Writings on Christian Scripture
Here you will find my writings on the bible. Please check back often as I am always adding new writings on my interpretation of the scriptures.
Masculine Mandate, The
Richard D. Phillips, The Masculine Mandate: God's Calling to Men.
Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2010.
I compare The Masculine Mandate to a good marriage. In every more than ordinary wedlock the good runs very well, while the bad stays camouflaged as much as possible. So it is with Mr. Phillip's book. By the way, you will agree, it has a muscular title.
To start off positive: I purchased three copies, two for gifts, the first of which to a twenty-two year old grandson.
The good of this marriage:
Pastorally, the second part of The Masculine Mandate evokes respect indeed and commands concentration to absorb the biblicality of the care for the institution of marriage; each part touches personally, even after fifty-odd years in the husbandly calling.
In the course of pastoral care, Mr. Phillips asks:
“What do men need to know about marriage?” P. 56.
“Why is it so hard to communicate and why is it sometimes difficult to get along?” P. 62.
“OK, how am I supposed to love my wife?” P. 82.
For biblical answers you have to read the book; I refuse to waste time copying good and wise material. Mr. Phillips finds that most men are ill-prepared for the changes marriage requires.
The camouflaged parts of this marriage:
Foundationally, questions arise, almost unbidden.
First, Mr. Phillips places too much weight on Gen 13 to address a twenty-first century problem, one at the heart of the ongoing culture wars, men lacking wisdom with respect to marriage. The book could better have been based on Eph 5:2533 or Col 3:19 with proper referencing to the first Bible chapters, the revelation of “working” and “keeping.” Mr. Phillips's book misses much of the historical-redemptive currents between then and now.
In the recent past I listened to two sermons with which from Gen 3:1—13 perfectly rational preachers charged into all aspects of the culture wars, intent to slay every postmodern moral monster.
Second, Mr. Phillips's definition of the image of God starts out weak, as “keeping” and “protecting.” The image of God beginning in Genesis translates as lordship over life, in fact, over the earth, which as male headship begins at home and moves into the Church.
Whereas the good of this marriage shines exemplarily all around, the faults require professional counseling, pastoral care, and/or collegial assistance.
Why review a six-year old book? I read two recent articles on this little volume and decided to have a look myself.
October 31, 2016, T. Hoogsteen
ANN - June 22, 2016
As malignancy wracks havoc within your body and attacks your heart, current medical prognosis statistically limits your life expectancy.
The Lord Jesus gives life and takes life, yet even throughout coming months and weeks he renews his mercies every morning. In mercy he grants his own stervensgenade, stirbengnade (the english for which escapes me). Hence, rather than settling in despondency or, worse, hide behind a facade of denial, what if you reflect more on what it meants to move into the moment after dying, seeing yourself stand in the glories of of the heavens before the Judge, the Lord Jesus. In the first Judgment on the Cross of Golgotha he bore the punishment for the sins of all whom the Father gave him; in the suffering and crucifixion he earned the full force of the Gospel— righteouess also at the present time of the one who has faith in Jesus, Rom 3:26. In the sacrament of baptism Jesus promised you this life in him; also, he promised you food with which to sustain this life; and, moreover, he promised you space in which to live before him. In the space for living all in Christ Jesus structure gratitude by the Commandments. Out of the heart, then, move the deep reverberations of the Faith, which gains its feet on the ground in the Church. Rather than concentrate on the malignancy, mediate on the Gospel, the love, and the grace of the Son of God, almighty Savior.
In the time the Christ allots you, reflect on the promises the Father, the Son, and the Spirit gave you at your Baptism.
In the time the Christ allots you, also reflect on the promises you made at your probulc Profession of Faith. The Lord knows us by our deeds.
Where you out of ingratitude for salvation have fallen short and missed the mark in believing and living the promises, you are in a numerous company. All fail miserably in the life of gratitude. All stumble covetously in eating to sustain that life of gratitude. And all transgress the Commandments while filling the space he grants for gratitude living. Constantly, guilt collects, indeed, overwhelms.
For sins committed and omitted ask for forgiveness, the cleansing away of guilt—of misusing and abusing life, food, and space. Every new day acknowledge that all in Christ have only a small beginning of the righteousness and holiness the Gospel creates in Christians.
The promises is certain: In the moment of death the soul, that is, life, within a sigh stands before the Judge. Rom 14:12, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” And: Of herself. In the glory of that moment, Jesus speaks, “Come in,” or “Go away.” After a long illness or upon sudden death, this either/or applies to all—the poor and the rich, the weak and the powerful, the followers and the leaders. The Judge never errs.
The basis for each judgment that the Lord Jesus hands down, one which the Father accepts, he revealed once for all form Golgotha; everyone who believes his sacrificial death in which he covered the guilt of sinning and have from the heart through the Holy Spirit lived the Faith hear the “Come in” welcome, forever to abide in his presence and that of the Father. They then boew forever to the actuality of election. On the other hand, they who disbelieve his atoning grace and love to disdain Christianity bow foerver to the actuality of reprobation. Whether members of the Church or despises of the covenant community, all in the moment of death confront the same fate: Intently listening to the Judge.
This judging cuts away hypocrisy and unbelief with the authority of divine omniscience. They who aporach death, the last enemy, knowing the peace of the Cross look to the word of the Lord and the resurrection of the body. TH
The Brexit vote, June 23, 2016, turned into the English Problem, that is, making a major political decision the outcome of which leaves both sides undecided about protocol. Even though no one really knows what will happen, the vote itself reflected the powerful anti-Western movement––anti-globalist, anti-socialist, and pro-nativist.
More such movements roll about and break through the social surface, seeking oxygen-rich atmospheres; for instance: the American Tea Party, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and Idle No More. Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential candidate appeals to this pro-nativist, the mentality of those who find themselves left behind or pushed aside by Westernism. These movements, rising or fading, may face the English problem, upon winning unable to or unprepared for to propose a protocol for success.
I've used xx words to come to the point: the agitation on each side of such power struggles concentrates on domination, for a manifestation of the English Problem one sharply anti-European Union, the other severely pro-European Union, one anti-Western, the other pro-Western. The point at issue: all such social and political turmoil pushes the Kingdom of the Christ––not a third option, but the primary concern––away. When people engage in the tumults of power struggles either for survival and/or domination over others vision narrows down to the moment, without cares about the future. As pro- and anti- make time to destroy one another to find security of a kind, the Kingdom as given in Matthew 6:33 hurts. Therefore, before any human concerns, here is the will of the Christ, “. . . seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The Kingdom of God equals the Kingdom of the Christ.
Westernism with its determinist streak and winner-take all cruelty allows less and less for alternative life-styles within its domain; in fact, it seeks to diffuse the Kingdom in favor of power laden with secularism, humanism, and socialism. Nativists, to the contrary, seek re-invigoration of independence, political control, and nationalism. However, whether any pro- or any anti-, the hour approaches for all, beginning in the Church, Phil 2:10–11,
“. . . that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The Christ now gives all one day at a time for all to learn that bending of stiff knees typical of his followers.
In Westernized lands nativist restlessness moves out of sight until unexpectedly another such movement erupts against globalist determinism for political and bureaucratic dominance, and another manifestation of the English Problem, again to defeat the Kingdom.
FREE WILL OPTICS
Free will captures attention. As a rule in an anti-authoritarian culture many find mostly in moral matters that they are free to choose and to do as they please, whatever. And why not? The spirits of the times dictate such license, surrender to the lusts of the body, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride in possessions.
This sort of freedom constantly expresses captivity to lusts and passions, often insatiable, often with long-lasting, if not deadly consequences. They who find themselves empowered by excitement or by greed freely surrender to the demands of advertisements, boldly living a sort of situation ethics.
See: In the beginning the LORD God created Adam, and then Eve, with the freedom of the will, that is, out of thankfulness for the creation to obey his commandments. The way of the Commandments shaped the liberty of the first people. Today, in the Western world this freedom/obedience has the sound of a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron, if you will, a logical incongruity.
See: Because of and through the Fall first Eve and then Adam too changed; both radically refurbished the meaning of the freedom of the will; now they chose what each wanted to do according to passing lusts or deep-seated passions. Living out of thankfulness because of creation became outdated, if not extreme foolishness. New generations perceived restrictions, prevention of the expression of personal desires and do as one pleases as terrifyingly restrictive. A barrier to freedom of the will?
See: In the West this freedom of the will received a legitimation in the form of Pelagianism, an idolatry committed to the absolute freedom of the will, one with no boundaries; for the exposition of this idolatry each person allegedly has the ability to make the best choices, at least morally—as an absolute value system to discern between right and wrong. Restrictions, if ever possible, have blurred, stronger, made non-existent. Now all caught in the net of Pelagianism find they resent antagonistically any external authority, any system of right and wrong imposed from the outside no one wants to be told what may or may not be done. Minimizing sin, Pelagian-dominated men and women lives as they see fit bound in, to, and with covetousness––through a spontaneity diametrically at odds with the created human nature, Once in the clutches of this foreign idolatry, it drags people to where they want to go, deaf to the voice of the Lord.
See: After the Fall the LORD God, the Christ of the New Testament, renewed the freedom of the will to what he had created. He pushed Pelagian sorts of liberty aside and reformed a people to do his will—exclusively. Living the Commandments out of gratitude for salvation is the new and eternal freedom of the will; it comes through belonging to Christ Jesus.
At death each family executes the final arrangements of the deceased. Even as thinking relative to dying and death changes, so too choices involving disposition of a body.
This established observance with a headstone carries memories of the dead forward.
Perhaps to defray costs, perhaps with ecological motifs, this rite too makes a statement about life in the present age and the life in the age to come.
- Soil Management.
To eliminate cemetery costs, boxes with human remains are stacked atop each other and soon the cadavers turn to dirt suitable for gardening. This rite of passage leaves no footprint of death behind.
Inundation of a corpse in an alkaline solution eats away bones and all, and then permits flushing the resulting fluid down the public sewage system, a pollution-free funerary procedure.
Commitment to rites two through four may be done out of ecological concerns: no plot, no stone, and no cemetery maintenance.
Commitment to rites two through four may also be carried out for religious convictions, for instance, annihilation, the belief that at death human life disappears into nothingness. In the evolutionistic scheme of things, human life is limited to the present, because of the conviction that at death all life ceases.
The first of the four has biblical roots; they who after dying seek interment hope for the resurrection of the body; in the grave, regardless of what happens to the body itself, believers await the Parousia, the glorious advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider Dan 12:2, “. . . many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
“But someone will ask, 'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?'” Paul put these questions to an early Christian congregation, 1 Cor 15.
Of course, any interment rite may also be tradition, and no more, expunged of all future interests.
WHITE-KNUCKLED HANDS AT TEN AND TWO
Driverless motor vehicles appeal.
Roads are dangerous thoroughfares. Accidents threaten all who travel from point to point. Motorists in many ways care too little for neighbors in other vehicles. Surrounded by flashing red lights of emergency vehicles, ruined cars and/or trucks, mutilated bodies, and dead human beings litter pavement and shoulders. Causes?
- Texting and driving: distracted motorists concentrate on matters miniscule in comparison to the rules of the road.
- Drunkenness: intoxicated (by any substance abuse) vehicle operators fail to recognize even the most obvious responsibilities of license holders.
- Lack of education: men and women ignorant of the rules of the road assume a non-existent competence.
- Mechanical failure: owner(s) who refuse to maintain a vehicle's roadworthiness are menaces of a kind.
- Sleepiness: shift workers, insomniacs, and the bored behind the wheel easily drift off into statistics and broken lives.
- Prescription medications: patients who ignore labels and medical advice are threats to others, if not to themselves.
- Belatedness: racing for work and/or appointment risk breaking traffic signals.
- Improper passing:for saving seconds and minutes motorists risk neighbors’ losing hours, days, and years.
- Entitlement: ill-bred, such drivers assume they own more of the road than others equally licensed; obstinately these road hogs assume privileges with respect to right-of-way on the streets and roads.
- Sightseeing: these people pay more attention to the scenery on both sides of the road than to traffic coming and going.
- Stunt driving: at forbidden speeds some characters find a driver's license licenses them to recklessness.
- Under age risk taking: joyriders for momentary pleasures demand the right to the road without proper instruction and licensing.
- Thievery: car and truck thieves at whatever risk to others seek evasion from pursuit.
- License suspension: various “upstanding” citizens unlicensed for medical or legal reasons still insist on the privileges of the road.
- Grief: some burdened by grief concentrate more on that pain than on the responsibilities of operating a motor vehicle.
- Inability to recognize that owning a driverless license is a privilege, never a right.
- Inadequate police supervision.
- An uncaring attorney-general who refuses to respect the work of police officers.
- Poor road maintenance.
If it were not for divine providence chaos worse ensues.
To the issue at hand: necessary on the roadways is a strong measure of neighbor love, from Philippians 2, “. . . in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
PEOPLE IN THE WILD
Driven by ecological hopes many seek solace in back-to-nature movements. Any such return to the wilds comes currently out of a realization that to survive human beings must consider living in uncultivated places, one in spirit with nature. Hence, saving wild places preserves the human race.
Any return to nature involves more than enjoying its beauties, whether a panoramic mountain range or a miniscule forget-me-not as blue as the sky above the highest peaks. With silent wonder to observe a sunset, with drawn-in breath to watch a soaring eagle, with spontaneous sparkle in the eye to see a fish leap out of water, with a paean of praise to eye-follow running deer, with swelling adulation to know awe in the rising sun, with bourgeoning admiration to behold billowing clouds––to the new wild this is not an alien world, far away from human concerns, but as near as survival of the species. In the thinking of the new wild, human liveliness depends upon the worlds of nature, that breathing, living environment of green energy. Destruction of natural places means destruction of humanity, for the two belong as one. The new wild draws no boundary between civilization and natural wildness.
To seek homes in the wild places where plants and animals rule reverses the process of civilization. In such wilderness settings, impressions of life and death turn silently and spontaneously into places of worship and the imagination of hitherto unknown gods, deities that allegedly give life to all who seek to return to the uncivilized, divinities who demand obeisance. In the places of the wild, impressed by the calling of these gods even hardened atheists, thinking rationally, bend to wondering about authorities greater than life and death. Wild places were animals live excites religious novelty.
There have always been lovers of nature, men and women seeking to worship gods in the wild, meditating amidst the great outdoors upon the goodness of these divine beings. However, regardless of the power of these novelty gods, beauty in the wilds abides only briefly and life turns into death. Woods and fields, deserts and mountains, streams and lakes display grandeurs that soon fade into dull browns and blacks of death. Then, restless hearts in search of calmer souls, purified minds, and rested bodies must hasten elsewhere.
(I am thinking slowly and carefully.)
In the silence of reflection and in the thought for tomorrow problems come to mind:
- In nature everything turns to death, its beauty first; in fact in any wilderness deadly forces predominate.
- Bears, wolves, wolverines, coyotes, skunks, and snakes take offence at people invading hunting grounds.
- Outsiders tend to be uncomfortable in dens, caves, and nests.
On the whole, human beings gravitate towards villages, towns, and cities, constructing these as necessary; as social beings real people in part seek the company of others for protection against the wild and in part to engage the sociality of humanity. All the while people cultivate wilderness areas for food production.
The LORD God from the beginning created people to have dominion over animals and plants. With population growth and urban expansion everywhere that force extinction of plants and destruction of animal species, the dominion mandate ought to seek better ways of living with animals––better than foxes, raccoons, skunks, and rats do throughout towns and cities. Demographics notwithstanding, extinction is not dominion over natural resources.
Whatever physical causes contribute to depressive states—thyroid deficiencies or DNA disorders—other factors also bring about extreme cases of sadness. For its silent sufferers, depressions descend into crises of hopelessness, inability to see a way out of or beyond a critical mass, either one or multiples of problems. Whatever these personal or social overloads of despair, each influences the physical aspects of depression; in every case all under its burden find an inability to recognize (too late) origination(s) of the hopelessness.
- Terminal illness allows no respite, no escape to avoid passing through the doorway of death, which is dispiriting.
- Students far from home for the first time and/or far behind in course work as well as assignments begin the days with troubled mien, heavy with failure.
- Confinement through poverty and/or limited financial resources with toddlers to a dingy one-bedroom apartment, or less space, removes hopes for a better tomorrow.
- Widowhood or widowerhood on gradients of bleakness, with mouth involuntarily turned down, eating alone removes appetite.
- Joblessness complicated by a lack of qualifications and age factors sets of increasing storms of sadness, burdened shoulders sagging.
- Abusive relations, seemingly endless with pain, pass tomorrows past broken and now illegible signposts.
- Living limited by the boundaries of social assistance or welfare in the face of inflation unleashes frustration laden with futility.
- Aging, too, with youthfulness an impossible memory, brings about loneliness, especially as family members and friends sicken or die, aches with the pain of outlived usefulness.
- Marriage/family breakdown, as reconciliation flees and stupor of failure sets in, loosens at first unrecognizable despair.
- Long-term illness, confinement to an institutional bed without a window of healing in the room, lays open prospects dark, and darker.
- Lack of wisdom for the young brews into regressions of despondency, suicide, the violence of radicalism, and/or crime the options, the webs of despair woven too tight to escape.
Among and throughout the many causes for depression thousands of varieties occur; with combinations and recombination of unrecognized initial causes the horrors multiply. Some respond to dark outlooks quicker, some respond to dying hopes slower. Still others require combinations of roots before the sense of the silent imprisonment consumes.
Social and physical propellants into depression—the social setting off glandular malfunctions, DNA disordering, or physical isolation—explain numerous sufferings, which steal away normality of living.
To advice depressed that sufficient for the day is its own trouble helps as little as a care-lessness James exposed, 2:15—16, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” John, no less sharp, asked, 3:17, “. . . if any one has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” Such too is abuse, to increase the miseries of despondency.
The way out of (clinical) depression requires medical attention, obviously.
The way out of depression requires vision, restoration of hope, a way forward.
The way out of depression requires a caring community.
The way out of depression, in combinations and recombination, requires most divine providence, the care of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Succumbing to the mood of the age, church people across the West draw the world into Christ-originated congregations, thereby adopting current heresies and apostasies.
After the Second World War the world at large, tired of one hundred years of modernist rationality, engaged another novel paradigm,. During the excesses of the post-1945 decade, postmodernism moved in and removed barriers of reason, of proof, and of rational arguments; in its murky relativism each person judges truth privately. Numerous churches weakened by modernism and thus unqualified to meet postmodernism drew in the relativistic truths of the latter. In other words: As multiple churches once transferred in dictates of modernism (try counting the liberal churches), many now breathe in massive influxes of postmodernism, its wilderness of theological, ecclesial, moral, and social errors overwhelming (here incomplete and without chronological order).
- Monotheism (in its current denial of the Trinity) finds genial acceptance, thereby minimizing, or denying, Jesus's divinity, also the Spirit’s.
- Jesuology—the doctrine of Jesus apart from the Scriptures—makes the Lord and Savior an (exceptional) good man only.
- The Scriptures postmodernists repudiate; the Book is as all old books.
- Eschatology, the linear direction of history to conclude in the glories of the Eschaton, unbelievers replace by a cyclical process, the annual parade of secular holidays.
- Multiculturalism with its multiplicity of gods finds room also among church people who prefer recourse to private opinion therein to erect deities before which they bow.
- Sacraments turn into openly accessible rites, participation based on human volition and self-righteousness.
- Churches divide on a liberal-conservative continuum seeking political irrelevancy, its schismatics holding members in thrall.
- Music in the churches resounds with the sound and the styles of this world.
- Human rights systems supersede the Decalogue in terms of relevance and preference.
- Smaller families facilitate freedom for adults to chase the material.
- Women's suffrage (within denominations women-in-office controversies) raises worldly expectation for womanhood to neglect scriptural norms, its demands for inclusivity hitherto unknown.
- Headship has become a forgotten authority.
- At funerals eulogies celebrate the dead rather than praise the eternally significant grace of the living Lord Jesus.
- Abortion-on-demand misreads the Scriptures on the sexuality of marriage.
- Divorce, however shocking in still conservative congregations, finds acquiescence, if not sloven encouragement.
- Euthanasia has increasing support.
- 1) Secularism flourishes on Sundays relative to employment, shopping, sports, and entertainment.
- 2) Secularism with its flat-earth mentality compels church people to obey man-inspired laws allegedly to achieve some sort of order in a godless world.
- Homosexualism bullies its way into normalcy.
- Shacking up is less a return to a pre-Christian era than a deliberate defiance of the Lord's marriage institution.
These inroads of world conformity—coiled yet between the First and the Second World Wars—through subversive radicalization move out of dark shadows to define the life of the churches; such invasive forces by invitation contribute (to use a cliché) to a new normal. All receptivity to the sins of the age among those who allegedly worship the Lord Jesus involves a lack of commitment to the Word and a fatal diversion of eschatological hope, first among the men whom the Head of the Church commissions to office bearing. Against such failed lives Apostle Paul exhorted none to subtly, Titus 1:9, “[Each] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that [all] may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also rebuke those who contradict it.” Despite this force of divine authority, after the world discovers a different manner with which to oppose the Word many churches within the seven proverbial years run to catch up, coming out as heretics and apostates. And if congregations move too slowly? Governments and Supreme Courts impose with enactments of social engineering full compliance to the wilderness of postmodernism. In truth with such powerful break ins many congregations are worldly enough to allow the world to dictate the beliefs and lives of members who nevertheless remain in good standing.
Following the Old Testament, in the New the Lord Jesus created feminine fashions, styles that enhance the beauty of women young and old. Two of his apostles whom he commissioned to speak for him laid out these fashions of beauty, its good taste ageless.
First Timothy 2:9—10 “. . . women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.”
First Peter 3:3—6, “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”
As such, the women of the Church seek 1) that styling that calls attention to the Lord and Savior, Jesus—no less than the men—and 2) set the fashions not only for new generations but for the world as well. Women of the Church thus are style setters, fashion designers that enhance feminine attractiveness.
Such women the Spirit modelled, Tabitha/Dorcas, Acts 9:36—43, and Priscilla, Acts 18:1—4.
Women who call attention to themselves through attire or lack of attire to excite the lusts of the flesh have their final reward in this world on their terms.
Christ Jesus, beginning in Genesis 3 revealed himself as the Style Setter in the manner that transcends the ages and the fashions. He is the Lord, Sovereign, keeping his own in vogue.
The Commandments In a Digital Age
Internet connectivities—still unforeseeable and unoverseeable—enormously extend boundaries of communication. Does this mean on ground level that living in a digital age makes old rules irrelevant, even outdated, and requires an ethic relevant to the times? The Commandments, however, written in stone, Exo 34:28b, remain in effect, mandatory for Christian gratitude. Now ranging from home around the world, each and all maintain the responsibilities for living the Law. The rules of digital communication never cancel out the authority of Exo 29:1—17 and Deut 5:6—21.
As more extensive boundaries of communication open up, gratitude remains the same, also sinning. Sins committed in the Old Testament dispensation are identical in this age, even if degrees of anonymity expand. Much gratitude comes out into the open with Internet connectivities and most sins still are committed in perfidious secret. For both, gratitude and sinning, the possibilities of range extend enormously farther and further.
At the intersection of the first dispensation and the second, where the one ends and the other starts, apocalypticism revealed a now scarcely imaginable interpretation of history. Its proponents with fantastic, if not lurid, heavy-handedness depicted cosmic cataclysms allegedly to establish the Kingdom of God outside human existence. This unveiling had supra-historical forces, massive and terrible angelic beings, battling other heavenly agencies to bring about the new age. Apocalypticism in its unhistorical and thoroughly terrifying dramas reflected the tensions in the pre- and post-Incarnation hour, in fact, deflected attention away from the coming in the flesh of the Son of God. Those enormous warrings brought little downdraft and minimal impact on the conclusion to the first dispensation and on the initiation to the second, since the spectacles occurred off-earth.
With this apocalypticism Rudolph Bultmann, The Theology of the New Testament, I, 4, indicated Jesus's failure in and with the Crucifixion to create the Kingdom of God.
“The dominant concept of Jesus' message is the Reign of God. Jesus proclaims its immediate impending irruption, now already making itself felt. Reign of God is an eschatological concept. It means the regime of God which will destroy the present course of the world, wipe out all the contra-divine, Satanic power under which the present world groans—and thereby, terminating all pain and sorrow, bring in salvation for the People of God which awaits the fulfilment of the prophets' promises. The coming of God's Reign is a miraculous event, which will be brought about by God alone without the help of men.”
Of men, Jesus too failed to compel the entrance into the world of the Kingdom; he died in a last desperate attempt to force God or as a final admittance of defeat.
According to such apocalyptic teaching, Jesus's wrong interpretation of the divine will stress his failure to institute the new age, the Kingdom of God. He prophesied the “age to come” and lost himself in its violent, chaotic apocalyptic claims. Rather than the end of the world history and the annihilation of the present, all remained as was; catastrophes in the affairs of the nations continued. In fact, the whole preposterous apocalyptic unveiling proved false and allegedly took Jesus down with it.
Through ministries of Michael and Gabriel, Daniel 8:16, 10:13, Jesus revealed himself the Lord of history, as he had done throughout the Old Testament dispensation. At the completion of the first dispensation he created the end times of “this age;” that was the impact of the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension. Through this complex of ministry he unveiled the historicity of salvation. Rev 12:1-6, the awesome woman and the birth of the male child unveiled in history the actuality of the Kingdom of God and the radicality of redemption. Hence, the Apocalypse created the actual unveiling that involved heaven and earth, and all of life. In effect, at and with the beginning of the second dispensation Jesus initiated “the age to come,” the new age, therewith making salvation historical work.
The unveiling of apocalypticism substituted the fantastic in place of the hard realities of history, a tide of manipulative, inflated illusions, Bultmann’s wave still strong. The Scriptures, however, with the Unveiling raised praises for the salvation revealed on earth. Therefore Rev 5:13b,
To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!
Secret friends occupy my soul, companions none see, none know, whom I admire; they are smart unrighteousness, silly works-righteousness, handsome hatred, bald lying, ruthless covetousness, voluptuous lust—a beauty, she is—little apostasy too, and old lawlessness. We carry on together, tell jokes, gossip; old lawlessness can be a grump, impatient, and lust teases. In quiet times we commune with each other. We have our understanding smiles. We admire each other. We break each other's loneliness, and provide companionship in the dark times. We pay attention to each other. We hold each other high. For what would each one be without the others?
In church on Sundays, during the first service and the only time we pay attention, the minister calls upon us to confess our sins. Then we have each other's back. We have to spill our sins? My friends stay quiet; they watch me. Only sins other members may have seen or heard me commit, little sins, innocuous, nothing to make the news media. I am a good person, and my companions, bosom friends, know that; from the heart they know and keep me so. Besides, they ask me, what is wrong with us? We are interesting creatures, faceless to most, perhaps not the most presentable in polite company, but we love you and you love us. Let that minister talk. We have our little secrets, ours alone. For my friends' undivided and unstinting support (and they want to keep my friendship), I feed them with attention. They say, Confess us, your best friends, and betray our secret club? They are mine and I am theirs. I say, You are my real friends who give purpose to what I am and will be. They reply, You are our life support; without you we are gone. I am happiest when I am with my companions, in communion with them. We keep no secrets from each other. All our hopes and dreams we share, to the most intimate details. We are each other's secrets, they mine, I theirs. No one knows about us. One thing we agree on most adamantly. They do not want to have as friend the Friend, and because of that neither do I. He will spoil everything, break up our good times. They tell me that he steals the secrets of soul and I wholeheartedly believe them. My inner life is mine, and my friends agree; we are each other's, to share with none. I stroke and stroke them; they preen themselves for me. In the most supportive way they say, We are your secret and you are ours, forever and ever; we trust each other. I will never betray my companions and they will never betray me. They say, You like us and we like you; you mean so much to us, and we too you. Yes, we are comfortable with each other, no secrets in our little home. Besides, does Jesus, they ask, even command you to 'fess all your sins? He is speaking only to really bad people, haters of father and of mothers, murderers, racists, all the worst kinds. He understands that you need us and that we need you, all of us in the strongest brother-bond. You own us and we own you; love is ours. Are we not friends for life? We will grow stronger together. We ask you, What are friends for, if not to protect each other in volatile times against the Friend? When you experience, my companions say, mismatched stresses during the first service on Sundays, we calm you. We are not masquerading as companions. We have no corrosive effects.
Now, why are you listening to that man?
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Are you getting nervous, in church, sitting in the middle of our friendship circle?
“. . . desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
You have to stop paying attention to that fellow, in one ear and out the other. Look at those people around you, real sinners. Stop listening to that man. You know that James was not an apostle; he has even less authority than John. Shut your ears. The guy 's only trouble. He's speaking to really, really bad people. We have too good a life together to throw away. We have you in our soul and you have us in yours.
It has been a warm summer, the Humidex high for weeks on end and rainfall minimal. Under the hot sun over suffering crops, a vague what-have-we-done-wrong-now unease, questioning, moved about in conversations. It has been an unusually hot and dry summer in Southwestern Ontario, heat alerts and watering restrictions.
From year to year the weather patterns change, influenced by the Jet Stream on high, the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic, and El Nino/La Nina from the Pacific. And is not the magnetic North Pole sliding away imperceptibly? Everywhere—droughts here and floods there, storms now and depressions then, heat bubbles coming up from down south and arctic vortexes coming down from up north—weather patterns fluctuate.
You sense, of course, that I have more than meteorology in mind.
Throughout Scriptures severe weather in all its variation signified divine messaging; droughts and floods, famine and abundance normally as well as normatively disclosed dual purposes.
- By the Flood, Gen 6:13, the LORD God drowned numerous revolutionaries and saved Noah's Eight.
- By a drought and famine, Gen 12:10, Canaan-based Abram learned to rely on the LORD's providence and Egyptian Abimelech to fear the LORD.
- By a drought and famine, Gen 26:1, the LORD compelled Isaac to trust him and Philistine Abimelech to fear him.
- By an abundance and a scarcity, Gen 41:53—54, the LORD God saved Israel and alerted the reigning Pharaoh to acknowledge him in all his ways.
- According to 1 Sam 12:8, thunder and rain beat down an Israelite rebellion and raised the fear of the LORD as well as of Samuel.
- The storm havoc memorialized in Ps 29 shocked Israel to
acknowledge the LORD and intimidated
nations in the surround.
The dual purpose of these atmospheric conditions makes weather watching an invigorating conversation theme, even now.
Terrible and crippling weather patterns happen. Hurricanes destroy. Tornadoes kill. Floods devastate. Droughts parch. Typhoons endanger. Whatever the weather, the winds and the rains break dreams, disturb minds, and twist emotions, especially upon loss of life.
In the aftermaths, once human beings and domesticated animals are secure, the question is not, why? Nor helpful that unedifying, glib remark, “God is in control.” Not for those grieving amidst losses and twisted hopes. The question is, to what purpose the Lord of heaven and earth brings devastation to bear.
One work in COVENANT ESSAYS: ONE (Wipf and Stock/Resource Publications, 2016) lays out the North American demise of the four great confessional standards, each with global outreach. Thus in Confessional Studies: The Descent of the Symbols I show that the Anglican, the Presbyterian, the Lutheran, and the Reformed Confessions failed. These Euro-original standards started out strong, abounding with immigrant excitement of life in the New World. However, each one lost the zeal of its forefathers.
This means that the heart and the boundary of what the churches believed on the basis of the Scriptures collapsed into free fall, leaving congregations at the mercy of clergy, religious traditions, university departments, theological institutions, or dominating experts, the Barths, the Bultmanns, the Spongs, or numerous epigones.
Throughout this essay you sense grief at the wild growth forming, less the loss of tradition, more the failure of all believers to know the unity in Christ.
You also sense in between the lines hope, that is, the necessity for a confessional standard large and deep and broad and strong that gathers believers in the unity of the Christ, alive only in the powerful teachings of the Scriptures.
North America, regardless of polls and statistics, is more religious than ever. As the once dominant Protestant churches fade away or loose themselves in Evangelicalism a vacuum forms, which religiosities quickly fill. I explain this in COVENANT ESSAYS: ONE (Wipf and Stock/Resource Publications 2016), The Night Is Far Gone: A Measurement of These Days.
Once the Enlightenment took hold, moving past eradicating the worst features of Lutheran and Reformed seventeenth-century brutalities of civil wars, the governing intellectual and political leaders pressed for rationalism, believing based on what humans perceived as logically permissible. In fact, once started, the Enlightenment powers sought to remove the Christian religion, indeed, all religion, leaving a civilization only logically motivated, hard reason then motivator. As quickly as logical decisions and enactments pushed the Christian faith toward oblivion, religiosities moved in. Protestants, conservatives as much as liberals, failed to see the immense upheaval on the religious landscape.
Awareness of North America’s fast changing religious demographics creates new challenges for a Christian minority in American and Canadian lands; without even a hope and a prayer for retrieving the nineteenth-century past, we must learn to serve and honor the Christ in difficult circumstances amidst aggressive man-made religions.
As I said, because of these changes and despite Enlightenment hopes, North America is more religious than ever, only not in any Protestant way.
The Covenant-Of-Works Knot
Of the three alleged covenants in seventeenth-century Federal Theology—the covenant of works, the covenant of grace, and the covenant of redemption—the first of these, of works, receives the bulk of attention. And for good reasons. That covenant of works clashes with the very goodness of the created order. I list a variety of erroneous presuppositions:
The presupposition that Adam/Eve were able to sin.
The presupposition that Adam/Eve had to earn salvation.
The presupposition that the omniscient LORD counted on the Fall.
The presupposition that Adam/Eve through obedience earned access to heaven.
The presupposition that the Creator opened two ways of salvation, by works and by faith.
These presuppositions prove that the “very good” of the created order lacked the truth of the LORD's pronouncement.
There is also the presupposition that the LORD came walking in the cool of every evening for communion with his two creatures. Only, he came at nightfall of the Seventh Day for judgment.
The theory of the three covenants, and specifically the one on works fitted into the mentality of the seventeenth-century Neo-Scholasticism of Witsius, Cocceius, and Voetius, which ideology disappeared as do all constructions imposed upon the Scriptures. Neo-Scholasticism was a step far removed from the sixteenth-century Reformation.
In COVENANT WORKS (Wipf and Stock/Resource Pubs., 2015) I point to the Biblical fact that there is one central covenant, and hence only one salvation.
The grace of this salvation began with Gen 3:14––19.
It seems that the proponents of a covenant of works continue to unravel a fabricated knot.
The Fear of The Lord
Most frequently, and shabbily, I may add, interpreters translate the fear of the Lord as awe and/or reverence. That may be so. Awe and reverence also apply to Jesus's other names and titles. How can one say, Jesus, and miss out on its awe and reverence? First Cor 12:3p, “. . . no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” However, take an instance of the fear of the Lord, Deut 5:29, “Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” Here, too, the fear of the Lord equaled accountability, accountability for every and all commandments.
Throughout the LORD held Israel accountable to him; he owned all of Israel as also all of the New Israel, and all his are accountable to him. This is fascinating, uplifting, of all we do, of all we say, of all with think, and of all we dream we owe him an account.
See The Fear of the Lord in COVENANT ESSAYS: ONE (Wipf and Stock/Resource Publications, 2016).
This accountability to the Lord Jesus increases the purpose of living and gives zest to sanctification, even if it pains individualistic and entitlement sensitivities.
Whoever discovered blogging, I owe him or her a word of appreciation. The exercise of what I call brief essays caught traction.
As I read or move about, listening, asking, ideas catch attention. Usually I make brief notes in a small notebook. Or as this one, I quickly outlined the theme and added notes.
On occasion I page through this notebook. If the central idea is still urgent, I ask Why? I have even after months found notes suddenly interesting, and work out such a brief essay. I write it out, type it, and edit it, txwo-four times, even rewrite it. Then, if it still stands up to critical scrutiny, the blog goes on line.
Canadian I Am
The day I stood with others to recite the Oath of Allegiance defined my citizenship: I became a Canadian, not some hyphenated creature, but one with all born in this country. Reforming allegiance from one queen to another and from one country to another vitalized commitment in which I became a loyal subject of the Queen of Canada. Since, resident here or abroad, I lived and worked credibly as a Canadian citizen. Never have I questioned my loyalty to queen and country.
Questioning, a disorienting experience, began at the 2015 installation of a Liberal government in Ottawa and a continuing Liberal government in Toronto. With roaming awareness I sense the connective tissues of citizenship stretch in strange and painful ways, into a moving stance impertinent in character and insecure in gravity.
For the first time I sense the forces of post-Christianity, a loss of the freedom to believe and live according to the longstanding confessional apparatus, the three Forms of Unity, with its robust conviction regarding the Scriptures.
For the first time I sense as never before the political undermining of the created man/woman designation constitutive of humanity.
For the first time I sense the actual powers of multiculturalism, legalized as well as opportunistic separation into groupings, each determined to chart its own course and fight for its own values independent of others, if not antagonistic then selfish on the bases of immigrant origins.
For the first time I sense a roiling inside against leftward pressures to conform Canada politically and socially to an alien and revolutionary spirit, a desperation to retain Westernism at any cost.
For the first time I sense how deep federal and provincial immigration policies open doors to economic immigrants and migrants who gather in communities of segregation, assimilation processes less easily and willingly undergone. Any we are united sloganeering echoes with profiteering hollowness.
For the first I sense deepening hostility toward religion, any religion, particularly Christianity; in the turmoil of the times religion became synonymous with hatred.
For the first time I sense alienation, difficulty fitting in. At work I meet and chat with people, yet in larger settings socially I find estrangement.
For the first time I sense a loss of freedom, the tightening of political correctness chains, intolerance by leading voices that discriminate against more vital life structures.
For the first time I sense awareness of the death wish permeating society to eliminate inconvenient human beings, the unborn and the aged, to allow the evolutionistically strong to flourish.
For the first time. This prepositional phrase calls for clarification. Of course, I have awareness of revolutionizing turmoils disintegrating the West. Even reading The Expositor, the daily published for Brantford, Ontario, opens the mind to perceive the fast emergence of a left-ward socialization and politicization, a liberal world. Consciousness and mindfulness of the deformation I have uncovered in writings and conversations. Perhaps through maturing I am also more aware of the current contrast between this world and the city Abraham sought, Heb 11:10, and more cognizant of the Pauline call to the abiding citizenship, Phil 3:20.
As I reflect I move about in deep wells of righteousness and holiness. Now, even though the Canada of the day in which I swore a politically sensitive oath, thereby invoking the name of God, my commitment to citizenship stands, Canadian I am. Only, I need to find a more conscious structure to this citizenship.
I am listening.
Liberal Arts Lights
This educational regimen developed throughout the Middle Ages as the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy/astrology), the whole structure influenced and overseen by the then active authorities of the Church. All educational processes, including the universities, were very much under the control of ecclesial leaders at the time when theology was the queen of the sciences.
The Enlightenment radically altered the trivium and quadrivum into more loosely structured humanities—languages, history, philosophy, sociology, politics, religious studies, physical sciences, literature, mathematics, psychology, etc. At the same times as the Enlightenment powers secularized education from elementary schools to universities, all of the Reformation planned for the instruction of new generations, also post-secondary, to instruct members so-inclined and gifted study under the lordship of Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. Therefore the actual liberal arts regimen effectively starts in the Church, for the Kingdom.
The foundation of the humanities is the Faith and surfaces in the work glorifying the global rule of Christ Jesus. Thus the worth of the liberal arts originates in the Church and consolidates its meaningful consequences in the Kingdom.
The lesser light: Outside the Church/Kingdom contours liberal arts, even as professional schooling (vocational, professional, and technical), push off into all sorts of ideologies and idolatries, continuing the allegedly religion-free Enlightenment mind.
The brighter light: Education in the liberal arts under the dominion of the Lord Jesus promises at minimum bases of concentration in the processes of language, past and present agitations in history, currents of ideas in philosophy, structures of society, maneuverings of politics, varieties of religiosity, techniques of literature, numberings of mathematics, interconnectives of mind and brain, to mention these. With the Church's mind of Christ to evaluate the world about the Church relative to the history of the Church prepares many in Christ for service throughout his reign, each member in his and her own sphere, which is Kingdom labor.
Church membership shapes and reshapes worshipers' personalities, that is, through participation in corporate worship people adapt to a larger and stronger field of power. Regular attendance in the liturgical process—of course, distinct from an occasional drop-in—over time influences members. The liturgies mornings and afternoons/evenings—Bible readings, sermons, psalms/hymns, prayers—socialize those whom Christ gathers Sunday upon Sunday. Gal 3:27, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Eph 4:22—24, “. . . to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Phil 1:6, “. . . I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Such is the power of liturgy in corporate worship.
Over time shaping and reshaping occurs.
In Reformed circles the stress is on church membership for citizenship in the Kingdom, all as kings, prophets, and priests to glorify the Christ and his Father, always under the authority of the Spirit. Lord’s Day 12 of the 1563 Heidelberg Catechism summarizes this sanctification process well.
Walk-ins and drop-ins living on the margins as well as all who avoid communal worship turn cold and hard, both against the Christ and the Scriptures.
People participant in churches find this reshaping process as the force of worshiping, which neighbors see.
Weary, Burdened, Stressed
These three instances of human pain emblazoned on a church sign invite neighbors and strangers by way of social media to share such suffering in the shape of stories, stories distinctly different from testimonies.
Many churches use technology to change how others perceive them and also how they perceive themselves; these congregations position themselves as listeners and convince neighbors as well as strangers of this listening capability.
At one time, not the good old days, connective healing happened in families and among friends. But as individualism controls more, as neglect catches more of the elderly, and as as fewer of the young find supportive peers, more walk about or sit at home with burdens, isolated. Hence, numerous stories cry out for listening ears.
One positive feature of story-telling? If church people willingly and capably hear out the weary, the burdened, and the stressed, they imply therewith the Lord Jesus listens. Another? In the talking and the listening healing may occur and troubles ameliorate.
My concern, even fear, is these stories and listening to these stories sidelines the Word. It seems that stories take over and predominate, with the result that both talkers and listeners hear the Word less.
Currently, churches caught up in this listening mode morph into repositories of grief, listening less and less to the Lord of the Church. In fact, it is not too much to say: Human stories consume the Word. For if together all listen to the Word, the weary, the burdened, and stressed too, and perceive with the heart the patience and the mercy with which the Lord Jesus listened to his own as recorded in the Scriptures and listens now to prayer, the priorities of human pain settle down.
Am I right?
Stories of suffering fascinate and control. Acts of degradation. Storms of humiliation. Pains of disability. Struggles of shame. Hurts of embarrassment. Violations of anger. Tensions of brokenness. Horrors of infamy. Intrusions of failure. Problems of ego control. Vainglories of covetousness. Floods of selfish passions. Accounts of felony. Resurgences of vice. Disparities of wealth. Discredits of reputation. Complications of family disruption.
Stories of a hidden past broken open, of a fear of further disgrace, of an emotional stranglehold, of debris from desolation difficult to face even in private, of mortification of the flesh. And finally, . . . exhaustion.
On July 29, 2016 you called, at 1215 hrs. Your main words you fixed in my mind. “I don't think I'll make it.” For the previous night you had not rented a motel unit, as intended, nor eaten chicken soup, as intended. Did you say “Goodbye”? Of that brief telephone conversation only your main words remained.
I tried contacting you later, after work. A company’s answering device asked for an extension number. The next day, I tried once more, and the message was, “The customer has not initialized . . . ,“ something or other. I drove around uptown, hoping to stop you in your downtown wanderings.
You had lived on the street for close to two weeks, at least, actually much longer, and slept wherever.
John, a lament welled up from within, deep down.
Depression had seized you, taken over, deadened your thinking; no vision for tomorrow animated you.
You lost family and friends, a teaching career too.
Restlessly you wandered––lonely, isolated––worn, hollowed-eyed, unbathed.
You refused to revisit your family doctor.
You refused re-hospitalization.
You remained fixated on a body of copyrighted musical work that others, former students and friends, had pirated and in which they now excel.
You wanted your work back, with recognition for your talents and involvement.
You called this body of work analogically your “bus.”
Build a new and better bus, John; leave your alleged friends in the dust. Look into tomorrow.
“No,” you said, “I want my bus back; it's mine!”
Only the past counted; you saw no future.
You insisted on purging your body by not eating.
God laid that requirement upon you, you insisted.
You said you struggled with God during long and dark nights over your bus.
We prayed together, asked the Lord Jesus to intervene and give you hope.
Write a song, John, and pour out all your present agonies.
No new work, you said. Only repossession of your old bus counted.
Lack of nourishment wore your body out and tired your mind.
And then your call, “I don't think I'll make it.”
The lament grows. John? John!
I don’t know where to reach you.
What of those you left behind? Had they not reached out enough?
You asked, over and over, “Pray for me.”
Matthew and Luke recorded the Incarnation, both pressing to its limits the resources of language. Yet in the history of the Church most exegesis in preaching and in writing concentrates on peripherals, as important historically as these are—in order of preference: angels, Bethlehem, a stable (with animals), wise men, with the Herod of Matt 2:2’s vengefulness at the end—thus to minimize or overlook the central fact of this redemptive event, the epitome of the Incarnation itself, Matt 1:20–21; Luke 1:35. Without the Incarnation the surrounding facts lose all sense of relevance. Another minimization? The theory of eternal generation in which God the Son existed from eternity in the presence of the Father. This alleged existence of the Son identifiably as the Son prior to the Incarnation impoverishes the miraculous of this redemptive event. The Incarnation, though prophesied, came with miraculous awe, which theorists of eternal generation apparently foresaw, human ingenuity to limit also in this case the enfleshment of the Word. It appears easier to work with peripherals, the consequentials of the Incarnation.
Reading Matt 1:20—21 in its context, “But as [Joseph] considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’”
Reading Luke 1:35 in its context, Gabriel to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”
Astonishment at this redemptive event stands out, God in the flesh, Jesus, God and man, God the Son, the first time this Person of the Trinity appeared to the consternation of his enemies in the Church and to the inexpressible joy of all appointed to the Faith. At the Incarnation even legions of angels broke out, jubilating.
December 15, 2016
To Ann, In PalliativeCare
Your medical diagnosis/prognosis now runs along a process. Unless the Lord Jesus miraculously intervenes, the days, weeks, and months ahead provide for you opportunities to reflect on this slow way into death. Aside from anxiety and passivity, in Christ the descent opens up a faith-building route. Anxiety merely calls attention to personal needs and passivity carelessly lets life's end happen, without any application of the image of God. To die in Christ, however, expands the eternal living in Christ.
- To die in Christ evokes an even greater trust than living in him, the Lord and Savior, the heart of Christianity clearly revealed in the Bible. He not only stands beyond the grave, welcoming his own; he also leads and guides all who are his through the journey when he calls for the end of life. This reliance on the Lord and Savior strengthens the trust developed during the life in him, which makes something of dying in him.
- Through the dying process you have opportunity to family and friends what dying means, however broken your language and stammering your words. Everyone, even those ensconced beyond walls of denial and/or minimal familiarity with the Bible, at least wonders what it means to die. By reaching out with the fruits of the Spirit, Gal 5:22—23, that is, the mighty virtues of Christianity—“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”—helps others strengthen the faith commitment to live in Christ.
- In the course of the above, reaching out to Christ and family/friends in faith-opening ways, even in a palliative care unit, grants in the process of terminal illness giving glory to God, the very aim of life, and building the community that transcends the times.
Dying calls for living in Christ, which awareness of victory binds the great congregation into more of the Christian communion.
November 04, 2016
Ann died suddenly and unexpectedly late November 05, 2016.
Stories On The Surface
Whatever the historical antecedents of this type of literature and communication, stories consist of fabrications—novels, novellas, bedtime tales, anecdotes, such swaths of words. Many appreciate a story, even a joke with a plotline and a surprise ending.
In current theological books and periodicals I find stories structure and control these media:
The Gospel is a story.
Old Testament histories are stories.
This biblical story-telling conforms to secular communication modes of entertainment, forcing biographies, healings, adventures, calamities, tragedies, etc., into theatre. True, everyone relishes a story, or an account retold in story form, for from of old such telling has children’s attention. By twisting histories and biographies into tales, however, authors of theological books and periodicals assume that readers are of a childish nature, unable to consume the meat of the Word, uneducable. To presume, however, that story formats make the Bible more palatable, and thus for children, misses the authority of the Scriptures in and for the Church. By adopting a secular communication platform strips the Bible of its fundamental power.
There are stories in the Bible, Jotham’s allegory, Judg 9, and Jesus’s parables, fabrications to make a point.
To redraft, or storify, historical accounts, for instance, suits living on the surface and at a deep level conform to secular interests.
I ask, Is Rom 3:23—25a a story? “. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
I ask, Is Rom 5:10 a story? “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled shall we be saved by his life.”
This stands firm: history is history, prophecy is prophecy, parables are parables, Gospels are Gospels, and epistles are epistles.
Thus J. Gresham Machen once (What is Christianity?, 21), “But what is that utterance that we have just quoted? Is it not an account of facts?
“Christ died, He was buried, He rose again”—that is a setting forth of things that happened; it is not an exhortation but a rehearsal of events, a piece of news.” Facts in themselves stand indisputable; meanings of facts may be distorted, but to change facts and factual accounts into stories changes reality into mythical worlds, utopias or dystopias.
At one time meta-narratives made the rounds.
Now, it is stories.
When and what novelty next to pretend that living on the surface suffices before the Lord Jesus?
December 09, 2016
Central To Image-bearing
Beginning with Adam and Eve the Creator Lord made people in his image. Homo sapiens––Negroid, Malay, Mongoloid, American, and Caucasians too––he tasked with the work of a life time, from generation to generation, that is, to serve him. That service at its heart means rulership, the exercise of lordship.
From the biblical vantage point: As the Creator Lord sovereignly governed all creation, the heavens and the earth, the entire created cosmos to the farthest galaxies, he appointed (no questions asked, no resistance tolerated) the “very good” Adam and Eve to rule over the earth, first in the glories of Eden.
J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P. (Christopher R. Seitz, Nicene Christianity, 2001, 68) insisted, “Human beings are created in the image of God. This likeness to God in nature is the basis for a likeness to God in grace. Human persons are created in the image of God in order to become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3–4) and thus to share in the communion of trinitarian life and in the divine dominion over the created universe.” This dialectic, or paradox, sounds more Barthian than biblical.
I quoted this Di Noia to illustrate one of the wide-ranging variations on the interpretation of the image of God contrary to the straightforwardness of Gen 1:26, “And God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over . . ..'” This identification of “image” with “dominion” required no dialectic.
Then Di Noia elaborated on the word “dominion,” (69), “Created in God's image, human beings assume a place of stewardship and dominion in the physical universe.” That, without quibbling about “assume,” has a more biblical sound.
Adamic rulership over every aspect of life applies to all human beings as oversight over marriage/family, the Church, the earth (animals, resources; etc.), health, community building, virtually everything that pertains to the earth. The Lord Creator holds all accountable for this governing, accountability measured by the fear of the Lord.
November 11, 2016
Strangers And Sojourners
Refugees escaping the destruction of war and crossing international boundaries present an inescapable twenty-first-century fact of life; these men, women, and children along with economic and political transients meet welcome or resentment, even xenophobia. Whether legitimate or illegitimate, refugees import in respective hearts gods, the faiths of their fathers, into countries open to assist with shelter, social assistance, and protection. Even the most libertarian never expect refugees to leave that which is most precious border crossings.
Many strangers and sojourners, non-Israelites, eventually lived within the boundaries of the land the LORD God has promised exclusively to Abraham and his descendants, Exod 23:31; Deut 11:24. Throughout Old Testament times countries had no defined borders; nomads traveled wherever, seeking food and trade. The LORD commanded Israel to respect the well-being of these international travelers for however long they settled among the people of the covenant. To care for these strangers and sojourners the LORD exhorted his people numerous times: Exod 22:21, 23:9; Lev 19:10, 33—34, 23:22, 24:22, 25:6, 23; Deut 14:28—29, 16:9—12, 13—15, 24:17—18, 21—22, 26:12—13; etc. For the sense of this stranger care, one illustration, Num 15:15b—16, “You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you.” Sojourning indicated an inclusive measure of acceptance. Those with hostile intentions, however, met rejection and expulsion.
Over against this welcoming mandate the LORD God placed another, inherent in Num 15:15b—16, the prior and governing “one law and one rule” demand. Within the legal formation of Israel, the LORD God had ordered his people, “You shall have no other gods before me.” This anti-idolatry commandment gathered in strangers and sojourners too; these had within the land promised Abraham no right to institute alien religions, religiosities, not even practice these. For the sense of this prohibition, one illustration, Exod 23:23—24, “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces.” Only the Faith counted. Further: Exod 23:32—33, 34:11—16, 17; Lev 17:7a, 19:4, 26, 31, 20:6, 27; Deut 4:15—24, 25—31, 5:7/Exod 20:3, 7:1—5, 25—26, 8:19, 12:2—4, 29—31, 13:12—18, 16:21—22, 17:2—5, 18:9—14, 20:15—18, 27:15, 29:16—18; etc. These interpretations and applications of the First Commandment included the sojourners and strangers dwelling within Israelite lands, Lev 17:8—9, 20:1—5, 26:1. For the sense of this social and religious ordering, Lev 17:10—12, “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood.” Blood consumption occurred as an idolatrous rite. However welcoming to or accepting of strangers and sojourners, the LORD God tolerated no idolatrous imports to pollute the Promised Land.
Obviously, the First never precluded love of neighbors, even of strangers, Deut 10:18–19.
As refugees of every sort carry with them the idolatries acceptable in former lands of residence, in the welcoming countries they contribute to the chaos of religiosity, a burden already too great in Westernized lands.
December 05, 2016
Awareness of a difficulty at funerals (no, it is not what you think) started slowly. For years my wife and I attended no funerals; none in our family vicinity passed away. Once, a neighbor, from a family without hope, as these expressed themselves. Then came two, family-related, of a nephew and a sister-in-law, both in Presbyterian Churches; in each the eulogizing, or celebrating the lives of the deceased, along with platitudinal readings, ran thick and heavy.
Eulogizing? Speaking well of the deceased at funerals. Stresses on character attributes, good works, and family loves leave celebratory impressions behind, especially to strangers attending. Because these two funerals occurred under Presbyterian oversight, in my mind I wrote the eulogizing off as a Presbyterian habit.
Then came the funeral for another nephew, in an Evangelical circle; again, the eulogizing happened, celebrating his close friendships, scholarly achievements, and family bonds. Eulogizing must also be an Evangelical tendency, I assumed.
Later, my mother died. At the funeral the Reformed minister valiantly attempted under the circumstances to make sense of Ps 127:1a and have the Bible speak.
The funerals for my in-laws and a brother-in-law in another Reformed setting, however, crushed my idealism that the Reformed never tolerate people-honoring even at funerals. I was troubled by the celebratory air of funeral after funeral. After perfunctory Bible readings from a Service Book officiating clergy spoke about these wonderful and exemplary family members rather than exegeting a Bible passage and bringing the sense of living in Christ, even as dying, into the open.
Attendees at a funeral come face to face with both, the meaning of life and of death, and willingly listen, if only politely, to the life-giving words of the Lord.
After the third of the last three, of my mother-in-law, I decided no more, whatever resultant family tensions—isolation from siblings at a critical time and a meaningful closure to grieving. I refuse to ask the Lord Jesus again to forgive me for having been where the dead speak louder than he, silencing him.
I have no problem with a measure of eulogizing at a social event after a funeral for the family members and/or friends to remember the deceased with noteworthy moments in his or her life.
I have no problem if unbelievers celebrate the life of an unbeliever. If a few good words at the end of a life is all these people have, let them celebrate what those who have no hope need to celebrate.
By the time a funeral service takes place, three-four days after the death event, the Judge has drawn that person to his throne and issued judgement based on the Cross of Golgotha. What sense then three or four days later to ask the Lord to receive the deceased, to have mercy on him or her? Thrash talk!
Moreover, to place the dead before the Christ amounts to an idolizing at home in pagan environments. Think of Matt 10:37, which counts also at funerals. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” At death the loss particularly of family members hurts. But here in the presence of the last enemy, will he conquer by taking attention away from the Christ? Death, by drawing attention away for the Lord and Savior, is called the last enemy for good reason.
At the funeral of a believer, or believers, in a church setting, only the Christ may speak, the officiating minister exegeting a Bible passage setting forth the sense of life and the meaning of death; such creates hope and commitment among the living for the days coming.
November 14, 2016
The Long And The Short Of Christian Praying
The Lord Jesus instructed his followers to keep prayers to the point. He taught such brevity in part to counteract wearying and vainglorious posturing. Matt 6:7, “. . . when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” This biblical admonishing applied to the Pharisees as well; the men of the synagogues considered the God they worshiped one who preferred the many words of loquacious prayers. The Pharisees, as Gentiles, turned wordy when addressing an idol.
Baal-worshipers in Israel, 1 Kgs 17:20—40, found out how ineffective tediously repetitive praying worked. “And [the Baal priests] cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.” But the LORD heard Elijah.
All do well to remember that God the Father as well as God the Son knows the hearts of those praying uprightly, which God the Spirit interprets. In fact, Rom 8:27p, “. . . the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Such Spirit-inspired prayers addressed to the Father in the name of the Son or to the Son who mediates before the Father the Scriptures know for brevity.
Matt 6:7 long ago stuck in my mind. I acknowledge that the Spirit knows better than I the meaning of every petition and every thanksgiving; his omniscience as God exceeds my capabilities of understanding, nor are the Persons of the Trinity hard of hearing.
November 07, 2016
Every congregation owns a communion table. Other than for the celebration of the Lord's Supper, or Eucharist, the surface spaces of the tables lay empty, except for an open Bible, a chalice, a cup, and a plate. The bare spaces may serve a purpose.
Upon entering the sanctuary and from the pew symbolically place your anxieties, tensions, griefs, pains, worries, turmoils, fears, temptations, afflictions on the communion table in the front of the auditorium. Even if a thousand worshipers place respective burdens on the table, the Lord of the Church allows sufficient room. All deposits of hurts exemplify trust and hope that Jesus, the Head of each congregation, will grant hope and answer with the preaching, the prayers, and the singing.
Also, no matter how heavy or numerous the burdens on the table, there is always space for the guilt of sins, old and new, the worst and the least, from which you repent and for which you ask clemency.
Last Sunday afternoon, at the beginning of the service an old pain welled up from deep inside. By the end of the service the Lord Jesus gave answer, during the singing of Ps 84. Its unexpectedness and its insistence brought tears; I had to stop singing for the length of a stanza.
There is another type of uploading too, unforgettable. Also place on communion tables your thanksgiving for the Lord's mercy and grace. With this gratitude added every communion table will be overloaded before services start, even while the Lord prepares more space.
November 14, 2016
Dying And Death
Since summer I have worked out aspects of dying and death each of which started in conversations with a terminally ill sister-in-law; she wanted to live, despite numerous hardships in the past.
Fear of dying and death came out in these conversations, also what it means to die. Christ Jesus as the LORD God meant people to live and death stands out as an aberration.
In trust and openness throughout these discussions we worked through the meaning of relying on the Lord; he moves people through the process and awaits his to appear before him. We spoke of the glories of that moment standing before him, the Judge, and hear the sentence, based on the Cross of Calvary, he hands down. We talked about life for believers and unbelievers after death. We even talked about the door-analogy confessed in the Heidelberg Catechism—death as a doorway.
These were uneasy conversations, yet each came from the heart, grounded in the Scriptures, always as a listening to the Word. Listening to my sister-in-law our conversations blended in with those of others who came to be with her.
November 25, 2016
They who live exemplarily by contemporary cultural modes expect a reward at life's ending.
They who manage the Commandments legalistically insist on an open door into the heavens.
They who suffer in poverty, abuse, second class citizenship, and/or exploitation hope for a welcome in the house with many rooms.
They who live in wealth and privilege need eternal entitlements as well as honors.
They who out of a human source of initiation made a relationship with the Christ find he owes them registration in the book of life.
They who do good, paying forward, determine for themselves the good they deserve.
Yes, self-righteousness abounds.
If I refuse to engage with friends in dangerous activity, does that make me self-righteous?
If I refuse to swim in Lake Erie with picnicking family members because of a dangerous undertow, does that classify me as self-righteous?
If I on a four lane with lead-foots fail to join in reckless speeding, am I self-righteous?
If I do not do as other text messagers while driving, does that make me self-righteous?
If I in the company of others refuse wild drugs to sooth anxiety, a troubled conscience, or escape from responsibility, does that make me self-righteous?
If I on the job site refuse to ease off on work responsibility, does that make me self-righteous?
If I do not join family at a funeral service because of eulogizing, idolization of the deceased, in a place where only Christ Jesus may speak, does that make me self-righteous?
If I read the Bible differently from others in the congregation, does that make me self-righteous?
Imputation of righteousness is by grace, for emphasis, by grace alone, never by works of people. One instance, Eph 2:1–10, clearly affirms that righteousness comes by faith.
November 08, 2016
Since reading in school and rereading at home L. Berkhof's Systematic Theology, also R.I. Dabney’s Systematic Theology, on the covenant my abhorrence to Federal Theology grew; its structure fits into the rationalistic Neo-Scholasticism of the late sixteenth, early seventeenth centuries. It simply does not do justice to the Scriptures.
The three parts of Federal Theology consist of rationalistic impositions upon the Word, eisegesis.
A covenant of redemption in which the Father and the Son, before they were known by these names, allegedly elected a number of individuals to receive salvation has no basis in the Bible; every revelation of predestination appears in the history narrated throughout Scriptures. Moreover, and as damaging, such a covenant of redemption presupposes a creative work prior to creation, an anomaly, if not a blasphemous assertion. Eph 1:3–10, however much rooted in eternity, provides no ground for a prehistoric covenant.
A covenant of works concentrated on Adam and Eve meant the two had to earn salvation, a life in heaven comparable to New Testament hopes, of which nothing in Gen 1—2, or elsewhere in the Word. The first two had nothing to earn; they were “very good.” Moreover, if Adam and Eve had to earn salvation the LORD God had created them imperfectly, and perhaps they were able to sin, again less than “very good.” By partly blaming God and partly Adam, Gen 3:1—7 lost its shock value.
A covenant of grace then alleged that the Savior had to do what Adam failed to achieve through some sort of works-righteousness. Grace, however, loses its salt if the Messiah merely had to repair damages. Only out of unearned mercy the LORD God created the first covenant reformation, Gen 3:14–19.
Federal Theology, given its Neo-Scholastic foundation, focused on predestination, motivating scholars to separate the elect from the reprobate, never a human responsibility. In short, for its intended purpose, Federal Theology failed the Scriptures and brought about unrest, despair in the Church, people preoccupied with the signs of election and/or reprobation, or blatant hypocrisy, the assumption of election.
Early this century I found and made time to look into the way the Word spoke of the covenant. Reading through fast-moving Genesis, I stopped at Gen 6:18, the LORD God's promise to Noah for a covenant, or the continuation of the covenant; however, a promise is not yet a covenant.
Next, reading Gen 8:20—9:11, I slowed down and reread the passage. This had embedded similarities to Gen 1—2, the promise of life, of food, and of space. In the formation of the covenant the Creator granted these three to Adam and Eve, also at the beginning of the recreation, Gen 3:14—19; again, the LORD God also gave Noah life, food, and space. Suddenly I had the covenant patterning with respect to the promises and therewith a singing heart. The covenant is a historical creation and after the Fall in reformation a matter of grace. For now I will leave the obligations aside, concentrating on the promises only.
Suddenly and unexpectedly the Holy Spirit opened my eyes. With the reformation of the covenant under Noah, the LORD God again gave the three––life, food, and space—in a very different world from Eden.
The pattern of the promises (and the obligations) made the Bible with respect to the covenant readable and believable.
Once the pattern of the promises came to stand out at the times of Adam and Noah the clarity of the covenant construction brought out unity in the Scriptures.
With the covenant reformation under Abram/Abraham I had to pause again, for after Gen 15 the LORD God repeated the life, food, and space promises in Gen 17. Abram had broken covenant, Gen 16, and the LORD, full of grace, renewed it, even changing Abram and Sarai's names to prove this undeserved mercy.
Under Moses finding the three promises took a while, spread over a number of chapters: life, yes, the Exodus; food, yes, the manna as a fascinating illustration of providence; and space, yes, the land flowing with milk and honey, Canaan.
The record of covenant reformation under David the LORD also spread over a number of pages. David, by defeating enemies, gave life to Israel. The abundance of the land provided food. And the space ranged from the Euphrates in the north to the Nile in the south, Gen 15:17—20; 1 Kgs 4:21.
When Israel through idolatry forfeited life, food, and space the prophets in strong ways reached out with the promises. With apparent consistency the LORD God, as promised, ended the old dispensation to generate the new. From Genesis-Malachi he formed and reformed the covenant promises—life, food, and space––six times.
As I approached the New Testament with the Old Testament promises in mind, trepidation settled in. Most students of the covenant make reference to the covenant, stopping at the institution of the Lord's Supper and at places in Hebrews. Then for these students the covenant structuring fades away. What if the covenant functioned for the Old Testament dispensation only?
Yet the three promises showed consistency. Life the Lord Jesus granted through the Crucifixion, food he promised through the elements of the Eucharist. And space? The new heavens and earth.
Throughout the Scriptures the covenant promises stand out boldly and mercifully, explicit in the unity of the Word. The promises (as well as the obligations) along with the revelation of the Trinity and the Kingdom structure the Scriptures in its unity and wholeness.
November 26, 2016
Main stream society dominates with respect to culture, the way of life in a secularized world, against which the life in Christ Jesus, that is, the way of the Church, appears as a counter-culture. This counter-cultural way may be perceived as witnessing to or a light in the larger, secular culture; in this sense, Christianity comes across as a subversive living, hardly a praise and glory for the Lord Jesus.
However, secular, or Westernized, culture consists of many components, some of which in active opposition to others. I mention several:
- Secularism is a top-down imposition, a politically correct leadership phenomenon pressing down compelling inclusivist conformity.
- Nativism, often manifested with anti-immigration violence, presses up, against dictatorial secularism.
- Racism, apparent in anti-secularist discrimination, convulses with hatred for others.
Whereas one subculture demands the upper hand, others resist. Secularism gives the impression that it alone counts or, for that matter, exists. Nativism and racism demand space too, and a voice, domination, at the expense of secularism.
The conglomeration of Westernized culture in its aggregates is the world, anti-Christian.
Were Christianity a subculture the world-at-large will tolerate such a phenomenon only if at least its leaders pay tribute to the dominant idolatry, the way during the heyday of the Roman Empire all religions were welcome, provided these confessed, “Caesar is lord.” By such a standard, the world stomachs the Faith, because all in Christ submit first to the world that surrounds the Church.
Christ Jesus summons the Church to live according to his norms, the revealed commandments, creative in every generation to form the culture that pleases him, the Lord, which then glorifies the Trinity. This is the work of the Church in the world. At times the way of life shone forth, if only in its beginnings. Deut 28:1–14, for instance, revealed the beauty of this culture; the rest of that chapter laid before all Israel the effects of disobedience, absorption into the world then. In the New Testament period Acts 2:42–47 revealed the attractiveness of the life in Christ, every day drawing many more.
In the light of the Scriptures the Church living before the Lord Jesus created the way of life. Mainstream society, despite its pretensions, is counter-cultural, archaic, traditional, regressive, also oppressive, its diversity also a curse and a hindrance to the flourishing life.
The culture, and creating it, calls for humility; it is by grace.
April 19, 2017
The trinitarian baptismal formula is as simple as it is profound, a minister of the Word in a worship service at the font obeying the Christ's command, Matt 28:19, intoning,
I baptize you
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
As the sprinkled water falls on the forehead of a newborn or an adult with once-for-all solemnity, the impact of the droplets hangs in the air for a moment, the whole fraught with the potency and the holiness of eternity.
The sacrament has its roots in the Old Testament dispensation, in the act of circumcision, that is, the LORD's covenantal command to Abraham, Gen 17:10b, “Every male among you shall be circumcised.” Thus the LORD God cut his mark in every man born of Abraham, Gen 17:7, “. . . I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”
When Abram/Abraham at the divine command departed from Ur of the Chaldeans and entered the Canaan, he and Sarai/Sarah walked into the future of the covenant promises, the divinely given life, food, and space. In effect, the LORD oriented the two eschatologically with respect to history.
Abraham's adultery with Hagar turned the man and his wife back into pagany, Gen 16:1—16; such adultery, and every sin, evoked the godless ways of the nations. In this instance, Sarai/Sarah and Abram/Abraham sought progeny in a love for sinning.
Thereupon the LORD called Abraham to walk before him, thankful for the renewed covenant promises, inclusive the obligations. Among the obligations was circumcision, the sign to seek children only by way of the covenant and in the covenant community, Israel. Hence, every man of the covenant knew by the sign in his body that the LORD God only structured the future, specifically for all of the covenant, in contrast to the way configured by Hagar and Ishmael.
Israel, however, repeatedly chose for exits from the covenant way to return to the idolatries of the nations. Toward the conclusion of the first dispensation, through a prophet, Ezekiel 36:25, the LORD God, the Preincarnate, prophesied reformation, first roots of the New Testament sacrament of baptism, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.” Thus he promised a recreated people, a people for himself, two things:
Cleansing from idolatry and all the evil connected therewith, and
Orienting his people forever eschatologically, future-bound.
The gods of idolatry move people into past, in directions away from the Eschaton.
John's baptism, distinct from circumcision and Jeremiah's prophecy, had an immediate goal, as his Spirit-moved father prophesied:
Luke 1:1617, “. . . he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Luke 1:76–77, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins.”
The Baptizer had to prepare Israel for the imminent Messiah. To that end he cleansed all who came to him at the Jordan and everyone, whom he immersed in the clean running river waters, confessed the sins of Pharisaic self-righteousness and the worship of the monotheistic God of the Jews in order to be ready and meet the Messiah, even the call to follow him. John’s immersion had an immediate focus. For a time Jesus followed in the pattern and purpose of John the Baptizer, John 4:1–3. However, the large majority, John 6:66, forsook him. John’s baptism thus had an imminent goal, as his father had prophesied.
The baptism Jesus created, post-Pentecost, for the last dispensation in its sacramental power followed the power of the word, conversion from the powers of idolatry and all the evils associated therewith and orient his people forever toward the Eschaton. These two inseparable foci appeared in the New Testament practice of this sacrament, symbolized by the water’s cleansing. Following passages such as Deut 30:6, Paul made the force of the sacrament clear. Col 2:11–14, “In [the Christ] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” This recalls the circumcision-of-heart from Deut 30:6, a leaving behind the sinful past and straining for the grace-filled future. This forward moved appears in all baptism-related passages––Rom 6:1–4; 1 Cor 12:12–13; Titus 3:5–6; etc.
Hence, this sacrament with all its simplicity reforms each recipient with the profundity of grace, one and all together reaching in the facticity of baptism to the Eschaton.
June 01, 2017
I've resented the usage of condescension relative to Bible readings. Take Gen 11:7, “Come, let us go down . . ..” This descending was, and is, a matter of divine freedom, the LORD God moving where he pleased. Yet, apparently, commentators find it necessary to use condescension in a patronizing manner, with an air of superiority, describing how the God they worship disturbed a nest of low life. Agreed, the tower-builders on the Plain of Shinar were less than a bright bunch with respect to the obedience the LORD had commanded, moving out to populate the earth. Even today, people still tend to be city-builders and city-inhabitants. With respect to Noah's descendants, the Lord went down to see up close that the covenant people of that time were doing to his commandment to populate the earth. He had to get up close to see this massive tower-in-the-works.
If condescension involves a movement to a less formal or dignified level to assist someone in need or to help someone helpless (jumping in water to rescue a drowning person), then the word has meaningful usage. If condescension means surrendering the privileges of rank to assist the less fortunate, for instance, the Governor-General shoveling snow for a bedridden neighbor, well and good. I cannot see such person with an air of superiority, nose up in the air, helping one less fortunate.
But to interpret a text as above by reading into it a haughtiness on the part of the LORD? He is above such sinful behavior.
June 02, 2017
Without the Crucifixion Day commemoration, Resurrection Day easily blends into Easter-type folk festivals, here and there. Within the sinister sphere and atmosphere of secularism both commemorative days turn into other meanings, Crucifixion Day into a mere statutory holiday, Resurrection Day simply into an exercise for children's festivities, with celebration of spring the underlying motif, at least in temperate climate zones.
To uphold Resurrection Day, the Church remembers the source of the agony of Crucifixion Day. Following Matt 27:39—44, all in Christ need to hear with open ears the biting venom spat at the One who dared challenge the existence of the Jewish God, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Also, all in Christ need to hear the chief priests, scribes, and elders mock Jesus who removed the foundation of life from under them, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, it he desires him. For he said, 'I am the Son of God.'” Of course, they knew that the monotheist god they worshiped had no use for the Son of God. Moreover, all in Christ need to hear the two crucified with Jesus revile him. In Luke, 23:39, one of these criminals railed, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Only then do believers see the crucified Christ, dying the Roman death.
When the full weight of Crucifixion Day sinks in, with excruciating agony and its purposed salvation, the yearning grows to see Jesus on Resurrection Day.
April 14, 2017
The two insurrectionists crucified with Jesus (for treason: seeking the overthrow of the Roman authorities) do attract attention, the one more than the other. According to Matt 27:44, both these “robbers” reviled him. Luke, however, revealed that one railed at him, typical of all church members then supportive of Jesus's elimination by death, 23:39, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Then something happened within the other, by liberal interpreters––cheapening the Bible––called an eleventh-hour conversion, who rebuked his fellow insurrectionist, 23:40—41, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he turned to Jesus with those remarkable, memorable words, 23:42, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus's response?
“Truly, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”
A solemn declaration of fact.
This dying, suddenly ex-insurrectionist attracts more attention than the other. All believers have a preference to hear a similar judgment, perhaps not today, certainly not while hanging on a cross.
However, not the two co-crucified men are the focal point of the account, not even the one who heard and believed the judgment of grace.
The crucial figure on Golgotha was the Christ. In the Great Judgment he made separation between the two men, as he had done throughout Israel, the Church, during his ministry. On the Cross he revealed to watching church members and Roman troops that for which he had come to this point, to lay down the dividing-line, bypassing the one in his condemnation, saving the other from damnation.
In this brief account, jarring as it is, Jesus revealed the purpose of his ministry: to separate according to predestinarian grace.
April 18, 2017
Evidence Of God's Existence
the Preincarnate, spoke;
by fiat he summoned all creation into existence. 1 Cor 8:16; Col 1:16
Adam and Eve believed,
and Enosh. Gen 4:25—26
And Enoch. Gen 5:22
The LORD God spoke and Noah believed,
building an ark. Gen 6:14
raised amidst Egyptian idolatry Exod 2:10
married into a Midianite priest’s family, Exod 2:21
heard the LORD speak;
the I AM addressed him, Exod 3:1—6
and this man believed.
Many in Israel had trouble believing Moses.
The Egyptians refused entirely, Exod 5:2
comfortable with the gods that brought them down.
Jesus, John 1:29
in the first of his works, Matt 3:16—17; Luke 3:21—22
with the Father and the Spirit,
revealed the Trinity,
one God. John 6:44
Before the people at the Jordan,
by his presence he,
with the Father and the Spirit,
And the Church of all ages and places believes.
the trinitarian I AM speaks,
and the Church believes.
The first function of faith is to believe the Trinity,
the I AM,
which is a work of the Spirit.
before Pontius Pilate,
and to the offense of all obsolescing Roman and Jewish gods,
Jesus spoke: John 18:37
And the world disbelieved.
Philosophical arguments for the existence of God,
through abstract reasoning,
the Moral: to explain the cause of morality in the world.
the Cosmological: to explain the universe’s existence.
the Intelligent Design: to explain the universe’s structure.
the Ontological: to explain the universe’s origin.
the Miraculous: to explain the cause of the miraculous.
the Teleological: to explain the universe’s purpose.
Each and all together are open-ended toward the rear and to the front, proofs acceptable equally to Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and Mohammedans, also Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who worship gods called into existence by sin-damaged imaginations.
The evidence for the existence of God, the Trinity, begins with believing Jesus's I AM.
They who have ears listen and believe.
May 09, 2017
Evidence For God's Existence
The biblical evidence for God's existence is simple,
and only some people are convinced.
Jesus called disciples,
These had been raised to believe the Jewish God,
a monotheistic deity who had no son.
Jesus commanded Andrew and Simon Peter
James and John,
“Follow me.” Matt 4:18—22
Peter speaking for the Twelve,
“You are the Christ,
the Son of the living God.” Matt 16:16; John 6:68—69
minus Judas Iscariot,
and plus Matthias, Acts 1:26
led the Church to believe the evidence for the existence of God.
indoctrinated in the strictest Pharisaism, Acts 22:3; Gal 1:14
thus at war against the Lord Jesus, Acts 8:3; Gal 1:13
heard the ascended Christ speak,
and the man believed. Acts 9:1—9
As Moses in the Old Testament,
so Paul came to dominate in the New,
glorifying the Christ,
building the Church,
writing letters to strengthen the congregations in the Faith.
God's speaking will not convince atheists,
unbelievers bogged down in rationalism.
Is that because rationalism is too strong for the Lord Jesus?
God's speaking will not convince agnostics,
unbelievers tied down within the contentment of doubts.
Is that because doubts are too strong for the Lord Jesus?
God's speaking will not convince idolaters,
unbelievers captivated by gods that are no gods.
Is that because idolatry is too strong for the Lord Jesus?
The Lord spoke:
“Am I a God at hand,
declares the LORD,
and not a God afar off?
Can a man hide himself in secret places
so that I cannot see him?
declares the LORD?
Do I not fill heaven and earth?
declares the LORD.” Jer 23:23—24
A psalmist responded:
“Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
Of I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make by bed in Sheol, you are there!” Ps 139:7—8
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:26—27
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Heb 11:6
In the course of his ministry,
Jesus addressed numerous Pharisees,
even warned them.
They refused to believe.
at the very bottom,
In the meantime:
“Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” Rev 22:11
June 13, 2017
Free Speech Activities
To clear the field for communication,
no blasphemy, Exod 20:7
no foul language, Col 3:8
no slander/libel……… .Mark 7:22; Rom 1:30; 2 Tim 3:3
no hate speech, Rom 1:29–31
no racist misidentification, Ps 87; Acts 6:1–6
no bullying. 1 Kgs 21:1–16
Reasonable people agree to these restrictions; such communication laws forbid that which inhibits open and free verbal exchanges of ideas and thoughts. Beyond these prohibitions the field is wide open. Abuse of these restrictions distract and cause miscommunications. I hear such rantings and stop listening, shut books, change channels, seek other stations, walk away from films.
––as reasonable people––
will agree to open and free communication.
Atheists then can present well-argued papers, speeches, films/videos, and documentaries
to prove the absence of the gods.
to provide their ultimate point of reference.
to explain their sources of information.
Feminists can then present well-argued papers, speeches, films/videos, and documentaries to prove:
the benefits of public breast feeding.
the anti-motherhood initiatives.
the governments’ parenting capabilities.
Environmentalists then can present well-argued papers, speeches, films/videos, and documentaries to content for
the protection of the ozone layer.
the dangers of climate change.
the control of methane.
Honoring free and open civil discourse means that socialists, conservatives, revolutionaries, and libertarians––reasonable people all––will hear out and listen with equal respect to papers, speeches, films/videos, and documentaries on
the lordship of Christ Jesus.
the truthfulness of the Scriptures.
the significance of the Church.
Fair is fair.
May 11, 2017
Growth In The Faith
A friend came by and claimed to be growing in the faith. Before I could ask for an interpretation of this growth, practically, he had to go, leaving me to answer.
A week later he passed through again and provided explanation. I added some thoughts to his and this cooperative effort came forth as follows:
Obviously, growth is faith is anything but a Neo-Pentecostal rush, an emotional emphasis quickly dissipated. Nor is this growth the result of pushing for decisions in a pressure-packed Arminian gathering. Obviously, growth in the faith also stands clear of the useless ability to throw a mountain in the sea, Matt 21:21. Also, this growth has nothing to do with a relationship, a up-and-down human motivated relationship with Jesus.
By growth in faith we mean the combination of doctrine and life, a deepening understanding of the biblical teachings and moving commitment to live these teachings, in effect, a stronger life in Christ, which reflects awareness of the power of doctrine.
This growth in faith comes from increasing Bible knowledge, from more meaningful Bible reading, more intense listening to the preaching, and learning from wiser members of the congregation.
Such growth moves into doing the Commandments more intensely, loving neighbors, more open acknowledgement of sins and weaknesses, working more committedly to glorify the Christ, even taking on (with others) systemic evils.
Growth in the faith comes in stages, we find, more one year than another. But it is by grace, the work of the Lord Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
May 22, 2017
The Lord Jesus calls from among the office bearers in the Church ministers of the Word, men to open and apply the Scriptures by means of historical-redemptive preaching; this Sunday work honors the Christ and builds the Church, the exegetical rules plain.
Historical-redemptive preaching involves the literal reading of the text––history, prophecy, poetry, wisdom, Gospel, apocalyptic, etc.
Consider Act 9:3–7. History? Phantasy? Prophecy?
Historical-redemptive preaching seeks out the original sense and purpose of a selected passage in its historical context.
Consider the meaning of Acts 9:3–7, other than quipping about a Damascus Road conversion.
Historical-redemptive preaching interprets the Old Testament with the New and the New Testament with the Old.
Consider Acts 9:15 and Isa 60:1—3.
Historical-redemptive preaching clarifies the unknown with the known.
Consider Acts 1:20 and Isa 61:1—3.
To foil common misuses of the Scriptures and preaching—moralizing and exemplarizing—ministers of the Word with respective congregations ask, “What did the original author intend in and with this passage?” Historical-redemptive preaching thus also avoids the impression that the Bible was written only recently, for this day. Ignorance of the historical context immediately lands preaching into irrelevancy, honoring the man on the pulpit for his original and surprising insights. Sound preaching ensures that Jesus Christ comes first and last, always in the power of the Spirit, also to glorify the Father. This is the way of the Faith, always has been, always will be.
Historical-redemptive preaching is intellectually stimulating and pastorally persuasive.
April 05, 2017
Operative within each a terrorist logic brings out the worst, for undoing the sense of life. To identify this inner enemy requires the openness of self-knowledge, which is good.
The Lord Jesus knows each person from the inside out, better than scientists. Hence the Scriptures with authoritative judgment identify the primary necessity in self-knowledge.
Now, “What motivates you in its deepest, where your dreams and hopes, plans and decisions germinate?” Self-preservation? Self-enrichment? Self-glorification? Self-enhancement? Each such impetus expresses covetousness, which self-pleasing satisfies as well as agrees with secular aspirations. Covetousness, of course, is the Adamic sin, the motivation of all that goes wrong, also personally. This covetousness is the inner terror, moving and motivating everyone into grasping hold onto the wrong purposes of living. The scriptures present the results of this inside enemy, the one not seen until too late.
Scriptures with authoritative judgment declare the worst of self-knowledge:
dead in trespasses and sins Eph 2:1, 4; Col 2:13
darkness Eph 5:7
condemnation, as the wages of sin. Rom 6:23
To bring about the destruction of person, society, and culture, the inner terror sneaks about, teasing, tempting, tantalizing in order to control, even erupting in passion to demand domination.
At first this recognition of the inner terror at the heart of self-knowledge may irritate, rankle, even repulse, vehemently. It is hard to admit that the enemy within is who you are. Self-knowledge, then, as revealed by Christ Jesus has to be one of most difficult teachings in the Bible.
The Puritan, Ralph Venning in The Sinfulness of Sin (1669) carried on over almost three hundred pages (in a 1993 paperback edition) to describe the effect of the Adamic sin pressing at will into and taking over in every person.
Only pause and recognize the covetousness of your person, the nature of your personhood. Everything is for you. You are the center. Again, covetousness controls every person, from the heart out. Slowly it dawns: The Lord Jesus through the Scriptures exposes you, the inner terror.
One way, and one way only, exists to defeat the enemy, the grace of redemption.
April 06, 2017
A congregation is an institution.
A denomination is an institution.
At first, an institution, a congregation and/or denomination, is always prophetic, willing to tackle the difficulties necessary for a sound foundation as well as flourishing superstructure.
Once settled in, with providentially provided blessings of a measure of wealth and the making of a secondary power structure functioning unobtrusively, institutionalization occurs. Elders begin to prefer the status quo. The richer donors prefer the status quo. Slowly the prophetic demand of the Church's Head fails. Ministers select preaching text and quietly work out sermons that prevent irritating the congregation unnecessarily; an institutionalized congregation/denomination dislikes disturbances of heart and soul, and liturgy. Everyone in the congregation and/or denomination is comfortable and wants institutionalization for a peace that is no peace, its self-righteousness a tight stranglehold. Slowly, over years comfortableness absorbs interest, holding to the achievements of the past.
1) To break through every works-righteousness and break open into the future, try preaching with exegetical soundness through Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, thereby also finding out how strong hearers find the foundation of the Scriptures and thus the congregational superstructure.
2) To break through every works-righteousness and break open into the future, try listening to an exegetically sound preaching series on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and find out how securely the foundation of the congregation of which you are a member holds.
Over time, the Liar of liars has assumed control.
June 08, 2017
Jesus selected twelve men to prepare them to lead the Church throughout the initial decades post-Pentecost; these, the Twelve, underwent rigorous preparation, one episode of which the Apostle recorded in John 6.
Many who initially followed Jesus turned away, troubled by his teaching, uncomprehending, also unwilling to believe his declaration of divinity.
1) Jesus identified himself as the Son, divine, 6:40.
The Jews, monotheists, knew the God in whom they believed had no son, could have no son.
2) Jesus identified himself as the bread of heaven and commanded his followers to each his flesh and drink his blood, 6:54.
Blood consumption was forbidden, Gen 9:4; Deut 12:16; etc.
Cannibalism was forbidden. Lev 26:29; Deut 28:53–57.
The Jews wanted no part of Jesus, neither as God nor as (sacramental) food.
3) Much less did they want him, the Son of man, as Judge, 6:62.
For these reasons they left the synagogue. At a deeper level, God the Father had not given these to come to Jesus in faith, 6:65. Jesus foresaw this evidence of unbelief, since he knew heart-content, John 2:25, 6:64.
Then Jesus directed this question to the Twelve,
“Will you also go away?”
Peter, speaking for the Twelve, in a manner reminiscent of Matt 16:16; Mark 8:29, gave answer.
They who fail to appreciate the historical-redemptive context quickly fall into moralism and exemplarism, turning Jesus's question away from the Twelve to the members of Christ, wherewith a minister of the Word then attacks the congregation, laying about guilt and/or doubt.
However, Jesus addressed the question not to the Church, much less to a rebellious congregation, but to the Twelve, testing. He knew what was in respective hearts, also Judas Iscariot's. The Twelve, minus the betrayer, had to learn relative to apostleship to speak the name of the Christ in season and out of season.
The question was preparation for the Twelve's post-Pentecost ministry.
April 04, 2017
This seemingly self-evident qualifier, Judeo-Christian, presumes a unity and a continuity between Judaism and Christianity. This assumption, however, fails in biblical knowledge and in actuality, functioning only as post-truth self-evidentiality typical of a dying word.
After the Exile, even though the LORD God brought a remnant back to Canaan under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jews in Canaan with those of the Dispersion ignored Haggai and Zechariah; instead, they sought recourse in another religions, the first evidence of which the Oral Law that in the course of time evolved into the Talmud.
As much as Christianity and Jews appeal to the Old Testament, both developed differing interpretations; by the time of the Incarnation the Pharisees and Sadducees had fabricated by way of the Oral Law an immense resistance to the Christ, the Christ biblically prophesied. The leadership of the Temple and the Synagogue wanted a savior to release the land from the Roman military domination and from the Gentile cultural hegemony to gain the self-righteousness of Judaism.
The Book of the Acts of the Apostles reveals how much Judaism fought Christianity.
Hence, Judeo-Christian stands out as an improper qualifier, its adjectival compatibility from its first usage based on a wrong assumption.
All believers, and many unbelievers, recite the familiar words,
Your Kingdom come.
John the Baptizer prophesied its final formation, Matt 3:2, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus, pressuring the Church then to believe him, continued as he had instructed his prophet, Matt 4:17p, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” In the course of his ministry the Lord Jesus recreated the Kingdom.
Now he has ascended the Davidic throne and reigns over all creation, Rev 5:13.
I ask, Where is the Kingdom?
This is where preaching comes in, since the proclamation of the word locates the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps you hear only faddish preaching.
The gospel of human flourishing?
The gospel of wealth?
The gospel of saving souls, busyness spreading good news?
The gospel of man-centeredness, emotionalism?
The gospel of felt needs?
The gospel of entertainment?
The covetousness in each such gospel flies in the face of the Gospel.
The King by means of the proclaimed word draws, compels people into the Kingdom. They who come do the Commandments:
even during recreation. In fact, truthfully, believers bring reformation into respective homes, schools, places of employment, even during times of play in order to do only out of gratitude for salvation the Commandments with increasing commitment.
Where believers live in commitment to the Commandments, there is the Kingdom. In effect, the citizens define the Kingdom.
Don't look for physical boundaries, such as in a nation-state or an empire. The Kingdom borders tend to be fluid; in fact, its limits retreat only when believers out of fear or out of covetousness refuse the duties of citizenship, that is, the labors of serving the King.
Citizenship draws attention.
March 10, 2017
Every congregation meets in response to the Lord Jesus's summons to meet before him in worship. In communal worship liturgy structures the interactions between the Head of the Church and his people.
You know this, familiar territory.
The best liturgical structuring I've found consists of the following, Sunday morning and afternoon/evening patterns of worship.
Call to Worship
Confession of Dependence
Psalm or Hymn
Call to Confession
Prayer of Confession
Assurance of Pardon
Psalm or Hymn
The Reading of God’s Covenant
Hymn or Psalm
Prayer of Illumination
Psalm or Hymn
Psalm or Hymn
Psalm or Hymn
Call to Worship
Confession of Dependence
Psalm or Hymn
Prayer of Illumination
Psalm or Hymn
Psalm or Hymn
Psalm or Hymn
Confession of Faith
Psalm or Hymn
Both liturgies pattern a cadence, a rhythm—the Lord speaks and the congregation responds––a fascinating dynamic, which brings the congregation alive.
God, of course, names Christ Jesus, the head of the Church.
However, even the best liturgy, by imbalance, may strain the Christ-congregation bond. Such straining happens when the congregation, or lobby-type pressure in a congregation, takes over, listens less, for listening is hard work, and insists that the Lord of the Church listen more they want to show him and each other an exaggerated wealth of religiosity welling up in praise and prayer, congregants full of piety, or impiety, storming heaven. Now the liturgy becomes lopsided, falling into modes of contemporary worship.
March 30, 2017
New Spiritual Wear And Tear
Pressures of New Spirituality wear down the Faith and make for many the approach to the Eschaton problematic.
Spiritualists favor religiosity without specificity regarding any religion or even deity.
Spiritualists emphasize the supernatural, again without identifying the contours of this spirituality.
Spiritualists feed into growing dissatisfaction with ecclesiastical institutions without drawing fellow travelers together into preferred bonds.
Spiritualists find that all people pray essentially to the same god, an asserting that lacks clarity and runs counter to historical antagonism between different belief systems.
Spiritualist tend to discover meaning and purpose by becoming one with all that is, however ill-defined.
Spiritualists appeal to a karmic structure of justice: those who do good receive good and those who do evil receive evil.
Spiritualists tend to favor a god who claims that he helps those who help themselves.
This potent regimen of religiosity wears away and tears at the great doctrines of the Scriptures and proclaimed in the Church—divine justice, the worth of the Body of Christ, predestination, the way of the Law.
To contravene the tastes of the times tires and eventually New Spirituality enters into the preaching, perhaps by neglect of one doctrine after another in favor of New Spirituality assertions such as that God helps those who help themselves. Once the preaching succumbs to the New Spirituality, thereby to conform to the wishes of the congregation, why not listen to actual Spiritualists; they teach whatever they hold to be true much better than preachers. This too avoids odors of hypocrisy.
As also the great days of the Church—Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost—find reorientation in the New Spirituality and get confused with Valentine's Day, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labor Day, and Hallowe'en, subcurrents and currents of religiosity erode Christianity. As the great days of Hinduism and Mohammedanism enter into the mix the loss of the Church's holidays seems less and less painful.
In subtle ways enemies of Christianity win; there is little fight left in Christ's followers for marching as to war.
Even church people in a closed community eventually fall to intolerable pressures of the New Spirituality.
It is easy to go along and disappear in this world's love of sinning. In times as these Jesus's prophetic that the love of many will grow cold, Matt 24:12, comes true. In the acclimatization to the broader culture's succumbing to the New Spirituality, the difficulties of the Church only increase. At the same time Christ Jesus's is testing and sorting out—only his remain faithful, by grace.
In a season of temptations and compromises this is time for the conclusion of the Prayer,
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver` us from evil.
May 27, 2017
Underneath a sinkhole opens,
spreading far and wide,
Truth is based on fact, checkable, verifiable.
Canada is a very large country. This fact can be checked out on a global map. A walk from St. John’s to Victoria and from Victoria to St. John’s will equally proof the point.
Canada is an overpopulated country. This truthiness appears true only by looking about from centers of population, from downtown Toronto, or Montreal, or Vancouver; such factoid information serves little purpose, only provides grounds for an unnecessary argument.
Canada is a snow-bound land twelve months of the year. This is post-truth, believed by all who want to malign this country. Regardless of its truth, they who want to believe something bad about this country, such accept the snow-boundedness as fact of environment, without verification.
Post-truth qualifies falsehood, but believed because it fits in with a preconceived notion or a preference to believe what is is not true.
Let's carry this further, into the more interesting area, two illustrations:
Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The Resurrection is a fact. Many witnesses attested to its facticity, 1 Cor 15:1-11.
Jesus Christ's resurrection is true because he lives on in people's hearts. This truthiness may or may not be verifiable, depending on the integrity of persons, certifiably difficult to corroborate.
Jesus Christ's resurrection did not occur. This post-truth assertion is true for all who avoid the factuality of the Resurrection.
The Bible is the Word of God. This truth the Church teaches and the Holy Spirit confirms its actuality in believers.
The Bible contains the Word of God. This is a truthiness wished for by all who want to select that which they desire to believe.
The Bible is not more than any other religious book and contains errors. This post-truth logic, or illogic, confirm its believers in whatever scurrilous unbelief; such impossible people will belief everything bad, even the worst rumor without verification, about the Scriptures.
Truth is self-evident, factual.
Truthiness shades facts to avoid facing up to or pervert reality.
Post-truth qualifications devolve into slander and libel, sinning that feels true and that also is very dark—believing and passing on fake news, thus to fabricate opinion.
April 21, 2017
Sacraments, thus the Reformed interpretation, actually the Christian, the Lord Jesus bestowed on the Church to strengthen the faith of his people. Obviously, this interpretation stands in contrast to the Roman Catholic Mass, which by the sixteenth century A.D. had replaced the preaching of the Word for the formation of faith; for the Mass in the papal sphere both created and strengthened faith. The Reformed Churches acknowledged the sacraments more seriously, biblically, instruments to help ground salvation in Jesus Christ, the overriding theme of the Reformation.
Sunday participation in the worship services, because of the preached word, creates as well as strengthens faith. As the years go by, the persuasive as well as the teaching power of the proclamation steadily builds up faith and makes it stronger, stronger in terms of knowledge and commitment in believing the teachings of Scripture.
What now to expect from the sacraments in relation to the drive in each, the Lord's Supper and Baptism?
Eating the bread and drinking the wine of the Lord's Supper congregationally, in the context of a worship service, year after year you find the commitment to the biblical teaching and life stronger.
Participation does not give out a rush of pleasure or excitement. Rather in the repeated communal participation a maturing in faith settles in, corroborating the preaching of the world.
Stay away from the Sunday worship services and fail to participate in the Supper? (Slowly) the strength of commitment drains away until only a vague, non-consequential belief in a god remains, “a fossil of traditional faith,”1 idolatry.
Adult baptism has to same power. At first, the sprinkling with water, or immersion, rushes in with a commotion. Later, however, this current of emotion fades.
Every time, however, you witness this sacrament, be that then of a newborn, in the congregation of membership, you find the same growth in resolve as with the Lord's Supper. Together with the participation in the worship services you find the energy to belief the biblical teachings and the commitment to the Christian life gaining in strength.
Similarly with infant baptism. You will, of course, not remember that eventful sprinkling with water on your forehead, as you received this covenant mark of membership in the Church. But as you mature and witness in the worship services the sacrament, and remember you received the same promises, then your firmness in the faith matures.
Thus, participation in the sacraments also, to answer the question, as through the listening to the word, you become aware of a stronger will power to take to heart all which is in the Bible along with a growing concern to live accordingly.
April 10, 2017
Suffering appears in multiple ways:
though each differs,
depending upon the person and his/her age.
pain has a sanctifying function.
Let's start with the account of a man born blind. John 9:1—41
Jesus's disciples asked the why question,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents,
but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
the why question is off limits. Deut 29:29
The purpose for the blindness,
the reason for,
may be asked.
Jesus himself answered.
The blindness served the glory of God,
of Jesus and of the Father.
It had a sanctifying function.
take Paul's thorn-in-the-flesh, 2 Cor 12:7
a messenger of Satan.
The Apostle had a grueling illness, Gal 4:13—14
yet never asked the why question.
The affliction served the Gospel,
the glory of God,
both Jesus's and the Father's.
It also had a sanctifying function:
“My grace is sufficient for you,,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9
the thorn and the debilitation the Lord set aside for a purpose.
the why question receives a partial answer.
Because of alcoholism,
the why remains unanswered,
Why questions always concentrate interest on oneself,
even when the answer remains far away.
to ask for purpose,
at least in the Church,
centers on function. Ps 119:50
It is to serve the Lord Jesus,
and through him the Father.
That serving is the work of the Spirit.
Then pain has a sanctifying purpose;
the Lord Jesus sets it in his service,
as a witness to the sufficiency of his grace,
his power made evident in weakness.
The sanctifying task?
To serve him,
despite the suffering.
It makes pain easier to bear.
June 06, 2017
Secular Wear And Tear
Pressures of secularism wear down the Faith and make for many people the approach to the Eschaton problematic.
Secularists place undue weight on the scientific method to explain the meaning of life.
Secularists enforce a rationalistic worldview; nothing is true unless scientifically provable, including the existence of God.
Secularists intensify a materialistic (worldview), a flat-earth society without the high of heaven and the low of hell.
Secularists advocate a Darwinian origin, with human beings only highly evolved matter.
Secularists fight for man-centered human rights.
This potent regimen of atheism daily wears away and tears at the great doctrines of the Scriptures proclaimed in the Church—the lordship of Jesus Christ, the immutability of the Trinity, justification by faith, the summary of the Law, Matt 22:34–40; etc. To contravene the tastes of the times tires, and eventually secularism enters into the preaching, perhaps only by neglect of one doctrine after another, and slowly the churches empty out. Once the preaching succumbs to secularism thereby to conform to the wishes of the congregations, why not settle in the world? It is much more honest to be a secularist on the outside, thus too to avoid odors of hypocrisy.
As also the great days of the Church—Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost—flatten out into money-makers such as business-controlled opportunities as Valentine's Day, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labor Day, and Hallowe'en Day. Moreover, as the great days of Mohammedanism and Hinduism enter into the mix, the loss the Church's holidays seems to matter less.
In subtle ways enemies of Christianity win; there is little fight left in the Christ's followers for marching on to war.
Even church people in a closed community fail, eventually, subject to intolerable pressures.
It is easier to go along with than oppose the world’s love of sinning. It is in times as these that Jesus's prophetic that the love of many will grow cold, Matt 24:12, comes into effect. In the acceleration of the broader culture's succumbing to secularism, the difficulties for the Church only increase. At the same time Christ Jesus is testing and sorting out—only his remain faithful, by grace.
In a season of tolerance and diversity this is a time for testing, also for the conclusion to the Prayer:
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver from evil.
May 22, 2017
The Eschaton Way
Day by day the hour hands move, methodically, with a slow rhythm. In contrast, looking back over a life time, how fast the decades disappeared!
With that speed the disappearing centuries approach the Eschaton, the thousand years fleeting past.
Some hope for the Day of the Lord to escape problematic living, social, physical , even mental pain, have done with it, and meet the Judge face to face, then enter for eternity into the glories of the heavens.
Believers with eyes too much on the future live to flee this life; they care little for the sense of residence here.
More appropriate normalcy, believers live today to enter the life then, in the hereafter.
Living now means a care for the Church, family, work, the earth too, living now that translates into living then. However the living then, now acquires awareness that this life is more than a preparation for then. Calling this life a preparation somehow cheapens hope and diminishes present meaning.
Hope is to do then what is done now, only much better, without the interference of covetousness, in the presence of or before the face of the Lord Jesus.
Days may move slowly centuries speed by. Suddenly, however, the Day is here.
April 11, 2017
Everyone, at one time or another, reflects on history, if only about events from yesterday through today into tomorrow; this is a thoroughly Christian process of the mind, a questing with regard to historical structuring.
Under Jesus's omniscient and omnipotent rule history consists of interconnected events; he, the Lord of lords and King of kings, directs the global history from its beginning to its end.
Within that overall sweep various themes stand out, the Incarnation for one. From the first prophecy, Gen 3:14–15, with respect to his enfleshment the Lord stretched the line of interconnected events through the first dispensation; the genealogies in Matthew 1:1–17 and Luke 3:23–38 prove this assertion. Nothing interrupted the incarnational history.
Similarly, the birth of a child: Through parental connubiality the Lord brings about—to take a technical term—gametogenesis, the union of a sperm and an egg creating a genetically unique individual, a living human being. By way of the series of events from beginning to end over a nine-month period the Lord forms a person.
Whether macro-historical, the Incarnation, or mini-historical, the creation of a child, each history consists of tightly interconnected events. Such interconnectivity structures history as a whole from Genesis through Revelation.
In the large, Jesus directs events to magnify his name, moves the Church from generation to generation, and proceeds by generational procession to the Eschaton. Powers of idolatry may trouble this history with events that blaspheme the name of Jesus, hurt the Church, and seek another conclusion to history distinct from the Eschaton, yet essentially history consists of intricately bonded events moving to a predetermined and glorious finish. In this historical overview, the Lord Jesus placed the Church at the forefront; through her, centered in the Kingdom, the Lord Jesus shapes the large and small events, the significant events that construct the future. Hence, the way the Church goes, the world goes, inevitably. The history of the Church in its wonderfully interconnected events through the succession of times slowly reforms into the glories of the Eschaton.
The history of Canada,* interesting for appreciation of this country and helpful to gain a measure of patriotic fervor, proves valuable insofar successive governments protected and encouraged the Church in her momentum. The same may be said for the history of America and, for that matter, of any country or region, such as the Western world. Soon, two-three generations from now, the events important now will be forgotten, except in history texts; select themes, such as wars and severe weather events, may still be held in remembrance, but forgetfulness only determines that which happens to national and regional histories. Much considered important now will be gone from memory a century hence. Even the Terrible Thirties have faded away and World War Two horrors consist still of annual remembrances. In fast moving demographics most people have trouble keeping up. Ignored is Canada's future, also America's, and the world’s, except for predicted ecological disasters, all and each submerged within internationally wide speculations.
Prominent in world history is the lineage of Abraham the Hebrew that stretches through the millennia, one generation after another. When the LORD God called the man and his wife into covenant community the Hittites lived in Canaan. Abraham and Sarah are remembered; the Hittites of that period have long disappeared under the dust of millennia.
Abraham's descendants upon the Egyptian slavery moved on, leaving at best eroding pyramids and difficult hieroglyphics, to possess Canaan. Memories of the earlier inhabitants of Canaan—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—are lost, except for names and archaeological artifacts; none enters into the Baalisms of that now remote period, or cares, to grasp the functions of those localized religiosities.
Also, where now is Assyria, mighty Babylon, the Greece of Alexander the Great, the Rome of the Caesars? These nations and empires resisted the movement of the Church, Dan 7:15–28, the true Israel, Gal 3:7; Phil 3:3, and perished; such is the fate of all national and international peoples and histories.
Omnipotently and majestically, the Lord of heaven and earth unfolds the way of the Church, her glorification in sight. He also reveals the painful conclusions to rising and falling of nations and empires, each of which considered it of national and empirical interest to oppose the Lord Jesus.
The Father granted the Lamb the scroll on which written the history of the last dispensation, Rev 5:7, and in which––it is written–– the nations and the empires perish.
June 10, 2017
*Currently I am reading Robert Bothwell, Ian Drummond, and John English, Canada since 1945, Revised Edition, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981, 1989. Some main issues I remember; many of the details now interesting fade away, unimportant.
New Spirituality Wear And Tear
Pressures of New Spirituality wear down the Faith and make for many the approach to the Eschaton problematic.
Spiritualists favor religiosity without specificity regarding any religion or even deity.
Spiritualists emphasize the supernatural, again without identifying the contours of this spirituality.
Spiritualists feed into growing dissatisfaction with ecclesiastical institutions without drawing fellow travelers together into preferred bonds.
Spiritualists find that all people pray essentially to the same god, an assertion that lacks clarity and runs counter to historical antagonism between different belief systems.
Spiritualist tend to discover meaning and purpose by becoming one with all that is, however ill-defined.
Spiritualists appeal to a karmic structure of justice: those who do good receive good and those who do evil receive evil.
Spiritualists tend to favor gods who claim that they help those who help themselves.
This potent regimen of religiosity wears away and tears at the great doctrines of the Scriptures proclaimed in the Church—divine justice, the worth of the Body of Christ, predestination, the way of the Law.
To contravene these corrosive effects of the times tires and ever-rising waves of New Spirituality enter into the preaching, perhaps by neglect of one doctrine after another in favor of New Spirituality assertions such as that God helps those who help themselves. Once the preaching succumbs to the New Spirituality, thereby to conform to the wishes of the congregation, why not listen to actual Spiritualists; they teach whatever they hold to be true much better than preachers. This too avoids odors of hypocrisy.
As also the great days of the Church—Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost—find reorientation in the New Spirituality and get confused with Valentine's Day, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labor Day, and Hallowe'en, subcurrents and currents of religiosity erode Christianity. As the celebratory days of Hinduism and Mohammedanism enter into the mix the loss of the Church's holidays seems less and less painful.
In subtle ways enemies of Christianity win; there is little fight left in Christ's followers for marching as to war.
Even church people in a closed community eventually fall to intolerable pressures of the New Spirituality.
It is easy to go along and disappear in this world's love of sinning. In times as these Jesus's prophetic that the love of many will grow cold, Matt 24:12, comes true. In the acclimatization to the broader culture's succumbing to the fallacies of New Spirituality, the squeezes on the Church only increase. At the same time Christ Jesus is testing and sorting out—only his remain faithful, by grace.
In a season of temptations and deep forebodings this is a time propitious for the conclusion of the Prayer,
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver` us from evil.
May 27, 2017
The Bane Of Institutionalization
At first an institution, in this instance a congregation or a denomination, starts our prophetically, eager to tackle the difficulties necessary to create a sound foundation as well as a flourishing superstructure. This is a fascinating time and experience, fondly remembered years and decades later.
Once settled in, with providentially provided blessings overflowing, unobtrusively and silently institutionalization falls into place. The office bearers prefer the status quo. Richer donors prefer the status quo. Slowly the prophetic demands of the Church’s Head fall on deaf ears. To prevent irritating the congregation unnecessarily ministers of the Word select preaching texts and present sermons––as the word of God––that massage the status quo, a we-have-arrived mentality. Then in the thrall of institutionalization congregations/denominations dislike disturbances of heart and soul, even less of physical discomfort. As long as the large majority fades into a peace that is not peace a stranglehold of self-righteousness possesses all.
For clergy: to break with institutionalization and enter into the future of the Church try preaching an exegetically sound series on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Thereby you find how strong congregational members find the foundation, the Scriptures, and love the superstructure, the congregational life.
For members: to break with institutionalization and enter into the future of the Church try listening to an exegetically sound preaching series on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. In short, you find out how secure the congregation/denomination stands on the foundation and how lively the superstructure.
Over time, the Liar of liars assumes control.
Institutionalization reaches its plateau when office bearers as well as members dedicate themselves to serve the institution, a congregation or a denomination, either to preserve the constantly eroding status quo or insist on conformity to the world’s current cultural trends. The moment office bearers and members seek to serve an institution the start of institutionalization begins.
Is it difficult to say, as member(s) of the Church, I/we glorify the Christ?
June 08, 2017
Politically correct antagonists more than refuse, they destroy face-to-face exchanges of information. For them conversation and debate excite fear; with an appalling rigidity they refuse to hear any opposition to important ideas. In fact, they beat down and bludgeon to death any critique. Free inquiry? Never, if such impinges upon opinions and convictions. With hysterical sensitivity and hostility they bar civil discourse with hateful speech; defiantly, they shut down disapproval with insults and slights. Slander is a defensive mechanism. Reckless condemnation forms a stock in trade to anything that gives offense. With incendiary speech they beat away anything that disturbs their versions of truth. Sensitivity to justice they find offensive.
Politically correct opponents refuse to leave the company of the likeminded to hear and weigh undesirable beliefs and ideas.
Politically correct protagonists encourage courteous speech and put on display mutual respect by listening to others, opponents no less than friends. This political correctness even under difficult circumstances hears out critics, recognizing the imperfections of ideas and notions; that is, listening with love, considering what others say important, enough to weigh in the scales of exchange. Moreover, out of humility they find words are significant, never bludgeons with which to demolish neighbors. Out of respect and with human dignity intense listening builds community. Therefore the cultivation of charity eschews anger, gossip, slander, libel, and any abuse of civil discourse.
Politically correct proponents find that compliance with the norms of speech moves the discovery of love forwards on the basis of communication.
July 08, 2017
A remarkable, originally Greek word: an-‘ti-the-sis. It sort of rolls of the tongue, pluralized too: an-’ti-the-ses. In the singular antithesis spells out a contrast or makes a break.
Over the years, however, I have translated antithesis as dividing-line, therewith to sharpen with a more contemporary ring first of all in biblical studies the hard lines of division the LORD God placed to make distinctions. Examples:
The LORD inserted the dividing-line between Abraham and the nations.
The LORD placed the dividing-line between Israel and Egypt.
The LORD positioned the dividing-line between David’s Israel and attacking idolatries.
Later, the Lord Jesus, incarnate, insisted that the Church recognize the dividing-line with which he separated his from the paganies.
The dividing-line brought tensions. Beginning in the first dispensation, with continuation in every present, nations and peoples about Israel, the Church, resented that one people lived apart, different, committed to the Judge of all, Heb 12:23, who commanded worshipers to bow before him only and cease prostrations in front of man-made and woman-made deities. Consider the New Testament’s historical ferment: however much the Lord Jesus disturbed, if not angered, the Roman empire in the persons of the Herods, its rulers placed subjected peoples before a straightforward choice: sprinkle a pinch of incense on an altar fire and confess, “Caesar is lord.” Or: die by decapitation. 1 Maccabees 2. Easy choice? Upon confessing the Caesar’s lordship, and hence divinity, subjected people had the freedom in the Empire to indulge in whatever they believed.
Pagans with little difficulty made such an offering and confession, an easy exchange, one god for another. When in Rome, do as the Romans––for survival. Peoples of the Empire who confessed Caesar as lord merely rearranged the positions of gods within respective pantheons, and then blended into the Roman world.
Still, Christ Jesus insisted on his dividing-line, as a momentary reflection on 2 Cor 6:14––7:1 makes plain.
The situation now differs from the past only in degree. Western governments insist that all honor human rights, a man-made legal system in which all religions are equal, allegedly; on the whole politicians are quite content to allow Christians to worship the Lord Jesus, in fact, even the Trinity, in worship services, whereas outside of church buildings the Trinity becomes merely a god among others equally constrained by pluralism, or multiculturalism. Controlled then by human rights legislation, this massive system of law limits the Lord Jesus in his sovereignty and majesty.
It is simple: during the week abide by and work within human rights legislation to avoid confrontation. On Sundays, in prayer, ask the Lord Jesus to bless the works of governments, in effect, enforcement of human rights too, and recite Exod 21:2 as well.
Freedom of religion? Of course, until this basic human right exceeds the boundaries of this or that declaration of rights and infringes upon the rights of others who demand Sundays open for business. Suddenly, freedom of religion falls by the wayside, a derelict. Hydra-headed human rights legislation is not all that different from sharia law in Mohammedan dominated countries. As long as Christians pay taxes and willingly concede to second-class citizenship few complain. But refuse compliance and persecution follows, which is the way of governments and courts in Westernized countries.
The choice unfolds: live on the light side of the antithesis to follow the Lord Jesus or join legions of hysterical human rights activists on the dark side.
July 03, 2017
Tensions build over, about, and around economic immigrants and asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East, particularly the standard(s) these have to meet, or hope to avoid. As the numbers of these newcomers increase the more Canadian, indeed, North American demographics change. Connected herewith: three observations:
The LORD commanded Israel care for strangers and sojourners living within Canaan's borders.
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” Lev 19:33—34
“One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you.” Num 15:16
“When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.” Deut 24:19—22
It is also important to remember the large multitude which with Israel walked out of Egypt, Exod 12:38, the whole of which the LORD God incorporated in Israel. Strangers and sojourners required respect, indeed, love, as the people of the covenant wished the Egyptians had treated them, rather than the slavery and abuse forced upon them. Before the Law of the LORD strangers and sojourners had to receive humane dignity equal to every one of the covenant community.
Israel as a whole constituted the Church, or covenant community. Therefore strangers and sojourners who crossed over open borders to live within the boundaries of the people of the LORD had to know the welcome of the LORD God for as long as they lived in Canaan.
Ruth, a remarkable woman with an even more noteworthy history, reflected a process of assimilation and incorporation in and among the people of the covenant.
Elimelech and Naomi with two sons emigrated to Moab to escape a famine; by simply moving into foreign territory indicated the porous nature of the border and the fact that the sons married Moabite women stressed easy assimilation between Israel and Moab, a cross-cultural move considered insignificant at that time.
By marriage to Boaz Ruth's assimilation and incorporation found completion; she became a respected mother in Israel.
Current strangers entering Canada and America have other intentions than intermarriage, hence seeking assimilation and incorporation into the Church.
Immigration early in the nineteenth century consisted for the main of Northern Europeans who, after initial nativist resentments and discriminations, more or less blended in, cultural differences between Northern Europe and North America not all that different. Whatever the standards for economic immigrants, they were at least registered at ports of entry and allowed further passage and the processes into assimilation. Most of these immigrants added to the social conservatism of the times.
Immigration after the Second World War moved through vetting procedures and medical testing. Most of these men and women, and families, came at the invitation of the Canadian and American governments to break down labor shortages.
(My parents and also my in-laws received governmental letters of invitation to emigrate, with the costs of trans-Atlantic passage subsidized.)
Most of the post-war immigrants suffered limited adjustments and also irritating nativist discriminations; soon, however, they blended in, because cultural differences were minimal. These economic immigrants built up the social conservatism then and through passages of assimilation blended in.
Immigrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East, if they come through the front door, undergo vetting procedures. Not every applicant stays.
The point and the main observation: immigrants now entering Canada and America will change once again the demographics, even more so than after the World Wars. To estimate the extent of these changes will be difficult. However, as long as all North Americans are aware of and prepared for the coming demographics, which depends to a large extent also on the immigrants’ willingness at social integration, then a twenty-first century population begins to form across this continent.
June 15, 2017
While reediting “Two Divinities at Jesus's Trial,” a free-flowing reflection on anti-Judaism refused to disappear. Over the years, since the publication of The Tradition of the Elders (2014) I have posted blogs here and written essays elsewhere with anti-Pharisaic content, which may––superficially, at least––open a spirit of anti-Judaism. To prevent even the suspicion of a racist trending I concluded The Tradition of the Elders with an apologia.
Because the immediate background to the New Testament is Pharisaic/Sadduceic (and not Roman) criticism of the two anti-Christian movements comes out, automatically, with any work on Matthew-Revelation.
Also, the preaching in the congregation I attend is by and large based on the New Testament and often reflects an ignorance of the immediate background to Matthew-Revelation. This ignorance I tend to correct on occasion with a blog or an essay, some of which I’ve passed on. The Lord Jesus drew the first New Testament congregation out of that Pharisaic/Sadduceic environment, which ought to gather respect for (one) the power of the Gospel and (two) the break with the Judaism of that day, thus reforming the ongoing Israel, the Church.
I linger here on a remark by W. Hendriksen, The New Testament Commentary: The Gospel of Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975/90, that contextualizes anti-anti-Judaism, or anti-anti-Semitism, within a place of mature consideration; p. 606, “It is because we love the Jews that we desire to become the means in God’s hand to bring them to Christ, and thus also into the fellowship of the church.” In a large way this apologia echoes Rom 11:11, to make Israel “jealous.”
Before you become nervous about anti-Judaism in my work, here and elsewhere, do take the above to heart.
June 28, 2017
Two Divinities At Jesus's Trial
To prove that the God of the Jews was not God the Father.
The Church's animosity towards Jesus came to a head with untamed ferocity. According to Matthew, a large band armed with swords and clubs bound and took Jesus prisoner, without controversy, compelling him to attend the impatiently waiting Sanhedrin. Matt 26:59–66,
“Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, 'This man said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.”' And the high priest stood up and said, 'Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?' But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, 'I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.' Jesus said to him, 'You have said so. But I tell you from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.' Then the high priest tore his robes and said, 'He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?' They answered, 'He deserves death.'” Mark 15:53–65; Luke 22:66–71; John 18:19–24
Without expanding upon the legal irregularities of the trial, Jesus, placed under oath, stated forthright, “Yes.” The Aramaic, “You have said so,” asserted a strong affirmative. Thereupon the high priest led the Sanhedrin to find Jesus guilty of blasphemy.
A simplistic and hence superficial reading of the passage finds that the Council only refused to believe Jesus and quickly condemned him to death, actually without due process. Matthew, Mark, and Luke as historians at a distance from the source of the vitriolic hatred bypassed that aspect of the record, for which the Fourth Gospel became important.
First, however, Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man, that is, the Judge, is the more prominent and the only Divinity present at that hearing. The other, an alleged divinity, fearful to confront the Son of man directly remained hidden behind proxies.
This other, a pseudo-divinity, Jesus had identified earlier as the God of the Jews, the Devil. In controversy church leaders had declared, John 8:42b, “We have one Father––even God.” Jesus’s response? John 8:42–44a, “If God were you Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.” Jesus’s exposure of the Jewish God brought him, the Devil, into the open. This pseudo-deity, a liar, the supreme liar, capable of every deceit had through church leaders maneuvered himself behind names as “God” and “Father.” The high priest even fronted for “the living God,” a name Jesus used for himself. Josh 3:10; 1 Sam 17:36; 2 Kgs 19:4; Ps 42:2; etc.
Obvious, the God of the Jews was not God the Father of the Trinity. Besides, Jesus was the only way to the Father, and the Pharisees prompted by the Devil sought to kill Jesus, John 11:53.
At the trial, the Devil working through the Sanhedrin attempted at the last hour what he had sought to do some thirty years before, kill the Son of God, Rev 12:3–4, which murderous effort criminalized the Herod ruling at the time of the Incarnation, Matt 2:16–18. Therefore, though Jesus spoke the truth, the charge of blasphemy and the immediate death sentence, to prevent due process became the Serpent’s last public attempt to bring about the Son of God’s death, total erasure of his presence, and leave the creation open to his dictatorship. However, the Devil did not control the proceedings; the trial from beginning to end happened according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of the Father, Acts 2:23.
The God of the Jews was a deistic type who remained at a distance from his people provided they followed his commands according to the Tradition of the Elders. Only, upon the Incarnation and specifically at the trial, when his defeat became imminent and conclusive he had to take a more direct control, finally to ensure Jesus’s death. This deistic god was also monotheistic, that is, he was alone, in distinction from the Trinity. Moreover, as an angel he was unable to produce a son, Matt 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:36. Thus, when Jesus affirmed his own divinity, the church leaders did much more than disbelieve him. They rebelled. They knew that the God they believed in had no son. This is why they refused to believe the only Son of God.
At the trial in the Council of the Church the two, the Son of God and the hidden Devil, faced each other, Jesus, the Truth, in the open, the Devil, the liar, pathetically ensconced behind the Sanhedrin.
June 23, 2017
Three, Two, Or One
On occasion, the debate about the number of major covenants in the Bible reopens, apart from minor bonds, Abraham-Abimelech, Gen 21:22–34, Isaac-Abimelech, Gen 26:26–33, David-Jonathan, 1 Sam 18:1–5, etc. The question of numbers vexes and disturbs; students of the Bible read the same chapters and verses only to come up with clashing answers.
There are exponents of the Scriptures who find three covenants—a covenant of works involving all people, a covenant of grace including all of the Church, and a covenant of redemption limited to the elect. The people of the world couldn’t care less about the existence and function of the covenant of works that separates them from the Church. The covenant of grace involving the people of the Church at least elevates them from those who are of this world. And the covenant of redemption produces doubt in all who are in the covenant of grace—are they not in the covenant, only to disappear eventually in damnation as all of the covenant of works?
Proponents of the two covenants, of works and of grace, find that Adam before the Fall had to earn salvation, of which there is nothing in the Scriptures, specifically not in Genesis; the LORD God created Adam and Eve very good, the original goodness, which they and descendants faced for all eternity, until the first parents sinned. In distinction, all of the Church are in the covenant, by grace, for whom Christ Jesus earned the fullness of salvation. The people in the covenant of grace, hypocrites excepted, are then a large step ahead of Adam.
Advocates of three or two covenants impose eisegetically foreign frameworks on the Bible. The Lord Jesus created and recreated one promise-and-obligation structure moving from Genesis through Revelation. One covenant!
Guys, guys, read the Bible with Spirit-filled eyes.
The Scriptures know one central covenant, repeatedly broken and repeatedly—by grace—recreated. Such are the promises of life, food, and space, identical from Genesis through Revelation. Once sinfulness, really covetousness, entered into creation, the Lord Jesus by grace (alone) renewed the promises initially granted Adam, moving over Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, finally through the Incarnation to enter himself into the covenant structuring ,and finalize the promises with the obligations for all eternity.
June 19, 2017
Pressures for responsibilities of rape always shift towards girls and women; consider this observation: Rape culture is teaching women to avoid getting raped. (Rachel Venema, Denial Perpetuates Rape Culture, The Banner, Vol 152, #6, June 2017, 8) After years of information and legal prosecution stressing the wrongness of sexual violence this increasing shift for responsibility toward women places huge shame on men, no excuses permitted.
What to do?
Raise men strong in the Lord Jesus.
Generations of men raised by conscientious parents, men who own responsibilities for the care of women relative to honor and respect. Such men, preparatory to accompanying women, eschew alcoholic beverages and/or recreational drugs, both which weaken conscience, the system of right and wrong. Well-raised men are aware of the duty to protect as well as uphold feminine reputations.
Sexual violence/rape builds a bond. Deut 22:1819, “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.” This, one of the LORD’s own applications of the Seventh Commandment, carries weight, also in the sense of the life-long bond established; a man who chooses later to marry another woman commits thereby bigamy. No man whose conscience is structured by the Decalogue dares appear as bigamist, or polygamist, before the Judge of heaven and earth.
Upright men have respect for the opposite sex, earning trust in the process. They do not ruin conscience with alcoholic beverages and/or recreational drugs; they do not take women into isolated places, such as apartments, parks, or woods.
At the same time, women also exercise accountability; they walk away from men who consume alcoholic beverages and/or take recreational drugs, refuse to attend events or festivities were such abuse of men's conscience takes places, and insist on avoiding isolated places.
Good women do not lead men on, teasing or titillating, nor do they paint on the clothes they wear, whatever the intentions. Remember, rape establishes a relationship comparable to marriage.
The first responsibility in the care of and respect for the other sex rests with the men—men who take note of the biblical instruction with respect to marriage, such as Eph 5:22—33. Out of this pericope, I lift a phrase, “For no one ever hated his own flesh,” that is, his wife.
June 21, 2017
Where To Start
(IN THE BIBLE)
The Bible, all sixty-seven units, is the Book, for good reason called the Word of God. The whole is indivisible, yet consists of distinguishable sections.
The first, the historical section, from Genesis through Esther. This account concentrates on the first dispensation covenant formations that the LORD God revealed for the salvation of his people. To avoid stumbling unnecessarily, 1 and 2 Chronicles in a different way cover the same era as 1 and 2 Kings; the Chronicles present David and his successors more positively.
The second, wisdom literature, Job through Proverbs. These books expose and condemn the sin of sins, covetousness, the Adamic sin.
The third, the prophetic, from Isaiah through Malachi. This also large section reveals the secret of the Old Testament most compellingly, the imminent entry of the God the Son into the world, John 1:9.
In fact, the entire Old Testament strains for the Incarnation and for the last dispensation.
The fourth, the Gospels, Matthew through John. The Author of the Bible developed this section to confront first the people of the Church and also many outside with the God the Son in his humiliation as well as glorification.
The fifth, the Acts of the Apostles, which section opens up the pertinence of the Church’s early New Testament history.
The sixth, the Letters, Romans through Jude. By means of the ministry of apostles and other servants the reigning Lord Jesus reveals to the Church of all ages and places the significance of the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of God the Son, the Trinity, and the ongoing work for his own in the Kingdom.
The seventh, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, interprets history from the Ascension through the Eschaton.
Matthew through Luke depict the three-year ministry of Jesus Christ. Here you come face to face with the Person and the work of the Lord and Savior.
John, because he belonged to the inner circle of the Lord's disciples, had a deeper and more resolute insight into Jesus's Person and ministry.
Start with Matthew-Luke, recognizing that Matthew addressed believers whom Jesus had drawn out of Israel and Mark-Luke addressed believers whom Jesus had drawn out of Gentile populations; these authors therefore perceived the radical newness of Jesus’s ministry.
John addressed the Church to reveal the final stages of the tensions Jesus created between the Old Church of the Pharisees and the New Church.
Each division, without minimization, holds to the light also the resistance to the works of God the Son.
Each section the Holy Spirit bonded to the others with the indivisible command to worship God the Son and, indeed, the Trinity in holiness.
(Alert: Speed-reading sets an impossible pace.)
You will turn away from the Gospels in disgust, hardened in disbelief, or you will ever anew bow before the majestic Lord Jesus in adoration, forever rejoicing in the grace of the Gospel revealed from Genesis through Revelation.
For believers, turn next to the Old Testament sections, recognizing the significance of each large division.
July 28, 2017
Even though copies of most of C.S. Lewis's works stand in line on a shelf behind me, waiting for attention, I don't much like his writings. His science-fiction trilogy? I've read it several times at a much younger age. His other works, those with a theological slant, assume too much in a bland sort of way.
At a sale recently I picked up and paid for a copy of C.S. Lewis's What Christians Believe (2005), a selection of radio talks excerpted from his Mere Christianity. In these radio talks I take exception among others to his advocacy for the freedom of the will.
God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible.
In his magisterial voice C.S. Lewis claimed that Christians believe the above quotation. Perhaps Anglicans do, and others, like-minded. However, this doctrine of the freedom of the will is found not anywhere in the Bible, Genesis-Revelation minus the Apocrypha. Martin Luther stated this clearly in the bondage of the will. Only Arminian-types pass on this sort of freedom to escape the sovereignty of the Lord in predestination, Matt 11:25—30, and thereby seek final control over salvation, puny creatures lost in the miseries of damnation in a quest to dominate a destiny granted only by grace.
In the Scriptures the Author at times placed conditional clauses, if . . . then. Go anywhere in the Scriptures. Job 19:4, “And even if it be true that I have erred, (then) my error remains within myself.” This conditional as structured by the Hebrew requests a negative reply: Job had not erred, given the fact that the LORD at the beginning of this book declared him a righteous man, blameless. Matt 11:21p, “For if the mighty works done in you had been done in . . .,“ immediately implies, expects, a positive answer. Only, Arminian types in an English translation pounce on a conditional, which at minimum implies doubt, and read such if . . . thenstructures in a manner foreign to the originals.
They as C.S. Lewis who claim to know what Christians believe and in the process misrepresent the Scriptures I find hard to take seriously even for allegedly apologetic purposes. It is one of the reasons why shelved copies of C.S. Lewis's many books stand up only to gather dust.
October 09, 2017
An acquaintance, call him Michael, related that throughout last night he laughed his way through Ecclesiastes. Michael, an insomniac, walks with an oxygen supply, two plastic tubes curving over his cheeks and fastened into the nostrils. Michael is dying and recognizes this end-of-life fact.
The laughter originated with the meaninglessness of life, of human endeavors, as recorded in Ecclesiastes. “Meaningless.” “Meaningless.” He wanted to break out in laughter, even in a public place, but kept it to a low chortling. “Meaningless.” “Meaningless.” A man approaching death knows the vanity of vanity thematic of Ecclesiastes. He has sought after the vanities and responds with a mocking laughter at the foolishness.
I read Ecclesiastes and nod along, Yes, yes.
Michael is the only person I know who laughed his way through a literary wisdom section of the Scriptures. What is the meaning of striving after the wind? Wealth gathered throughout a life someone else will walk away with. Status gained over a life time dies at the funeral, after speakers empty out the eulogies.
The Teacher in Matt 16:26a succinctly restated Ecclesiastes’ thematic, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” Solomon broke under the weights of meaninglessness, 1 Kgs 11:1–8. Nebuchadnezzar vaunted his life of vanity, Dan 4:10–12, 22. Many in every age give all of life to then covetousness welling up from within. In the face of death, however, not even the richest Croesus or wildest Midas buys one more second of time in which to draw one more labored breath.
True, Qoheleth to glorify the Messiah uncovered a magnificent source of laughter, one shot through with sarcasm, but laughter nonetheless. In the approach of death the meaningless of stuff blinds with obvious glares.
September 01, 2017
Out of a now distant past an instance of eisegesis, that is, reading into a biblical text a seemingly self-perpetuating error. After eating of forbidden fruit and facing death, Adam and Eve found a hiding place to escape the inevitable judgment. At that point in the account this instance of eisegesis, “God arrives in the garden at the time of the afternoon breezes as he does each day.” Matthew Kelley. Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide To Living With Passion & Purpose. New York: Beacon, 2010, 232. Close reading of, or simply reading Gen 3:8—13 indicates that this epiphany occurred but once, at the end of the Sixth Day, and completely other than a friendly visit. Also the present tense mars the exegesis of the account.
On the day of creation, Adam and Eve had broken the prohibition. Then, in proclamatory fashion, Gen 2:1—3:13 explains what happened during that day, also with a concentration on the Adamic sin. In the evening of the Sixth Day the LORD God came into his creation and called the two to account; this occurred but once. On the Seventh Day, then, the LORD God revealed to Adam and Eve, the Serpent, as well as to all subsequent generations that in which the first parents had terribly erred.
This eisegetical misreading of Gen 3:8 is old and widespread.
The epiphany under consideration happened once only, in terms of judgment.
August 05, 2017
Every person has deep within himself and herself a place where the light of integrity burns strong; the wholeness of this integrity characterizes the soul, life itself. Upon destruction of this soundness of soul through compromise a person from that moment squandered that which is precious, for the integrity of personhood is priceless.*
Many find that this integrity has a price and may be bought, often enough for a pittance, considering the worth of this, the light of the heart, within the deep place. If not money, attainment of power, status, and/or possessions achieve the same. Others willingly and without thought sell out to highest bidders to corrupt integrity for social acceptance, pleasure, fame, even information. Judas Iscariot sold his integrity of soul by stealing, John 12:6, and by selling facts for a pitiable thirty pieces of silver, Matt 26:14–16. Peter, later leading apostle, compromised this integrity by a triple denial of the Lord, Matt 26:69–75, and then again by schismatic action, refusing to eat with believers whom the Lord Jesus had drawn out of the Gentiles, Gal 2:11–14. King David lost this integrity of soul in the matter of Bathsheba, 2 Sam 11:2–5, and later when he refused to punish Amnon, his firstborn, 2 Sam 13:1–22. Esau for soup’s-sake sold his birthright, wherewith he squandered the deepest within himself, Gen 26:29–34; Heb 12:15–17. Cain, firstborn, sold his soul out to jealousy, Gen 4:8. How easily these men surrendered that which is invaluable with respect to personhood.
Men and women who recognize the august nature of integrity and refuse marketing that which personifies something typically human face then the hazards of rejection and shunning.
Powers that be—governmental to demand officials to compromise on policy, ecclesiastical to insist that office bearers compromise on doctrine, and commercial to force middle management to compromise on quality—will make the integrally strong suffer scandal, threats, and financial loss for refusing to go along. Any escape out of the isolation perhaps by bribe, perhaps by offering status, or money, or possessions may only seem worth the price.
* This Abimelech held this integrity of personhood high. Gen 20:5p, “In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” That is, a pagan, he dared not add another man’s wife to his harem.
They who know in that deepest of identity the worth of integrity will
suffer loss, demotion, and/or social rejection rather than the humiliation of compromise, that is, the sale of the priceless and nonnegotiable soul. No dishonesty, no self-preservation, no emoluments, and no enticements of this world attain in worth to the integrity of soul. To that the souls under the altar daily confess, Rev 6:9.
July 22, 2017
A clip on Facebook showed a man with his head on a desk, arms splayed out beside him, either in utter devastation or in unbelievable relief. Behind him stood penitentiary staff in a solemn mode, one of whom wiping tears from her eyes. Fake news or real, the author(s) of the film clip made a touching point.
Apparently, the man at the center, head on desk, had been convicted of rape and spent six years in a penitentiary, that is, six years plus the time in detention before the trial. Then the accuser recanted and confessed to falsely charging the man.
First, this is a blight on the judicial system—prosecution, jury, and judge—for the condemnation of an innocent person and his wasted years behind bars.
Second, at the heart of this human tragedy, for every miscarriage of justice is a tragedy, stands the abuse of the Ninth Commandment. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” False witnessing is a reprehensible covetousness, for the accuser sought out something to which she had no right.
All who make false accusation(s) in a court of law, or seek to disparage others through gossip, slander, or libel, need to be held accountable. I think of Deut 19:15—21, legislation to ruin false witnesses, specifically this line, “. . . you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” “Evil” may also mean an “evil person.” Such then is the reward for all who utter fake news.
October 11, 2017
The Final Summons
In the end, at the beginning of the Eschaton the Lord Jesus shall call forth the resurrection of the dead; all who have lived and live will then stand before the Judge, the Christ.
For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
Other passages equally blunt state the same.
Matt 25:31–32, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory . . . before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
Phil 2:10–11 “. . . at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
2 Thes 1:7–8, “. . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
Rev 20:11–12, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life.”
Each and all together the peoples of the world beginning with Adam shall face the Judge at the appointed time; then he will separate all into two, to the left and to the right. Each will be judged according to what he/she has done “in the body.” This “in the body” or “body of sin” (Rom 6:6) phraseology refers then to the manner of living, according to the Word or according to disparate narratives.
Actually the dividing-line between the right and the left the Lord Jesus revealed on and from Golgotha relative to the substitutionary atonement. At that time and in that agony he revealed the definitive separation
Church people already have sense of that left/right division. Sundays they hear the call to worship and appear before the Christ, also in terms of judgment. During the worship services he defines the believers and the hypocrites.
Fascinating, each Sunday again to recognize one’s eternity.
August 12, 2017
Sub- And Counter-cultures
The simply misinformed and unreflective find the Church, regardless now of denominationalism, a subculture of or a counterculture to the dominant way of life, that hodge-podge of secular, humanist, relativist, and idolatrous movements. Think now: The Church as the Christ recreated, Matt 16:18, a subculture? Think now: The Church the Christ justified and sanctifies, 1 Cor 3:16–17, a counterculture? Whether the one or the other, a subculture or a counterculture, in each variation the Church forms part of the world's culture, albeit sidelined. No. No. NO! That outer demographic, hugely dominant in numbers and riven with idolatrous powers stands apart as a confused mix of warped pieties, its common denominator predictable opposition to the Christ. In comparison to the Church the world in the round consists of sub-cultures and counter-cultures, a mixed regime of iron and clay, each component of which wandering about regressively in the darkness.
The Lord of lords and the King of kings, Christ Jesus, rules at the right hand of the Father, not in some cynical Gnostic stance but from within the flesh-and-blood reality of each congregation. Beginning in the Church, his people, that is, all of the Faith participate in an actually progressive life; to take a phrase out of the Heidelberger, they “out of the faith, in accordance with the law of God, and to his glory” implement the culture-defining norms as the divinely approved, indeed, blessed way of life. All who out of gratitude for salvation and to the glory of the Christ obey the Commandments set thereby into motion the structures of culture pleasing to the Lord and the King.
The Israel departing from the Sinai, except for the Golden-Calf travesty, set the pace of life to the consternation of the surrounding peoples where the survival strategy became increasingly defiant to the God of Israel.
King David created the culture of the future, compelling even monarchs of the surrounding nations, from the Nile in the south to the Euphrates in the north, to give tribute to the Preincarnate.
The Book of the Acts of the Apostles recounted the early New Testament Church’s growth in culture, the way of life glorifying the Lord Jesus, confounding first the cynical Sadducees and Pharisees before destroying the Roman Empire for its complicity in the Crucifixion.
Moreover the various reformations starting in the sixteenth century renewed the way of life, culture-forming, to the shock of sub-cultures and counter-cultures. In these reformations they of the Christ, elders and ministers foremost, declare in teaching and by preaching the culture in such a way that they of sub-cultures and counter-cultures may look in, listen to, and upon due repentance enter into.
To define the Church’s life as a sub-culture or as a counter-culture blends the people of the Lord in with this agitating world. From within or from behind shadowy defensive positions they then of the Church in a gentrified sort of civil war take cheap shots at an increasingly disdainful world.
October 07, 2017
Self-righteousness places a curse on human bonding, no more so than in a congregation. When people individually or corporally, consider themselves better than others the profanity of this curse jumps out. Think of the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Luke 18:9–14; the Pharisee found himself in relation to the treasonous tax collector an outstanding member of the Church at that time. The religious and social abyss between the two prevented even the possibility of a salutation in passing on the street.
The Christ warned against such presumption as the Pharisee’s, Matt 7:1-2, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Because of self-righteousness this misalignment of measuring occurs constantly, even in the Church, particularly in the Church. The Pharisees considered themselves better, outstandingly better, than the other members of the synagogues.
Thus it went:
The Jews considered themselves superior to the Samaritans,
The Jews considered themselves superior to the Gentiles, Gal
Each such instance of self-righteousness hindered the mission work of the Church and hence faced condemnation.
Each such instance of self-righteousness inflated the sense of superiority of persons and/or cliques.
Each such instance of self-righteousness presumptuously prejudged the judgment of the Judge.
When in and with sinfulness members of the Church measure others, both in- and outside the congregation of membership, division deepens and hatefulness kills bonding in Christ.
The facts of the matter are that they who judge themselves with amateur measures of righteousness refuse to believe the Crucifixion, and the judgment the Lord and Savior handed down from the Cross. Considered 1 Cor 11:31–32, “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” All then who judge themselves good people and acceptable to and in Jesus Christ make such measurements according to alien standards. Hence, take and make time to meditate on what the Judge will say when you stand before him in the bright lights of divine righteousness.
Matt 16:27, “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he well repay each person according to what he has done.”
Rom 14:20, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of
At his time, for us the unexpected hour, all will one by one appear before the Son of Man for the execution of judgment and hear the decision handed down from the Cross.
August 26, 2017
The Beauty Of Reformed Worship
Sundays the Lord of the Church summons his to appear before him, primarily to hear him, also that they in song and in prayer respond. Liturgists tend to define this as a dialogical process: The Lord Jesus from his throne speaks and the congregation replies. However, dialogue—communication between two equals—hardly suffices to describe the interchange. The holy and almighty Head the equal of the congregation? The first chapter of the Revelation answers that question. Think now of asymmetrical communication, hierarchical, proportionately unequal, the one by grace and the other in grace.
Two liturgies expressive of the beauty and the dignity, even the solemnity, of Reformed worship—one for the morning, one for the afternoon, for the Lord wills the attention of his the entire day—function well.
Call to Worship
Confession of Dependence
Prayer of Confession
Assurance of Pardon
The Reading of the Law
Prayer of Illumination
Call to Worship
Confession of Dependence
Prayer of Illumination
Confession of Faith
As the congregation hears her Lord and Savior—he is also the Judge of all the earth—she responds with psalms, hymns, and prayers carefully selected. Young children brought up in the Reformed way may be restless throughout the services yet at an early age learn that which is in the Lord’s presence acceptable worship.
Words as majesty, solemnity, and beauty stand out as the opposite of uninteresting, boring, and staid, or the hyperactivity in which what people say/do/sing supersedes the Word. The Reformed characteristic of congregational worship indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit and gains the approval of God the Father granted to the people gathered by the Christ.
As you look over Isaiah’s shoulders in chapter six and over John’s in Revelation, fourth and fifth chapters, do not majesty, solemnity, and beauty come to mind, specifically also holiness?
Nothing destroys the beauty of Reformed worship than negligible sermons—improperly selected texts and eisegesis—that mar the manner in which the Lord of the Church speaks to his people hollows out the liturgy.
Dominant themes structure the Scriptures from Genesis through Revelation:
The lordship of the Christ within the communion of the Trinity.
The coming of the Kingdom in each generation.
The revelation of the covenant.
The glory of the Lord Jesus.
The beginning of the conclusion to the creation.
The meaning and purpose of life.
The way of the Commandments in every present.
The reformation of the Church.
The seriousness of predestination, both election and reprobation.
The deadliness in idolatry.
The great judgment in the Crucifixion.
The hope of the Resurrection.
These and more as preached and supported by the songs of the Church make the beauty of Reformed worship to the praise of the Son, the Father, and the Spirit every Sunday anew. The God of gods and the King of kings will have his praise. October 06, 2017
A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion & Purpose. New York: Beacon, 2010,
I selected this Kelly book seeking a quick overview of Catholicism, specifically its doctrines as well as search out causes for its numerical growth.
Rediscover Catholicism decries the apathy generally among Catholics and appeals throughout constantly to become individualistically the best-version-of-yourself as the authentic self. Though Catholicism provides the elements for this improvement process, I find the Semi-Pelagianism domineering, each Catholic and all together have to strive to achieve something. More than half the book consists of motivational and/or inspirational counseling (probably intentional, since this is Kelly's occupation) to persuade his fellow-believers out of apathy into better, more ardent membership.
By the time he arrived at the Confessional, Prayer, the Mass, the Bible, Family, and the Rosary (with little reference to the papal hierarchy), even these fall before the motivational momentum, explaining these papal assignments as the way to committed and passionate Catholicism. Nothing comes through even to argue for the Mass, its origin and effectiveness.
The thick Semi-Pelagian atmosphere throughout means to motivate Catholics to do better in a more dedicated membership.
August 05, 2017
The Great Questions Of Tomorrow.
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017,
There are those who look ahead not through the Book of the Revelation but through the prism of liberalism and consequently at this or that to peer into many tomorrows. Such clairvoyants, bypassing James 4:13—17, press ahead to prepare for eventualities optimistically. Illustratively: The consequence of the fourteenth-century bubonic plague with its hundred million victims apparently became the doorway to the Renaissance. Rothkopf sees similar advances through or past the current great questions, or catastrophes. P. 5, “An epochal change is coming, a transformational tsunami, is on the horizon, and most of our leaders and many of us have our backs to it.” He follows this prognostication up, pp. 5—6, “Technological shifts will be only a part of the cascading disruptions associated with the new era. As history shows, these shifts will, in turn, change human behaviors, open new eras to human understanding, enable new forms of creative expression, empower new means of economic activity, and inspire new thinking about the way lives and governments and businesses should be organized.” To make progress in finding answers Rothkopf insists on the right questions. The following consist of chapter titles:
Who am I? Identity and Community Reimaged.
Who are we? The Social Contract and Rights Reconsidered.
Who rules? Democracy and Government Reimaged.
What is Money? Economics, Works, and Markets Reimaged.
What is War? What is Peace? Power, Conflict, and
Within the current unrest relative to relational changes in marriage/family, population spiraling, aging, ethno-cultural diversity, burgeoning idolatry, mass migration, forcible displacement, a look ahead at possibilities has value. The prophets looked ahead and inspired by the Spirit announced damning changes to prepare the Church for the coming tomorrow. As the descendants and heirs of those prophets the onus is on us to look through the Book of the Revelation to see ahead, without miring in millenialisms.
August 07, 2017
(TO THE BIBLE)
In Where to Start, I asserted that the Old Testament strained for the Incarnation, which is true to fact. I underemphasized the other ending, the Eschaton, which the prophets perceived. Sound first dispensation exegesis requires also due attention to the double ending.
From the beginning, Gen 3:14–19, the LORD already shaped and pushed history beyond the Incarnation to the Eschaton, the Endtimes.
Isaiah, 11:6–9, foresaw a leopard and a young goat companionably together, a calf and a lion also.
Isaiah, 66:22–23, perceived the way to the new heavens and earth.
Jeremiah, 51:47–48, proclaimed the new heavens and the earth to the Israel bound for servitude.
Ezekiel, 40—48, looked into the heavenly temple and presented the glory of the LORD to the Israel in captivity.
Daniel, 12:1–4, in a startling manner recognized the resurrection of the dead, therewith to inspire all of Israel with hope.
Each of the other prophets, Hosea, Joel, Amos, etc., similarly pictured prophetically the hope of the Old Church submitting to the reality of the Exile and the forces of idolatry.
At the beginning the LORD God revealed the initial Eschaton to Adam, the perfection of his rule.
Adam ruined the first Eschaton, the conclusion to the eternally “very good” creation. The coming Son, Lord Jesus, at that time revealed in the process of the first dispensation the perspectives of the second End, the new eternity of glory about him, the Father, and the Spirit.
August 05, 2017
A dispute had broken out among widows, a minor issue reflective of a much larger controversy in the earliest years of the New Church, the bonding between the Hebrews and the Hellenists. That is, which of the two had the greater status or more preferential place in the covenant community?
The widows of Hebrew descent insisted, because they were first, that the right to distribute food at mealtimes among the members of the fast-growing followers of Christ belonged to them. The widows from Hellenist origins demanded that they too, equally, participate in this service.
An old interpretation of the controversy, long unsustainable, had the widows of Hebrew descent bypassing those with Gentile origins, leaving the latter to suffer hunger, which shifted the dispute into an instance of racial tension. No doubt, some of that now superseded strain lingered in memory of the dividing wall that once separated Jews from the Gentiles, Eph 2:14–15. Standardized, this tad of eisegesis runs thus: “The first deacons were chosen because the gentile widows were not being cared for by the Jewish members of the Church (Acts 6:1).” Matthew Kelly. Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion & Purpose. Beacon, 2002/2010, 43. This molding misinterpretation missed the issue at hand.
The widows with Hellenist background, new creations now, in the Spirit on an equal footing with those out the Hebrews, sought to serve at table too; they came with a team spirit to show in the open the thankfulness to the Lord and Savior for the redemption he had wrought on the Cross.
A committee of seven Spirit-endowed men persuaded the Hebrew-originated widows that the Hellenist-born widows stood on an equal footing in the New Church, the one saved no more or no less than the other, and both ought to serve as team mates in the work.
The larger issue centered in the relationship between the Hebrews and the Hellenists. The Hebrews had a long covenant history. The Hellenist believers entered as newcomers, apparently less entitled to full status in the New Church, possibly seen as apprentices.
The LORD God commanded care for widows post-Exodus, Deut 14:29. Pss 68:5 and 146:9 entered widow-love into the mouth of the covenant community, a care compassionately displayed by Boaz for Ruth, 2:8–13 and in Job 31:16 also. At the time Paul instructed Timothy on the care for widows the controversy had passed and an awareness of the maturing bond between the Hellenists and Hebrews reigned in the Church, 1 Tim 5:3–16.
This widow-controversy recorded in Acts was but the first intimation of the larger issue, which Peter met full force when he reported to the Jerusalem Council the conversion of Cornelius and family, the grace-filled indication of the indwelling of the Spirit in Hellenists, Acts 11:1–18. Some on the Council found that the believers out of Hellenism were still second-class, unless circumcised. These Pharisaic members lost.
The Jerusalem Council once more ruled on the same and led by the Spirit enacted that believers out of the Hebrews and out of the Hellenists stood in equality relative to salvation, Acts 15:1–21. Those of Hebrew origin were believers of no higher standing than those from out of the Greek-speaking world.
This controversy once more roiled the bond between the two peoples, as Paul recorded in Gal 2:11–21. The two Jerusalem Councils had resolved the issue.
In the passage of three-four decades Jesus’s parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, Matt 20:1–16, controlled the bond between those of Hebrew origin and of Hellenist beginning. The men who had labored one hour received as much as all who had worked from sun up to sun down.
Conclusive then: The controversy between the widows provided only a slight indicator of conflict and reformation in the early Church.
July 10, 2017
Was Abraham a Christian? I heard the question long ago. It surfaced again yesterday, for no apparent reason. Suddenly, it was on my mind. This time I wanted an answer. Superficially, the question has a oxymoronic character, for the name Christian is a New Testament revelation.
Abram/Abraham was a Hebrew and known as such, Gen 14:13. Was this an identifier or a disparager? Nevertheless, the Hebrew-qualifier separated the man from all other peoples. In Acts 6:1 the Hebrew-name served as identifier, also in 1 Sam 14:21.
Egypt's Pharaoh certainly spoke of the Hebrews with disparagement, Exod 1:15, 22, as Philistines in 1 Sam 14:11.
The Hebrew-name appeared in the Old Testament to isolate the covenant people, which classification carried through in (the Letter to the) Hebrews.
From Abram to (the Letter to the) Hebrews, the name personified the members of the Church.
In the New Testament the name Christian at first disparaged Jesus's followers, Acts 11:26b, and later distinguished them from other faiths, first of all Judaism.
Paul revealed Abraham as the father of all believers, Rom 4:11. The Apostle to the Gentiles per analogy presented the Church as an olive tree from which the Lord Jesus cut off unbelieving branches and into which he grafted believing Gentiles, as the magnificent passage of Rom 11 clarified. Abraham belonged to this tree in its root system. The tree-analogy reminds of John 15:1–11, Jesus as the Vine, according to his human nature he was certainly rooted in Abraham.
Paul also identified the Church as the true Israel, Phil 3:3.
In Galatians, 4:7, the Apostle identified Christians as heirs, members of the Abrahamic history.
1 Pet 4:16 ascertained the believers as Christians.
In the first dispensation the Hebrew-name dominated as classifier. In the last dispensation the Christian-name came more to the fore—different ages, different names—to separate believers from all others. The Hebrew- and Christian-names serve best in respective Testaments.
The question is less oxymoronic than appeared. I consider the two synonymous.
May 03, 2017