Saturday, May 30

All Together Now!


Have you ever had a ‘bad’ week? Someone once said, “You can tell you’re going to have a bad week when a camera crew from 60-minutes is in the office on Monday and would like to ask you some questions.” Here are some other possible ways you can tell things are going to get hairy. The orthodontist says your kid needs braces and then asks if you think the blue or silver BMW is nicer. Your spouse gives you a ticket to Fiji for your anniversary, but there is only one, and it is one-way.

Let me suggest that when God pours Himself into your life your week is going to more than terrific, it is going to be spectacular. That is precisely what happened on Pentecost in Jerusalem.  What Jesus had promised happened. They had waited, as Jesus told them, and the Paraclete, counselor, comforter, God’s advocate was present with them, upon them, and within them.

Former Chaplain of the Senate and Pastor at Hollywood Pres., Lloyd Ogilvie wrote, “The greatest need in the church today is for contemporary Pentecost (Ogilvie 56).” That was his conclusion after taking a year to discover the great need people had for a sense of power in their lives.

At 67 I find myself wishing I this or that ability I had when I was 40. In transitioning from a home to assisted living I hear the pain caused by losing control of their lives, their future. It is very obvious with this pandemic how many of us want things to go back to being normal and we chafe under the thought that things may never be ‘normal’ again. When the world is shifting all around us it becomes difficult to find an anchor on which we can depend.

As hard as it is to ‘trust God’ in such times, the answer to our lack of control is found in Christ and his presence and power—in Pentecost. In the matter of a few minutes, the lives of 120 people were uprooted by God. A weird sound and a strange sight moved 120 people from a room into the streets. It made fishermen apostles, it made shopkeepers into evangelists, it took women and caused their voices to shout God’s praise to the street in languages they may have never heard.

Together Before

A keyword used to describe those people is “together”. “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place” v2. They were together because that’s what Jesus had told them to do, back in 1:4-5 “he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, …but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Together, describes these people, before and after the Holy Spirit comes. Before, they were together waiting. After, they were together as a force. Before, they were together but powerless. After, thousands wanted to be together with them. This wasn’t mass hysteria but a God thing. They ran into the street among the gathering crowd together but not the same. In an instant, the Holy Spirit delivered them from “the limitations of their Galilean speech (Peterson 134) so that those who had gathered at the sound were hearing God being praised in their own languages. “It was not simply a miracle of hearing: it was a miracle of speech (Peterson 134)” because they were enabled “as the Spirit gave them utterance” v4. This is what the Holy Spirit does with gifts, 1 Co 12:11 “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he [Holy Spirit] wills”.

Together After

After some 3,000 people respond to Peter’s sermon, ‘together’ is used three times.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” Acts 2:44-47 NIV
The ESV uses ‘together’ twice. It describes their meeting in the temple and breaking bread in v. 46. Either way, they were supporting and caring for one another in a way that was unique, even in a culture that honored hospitality. Read through Acts 2-6 and you’ll see successes and tensions to this togetherness. Yet, God continually brings his people together. So much so, the summary for chapter 2 that “the Lord continued to add to their number daily those who were being saved” (v. 47).

Together Today

How can we live a together style life today? Above everything else, it comes from, is powered by, and brings glory and honor to God and God alone. Look back at verse 47, “The LORD continued to add…” their cleverness didn’t work, nor does our nifty programs. “The LORD continued to add…” it wasn’t their keeping the rules of the law, and it doesn’t happen because we are polite and don’t wear a hat in worship. The rich guy in Mark 10 asks what it takes to be saved and Jesus said you know the commandments. His response was, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth”. Yet he walks away unsaved. Why? Because it isn’t our good deeds that brings about salvation, it is God and God alone.

To be together today demands a humble spirit, to see us as God sees us. There is a story about Teddy Roosevelt that comes from a traveling companion and friend, William Beebe. He wrote,

After an evening of talk...we would go out on the lawn, where we took turns at an amusing little astronomical rite. We searched until we found, with or without glasses, the faint heavenly spot of light-mist beyond the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus, when one or the other of us would recite:
·          That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda.
·          It is as large as our Milky Way.
·          It is one of a hundred million galaxies.
·          It is 750,000 light-years away.
·          It consists of one billion suns, each larger than our sun."
After an interval, Colonel Roosevelt would grin at me and say: "Now I think we are small enough! Let's go to bed (Beebe 234)."

Beebe concludes, “We must have repeated this salutary ceremony forty of fifty times in the course of years, and it never palled (ibid.).” Their simple recitation gave them a humble perspective on life.

Does it excite you that God, who created that spiral galaxy some 750,000 light-years away, sent Jesus to die for us? Do we grasp that this same God, who sent Jesus to die, insists we do the seemingly impossible? What is so impossible about telling others about Jesus, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and loving the unlovable?

Together today must be kindled by the Holy Spirit and cause a growth in our spiritual vitality and power. Only then can the seemingly impossible be accomplished. Forget about the source of this power; grow weak; distant from others, or be forgetful about the things of God and we find ourselves alone, with no means of support, or compassion.

I was in Hawthorne Nevada for six years, two election cycles. In each of those years, one of the county commissioners made a Sunday appearance at worship. He was a good person. I think his name was Lyberger but it doesn’t matter because he was never together with the followers of Jesus. He was a good county commissioner. He seemed to be a moral and good person. But the proof he was not together with us came during a graveside service one afternoon.  Harry Kumler, the funeral director in Hawthorne and a faithful member and deacon asked, what church he attended. He told Harry, “I’m a Presbyterian.” To which Harry simply said, “Funny, I’ve never seen you there.”

God’s love, God’s Holy Spirit will continue to challenge us to be together with-others even as he moves us out into the streets and smack-dab-in-the-middle of messy lives and messy situations. He will call on us to remain together even as we stand apart from the world taking unpopular stands. The awe and wonder of it all is that God actually likes using us to do this work. Let’s pray

Works Cited
Beebe, William. The Book of Naturalists. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. Print 234.

Lloyd J. Ogilvie Acts.  Volume 28 : The Preacher's Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983), 56.

Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

Bibliography

Batterson, Mark. Whisper. Portland: Multnomah, 2017. Print.

Beebe, William. The Book of Naturalists. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. Print 234.

Brown, David, A. R. Fausset, and Robert Jamieson. A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Acts–Revelation. VI. London; Glasgow: William Collins, Sons, & Company, Limited, Print.

Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : V 1, p 637 Print.

Marshall, ‘Significance’, 355. Cf. G. Delling, TDNT 6:128–31, 283–98; Turner, Power, 165–69.
Lloyd J. Ogilvie Acts.  Volume 28 : The Preacher's Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983), 56.

Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

Polhill, John B. Acts. Vol. 26. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992. Print. The New American Commentary.

Salmond, Roy and Mulder, Mike "Bear the Burden". Stumbling Heavenward, 1979, LP

Wilson, Andrew. "Paul Says To ‘Be Filled with The Spirit.’ How Do We Obey A Passive Verb?." ChristianityToday.com. 2019. Web. 27 May 2020.

Sunday, May 24

Perception, Power, Purpose


A great deal on engineering goes into creating a roadway. Planning, drawings, surveys, planning, GANT charts, and the rest. There is equipment work, bedding to compact roadway to lay with expansion joints, decisions about the camber of the road etc. It still can’t be safely driven on until the asphalt is laid and the markings, signs, lights, and the rest are in place. Let me suggest that Christ Jesus—firstborn from the dead—has built a wonderful way to venture home to where we belong.

In His Ascension, Jesus gives us and His disciples some key information about our trip home. Until the Holy Spirit came there were no signs marking lanes, or where the shoulder runs off into the dirt. There was no signage for what was off the various exits, These safeguards and directional signs is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus (Ac 16:7; Phi 1:19), as we seek to be obedient to the call of Christ.

This is a great place to be this week because next Sunday is Pentecost so preaching about the Holy Spirit is timely. Yet, for some a week or two about the Holy Spirit is more than enough and the reason for that lack of trust, faith in, and reliance upon the Spirit of Jesus comes out of the problems we have with perspective, power, and purpose.

Problem of Perspective

I can’t draw worth beans and one reason is I don’t understand ‘perspective’. But the problem of perspective is more than an issue for artists. It is something that affects every man, woman, and child. Our ability to perceive properly is directly related to our human sin. In Romans 1 Paul talks about how humans devolved into lawlessness and in 1:22-3 he says, 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things" ESV.

Today there are hundreds, if not thousands, of gods worshiped by people some not even realizing they are doing it. Many of our gods, the ones which we unknowingly pay homage too are positive. Jobs, families, vacation, even health can be an unrealized idol we worship. Our failed perception labels it ‘the great American Dream’; being loving, or some other label.

KINGDOM PERSPECTIVE is the correcting influence of Christ on our lives. The disciples go into this time with their Lord asking, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" v4. They show their fallen perspective with their immediate, wish-fulfillment, sin based--even our noblest gestures are touched, and “bent”. A term used by C.S. Lewis to describe the complete and utter failure which occurred at the Fall.  

We are concerned with the “now”, but God’s perspective is eternal, long-range and not dependent on any “if/then scenarios”. Yet, His detailed attention is down to the smallest atom. Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie wrote of Jesus, “He knew that the new kingdom people had to be those who could wait for the Lord’s best, and on His time schedule (Ogilvie 37).” He called this time the “period between the lightning and the thunder (ibid). Do we trust God’s perspective? Are we okay with not knowing?

That is God’s design for us and we do well to remember that God is always is on time, and in time—never late, never early (ibid).

Problem of Power

Our culture celebrates power, grabs power, seeks power, and abuses power. And that is our human experience since creation. Jesus’ closest friends were seemingly unable to keep their eyes off the new Davidic kingdom. Israel would be free and powerful. “Restore” is to bring back something into its original state of existence. To "reestablish, restore; cure, make well; send or bring back (Newman)” is another stab at explaining the varied meaning of this word.

KINGDOM POWER is God’s earth-shattering take on a redefinition of what power is and how it is used. This power is given not grabbed. It is poured out freely upon the undeserving. It is immensely expensive and yet freely given.  It can’t be paid back for it is an act of Grace. God’s love demonstrated to us and through us.

A month earlier, Jesus had demonstrated what Kingdom power looked like when he washed the disciple’s feet during dinner. John recalls the post-meal discussion

“Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 16 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
As the “rich young ruler” walks away, Jesus teaches us that, as impossible, as it seems, God is a God of the impossible. Peter asks, “we have left everything and followed You. What then will we have?” Mt. 19:26-27 to which Jesus concludes His teaching in v. 30, “but many who are first will be last and the last first”

The Kingdom of God turns the world upside down in every way. It changes hearts and governments. It shakes up families and politics. It confronts individual, cultural, governmental, and every other place where sin is found. It comforts all in need, builds up those torn down, and is the reality of God’s presence in our lives and the world.

One way in which Kingdom Power has touched and transformed lives and neighborhoods is by investment in families. Lake Pointe Church in Dallas invested $27K. A church in Wyoming, Michigan spent $18K and a Los Angeles church last Christmas surprised the congregation by spending $53K. Their total investment paid off just shy of 10 million dollars of medical expenses for those in their community where they are crushed under that load. One pastor commented that such debt made their lives impossible, “Most of these folks are in poverty levels or below poverty levels and there’s no way that it can be repaid, but they feel the creditor banging on their doors (Allen).”

Problem of Purpose

A 2016 survey of 18-24-year-olds found they reported “that having a clear purpose in life is a big part of being a "real" adult. The problem is, most young people don't feel like they've found that sense of purpose (Whelan).” I hate to burst their bubble, but many 50-70-year-olds don’t know what their purpose in life.
John Shedd commented that “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships were built for.” They were meant for the ocean and seas, to go where it can be dangerous and where disaster might strike at any moment.

You’ll hear a lot of ideas spouted by those in our world about one’s purpose. Washington Irving said, “Great minds have purposes; others have wishes” and when someone shouts out just “Follow your dreams” I cannot help but think of some of the nightmare scenarios I faced in my dreams. One author, when asked ‘What is the meaning of life?’ wrote, “it has none. Your life may feel like a big deal to you, but it’s actually a random blip of matter and energy in an uncaring and impersonal universe (Lawton).” What a horrid reality and if true then we are the biggest fools in the universe because we claim there is a spiritual reality in which we fit perfectly for we have been designed by a loving creator.

KINGDOM PURPOSE puts us out to sea; takes us to a strange new land; moves us to embrace a new identity, to become adopted by God. Then, as all this is happening God tosses water onto a grease fire and spreads us out as promised here and in Matthew 28. Verse 8 says, “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." It also sets forth the way in which Acts is organized.

The way God moved His people off of dead center takes place in Acts 6 when Stephen, a deacon is grabbed by other Jews on charges of blaspheme. He is stoned and Acts 8:1 says, “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”. Remember in Acts 1:8 Jesus’ imparts to us His purpose for our lives… “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 

When Jesus calls us ‘witnesses’ what does He mean? He means where are to share ‘History’ with the world—not history but His story. This year we lost a wonderful evangelist, preacher, and thinker Ravi Zacharias. Beginning with him there was a new approach to sharing God’s word to an uncaring world. In 1983 he was tagged by Billy Graham to address the first International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam. He decried the tendency to seek to “humiliate someone of a different worldview that we think unless we destroy everything, he holds valuable, we cannot preach to him the gospel of Christ (Fearon).”

That was not Ravi’s style. He engaged a person in life and earned the right to speak into their life the news of Jesus. An attendee at that conference said.+
“He saw the objections and questions of others not as something to be rebuffed, but as a cry of the heart that had to be answered. People weren’t logical problems waiting to be solved; they were people who needed the person of Christ.” No one was reaching out to the thinker, to the questioner (Fearon).”
The way any and all of it takes place is through Jesus the Christ and our believing and trusting in Him.  Let’s pray.
 

Works Cited
Allen, Karma. "Michigan Church Says It Paid Off Medical Debt for Nearly 2,000 Families." ABC News. 2020. Web. 19 May 2020

Fearon, Matthew. "Obituary: Ravi Zacharias." Rzim.org. 2020. Web. 20 May 2020.

Johnson, Lauren M. "A Los Angeles Church Is Paying Off $5.3 Million Of Medical Debt in Its Community." CNN. 2019. Web. 19 May 2020.

Lawton, Graham. “What is the Meaning of Life?” New Scientist (9-3-16)

Newman, Barclay M., Jr. A Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament. 1993:  Print.

Ogilvie, Lloyd J. Acts. Vol. 28. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983. Print. The Preacher’s Commentary Series.

Sarkar, Riddhi. "Texas Church Uses Donations to Pay Off $2.6M In Medical Debt for Families." ABC News. 2019. Web. 19 May 2020.

Whelan, Christine B. "Seek Your Purpose Before Your Paycheck," Acculturated blog (5-23-16)

Works Consulted

Brown, David, A. R. Fausset, and Robert Jamieson. A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Acts–Revelation. VI. London; Glasgow: William Collins, Sons, & Company, Limited, n.d. Print.

Crossway Bibles. The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008. Print.

Fearon, Matthew. "Obituary: Ravi Zacharias." Rzim.org. 2020. Web. 20 May 2020.

Hughes, Philip Edgcumbe. “Reason, History, and Biblical Authenticity.” Christianity Today 1969 : 3–6. Print.

Johnson, Lauren M. "A Los Angeles Church Is Paying Off $5.3 Million Of Medical Debt In Its Community." CNN. 2019. Web. 19 May 2020.

Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament. Ed. Donald A. Hagner. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993. Print.

Lawton, Graham. “What is the Meaning of Life?” New Scientist (9-3-16)

McDormand, Thomas B. “Church and Government.” Christianity Today 1965 : 14–15. Print.

Newman, Barclay M., Jr. A Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament. 1993: Print.

Patowary, Kaushik. "Before the Internet, What People Asked New York Public Library's Librarians?" Amusing Planet. 2018. Web. 19 May 2020.

Ogilvie, Lloyd J. Acts. Vol. 28. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983. Print. The Preacher’s Commentary Series.

Sarkar, Riddhi. "Texas Church Uses Donations to Pay Off $2.6M In Medical Debt For Families." ABC News. 2019. Web. 19 May 2020.

Whelan, Christine B. "Seek Your Purpose Before Your Paycheck," Acculturated blog (5-23-16)

Witherington, Ben, III. The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998. Print.

W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (London: Marshall Morgan Scott; repr. 1981), pp. 137–39.


Saturday, May 16

Spoiler Alert! He's Here!

Thursday morning, unable to sleep, I flipped between the overnight news on CBS and ABC. Coronavirus was the major story with some very sobering statistics offered.

Perhaps 40% unemployment for those making under $40K. Bright, the former top U.S. vaccine official, stated that the U.S. may face the “darkest winter in modern history” if there is not a coordinated response to this virus. President Trump’s dismissal of Dr. Fauci reluctance to reopen schools, “not an acceptable answer” seemed to bode ill for his tenure. Then there’s the specter of this recent “systemic inflammatory syndrome” that strikes children.

With all of this, and various sized asteroids buzzing by Earth my thoughts went to Revelation and the return of Christ. I do not think that this pandemic marks the breaking of the fourth seal in Revelation 6:7. But, what I do know is that His return is closer today than it was yesterday, and tomorrow it will be closer still. I also know that God’s Word offers hope and certainty even when our hearts, spirits, and lives are uncertain and doubtful because Christ is already with us.
This hope is found in today’s passage in John. The night Jesus is about to be arrested, he takes pains to make certain his disciples, and we, know we are not left alone.

More than a Helper

Jesus promises “another paraclete whom He identifies as the “Spirit of truth” who “dwells with you and will be in you” v 17. Many versions use the word ‘Helper’ for paraclete but that is a word that smacks of being subordinate or inferior on one’s ability. I see Tonto or Robin, a ‘side-kick’, who ‘lends a hand’ when you need it.

I know too many of you and others who are quick to say, “I don’t need any help” and I don’t want us thinking of the Holy Spirit in this way. Another word used is Counselor. This is okay if we think of it in terms of attorney and not a camp or marriage counselor (Carson 499) who gives advice we can take or ignore, and comforter sounds like a quilt or a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.
“We have no single word in our language that can express the rich, powerful meaning of “Paraclete,” the English translation of the unique title John uses for this Holy Companion. Para in the Greek means “alongside,” and the root of kletos is ‘to call’ (Fredrikson and Ogilvie 223).”
Just as Christ is sent into our world so the Holy Spirit, this paraclete, comes to those who believe in Christ. The world at large has no inkling of who the Holy Spirit is or what His role. “The Paraclete is not given to the world which neither sees nor knows Him. As it has been blind and deaf to Jesus, so the world does not know the Paraclete has come (Fredrikson and Ogilvie 224)."

Coming of Jesus

Of all the various discussions about verses 17-18, it seems apparent to me that Jesus is telling His disciples about the coming Easter Sunday. The world, those who cannot believe doesn’t see Jesus’ resurrection. Paul calls Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection “the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men” 1Co 1:24-25.

If the resurrection is false Paul says “your faith is in vain, futile, you are still in your sins”; we “misrepresent God”; “the dead are not raised” and “we are of all people most to be pitied” 2Co 15:14-19. But Paul all but shouts verse 20 when he writes “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

When Jesus reveals Himself to the disciples after Easter, they “see him with eyes of faith” (Beasley-Murray 258). Their lives are transformed, expanded, completely opened to God’s reality of eternity. They will, “on that day”, “the relation of Jesus to the Father… will become luminously clear” and “they will then understand that a new union with their risen Lord has become possible, (Beasley-Murray 258)."

Keeping Jesus’ Commandments

All of this teaching is contained within verbal bookends. The bookends are “keep my commands” in verse 15 and “commandments and keeps them” in verse 21. We use the Greek term inclusio to describe such passages. Once you start to look for them, you’ll find they stand out like a haiku or Shakespearean Sonnet
 
What does it mean to “keep” Jesus’ “commandments” and how does it demonstrate “love”? Keep and obey may seem synonymous but to keep involves observing and paying attention to what we keep. There is a sense in which one protects or guards the object they keep. As if they “keep it in custody, keep back, reserve, maintain, keep firm (Newman).”
If…then is called a conditional statement such as if you mow the lawn then I will let you play, a conditional statement drilled into my skull growing up. But don’t think that we initiate this promise. We don’t demonstrate obedience and watch God and Christ respond to our actions (Carson 503). 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us”, I’ll come back to that passage in a moment. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” John writes in 1 John 5:2.

Dr. Bruce Metzger describes the ‘keeping’ as future rather than imperative, meaning that “Jesus neither assumes that his followers love him, nor assumes that they do not… but projects a condition and stipulates its entailment: they will obey (Metzger 245).” Did your parents ever ask you a question like, “You were going to clean your room today? Right.” It isn’t a question but an action you just have not yet completed. It wasn’t debatable, it was a fact.
What commands are we to ‘safeguard’ and ‘attend to’? Dr. Carson wrote,
"What the one who loves Jesus will observe is not simply an array of discrete ethical injunctions, but the entire revelation from the Father, revelation holistically conceived (Carson 498)."
Yet the most direct context is the new ‘commandment’ which Jesus gives us in John 13:34-35, 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” Back in 1 John 4:19ff we read,
“19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
If you expect the Body of Christ, God’s People, the Church to have any impact on the spiritually blinded world around us it will come only as we love one another.

In Today’s Christian Woman a mom told of her daughter, Beverly, who needed to change a dirty shirt in which she was playing. After calling two times with no response, her mother gave her the full three-name call: “'Beverly Elizabeth Provost, did you hear me?' Beverly answered, 'Yes, Mama. My ears did, but my legs didn't' (Provost)."

How you love one another is different for everyone because each of us has a way in which we receive love best. In The 5 Love Languages, Dr. Gay Chapman speaks of five ways in which we express and receive love they are:
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving gifts
  • Physical Touch
  • Acts of Service
The book is worth reading but I mention it so that we realize we need to be aware of the ways in which our sisters and brothers receive our love when offered. Kenton has a future involved with loving others because Christ has loved us. Let’s keep true to that calling as we pray.

Works Cited

Beasley-Murray, George R. John. Vol. 36. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1999. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.

Carson, D. A. The Gospel according to John. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

Chapman, Gary D. The 5 Love Languages. Chicago: Northfield Pub., 2015. Print.

Fredrikson, Roger L., and Lloyd J. Ogilvie. John. Vol. 27. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1985. Print. The Preacher’s Commentary Series.

Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. UBS, 1971. Print. 245

Newman, Barclay M., Jr. A Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament. 1993: Print.

Sunday, May 10

Finding Your Way Through the Haze


File this under ‘you learn something new every day’. Discovered a strange genetic anomaly called DTD. Developmental topographical disorientation occurs in people with no brain injury, lesions, or tumors and it causes them to be unable to form any sort of mental map. Mary recounts when she was 13 years old she was a few blocks from where she was dog-sitting a friends’ pet. She said, “I had no idea where I was, and my surroundings looked completely unfamiliar. It was as though I’d been dropped into the middle of a foreign land (McLaurine).”

We’ve all heard stories about GPS messing up a trip. Sometimes they are funny but some end in tragedy and death. Do you recall back in 2007 the family “stuck in the snow for nine days with few supplies (Neelmann)” down in Southern Oregon. The father, James Kim tried to walk out and was found dead trying to get help. Finding one’s way is a serious endeavor.

Unlike the other three gospels, John doesn’t share a lot of parables or pithy sayings. “In John the style of Jesus’ teaching is that of long discourses (Ladd 251).” Chapter 14 is part of Jesus’ last night with his disciples. Matthew and the others don’t share Jesus’ teaching during this time. But John has taken the time to do it for us.

Who is in Charge?

At the deepest point of one’s life, the key to believing or not believing is the issue of who is in charge. Jesus claims he is the way, the truth, and the life, but the emphasis lands on the first of those three. He is the way because He and the Father are one. He is the way because eternal life resides in Him and Him alone. Throughout John, Jesus is “God’s gracious self-disclosure (Carson 491)” the expression of Life not just existence—zoh, the root for zoology vs. bio.s from which we get biology. Life that goes beyond existence to a life worth living.

We have the Lord of Heaven and Earth stepping down among us as one of us, to die for us, so we can live with Him. Jesus, who is the Way, harkens back to Jesus’ statement in v.4 “And you know the way to where I am going”. To which Thomas says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

When Jesus says, “I am the way…” he isn’t cutting a pathway through the jungle of life and hollering at us to follow and keep up. He’s not some model of virtue by which we judge our competence in attaining perfection and love.

“He is himself the savior, the lamb of God, the one who so speaks that those who are in the graves hear his voice and come forth…the one who alone can say ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’ (Carson 491).”

At Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting CEO Jeff Bezos was taking questions from the shareholders when a lady asked for help returning a package. Bezos comment,

“’Yeah, sure we’ll help you with that right after the meeting. Bezos apologized to the woman for having to ask him for help at the meeting. ‘My apologies that you had to use this unusual venue to accomplish what should have been a much simpler task. ‘We’ll also look into the root cause of why that happened’ (Joyce).”

If it is newsworthy that the richest person in the world should stop to return a package, how much more newsworthy is it that

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (MSG).

Who has our best interest at heart?

Jesus’ primary purpose here isn’t to teach theology but to comfort his friends. Consider the night they have had. One of them has left to betray him while another has been told he would deny Jesus three times. There was an argument before the meal over who was the greatest. Jesus washed each of their feet causing confusion. There’s was talk of arrest and death.

We face a similar unsettling, fearful, and even overwhelming world, much like the disciple that night. And Jesus’ words to us are the same, “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God and believe also in me.” He commands them to "stop allowing their hearts to be in turmoil". Instead, they are to believe and to continue to believe in God and in himself.

That seems to be a good word for us, today? Is your heart troubled by this 125 nm, a microscopic virus has changed our planet? Maybe not. Maybe you’re totally at peace because you are used to staying home, not working, and love spending time by yourself or with loved ones. But for some this has been a very troubling time. They or a loved one are in the ‘high risk’ categories. Financially they have fallen on hard times as hours have been cut or jobs just disappear.

My life has been upended by this. I was cut and then given too many hours at Staples. I’ve learned more about video broadcast, production, and the rest than I ever really needed to know. And I’ve had to put them to use.  Guess what? I haven’t a clue as to what the answer is except, I know Christ is Lord and God is on the throne.

The early church faced persecution for not believing in the various gods and idols. They were seen as week and stupid when they were merciful and caring. Yet Peter reminds us that we have become a people and have received mercy because we have built our lives on the ‘cornerstone’ of Jesus Christ. It has changed our identity. It has secured our future. It secures a future in which our trust in Christ is honored even as others continually take offense at Christ.

So, recklessly go back to the ‘normal’ of January 2020 and face a new round of infections or stay isolated and locked down for months really doesn’t matter, or shouldn’t to one who trusts that Christ is “the way, the truth and the life”.  

The centuries haven’t changed Jesus’ promises. Our life situations haven’t changed Jesus’ promises. Even our response to what is going on doesn’t change Jesus’ promise. Because he is the Alpha and the Omega who was and is and is to come. Uncertain of what life holds? Take heart and be certain that Jesus is the way. Uncertain in the midst of the changing situations all around us? Take heart and be certain that Jesus is the Way and the truth. Uncertain in the midst of the possibility of illness or death? Take heart and be certain that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” Can you be certain in uncertain times? You can if your certainty rests in Christ. Let’s pray.

Works Cited

Joyce, Kathleen. "Amazon Customer Asks Jeff Bezos During Shareholder Meeting for Help Returning Package: Report." Fox Business. 2019. Web. 7 May 2020.

Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament. Ed. Donald A. Hagner. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993. Print.

McLaurine, Mary. "I Can't Follow A Map Or Directions, And At 61 I Still Get Lost And Frightened," Washington Post 2017. Web. 7 May 2020.

Neelmann, Sol. "The Kim Family's Tragic Journey." oregonlive. 2007. Web. 7 May 2020.

Bibliography

Beasley-Murray, George R. John. Vol. 36. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1999. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.

"Donaldina Cameron House." Flickr. 2014. Web. 6 May 2020.

Fitzpatrick, Elyse M. Because He Loves Me. Wheaton: Good News Publishers/Crossway Books, 2009. Print.

Hengel, Martin. “Raising the Bar: A Daring Proposal for the Future of Evangelical New Testament Scholarship.” Christianity Today 2001 : 77–79. Print.

Kauffman, Richard. "Reflections: Cross and Resurrection." Christianity Today 2003: Print.

Joyce, Kathleen. "Amazon Customer Asks Jeff Bezos During Shareholder Meeting For Help Returning Package: Report." Fox Business. 2019. Web. 7 May 2020.

King, John. "Plain Church Amid the Pagodas." SF Gate 2009. Web. 6 May 2020.

Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament. Ed. Donald A. Hagner. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993. Print.

Liddell, H.G. A lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English lexicon 1996 Print.

Lust, Johan, Erik Eynikel, and Katrin Hauspie. A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint : Revised Edition 2003 Print.

Lowe, Janet. Oprah Winfrey Speaks. Wiley, 1998. Print. 122

McLaurine, Mary. "I Can't Follow A Map Or Directions, And At 61 I Still Get Lost And Frightened," Washington Post 2017. Web. 7 May 2020.

Neelmann, Sol. "The Kim Family's Tragic Journey." oregonlive. 2007. Web. 7 May 2020.

Newman, Barclay M., Jr. A Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament. 1993 : 7. Print.

Newman, Barclay Moon, and Eugene Albert Nida. A Handbook on the Gospel of John. New York: United Bible Societies, 1993. Print. UBS Handbook Series.

Snibbe, Kurt. "Coronavirus: Here’s How Small the Enemy is and How it Attacks – Orange County Register." Ocregister.com. N.p., 2020. Web. 7 May 2020.

Thielicke, Helmut. Christ and the Meaning of Life. Lutterworth Press, 1988. Print.


Saturday, May 2

Living LIfe to the Fullest


You are rightfully hearing about those on the front lines of this COVID-19. There is one group that is on the front line but hasn’t been as busy as usual and those are the men and women who work in ‘search and rescue’. There was some fisherman pulled off a boat by the Coast Guard in January (Fields) and they also pulled a couple and a dog off a boat, and three hikers found by Tillamook County who arrested two of them (Ryan).

Each county has men and women volunteers trained to go out and find the lost. Washington County primary SAR team is Explorer Post 877 (Search and Rescue) and overall since 1993 the Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue “have responded to nearly 1,000 missions (PNW SAR). These are people you do not want to need but they are people who you desperately desire if you or someone you know is lost.

We get lost

Sheep are not totally helpless just almost totally helpless. They run away from a threat and then gather as a flock and stare at the threat. As a rule, sheep don’t have a good long-term memory. Is it no wonder that God says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Is 53:6).
Because we, like sheep, are vulnerable we need a shepherd to protect us. We need a shepherd who puts himself between us and the threats that seek to destroy us. We need a shepherd to lead us, supervise us, and guide us moment-by-moment. The second part of Isaiah 53:6 says, “and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” On course the Him is Jesus, God’s beloved Son.

We are kept safe
In the ANE (ancient near east) a sheep pen was a communal area surrounded by walls or created with brambles and such which wouldn’t allow a predator easy access. There would be a break or doorway in the wall that let the sheep enter and leave. In the open, with no proper door, a shepherd would sleep across the entrance. They would be able to tell if a sheep tried to leave or something or someone tried to escape, or a predator came to attack the flock.

Just like we’ve been told with this COVID-19 containment equals safety. We contain the virus by living in containment— “Stay Home—Stay Safe”. The difference is that Jesus tells us “anyone enters by me they will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (v9).

To be able to come and go unmolested was the Jewish way of describing a life that is absolutely secure and safe. When people can go in and out without fear, it means that their country is at peace, that the forces of law and order are supreme, and that they enjoy perfect security (Barclay 68)."

We can’t enter by morality, claiming we’re as nice as other people. We can’t claim that we have a right to enter because our dear sainted grandmother was inside the fold. We can’t gain entrance just because we’re a part of a congregation, even if we’re active in a congregation (Butterworth). That was what the Jewish leaders believed. No, salvation is “not a human right but a gift of God’s grace…we are not saved because we admire Jesus but because we repent of our sins and trust Him and him alone as our Lord and Savior (Wiersbe 55).”

This isn’t saying that we can do what we want when we want. It is telling us that the freedom we have to do what we desire, to enter and leave, is only because the shepherd provides safety and peace. Left to ourselves, we breed chaos. Under Christ’s Lordship, we find His peace.

Shepherds are different than Rabbis

We read Psalm 23 and about shepherds in the New Testament and have a pretty good view of them but “no position in the world was so despised as that of the shepherd (Jeremias V 6, p 489).” According to a teaching of the Pharisees were "like the publicans and tax-gatherers they were deprived of civil rights, i.e., they could not fulfill a judicial office or be admitted in court as witnesses (Jeremias V 6, p 489).”

How strange it is that Jesus in this allegory references those who would “steal and kill and destroy” (v10) to be the Pharisees and those who attacked the man whom Jesus had just healed in chapter nine. Jesus is the one who protects His people from those who seek to destroy them.

He does that because we listen and know His voice. Isaac Hoopii was with the Pentagon Police on 9/11. After the crash, he immediately helped those around him. One account says that he started to go into the building with no mask or protective gear and shouted, “We gotta get people.”

Suffocating on smoke, Hoopii heard the building cracking. He called out, "Is anybody in here? Anybody here?"
Wayne Sinclair and five coworkers were crawling through rubble and had lost all sense of direction when they heard Hoopii's voice. They cried out, and Hoopii responded. "Head toward my voice. Head toward my voice." Following his voice, Sinclair and the others soon made their way out of the crumbling building (Kelly).
There are a lot of voices that lead us into danger not away from it, I know those voices well. The most well-meaning voice can lead us to death if we do not hear and heed the voice of our Lord and Savior.

Jesus provides the Ultimate SAR

I’m not talking about the joke about trusting Jesus to save you when two boats and a helicopter offer to save you from danger. I’m talking about the means of salvation which is eternally serious.

Jesus proclaims his purpose is to come and “give life and that abundantly”.  One study bible describes this as a life that is, “rich, full, joyful life, one overflowing with meaningful activities under the personal favor and blessing of God and in continual fellowship with his people (Crossway Bibles)." “It is an overflowing measure (Hendriksen V2, p110).”

The New Testament uses this word, almost always as a description of a “fullness present and proclaimed in the age of salvation (Hauck V6. P59) thus eschatological or dealing with the fullness of God’s Kingdom.

At the end of the Passover seder, those gather and sing “Next Year in Jerusalem”. It has been a prayer and hope since at least the 15th century ("L'shana Haba'ah").” I would suggest we change it to our situation. Since we would usually celebrate Communion now and it is something we do together as the Body of Christ. Perhaps we should start saying, “Next month together in worship.” 

In the meantime, give yourself over to Christ and let Him lead and direct you because only in that way, can the promise of Christ be fulfilled through us as his sheep. Peace.

                                                                                                                                 

Works Cited

Barclay, William. The Gospel of John. Vol. 2. Louisville, KY: Edinburgh, 2001. Print. The New Daily Study Bible.

Borchert, Gerald L. John 1–11. Vol. 25A. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996. Print. The New American Commentary.

Butterworth, Isaac. "Sermon: You Gotta Come in Through the Door - Shared By Isaac Butterworth". http://www.sermoncentral.com. 2011. Web. 8 Feb. 2017.
 Crossway Bibles. The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008. Print.

Fields, Asia. "3 Fishermen Rescued After Capsized Boat Found Off Oregon Coast." The Seattle Times 2020: Print.
 Hauck, Friedrich. “Περισσεύω, Ὑπερπερισσεύω, Περισσός, Ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ, Ὑπερεκπερισσῶς, Περισσεία, Περίσσευμα.” Ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological dictionary of the New Testament 1964– : 58–63. Print.
 Hendriksen, William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. Exposition of the Gospel According to John. Vol. 1–2. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. Print. New Testament Commentary.

Jeremias, Joachim. “Ποιμήν, Ἀρχιποίμην, Ποιμαίνω, Ποίμνη, Ποίμνιον.” Ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological dictionary of the New Testament 1964– : 485–502. Print.

Kelly, Brian. "Come Toward My Voice." U.S. News & World Report 2001: 24-32. Print.

"L'shana Haba'ah." En.wikipedia.org. Web. 30 Apr. 2020.

"Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue." Pnwsar.org. 2020. Web. 30 Apr. 2020.

Ryan, Jim. "Hikers Make Call for Help from Coast Range -- But End Up in Cuffs." Oregonian 2020. Web. 30 Apr. 2020.

"Search and Rescue." Co.washington.or.us. 2020. Web. 30 Apr. 2020.

Wiersbe, Warren W. Jesus in the Present Tense. 1st ed. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2011. Print.