until they are fired or reach retirement, having given their blood, sweat, and tears in service to the company and its officers, with little to show for their efforts. 48–49

Chapter 3 continues by describing the roles of gods and humans, "cosmic geography," and temples in the ancient Near Eastern worldview. The gods in this view were inside and part of creation rather than separate from it. They were defined by their functions within the cosmos, whether it was direct (driving the sun across the sky for example) or administrative (ruling and supervising other lesser gods). Humans were created mainly to relieve the gods of menial work and to meet the gods' needs through worship, and sacrifice. Cosmic geography was concerned, less with the materials of the universe as in our modern "machine view," than with who is in charge of its functions (a bureaucratic business view of the universe). Ancient views generally agreed that the universe was three-tiered with the land in the center, a solid dome or tent sky above which held back chaotic waters, and the netherworld below which were more chaotic waters. Temples were very important because they were both a representation of the universe and the hub from which the gods operated it. They provided a link between heaven and earth, and gods and men. The deity was at rest when the temple was functioning as it should be. The biblical revelation happens in this ancient environment and speaks in its language to these ancient people to reveal the True Creator (who is separate, holy, from creation but works inside it) and correct their misunderstandings. Our job is to take this revelation, understand it in its original context, and explain its unchanging theological truths within (and to correct) the worldviews we encounter today.

The roles of the gods...all concern functions, not material origins, and the functions all operate from within the system rather than acting on it from outside. The authority and jurisdiction of any god is circumscribed by his or her relationship to the components of the cosmos or to other deities. 68

Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Canaanites, Hittites, and Israelites all thought of the cosmos as composed of tiers: the earth was in the middle, with the heavens above and the netherworld beneath. In general, people believed that there was a single, disc-shaped continent. This continent had high mountains at the edges that some believed held up the sky, which they thought was not vapors or air but solid (some envisioned it as a tent, others as a more substantial dome). The heavens where deities lived were above the sky, and the netherworld was beneath the earth. 88

Individual temples were designed as models of the cosmos, but in addition, and more importantly, the temple was viewed as the hub of the cosmos. It was built in conjunction with the creation of the cosmos. Gods took up their rest in the temple for a variety of reasons, one of which was the ruling of the cosmos as they continued to maintain the order that had been established and to exercise control of destinies. 119

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

March Madness Picks

This is my favorite time of year to watch college basketball. I already enjoyed two excellent games in the “first four” last night. I do have to say that the recent scandals in the NCAA make the whole thing a little less appetizing, but I want to enjoy the games this year before greed of the NCAA, college administrations, coaches, agents and other con men kill it off. So here are my picks for the tournament this year all the way to the championship game. And yes, I have filled out multiple different brackets on the bracket challenge on ESPN.

First Two Rounds:  East: Purdue, Florida, West Virginia, Villanova

                  Midwest: Kansas, Clemson, Michigan State, Duke

                  South: Cincinnati, Miami, Arizona, Virginia

                  West: Missouri, Gonzaga, Michigan, North Carolina

Sweet 16: East: Purdue over Florida, West Virginia (upset special) over Villanova; Purdue over West Virginia

               Midwest: Clemson over Kansas (another upset); Michigan St. over Duke; Michigan St. over Clemson

               South: Cincinnati over Miami; Arizona over Virginia; Arizona over Cincinnati

               West: Gonzaga over Missouri; Michigan over North Carolina; Michigan over Gonzaga

Final Four: Arizona over Michigan; Michigan State over Purdue

Championship:   Arizona 81  Michigan State 75

Last year my best bracket was in the 68th% in ESPN’s bracket challenge. So don’t take these picks to the bank!!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Thoughts on Cancer, Sin and Leprosy

ribs (2)Forgive me here as I think out loud a little. Yesterday I heard a sermon on Romans 8 in which the preacher talked about cancer as a manifestation of the “groaning of creation” that awaits its renewing at the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ and the final phase of the kingdom of God. I think cancer, much like leprosy did in the 1st century, provides a graphic picture of sin’s pervasiveness and insidiousness in the modern world. It affects everyone, as there is hardly a family anywhere that has not been touched by the devastation a cancer diagnosis brings. It separates us from one other, whether by intention or circumstance. I have spent more time alone in the last 16 months than ever before in my life. It, for me at least, draws attention to our own mortality – death is coming for us all, and maybe sooner than we think. But, (my experience again) it also brings about the best in God’s people. The outpouring of help, prayer and encouragement from the church all over the world has been overwhelming. We have truly experienced the “touch of Jesus” through my lymphoma experience.

In biblical times leprosy was a graphic picture of sin and its effects. (I saw a post once in which a prominent preacher tried to make the point that “sin is not a sickness.” It made me wonder if he had ever read the Bible carefully. Sickness and sin are intimately linked throughout scripture. Jesus likens himself to a “doctor” who heals the sickness of sin and its effects.) Skin diseases and rashes were prominent in the ancient world and were often dangerously infectious.  The suffering from them were often separated from society to mitigate spreading of the disease. Its effects were visible and debilitating. Old Testament law pronounced unclean anyone who had contact with lepers and excluded them from temple fellowship. Jesus overturned that as his touch, rather than rendering him unclean, healed lepers and made them clean. Jesus would, at times, also announce that with the healing sin was forgiven.

Cancer, although not quite so contagious, is pervasive and often sentences its sufferers to separation from society in hospitals and homes. At least, it separates one from “normal” human daily life. It changes one’s plans and it certainly has curtailed my own ideas about “my own ministry.” Like sin, it does bring a little bit of death into one’s daily life. I have been thinking about this as I wait for another PET scan in about 6 weeks to see if my cancer has been eradicated from my body. I know God has directed me to trust that the doctors are part of his work of healing in my life. Whether that is a “complete” healing that will give me 5, 10 or 20 more years I don’t know. I do know that I, like all you reading this, await real complete healing in resurrection. I pray that the kingdom will break out a little here and defeat this lymphoma, but I know that in the resurrection at least I will stand whole. Not only will disease be removed, but the real cancer, the disease of sin, will be removed and I will be as God intended. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, if there is no resurrection we Christians are the most pathetic deluded people on earth. But, as we will soon celebrate, Christ is risen and has defeated sin, death, cancer and leprosy. We need to live each moment in this age of “groaning” living in the light of that soon to come resurrection. My cancer is telling me that anything else is an illusion. 

Reading Through the Gospel of John #5 (13-17)

JohnIn this post we continue reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre. Chapters 13-17 contain Jesus' last instructions to His disciples. The main theme of the passage is the love and unity of Jesus' people that comes from being centered and grounded in Christ through the enablement of the Spirit. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries 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.

Jesus begins his teaching of the disciples with a graphic demonstration of what he means by love. Love means the humble giving up of one's own life to serve others and give them life. Jesus gives up his dignity and privilege as a leader to serve the disciples as he will give up his life on the cross to provide life to all the world. He commands the disciples to follow this example. This makes Judas' betrayal the ultimate act of evil. Even though Jesus has loved him, and given him the place of honor at dinner, Judas turns against Jesus for his own selfish reasons and ends up doing the work of Satan. God will work through this to the ultimate revelation of God's glory, the cross, as Jesus loves the disciples and the world to the max by giving up his life to save them and provide a way that all can have a relationship with the Father life Jesus does.

John’s introduction to the event ensures that we understand God’s glory is revealed in Jesus in this sign. This is what God himself is like—he washes feet, even the feet of the one who will betray him! Thus, the footwashing is a true sign in the Johannine sense, for it is a revelation of God. John 13.1-20, 328–329

We are all quite capable of the worst sin. If we think otherwise, we are deluded and have no real idea how much we owe to the grace of God. John 13.21-30, 334

The disciple, therefore, is one who is characterized by love, which is the laying down of life. The disciple, like the Master, reveals the Father...John is quite clear that this divine love, in which the disciples are to share, is for the whole world. Indeed, their love for one another is part of God’s missionary strategy, for such love is an essential part of the unity they are to share with one another and with God. John 13.31-35, 343–344

In chapter 14 Jesus begins his teaching by telling the disciples that he must go away to the Father. This is not a bad thing because he will enable the disciples, and the world, to go to the Father as well. Jesus is the revealer of the Father and, through his death and resurrection makes the way to the Father, and eternal life available. In addition, he will not really leave because the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, will minister connection to the Presence of Jesus and the Father within the community of believers and join them to the fellowship contained within the Trinity. The church will be a witness to this community. This manifestation of God within human relationships is far beyond the theophanies of the previous age.

This verse brings out how Jesus’ fulfillment of the roles of revealer and life-giver is unique. Jesus’ unity with the Father means he is not just a law-giver, prophet or sage who conveys God’s truth, but, like God, he is the truth. Similarly, he is not simply one through whom God rescues his people. Rather, he was the agent of the creation of all life, and the Father has given to him to have life in himself, like God himself. Here Jesus, like God himself, is truth and life, and yet he remains distinct from God and is the way to God. John 14.1-7, 351–352

Praying “in Jesus’ name” does not refer to some magic formula added to the end of a prayer. It means to pray in keeping with his character and concerns and, indeed, in union with him. The disciples, through their union with Christ, are taken up into his agenda. This agenda, as throughout his ministry, is to bring glory to the Father (v. 13) John 14.8-21, 355

The peace Jesus is talking about is not the cessation of hostilities from enemies, but rather the gift of calmness and confidence that comes from union with God and faith in him and his purposes. The world’s idea of peace is something that comes through destroying of enemies and consists of physical and emotional comfort. The peace that Jesus gives is grounded in God and not in circumstances. John 14.22-31, 365

Chapter 15 moves into the center of what Jesus is teaching the disciples as he describes the nature of eternal life. Eternal life begins now as the Spirit connects the believer intimately with the Father and Son, as a branch is connected to a vine and draws sustenance from it. As believers remains connected to God, they experience union with the love and mission of Jesus and are connected to each other. They being to "bear the fruit" of intimacy with God and grow to resemble and image God to the world. This will draw some to God, but it will also cause opposition because believers will be at odds with the values of the world.

Remaining is not simply believing in him, though that is crucial, but includes being in union with him, sharing his thoughts, emotions, intentions and power. In a relationship both parties must be engaged. The divine must take the initiative and provide the means and the ability for the union to take place, but it cannot happen without the response of the disciple. John 15.1-6, 376

The obedience Jesus is talking about is an obedience not to societal rules, but to the Father who is all love. To obey him is to conform one’s life to the very pattern of God’s own life. Such obedience shares in his life, which is characterized by harmony, grace, goodness and beauty. We are in intimate union with him and swept up into his dance for which we were created and which brings the deepest fulfillment and deepest joy to our lives. John 15.7-17, 378

Many Christians are indeed undergoing the most horrid persecution and suffering for the Name. Jesus’ words of encouragement here speak directly to his disciples in such situations. He gives them the larger perspective, helping them understand that what they are going through is part of the world’s rejection of the Father and the Son. John 15.18-27, 383–384

Chapter 16 describes the persecution that this opposition will bring. The Paraclete will give the disciples deep insight into who Jesus is and what his teaching is all about and will create a community that represents Jesus. This means that often the church will be rejected the same way Jesus was. The 1st century church, including the disciples and like Jesus, pointed out the exclusiveness of Jesus' revelation of God and thus were rejected and killed like Jesus. A church that refuses to live like the world will always be persecuted to some degree. However, the believers' grief in persecution will be temporary. The disciples grief at Jesus’ death changed to joy after the resurrection. Our grief, likewise, is changed to joy through the intimacy we experience with the Father now, despite persecution, and will be complete when we are resurrected with Christ in the coming age. 

More generally speaking, it is primarily the community’s life together that witnesses to Jesus and, by the same token, exposes and condemns the world, in particular by their love (13:35) and unity (17:21). Such love and unity reveal that they are sharing in God’s own life, and, consequently, their rejection and persecution show that the opponents are acting against God. The very judgment that Jesus brought into the world continues through his disciples and elicits the same hatred (7:7). John 16.1-15, 391

Until death itself becomes a revelation of God the disciples can be troubled in the world, the place of death. Their joy cannot be stable and secure until they see him again (v. 16, 19) and he sees them (v. 22). Then will they reap the benefits of his conquest by becoming one with him as he pours out the Spirit. They will not ask him, but rather they will be one with him, asking the Father in his name. So their joy will be full—the joy of union with God in Christ by the Spirit. They will know God’s glory and will manifest his glory as they, in union with the living Christ by the Spirit, bear fruit as Jesus did, asking for what Jesus did. Their focus and source will be God, and thus they will have peace no matter what the world may throw at them. John 16.16-33, 401–402

Chapter 17 concludes Jesus' teaching of the disciples with a prayer for the continued glorification of the Father through the love, unity and ministry of the church, founded on relationship with Jesus, beginning from the disciples and extending throughout the world. Jesus begins by thanking the Father, in anticipation of his death and resurrection, that his mission is complete. He has fully revealed the Father. He then prays for the disciples. He thanks the Father that they have responded with faith and they are now united with him. He prays for their continued growth in that relationship (sanctification), protection from the opposition of the evil one and their continuing mission to glorify the Father by revealing Jesus. He then prays for the world, the people who will come to believe in the message the disciples will bring. He prays for a unity, based on relationship with the Father through Christ, that will draw the whole world into relationship with the Father. He, thus, closes the loop on the teaching session by going back to the self-sacrificing love he shows by giving himself on the cross, that produces a unity of being and mission and glorifies the Father as God intended for the creation of the world. 

The Son will glorify the Father through giving eternal life to those the Father gives him. And the Father’s glorification of the Son is in keeping with his having given him authority over all flesh. Thus, the flow is from creation to new creation. In both cases the Father is the ultimate source, and the Son is God’s agent. The Son has given life to all creation, and now it is time for him to give eternal life to those within creation given him by God. John 17.1-5, 405

Here is the fundamental truth of this Gospel—the oneness of the Father and the Son—expressed in terms of possession. The disciples’ very relations with the Father and Son bear witness to this foundational truth. They have been given to the Son and yet remain the Father’s because of the divine oneness. Here, as throughout this Gospel, Jesus’ deeds and words make no sense unless one realizes he is God. John 17.6-19, 410–411

The love of God evident in the church is a revelation that there is a welcome awaiting those who will quit the rebellion and return home. Here is the missionary strategy of this Gospel—the community of disciples, indwelt with God’s life and light and love, witnessing to the Father in the Son by the Spirit by word and deed, continuing to bear witness as the Son has done. John 17.20-26, 420