Friday, August 31, 2018

Reading Through The Revelation #1 (Chapters 1-3)

Revelation WrightThis read-through of Revelation will conclude (probably in 4-5 parts) this year’s devotional read through of the General Epistles of the New Testament, accompanied by The Early Christian Letters For Everyone by N.T. Wright. The book of Revelation is a single (it is not "Revelations") revelation of the resurrected Jesus Christ in glory at the right hand of the Father. The point is that Jesus will defeat Satan and all the world's evil systems and bring in His promised kingdom. Therefore, unbelievers should take warning that God's judgment is coming and seek redemption. Believers should take encouragement in coming victory and justice and prepare for God's kingdom by godly living now. 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.

The opening of the book prepares for the revelation of Jesus by explaining what the book is. It is a letter to the churches revealing Jesus in his glory. It opens up the heavens to the reader and connects Jesus who rules to those on earth and assures them of his upcoming victory. It provides a witness to God's people that their trials and persecutions are worth it because their oppressors will be judged, they will be vindicated and glorified as Jesus was in his resurrection. The big point is that this book is a revelation of the glorified Jesus. The rest of chapter recounts John's vision of the resurrected, ascended Jesus. The elements of this vision will keep showing up as we proceed through the book. The big point is that Jesus is the Son of Man of Daniel 7.13-14 who has the right to rule and judge. In the present, the churches (lampstands) bear the light of Christ and are held safely in his hands as they undergo persecution. Jesus shines with the glory of God and, through him, the church reflects that glory.

Revelation’ – the idea, and this book – are based on the ancient Jewish belief that God’s sphere of being and operation (‘heaven’) and our sphere (‘earth’) are not after all separated by a great gulf. They meet and merge and meld into one another in all kinds of ways...The early Christians believed that Jesus of Nazareth had become, in person, the place where heaven and earth met. Looking at him, and contemplating his death and resurrection in particular, they believed they could see right into God’s own world. They could then understand things about his purpose which nobody had imagined before. 3, Revelation 1.1-8

We are being asked to imagine: what would it look like if the curtain between heaven and earth were suddenly pulled up, revealing the Jesus who had been there all along but whom we had managed either to ignore or to cut down to our own size? This is the answer: a Jesus who is mind-blowing, dramatically powerful but also gentle and caring; a Jesus in and through whom we see his father, God the creator; a Jesus who has spoken, and still speaks, words which explain what is going on in the present, and warn of what will happen in the future. 9, Revelation 1.9-20

Chapters 2-3 contain the letters to the 7 churches. These churches represent all churches (the number seven) throughout the present age and emphasize their connection to the vision of Christ from chapter 1. They contain commendations, criticism, warnings, exhortations and promises. Ephesus represents churches with orthodoxy but who have lost their radical commitment to God and one another. They need to repent so that they can experience real life and maintain their place in the community. Smyrna represents the persecuted church. They are encouraged that persecution is temporary and, even if they die, they will not truly die because they will receive the crown of eternal life. Pergamum represents the steadfast church, but they are being tempted to compromise. They are urged to quit compromising with immorality, idolatry and heresy and they will experience real intimacy with Christ. Chapter 2 closes with the letter to Thyatira, the overly tolerant church. They are urged to resist compromise and hold on to the truth and commitment. Then they will avoid judgment and receive authority to rule with Christ.

Love’, in the early Christian sense, is something you do, giving hospitality and practical help to those in need, particularly to other Christians who are poor, sick or hungry. That was the chief mark of the early church. No other non-ethnic group had ever behaved like this. 13, Revelation 2.1-7

Do not be afraid to face the first death. Some of you will have to do that. To ‘conquer’ – to face that martyrdom in faithful patience – will mean that you will have nothing to fear from the ‘second death’. Be content to go with Jesus through the first death. He was dead, and came to life; and so will you. 18-19, Revelation 2.8-11

Jesus is promising to each faithful disciple, to each one who ‘conquers’, an intimate relationship with himself in which Jesus will use the secret name which, as with lovers, remains private to those involved. The challenge to avoid the false intimacy of sexual promiscuity is matched by the offer of a genuine intimacy of spiritual union with Jesus himself. 23, Revelation 2.12-17

Christian witness is meant to be a sign of the dawning of the day, the day in which love, faith, service and patience will have their fulfilment, in which idolatry and immorality will be seen as the snares and delusions they really are, and in which Jesus the Messiah will establish his glorious reign over the whole world. 28, Revelation 2.18-29

Chapter 3 continues the letters to the churches with letters directed to Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Sardis represents a church that is dead - has lost its viability. They are urged to "Wake Up," repent of complacency, remember God's Word and obey it or sudden unexpected judgment will come on them like the coming of a thief. Then they will have fellowship with Jesus and experience their eternal life. Philadelphia represents the persecuted church who is protected by Christ. They are encouraged to stay faithful because Christ is coming soon and they have an open door of service. In the end, even their persecutors will acknowledge that they are right. Finally Jesus addresses Laodicea, the hypocritical church. Jesus is faithful despite the fact that their hypocrisy, indifference and complacency had made them useless to Christ. They need to recognize their dependence on God for spiritual wealth, insight and righteousness and repent. If they do, Christ will come into their lives for fellowship and relationship and they will share in His victory and rule with Him. 

It’s a warning against presuming that belonging to the community of the people of God, irrespective of behaviour within it, is all that is required. To those who wake up, who stay unpolluted, and who conquer, Jesus finally reiterates another promise well known from the gospel tradition. He will ‘acknowledge their names’ before the father and his angels. To be acknowledged by Jesus himself will be amazing. To have him acknowledge us before his father will be the moment of all moments. Let’s wake up before it’s too late. 31-32, Revelation 3.1-6

(The Philadelphia Christians) are the ones, too, who carry the new name – now, the triple name of God, of the heavenly Jerusalem, and of Jesus himself, bearing his ‘new name’ of King and Lord. They are to be marked out publicly as God’s people, as Jesus’ people, as citizens of the city where heaven and earth will be joined for ever. No earthquakes there. Security, vindication, and the ultimate reward for patience. 35, Revelation 3.7-13

Jesus is a faithful friend, even if we are not – that he will tell them sharply and truly when they are in the wrong. Because he is not only a friend but their Lord, he will also punish them, not to devastate them but to bring them to their senses...As well as local colour, the letter to Laodicea carries the most striking descriptions of Jesus himself, and the most powerful promise. Strange, perhaps, that the one church that was in real trouble drew from the Lord the most intimate and loving promise. 39, Revelation 3.14-22

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Structure and Message of Second Chronicles

2 Chronicles Chart

Message of 2nd Chronicles

A response to God that is outward alone is useless, powerless and meaningless and brings judgment, but God’s love is always reaching out and working on the human heart to produce repentance and submission that comes from true, inward loyalty to God (Chesed). God never abandons his people.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Reading Through the Letter of Jude

ILetters Wright am continuing through the general epistles in this year’s devotional read through of the New Testament, in the Third Letter of John, accompanied by The Early Christian Letters For Everyone by N.T. Wright. Jude's letter is written to alert his readers to the danger of false teachers in the church. He reminds them that God knows how to judge those who reject the faith and how to preserve and protect those who hold on to the truth. Thus, his readers must recognize that there are people in the church who are trying to destroy the faith, and prepare themselves to rescue the church from them appropriately in God's strength. 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.

His greeting shows why defending the faith is so important. Believers are “slaves” of Jesus Christ, called into and kept in the faith by the love of God, and, thus, need the continuing work of God in their lives. His message is urgent because because false teachers have infiltrated the church to corrupt and destroy it. These teachers are ungodly, immoral people who deny the Deity and authority of Christ, despite pretending to believe. Good leaders must defend the faith because God has entrusted us with the special revelation of God contained in scripture and those who deny it will be condemned.

Find people who today are saying that God loves everyone exactly as they are, so everyone must stay exactly as they are, doing all the things they want to do, because God is so full of generosity that obviously he wants them to do that. Find such people, and you’ve found those of whom Judah is writing. 196, Jude 1-4

The main body of the letter presents examples of apostasy from the past as warnings of the danger of rejecting the truth. These rebels from the past lack submission to God and practice overreaching, abusive authority. They are seductive dangers that do not deliver what they promise and will be severely judged for their prideful words and deeds. Thus, Christians need to be able to recognize false teachers so that they can oppose them and avoid their judgment.

But the reality of false teaching, especially the rejection of authority, the denial of the uniqueness of Jesus, and the encouragement of sexual immorality, is with us today every bit as much as it was in the first century. We take a deep sigh for sorrow, and pray that Jesus the Messiah will indeed keep us safe. Part of the answer to that prayer will be that we have been alerted to the problem, so when it appears again, as it surely will, we will be able to recognize it for what it is. 202, Jude 5-16

This dark letter closes with a hopeful ending. Believers must remember that this was predicted and God is in control of the situation, and then take appropriate action to defend God's people from false teachers. Church leaders must take preemptive action to keep people in the faith by building each other up, praying, and focusing on the hope of the return of Christ. They must help those being deceived by mercifully confronting them with their errors and leading them back to the truth in a way that exposes the error but loves the deceived person. We can be hopeful, because God is the one who will ultimately preserve the truth, grow believers into maturity and keep believers safe in judgment. Thus, we can confidently fulfill our responsibility to preserve the truth of the Word and pass it on to the next generation.

The letter has had much to say about defilement, and the whole tone has been gloomy as a result. Looking into the murky pit of human wickedness is always like that. The alternative to the licentious and Jesus-denying teaching of the infiltrators isn’t, though, a gloomy, kill-joy religion. The very opposite! It is about glory, about purity, about glad and thrilling celebration. This, after all, is what we were made for. 206, Jude 17-25

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Reading Through Third John

Letters WrightI am continuing through the general epistles in this year’s devotional read through of the New Testament, in the Third Letter of John, accompanied by The Early Christian Letters For Everyone by N.T. Wright. 3rd John emphasizes that faithfulness to the truth is seen practically in loving actions that promote the spread of the Gospel. 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.

Again, John gets right to the point in this letter. Faithfulness is shown by daily practical actions based on God's truth. Gaius provides a good example by supporting the ministries of apostolic teachers and providing hospitality to God's people. Christian ministry should be supported from within the church, not from outside it. Those who support Christian ministry become partners in the ministry, share in its reward, show what they really believe by where they put their time, effort and resources.  

The cheerful courage and faith both of such first-century missionaries and of those who gave them hospitality (perhaps arousing suspicious questions from neighbours) ought to remind us that following Jesus is expected to be an adventure. New things will happen. New people will come into our lives, and even though they were strangers a moment before, suddenly we realize we are part of the same family (verse 5). 186, 3 John 1-8

In verse 8 John moves to the bad example of Diotrephes. False leaders reject the apostolic authority of the scriptures, abuse their authority, and reveal a lack of truthful living by their love of control and power and with their loveless words and actions. Instead, John urges that believers, especially leaders, must continue to love God's people, respect God's word and promote the Gospel despite the opposition of false leadership.

(3 John) speaks, as in the closing verse, of ‘peace’: not the easy peace that comes from ignoring the problems, but the deeper peace that comes from confronting them in the knowledge that truth and love are the two arms with which God in Jesus now enfolds both church and world in one embrace. 190, 3 John 9-15

Jesus, The Ultimate Revelation of God…

Jesus ultimate expression of God

When we talk about God we tend to try to describe God in abstract terms like those above. Instead the Bible describes God in terms that emphasize personhood, actions, and relationship. It is not that the abstract terms are necessarily false, but they are inadequate to describe the God of the universe. Instead, God, the Trinity, chose to reveal himself incarnationally, ultimately in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 2,2-3 says “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. If we want to know what the Father is like we must look at the Son." As Jesus said to Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” When we  explain what God is like, we must follow the Bible’s way and explain God by looking at Jesus. The character of the Father is the same as the character of Jesus.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Structure and Message of 2nd Peter

2 Peter Chart

Message of 2nd Peter

God is the gracious supplier of everything we need to live so we must diligently apply God's resources and trust his promises so that we will grow in godly character and purity, resist false teachers, and be ready for the day of the LORD.

Reading Through Second John

Letters WrightI am continuing through the general epistles in this year’s devotional read through of the New Testament, in the Second Letter of John, accompanied by The Early Christian Letters For Everyone by N.T. Wright. The main point of 2nd John is that love and truth must go together. The truth of the gospel defines what real love is. 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.

After a brief greeting John jumps right into the main theme of his letter. When the truth of God lives in us, the true love of God will come out in our words and actions. Love must be based on the truth of God, committed to the truth of the Gospel and always expressed with self-giving service. Love must be directed by the commands of God and and motivated by the desire to obey and please God. Daily life is directed by God's truth as we love in a way that obeys God's commands and follows Jesus' loving example. Truth and error  are recognized correctly as you build your life around the word of God and listen to His Spirit. Then you will know that you have relationship with the right Jesus. 

Truth, for John, is something that goes down deep and spreads out wide. It is what happens when humans, redeemed in the Messiah and renewed by the spirit, think, speak and act in a way which corresponds to God’s plan to renew the whole creation – and, indeed, which sets that renewal forward in whatever way they are called to do. 175, 2 John 1-6

Because faithfulness to the truth of the gospel is so important, love resists and exposes false teachers who deny and oppose Christ. There are many false teachers in the world who deny the truth and present a false Jesus and deny the full humanity of Christ. So, believers must be discerning to recognize and oppose false teaching. In fact, anyone who supports, encourages or in any way helps spread false teaching becomes a partner in its evil. Integrating truth and love will ultimately result in the true joy of fellowship.

God’s love in the flesh, in Jesus, is the source and framework for God’s love coming in human flesh in those who follow Jesus. That is how the two halves of this little letter belong so closely together. Anything that waters down this truth is not to be ‘tolerated’. 178-179, 2 John 7-13

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Family Stuff 2018–San Diego #3–An Evening at the Zoo


Whenever we are in San Diego it seems we spend at least one day at the zoo. We always enjoy it and the kids never get tired of it. The evening was perfect for walking around the zoo. We were all exhausted by the time we got home but it was an evening well spent.


The kids enjoyed climbing on the animal statues


A lot of fun things to see and to eat and drink


Experiencing the animals after dark and the view from the Skyway was a new experience for me

Friday, August 24, 2018

Reading Through First John

Letters WrightI am continuing through the general epistles in this year’s devotional read through of the New Testament, in the First Letter of John, accompanied by The Early Christian Letters For Everyone by N.T. Wright. In this letter John is concerned that his readers share in the intimacy of the love within the Trinity. Jesus came to bring us into the life, light (relational knowledge) and love of the Father and to share that with the people around us. 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.

John sums up the theme of his letter in the first 4 verses. God has provided the way to deeper fellowship with him through Jesus Christ. He is the pattern and the power for us to experience eternal life – growing, deep, intimate relationship with God. Just as John, and the other apostles, experienced Jesus face to face and in the flesh leading to fellowship with Christ, so the goal of John's message is deeper fellowship with God which leads to deeper fellowship with each other. This  deeper fellowship happens as we live our daily lives (walk) openly and responsively with God (in the light). This starts when we admit our sin and expose ourselves to the light of relationship with Christ. Because of Christ God fully forgives our sin and then gives us the ability to gain freedom from it and live in His light, truth, freedom, and love.

The secret at the heart of the early Christian movement was that the age to come had already been revealed. The future had burst into the present, even though the present time wasn’t ready for it. The word for that future was Life, life as it was meant to be, life in its full, vibrant meaning, a life which death tried to corrupt, thwart and kill but a life which had overcome death itself and was now on offer to anyone who wanted to come and take it. 130, 1 John 1.1-4

Jesus’ sacrifice atones for our sins, ‘and not ours only, but those of the whole world’. Just as God didn’t remain content to be in fellowship only with his own son, but wanted to extend that fellowship to all those who met and followed Jesus; and just as John is writing this letter so that its readers may come to share in that same divine fellowship; so now all who know themselves to be forgiven through Jesus’ death must look, not at their own privilege, but at the wider task. God intends to call more and more people into this ‘fellowship’. 137, 1 John 1.5-2.2

We can see that deeper fellowship with Christ and be assured that we are moving in the right direction (toward God), when we are obeying His Word, imitating His life and loving His people. Then we will grow in intimate relationship with God as we realize who we are in Christ and make a daily decision to seek God and reject the world system. This world system denies that Jesus, the Son of God, came in the flesh (and often creates their own versions of "Jesus") and rejects his call to follow him in a self-sacrificial loving lifestyle. Believers must recognize truth and error correctly (walk in truth) as they build their lives around the word of God and listen to His Spirit. Then we will know that we have relationship with the 'right' Jesus.

For John, as for Paul, and above all as for Jesus, the commandments are all summed up in one word: Love. The Life of God’s New Age is revealed as the Love of God’s New Age. All other commandments – the detail of what to do and not to do – are the outflowing of this love, the love which has been newly revealed in Jesus, the love which God now intends should be revealed in and through all those who follow Jesus. 141, 1 John 2.3-14

The true follower of Jesus the Messiah has been ‘anointed’ by his holy spirit (verse 20), so that a real change of heart and character has happened. One of the key symptoms of that change is precisely the recognition that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. He truly is the son of God. The ‘Antimessianic’ movements are bound to deny this. If they don’t, they have no reason to set up a new movement in the first place! And this is what ties them in to the idea of ‘people of the lie’. 145-146, 1 John 2.15-29

It is of critical importance that believers continue and persevere to develop deeper fellowship with Christ. Jesus has already won the victory over evil and he will return to complete it so that we will have the full experience of his presence. Some day  the image of God will be fully restored in us. Our job is to grow into this now. Growth in relationship is evidence that we have been born-again into this life. We show that we belong to Jesus by living out his sacrificial love, practically, right now in our relationships with his people. This is how we can know that we belong to God and reassure ourselves when doubting, by trusting God and His promises and seeing His work in our lives. This results in greater confidence and more evidence of God's working in our lives. We develop a deeper relationship with Jesus by having a right relationship to the truth of the Word of God that applies it to daily life.

What will we be like? Perhaps we should say: like we are, only much more so. More gloriously physical, not less. Embodied but not subject to sickness or death. Able to celebrate the joys of God’s world but no longer lured or seduced into abusing them, into lusting after them, into worshipping them as though they were divine. All that is, I believe, true. But far more important is to say: we will be like Jesus. 149-150, 1 John 3.1-10

If the true God is indeed the source of our life, then you have already won the victory! The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. It may not look or feel like that. But that’s where faith comes in. Faith that the living God did indeed take flesh, our flesh, in Jesus. When that message is coming across, the spirit of truth is at work. 157, 1 John 3.11-4.6

John closes his letter with a final encouragement to deepen fellowship with Jesus by letting His love flow through them to others resulting in maturity, confidence, victory and answered prayer. Jesus has won the victory over evil, not by use of political, military or any other power the world would expect, but by a self-sacrificial love which died for the sins of the world. True spiritual power to overcome evil and be what God wants you to be comes from loving the way Christ loved, enabled by the Holy Spirit inside you. Thus, true believers have victory over sin and death and can experience it in the present as they trust, love and obey God. Anyone who has put their trust in Jesus can be sure they the life of the "age to come" now because God's testimony about Jesus is certain. The certainty of this life and power, answered prayer, victory over sin and death, and intimacy with Christ should lead every Christian to single-minded commitment to Christ and a life that brings the blessings of the coming kingdom to fellow believers and to the world.

The Christian faith grows directly out of, and must directly express, the belief that in Jesus the Messiah the one true God has revealed himself to be – love incarnate. And those who hold this faith, and embrace it as the means of their own hope and life, must themselves reveal the self-same fact before the watching world. Love incarnate must be the badge that the Christian community wears, the sign not only of who they are but of who their God is. 158, 1 John 4.7-21

God has given this witness, by his spirit, to make the point that the world has indeed been overcome. No other god, no other power, no other being in all the world loves like this, gives like this, dies like this. All others win victories by fighting; this one, by suffering. All other gods exercise power by killing; this one, by dying. 165, 1 John 5.1-12

Those who believe in Jesus, who abide in God, can pray with a new, bold confidence. They stand at the place where heaven and earth meet, and are encouraged to draw down the blessings of heaven into the life of earth, and to know as they make their requests that they have already been granted – even though, as scripture itself and Christian experience both teach, they may be granted in ways one had not expected. 168, 1 John 5.13-21

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Background and Message of First Chronicles

1 Chronicles chart

Message of 1st Chronicles

Chronicles focuses on the glories of the reign of David (and overlooks his faults) because the basis of hope is God’s faithfulness to his Covenant with David (ultimately fulfilled in Christ). Thus, there is always hope for restoration and blessing if God’s people will repent, trust God and submit to his rule.

Family Stuff 2018–San Diego #2


We’re still hanging out with the grandkids in San Diego. We will be here until Saturday. Missy and Leila came down last weekend and joined us. Missy had to go back to work but Leila will stay here until we fly back to Sacramento on Saturday. Here are a few more pictures of our San Diego adventures.


Saturday we enjoyed food from Chamorro Grill and then headed to the park to work off the calories.


Evenings are the time to play in the street, hang around with the neighbors and enjoy the cool weather


We have enjoyed the summer before school started today. Here we visited the kids’ school and took the picture in Kristin’s classroom. Matt and family are blessed with good neighbors, nice parks and an excellent school.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Structure and Message of First Peter

1 Peter Color Chart

The Message of 1 Peter

God gives grace to every believer to live as Christ did, despite persecution, which guarantees that we will be glorified with Him as the outcome of salvation.

  1. Introduction: Believers have a guaranteed inheritance because they are chosen for sanctification by God. Thus, they can joyfully serve God, despite trials, as the prophets did. 1:1-12
  2. Believers must live out God‘s grace because of the price Jesus paid for their salvation and because of the enduring truth of the Word of God. 1:13-25
  3. Believers must grow in their knowledge of and service to Jesus because He is the only sure basis for life and what he has done for us obligates us to set aside our lives to serve Him 2:1-10
  4. Because salvation guarantees God‘s ultimate blessing, believers should live lives of submission and harmony with each other and with the world. 2:11-3:12
  5. Expect and welcome trials because they work out God’s will for your ultimate salvation. 3:13-5:14

Reading Through The Second Letter of Peter

Letters WrightI am continuing through the general epistles in this year’s devotional read through of the New Testament, in the Second Letter of Peter, accompanied by The Early Christian Letters For Everyone by N.T. Wright. 2 Peter was written to pass on the apostolic doctrine to the next generation. Peter reassures his readers that the gospel (Jesus' teachings and actions) rests on accurate eye-witness testimony and its truth is the only way to become like God and share in his coming kingdom. 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.

He begins with the assurance that the gospel of Jesus has supplied believers with every resource they need to live the Christian life, but each believer is responsible to apply these resources diligently. One must work hard to apply the resources Christ has provided to be an effective, productive Christian. When you apply yourself to use God's gracious resources, He makes you grow, helps you avoid sin and gives eternal reward. A key part of that hard work involved diligent study, obedience and teaching of God's Word because it is the only sure source for knowing and serving Jesus Christ. Peter assures his readers that the apostolic testimony is the sure, eyewitness record of the person and actions of Jesus and reveals God's direction for life. The proper response is to pay close attention to the Word, submit to it and let it change you into the image of Christ and share in the Divine nature as the Holy Spirit enables. 

Whatever we do by way of obedience and allegiance to God and the gospel, it all takes place within the grace of God, by means of the promise of God, through the power of God, and leading to the kingdom of God. That’s a great place to start. But it’s not a good place to stop, because, as you will have noticed, the passage has plenty more besides. Central to it all is the idea that, by God’s grace and power in our lives, we are to learn the discipline of Christian moral development. 103, 2 Peter 1.1-11

Peter holds firm to two things: the ancient scriptures, and the newly revealed son of God. Until we see him, we don’t understand where they were going. Until we understand them, we don’t see the point of who he was and what he did. We need the scriptures and the son, prophecy made sure. And we need to hold on to both until the morning star shines in our hearts, and then, through us, shines out into the world. 108, 2 Peter 1.12-21

In chapter 2 the focus changes to a warning against false teachers. Christians must be prepared to identify false teachers so we can avoid the danger they present and warn others. Scripture (drawing on 2nd temple Jewish interpretations of Noah's flood and the story of the destruction of Sodom) shows that God is certain to properly judge the wicked and deliver the righteous. Thus, believers must make sure they are on the right side. All Christians should be able to recognize false teachers and expose their false teachings so that one can avoid their judgment. False teachers can be recognized by a departure from central doctrines of the faith and by advocating "freedom" from the "restraints" of biblical morality and indulging of selfish desires. One should also be very wary of any Christian teachers that use the gospel to live a lavish lifestyle. 

When teachers emerge who remove the normal restraint that Christian faith, like Judaism, had imposed on human desires, we should beware. 111-112, 2 Peter 2.1-10

We ought to read this list, not with a self-righteous pride (‘Oh, yes, look at those wicked people! Not at all like us!’), but with appropriate sorrow and fear. These tendencies are present in all of us; the point of self-control is to keep them back, to crucify wrong desires and grow right ones in their place. 115, 2 Peter 2.10-22

The letter closes by urging believers to keep in mind that the prophesied coming of the LORD to judge will happen, despite those who question it and its long delay, so they will be ready for it by living righteously now. Because judgment is coming, believers must live for God now, focused on His Word and on the eternal; not on the temporary things of life. The way to be ready is to work hard now to grow to be like Christ and to do the work he has called his people to do. Peter sums up the letter by urging his audience to work hard to be holy, to respond to God's grace, to understand scripture, to guard the truth, and to grow into Jesus. 

The patience we practise in day-to-day relations with one another must be translated up to the cosmic scale. God will indeed bring upon the whole world ‘the day of the Lord’, the day when all will be judged, all will be revealed. But he will do that in his own time. 121, 2 Peter 3.1-10

There is such a thing as sustained and lasting growth in Christian character, faith and life. It is your privilege and birthright, as a follower of Jesus, that you should ‘grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and saviour Jesus the Messiah’. 124, 2 Peter 3.11-18

Monday, August 20, 2018

Structure and Message of Hebrews

Hebrews Chart color

Message of Hebrews

Don’t turn away from the superior revelation and ministry of Christ.

Just Jesus is Enough.

Knowledge and appreciation of Jesus Christ is essential to persevere in faithfulness

  • Prologue; Jesus is Superior as the ultimate revelation of God‘s image, power and authority. 1.1-3
  • Jesus is the ultimate king. Therefore we must be vary careful to listen to Him, submit and follow His example. 1:4-4:16
  • Jesus is the ultimate High priest with a superior ministry to bring us into the presence of God. We must respond by working hard to grow and using the access to God He provides. 5:1-10:39
  • The believer’s response to this superior revelation must be a life of faith, grateful worship, and service to God expressed in practical expressions of love toward one another. 11:1-13:25

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Reading Through First Letter of Peter

Letters WrightWe now continue in the general epistles in this year’s devotional read through of the New Testament, in the First Letter of Peter, accompanied by The Early Christian Letters For Everyone by N.T. Wright. Peter's letter calls believers scattered throughout this world to live the gracious life of the age to come in the midst of the very ungracious present world. This makes sense because God's promises guarantee that God will bring glory from the present oppression and persecution his people face. 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.

He introduces his main point in the introduction. God's people have a guaranteed inheritance because he has chosen them for holiness and glory Thus, they can joyfully serve God, despite trials, as the prophets did. This is guaranteed by by the Father’s choice, the Son’s blood and the Spirit’s work and all are sure because of God's power. Believers are called to live out God's grace now and the message of the gospel now, as Jesus did. The standard for this is the Word/gospel written and preached that grow us into the image of Christ. The proper response to the gospel is a desire to be like Christ, resist evil and love others deeply. The promise of God guarantees the ultimate success of his plan. 

The new world has in fact already come into being through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Through that sacrificial death on the one hand and the indwelling of God’s spirit on the other hand, God has set people apart to be living signals of this new world. They are therefore to be ‘holy’, both in the technical sense that God has set them apart for this purpose and in the practical sense that their actual lives have been transformed. The way they behave now reflects God’s desire for his human creatures. That – however daunting and unlikely it seems – is who we are as Christians. 50, 1 Peter 1.1-9

What matters now is to keep our eyes fixed on the one who has ‘bought us back’, has cleaned us up, and has already begun to put us to new use. That’s what it means, as Peter says at the end, for us to believe in ‘the God who raised Jesus from the dead and gave him glory’, placing him in authority over all things. That’s what it means, in the present time, to have ‘faith and hope in God’ (verse 21). 55, 1 Peter 1.10-21

That is the controlling image of this section: the baby that has recently been born and now needs to feed, to grow, and to learn to live within the family. Becoming a Christian is about the new life within us first coming to birth, then being nourished and sustained, then growing to maturity. That last stage is marked, as it should be for a growing child, with the discovery that there are good ways and bad ways of relating to those around you. You have to learn to choose the first and renounce the second. 57, 1 Peter 1.22-2.3

Therefore, God's people should offer themselves to Jesus because He is the only sure basis for life and what he has done for us obligates us to set aside our lives to serve Him. Jesus will then build these diverse people into his unified body, the church. This means that believers should live lives of submission and harmony with each other and with the world. Their exemplary lives should draw unbelievers to God. This is seen as they respect and submit to all authorities, even harsh ones, in order to have a good reputation, promote stability, to live as a free servants of God who receive God‘s commendation. Jesus provides the ultimate example of submission as he endured persecution, insults and suffering without retaliation. By this means he accomplished salvation, defeated the forces of tyranny and darkness and, by the same means, believers will participate in his victory.

Peter believed that all God’s promises to Israel had been fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus himself, and that therefore all who belonged to Jesus had now been brought into that ‘people of God’, that true Temple. The one true God was now living in them! The ‘Temple’ had been rebuilt – not in Jerusalem but all round the world! That is the great truth on which everything else in the letter will depend. 63, 1 Peter 2.4-10

Make sure at the same time that, by your good behaviour, you shame those who, out of folly and ignorance, want to criticize you. That is how God is establishing his presence and his rule on earth as in heaven. Oppressive tyranny and violent revolution are not the only options. Serving the true God by living a peaceful, wise, visibly good life is, in the end, far more revolutionary than simply overthrowing one corrupt regime and replacing it by . . . well, most likely by another, as history shows. 67, 1 Peter 2.11-17

Peter isn’t simply recommending that people remain passive while suffering violence. He is urging them to realize that somehow, strangely, the sufferings of the Messiah are not only the means by which we ourselves are rescued from our own sin. They are the means, when extended through the life of his people, by which the world itself may be brought to a new place. 71, 1 Peter 2.18-25

This submission is especially seen in our closest relationships as they are transformed by the gospel. Husbands and wives imitate Jesus by submitting to, loving and serving one another as partners in salvation and ministry. They should live compassionately, humbly and in harmony with one another, trusting God to take care of personal interests because God’s protection and provision are guaranteed for those who live submissive lives. This may bring suffering, but suffering for doing what is right and good provides good witness to the world and brings blessing. Jesus is the ultimate example that suffering leads to exaltation, reward and benefit to others. We participate in Jesus' mission when we suffer in the same way and will share the same reward.

Left to ourselves, even (alas) in the church, we gravitate towards what women and men have always done, allowing social stereotypes and natural hormonal instinct to dictate to us. We don’t find it easy to go by the hard road of rethinking roles in the light (not of ‘liberation’ of this or that kind, but) of the gospel of Jesus the Messiah. 74, 1 Peter 3.1-7

Here is the irony: Christians are supposed to stand out as distinctive, but when we do, and are mocked or criticized for it, we are tempted to mock and criticize right back – and then we are no longer distinctive, because we are behaving just like everyone else! 78, 1 Peter 3.8-16

What we need to know, when facing trouble or persecution, is this. Jesus the Messiah has fulfilled the hope of Israel by defeating all the spiritual powers in the world, the ones who were responsible for wickedness and corruption from ancient times. It may not look like it to the little Christian communities facing the possibility of suffering, but their baptism places them alongside the Messiah in his victory. They must hold their heads up, keep their consciences clear, and trust that his victory will be played out in the world to which they are bearing witness. 83, 1 Peter 3.17-22

Thus, believers should expect suffering and welcome trials because they work out God's will to save, not only believers, but redeem the whole world. Just as Jesus’ suffering defeated sin ultimately, so our suffering overcomes sin in our own lives. So, we should respond to trials and persecution with acts of grace enabled by God‘s power. When we do this God promises fellowship with Christ, glory, blessing of the experience of the Spirit, bringing praise to God, purging of sin and completion of God‘s work of grace in our lives.

Peter is treading a fine line. He is not glorifying suffering for its own sake. He is not saying you should go looking for it. But, just as the crucifixion of the Messiah was at the same time the most wicked thing humans ever did and the most powerfully loving thing God ever did, so the wickedness of those who persecute God’s people forms the strange frame within which the power of God’s transforming love can shine through all the more strongly. 86-87, 1 Peter 4.1-11

From God’s perspective, the holiest, most loving person is still someone who needs to be rescued, and is still so weighed down with sin that without the grace and mercy shown through Jesus that rescue would not happen. This alarming reflection is not meant to produce panic, but rather gratitude. Those who are at present persecuting the church will meet their own judgment in due course, and God’s people are called in the meantime to faith and patience. 89-90, 1 Peter 4.12-19

Peter closes his letter with instructions to both the older and younger members of his congregations. The leaders should serve sacrificially as Jesus did, sharing in the sufferings of their people. They exist for the benefit of God's people, not their own, and serve to accomplish God's kingdom work, not their own agendas. The rest of the people in the church should live submissively and humbly, faithfully standing in God‘s grace despite trials. We are all called to faithfully live out God’s grace in the power He provides.

I would rather belong to a group or a fellowship where the ‘leader’ had no idea about ‘leadership’, but was out-and-out committed to God and the gospel, than one where the person in charge had done three or four courses on ‘leadership’ but had found it left little time for studying scripture or for praying. 92, 1 Peter 5.1-7

The actual, human opponents, even your fiercest persecutors, are not in fact the real enemy. There is a real enemy, and he will be using them. But if you resist him, staying resolute in faith and remembering that you are holding your bit of the line while your Christian brothers and sisters across the world are holding theirs, you will find that courteous and civil behaviour, acting with respect and gentleness, will again and again win an answering respect from outsiders, even if they still don’t understand what makes you tick. 96-97, 1 Peter 5.8-14 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Family Stuff 2018–San Diego #1


We have been enjoying this week in San Diego with Matt’s family. We arrived last Saturday and we will be here another week. I thought I’d post a few pictures from our time there.


We have been enjoying spending time with grand-daughters Ahni and Meika


And watching our grandson Milo


We also get live music every evening…

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Reading Through the Letter of James

Letters WrightWe now move to the last major section of the New Testament, the general epistles in this year’s devotional read through of the New Testament, beginning with the Letter of James, accompanied by The Early Christian Letters For Everyone by N.T. Wright. The letter of James deals with the practical outworking of faith. James challenges believers to examine their daily lives, attitudes and actions to see if they display the qualities of biblical wisdom, true faith and godly character. 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.

James urges believers to joyfully approach life because God, who is always good, can take even the difficulties of life and produce growing faith which leads to growing wisdom, loving submission and endurance, which results in mature godly believers. Present circumstances are never the determiner of God’s blessing. Instead, God uses trials and difficulties in our lives in ways that lead to eternal blessing instead of eternal death. Trials produce in us the character of Christ, self-control by purifying us and driving us to read and apply God’s Word, and compassion for others who are in need.

How easy it is for us to imagine that God is stingy and mean. We project on to the maker of all things the fearful, petty or even spiteful character we meet so often in real life, sometimes even when we look in the mirror. Learning who God really is and what he’s truly like – and reminding ourselves of it regularly – is the key to it all. Without that, you’ll be double-minded, swept this way one minute and that way the next. You’ll just be another wave. With it, you will have a settled character. Wisdom. Patience. Faith. 5-6, James 1.1-8

None of us starts off with a pure internal ‘kit’ of impulses, hopes and fears. If you are true to ‘yourself’, you will end up a complete mess. The challenge is to take the ‘self’ you find within, and to choose wisely which impulses and desires to follow, and which ones to resist. 8, James 1.9-18

That’s what God’s law is like: by restricting your ‘freedom’ in some ways, it opens up far greater, genuine freedoms in all other ways. And the point is this: when you look into this ‘law’, the word of God, it is supposed to change you. The word must go to work. When that happens, God’s blessing – that is, God’s enrichment of your life in all kinds of new ways – will surely follow. 12, James 1.19-27

True faith is seen in a life that does things in God's way. God's way is to act toward others with the mercy and love God showed to us in the gospel as a guide. It treats others with the same dignity and favor with which one wants to be treated. Favoritism, or our own "pulling social rank," betrays a lack of trust in God and a poor understanding of what he values. True faith relates to others based on mercy, rather than judgment; produces acts of love and service in daily life; and acts in accordance with God's commands and character, no matter what the cost.

God’s mercy is sovereign. It will triumph. But the minute you say ‘Oh well, that’s all right then; God will forgive, so it doesn’t matter what I do’ – and, in particular, when ‘what I do’ includes discriminating against the poor – then, precisely because God is the God of mercy, he must act in judgment. He will not for ever tolerate a world in which mercy is not the ultimate rule of life. 16, James 2.1-13

What James means by ‘faith’ in this passage is not what Paul and others developed as a full, Jesus-shaped meaning; it is the basic ancient Jewish meaning, the confession of God as ‘one’. This, he says, needs to translate into action, into Jesus-shaped action, if it is to make any significant difference. 18, James 2.19

Translating belief into action, even when it seems impossible or downright dangerous. That is the faith that matters. That is the faith that justifies (verse 24). That is the faith that saves (verse 14). This is near the heart of the message of James: the challenge to make sure that faith is the real thing. 19, James 2.14-26

Chapter 3 focuses on God's wisdom which produces self-control (especially of one's speech) and peace with God and those around us. The ability to control one’s words is the supreme test of godly wisdom and self control. James contrast true wisdom, which is seen demonstrated by self-controlled words which consistently build up others and glorify God, with false wisdom, which is demonstrated by inconsistent,condemnatory and destructive words. Demonic, earthly wisdom produces lies, jealousy and strife in relationships, while Godly wisdom produces good behavior, peace and service to others. 

What James is after, then, is consistency. He wants people to follow Jesus through and through, to be blessing-only people rather than blessing-and-cursing people. It’s a high standard, but we should expect no less if the gospel is indeed the message of salvation. The danger, as always, is that people will take the bits of the message they want, and quietly leave the real challenges to one side. But it can’t be done. The spring must be cleansed so that only fresh, sweet water comes out. For this we need help. That, fortunately, is what the gospel offers. 22, James 3.1-12

The challenge then for God’s people is to be able to tell the truth about the way the world is, and about the way wicked people are behaving, without turning into a perpetual grumble, and in particular without becoming someone whose appearance of ‘wisdom’ consists in being able to find a cutting word to say about everyone and everything. There is still, after all, a vast amount of beauty, love, generosity and sheer goodness in the world. Those who follow Jesus ought not only to be celebrating it but contributing to it. 24, James 3.13-18

Chapter 4 emphasizes humility. True faith produces humble submissive people at peace with God and others. Selfishness, which is the foundation of the world’s value system, produces conflict, coveting and unanswered prayer and places one at odds with God and subject to judgment. In contrast, humility, which brings one into deeper relationship with God, submits its own plans to God’s and mourns over anything that displeases God, never assumes God’s place by making rules or judging others, and recognizes its own limitations and is God-reliant instead of self-reliant. To not display this kind of humility is sin. 

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you’. That is astonishing! God is ready and waiting. He longs to establish a friendship with you, a friendship deeper, stronger and more satisfying than you can ever imagine. This, too, will take time, as any friendship worthy of the name will do. But what could be more worthwhile? 29, James 4.1-10

Not to do what you know you should do is actually to sin! It isn’t enough to avoid the obvious acts of sin. Once you learn the humility to accept God’s royal law and to live by it, to accept God’s sovereign ordering of all life and to live within that, then you will see more clearly the positive things to which you are being called... But once you have had that nudge, that call, then to ignore it, to pretend you hadn’t heard, is a further act of pride, setting yourself up in the place of God. 32, James 4.11-17

Finally, Chapter 5 focuses on endurance. True Faith can endure oppression with prayerful joy because it takes God's long eternal view, rather than living for the pleasures of this life. Real faith uses money to serve others and sees it as an opportunity for investment in eternity rather than to indulge oneself. It is patient to wait for God’s reward and justice and does not grumble or complain. It never judges God’s compassion and mercy by present circumstances. It trusts God enough to be plainly truthful in all situations and turns to God first in honest, consistent, persistent. and compassionate prayer for one’s self and for others. It lovingly confronts sin and works with others for their long term benefit. True faith invests everything in God's kingdom, not this world.

In this new age one of the most inappropriate things you could do was – to store up riches. God is turning everything upside down, exalting the poor and humble and bringing the powerful and rich crashing down – and yet you are trying to make yourself richer! You are riding, says James, for an even bigger fall than you might have imagined. 35, James 5.1-6
God’s mercy is sovereign. That is the deepest truth about him. That was the truth glimpsed by the great prophets of old. Through long acquaintance with God himself, they had learned to see the truth behind the way things seemed, to see the heavenly dimension of ordinary earthly reality, to see the heavenly timescale intersecting with the earthly one...A hasty, impatient spirit is another form of pride, of the human arrogance that imagines it knows better than God. 38-39, James 5.7-12

Prayer isn’t just me calling out in the dark to a distant or unknown God. It means what it means and does what it does because God is, as James promised, very near to those who draw near to him. Heaven and earth meet when, in the spirit, someone calls on the name of the Lord. 42, James 5.13-20

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Structure and Message of the Letter to Philemon

Philemon Color Chart

Message of Philemon

The grace of Jesus Christ, and the gracious ministry of others to us, obligates us to give grace and forgiveness to others and to do what we can to maintain peace and good relationships with God‘s people.

God’s grace to us obligates us to treat people, not according to social conventions or based on what they can give to us, but instead to reach across all boundaries that divide us and treat one another as family, friends, co-workers and fellow-soldiers in the mission Christ has given us.

Family Stuff–El Dorado


We’re in San Diego now, but the last two weeks we enjoyed having Jessie, Jonie and Jayna here with us in El Dorado. It was good to hear how things are going on Guam, and at our house in Yigo. We were able to get together with them a few times and have some good conversation. It was also a blessing that Jayna was able to get her medical procedure done and come through it so well. I wish we could have these family get-togethers more often, but every one of them is a blessing when family is spread all over the country and the world.


The girls: Joyce, sister Jayne, niece Jayna, granddaughter Leila. Missy how did we miss getting you in this picture?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Reading Through Hebrews #4 (Chapters 11-13)

cornerstone tim to hebI am continuing my devotional read through of the New Testament. I am reading  the anonymous, but certainly Paul influenced, letter to “the Hebrews accompanied by The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. The Hebrews commentary is written by J. Ramsay Michaels. Chapters 11-13 close this written sermon by urging its listeners to make a better application of its truths by living lives of faith, hope and love.  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 11 is a "celebration of faith." One thing that makes it amazing is that there are some pretty unsavory characters mentioned as examples of faith and all mentioned had serious flaws. What they had in common was a belief that God could be relied on completely and a trust that enabled them to press on steadfastly, despite present circumstances as they believed God's promises. It emphasizes the point that only a life based on faith is capable of pleasing God. Faith is the logical, reasonable response to a God who keeps his promises and is able to raise the dead. It is the only proper response to what Jesus has done for us.

If in fact God “brings the dead back to life,” then he could bring the child Isaac back from the dead, fulfilling his promise yet again! Abraham’s faith is not blind faith but is based on logic or “reasoning” 11:19). If indeed “God exists,” and if indeed “he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (11:6), how could it be otherwise? Hebrews 11.1-19, 439

“His point is not that Christian believers are “better” off than these heroes of faith but that the realization of the promises they received has to do with “us” and depends on “us.” In this author’s vision all the people of God, past or present, reach “perfection” together (at the last day); they could not be “perfected” without “us.” Consequently, their final salvation, like ours, is something hoped for but still unseen (11:1). At best, they “saw it all from a distance and welcomed it” as of old (see 11:13). Their salvation waits upon our own, and now, with them, we await what still lies in store for us. Hebrews 11.20-38, 446

Hope, the subject of chapter 12, is closely related to faith. The hope is based on Jesus' faithful life that calls us to serve others despite persecution and difficulty. So believers persevere by focusing on Jesus’ example, enablement and promises. The emphasis is not so much on winning the "race" as on finishing it. As Jesus did, we must endure trials and hardships as discipline from God prove his love for us and our relationship to him. Suffering and hardship will complete us and enable us to share in God's holiness. So the author encourages the recipients to strengthen themselves in faith and live as God's people so that they will receive their full inheritance. Finally, he warns them to pay better attention to the New Covenant because its inauguration, consummation, stipulations and eternality are much greater! So also are the consequences of rejecting it. Make use of the grace God has given you, be grateful and live a lifestyle that worships God.

“The effect of such a literary device (chiasm in 10-14) is to bind the two ideals of “peace” (eire¯ne¯ ) and “holiness” (hagiasmos) inextricably together. Neither is possible without the other. “Work at” is literally “pursue,” implying that these are the twin goals of the “race God has set before us” (see 12:1).” Hebrews 12.1-17, 452

"The grace of God” is, in its own way, an even more severe taskmaster than the ancient law of Moses. Because God is speaking to us not as he spoke long ago on earth (12:18–21) but now from heaven (12:25), the consequences of not paying attention and failing to receive the grace of God are that much greater (12:25–29).” Hebrews 12.18-29, 454

But Abel’s blood cried out for retribution, while the blood of Jesus cries out for “something better”—not retribution but forgiveness (12:24; see also 10:17–18). Hebrews 12.24, 459

The service that is acceptable to God puts faith into action and puts love to work. Love is expressed by family support, hospitality to strangers, service to the persecuted, fidelity in marriage, valuing people and their needs above possessions and money, honoring of Christian leaders and staying true to apostolic teachings. The "sacrifice" that pleases God is the one that is willing to risk one's honor and reputation to confess Christ and serve the outcast and needy. The letter ends with a greeting and a final exhortation to apply all the teachings it contains.

He now enumerates some specific things that do “remain” and belong to God’s “unshakable Kingdom.” First, “let brotherly love remain” (see note on 13:1), and then a number of love’s corollaries: “hospitality to strangers” (13:2), kindness to those in prison or in pain (13:3), faithfulness in marriage (13:4), contentment with one’s possessions (13:5–6), and respect for one’s leaders (13:7). Hebrews 13.1-7, 464

The public arena is a risky place to be, the author is saying, for it is where Jesus was crucified. Yet it is where we must be...These two things, faithfulness to our confessions of Jesus Christ and faithfulness to one another in time of need, are “the sacrifices that please God” (13:16), that “devouring fire” whom we worship “with holy fear and awe” (see 12:28–29). Hebrews 13.1-21, 466

Friday, August 10, 2018

Structure and Message of the Book of Nehemiah

Nehemiah structure

Message of Nehemiah

When the Situation seems Hopeless, God raises up faithful, exemplary leaders to do the hard work of disciplining and leading his people back to faithfulness and to the blessings of covenant.

Nehemiah was a ….

Man of Prayer

Man of Hard Work and Decisive Action

Man of Faith

Man of Boldness and Courage

Man Who Sought Truth and Justice

Man Who Exemplified Servant-Leadership

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Reading Through Hebrews #3 (Chapters 8-10)

cornerstone tim to hebI am continuing my devotional read through of the New Testament. I am reading  the anonymous, but certainly Paul influenced, letter to “the Hebrews accompanied by The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. The Hebrews commentary is written by J. Ramsay Michaels. This section closes the on Jesus as the better high priest with a focus on the better new covenant inaugurated by Jesus and the better sacrifice of his death on the cross. Both Jesus’ identity and actions show that he has the superior qualifications to be the high priest that brings people into the presence of God. 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.

He then moves on to explaining the new covenant in chapter 8. The point is that Jesus is the Superior priest of a superior New Covenant, making the Old Covenant obsolete. The New covenant provides full access to God, which the Old Covenant never was able to do. First, Jesus serves as a superior priest in heaven while the Levites only served in the earthly copy. Secondly, the very fact that their was a need for a new covenant shows that the Old Covenant is obsolete.

Jesus’ exaltation to heaven means that his eternal ministry as High Priest does not take place on earth, or at least not only on earth in his death on the cross, but beyond the cross, in “the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship” (8:2). Hebrews 8.1-6, 390

The “new covenant” of which the prophet spoke is a positive and not a negative thing, promising nothing less than the forgiveness of sins...Most importantly, the exposition will by that time have developed the point that forgiveness in the “new covenant” (as in the old) is possible only through the shedding of blood. Hebrews 8.7-13, 395

He continues his argument, in 9.1-10.19, with a focus on the "once for all" sacrifice Jesus made to provide a better cleansing and better access to the presence of God. The ministry of the Old Covenant was inadequate because it dealt only with externals and could not provide people with permanent access to God (1-10). Jesus' New Covenant ministry is superior because as a better mediator he provides internal cleansing of the heart and conscience and thus, better access to God (11-15). The New Covenant is superior because it was put into effect with the better sacrifice of the God-Man Jesus (16-28). It was inaugurated with Christ’s blood instead of the blood of animals. Finally, The New Covenant is superior because the sufficient sacrifice of Christ perfects believers once for all. (10.1-18) While the sacrifices of the old covenant were unable to remove guilt and provide access to God, the one willing sacrifice of Jesus provides victory over sin and death, makes holy all worshippers and provides complete forgiveness.

Hebrews shares with most early Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings a stark contrast which can be expressed either temporally, as a contrast between this world and the world to come, or spatially, between this world and the world above. Either way, the contrast is between the sorrow and imperfection of the world as we know it and the glory and joy of an unseen world that God has prepared for his people. Hebrews 9.1-10, 401

Biblical forgiveness, whether in the first covenant or the second, is costly, made possible only by death and bloodshed, whether the blood of animals (9:12–13, 19), or “the blood of Christ” by which he “offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins” (9:14). Hebrews 9.11-22, 407

The point is not that he is functioning as our High Priest continually even now, offering his blood as a sacrifice again and again, but that because his priestly work is accomplished (on the cross and in the heavenly sanctuary), his people have continual access to its benefits, now and to the end of the age. Hebrews 9.23-10.18, 416

Chapter 10 closes the section and transitions to the next major section by calling for a response to this superior new covenant and a warning not to reject it. The proper response is to make use of the superior access we have to God by exercising Faith, Hope and Love in community with God and people. The warning is that if we reject this superior covenant and our lifestyle does not match our position we will be judged. But if we persevere in faith we can be sure of great reward.

Whether or not the author of Hebrews knew of this tradition (or that of John 2:19, where Jesus’ body is itself the temple) is unclear, but in each instance the death of Jesus pierces or tears the curtain separating God from God’s people and invites the reader into God’s “Most Holy Place.” Hebrews 10.19-25, 420

Because of the “once-for-all” character of Christ’s sacrifice, there is no further provision for forgiveness beyond what he has already provided. There is, in short, “no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins”... Since God provided an offering and that offering is disdained or repudiated, there is nothing more that God can, or will, do. The very finality which guarantees assurance to those who trust in Christ’s sacrifice seals forever the fate of those who reject it. Hebrews 10.26-39, 422