Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Forgiveness as Incense

“Through our forgiveness, which is a sort of daily incense of spirit offered to God on the altar of the heart – the heart we are bidden to lift up – we are enabled, even if we do not live here without sin, to die without sin, when time and again God’s forgiveness erases those sins which time and again, through ignorance or weakness, we commit.” (Augustine, On Nature and Grace, 52)

I love several parts of this: First, Augustine points out that our forgiving of others is an act of worship. Just as prayers and praise directly to God can be acts of worship, so too, our acts of faithful obedience like releasing others from their debts, forgiving their trespasses, those acts are worship, they are like incense that rises as a pleasing aroma to God. Secondly, I love the reference to the Sursum Corda, the "Lift up your hearts!" that the minister declares as we gather for worship. This is an ancient call to worship that has been used literally since the early church. The response from the congregation is: "We lift them up to the Lord!" It is itself a call and a recognition that in Christian worship, God's people are invited into his presence, into his heavenly presence, and thus the Sursum Corda is a call to ascend into the heavenly places. Again, Augustine is pointing out that the same heart that we lift up to the Lord on Lord's Day is the same heart that is called to release, to forgive, to let go and give mercy and grace. And this leads to the third thing: Augustine takes the words of the gospel seriously. Christ says that if we do not forgive others their trespasses against us, neither will our heavenly father forgive us our trespasses. This is a horrific warning that I suspect many glibly pass over and try not to think to deeply about. But Augustine says that we cannot lift up hearts to the Lord for blessing and grace that refuse to extend that same grace and blessing to those around us. Or the other way around: If we lift our hearts up to the Lord, crying out for mercy, how can we not forgive those who lift their hearts up to us for forgiveness, for mercy. And while some may worry that Augustine is teetering on some sort of works-righteousness scheme suggesting that God forgives us (in some sense) literally when we are faithful to forgive those around us, the problem is not in what Augustine says or even encourages us to do. The problem comes when people make it into an math problem, a formula for manipulating God. But of course that will never do, and they've got another thing coming to them. Lift up your hearts, people. Forgiveness is a pleasing aroma to God.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

River, Felicity, and of course Tovia

We continue to be so thankful for all the answered prayers for Miss Tovia. As you can see in this picture, she (as of today, Sunday) is tube-free. No more needles, no more tubes. She has gone to full bottle feeds, and our hope is that she can keep it up with out getting too worn out. Her eye exam last Friday went well, and the doc says she's got remarkably good eyes. Thank you for your prayers; Lord willing, Tovia will be home in the next couple of weeks.


Face Bread

As we considered the instructions for building the tabernacle, we noticed that there was to be a table overlaid in gold in the presence of Yahweh. It was to have “showbread” on it and was to be before Yahweh always (25:30). This showbread is literally “face bread,” and it perhaps derives its name from the fact that it is literally “before the face of” Yahweh. But generally it refers to the nearness and presence of God, and therefore we might call it the bread of the presence or the bread of nearness. Of course most of Israel will never eat of this bread, only those priests who work in the tabernacle will be allowed to eat of this bread. This bread of God’s face reminds us of the elders and priests on Mt. Sinai who saw God and ate with him (24:11).

There’s so much meaning in the face. When we don’t want to talk to people we tend to look the other way. When we don’t want to be seen, we hide our face. If when we’re slightly embarrassed or ashamed we look down or away. This is why the Aaronic benediction says “The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you…” For the Lord to look at you is for him to be gracious to you. This table is where God assures you of his intentions to bless you. This is the bread of the presence, the bread of God’s face that he gives to you. And week after week, we stumble and trip up, and God keeps inviting us back here and he doesn’t look away. He doesn’t turn his face from you. Jesus turns his face toward you and invites you to eat and drink with him. He looks at you like the adulterous women in the gospel and asks, ‘where are your accusers?’ Go and sin no more. God has not turned his face from you; this is the table of his presence. Here you eat bread and drink wine before his face. Jesus looks at you and causes his face to shine upon. He rejoices over you; He smiles when he sees you. So come eat, drink, and rejoice.


Sixth Sunday in Easter: Exodus 25-26: Impressing God’s Pattern on the World

Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, you are determined to build the kingdom of your Son in this world. We ask that as we consider the construction of the tabernacle, you would teach us wisdom to be faithful in the tasks you have given to us. Through Jesus, Amen!

Remember that the Covenant with God has to do with being near to God. It has to do with God being in their midst and their being able to be near to God (23:21, 24:1-2, 16-18). The “nearest” an Israelite could get was at the foot of the mountain, while the elders could go part way up, and only Moses could go into the midst of the cloud/fire (24:18). Here Yahweh is outlining and giving instructions for how he will dwell with his people.

An Offering and the Pattern
Yahweh tells Moses to have Israel bring an offering (a T’RUMAH), a “high up thing” (25:1). This is a striking parallel to what we have just seen on the mountain, where Moses went into the presence of God high up, on top of the mountain. The fact that this offering is for the tabernacle suggests that whatever happened at the “mountain of meeting” will in some sense be repeated at the “tabernacle of meeting” (27:21, 28:43, etc.). As Yahweh was present at the top of the mountain for Moses to draw near to him, he will be present “in their midst” in the tabernacle (25:8, cf. 23:21, 24:1-2, 16-18). Moses is to construct the tabernacle according to the pattern that Yahweh showed him at the mountain (25:9, 40, 26:30) which is the “pattern” of chapter 24. The following instructions are the “pattern” in more detail (25:9). In other words, the tabernacle is meant to be a replica of the mountain. Yahweh will draw near to Israel at this tent just as at the mountain. The offering itself is likely taken up primarily from the spoils of Egypt (Ex. 11:2, 12:35).

The Coffin, the Ransom, and the Cherubim
The “ark” that Yahweh has Moses build is a wooden box overlaid in gold (25:10-11). The only previous use of this word for ark (ARONE) was for Joseph’s coffin (Gen. 50:26). But this is a coffin made to be carried; it’s permanently portable (25:12-15). The “testimony” is supposed to go inside this golden coffin (25:16). In fact, the ark is often called the “ark of the testimony” (25:22, 26:33-34, 30:6, etc.). The lid of this golden coffin is called the “mercy seat” in most translations, but the word does not directly mean “mercy” or “seat” (25:17). While it may be related to the verb for cover/cover over (cf. Gen. 6:14), it appears to be more associated with actions of ransom and redemption (Gen. 32:21, Ex. 21:30, 30:10, Lev. 4:20ff, esp. 16:30, Num. 16:47-48, 35:31). It can sometimes even refer to a bribe (e.g. Pr. 6:35, Amos 5:12). The New Testament calls it the “propitiation” (Heb. 9:5). Two cherubim stand on top of the lid, all one piece of pure gold (25:17-20). This is a clear allusion to the Garden of Eden where two cherubim were stationed at the entrance to prevent access back into the garden (Gen. 3:24). Perhaps significant is the fact that these cherubim are not armed with a sword, but it’s striking that they are permanently attached to the lid. Their wings spread out covering over the “ransom” (cf. Ps. 5:12, 91:4) and their faces are toward one another and toward the “ransom” (25:20). It is above the cherubim that Yahweh will meet with Moses and Israel (25:22).

The Table and Lampstand and Tabernacle
There is much that might be considered in the rest of the passage we are considering today, but I want to concentrate on the big picture. Exodus 25-26 are the instructions for the Tabernacle proper, the tent which housed the holy place and most holy place (e.g. 26:33). We should notice that there is gold covering everything: The ark is gold, the ransom-lid and cherubim are gold, the table and the lampstand are also made of “pure gold” (25:24, 31, 36, 38-39). Notice that the boards of the tent and the rings for the curtains are all gold as well (26:6, 29, 32, 37). This is Yahweh’s royal throne room, but all this gold would reflect the burning lamps creating a fiery light throughout the tent, picturing the top of the mountain where Yahweh’s presence was a “consuming fire” (24:17). There are also cherubim throughout: (26:1, 31); Yahweh is still guarded by angels. Humanity is being invited back closer to the garden, but it is still guarded. Not only is the structure and curtains and veils meticulously ordered, but the furniture is put in particular places as well (26:33-37). God’s house is both beautiful and orderly.

Conclusions & Applications
One on the important things to note is the overall context of what’s going on here. Immediately following the Sinai covenant God gives the instructions for building the tabernacle from chapters 25-31. There are seven speeches in this section of Exodus (25:1, 30:11, 17, 22, 34, 31:1, and 31:12), and this might not seem too striking except for the fact that the seventh speech is a command to keep the Sabbath and a reminder of the creation week (31:17). The point is that building the tabernacle is parallel to the creation of the world. But the opposite is true as well: Israel building the tabernacle is God’s way of beginning to remake the world. Israel will begin to remake the world by building a house of worship and taking that beauty and order into the world.

The “pattern” that Moses saw ultimately points to Jesus who is the true tabernacle (Jn. 1:14). The image/pattern of God has been distorted in humanity and in the world, and it is being refashioned through the work of Christ and his Spirit. This is why worship is so important. Here God reshapes our words, our actions, our thoughts, our lives in order that we might go out there and reshape the world according to this pattern. We learn to confess sin here and seek forgiveness so that we can do it out there. We learn to give thanks for all things here so that we can do it our there. We learn to love God’s story here so that we can see and love God’s story out there. We learn to pray here so that we can pray out there. We learn to eat together here so that we can fellowship and rejoice together out there. We are blessed here so that we can go out bless others. This is God’s way of remaking the world: this is the pattern of the mountain that God intends to impress upon the world. So what’s your house like? What’s in the center?

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Almighty and gracious God, we have come to a mountain that cannot be touched, to mount Zion the city of the living God where all the saints in heaven and earth meet worship you. Grant us faithfulness to be faithful Adams and Eves in this world that we might follow your example impressing your glory on this world.


Given Dominion

As we celebrate the sixth Sunday in Easter today we’re looking forward to Ascension Sunday next Lord’s Day. This Thursday is Ascension Day proper (the fortieth day after the Resurrection), and we will mark the Ascension even more in our worship next Sunday. The Sunday after that is Pentecost, the fiftieth day after the Resurrection marking the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the Christian Church.

But Ascension Day is not merely the day we remember that Jesus left us. Ascension Day is not the celebration of Jesus disappearing. The Ascension is the enthronement of Jesus. The Ascension is what Daniel saw in his vision centuries earlier when he said, “I was watching in the night visions, and behold one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven and he came to the Ancient of Days…” (Dan. 7:13). Notice where this Son of Man is coming to: He’s not coming to earth. He’s coming to the Ancient of Days. And Daniel goes on: “Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” (Dan. 7:14). When Jesus ascended into heaven he was crowned king of the world, and given a kingdom that will never be destroyed.

As we gather this morning, we gather as the subjects of this king, as the citizens of his kingdom. And we gather with millions of saints throughout the world, with those who have gone before us, and all the angels. Therefore rejoice; our king reigns over this world in perfect sovereignty. And all the nations and kings and presidents and prime ministers are under his rule, whether they like it or not. Glory in this today, glory in this throughout the week, and celebrate this Thursday with your families and friends. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Tovia Closer to Home

God continues to be so kind to us and to our daughter Tovia. Tovia is now completely off all IVs and is at 'full-feeds' of mom's milk. Another wonderful development was that she was transferred this last Friday back to the hospital she was born in, a closer, smaller hospital, allowing us to visit Tovia more frequently and more conveniently. This is a great vote of confidence from the doctors, indicating that they think she is on the way to coming home.

I promise, promise, promise that I will have a new picture up very soon, but I did want to thank you for your many prayers. God has heard and answered them. Tovia is on track to be able to come home in 2-3 weeks. She needs to be able to take all her feedings by bottle/nursing, and this is something that preemie babies have to work up to. It is a thoroughly exhausting workout for a 3 pound baby to suck down a few ounces of milk, so she's working up to it. Pray that she grows in strength and size and stamina. Lord willing, she will be home soon.

Glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!


Drinking the Spirit

Earlier we considered what St. Paul says about the Holy Spirit baptizing all believers into one body. In the same place, Paul says that we have all been made to drink into one Spirit as well. Given the fact that Paul has already mentioned baptism and in the previous chapter has had an extended discussion of the Lord’s Supper, particularly concerned with making sure that everyone is served and no one is overlooked, it seems fairly certain that when Paul says that we have been made to drink of the Holy Spirit, he means primarily this table. This is one of the primary ways in which God the Holy Spirit knits us together as one body. Doug Jones pointed out yesterday that the blood of Christ is not only atonement before God but that it is what joins the body of Christ together. The blood of Christ is what unites joints, muscles, organs, and limbs so that they work together. And that’s why Jesus says that this cup is the new covenant in his blood. That’s what covenants do; a covenant binds a man and a woman together, a covenant forms a family, a nation, a kingdom. We are the covenant in the blood of Jesus, and as we serve one another here, passing bread and wine to each other, we are the body of Christ. And the Spirit works to strengthen us individually, but perhaps even more miraculously, the Spirit works to bind us together. To make us a stronger body, to make the eyes more appreciative of the feet, and the hands more thankful for the mouth. This is the wonderful work of the Holy Spirit, who loves to knit us together taking different notes, different rhythms and makes it all harmonize, makes it all sing. So come, eat, drink, and rejoice in one another, you are the body of Christ and the Spirit is binding you together.


Sudden Urges to Love

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul says that it is the Holy Spirit who has baptized all sorts of people into one body. And he insists that a body must have different members, different parts. If it doesn’t have different parts it’s not a body. But the tragedy in many churches is that we tend to do the very thing that Paul says not to do. He says not all believers are eyes, not all believers are feet or arms, and he insists that that’s a good thing, otherwise where would the body be if we were just a collection of right thumbs? But we tend to get suspicious of other body parts, we get suspicious of differences, and all the thumbs tend to band together in one congregation and peer doubtfully over at the church across the street with all the elbows. But Paul says that the Holy Spirit knits the body of Christ together; it is the Holy Spirit that makes eyes, joints, ligaments, livers, and knee caps to come together and function in harmony as one body. In our own strength and if left to ourselves, people attract like people: it’s more comfortable to hang out with people who have similar backgrounds, have similar interests, and are pursuing similar goals. But Paul says that’s easy. Anyone can do that. But God is at work knitting together a body full of opposites, a body of slaves and slave masters, a body of Gentiles and Jews, a body of people that aren’t usually supposed to get along or associate, much less like one another. And that’s how you know the Spirit is at work; that’s how you know this isn’t just another social club. Anyone can get a bunch of similar people to like each other, but only the Holy Spirit can get opposites to attract; only the Holy Spirit can make a family out of enemies and teach them to love one another. And that’s why it’s no accident that Paul goes immediately from talking about how different we are to the fact that the greatest gift of the Spirit is love. That’s how you know the Holy Spirit is filling and empowering you because you find yourself having sudden urges to love people you previously would have avoided like the plague.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tovia the Political Analyst

In this picture, Tovia is clearly wondering about who she would vote for in the coming presidential election or probably more likely why she has to vote for any of them. Either that or why Dad is taking another picture.

Thank you so much for the many prayers that have been offered for Tovia over the last few weeks. God continues to be very good and kind to us and our daughter. When we last reported, Tovia had begun eating momma's milk, just a little bit at a time. She did well for a couple of days, but then things started getting a little backed up. She seemed to have a "slow drain." The doctors took her off the feedings and did another study to check her whole digestive track; the results came back looking better than ever. Her intestine that had been swollen and shrinking looked wonderfully normal. So... without knowing exactly what was going on, the doctors went back to feeding her. We are now on day four or five of feedings, slowly increasing the amount of milk each day. We have now passed the mark we made it up to last time, and she seems to be doing very well. One of the great signs is that the last few days she's been filling diapers like a champ. Everything looks great.

Our current prayer is that she would keep taking her feedings and handle the increases well enough to get her off her IV on Friday. She's got this PICC line, an IV commonly given to preemie babies that lasts longer, but it's due to get changed Friday. The doctors say that if she's cruising with her food, gaining weight, etc. then they will just take the PICC out altogether. That's our prayer.

Thanks again for your support in so many ways. God has clearly heard and answered many prayers.

"The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them." (Ps. 145:18-19)


This is the Covenant

“And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words. Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel… So they saw God, and they ate and drank.” (Ex. 24:8-9, 11).

It is no accident that these words are so reminiscent of Christ’s words at the last supper. Of course there are differences: Christ did not sprinkle blood on his disciples. In fact, the only sprinkling that took place was the washing of feet. The other difference of course is that instead of sprinkling the blood of the covenant, Jesus gave the blood of the new covenant to his disciples as a cup of wine to be drunk. But the overarching parallels are unmistakable. As the disciples ate and drank with Jesus, they like the elders of Israel centuries before “saw God” and “ate and drank” with him. Instead of a mountain, it was an upper room, and instead sapphire stones beneath his feet, there was probably a humble upper room floor. Of course Jesus has ascended back into heaven, but Paul doesn’t believe that we no longer see God. In fact he says in 1 Corinthians 11 that we ought discern the Lord’s body. We are to look and see Him here as we eat and drink. How do we do this? Does it happen as we squint and look really closely at the bread and the wine? Is there some kind of magic trick that happens such that if we put the elements under a microscope we would see Jesus? Of course not. The Body of Christ is you. You are the Church, and as the Church you make up the body of Christ. So discern the body of Jesus in one another. You are the body of Christ because you have been given the Spirit of Christ. God has put his Spirit in your midst. He has put his Name upon you. He has drawn near to you so that you may draw near to him. Therefore come: eat, drink, and see God.


Fourth Sunday in Easter: Exodus 23-24: The God Who Draws Us Near

Opening Prayer: Almighty and merciful God, we bow before you now as our only God, our only strength, our only savior. Grant that we might be taught by your word, and give us hearts and minds and bodies that are receptive and obedient to your word. Through Jesus, your Word, Amen!

Today we consider the climax of the covenant which God renewed with the people of Israel at Sinai. This covenant was in fulfillment of the promises to Abraham (Gen. 15:12ff, Ex. 2:24, 6:3-5, 20:1). The Book of the Covenant closes reminding Israel of their royal Sabbath callings (23:1-19). The covenant is that relationship that God has initiated to bring humanity back into fellowship with God, to bring us near to God again.

My Angel
The Angel goes before Israel to “guard” and to “lead” Israel into the place God has prepared for Israel (23:20, cf. Gen. 24:7). The command is to “guard” Him and “obey” his words and do not “provoke/be bitter against” him (23:21). The threat is that he will not forgive their sins if they do not obey him because the name of God is in him. The fact that this angel can forgive sins means that this is no ordinary angel. Jim Jordan points out that this Angel is doing the very things that Adam was called to do: “guard” and “speak” the words of God and “lead” his wife. But this Angel of Yahweh is not only an Adam, he is also Yahweh Himself (Gen. 16:7-13, Ex. 3:2ff, Jdg. 6:11-22). The name “Yahweh,” is literally “in his midst.” Therefore this Angel can be understood as none other than God himself, the second person of the Trinity. In fact “his words” and God’s “voice” are synonymous (23:22). Likewise, obeying the Angel of Yahweh is “serving” Yahweh (23:25). Serving and obeying the Angel of God cannot mean anything less than serving God Himself since all other gods are forbidden to Israel (e.g. 23:24, 33). This “Angel” is apparently also synonymous with the “fear” of Yahweh (cf. Gen. 31:53) that will be sent before Israel into the land to cause confusion among their enemies (23:27). Serving Yahweh faithfully will mean that he will be enemy to their enemies (23:22), and he will slowly drive them from the land (23:28-33). This Angel will go before them to provide food and life for Israel (23:25-26). All of this is tied to keeping covenant with Yahweh and not making covenants with their enemies or their gods (compare 23:32 and 24:8).

Drawing Near
The point of covenant is fellowship and communion with God. Yahweh calls Moses, Aaron, and his sons, and the 70 elders up the mountain to “worship” (24:1). Again, this is in contrast to “worshipping” the Canaanite gods (23:24). But they will worship from “afar” in contrast to Moses who shall “come near Yahweh” (Ex. 24:2). Drawing near is worship, and the entire sacrificial system is for Israel to draw near to God (e.g. Lev. 1:2-3). Because of sin, blood must be shed for humanity to draw near to God, but even this must be done in the context of covenant. So the people make promises (24:3, 7), and the covenant is sealed with blood and a feast (24:5-8). The people offer ascension offerings and peace offerings (24:5). And then Moses and company “go up” and eat and drink with God. Moses and the elders more literally perform that which the rest of Israel have done. With out going into the details too much, it is most likely that Moses and the elders see the Angel of God. As we have already noted, when people see the Angel of Yahweh, they often say that they have seen God. Remember that the Angel has God’s name in him or in his midst (23:21), and literally it is in his “nearness.” The Angel of God is God’s nearness to Israel. To be in covenant with God, to have his blood cover us, is for God to be near to us. But where the elders draw somewhat nearer than the rest of Israel, Moses and Joshua drawn the nearest to God at the top of the mountain in the consuming fire (24:17). But notice that Moses goes up into the mountain, and the glory of Yahweh called to Moses out of the “midst” of the cloud (24:16). Finally, Moses goes into the “midst” of the cloud (24:18). While the word for “midst” is not the same as the one related to drawn near or nearness, the idea is the same. God has come near.

Conclusions and Applications
Notice the pattern: Israel is at the foot of the mounting eating and worshipping God, the seventy elders and others are halfway up the mounting eating and worshipping and seeing God, and Moses ascends even further into the presence of God where God is a “consuming fire.” There is eating going on at every level. This is the covenant that God has drawn us into: it is fellowship with God, eating and drinking with God, being drawn near to him so that he may have all of us.

We serve the God who draws near. In eternity, the persons of the Trinity “draw near” to one another. Theologians call this perichoresis, the idea that the persons of the Trinity indwell and fill one another. And because we serve the God who draws near, when we were far from God, he drew near to our forefathers and ultimately came near in Immanuel, God with Us. Jesus is God’s nearness to us. He was acquainted with sorrows and has tasted life and understands our weaknesses. And now he is our Moses standing in the presence of God, in the consuming fire, near to God for us.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Almighty and gracious God, we thank you for drawing near to us. We praise you for Jesus who is you Angel, your Messenger, in whom you have put your name. We thank you that in him we have the forgiveness of sins, and that you have brought us near through the blood of the new covenant. Teach us to trust him, to obey him, and give us faith to do so more and more.


God Saves Sinners

One of the oldest heresies in history of the church is Gnosticism. Gnosis means knowledge, and Gnosticism is the heresy that teaches or assumes or believes that holiness and salvation are primarily or entirely related to information or propositions that people think in their minds or believe in their hearts. Of course people don’t go around introducing themselves as Gnostics; it comes out when people either devalue the physical or conclude that they are altogether irrelevant. In the early church Gnostics tended to extreme asceticism, denying their bodies everything because they were evil and got in the way of true spirituality or they would indulge in whatever pleasures or activities they wanted because their bodies were merely along for the ride. What really matters, they all agreed, was inside the mind, inside the soul. Modern day Gnostics take these same forms. It doesn’t matter what my clothes look like, it’s what’s on the inside that really matters. It doesn’t matter what my hair looks like, God looks at the heart. It doesn’t matter how I look, my faith is all that God cares about, as though faith were a little fuzzy spot inside your belly. And this is not at all to suggest that you must look a certain way first before God will begin working on you. God begins his work on corpses, people who are dead and rotting in the grave. God saves sinners, and therefore it’s no surprise that sinners often look like it. But it will not do for covenant children to grow up as the royal sons and daughters of the King and begin wishing they could go back to looking like lost and confused dead people. God does not just want your minds or your hearts. God wants all of you. He wants you to love him with your clothing, with your jewelry, with your hair, with your imagination, with all that you are. None of it is irrelevant, and God has given it to you as a great gift. Therefore rejoice in these gifts: serve God with your bodies. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.


Monday, April 07, 2008


We are grateful to report that Tovia is doing well and God has clearly been answering our prayers. At the end of this last week we received a particularly wonderful volley of good news. Several tests that had been done to check for various genetic/chromosomal abnormalities came back completely clear. Praise God!
You may remember that we (and the doctors) have been particularly concerned for a swollen small intestine, and this last Saturday's x-rays showed that it has shrunk by about 50% in size. Because of these concerns the doctors have been reluctant to introduce much food into the equation. However, she was started on small feedings of mom's milk over the last week, and we had a happy Sabbath morning phone call to announce that Tovia's plumbing was up and running. This was really good news!

All this good news means that we can keep feeding her and continue to increase the amounts each day as long as she keeps handling it well. It is still a day by day wait, but things look very positive and it looks like we should be able to avoid surgery! We are still expecting Tovia to be in the NICU for a number of weeks, but we are thankful that she is making progress to be able to come home. Jenny is also feeling a little better each day. Thank you for your many prayers, gifts, and kind words.

Praise God for He is kind.


Deep Joy

As God gives reformation to us and to our families and to our communities, one of the characteristics we should be expecting and working towards is a deep and profound joy to permeate all that we do. This is not the same thing as some kind of happy-clappy cheerleader joy that some Christians are constantly trying to gin up. Rather this is a joy that’s down in our bones, a joy that knows that Jesus has been raised from the dead and is now King of the world, a joy that knows that God is at work remaking this entire world until the earth is full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, a joy that knows that not a hair can fall from our heads apart from the will of our heavenly father, and a joy that knows and believes that somehow – wonder of all wonders – God has drawn near to us. This God who has come near to us, is not only God with us but he is God for us. He is the God who involves himself with our lives, rejoices over us as beloved sons and daughters, and is leading us through life to a sure destination, to resurrection and joy everlasting. This deep joy and thankfulness is one which is able to see the world with greater clarity, and this means that the important things in life are seen as important things and the little things are seen as little things. Laughing with your children, dancing with your wife, singing psalms with God’s people, worshipping on the Lord’s day, feasting in your homes and with one another, working hard and rejoicing in the fruit of your labor… all of these things are the good gifts of God to be pursued with thankfulness and joy. And that means that there really isn’t any room for pettiness and pickiness. There are far too many in our tradition who have spent their lives cultivating this sort of pious prickliness. They’ve got scruples about everything and just about everything rubs them the wrong way. But Jesus is risen from the dead. Stop worrying about the color of the carpet, stop bickering about where the dirty laundry goes, who cares that a few ‘t’s’ need to be crossed or an ‘I’ is missing a dot. Put away your petty squabbles: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.


Friday, April 04, 2008



Wednesday, April 02, 2008


9. The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald
10. Reformed Is Not Enough by Wilson
11. What Saint Paul Really Said by Wright
12. The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love by Augustine