Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The White Stone

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
I have always focused on the last part of this verse; today while reading it I noticed the first part. Often I have cited, in great excitement, this verse, wanting to be like Him. But look at the first part, for that is what I wish to focus on now. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” Many of my attempts to look forward more to what we shall be are doomed—they deserve not to be classed as more than vain imaginings. By faith, we look forward to being remade into new creatures, and by faith I accept the promise of Christ that He is going to prepare a place for me.

Now, the locations of those places that Christ is fixing for us are evident. First of all, I am going to heaven, by death, or by the Rapture, should it come soon. It is there that the Bible tells us that Christ is preparing for us “many mansions”. I know that after seven years in heaven, Christ will take us with Him as He returns and sets up His Kingdom on earth, and if I read my Bible aright, ever afterward we will follow our Lord—one day into the new heavens and the new earth.

But as to what we will really be like, it is mostly unknown. Randy Alcorn suggests that if we die we may receive “temporary” bodies to hold our spirits. I admire his work to try to press the Bible for the most possible information about our afterlife. But even he is quick to admit that the picture is unclear, and it must be looked forward to by faith. Paul tells us that we will “reign” and “rule” with Christ and I know not what that means. Right now I am utterly unable to judge as my Lord does—evidently something happens within me to change that inability. I rather suspect it to be a profound change, one that will wrest my character apart. I like the picture that Lewis presents of our conversion in The Great Divorce: “This belief [the belief in a marriage of some sort between heaven and hell] I take to be a disastrous error. You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you leave behind.” I rather suspect that the grand change God has for me will involve my leaving much of my personality behind (it may feel like losing a hand or an eye)—a painful process—to press the new me to fit the very high mold of a new creature capable in any fashion of ruling and reigning with Christ. By faith I look forward to this great adventure, trusting in the goodness of my God.

And it is with all these changes in mind that I wish to reflect some on what I call the ‘new name thing.’ I wish to present a few verses from the Bible that show a tremendous penchant for names. Revelation 2:17 has a vivid illustration of this. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” Am I to be given a real white stone? Perhaps it is so, but metaphors abound in Revelation, and I am not sure. If it is so, I cannot imagine anything more precious to me than that gift of the white stone. If it is figurative, perhaps standing for the righteousness the Rock imputes to me, then I shall be equally dazzled by the gift. Is it a literal name? A name known by no other man, and given to me by God personally. What a precious gift!

I know the new name could quite signify the completely new me that will be remade, yet Revelation takes at least two more opportunities to talk of this new name, telling me that it will even be written on my forehead. (Rev. 22) If I understand it at all, it means that God is staking His claim and protection on me forever. To all who see me, I will belong to God. And that thought I find quite comforting!

To be remade in His image, marked with His righteousness, and given a new name reflecting the new creature He has made me? Life would be impossible to be any better! Bring it on, Lord! Come quickly.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

God or My Doctor?

It is a false choice, and I have set it up that way on purpose. Every so often, I read about someone facing cancer who elects not to follow medical advice, but rather chooses to rely on their faith in God. It becomes even more tragic when I read of someone raising a child discovered to have a dread disease, and who elects to keep the child from medical treatment.

People who make these choices are all the more tragic figures because they sometimes do know their gracious God. Just this evening, my mother-in-law received laser treatment for her bleeding eyes, and was told that she might not regain her sight. I imagined what it might be like to be 87 years old, and losing control of your own life. For a moment, I reflected on God, and my prayers that had been offered in this lady’s behalf. For a moment, I was tempted to become disgusted at the lack of effectual prayer. And, for a moment, I wondered why we always seem to take things nto the doctor, rather than God.

And then the Lord stepped in and reminded me—graciously—for He ever is a God of grace—of the very text that I had read for devotions yesterday. I want to share that text with you in a moment, but first I want to take you to another text, 2 Chron. 16:12. “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the LORD, but only from the physicians.” Notice the last clause: “but only from the physicians.” There is no place in the Word where we are told not to seek a physician. Rather Asa was guilty here of not seeking the Lord, of turning his face from God, and looking SOLELY to the physicians for his cure. “In everything, by supplication and prayer, let your requests be made known unto God.” (Phil. 4:6) The proper role for Asa to follow would have been to seek his God first, and then do all that he could to effect a cure from his disease.

If you find yourself standing in the middle of a busy freeway, by all means, pray for deliverance, but try your best to effect a good escape. God works sovereignly, but often He chooses to do so through our working. So, yes, I was right to pray for my mother-in-law, and we were right in seeking to do the best by her with doctor’s treatment. Let me share with you one of the passages where God is so very definitely sovereign, but sovereign through the will and plans of man. It is just one place in the Scripture where the sovereignty of God and the plans of men mesh to provide a beautiful symphony, even in the middle of a harsh world.

King David has just been deposed as a king, and has to flee for his life. He must flee from his son Absalom, a son who he has graciously forgiven already of fratricide, and restored Absalom to his kingdom. Absalom, seeking to be king, had gone to men in the kingdom and convinced them that he, Absalom, would represent their grievances. Interestingly the Scripture says that David fled, passing through the Mount of Olives. That same place, the Mount of Olives, where so much happens with our Lord. I believe that here David is acting the part of our Savior in prefiguring the period before the crucifixion, when Jesus took his disciples apart, and prayed, the Scripture saying that He sweat great drops of blood. In this place, David was told of an ally of Absalom, an ally that was so wise that is was as if his counsel was from God Himself. “Now David had been told, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” In that moment I believe David knew that he was in extreme danger, because this man’s counsel was so wise that David could not prevail against it.

David instantly went to prayer, “O LORD, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.” Later, as he arrived at the summit of the Mount of Olives, he just “happened” to run into a counselor that he knew his son admired. He just “happened” to realize his opportunity to ruin the counsel of Ahithophel “If you go with me, you will be a burden to me. But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king; I was your father’s servant in the past, but now I will be your servant,’ then you can help me by frustrating Ahithophel’s advice.”

So which is it? Did God sovereignly intervene and rescue David? Or did David himself work out his own salvation with fear and trembling? The only answer is a deafening one. We do not know. God intervened. David did his best. Somehow together they mesh to make a beautiful tapestry that we can so appreciate by reading the story. It is that way frequently when God answers prayer; only rarely do we seem to get the chance to see Elijah’s answer in lightning strikes from heaven or Moses’ parting of the sea.

So I must be content with the answers to my prayers for my mother-in-law, knowing that I serve a God of wonderful grace, and that that which hurts so much now will shortly pass away as God reveals Himself to a fallen world. Meanwhile, I can work out, as Philippians says, “my own salvation with fear and trembling”, and as the very next verse reminds us, “knowing that it is God who is at work within you.” Enough said?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Thoughts about Israel

It is evident from a study of Israel that they have never received the full promises of God. For instance, God promises Joshua land boundaries that extend to the Euphrates River. Never has Israel ever gained full control of what God has promised. What are we to think about promises not fulfilled? There are some who would teach that the church has replaced Israel in the promises, but this is not what Paul teaches in Romans. “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The deliverer will come from Zion, he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-27) So, the Bible plainly teaches here that the hardening is from God, and is meant to be temporary, changing when the “deliverer” from Zion comes. Who then is that Deliverer? None other than Christ Himself.

Zechariah adds to our knowledge of Israel’s return to God with this passage: “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10 & 11) Here we are told that Israel will look on Him whom they pierced, a clear reference to Christ. Isaiah also speaks of the Christ when he says: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:5) That time will be a day of reckoning, a day in which Israel recognizes their Savior at last. Of this day, the prophet Isaiah adds this promise: “ As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.” (Is. 59:21) Thus Isaiah makes the promise of God clear—it is not laid aside and forgotten, or magically transformed into a promise for the Gentiles, but is “henceforth and for ever”. Indeed, the nation of Israel will come to a time when they behold “the one whom they pierced” and in that day that will humble themselves and recognize their sins. In one of the most epic and dramatic portions of Scripture, Zechariah says: “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. (Zech. 14:3,4) He adds this dramatic flourish: “And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.” (verse 6)

Hebrews tells us that “He will never leave us nor forsake us.” Remember the epistle of Hebrews is written to Jews, and this promise is evidently partly based on a promise Moses had iterated to his people: “(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them. (Deut. 4:31) It is no accident that this promise of “not forsaking us” is given to the Jews just after Moses foresees their radical apostasy, and tells them of it: “When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him.” (Deut. 4:30) I believe that Moses himself foresaw not only the apostasy of Israel, but also the faithfulness of God in spite of that apostasy. Psalm 2 stands as one of the great psalms, and in it, it declares: “The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” The world, in rebellion against the plan of God conspires to break His laws and ruling power. What does the Psalm say about this conspiring? “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” (Psalm 2: 4-6) Jesus is coming back, He is going to be recognized as the Son by all of Israel, and He is going to rule in Jerusalem. Not one plan by man shall ever contest the council of God. He laughs in derision at their rebellion.

The Bible is plain, and repeats these themes endlessly. I am reminded of that great American theologian, Popeye, gritting his pipe between his teeth, and saying, “I yam what I yam and tha's all what I yam." God here plainly tells us what will happen in His plan to the earth and the Jews. It is what it is, and that’s all it is. If we choose not to believe it, we do so at our own peril. Peter tells us that in the last days scoffers will come, saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2 Peter 3:4) Indeed, the ninth verse of the same chapter tells us why the delay: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” He is coming, and in the words of the Bellemy Brothers, “Boy, is He pissed”. Or in the words, if you prefer, that theologian, Popeye, once more: “"That's all I can stands, cuz I can't stands n'more!" The day rapidly approaches, and was planned from eternity past, when God is going to simply say, “That’s it. That’s all.”

But the time of mercy is now, when you are called to believe, and believing to find repentance, and finding repentance, to turn from your selfish ways, and turning from those selfish ways, to be granted the righteousness of the Son, not for what you have done, but rather because of what He has done on the cross, bearing your sins, without murmur, that you might find life. Why not start believing today?

So, the central point which made me start this whole thought process is found in the question: “What are we to make of Israel today?” Are they a godly people? Nay, any examination of Israel shows just the smallest throes of religion, and even that small part seems to be devoid of God. In fact, I am told that the nation of Israel is full of atheists. The agony and awful trials of the 20th Century for the Jewish people did not bring them closer to God; rather, for the most part, it has seemed to drive them away from God.

Nevertheless, God is faithful, and in many places has promised Israel things which simply have not come to pass. If we agree that God says what He means, then there is only one possible conclusion: these things are yet to come to pass. Says Chafer of these yet-to-be-fulfilled Scriptures: “The kingdom Scriptures of the Old Testament are occupied largely with the character and glory of Messiah's reign, the promises to Israel of restoration and earthly glory, the universal blessings to Gentiles, and the deliverance of creation itself.” If, then, Israel is to be regathered, what can I notice from current events that might be significant?

Before I list the few things I notice as significant, I do want to make something very clear. I do not know the time of the coming of my Lord; neither does any other man. It might be 20 seconds from your reading this passage, or it may be 20 years off yet. As Christians, we are not to know the day, but we are to recognize the season. In Matthew 25 Jesus listed the signs of the end of the age of grace, and told us to watch for them. Many of those signs are multiplying now, but chief among them is the regathering of Israel, for it would be impossible that the rest of the ancient world should be waiting to destroy Israel, except that she be.

I notice first that the Arab world this past year has been in deep turmoil and revolution. Dubbed “the Arab Spring” by the ever optimistic politicians, now the same politicians have to be wondering if they gave a premature diagnosis. In every country, the fundamentalist Moslems are gaining, and their hatred for the nation of Israel is multiplying. To me, this appears to be something that would happen before the time of Jacob’s trouble begins.

I notice that Iran and Israel seem to be moving towards a conflict. Will it be a short sortie, or will it result in general chaos throughout the region?
I notice that Iran boasts the first thing they will do in a war is destroy Israel and they claim that they will party in Jerusalem.

I notice that all the constitutions of countries surrounding Israel explicitly call for her total annihilation. I further notice that, for the first time, Israel is being pushed by the US to make peace with the Palestinians, who are not being asked to even recognize Israel as a legitimate state.

I notice that Israel is in desperate need for someone to stand up with her to face this growing animosity from the world.

Who can say what these observations amount to? I surely cannot, but I am watching earnestly, to see. God alone knows, and He is the one in charge.

Chafer, Lewis Sperry (2008-07-19). Grace (Kindle Locations 1528-1529). Taft Software, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Bible is not your local smorgasbord.

Sometimes people who study their Bible think they are at a smorgasbord; they sample all interpretations of a passage until they meet the one that they like. Then they “dish” out the interpretation that they like and say that is now their main course, or the one in which they believe. Such a process of interpretation is bound to bad ends; the only question pertinent in reading Biblical passages is what is God saying. It little matters what we believe unless it coincides with what God is trying to communicate. Anything else leads us down errant paths, away from the very God trying to teach us.

Friday, May 04, 2012

The Problem of Evil in the Godly Life

I have been reading in Job this week and found no answers as to why evil exists. Recently I read of a pastor whose son had a horrible climbing accident. This poor pastor, according to what I have read, is going around teaching saints that God killed his son. I empathize strongly with a father losing his son, yet I must ask what gives man the right to ascribe God evil? I know the pastor probably means it for good, but nowhere in my Scripture can I find evil coming from my God. This poor soul needs to reflect strongly on the love and goodness of God, and, I think, reformulate his teachings. Yes, God uses the evil to bring His good purposes about, and yes, in the sense that God created it all, He is the originator of everything, including evil. I think what I read in Job gives no answers as to why. Consider Job:
1) God raises the argument of the righteousness of Job to Satan (Job 1:8)
2) Satan reacts to God and asks permission of God to bring evil (Job 1:9)
3) God grants Satan his request (Job 1:12)
4) Again God raises the righteousness of Job to Satan (Job 2:3)
5) Again Satan asks permission to strike Job (Job 2:4)
6) Again God grants Satan his request (Job 2:6)

Job, at the end of the book, gives all glory to God: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. . . surely I spoke of things I did not understand” Job admits he does not understand; at the end of his discourse with God Himself, he still does not understand. I would suggest that it is not given for us to understand the mystery of evil and how it comes to our lives. Elihu, the young friend of Job, and the one who was more right in his understanding, said of Job: “Job says, I am innocent, but God denies me justice.” (Job 34:5) But after God answers Job, Job can but reply that he spoke of things he “did not understand”, and repents in ashes.
My point? Job never knows why. He is not allowed to ask why. From that nugget, I can say that, though evil come into my life, I cannot ask why and expect any understanding. Job’s question to his wife rings throughout generations: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” We see and suffer much evil in our lives, but are not to attribute such to coming from God. Rather it may indeed come from Satan, as in Job, or it may be an argument started by God, but still it remains more of mystery to us, something that we have deep trouble understanding. Indeed, we are not to understand, we are to have faith in our Redeemer.

The Psalmest tells us about God: “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil.” (Psalm 5:4) Paul tells us that “God chose the weak thing of the world to shame the strong. . . He chose them to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.” (1 Cor. 27 & 28) Indeed Paul tells us of an evil affliction that he has (we are not told what the affliction is, but in some letters Paul complains of poor eyesight). In 2 Corinthians 12:7, we are told: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” Paul, in conscious imitation of Job I know not, nevertheless tells us of a similar pattern. It is Satan, or a messenger from Satan, who brings this unnamed evil into the life. Paul tells us in the next verse that he prayed thrice that the Lord would remove it. Instead the Lord replies that His grace is sufficient for you, and His power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore Paul exalts (v. 9) that he will boast about his weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on him.

Be very slow to ascribe evil to God; Jonathan Edwards suggests to us that God is the best of all possible goodness, and that He Himself is defined by goodness. I understand and love my brothers who do not take the time to see this nuance—like the pastor ascribing God to killing his son—but in this lifetime we are not given to know the why. We are given to know God, and knowing Him should be sufficient for us in all things and in all times. We are the clay; He is the Potter. Shall the clay say to the Potter, why have You made me thus? A question not to be answered in this lifetime. Perhaps in the lifetime to come we will understand as the song says, “in the sweet bye and bye”.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Thoughts from this morning’s message, 4/1/12

Thoughts from this morning’s message, 4/1/12

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. Zechariah 9:9

After the Triumphal Entry, foretold above by the prophet Zechariah, the world was to be forever changed. As Dave pointed out this morning some chose to serve Him, some listened but did not surrender to Him, and still others openly rejected Him. Today we live in a world of 6 billion people, and at least 5 billion are rejecting Him. In many parts of the world, the bare mention of the name Jesus can make your life forfeit. I wonder if that is what Jesus meant when He questioned, “when the son of man returns, will he find faith on the earth?”

Zechariah was a prophet during the return of the remnant of Israel. Seventy years were decreed against the Israelites of those days, and Zechariah reminds me that just as the seventy years came to pass exactly as foretold, even so, the passage above foretold the coming of the Lord, riding an ass, to be rejected by the Israel who should have worshipped Him.

I cannot help but notice the next verse: “10 And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.” Here I think is what is referred to as a prophetic perspective of two mountaintops, which the prophet utters almost as one event, but which are actually separated by a great amount of time. The prime example of this is in Isaiah 61:2, quoted by our Lord in Luke: “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus left off the last half of the verse, “and the day of vengeance of our God,” because that time had not yet come, and a great valley of time has now opened between the two very distinct prophecies.

So it is with this verse. Note that it says His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and even to the ends of the earth. We live in that generation which shall surely see the coming of the Son of Man. The first time Jesus came we celebrate about this next week; He is our Passover Lamb, offering Himself so that the world might be reconciled to God. Whosoever will may come—and that offer has been for nearly 2,000 years, but it is drawing to a close. The church is now anxiously waiting for the Bridegroom, and the beginning of a peace on earth like we have never known, but before that time comes, the earth will experience the day of vengeance of our God, a day and a time unlike we have ever experienced.

God has saved us from the wrath to come—and that is where Christian’s eyes are now. We look anxiously for the Lord to snatch us from the beginnings of that judgment, and to preserve us from the fearsome judgment that will fall on the earth. I have a couple of pictures that have hung in my front room for the last thirty years. One is a picture of an actual lamb looking toward the cross; the other is a roaring lion bringing light behind it while chasing away the darkness. I have had my friends say that it is too fierce some of a picture, and that they could never hang it in their own home. But in that picture, I see the love of God chasing away the darkness of the world, and I believe it a dear picture of what is to come. God will bring a day of reckoning to the world, bloodier than any we could conceive, but that day will quickly pass, and He will bring in an Age of Light like man has never had. Oh, that will be glory for me!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Sabbaths, as taught in the Old Testament

Notice the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They are 8 consecutive days set aside as Sabbath days for the Lord. The Passover is a Sabbath, on which no work was to be done. Likewise, the next day, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was also a Sabbath, which Jews were forbidden to do any work.

The logical fallacy of a Friday crucifixion should be evident now. There were two holy Sabbaths which all Jews observed here, and thus there are 48 hours demanded for the Lord to have been left alone in the grave. If Friday is the crucifixion, then Sunday would have been the first day of the Feast, another Sabbath day. Yet we find no hesitation in the disciples going to the grave, and trying to fix up the Lord’s body. The Jews were forbidden to even touch something dead on the Sabbath, and even journeying to the tomb would have been work, not to mention all the things which had been prepared to properly rebury Jesus.

Thus, the conclusion seems irrefutable: the Jews were not acting like it was the first day of the Feast, and thus, the day must not have been on Sunday. Rather, we are only left with two logical outcomes: the feast’s first day must have been Saturday, or perhaps Friday itself. In no logical manner can I see the first day of the feast to be a day scorned by Jews, so it becomes a calendar impossibility for the crucifixion to happen on Friday, since there are not the minimum 48 hours required to complete these two Sabbaths. Wednesday or Thursday are the only possible weekdays that our Lord could have been crucified on.

1. The First Sabbath
And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work that he had done. (Genesis 2:3)
Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day do not work. (Exodus 23:12)

2. The Second Sabbath
The Passover
On the fourteenth day of the first month the LORD’s Passover is to be held. (Numbers 28: 16)
This is a day that you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. (Exodus 12:14)
It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath) Mark 15:42 (the Sabbath being spoken about here is the Passover)
It was the Preparation Day and the Sabbath was about to begin. (Luke 24:54) (the Sabbath being spoken about here is the Passover)

3. The Third Sabbath
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
On the fifteenth day of this month there is to be a festival; for seven days eat bread made without yeast. (Numbers 28:17)
On the first day (this is the day before Jesus arose) hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.

4. The Fourth Sabbath
The Feast of Weeks
On the day of firstfruits, when you present to the LORD an offering of new grain during the Feast of Weeks, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. (Numbers 28:26)

5. The Fifth Sabbath
The Feast of Trumpets
On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. (Numbers 29:1)

6. The Sixth Sabbath
Day of Atonement
On the tenth day of this seventh month hold a sacred assembly. You must deny yourselves and do no work. (Numbers 29:7)

7. The Seventh Sabbath
Feast of Tabernacles
On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. Celebrate a festival to the LORD for seven days. (Numbers 29:12)

8. The Eighth Sabbath
The Sabbath Year
But in the seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath of rest, a Sabbath to the LORD. (Leviticus 25:4)

9. The Ninth Sabbath
The Year of Jubilee
Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan. (Leviticus 25:9, 10)
The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. (Lev. 25:11) (This was to be the year of rest for the land.)

10. The Tenth Sabbath
The Feast of Purim
The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the 13th and 14th, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy. (Esther 9:18)
The Jews took it upon themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed. These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants. (Esther 9:27,28)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Literal Interpretation of the Bible

From time to time I think it good to reassert old doctrine, and I would like to talk about the verbal plenary inspiration of the Bible. Today we live in the very end times, and are looking for the appearing of our Lord, and so we have accumulated an enormous load of tradition. Recently I did teach about holding to the traditions of our forefathers, and we learned from a study of Scripture that God intended us to pattern our Christian living deeply after those traditions of the early teachings.

I think it is in the nature of man himself to question things—to look for something that defines “basic Christianity”. Unfortunately our curiosity and willingness to distill Christianity is not at all Biblical. With only one major exception that I will talk about, the writers of the Bible are assuming that the Christian believes God, and that his life will reflect genuine and profound changes. The place of faith that is fundamental to the Christian rests in the Bible. It is true that most Christians are brought to the Lord by hearing other Christians talk about God, but that talk is soundly based in the gospel.

And what is the gospel? It is a danger, I think, in our day to separate out the Bible into the simple gospel as distinct from the deeper gospel. Paul does that much with his references to the meat and the milk of the Word. Our danger lies in trying to separate the milk from the meat, and I think that is something foreign to Scripture. Scripture does properly display the milk of the Word, but it is to lead always into the meat of the Word, and when it does not, things are radically wrong in the believer’s life.

Peter uses the word “milk” to express food for the new believer: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (I Peter 2:2) The problem we see all too readily. My youngest grandson is but a bare 6 months, and is a messy eater, yet unable to accurately bring even just the spoon to his mouth. I accept that as normal behavior for a six month old, but what about when he is 17 and still missing his mouth? At that point I would recognize something is wrong; I expect different behavior in newborns and 17 year olds. Is not our belief in God to be the same? How is it that we see the tragic seventeen year old Christian still unable to show even the most basic rudiments of growth?

Paul also teaches on milk and says: “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” (1 Cor. 3:2) It happens that some Christians are “arrested” in their development. I do think these are those that my Lord spoke about when He gave the parable about seeds falling into stony ground and being burned up by the sun. Is it not interesting that Paul also includes an example of the worst that might befall such a man in the same chapter? “If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Cor. 3:15)

The calling is upon us to have faith, and faith simply defined is believing God. The revelation of God comes from the Scriptures, and if we wish to trust God, we must trust the message He Himself has given us. In our “modern” world we are often told that our beliefs are simply out of date. God says He created the earth in 7 days and 7 nights? Of course, God cannot mean that literally. At least so reasons the modern man, who then consults experts, some of whom will try to blend faith and science, and tell us what we really can believe. Poetical metaphors are invoked for the Genesis creation story, and I am told that I need to understand God was speaking to “simple” man, and using a story frame to try to get man to understand.

But if I am to understand Biblical history at all, man was not simple to begin with. Indeed he was pure until the fall, and with the fall has been descending into more and more animal behavior at every generation. The Bible record tells us of a man and woman who walked with God, and who among us has not yearned for that simple walk? Yet it is beyond us, for the Fall has irrevocably changed us into something far less than we originally were. So if I am to understand the Biblical account correctly, it stands in utter and complete opposition to evolution. One remarks of the utter descent of mankind into a darkness seemingly without hope; the other tells a story of a simple amoeba guided by chance and chaos and mutation towards ever more complex life. I have always thought the latter to take much more faith than the former.

So here is man, the lone moral agent among all of creation, who knows there is a right and a wrong, but seems utterly unable to coherently define real morality, much less practice it. Even the wise men among us are twisted and so prone to decay, that we cannot agree on much of a moral code at all. Fallen, and falling to ever greater depths seems to be the story in history. Enter Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were created by Him, without Him was not anything created that was created.” Simple, yet majestic words, that sweep fallen man from his feet and put him kneeling before his Savior. It seems to me that faith, or trust in Christ is simple belief that God did it, just as He said. To equivocate or add to, or twist, or metaphorize is just an easier way of saying, “I do not believe”.

Tozer was so jealous for his God that he suggests that we not try to prove Scripture at all. “To dig among the rocks or search under the sea for evidence to support the Scriptures is to insult the One who wrote them.” I do not agree with Tozer on this, for I have met too many grounded men of faith whom I believe are trying to look at their creation through the eyes of the Creator. But his bottom line has germs of truth: there are many who try to justify their faith with the evidence of their eyes. Some people do try to build their faith on the basis of what their eyes see, yet that is never the basis of proper faith, for I am told that faith is the “hope of things unseen”. However, I feel many creationists today are not trying to thus falsely bolster their faith; instead they are trying to see creation itself as would the Creator, a fine and noble endeavor. Does our creation show the hand of the Creator? Romans tells us that even natural man is exposed to His glory in creation and will one day be held responsible for not seeing Him behind all things. (Romans 1:18-20)

To eradicate the Bible of the story of the Creator is not possible without completely pulling apart the Word. Not just Genesis is out, but also Exodus, for in 20:11 it says: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Many Psalms would have to be rewritten, most of the prophets, and the great text from John quoted above would also have to be taken away.

Believing the Bible is not just an intellectual exercise; it is that because the deep things of God will cause us to think and ponder and wonder at the greatness of it all. But believing the Bible is, at its essence, choosing to believe God. Abraham believed God, and God reckoned it as righteousness. He asks of us one thing—to take Him at His Word. All else He has done for us. Why is it that so many want to detract from that word, saying that it is not true, or it is a myth that we have to search behind to find what God is really saying to us? The Word, the One that He sent, the One who has spoken to us, and who also said, “the Scripture cannot be broken”, He it is who spoke through the prophets and in the psalms. He it is who proclaims Himself, and it is but my duty to simply believe.

“Oh,” you say, “I wish you had chosen another example. Choosing creation is the one thing I am uncomfortable with, and I am not sure I can cast reason out the window to believe in some wild fairy tale.” But is it not exactly there that we meet God? Can you tell me how Jesus walked on water? Can you tell me how He made the lame to walk, or the blind to see? You see, if you give up believing in Creation, saying that it must have happened through time and chance and God was behind it all, then mustn’t you also give up the walking on the water? Or is your understanding better there? Is it any harder to believe God did one thing but not another? Three times the voice of the Father spoke out of heaven testifying of His Son, and we are told the heavy curtain in the holy of holies was rent from top to bottom when the Savior died. Are we to believe that God can intercede in small things only? Why do we so readily believe in the voice of the Father, and the power of God in rending the curtain, but we are afraid to believe that He created the world, indeed the universe, in six days? I am afraid that is the unrealized position of men who try to gainsay what God has told us. Our God is not a small God, and it is time that we stopped treating Him as such.

God does not ask me to suspend my thinking; rather my meditations are upon Him day and night, and my understanding of Him grows and increases as I walk next to Him. But He does ask that I simply believe. A great man of God long ago noted that “when the simple sense (of the Bible) makes the best sense, seek no other sense.” Tozer says it this way, “True faith rests upon the character of God and asks no further proof than the moral perfections of the One who cannot lie. It is enough that God said it, and if the statement should contradict every one of the five senses and all the conclusions of logic as well, still the believer continues to believe. "Let God be true, but every man a liar," is the language of true faith.”

The believer who comes part way is just that, a part way believer. The gospel terms him a milk drinker, and not at all ready for meat. To come all the way I should say, “Thou alone knowest, oh God!” To come to the Word of God knowing it is through His Word that I will be fed is my only path to the meat of the Word. Come to the Word, willing to believe, and pray to God that you might have eyes to see and ears to hear that you may grow thereby.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17

If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; John 10:35

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 1 Corinthians 2:12, 13

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:21

Through thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Psalm 119:104,105

So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God
Romans 10:17

Tozer, A.W. (2010-06-03). Man - The Dwelling Place of God (Kindle Locations 366-367). Unknown. Kindle Edition.

Tozer, A.W. (2010-06-03). Man - The Dwelling Place of God (Kindle Locations 357-359). Unknown. Kindle Edition.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Woman taken in Adultery

The Woman taken in Adultery
Thoughts from sermon, March 11, 2012

It was a good thing to see Trevor speak this morning! Taking his text from John 8, he simply retold the story of the woman taken in adultery. I did appreciate his full acceptance of this Scripture, for there are some that reject it on the basis of its not being found in early manuscripts. I have always thought that an early copier deleted his copying of this portion of Scripture for moral reasons—that is that the copier found the passage to be scandalous. While I will never know for certain, I was agreeably pleased to find some of the commentators of John saying the same thing.

I have always wondered what it was that Jesus scribed so diligently in the dirt beneath His feet. Surely the context suggests that the woman brought in was scantily clad at best, and I have often thought Jesus’ scribing in the sand was to save the poor woman more embarrassment. Speaking as He did to the men bringing her in seems to me to be scarcely enough to convict them. “Let he who has no sin cast the first stone.” While those words may have dissuaded many a thinking man, the evidence around the whole circumstance seems to be that the Jews were trying to trap Jesus.

Trevor brought that out very well, explaining that for Jesus to follow either course of stoning the woman, or setting her free would have bad repercussions for Jesus. So He finds another way. I have always wondered (without a smidgen of proof) whether Jesus was not writing the fellow’s names down and under their names listing their secret sins. For example, He would write Joseph down, and then under his name He might have written “adultery”. Turning to Benjamin, He might have written “stealing” with the exact amount of money the man had stolen. I cannot imagine anything more convicting to those who would trap Jesus than to find that they themselves had been trapped. Just a thought, as I said there is not the least of proofs. But is it not a wonder that the savage wolves that were welling to feast on this woman’s life, suddenly lost their taste for blood? The idea of Jesus spelling out their sins does give me pause.

Here are other thoughts I wrote on this passage: Here and here: http://pillars2discuss.blogspot.com/2011/12/john-8-1-to-11.html

Friday, March 09, 2012


As I am getting older, I find myself thinking more of what is to come, either when I die, or when the Lord comes to find me. Yet, I am not sure it is just getting older; I do wonder if He is not getting closer, so close now that I can almost see His appearance. At any rate, such thoughts in my mind have led me to speculate much on what heaven will be like.

The song is titled, “I Can Only Imagine”, but would it not be more appropriate to title it, “I Cannot Begin to Imagine”? Paul tells us, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:19) Nothing has changed from what Paul told us two thousand years ago. We still have no idea of the depth and breadth of love that God has given us. In my most lucid moments I am but dimly conscious of my high estate—an estate that God tells us that angels long to look into. If I understand my Bible aright, I have been bestowed a gift of the mighty Holy Spirit, God Himself, who is going to dwell in me not just in this lifetime, but also in the eternity which is to come. Think of it! God in me! What is man that thou are mindful of him?

So while I know not what that life is going to be like, but I do know the God who is making it for me. I rather think He is delighting in His surprises for us, as well as surprising us in the timing of His Coming. I do trust Him. I expect to have much friendship when I get there; others who believe like me, who love Him, and with whom I will spend eternity. I know I will have sustenance for Revelation speaks both of the Tree of Life and of the River of Life. My God, my friends, and care for my basic needs. Perhaps that is all I need to know.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Jesus- 3 days and 3 nights

Here is a link to the argument for the implausibility of a Friday crucifiction. The Bible teaches that is must have been on a Thursday or a Wednesday, but that, understanding Jewish Sabbaths makes it impossible to have been on a Friday.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

He’s not a tame lion, you know

Problem Stated
Let me see. Today I have a problem. I want to construct a box for God to fit in. “What a ridiculous notion,” you say. “God cannot fit into a box of your creation.”

If I understand the meaning of hermeneutics it is the Biblicist’s job to try to trace outlines of the box that God has made for himself. It is a high calling and many do a wonderful job, yet sometimes the box can be drawn too narrowly. I remember many years ago arguing with my Bible college peers about something called “dual fulfillment”. I think it is a classic illustration of what I wish to discuss in this paper. I have named it the box problem.
Dual fulfillment, as I understand the term, is the belief that God can indeed make a single prophecy that has one fulfillment, often in the time of the prophet, and a second fulfillment, often a messianic one. The prime example of dual fulfillment is Isaiah 7:14 where the prophet says: The virgin shall be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. This was fulfilled in Isaiah 8:3, where it says: Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. It is fulfilled in a more wonderful and far more established way as is made plain by Matthew 1:23, where it says: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.
Some professors at Biola taught dual fulfillment; others vehemently disagreed. We students were also divided; some of my good friends did not see dual fulfillment at all. I perceived that they had a box problem. In other words, they were so busy building a box for God, folding and tucking him into each corner very neatly, and then very tidily sealing the box that they forgot that God makes his own boxes. I am reminded of Aslan, of whom Lewis tells us again and again, is not a tame lion. Not wanting to establish or disestablish dual fulfillment here, I instead would like to point to the box my good friends had inadvertently built when denying dual fulfillment. I think it is easily seen when I pose the question, Can God be big enough and wise enough to say one thing that will have different meanings at different times?
If you say no, God is not that big then you have a box problem. You have just built a box for God that he himself did not build. No where in scripture is dual fulfillment denied, and if you insist on moving forward with this negative answer, then it seems to me that you will have to establish why God would restrict himself to this box.
God does restrict himself to some outlines of a box. He tells us often what he is like. For instance, scripture tells us that he cannot deny himself, he cannot lie, and he is both truth and light. But, as far as I know, nowhere does he say prophecies cannot have two meanings. And that, in a nutshell, is the box problem. If God has not stated a limit of himself, who are we to restrict him?
I am often guilty of the box problem analogy in my own life. I see something evil happening to someone, and instantly I feel that to be so wrong, and sometimes I take the next step of questioning God. Whenever that happens I am constructing a box, however large, in which I wish to fit God.
What a wonder we are that we can question our Creator! What a folly we commit we do so! He came as the Lamb of God the first time, and we in the world rejected him. He is coming as a Lion of God the second time, and he is rejecting the world. In all probability most of us living today will see his coming. It will probably be more bloody and messy than anything we wish to dwell on, but we should remember that he is not a tame lion. We are not telling him what he ought to be; he is telling us what we ought to be.

Friday, March 02, 2012

On Sovereignty and Free Will

On Sovereignty and Free Will

Did you notice that at the outset of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that we are told by beaver that there are four thrones waiting for two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve? Not three thrones. I do sort of speculate strangely sometimes but I can’t help but wonder what if Aslan had prophesied of three thrones instead of four? Think of the advantages. He could have avoided the whole bloody mess in one swoop. Let the Witch have the sniveling Edmund─ he certainly wasn’t worth anything anyway.
Analogies help us understand deep things in the Bible that are difficult to grasp. I want to look at the analogy of Aslan and Edmund. It is not entirely clear where the prophecy of the four thrones comes from but it certainly must have originated from Aslan. Let us assume so for the sake of this discussion. Aslan, in a sovereign act, says there are going to be four thrones. He knew beforehand that one would betray him in an act of free will. Edmund chose to follow the White Witch, knowing full well in his innermost being that the Witch was evil.
Was sovereignty compromised? No! Was free will abrogated? No! The prophecy was fulfilled exactly as told. But as Aslan says: It may be harder than you know. Edmund did his very worst, and it worked exactly into the predestined plan of Aslan.
If I may be allowed to do something that Lewis correctly points out is wrong, let me suppose that Edmund had done everything as correctly as he possibly could. Here I am asking the “What if” question that Aslan reminds us constantly is not allowed. But I ask nonetheless: what if Edmund did everything exactly right? Would the sovereignty of Aslan nevertheless prevailed?
My analogy thus gives us the widest spectrum of free choice. But whether Edmund says no or yes, there prevails the sovereignty of Aslan. Could not the free will of man and the sovereignty of God work in harmony in a similar fashion? To borrow from my Lewis again, Nothing is more probable.
A final thought, if I may. I am probably more of a sniveling Edmund than Edmund ever was. What was I worth? Somehow God thought me worth the great price of his own son. Thankfully he did not eliminate my throne at Cair Paravel.

Society and Christians

On the one hand we have an attitude of righteousness as Conservative Christians. We condemn certain lifestyles as abhorrent, and declare the judgment of God upon those people. Jesus did this, and it is good that we try to follow in his footsteps. I am told by Bible scholars that Jesus spent the great majority of his time talking about Hell and judgment for those who do not repent.
But let us remember that Jesus also taught us great compassion. One of the many poignant moments that define my life came when I was working with the homeless in Los Angeles. I worked with a friend whom I respected and admired very much. He would often pick out the homeless man who was totally emaciated, perhaps from his alcoholism. Lice often crawled on his shirt, which in any case was dirty beyond description. To these men my friend George would go, and hug the men, saying gentle things which I could not hear, but which often brought a genuine human smile from a poor wretch. Often as not, both would disappear into George’s office, and there he would try to reach through to the man’s soul.
When I think of George I often think of the pictures I would see on TV of Mother Theresa, hugging the lepers and the poor pitiful souls that she would give her life of service to. I am convinced that both George and Mother Theresa had something which I need- something which was also present within Jesus. Remember the woman taken in adultery and about to be stoned? Jesus stood by her side, not praising her lifestyle, but standing against the men who would have taken her life. Those people Jesus reminded of their own sin, and they, being convicted by their own sin left the woman to Jesus. He remonstrated her, telling her to go forth and sin no more.
We Christians are sometimes known by what we are against. We are against drinking and dancing. We are against divorce and decadence. Homer and Jethro sing a sing that says, “I don’t smoke, I don’t chew, and I don’t go with girls that do.” A funny ditty, but illustrative of how society has seen us. We are defined thus by what we are against, and not at all by what we are for. How can we not be known for being a people of compassion, a people who care for the downtrodden? The challenge to us is to love those who sin in spite of their sin, and to be known as men who love rather than men who don’t. The world should see our love so vibrant and overpowering that it eclipses that which we are still not doing. Our lifestyle calling is to purity, and self control, but our love should shine so brightly that it becomes what the world sees when it sees Christians

Monday, February 27, 2012

Thoughts about our world, reprinted from 2005

Thoughts about our world, reprinted from 2005

By Patrick Davis 2005

When I first became a Christian, others sometimes ridiculed my decision saying I was using religion as a crutch. I would rejoin that that was totally an incorrect analogy; Christianity is not a crutch. Rather it is the whole hospital, and not just a hospital, but the emergency wing of the hospital, and not just the emergency wing of the hospital, but the heart-attack room, with the patient’s heart having just quit, and the whole hospital staff working to revive even the faintest of heart beats. I am on that table now, receiving “urgent medical care” for my soul, and apart of the care of God in Christ, I shall surely come to complete and utter ruin. I could wish for the crutch analogy to be true, but it is about the biggest understandment of the need for grace that I know. I am a total wretch, a lost street urchin, a homeless soul bereft of food or clothing. There is no hope for me, until I met Christ.

And so, it is in that spirit that I wish to make the following statement. Jesus spent more of his time warning about hell and judgment than he did telling about the promises of heaven. In our day of “niceness” where no one is ever told anything distasteful, this statement must jar the ears like fingernails across the blackboard. Last month I concluded a class discussion in which someone in the class made the statement that she did not believe in a God who would judge someone evil; rather she believed in a God who saw good in people no matter who they were. The class was not religious and since I did not want to offend her, I suggested that she line up the words of Jesus. What do they actually say? I suggested that she might be surprised. Jesus spent many words warning of condemnation and coming judgment.

C.S. Lewis aptly points out that this choice is not one logically left open to us; in spite of that there are many people today who platonically state that Jesus was a good man. To say he is a good man ignores the content of his message which simply put was he that has seen me has seen the Father. Obviously we only have two choices left to us in the face of such a claim. One is that he was a delusional nut who, in evangelizing the world, committed the greatest crime against mankind ever conceived. He got the world to believe in a savior who wasn’t. The second choice is that he was who he claimed to be. The Son of God come to rescue a needy planet. He absolutely could not be the third choice, a good man.

So the record of what he said is vital to us. Was it a nice message? I submit that it mostly was a message warning of mortal judgment coming upon man except for those who heard his message and received his freely offered grace. What is the mortal judgment of which he warns?
First he tells us that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. He tells us that if we act unjustly towards others we will be handed over to the jailers to be tortured. He tells us in many parables that if we do not measure up to the standards of heaven, we will be cast out into the outer darkness where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. He says that those who do not measure up will go away to eternal punishment. Not trivial punishment, not temporary punishment, but eternal punishment, where as he says, the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. Whoever does not believe, he declares will be condemned. And how condemned? He that believes not is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only son of God. Whoever rejects the son will not see life.

And it is on this basis that I would offer that it is necessary for Christians to warn of the coming storm. Not only is the gospel defined aptly as one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread; it is sometimes the needed thing for the beggar to tell where not to get bread.
Whatever else we may know about Christianity, we are certain of this. Christ himself claimed to have exclusive truth and to be the only way to God. No one is allowed to come to God except through him. Again, I refer you back to the logic. Either Jesus was a demented and crazed man, or he was who he said he was. There is no third option.

So what can be said for those who reject this grace of God? Their judgment includes the eternal decision of God. And where are they put? They are put into the hell which causes eternal torment evidenced by weeping and gnashing of teeth. Are there special judgments for those who are specially wicked? Revelation 21:8 seems to indicate so for it spells out the sexually immoral, the vile and the murderers.

So what shall we say about those who terrorize our society today? Who believe that their bombs will explode them to instant heaven? If we are to believe the words of Jesus, their bombs will explode them into eternal judgment where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.
What an awful waste of life! And what sort of judgment will fall on those men who teach these young men to blow themselves into Hell? I shudder at the coming judgment. Jonathan Edwards had it right: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

The Last Ten Days, part 2

I found my notes! I would like to add to a timeline each day and build a coherent structure that I think might stand the test of comparing Scriptures. Each day I would like also to add a bit about events and bolster the calendar events a bit.

Nisan 8, Friday
John 12:1, Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.

Mary Anoints Jesus:

John 12:3
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
(See also Mt. 26:6, Mk. 14:3)

Nisan 9, Saturday

Triumphal Entry:

Mt. 21:1-11
Luke 19:28-44

Jesus cleanses temple (second time):

Mt. 21:12-17

Jesus returns to Bethany for the night:

Mt. 21:17
And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.

As I look at the schedule followed by Jesus here, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany, where He is anointed for His burial. He spends the night in Bethany, but heads for Jerusalem the next day. On his way to Jerusalem, He is spotted by the crowds, who begin to acclaim Him as the Christ, waving palm leaves, and watching Him enter the city. Jesus drives out the moneychangers from the temple, and then returns to Bethany for the night.

I am experimenting with different ways of presenting a table with all of this laid out, and will be working diligently on it. It is evident from study that these events were planned according to the foreknowledge of God, and that the Son gave Himself willingly on the cross. Jesus stressed that “no man takes it from me, I give it willingly.”

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Elijah, a man of like passions

Thoughts from sermon 2/26/12

It is hard to come up with a hero’s name that would be more substantive than Elijah. Just this week in my prayers, I have been praying about the drought that California is facing. As we have just set records in the least moisture deposited ever during the winter months, I have begun to pray for God to send us rain. Of course, when I think of drought and praying for rain, I think also of Elijah, that great man of God. And being spiritually minded, I found myself wondering if the drought is not a signal of God’s displeasure to California. Of course, there is nothing to validate that thesis one way or another, and many people have made themselves look foolish predicting the hand of God in discipline when it is suddenly withdrawn, perhaps by lots of rain.

So my prayer I adjusted upon considering this. If this is your will, dear God, please send us a great prophet like unto Elijah that we may know it is. If it is not, then Lord, please send us rain. This summer is apt to be hotter and drier than any we have known for a long time, and I would that you would not forget your people, many of whom are unemployed farm workers. We need water for food and provisions. Please see to our needs, according to your glory, Oh God.

Of course in that day, the King blamed Elijah for the plight of the nation, but God would not allow the blame to stay on Elijah, and the Spirit, through Elijah told the King that it was his own wickedness which caused the nation’s problems. There is certainly plenty of wickedness in our state that such a prophet, were he raised up, could point to.

The meat of the message was in the different prayers of Elijah. Why did God send fire from heaven with one prayer, and why did Elijah have to pray seven times for rain to come? We are not told why. Dave used it as an illustration of the times when we have to persevere in prayer, and I agree wholeheartedly that there are such times. Let me use the illustration of a 35 year prayer that I kept before the Lord.

In 1972, I was saved (May 5th) and found most of my family without Christ. I later found out that my mother had received Christ in Billy Graham’s first crusade (please do not try to tell me mass evangelism is a waste of time—it would be a waste of your time), and my closest brother had just recently come forward in his own church. At any rate, I held all of my family up to the Lord, praying that the wonderful liberty of freedom in Him that I had discovered might also be given to them. Three times I went to the Lord, and three times I waited in expectation for His answer. I knew my God—I knew He was a great God who answered prayer. The third time I prayed, the Spirit seemed to speak to my Spirit as I lifted each of my family before Him. With each member of my family I got assurance that God would indeed draw them to salvation, except for my father. “What about my dad?” I asked God. I focused, trying to listen, and it seemed as if it was going to be very hard for my dad, but, in the end, he too, would come to Christ.

In the years after 1972, I stood on those promises, being reminded when I would pray for my family, that this was already answered prayer, and I found God turning my petitions to praises as I praised Him for the salvation of each of my family. One by one my family was secured into the salvation of God, but my father seemed to be the unreturning prodigal son. In the nineties, while musing and praying for my father, who often seemed to have such a closed heart, and seldom the reverse, I received another prompting by the Spirit that not only would He do as He promised, but that my brother, the first to Christ would supplant me as the one to lead him to Christ.

I was praying while going to visit my parents, and I was surprised to see the very brother that God had seemed to impress on my mind, helping out at my parent’s home. I found myself gushing to him what had happened, and told him that God was going to use him to bring Dad to Christ. He seemed a bit taken aback, and I walked away, thinking I had probably blown it again, and that my brother probably thought I was crazy. I knew he would be right to think that, but I just could not quite get away from the feeling that it was a “God-thing”, and that God would bring it about.

Fast forward to about a month before my Dad’s passing away in 2007, and I was trying again to talk to him about Christ. He asked me not to talk about it ever again with him, saying he had already made his mind up about it. I replied, “Dad, it is as you ask. I will never bring the subject up again. But for the last time, I will say you are wrong. You are wrong, Dad.” I could see conviction and guilt all over his face, but I kept my word to him, even though it was tortuous to see him dying without my being able to talk more to him.

But my brother had not made such a promise, and during the last week of my father’s life, led my dad to Christ. By that time, God had worked in his heart, and Dad was most eager to give his life, what remained of it, to Jesus Christ.

I have many fond memories of these years. At the time, being a new Christian, but, even as now, thirsting to read all that is in the universe (I exaggerate, but not by much—I love to read), I read about some fellow called Jonathon Edwards, and found out that Edwards had been used to bring a great awakening to America. As a young man, Edwards was said to have prayed for all of his descendants, that they might be vibrant Christian workers in His harvest. According to the article, 167 descendants had been traced from Edwards and all were either pastor’s (or pastor’s wives) or missionaries.

Hey, I said, I am a young man like Edwards. I, like Edwards passionately want to see Christ come to those around me. Like Edwards, I want my descendants to all be busy for the Lord. God is gracious, and I believe He heard my prayer that day. Today my two daughters are married, one to a missionary’s kid, and the other to a pastor’s kid, and as I watch them active in their respective churches, and eagerly raising their children to be Christian, I cannot but be overwhelmed by my awesome God.

So pray, pray through, when you at first do not get an answer. But pray always expecting an answer, for the God we serve is an awesome God full of love and mercy. I do believe that sometimes people repeat a prayer that they really want answered, but sometimes I see that they really do not expect an answer. I have to wonder at those times, if God had not already given an answer, and found them not listening. Part of the awesomeness of prayer is knowing that God hears us, and that, if He hears us, we will receive whatever we ask of Him. I wonder sometimes if people forget that promise from Scripture, and I see a vast difference between the great prayer warriors of my church, who know God hears, and listen hard for His response; and those who may have tried prayer once but found it did not work. Sometimes the response comes so loud as lightening from heaven that every eye can see, but sometimes the answer is a far off speck of a cloud on the distant horizon, and those answers we need to take by faith. We need to station ourselves on the ramparts, and see what answer God will give to our complaints. As watchmen working through the night we need to come again and again with our petitions, but always knowing that each prayer, each petition is as perfumed incense to our God, giving us every expectation of an answer from our Loving Father.

The Beginning of the Last Week

I am still looking for my 25 year old notes on this subject, and so far coming up empty. Nevertheless, I do have the internet to help, something not around 25 years ago. I would like to start by putting the last week in sort of perspective. It is the most written about week in history, and if I had to pick one point of history that changed the world, it would be this one.

But from the perspective of Jesus it was a bit different. I am totally sure that I can not explain the divine perspective here, as my frail mind is much too weak to even begin to comprehend His perspective. But it is evident that Jesus foreknew what He was going to go through, and indeed, He was so sure of the event that at times He speaks as if it had already taken place. I am not going to try to tell what Jesus was thinking; rather I will list some of the things He was saying that I might understand more of His perspective:

1) “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4) In this passage, part of the Lord’s prayer, it should be evident that the cross was immediately ahead, and the work which the Father had sent the Son to accomplish was not yet done. How could Jesus pray that He completed all the work given to Him to do? The only answer that makes sense is that Jesus was taking divine perspective, and looking at the cross as if it were already finished. Genesis 3:15 is the first prophecy of the coming of the Son, and in the divine perspective, that which God decrees is already done, though the rest of us have to wait for time to unwind before we see the finished work. So when God declares, “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel,” God is already seeing the cross as finished work, thousands of years before His incarnation.

2) “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone.” (John 16:31,32) Jesus knew that He would face the cross essentially alone, abandoned even by those who followed Him.

3) “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” (John 12:27) Jesus, caught by the immediacy of the cross, looks to the Father, not that He might be saved, but rather that He might endure.

4) “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” (John 14:28,29) Jesus plainly and frequently tells of the coming cross, that those who will hear, will believe.

There are many more passages that show Jesus foreknew exactly what was to happen, and as I approach the study of the last week, I want to do so with the stipulation that God foreknew all of the events of this last week, and each act that Jesus performed in this last and very busy week, was specifically arranged to bring glory to both the Father and the Son. If I am to understand the crucifixion aright, it needs to be understood as that which used the ill will of many leaders, coupled with the diabolical intentions of Satan himself, to bring about the utter and completely satisfactory death on the cross. In every way, Jesus gave Himself to the cross, and no man or angel took it from Him. And yet, each who opposed the Christ is responsible for their rejection, and will be held accountable. I think it is a beautiful picture of the meshing of the free will of man with the immutable design of a sovereign God. I may say I believe it, but I freely admit I do not understand it. Such things are too wonderful for me!

My Redeemer

1. I will sing of my Redeemer
And His wondrous love to me;
On the cruel cross He suffered,
From the curse to set me free.

2. I will tell the wondrous story,
How my lost estate to save,
In His boundless love and mercy,
He the ransom freely gave.

3. I will praise my dear Redeemer,
His triumphant power I'll tell,
How the victory He giveth
Over sin and death and hell.

4. I will sing of my Redeemer
And His heav'nly love to me;
He from death to life hath brought me,
Son of God with Him to be.

Sing, O sing of my Redeemer,
With His blood He purchased me;
On the cross He sealed my pardon,
Paid the debt and made me free.

Lyrics: Philip Paul Bliss

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Three Days and Three Nights

Good Friday is a myth long held in church tradition, and a cursory study of history will teach that it is so. But it is not what the Scripture plainly teaches. Jesus over and again said that He would spend three days in the belly of the earth. Once He even declares, “As Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Even if one assumes that Jesus had just arisen when Mary discovered the empty tomb, if Christ was buried Friday night, interred Saturday day and rose at the end of Saturday night, that is only two nights and one day.

I have always looked at the words of Jesus, and reckoned the question of whether the Creator of the universe could count or not. If one assumes He can count and knows the literal meaning of 3 days and 3 nights, then the Friday myth must be wrong. For this reason I posted the blog about the ten Sabbaths of God. Any student of Sabbath study soon finds out that there were always two holy days adjacent to each other, the 14th of the first month being the Passover, and the 15th of the first month being the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a feast of a week, with the first and last day being high holy Sabbaths. The Passover Lamb was to be sacrificed on the 13th of the first month, shortly before twilight(at twilight begins the 14th, Passover), just at the very time our Lord was dying on the cross. It was necessary for Joseph and Nicodemus to move fast in burying the body, needing to get it done before 6 P.M., for the Jewish days started with evening and then morning.

Once you know that the two Sabbaths occur together, a Friday crucifixion becomes impossible since we have to have 48 hours of Sabbath minimum. This means that the earliest time in which Jesus could have been crucified would have been Thursday. But I reject Thursday for the same reason, I do think my Lord knows how to count, and wanted that full 72 hours in the grave to show the world beyond any doubt that He had died, and then arose. So the speculation on my part goes along these lines: what if three Sabbath days had occurred together? The first would be the Passover, the second the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the third day, the regular Saturday. Thus I think the best job of harmonizing the last week puts the crucifixion on a Wednesday, with the body of Christ being interred in a hurry so that the Jews would not touch a dead body on the high Sabbath, the Passover, which began at 6 P.M. Wednesday evening.

I am going to try to present a coherent calendar of the last week over the next few weeks. There is great difficulty in putting all the Scriptures together in a coherent fashion, but I do think the very least problems arise when I fix His burial to begin at 6 Wednesday evening. I also hope to show a calendar of the great events of that week, the most written about week in all of history.

Before I do that, though, I would like to state for the record that there are many, if not most, Christians who have not thought through the inconsistencies in a Friday crucifixion that I clearly hope to show. Their Christianity is in no way being questioned here; rather it seems to me that God will judge us on the basis of our believing that He sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins, not on the day of the week on which His Son was buried. However, I would challenge the reader to check the Scripture (as a good Berean would do) to see whether these things might be so. It is my heart-felt thesis that the Bible clearly presents Friday as an impossibility, and another day must be searched for that will fit with what must have actually happened. This is not a new doctrine and many of the early church fathers did hold to a Wednesday burial.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus
1. What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Ev'rything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Ev'rything to God in prayer!

2. Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our ev'ry weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

3. Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He'll take and shield thee;
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Lyrics: Joseph Medlicott Scriven

Friday, February 24, 2012

John 21 18 to 25

18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?
24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

Key Observation:
Jesus foretells the manner of Peter’s death.

Again, I do not see a rebuke in the words of Jesus here. Instead, I think that what I see is sort of a backwards compliment. Peter has been reticent to lift himself up, and is deeply humbled. The Lord tells Peter that Peter will indeed be like unto his Lord, following him with a similar crucifixion. Though the message is stunning, it is also comforting in the sense that the Lord is saying that Peter will be like Him. He will be spending his life to “feed my sheep.”

Now, is it not just like Peter to ask Jesus about John, wanting to know whether John was going to die a violent death? Jesus remarks that it is none of his business. I take great comfort in Peter’s question because it shows that his basic personality is still there. My Lord does not want so much to change what I am, as to change whom I am looking at. Peter was now looking to his Lord, and shirking any idea of boasting. It is ludicrous that some have sought to elevate Peter to the office of pope, as he was still a man of like nature, full of error, and needful of grace. While he was later to be found leading many in Jerusalem, Paul himself (Galatians) had to reprove Peter yet again for not walking in the grace to which he was called. When I read Luther’s treatment of Galatians, I find it humorous that Galatians is one of Luther’s favorite books, since Paul here is pictured rebuking the first pope. No wonder Luther, who rebuked his own pope constantly, found it to be his favorite book! Tradition, of course, teaches that Peter requested to be crucified upside down, as he thought himself unfit to be like his Lord, even in this act.

I do wish we had not been so bent historically on following the traditions of men. The book of Second Thessalonians teaches us to hold fast to the traditions that were handed down to us, not at all meaning that we should follow traditions that had not even been developed yet. I wish in this respect that all men were like I am—if I cannot find it in my Bible I am exceedingly skeptical about the worthiness of whatever tradition or doctrine that might be taught. In my opinion, the best of what the Reformers offered us was a renewed emphasis on what is actually there, rather than what is invented in the minds of men, no matter how excellent their motives may be. It was no small feat of courage and wisdom to provide the Bible in the common language as did both Tyndale and Luther.

John closes a bit uncertainly with my Lord asking the question of John, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” I believe that to be done deliberately because there are some things that we are not meant to know, but rather we are asked to have faith in Him who saved us. If all the things that Jesus ever did were written down there would be no end to books, and I suppose there would be no end to knowledge either, since we are studying the infinite God when we study Jesus. In 1 Corinthians, Paul teaches us that “then we shall know even as we also are known.” For me that is sufficient. Is it for you?

Christ Arose

1. Low in the grave He lay,
Jesus, my Savior!
Waiting the coming day,
Jesus, my Lord!

2. Vainly they watch His bed,
Jesus, my Savior!
Vainly they seal the dead,
Jesus my Lord!

3. Death cannot keep his prey,
Jesus, my Savior!
He tore the bars away,
Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever With His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Lyrics: Robert Wadsworth Lowry

Thursday, February 23, 2012

John 21 8 to 17

8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.
9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Key Observation:
This, the third time Jesus has appeared to his disciples, Jesus commands Peter to feed his sheep. (McGee: “There are eleven appearances before His ascension and three after His ascension. I think we can surmise from the text that there are others which were not described.”)

McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 104178-104179). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.

This is one place where the original Greek language does make a significant difference in understanding this passage. The reason for the difficulty is found in the Greek words for love, consistently translated by “love” in English. Agapa and phileo are the two words which Jesus and Peter are bantering back and forth. The proper translation of each of them is “love” as rendered in the King James Version, but it fails totally to catch the nuance of what is going on here.

I do not think I can say it as well as McGee: “There is another Greek word—it is phileo, and it means “friendship.” It has to do with the affections and the emotions in human relations at its very best usage. We get our word philanthropic from it, and philadelphia comes from it—Philadelphia, the city of “brotherly love.” And that is a word that is used in Scripture. But there is yet another word for love. It is agapao. Agapao is actually the highest and noblest word for love. Dr. Vincent in his Word Studies calls it a word of dignity. It is also a divine word, in that it is a word used to speak of the love of God. The Lord Jesus Christ, in His choice of language, passed over the words eros and phileo and used the word agapao when He was speaking to Simon Peter. He said, “Do you, Simon Peter, love me with all your heart?””

Peter, I remember, had the pride to tell his Lord that he would never deny Him. I think that bragging and being prideful was a problem that Peter often had. His bubble had been burst by his denials, his humility had stepped in, forever. Jesus started by asking Peter if he loved me “more than these”, indicating the other disciples. Peter the braggart would have had no problem answering I agapa you more than they do; Peter the humbled could not bring himself to say agapa, saying instead phileo.

Again, the Lord asks Peter if he agapas Him, but this time He leaves off “more than these”. Peter, still humbled, only answers that he phileos Him. The third time the Lord questions Peter, it is the Lord who changes the love to phileo, and Peter is very mortified because His Lord has dropped His word down, but, maintaining his humility, answers again with the phileo.

I think that this passage smells of rebuke to Peter, but I do also think that if one walks away thinking it was rebuke would miss the love behind the message. First of all, did not the Lord know Peter’s answer before asking? That is to say, I believe Jesus already knew Peter was humbled, almost to the point of destruction. His answer to Peter three times is also missed in English for each time He says “feed my sheep” He is saying slightly different things in the Greek. Peter is being pointed to act as a shepherd once more, and the Lord, rather than rebuking Peter, is rehabilitating him on a new basis, one founded on deep humility rather than pride. Remember that Peter was the one who insisted before all that he would never desert his Lord. I think the Lord is helping Peter get himself back together here, and the message should be looked at as one of tender love.

This passage is delightfully handled by McGee, and I commend it to anyone who wants further study, for he has divided and separated the passage out for easy understanding. It is a favorite of mine, and I shall delight in coming back to it many times, Lord willing.

McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 104415-104421). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.

O Happy Day!

1. O happy day, that fixed my choice
On Thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice
And tell its raptures all abroad.

2. O happy bond, that seals my vows
To Him who merits all my love!
Let cheerful anthems fill His house,
While to that sacred shrine I move.

3. 'Tis done, the great transaction's done
I am my Lord's and He is mine;
He drew me, and I followed on,
Charmed to confess the voice divine.

4. Now rest, my long-divided heart,
Fixed on this blissful center, rest,
Nor ever from my Lord depart,
With Him of ev'ry good possessed.

Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray
And live rejoicing every day;
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!

Lyrics: Philip Doddridge

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

John 21 1 to 7

1 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.
2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.
6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea

Key Observation:
John is the first to recognize the Lord.

I want to fish where the Lord tells me to! It seems to be a place of substantial reaping. It is impulsive Peter persuading the others to go fishing, but it is John who tells Peter that it is the Lord. Again I see the remarkable facility of John to discern what the truth of the matter really is. Did that facility come from John himself, or was it something from God? I suspect it may have been a combination of the two—but I do remember that John is the beloved, and as the beloved, perhaps knew more about Jesus than most of the others.

I find it delightful that Peter jumps in to swim towards his Lord. Would that we were all that hungry to walk with the Lord! Our older commentators looking at symbolism, as they were so prone to do, might well see much in Peter girding himself with a fisherman’s coat. A short time had passed since Peter had denied his Lord, and now I see him naked. Symbolically, could that mean that Peter was naked from his self-righteousness? Remember that I feel Peter actually denied the Lord six times, and whether he did or not, Peter had been filled with a self-righteousness-bubble that had since burst. Wasn’t he naked before his Lord? And now, is the Lord not preparing him to feed His sheep? Does not the Pentecost Feast and Peter’s sermon lay before him? I can well see that perhaps the Lord is foreshadowing His preparation of Peter.

Anymore speculation and I shall start sounding like one of the ancient fathers with their evident addiction to numerology. Did you know that almost every number used in the Bible had symbolic explanations by some of the ancients? At times I find such speculation bizarre, but at other places, I do have to wonder if there is not something to it.

At any rate, I think this is the last time we catch the disciples actually fishing for fish; soon they all become fishers of men. I remember having a very fruitful season in my life, where it was as if the Lord told me to cast my net on one side of the boat. The harvest was bountiful, as the Lord blessed both my wife and I with seeing many many people come to Christ. If He continues to tarry, my prayer is for revival, and a sending out of His Holy Spirit, that we may yet be blessed and see more come to Christ.

Come, Thou Almighty King

1. Come Thou Almighty King,
Help us Thy name to sing,
Help us to praise:
Father, all-glorious,
O'er all victorious,
Come and reign over us,
Ancient of Days.

2. Come, Thou Incarnate Word,
Gird on Thy mighty sword,
Our prayer attend!
Come, and Thy people bless,
And give Thy word success:
Spirit of holiness,
On us descend.

3. Come, Holy Comforter,
Thy sacred witness bear
In this glad hour!
Thou, who almighty art,
Now rule in ev'ry heart
And ne'er from us depart,
Spirit of pow'r.

4. To Thee, great One in Three,
The highest praises be,
Hence evermore;
Thy sov'reign majesty
May we in glory see,
And to eternity
Love and adore.

Lyrics: England, c. 1757
Music: Felice de Giardini

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

John 20 30 to 31

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Key Observation:
The purpose of John is that you might believe and find life.

John is written to teach men that Jesus is the Christ. Actually I love this gospel more dearly than any of the others because it clearly presents Jesus as the Creator and the Savior of the world. It is fashionable on the part of some to declare what is called limited atonement, or the idea that Jesus only died for the elect. John knows nothing of this limited atonement—over and over again he repeats phrases similar to “for God so loved the world”. Reading Calvin’s commentary on John recently, I was impressed that even Calvin did not deny the plain sense of this gospel, but rather gave free weight to their primary thrust. I do not understand why so many claiming to follow Calvin insist on rewriting the many verses of John that express that the Savior on the cross gave Himself for all.

But as I have frequently commented, John also is the most clear gospel about those who are not saved. Jesus clearly foreknows the elect, and those who will have nothing to do with Him it says, “but He did not commit Himself unto any of them for He knew all men. There is a limited atonement only in the sense that it is strictly limited to those who will come to me, for it says, “he that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” The mystery of election does not allow us in; rather we must view it from the outside, but in John we see them both clearly presented. God both foreknows and predestines. Men refuse the offered grace of God, and men are held to account for their willful blindness. Neither truth can be compromised at the expense of the other without pulling the saint significantly away from the truth. One day God will judge all men who refused His conviction, and it will be found that men’s willfulness have made them, as Paul says, “without excuse.”

Sometimes I have been accused of harshness in presenting the gospel, but I say unto you that that is the way it has been handed down to us. “Neither is there salvation under any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” It begins and ends with Jesus, and I am so thankful that John makes it clear. The world is desperately lost and in need of its Savior.

Blessed Redeemer

1. Up Calvary's mountain, one dreadful morn,
Walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn;
Facing for sinners death on the cross,
That He might save them from endless loss.

2. "Father forgive them!" thus did He pray,
E'en while His lifeblood flowed fast away;
Praying for sinners while in such woe
No one but Jesus ever loved so.

3. O how I love Him, Savior and Friend,
How can my praises ever find end!
Through years unnumbered on Heaven's shore,
My tongue shall praise Him forevermore.

Blessed Redeemer! Precious Redeemer!
Seems now I see Him on Calvary's tree;
Wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading,
Blind and unheeding dying for me!

Lyrics: Avis Marguerite Burgeson Christiansen