Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Slaves and Wives

Mary Schertz points out in an article in Word & World that 1 Peter is structured around a central chiasm in 2:11-3:12. At the center is a hymn, celebrating the cross of Jesus, but on either side are words to slaves and wives. Schertz points out that "these slaves and wives were given the highest moral authority (after Jesus) in the internal life of the believing communities." Those with the least protections, those most vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse are singled out by the apostle because they, like Christ, must commit themselves to Him who judges righteously (2:23).

With Christ at the center, explicitly labeled our "example," wives of unbelieving husbands and slaves of harsh masters are encouraged in faithfulness but also pointed out as examples for the Christian community. If we want to see examples of faithfulness we have to look to the weak, to the vulnerable, to the unprotected who commit themselves to the Judge who judges righteously.


Monday, September 28, 2009

1 Peter 1:3-12

Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, we thank you for your Word, for our Lord Jesus, and for the promise of the Spirit to empower these words. Speak to us now, challenge us, change us, grow us up, and comfort us that we might be your people. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

We noted last week that Peter is writing to Christians in Asia Minor who have been scattered to their places, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, lead by the sanctifying Spirit, in order to be the covenant people of God in the Son (1:2).

Begotten Again
Continuing the Trinitarian theme, following the greeting, Peter launches into a Trinitarian “berekah” – the traditional Jewish blessing-prayer which continues through verse 12. The theme of the prayer is a new and lasting life through the mercy of God the Father in the resurrection of Jesus, revealed through the Holy Spirit. This means that we have been granted the status of the Son (1:3). Specifically, Peter says that we were “begotten again” in the resurrection of Jesus. When Jesus was “born again,” we were born again (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14-17, Col. 2:20, 3:3).

Salvation Inheritance
Frequently, popular misconceptions cloud out our ability to read Peter carefully. This salvation-inheritance is not “going to heaven when you die.” This truncated gospel misplaces what salvation is all about. Salvation is nothing less than the renewal of all creation (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15, Rev. 21:5). Peter says this inheritance is guarded in heaven (1:4) and ready to be “revealed in the last time” (1:5). We should note here that Peter later says that Jesus was manifested in the “last times” (1:20). So the “last time” begins with the incarnation. This “faith unto salvation” will be tested and revealed as “praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:7), and this is why they rejoice, believing that they are receiving this salvation (1:8-9). It was this “salvation” that the prophets searched after, and the Spirit of Christ testified to them concerning. What is this salvation inheritance? It is Christ’s sufferings and glory (1:10-11). And it is this gospel that has been preached which even the angels longed to look into (1:12, cf. Ps. 8, Heb. 1). Our salvation is the revelation of the sufferings and glory of Jesus. It is that inheritance which now belongs to us, and it is guarded in heaven by Jesus. This is why it cannot fade away. It is as indestructible as Jesus is. And it was revealed in Jesus’ first advent, it is revealed when He acts in history to deliver His people, and it will be revealed at the end of all things, at the resurrection.

More Precious than Gold
This faith unto salvation is “more precious than gold that perishes” (1:7), and its genuineness is confirmed by a long history of looking forward to this salvation through the work of the Holy Spirit (1:9-12). This “praise, honor, and glory” was prefigured in the tabernacle and temple and kingdom of Israel. Gold and all kinds of precious metals covered those garden-palaces signifying a return to Eden, a new creation, a return to fellowship with God, and restoration of man’s place in the world. But those places of worship were only dim shadows of the reality of man being restored to fellowship with God and ruling the world in wisdom. Jesus is the reality because Jesus rules at the Father’s right hand.

Conclusion & Applications
We should remember that this section is a hymn of praise. Worship is the foundation of Peter’s letter, and it is the foundation of our identity/salvation in the Father, Son, and Spirit. In worship we draw near to God, God draws near to us, and the world is reconciled in the Son through the Spirit. This is the new creation. We are the worshiping people of God, His new creation.

Last, believe the gospel that you have been begotten again to a living hope. You have been rescued from Egypt. You are kept by the power of God, and your salvation is as secure and glorious as Jesus at the right hand of the Father. And this new birth and living hope is for the world.

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

Closing Prayer: O God, we praise you and worship you, we bless your name. You are good, you are merciful to pitiful sinners, slaves and beggars who are so often ungrateful for your salvation. And frequently we are ungrateful in our unbelief. You offer us grace, and we don’t believe that you will really forgive us. You offer us salvation, and we aren’t sure you really mean it or we fear that we will lose it or that you will turn your back on us. Grant us grace to look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our father. And it’s in His name that we pray, praying as He taught us to pray….


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Atheist Delusions

Just finished (finally) Atheist Delusions by David Bentley Hart. Just two thoughts:

The first hundred pages or so of this book are just grand. Hart's bombastic and over-the-top rhetoric is in some of his other work pretty obtuse, perhaps unintentionally, and in other books one wonders how much intellectual flexing is going on. And perhaps there are works of his where it is just part of the jargon of doing philosophy in our world. But whatever the case, Hart's rhetoric is perfect for laying out the new atheists. He mocks them, harasses them, and generally has a great time of showing how their history and reasoning and logic are about as complex and meaningful as a six year old on a playground. There is some really useful historical work in this book as well, countering some of the more common claims that Christianity generally introduced anti-intellectualism, tyranny, and the mistreatment of women and slaves into the world. Hart handily dismantles various attempts at this and frequently shows that the reverse is actually the case. And he does this without glossing over various failures and problems in the story as well.

On the flip side, the book ends rather bland. While it doesn't quite reach shrill, his tone is far more tragic as the pages go on. Where he begins almost triumphalistically, calling the new atheists cowards and buffoons, he fears that their popularity is a symptom of a broad and grand sweeping change in the modern intellectual and religious landscape that signals the overwhelming retreat of Christianity from western culture. He cites the monastic movement as perhaps something of what the modern Church has to look forward to. And this tragic, retreatist conclusion was the most disappointing. While it's absolutely true that the Lord may have His people in a period of decline, and the scenery may change significantly as this occurs, this retreatist mentality is exactly what got us here in the first place. Now Hart is most certainly not advocating "running away," and his book is a clear example of cultural engagement. But his book begins as a rallying call, looking back at the progress of the gospel down through the centuries, despite many weaknesses and failures on the part of believers. But when it comes to the present, Hart fails to see the same possibilities, the same gospel leaven at work, and one gets the sense that Hart is something of a romantic, looking back in longing for the old days and rather bewildered by the modern world he faces.

Definitely worth the read, but also definitely disappointing, especially after such a fun start to the book. Maybe three stars.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fathering the World

In the first lesson this morning for morning prayer, we read about the famous episode in Elisha's ministry where he single-handedly disarmed the Syrian/Aramean Army (1 Kgs 6). In fact, he stands as a "father" over the battling kings. He intervenes to protect one king from slaughter; then he intervenes and protects the other king's army from slaughter. He is a "father" who steps in between a couple of toddler-kings whose most creative strategies extend to the possibilities striking and striking back.

Elisha stands in this position because he is the "man of God." And the Spirit-cloud with the host of heaven constantly stands encamped around him. He knows what the kings say in their bedrooms, and he intervenes to save and spare lives. After he leads the Syrian/Aramean Army (blind) into Samaria, he does not allow the Israelite king to kill the enemy troops, rather, he commands him to throw them a "great feast." Peter Leithart points out in his Kings commentary that this feast is ordered by Elisha in the midst of a great famine in the land. There is a great economic crisis, and Elisha orders a great deal of the remaining resources to be given to another nation.

What a glorious military strategy. Overwhelm them with feasting, until they cannot send their raiding bands any longer. Of course the Church is called to this "fatherly" ministry in the world. We gather every week for a feast, where we remember and enact the fact that this is God's primary strategy. He invites His enemies to a feast, he heaps up burning coals on our heads until we become His friends.

And this lesson is for the childish nations of the world.


Monday, September 21, 2009

1 Peter 1:1-2

Opening Prayer: Gracious Lord, guard our hearts and minds with your peace by your Holy Spirit that we might walk in your mercy all the days of our life. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Today we begin working through 1 Peter. Consider this series as a “you are here” map, specifically concerned with reviewing what it means to be the church, our mission in the world, and your role here.

Sent to Gather
Peter identifies himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” He is one of the twelve “sent out” to gather the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt. 10:6). This is Simon Peter, and he addresses the “pilgrims of the diaspora” which is Peter’s way of calling believing Jews and Gentiles the new Israel of God. More literally, they are “elect strangers of the diaspora” (1:1, cf. Js. 1:1). “Diaspora” literally means “scattering of seed.” In the Septuagint, the word is used to describe what will become of Israel if they break covenant (Dt. 28:25), but God also promises to gather Israel back up after they are scattered (Dt. 30:4, cf. Neh. 1:9). Remember also the theme of promised “seed” from Adam and Abraham and Israel. Those who went into exile and then return are called the “holy seed” (Is. 6:13, cf. Zech 10:9).

Elect Strangers
The label of “elect” originally applied to the old Israel over against the gentiles; they were a holy people, a chosen nation, a special treasure to God (Dt. 4:37, 7:6, 14:2, cf. Is. 45:4, 66:22). Furthermore, the terms “sanctification” and “sprinkling of the blood” are covenantal terms. Israel was the holy nation of God, and this was sealed by the literal sprinkling of blood on them (Ex. 24:8). This covenant ceremony is probably explicitly in view by Peter and explains why he says that their sanctification by the Spirit is “for obedience and sprinkling of the blood” (1:2). First, Israel was brought out of Egypt by the Spirit, then they made covenant at Sinai and got sprinkled with blood. These Christians scattered through Asia Minor are the new Israel. They are scattered strangers and simultaneously, the elect, holy, and the covenant people of God. Notice that Peter returns to these themes of election and exile at the end of his letter (5:13). Notice too that this identity is bound up with the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Grace and Peace
The actual greeting from Peter is a blessing, a benediction. As apparently became common in the early church, a form of the common Greek greeting was joined with the common Hebrew greeting: “grace and peace” [“chairein” and “shalom”]. Peter’s variation on Paul’s greeting (“grace to you and peace from God our Father…”) may simply be a different style (e.g. 2 Pet. 1:2, Jud. 1:2), but it is also striking that the same expression is used in letters in Daniel from Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:37) and Darius (6:25) in Babylon. This suggests something of an imperial greeting to the new kingdom of God, the scattered colonies growing throughout the world.

Conclusions & Applications
Peter writes as an ambassador of the King of the world to pilgrims in a foreign land. The Christian Church is the seed scattered throughout the world, but this time under the covenant blessing of the Lord (Mt. 28:18-19, Acts 1:8). This scattered seed will die and rise again, producing fruit out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. The Church family is the headquarters of the kingdom. Here is where grace and peace is multiplied for the world until it fills the world.

Are you living like colonists? Are you taking the patterns, the speech, the communion, the mercy that you find here and pushing into the corners of your lives?

Do you have the hope and faith of a kingdom that is growing and cannot be stopped? Do you have this hope and faith when the kids are out of sorts? When your wife is late coming home?

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

Closing Prayer: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we thank you for your grace and peace to us. We thank you that you have established your kingdom in this world through your church, and that you have scattered us throughout the world that we might be planted in the nations in order to bear much fruit for your glory and honor. Grant that we might always remember this, and joyfully partake in it. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray singing…


1 Peter 1:3

1 Peter 1:3 says:

Blessed be the God and Father
>Of our Lord Jesus Christ
>>Who according to His abundant mercy
>>>Has begotten us again
>>To a living hope
>Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
From the dead.

This structure highlights the great reversal that God the Father has accomplished "from the dead." It also centers the point of our being "begotten again." The parallels of "Jesus Christ" suggest that the Sonship of Christ is in view in Christ's resurrection. He is declared to be the Son of God with power in the resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). And the glorious thing is that we are the ones being "begotten again." Our status is the status of sons, the status of the Son raised from the dead.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Triune Blessing

John Elliott points out that the blessing in 1 Pet. 1:3-12 is tripartite and corresponds fairly closely to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: a. "Blessed be the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ..." (1:3-5) b. "that the genuineness of your faith... may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him..." (1:6-9) c. "Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully... searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them...through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven..." (1:10-12).


Calvin and Music

James Jordan's recent lecture on Calvin and Music is now available on the New St. Andrews College website, as well as a round table discussion with Peter Leithart and Douglas Wilson.


The Patience of God

One of the things that this table reminds us of every week is the patience and mercy of God. We stumble and fall, we forget, we are unkind, we are liars and cheaters, and yet God sets this feast for us week after week. And He commands us to come and eat. Come here and receive grace; come here and be accepted, be forgiven, find wisdom. But we don’t want to. In our sin, we cower and hold back. Maybe we eat the bread and drink the wine, but we do so with a guilty conscious. We think we’re not worthy, but we’re afraid of what our neighbor would think if we didn’t partake. But that’s not for you to decide. None of you have the freedom to excommunicate yourselves, either actually or mentally. You may not come in here and tell the Lord Jesus that his grace is not sufficient for you. Don’t pretend that you know better than Jesus. He knows your sins, your failings, your weakness, and your guilt, and he says to come. Come eat, come drink, come rejoice. This is my body broken for you; this is my blood shed for the forgiveness of sins. Stop pretending that you have to get right first, that you have to clean yourself up and then come. No just come. God knows you’ve been running, He knows you’ve been avoiding Him, and yet, here He is again, and says, come eat and drink. I have more grace and mercy for you. Don’t go anywhere else. Put away your substitutes, your other gods you go to soothe your guilty conscience. The God of heaven is found in Jesus, and He is here, and calls you to eat and drink with Him. So come.


Speaking Up

When is it right to speak up and tell someone they are wrong? When is it right to speak, knowing that you may even cause offense? Great wisdom is needed here, but two principles to start: First, clearly if God has spoken, we must also. Grace and love should come before and after, but refusing to tell the truth is not love but a subtle form of hatred. If you see your brother in sin, it is a great sin to refuse to say something. If your roommate is looking at pornography, it is not love to ignore it. If your roommate dresses immodestly, it’s not kindness to overlook it. If it’s sin, speak up. If you’re not sure if it’s sin, but it looks pretty suspicious, ask them. If they cannot see a brother or sister truly concerned for them, then they have other problems, even if they weren’t actually in the sin you asked them about. Secondly, in many grey areas, we are tempted to close our mouths when we should probably say something. And here it is challenging: We remember that the pastor has told us not to over-share, and that there is a difference between principles and methods, and we don’t want to offend someone with a contrary opinion. But wisdom is found in a multitude of counselors. These counselors may come in the form of the living and the dead, but they are fathers and mothers that God calls us to honor. So maybe it’s not porn, but sheesh that’s a lot of skin man, turn that thing off, don’t you have any honor? Or maybe it’s gently pointing out that your friends children are a consistent bad influence on your children when they come over to the house. Have you noticed that your son always cries when he loses? Have you noticed that your daughter is especially friendly with all the boys? And some people won’t take these things well, but your job is to love them. Your job is to seek their blessing, their benefit. And trust God to work out the ruffles. This is what living in community is all about. When we take membership vows and baptismal vows, we are entrusting ourselves to one another. We are swearing to one another that we will look out for each other. Of course, check your motives, don’t be picky, don’t be cranky, and remember that with the same measure you judge, you will be judged. But that’s not a straight-jacket; you are called to love.

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:1-2)


Evangelism Summit

Mark your calendars for this January 11-13, and plan to be in sunny Santa Cruz, CA. A few friends and I will be speaking at our first annual summit on evangelism, particularly for pastors and others interested in evangelism in the CREC.

More details forthcoming.


Dr. Luke

A friend of mine is working on this networking resource for Christians in the medical industry. Check out Dr. Luke.


Monday, September 07, 2009

God's Soup Kitchen

This table is God’s soup kitchen. This table is where God feeds the hungry, the outcast, the disabled, the orphaned, the abused, the neglected, the lonely, and the lost. And this means at least two things: First, this table is not for people who are fine thank you very much. This food is not for the well-fed, those who get along pretty well on their own, the fit, or the popular. This table is not for people are basically good but screw up every once in a while. This table is for the messed up. It’s for people who are failures. It’s for parents who have failed their children. It’s for children who have failed their parents. It’s for spouses who have failed one another. This table is for the needy, the broken, and the weak. It is for those who are starving for God’s grace and mercy, and they will die if they do not have it. If you know your need, if you know that you are weak, that you are lonely, that you are failure on your own, and that you need your faithful Father’s love and care, then come. This meal is for you. This is grace and mercy for you. Secondly, Paul says that when we eat this sacrament we need to discern the Lord’s body, we need to see Jesus. And as we have emphasized before, this doesn’t mean squinting hard at the bread and wine trying to see flesh and blood somehow. Paul is talking about seeing Jesus in those around you, seeing Jesus next to you and behind you as you serve one another and partake together. But putting these two things together means that Jesus wants you to see Him in the neediness of those around you; He wants you to see Him in the hungry, the outcast, the disabled, the orphaned around you. He wants you to see Him there. He wants you to see Him in those people who are different from you; He wants you to see Him in those you have had disagreements with. He wants you to see Him even in those who may have wronged you. He wants you to give them bread for their hunger and give them wine for their thirst. So come to God’s soup kitchen. Come to the banquet spread for the needy of the world. Come and rejoice because there is plenty of grace for you. Jesus gives Himself to you, and He calls you to eat, drink, and rejoice in and with one another.


Please Shut Up

What’s the difference between sharing your opinion and over-sharing? What’s the difference between being thankful for what you enjoy, what you like, what God has given you and on the other hand implying that your way is the only way, the best way, and all other methods are foolish, backward, and borderline sinful? There is a great deal of wisdom needed in this area, but let’s start with two things. First is real and genuine thankfulness to God for His kindness. In other words, real and genuine thankfulness can’t stop talking about the kindness of God. It sees God’s hand in all of the details. When God gives, when God provides, when God blesses, thankfulness receives and rejoices in the gift and the Giver. This applies to the food you eat, the medicine you take, the medical decisions you make, educational decisions, housing decisions, money spending and saving decisions, the movies you watch, the movies you don’t watch, books you read, music you listen to, clothes you wear, jewelry, and so on. The first thing is to check your motives. Are you talking about these things with thankfulness to God for how He has blessed you in this area? Are you talking about those vaccinations with gratitude deep down in your heart to the God of all creation? Are you rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ for the way He has led you in the standards you have for your family regarding movies and television? Or are you cranky or complaining? How has God blessed you? If you can’t say how God has blessed you, then you probably should keep your mouth shut. Your opinion is not flowing out of thankfulness to the Lord and Giver of Life. And finally, when we talk about these things, it must be remembered that God gives us principles, and then He requires us to apply them with wisdom. He tells us to train up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He does not send you an email and tell you to sign up your child for a particular class. God calls us to love life and preserve life. He doesn’t say to avoid high cholesterol foods or meat pumped full of hormones. God requires us to meditate on those things which are good and true and lovely; He didn’t give us a list of approved movies and books. If God has blessed you and poured His kindness upon you, and you are sharing God’s goodness and if you can clearly see the principle that God blessed in and how He led you to wisely follow Him in the details then by all means share, discuss, laugh, and enjoy. But if you can’t see the difference between principles and methods, and you’re just on a crusade for some cause, please shut up. The tongue is a small but deadly weapon.

“But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (Js. 3:8)