Friday, January 29, 2010

Havering to You

haver [ˈheɪvə]
vb (intr) Brit
1. to dither
2. Scot and northern English dialect to talk nonsense; babble
(usually plural) Scot nonsense
[of unknown origin]

"And if I haver yeah I know I'm gonna be/
I'm gonna be the man who's havering to you."


Remembering the Magic

Just back a little while ago from giving a talk at Logos School as part of the culmination of their Knights Festival. Today they finish with an enormous feast, plays, and lots of fun. Here are my notes from the talk below.

What is feasting for?

Genesis 1-2 opens with the creation of the world and lots of food. All of the food was “yes,” and only the fruit from one tree was “no.” And we all know what happened. But this establishes a pattern throughout the Bible that repeatedly reveals food and eating and feasting as test.

Consider the Promised Land where great bounty and increase were heaped up for Israel, but in this great blessing there was a great test: how would Israel receive the blessing? Moses knew then and we know now that the people very quickly forgot where all the abundance came from (Dt. 8:7-20).

God is a faithful Father who tests his children with both scarcity and abundance. What is God testing? God is not out to get us, but He does love us and is jealous for our love and fellowship.

So what does God want us to remember when we have tables overflowing and laughter on our lips? He wants us to remember that this world is magic. This food and abundance does not come from pure efficiency, scientific progress, industrial machinery, or even middle class moms and dads who pay for these gifts. If we explain to satisfaction where all the abundance came from, then we fail the test. Of course we see little bits of the puzzle, but most of it should be shocking, strange, miraculous.

Every meal, every feast is like the five loaves and two fish. You can see the fish and the loaves (mom, dad, the grocery store, famers, etc.). But then it turns into a table laden with joy, overflowing with gladness. It turns into tastes which combine magically in our mouths. And smells dance overhead happily with or without us.
We don’t get this wealth, this food, this abundance with our own power and might. It’s the Lord who does this for us and in us and through us.

But faith is a lot like imagination. The movie Hook has a grand scene where the old, stodgy, grown-up Peter Pan is sitting down at a meal with all the lost boys, and they all dig in excitedly, but Peter can’t see or taste or smell any of the food. It looks like a table full of empty plates and empty serving dishes. He has to learn to use his imagination in order to see and smell and taste the food. And he finally sees the food when a food fight erupts. He sees the food when he needs it, when he wants it.

What does it mean that food is magic? It means that if food basically is one of God’s most favorite miracles that we have to live like this is true. God provides for His people. He provides for them in the wilderness, and He provides for them in the Promised Land. This means that feasting should always make us more generous.
Throughout the Old Testament, feasting always includes the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the strangers and foreigners. God commanded three annual feasts for the Israelites, and a weekly Sabbath feast, and the Scriptures go out of their way to remind the Israelites again and again to make sure they invite the poor, the orphans, the widows, the strangers.

But we like to guard good things. We get protective. Of course good stewardship is a Biblical principle. And dumping your piggy bank in the lake is not generosity. But we frequently use “stewardship” as a cover for being stingy. My son, like most boys, is pretty competitive, and loves games and competitions. But I noticed a while ago a pattern: as soon as a good game has been discovered without fail the next thing that will be suggested is a rule. And the rule is meant to protect the game and usually to his advantage. And people never really grow out of that. Special interest groups are basically five year olds trying to get congress to pass rules for their games.
But we do this in all sorts of ways. We have a good thing going with a friend, and we’re a little worried to invite someone else into the group. We have a good thing going at Church, and new faces and new people can bring change. Even schools have to guard against this. We find something that works, that’s really good, and then we start putting fences up, to protect it.

And God asks us, where did that food come from? Where’d that house come from, that city, that school, that fountain, those herds and flocks? Magically out of the ground. And you’re worried about what?

Feasting is a test, but the only way to pass this test is by living this thankfulness everywhere. You can’t go through life grumbling and then come to a feast and suddenly become thankful. If the feast reminds you to be thankful, all well and good, but ordinarily the feast just brings out your heart. If your heart is greedy, then you will be greedy at the feast. If your heart is bitter, then the food will not taste as good. But if you are practicing faith everywhere else, when you get to the table, you’ll see and taste the magic.

Feasting is a test particularly for schools and learning communities. You ought to measure your learning and teaching by your feasting. The food in the garden was the lure for Adam to explore and love the world. Genesis 1 and 2 is basically a treasure map. The test is: do you believe that? Do you believe that world is full of the treasures of God? And I don’t mean vague Sunday School things. You do realize that iPhones are part of treasure that God hid in the world? And Bach sonatas and video games and Shakespeare and lasagna with pepperoni in it. The world is full of wonderful gifts from a wonderful Giver. If we can’t see the food at the table, we won’t be able to see the feast in every class.

Pushing it the other direction, feasting is training for learning. Every class, every period, every year should be seen as a feast. Your teachers are the cooks, and they invite you into their kitchens every day to sample some of the finest tastes they have found in the world. We’re all treasure hunters, and we bring the spoils we have unearthed to class and we share them with you. And this is a good reminder to teachers to serve up the meals well. Learning is feasting. Learning is an act of love, loving creation, loving the world God made, and ultimately loving the God who made it all.

And because God loves us, he invites to the feast, but He’s watching us, testing, making sure we’re still amazed at the magic, making sure we’re giving it away and sharing, proving that we know Him, proving that we know the God who does this magic all around us all the time.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Off to a Good Start

Ignatius writes: "Since God has answered my prayer to see you godly people, I have proceeded to ask for more. I mean, it is as a prisoner for Christ Jesus that I hope to greet you, if indeed it be [God's] will that I should deserve to meet my end. Things are off to a good start. May I have the good fortune to meet my fate without interference!"


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

10 Reasons Why College Students Should Spend Time with the Elderly

CRF Talk: 10 Reasons Why College Students Should Spend Time with the Elderly

1. You don’t have better things to do. College students are selfish and lazy. “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” (Pr. 26:16) Young people are characteristically self-assured, conceited, proud, and the biblical name for this is “sluggard.” Wisdom and greatness are tied together and they come through serving and loving (Mt. 23:11).

2. Because you have lots of energy and time. “The glory of young men is their strength.” (Pr. 20:29) Embracing the glory that God bestows upon “youth” means proving your freedom in sacrificial ways like spending time in ways you don’t *have* to.

3. This is one way to get wisdom. The “simple” – ie. the immature, the young – need to get wisdom. Reading Proverbs is the beginning of wisdom, and it is the words of a father to a son (Pr. 1:1, 1:8, and 8:5). But the glory of old men is their gray hair (ie. their wisdom) (Pr. 20:29). The young should seek wisdom from the old. Spending time with the elderly is the pursuit of wisdom.

4. It teaches us to fear the Lord. “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32). Taking time to talk to them, sing with them, pray for them, know them, love them, and serve them are all ways of honoring the “face of an old man.” This passage ties honoring the elderly to fearing God. Our honor of the old is a measurement of our fear of God, our determination that the Lord is God.

5. It's obedience to the fifth commandment. Obviously your own grandparents/great-grandparents is a good place to start. This is an extension of the fifth commandment to honor your father and mother. Likewise, other friends of your father: “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend…” (Pr. 27:10)

6. It teaches us how to be the Church. The elderly are your parents and you are their children. “So He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life." (Lk. 18:29-30) While the family is a real institution, it is relativized to the Church, the household of faith, the family of God. Every baptism is the proclamation that the Church is your family. And if true and undefiled religion is caring for orphans and widows in their distress and many of the elderly have been abandoned and are effectively orphans and widows, then we are called to be family to them.

7. It fulfills the promises of God and enacts the Kingdom of God. Spending time with the elderly is a way of fulfilling the promises of God to turn the hearts of the children to the hearts of their fathers (Mal. 4:6). This is a way to proclaim the Kingdom of God in word and deed. Jesus is come, and the generations are being gathered together and reconciled. This includes our own parents and grandparents but must expand to include all that we come in contact with.

8. It reminds you of where you’re going (Eccl. 12:1ff). It teaches humility and sobriety. “Better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart o the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Eccl. 7:2-4). Spending time with the elderly discourages vanity. We can’t be that proud of our bodies and accomplishments when we remember what we’ll look like in 50-60 years. It also teaches us deep thankfulness for the health and strength we enjoy now.

9. It teaches you to hate sin. Growing old is part of the curse of sin, and seeing it in front you is one of the best educations. Hating sin in the deformed body of an old woman in front of you teaches you to hate sin in your heart, in your words, in your thoughts and actions. Hearing about a life that was poorly lived, full of regret, is a severe warning to us to repent of sin now and to live at peace with all men as far as it depends upon us.

10. It teaches us to long for the resurrection and consummation of all things. As postmillennialists and reformed, we might be rightly criticized for not longing for the final return of Christ. Sin and hell, sickness and death should be good motivators for evangelism and mercy ministry. Likewise, if the resurrection and the life to come really are as grand as the Scriptures promise, we should want to hasten them. The sooner the better, and we have to recognize our place in that program.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Third Sunday after Epiphany: 1 Peter 3:13-22

Peter’s exhortations to submit to authorities and to bless all men is unpacking Peter’s conviction that the Church is the new priesthood, called to be the new “spiritual house” of God (2:4-5). This new house necessarily competes with the old one, but Jesus has promised to “visit” them soon (2:12, Lk. 19:44).

Defending the Sanctuary
The apostle has explained that the Church is the new temple of God by battling sin and doing good works (2:11-12). Peter continues explaining this task by asking who will harm “zealots of good” (3:13). Being zealous for good would seem harmless enough, but Peter also knows that zealots are persecuted as trouble makers. But if they suffer for justice, they are “blessed.” Jesus says this kind of treatment is reason for rejoicing because we know our reward is great in heaven and because we join the ranks of the prophets (Mt. 5:10-12 cf. Js. 1:12). Peter says not to fear “their fear” nor be disturbed (3:14). This is a quotation from Isaiah 8:12, and Peter may be urging Christians not to fear the Romans like the Jews do. The opposite of “their fear” is to consecrate the Lord God in their hearts and to be always ready to give a defense to those who ask about their hope (3:15, cf. Mt. 13:10-13). The command to “sanctify” God is strange since almost never do we sanctify God. Rather it is we who need to be sanctified by Him. How do we sanctify God? In the Isaiah passage Peter has already quoted, Yahweh says that not only should they not be afraid of the “fears” of their enemies, they should also “hallow” Yahweh of Hosts, let Him be their fear (Is. 8:13). Given how the OT usually uses this language for sanctuary, people, and furniture, it’s almost not surprising for Isaiah to continue and say that Yahweh “will be as a sanctuary” (Is. 8:14). However, he will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to the houses of Israel (Is. 8:14, cf. 1 Pet. 2:8, Is. 29:23). Ezekiel uses similar language: “Then the nations will know that I am Yahweh who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore” (Ez. 37:28). Elsewhere, God promises to vindicate His holiness among the nations (Ez. 38:23, 39:27). When we hallow/fear God, He hallows us in the midst of the nations (e.g. Mt. 6:9). As we are faithful to our calling to be and build the house of God, God defends His house, He promises to be our sanctuary.

A Living Hope
This hope is the “living hope” they received when they were begotten again through the resurrection of Jesus (1:3). Elsewhere Paul says that “hope” is the ultimate result of suffering (Rom. 5:1-5). If we are zealous for good, sanctifying God in our hearts, then we may have a good conscience when we are defamed as evil doers (3:16). And this incongruity will ultimately result in shame and conversion (3:16, cf. 2:12, 15, 3:1). Peter repeats that it is better to suffer for doing good because this is what Jesus did (3:17-18, cf. 2:20-25). But even here Peter reminds his audience that Christ suffered for sins, the just for the unjust. Peter makes what may seem like a strange digression here, but the context helps. First, the point is the vindication of Jesus who was made alive by the Spirit. His victory was proclaimed specifically to the disobedient spirits in prison (3:19) who witnessed God’s patience while Noah was building the ark (3:20). Why does Peter think this fits with this context? Here is a situation where God’s reputation was on the line and His faithful servants were severely tested. And not only that, this testing takes place in the context of building a house. And Peter knows that numbers can sometimes seem daunting, but God has saved as few as eight souls before when the whole world had gone mad. Finally, water is the clear and obvious sign of vindication. When did it become clear that God was right? That Noah was right? That the ark was the place to be? When it started raining. And Peter says it’s the same for us. The water is the sign that now saves us, that appeals to God as a good conscience (cf. Heb. 10:22). Here, Peter comes full circle by referencing the resurrection of Jesus. We are to strive for a good conscience before God and man, zealous for good, blessing those who persecute us, but our hope is grounded in the resurrection (1:3, 21). The water appeals to God on the basis of the resurrection.

Conclusion & Application
We are called to do good and expect persecution in full assurance of faith. This is just a fact we have to get down in our bones. If we follow Jesus, we must expect to suffer.

The way Peter continues to draw off of these Isaiah texts should impress how analogous he sees the first century Church situation to Israel’s context at the end of the era of the kings. The house of Israel was destroyed, but a new house emerged from the ark of exile because God is faithful. The first century church endured great persecution at the hands of unbelieving Jews, but God vindicated His people in 70 AD when the real zealots were revealed.

All of the judgments of God throughout Scripture and down through history all point to the resurrection of Jesus which is our living hope. This hope is living because Jesus is alive. And every baptism is a reminder to us and to God of His promises of resurrection both now and at the end. He is at the right hand of God and all powers have been made subject to Him, including every power in our lives (3:22). If that’s true, hope must be spilling out of us, and we must be always ready to given an answer to those who ask us about the house we’re building. And our answer is baptism: Look, it’s already started raining.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Falling and Singing

"When I fall into the abyss, I go straight into it, head down and heels up, and I’m even pleased that I’m falling in just such a humiliating position, and for me I find it beautiful. And so in that very shame I suddenly begin a hymn."

-Fyodor Dostoevsky

HT: Remy Wilkins


Tuesday, January 19, 2010


"The sure mark of an unliterary man is that he considers 'I've read it already' to be a conclusive argument against reading a work." (C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, 2)


O Sing a New Song

Here's a new song from a friend.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Second Sunday in Epiphany: 1 Pet. 3:1-12

Last week we considered the fact that the Christian community embodies the life of the Trinity through submission. As the Son entrusts Himself to the Father, so we are to entrust ourselves to the Son, and this submission manifests itself in submission to human authorities, just as Jesus did. As we cling to Jesus in this, our submission and suffering is taken up into Christ’s and becomes part of Christ’s reconciliation of all things.

Submissive Wives
Peter continues with the theme of this submission with an exhortation to wives. While Christ is the central example that we are to follow, Peter implies that submissive slaves and wives are models of faith as well. Notice that this means an efficacy is tied to this submission. As Christ’s example accomplishes the replication of His life in us, so too, submissive wives do so with the aim of “winning” their husbands (3:1). Peter says this is true of disobedient husbands (3:1) just as it was true of “harsh masters” (2:18). Notice that this “submission” ought to be done in fear for both slaves and wives (2:18, 3:2). While there may be a faithful sort of fear of human authorities, Peter’s introduction grounds this fear ultimately in God (1:17, 2:17). How much more so ought this pattern to hold true for generally more faithful husbands/masters? Notice that submissive wives strive to imitate Jesus by their actions and without words (3:1, cf. 2:12, 22-23), and all of this is in order to silence the foolishness of ignorant men (even ignorant husbands) (2:12, 15). These actions cannot be merely outward beauty, but must imitate the Trinity in incarnating the “hidden person,” manifesting that “incorruptible” inheritance we have in Christ (1:4), but there is also something efficacious about suffering for others that mimics Christ (cf. 1:18-19, 23). God the judge, who judges righteously, intervenes for those who act commendably, for those who are “precious” in His sight (3:4). This submissive spirit imitates Sarah and the other holy women who trusted in God and did not fear (3:5-6).

Husbands Who Know
Peter urges husbands to dwell with their wives according to knowledge (3:7). Given that we have an exhortation for husbands to “know” their wives, it is difficult not to think of the first marriage and the role of “knowledge.” God planted the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” in the midst of the garden, and this tree tested the loyalty of Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:9). It is the lie of the dragon that when they eat their eyes will be opened, “knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). After eating, their eyes are opened and they “know” that they are naked (Gen. 3:7), and God recognizes that now they do know good and evil (Gen. 3:22). The very next use of the word “know” occurs when the text describes Adam knowing his wife sexually (Gen. 4:1). Given Adam’s blessing/response to God’s curses, we are to believe that Adam repented (Gen. 3:20-21) and God forgave them (Gen. 3:21). “Knowing” is bound up with loyalty, glory, and God-likeness. And sexual love is no different. Peter says that husbands are to live with their wives like the repentant Adam. Rather than abdicating, they are to honor their wives as “fellow heirs” of the promises of God (1 Pet. 3:7). This kind of love results in answered prayers (3:7, cf. 3:12).

Applications & Conclusions
Peter closes these particular exhortations by calling upon all Christians to be of “one mind,” sharing burdens, loving one another like family (3:8). This all goes back to an imitation of Christ, particularly with our tongues (3:9-10). Full repentance is always a “turning” away from evil and running after what is good (3:11).

Our ability to submit and suffer injustice rests upon knowledge, knowing Jesus and the Judge who vindicated Him. Husbands must know Jesus so that they may know their wives. Wives must prioritize their love and submission with Jesus at the center so that they may submit to their husbands.

Most marital sins are disobedience to the basic gospel. Jesus did not revile when He was reviled (2:23) so neither should we (3:8-9). We are called to bless those who persecute us and run after peace (3:9-11), trusting that God’s ears are open to our prayers and He will judge those who do evil (3:12).


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Proverbs 28:9-11 Notes

“One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” (28:9)

This continues a section on the Torah (cf. 28:4, 7). The Torah was to be heard and obeyed (Dt. 6), and failure to “listen” was failure to obey. The task of faithful Israelites was to “hear” so that they might have the words of the law in their hearts (Dt. 6:6). This “hearing” was to take place through putting the law all over their lives and talking about them with their children constantly. Hearing means loving God with all that we are, and that love flows out and fills the lives of those hearers.

Turning away from hearing is a sin of omission, a lapse of obedience which is disobedience, but the proverb says that when this occurs it affects everything, even acts of piety. An abomination is something detested by God, and perhaps a parallel we might imagine in human life are the articles of a loved one who has betrayed us. All memories and reminders of someone who has committed treachery become reminders of the treachery. Likewise, God says that those who do not listen to Him, those who neglect His Word, and fail to love it with all that they are commit treason and adultery, and when we speak to Him, it only reminds Him of the fact. An adulterous husband who refuses to repent of His sin cannot protest that at least he called home every once in a while.

Notice too that the one who refuses to listen gets the same treatment. God promises to turn His ear from hearing that one who has turned away from hearing. At some point, justice becomes an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth affair.

The structure of the proverb:

Turns away
His ear
From hearing
Also his prayers

The structure emphasizes these basic parallels. He who turns away his ear will become detestable to God. God’s ear will turn away from the one who has turned away from Him, and He will not hear his prayers. The center is the necessity of hearing the Torah.

Jesus and the prophets emphasize the fact that God’s people frequently have ears but do not hear. Isaiah’s ministry is explicitly for the purpose of lulling God’s people into presumption and Jesus says that His parables have the same effect. Those who have hard hearts will compliment themselves on hearing and understanding because they have heard with their ears, but God says they have not really heard or understood and therefore they cannot turn and be forgiven. This seems to be how the prayers of these traitors are abominations. God lulls them into a deeper, self-righteous sleep so that they cannot turn and be forgiven.

1 Pet. 3:7 exhorts husbands to dwell with their wives in understanding, honoring them, so that their prayers are not hindered. This seems to be a parallel idea to this proverb. Listening to Torah means knowing and honoring your wife, but refusal to do so will result in hindered prayers.

Refusing to hear is a kind of arrogance and pride, but humility listens and obeys.

“Whoever causes the upright to go astray in an evil way, He himself will fall into his own pit; but the blameless will inherit good.” (28:10)

This proverb promises what others also predict, namely, that those who do evil will eat the fruit of their labors (Pr. 26:27, Eccl. 10:8). They will fall into the pit they have dug for others. But this proverb specifically targets leaders, and even more specifically, leaders who lead the “upright” astray. Thus, this proverb includes a promise of hope for blameless followers. Those who follow the “evil way” ignorantly will be rescued by God and inherit good.

Peter Leithart notes: “A form of the verb “lead astray” (shagah) is used in Leviticus 4:13 to describe sins of wandering or ignorance. This is not a high-handed sin, but a sin of deception, ignorance, confusion. The proverb gives us a specific scenario involving such a sin: A sin of ignorance or wandering may be one that is “caused” by another, that is, one in which we are encouraged by someone we think trustworthy to sin. Sins of ignorance are removed in sacrifice. They are not counted as defiant, high-handed sins. Scripture, in short, recognizes degrees and varieties of sin. Sins are always sins, but sometimes sinners are victims as well as perpetrators.”

This proverb acts as a great warning to leaders. Obviously those who knowingly lead their people in an evil way should be warned, but even those unintentionally lead in an evil way. This places great responsibility on leaders in general. While the promise to the “blameless” seems to run most directly parallel to the “upright” who are led astray, we might also recognize the possibility that a leader might also be blameless and also rescued from the pit.

The word for “blameless” is the same for “perfect” or “spotless.” Noah was blameless (Gen. 6:9), as was Jacob (Gen. 25:27) and Job (Job 1:1). The same word used in this proverb describes the quality required of sacrifices (e.g. Ex. 12:5, Lev. 1:3ff). This sacrificial theme fits with the proverb’s point: though the “blameless” may endure persecution or hardship, they may trust the Lord to use these trials providentially, to draw them near to Him – the ultimate “good inheritance.” The sacrificial knife may not be pleasant, but the promise is that we will ascend into the Lord’s presence.

Of course the ultimate “human sacrifice” is Jesus, the truly blameless and perfect man. Peter Leithart points out that Jesus is the “blameless” one who committed no sins either willfully or ignorantly, but he was still cast into the pit. Our sins and transgressions were placed upon Him, and He suffered for our evil ways, but God raised Jesus out of the pit and vindicated Him. Jesus was granted a good inheritance, and it is through Christ that we are also offered the status of “blameless” and the same good inheritance through the Spirit. If Jesus was vindicated, those who cling to Him in faith will also be vindicated and raised from every pit.

“The rich man is wise in his own eyes, But the poor who has understanding searches him out.” (28:11)

This economic proverb addresses the connection between riches and wisdom. Here riches can act as confusion and blindness. Riches are a great temptation for self-justification. Earlier in Proverbs the wise father instructed his son to trust in the Lord with all his heart and lean not on his own understanding. This included a commitment to not be wise in his own eyes but to fear the Lord. It is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom and understanding. Riches always tempt those who have them to believe in some measure of self sufficiency. “And you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.” (Dt. 8:17)

The opposite of this arrogance is fearing Yahweh and trusting Him. This is doubly hard since Yahweh is perfect and just, and we are not. Allowing God’s word to judge us and be our eyes (Js. 1:22-25) means allowing God to mess with us according to His wisdom. It doesn’t seem accidental that James goes directly from a discussion of what the Word of God should be for us to the description of pure religion, caring for orphans and widows and then directly into a discussion of poor and rich in Church. Riches easily distort our understanding.

On the other hand, the poor man may have understanding that is very great. He may have understanding that is able to truly search matters out. Here the Hebrew is ambiguous enough to admit several possible objects. A direct contrast to the first half of the proverb, suggests that the poor man is able to search himself, unlike his rich counterpart. The poor man may not know much, but at least he knows himself honestly. But since the rich man is only wise in his own eyes (and therefore blind), it may also mean that the poor man may be able to understand the rich man better than the rich man can understand himself, underlining the blindness. The poor man may be a better judge of the rich man than the rich man is of himself. A third possible meaning is that a poor man who has understanding is merely one who searches matters out. He is not satisfied with his own opinion. He knows enough to know that his own eyes are not enough. He recognizes that in the presence of many counselors there is wisdom. A poor man knows that he is dependent and not self sufficient, and this is the beginning of wisdom too.

Peter Leithart points out that this pattern fits with the incarnation since Jesus became poor for us in order that He might be the wisdom of God (2 Cor. 8:9). Like the poor man who understands and searches out even the rich man who is wise in his own eyes, Jesus understands us and our self-sufficiency. And His knowing and understanding of us is effectual for our salvation.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Magistrates: Servants and Condemned

"Peter does not go as far as Paul does, for the latter argues in Rom. 13:3-4 that public order is God's will and therefore the ruler is in that respect God's 'servant.' In this area our author is far more schematized, simply citing the basics of the tradition. Neither of them, of course, necessarily approves of the methods of the rulers, nor argues that Christians should participate in their activities. According to the OT both the Assyrians and Babylonians were the "servants of God to execute His wrath" and "punished those doing evil," but both in turn were condemned by God for their means and motives in doing it. Jeremiah could argue that one should not resist Babylon; he never argued that one should join her." - Peter Davids, The First Epistle of Peter, 101.



"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" is an English language pangram. It's a sentence that uses every letter of the English alphabet once. Heh. That's pretty nifty. I just learned this from Edmund Clowney's BST commentary on 1 Peter.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

First Sunday of Epiphany: 1 Peter 2:13-25

1 Peter insists that the Christian Church is the new Israel (1:2, 19, 2:9-10), the new temple (1:7, 18, 2:4), the new priesthood (1:16, 2:4, 9), and as such is God’s heavenly colony in the world (1:1, 17, 2:11). They are the new “house” of God, and therefore, they are called to be this priestly people for all.

Submission for the Lord’s Sake
Peter says that Christians ought to submit to “every human creature” (2:13). These “creatures” may include kings (like Caesar Augustus or Nero) and governors (like Pilot) who render “justice” (2:13-14) as well as masters (2:18), and husbands (3:1), and ultimately this submissive honor applies to everyone (2:17, 3:8). The center of this section is the example of Christ (2:21-25) with particularly weak members of society highlighted as role models (slaves and wives). Peter says that we ought to submit “because of the Lord” (2:13, cf. Mt. 17:26). This is the will of God so that we might be free “servants of God” (2:15-16). Priests are the servants of God (cf. 2:5, 9), and therefore disobedience is a form of slavery to some Pharaoh. Thus, this kind of submission is also subversive. Obedience to the Lord, as slaves of God implies that all human authorities are not absolute. They are “creatures,” and Peter says that “doing good” is a kind of weapon. It silences foolish men (2:15, cf. 2:12). Therefore, we seek to honor all people with the love of the brothers and the fear of God at the center (2:17).

Submission for Christ’s Sake
This means that household servants should submit to their masters, and Peter says that this requirement holds whether the master is good or harsh (2:18). The closest analogy we have to this in our day is the employer/employee relationship, parents and kids would also fit here. So how much more so ought we to submit? We are to submit because our obedience is before God, and this means that we may also resist with a good conscience when the Lord requires it (2:19). But this is different than disobeying because we disagree or feel mistreated. Suffering for faults is not special, but suffering for doing good commends you to the Master of all masters (2:20). And Peter says that we are called to suffer for doing good (2:21).

The Example of Christ
Peter says this calling is grounded in the person and work of Christ (2:21). He left us an example, an example that accomplishes its own replication in us. Notice the parallels: His submissive suffering (and silence) for doing good (before Pilot, cf. 2:14) and bearing our sins in His body (2:22-24) accomplishes our dying to sin and living to righteousness (2:24). What is living to righteousness? Suffering for doing good; for by His stripes we are healed (2:24). “His stripes” heal us in two ways: they heal us by taking our sins away at the cross, but the implication is also that as we suffer for doing good, our wounds are identified with His wounds (2 Cor. 1:5, Col. 1:24). This is how suffering for doing good is a weapon. In the care of our Shepherd and Overseer, the Judge who judges justly, our Christ-like silence silences fools (2:23, 25, cf. 2:12). And notice Peter’s qualification of the notion of justice (compare 2:22-25 with 2:14).

Conclusion and Applications
We frequently want an evangelism that is sexy. Maybe we don’t go in for movie screens and strobe lights and whatever else is hip and trendy, but we can wish for our own form of cool with robes or kneeling or by simple negation (we’re so not like that). But Peter says our Master is the Lord Jesus and to Him we must answer. Do our lives manifest that kind of freedom and confidence? Do our families? Does our church? Jesus was able to submit because he came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. The submissiveness that Peter calls us to is for the fulfillment of the mission of Jesus.


Throw Your Sin Down and Come

It can feel rather awkward and challenging to come to the Table of the Lord joyfully after an announcement of excommunication. When this kind of action becomes necessary, we have to recognize that God is disciplining not only the offender but all of us, the entire congregation. He is teaching us wisdom collectively. But this should not cause us to have vague feelings of guilt. If these words have convicted you of a specific sin that needs confessing, then by all means confess it and forsake it at the soonest possible moment. But this sort of chastening ought to yield in us the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” Hebrews says that no chastening seems joyful for the present, but painful; however, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness. He goes on to say that we must watch carefully that there be no root of bitterness springing up to cause trouble and by this many become defiled. But the great antidote to bitterness is thankfulness, the great weapon against discouragement is Eucharist. The heart that receives and is trained by discipline is fundamentally thankful. It hurts for the present, it is not pleasant or fun, but thankfulness sees a Faithful Father at work. So do not be discouraged when the Lord rebukes you. For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. The tangible proof that you are a son and that He receives you is the fact that He invites you now to His table, to fellowship with Him, to receive His strength and life and blessing. So be assured, God your Father rejoices over you, He loves you, and you are welcome here. So come, throw your sins down, and come eat, drink, and give thanks.


Blessed be God

One of the ways that Paul frequently opens his letters is in thanksgiving for the church he is addressing: I thank my God always in every remembrance of you; we give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you; we give thanks to God always for you; we are bound to always give thanks to God for you, brethren, as it is fitting because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other. Paul loves his people, is thankful for them, and nearly every one of his letters begins with that sentiment, overflowing thankfulness and recognition of the growing grace of Jesus in their lives. And I want to do the same right now: people of Trinity, on behalf of your elders, I want to express to you how thankful we are for you. We regularly hear about your obedience, about your sacrifices for the kingdom, we see your growth in grace, we see your faithfulness in countless ways with your children, in your employment, in the community, in hospitality, in mercy, in evangelism, in joy, and you make us proud. And thank God for you regularly. Many of you know that we meet on Thursday mornings, and you should know that we regularly thank God for you, for the blessings that God is pouring on you and upon all of us here at Trinity. Your love for one another is readily evident; the fact that it takes several verses from the pianist to call you back to your seats during the passing of the peace is glorious. You obviously love one another. And more than that, you should know that Trinity has a growing reputation for this very thing in this community. God is blessing us, and this is of course no reason for pride or arrogance, but it is every reason for thankfulness and praise. Of course, God has only just begun to work His goodness in our lives, and as far as churches go, Trinity is still a toddler congregation, still learning to walk in many ways. But well done, thanks for your faithfulness; you are a testimony of God’s grace. Blessed be God for His goodness toward us in Christ Jesus our Lord. And this goodness of God calls us further up and further in. So “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2)


Saturday, January 09, 2010

No, You're Not

"Some of the neo-Puritans have apparently determined that the purpose and essence of Christian preaching is to persuade people that they do not in fact, believe. The subtitle of each of their sermons could accurately be: 'I Know You Think You Are a Christian, but You Are Not.' This brand of preaching constantly suggests that if a person does not always love attending church, always look forward to reading the Bible, or family worship, or prayer, then the person is probably not a believer." - T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can't Preach, 83.


Friday, January 08, 2010

As Unqualified as a Lesbian

"There will be no reformation and no revival until those pastors who do not meet the child-rearing qualifications of their office step down, in repentance, from their office. Men who have a household in disarray are just as unqualified for church office as a lesbian is. It is way past time for conservative Christians to cease being outraged with the disobedience of others. Why do we remove the beam from their radical eye when we have a telephone pole in our own conservative eye?" - Douglas Wilson, Standing on the Promises, 167.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Not So Infallible

One Roman Catholic convert reconsiders here. via @MarkAHorne


A Thought

You have heard it said, "consumerism is evil" and you despise he who says, "whatever is newer is better," but verily, verily, I say unto you, what about technology and medicine? For with my Blackberry I work miracles and even many doctors work by the Spirit to grant me good health.


The God Who Breaks Through

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul says that the children and spouse of a believing man or woman are sanctified, "holy" because of the faith of the one. I think frequently we over-spiritualize this, or understood rightly, we under-spiritualize this. We think "spiritual" means immaterial, invisible, and only just barely felt in the recesses of the warm tinglies in my belly. Spiritual happens when my eyes are closed.

And so we mystify Paul's words, we think some kind of covenantal voodoo is going on, magic vibes flowing through the house like some kind of karma.

But what if holiness is more like living well before God? If sin thrashes the lives of those it enslaves, and it does, then righteousness restores, justice sets free.

Anyone who's done much counseling or evangelism or missions work knows that those individuals, saved out of families and cultures where the sin and darkness is deep, frequently have significant sanctification battles to fight. And in one sense this is true of everyone of us. We're all sons and daughters of Adam.

But on the other hand, it is simply not true that we all start from the same point. Dead in sin, yes, but history really is the story of God's knowledge and mercy flooding the earth. This means that sinners come to life in different places at different times where the flood of God's grace is deeper or shallower depending on many details.

Coming back to life in a puddle of grace is still coming back to life. It's still true; it's still miraculous and the final resurrection is coming. But that puddle may be surrounded with mental illness, poverty, abuse, ignorance, physical handicaps, and any number of other effects of the Fall. And conversion doesn't magically make them all go away. Families and cultures in darkness do not have the blessings of faith surrounding them like families and cultures that have more generally embraced the Light. Coming back to life on Lake Erie is better than coming back to life in a puddle.

Many middle class Americans may have rejected the faith, but it's more than likely that they rejected the faith. It was the faith of their parents or their grandparents most likely. They are "holy" because they are still tasting the benefits, the blessings of the faith of their parents or grandparents. And of course at the end of history, these blessings will all testify against them for their rebellion against the God who gave them. These blessings will end up being millstones around the necks of thousands who spit in the face of God's mercy. But those whom God is pleased to save will repent and wake up to find a number of tools and benefits already all around them, an inheritance from faithful forebears. As God works in their lives, in some ways, sanctification will come more naturally given the blessings of faith from previous generations.

We must not reduce holiness to material circumstances, but we must not reduce holiness to ethereal circumstances either. The good news of Jesus is for people who need good news, for people enslaved, for people with broken hearts, for people buried beneath their sorrow's load. And that load comes in the form of children out of wedlock, emotional disorders, imprisonment, castigation, and all manner of broken relationships. Of course, of course, of course, the central enslavement, the fundamental emotional disorder, the most important broken relationship is the great chasm between an individual and God. Of course. And apart from the grace of God there, the rest will just be like dressing up a corpse. But if God is planning to resurrect the graveyard of humanity, it is not faith to sit around just whistling and waiting. This is about as helpful as Christopher Robin walking around with an umbrella saying rather loudly, 'tut-tut, it looks like rain.'

I do insist that we start with the message of Jesus. I do insist that we preach Jesus Christ crucified to the dry bones of humanity. Always lead with the gospel proclaimed, but the fabulous, mind-blowing point is that this will work. The declaration that Jesus is King will miraculously work! And you will find teeming hordes of recently resurrected corpses wandering around in your sanctuary. And they will smell and look like recently resurrected corpses. And some of them will be fakes. But some of them will come back to life in a part of the graveyard where the Spirit has already been at work, sanctifying a family and a culture. Those individuals still have the battle of sanctification ahead of them, but they do so with a number of blessings already piled up around them. Others will come back to life as the first fruits of a family, the first fruits of a culture. This is why the Church as the community of Jesus gathered around the Word and Sacraments is so central. This body of Christ is to be the family and culture, especially for those who wake up in a part of the graveyard where most of the tombs are still sealed. Those people need grace not only in the form of Lord's Day worship, the sacraments, Bible studies, Psalm Sings, and prayer, they also need grace in the form of childcare assistance, job training, help learning to read, maybe housing, clothing, and health care assistance as well as legal advice and bail money. Because practically speaking, all of these and many others are barriers to individuals growing in grace, they are just as much part of the spiritual battle as overcoming selfishness and bitterness and hate.

The fact that most people reading this are sitting at a computer in a warm, comfortable office or home, or glancing at their iPhone or Blackberry is part of the blessing of God to us. The fact that we have free time to even think about this is the blessing of God; you're also probably well clothed and not terribly concerned about where your next meal will come from. I think that's at least part of what Paul means when he says that believing individuals share holiness with their family members. Throughout the Bible, holiness means access to God, holiness breaks through the barriers, and while God always breaks through wherever He pleases, these material circumstances do matter and are part of the blessings and curses that follow generations.

One last important point: our material, physical circumstances must not be our rock or our fortress. They do not define us. Some men trust in chariots and horses, but we rely on the Lord our God who is strong to save. God's Word defines us. Like Paul, we must be content in every circumstance, whether rich or poor, whether slave or free, whether healthy or diseased, whether raised in a loving, Christian family or raised in an abusive hellhole. God is in heaven and He does what He pleases, and He is good and wise. We can and must trust Him. But in so far as God has given us freedom from sin, freedom of speech, free time, hearts full of joy, and plenty to share, we want to mimic the God of freedom, the God who is our rock and fortress. As the body of Christ, we are the hands and feet and face of the God who breaks through.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Job, Elihu, and Becoming like Children

If the book of Job is in part the record of one man growing up from immaturity to maturity, going from the glory of a priest to the glory of a prophet, going from outside the assembly of the sons of God to being ushered into the whirlwind presence of God, I wonder if Elihu comes at the end of the debates, as the youthful counselor, to indicate two things:

First, I take Elihu to be a fool who is not explicitly condemned by God because of his youthfulness. He is not a political threat to Job like the three court advisers are. Elihu does not appear to be vying for Job's throne like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. But Elihu does help to underline the fact that the story is centered around a kind of generational tension. The "older" advisers are "younger" in stature, since they are apparently nobles or lesser magistrates of some sort. Job is the "older" King. But in another sense, Job is still "young" in so far as he is contrasted at the beginning of the book with the "sons of God." The sons of God who assemble before the face of Yahweh are "older" than Job, they have been granted even greater glory, greater authority as advisers to the King of Kings.

Second, Elihu though a fool, signifies something true about what Job must become. Elihu is a foolish, ignorant child, but Job must also become a child. In order for Job to grow up into maturity, he must become young. Thus, Elihu is the transition from Job's "old," foolish counselors to the youthfulness of the Lord of the whirlwind, the King who plays with dragons. Elihu is wrong and foolish like the others, but he is a lesser fool in so far as he is a young fool. But in order for Job to grow up into glory, he must become a child. Elihu is the wrong sort of child, but Elihu, like every child, points to the truth. We must be young again. For unless we are born again, we will not see the kingdom of God.


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

I Blame Squanto

Ok, a few more thoughts on Food Inc.

First, this discussion, this movie, etc. are only possible in a civilization that is rolling in material blessing from God. This doesn't mean the blessings are being handled correctly, but it is still a tremendous blessing to be so well fed. Secondly, and related to this first point is the movie portrays how ubiquitous corn is in our food and follows the money trail back to Monsanto, the evil Corn Seed gods. And maybe they are evil; the patent law they are apparently using to mug decent, hardworking farmers with certainly seems bad. But at least one thought that should occur to us -- while all the products are flashing on the screen that are made out of corn stuff -- is: Wow. Isn't corn cool? Since watching the movie, my wife has been checking all the ingredients lists on the food we eat, and sure enough: it's everywhere. And for this horror, I blame Squanto. That's where we should trace this evil, right back to the Pilgrims. They should have seen the corporate greed in that Native American's eyes. Now look at us. Corn everywhere.

And that doesn't mean this much corn is good for us, I'm just saying Wow. Look at all the cool stuff we can do with corn. And seeds that are impervious to insecticides and herbacides and whatever? That's pretty cool. Again, that doesn't mean all those insecticides are good for us, and it doesn't mean our genetic engineering of the seeds is good for us. That remains to be seen, and people who are skeptical are free to be skeptical and do something different. And maybe we'll find that genetic engineering of seeds is the equivalent of medieval bloodletting. Seemed like a good idea at the time. But, while recognizing the need for proper care and due caution, fact of the matter is that as Christians we don't think this world comes prepackaged and ready to serve. This creation has the curse of sin wound through it; it groans for our redemption. But even prior to sin, Adam was given the task of tilling the earth, exploring, taking dominion. Adam was called to work at glorifying creation, and I take this to mean inventing x-rays and cell phones, space stations and engineering food to the glory of God. Am I skeptical of modern hubris? You bet. Do I think this means we should shrink back from every attempt at taking dominion of this world because it "might be bad for you?" Absolutely not. Life is dangerous. And life leads inevitably to death. But Christ is born, and He is taking back the world. So Happy 12th Day of Christmas and have some corn.

Two other complaints:

First, the sentimental story about the mother who lost her son to e coli. Certainly, I'm sorry for her loss, but this heart tugging by the producers of Food Inc. was unfortunate. In fact in many ways, I came away not thinking that our food industry was dangerous, rather, I came away thinking that it's pretty impressive how few poisonings have actually occurred. And lobbying for more protective laws in DC? That just seemed like more of the same sort of governmental oppression they are complaining about.

And this leads to the second complaint: if you head over to the Food Inc. official website, you'll see a link to a blog that I only just glanced at, and it appears that these people are swimming in statism: passing laws, lobbying for change, and all buddy-buddy with Al Gore. So definitely not impressed, but a few interesting bits of information along the way.


Monday, January 04, 2010

Food Inc.

We watched Food Inc. over the weekend, and while I was fairly braced for most of what we saw, I was slightly surprised (Ok, not really -- but it was still enlightening) to see the money trail in the food industry.

Big Beef/Poultry/Pork in bed with the ginormous corn industry and mass produced fast food, and this threesome marriage bed jealously guarded by trade and patent regulations and generously pampered with federal subsidies.

Why is it that a cheeseburger is frequently cheaper than a head of lettuce? Because the government pays part of the bill for us. They pay farmers to plant and sell certain products at below market values, seed patents protect the source of pesticide resistant seeds, and beef/poultry/pork companies lobbying in DC for more protections and help.

At the same time, what the movie did not emphasize much is the fact that there is a free market element to all of this. The fast food industry was not forced on America. As the film notes, we do vote three times a day for what sort of food we'd like. And at least when the McDonalds brothers were first getting started, lots of people voted for that kind of food. And lots still do (like my kids for instance, who view Happy Meals are glorious gifts from God).

I know some of my readers are probably more attuned to this than others, but if the money trail is correct, for all these free market choices and blessings of inexpensive mass produced food (and there have been some), it seems like we have Uncle Sam helping the blessing along a fair bit. And depending on how much propping up is going on, at what point could we legitimately conclude that it hasn't been worth it? Would people continue to vote the same way without the Feds keeping it so cheap?

And I might add that I'm guessing there might be an interesting documentary done on the booming organice/free range/all natural/whatever industry as well. There's money in them hills too, and as the film showed, even Walmart knows this.


Second Sunday after Christmas: Is. 42:1-13, Matt. 3:1-17, Acts 10:22-48

Opening Prayer: O Christ our God, give us Your wisdom and Your Spirit that we might know you and follow and believe in You. Amen.

This is the Second Sunday after Christmas, and so we continue to meditate on what Christmas means. Last week, Pastor Leithart preached on God’s long standing promise to Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in his seed. That seed is Christ, but that seed is to be understood corporately, as all those in Christ. Our lessons point to something similar this week, only this time, they emphasize particularly the work of the Spirit in accomplishing this task.

Is. 42:1-13
Isaiah describes God’s promise to send His Elect One who will be anointed with God’s Spirit (42:1). He will bring justice to the gentiles (42:2-4). The same God who fashioned the worlds will call His Elect One in righteousness (42:5); He will be a covenant to the people and a light to the gentiles (42:6). This light and covenant for the gentiles will be for their deliverance (42:7); this deliverance is the justice that God promised. He will do this for His own glory (42:8). Just as God’s Spirit led Israel out of bondage in the Exodus, so too the same Spirit-Light will come for the whole world, and remake it (42:9), and the whole earth will rejoice (42:10-12). Yahweh will be like a Samson, a warrior filled with the Spirit going to battle for His people (42:13)

Matt. 3:1-17
We looked at Luke’s parallel passage a couple of weeks ago and noted all the Exodus themes. This time, note particularly the promise of the Holy Spirit (3:11). While there is some sense in which the Spirit is the mode of baptism, following the parallel with water, we shouldn’t miss the fact that the Spirit is also the means of baptism. The One who is coming after John will judge with justice and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire precisely because He has the Spirit (3:12). John hesitates to baptize Jesus, but Isaiah has foretold that God will anoint His Elect One with His Spirit in order to bring justice to the gentiles. This seems to be what Jesus is referring to when He says that it is fitting for John to baptize Him to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). John’s baptism of Jesus is how God is planning to anoint Him with the Spirit to bring His righteousness to the gentiles (3:16). And this anointing is the occasion for God’s declaration that this is His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased (3:17). We know that Jesus is now driven by the Spirit, because immediately after this, He is driven into the wilderness by the Spirit for battle with the devil (4:1).

Acts 10: 22-48
The main character of Acts is the Holy Spirit. When Jesus leaves the disciples, He promises the Spirit, and it is the Spirit and His messengers that drive the plot of Acts filling and driving His people (2:4, 4:8, 31, 8:29). The conflict is between those who receive the Spirit-fire (the wheat) (2:38, 9:31) and those who reject Him (the chaff) (5:3, 32, 7:51). In our text, Peter receives word from messengers that Cornelius would like to hear Peter speak to him (10:22-23). The Spirit has instructed Peter to go with them (10:19). Cornelius is a God-fearer, but Peter has been prepared before hand to speak with an “unclean” man (10:24-29), and Cornelius explains how an angel appeared to him instructing him to call for Peter (10:30-33). Peter’s sermon explains that he now understands that God shows no partiality (10:34), but every nationality that “works justice is accepted by Him.” Peter’s sermon might be troubling to good Reformed types. It sure sounds like God is responding to Cornelius’s good works (10:4, 10:31). If Paul were a good Reformed preacher, he’d make sure that point got cleared up rather than seeming to agree with him (10:35)! But the fact that Cornelius has heard all about the gospel of Jesus (10:37) means that Cornelius is already a disciple of Jesus in some sense. Peter says that Jesus Christ was God’s word of peace to the nations (10:36), and that as a result of his death and resurrection (10:37-41), Jesus has been appointed “judge of the living and the dead” (10:42). This means that whoever believes in Jesus will receive remission of sins (10:43). Proof of their forgiveness is that the Spirit is poured out on them (10:44-48).

Applications & Conclusions
The gospels present the coming of Jesus and His ministry as entirely empowered and driven by the Holy Spirit, and this same Spirit drives and fills His people.

Christmas is as much about the coming of the Spirit as it is about the coming of Christ. The Spirit overshadows Mary, fills Elizabeth and Zacharias and Simeon. The Spirit came upon Jesus in His baptism and then drove Him into the wilderness. The same Spirit led Jesus through Galilee bringing justice to God’s people, proclaiming the year of release, setting captives free, and forgiving sins. The same Spirit raised Jesus from the dead, and ushered Him up to the throne of God. And then the Spirit came rushing down on the disciples who were praying in the upper room.
In one sense, we might say that the Spirit is the forgiveness of sins; the Spirit is our proof, our seal, our evidence of forgiveness from God. The Spirit is our comforter, our guarantee that God is well pleased with us.

The justice of God is His forgiveness, His deliverance from sin and darkness and death. The justice that is for the gentiles and the ends of the earth is the declaration that Jesus is the Judge. Like Samson, He has come filled with the Spirit to fight our enemies and deliver us from sin and death.

Our mission is to walk in the Spirit and to flee everything that grieves Him (Eph. 4:30-32): all bitterness, wrath, anger, and evil speaking, and putting on kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness because God has forgiven us in Christ. Forgiveness is the justice of God in Christ.

“Merry Christmas” means that the Spirit has come and overshadowed this world. The Spirit has led the Son to become our salvation, and now whoever believes in His name receives remission of sins.

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

Closing Prayer: Gracious Father we thank you for sending Your Spirit here to overshadow Mary that she might bear our Lord Jesus Christ. And we thank you, O Holy Spirit, for filling the Lord Jesus and leading Him to bring forgiveness and justice to the world through His life, death, and resurrection. O, Lord Jesus, we give you thanks for pouring out Your Spirit on your Church that we might know forgiveness and extend that justice the ends of the earth. And we pray these things filled with the same Spirit calling to you, O Father, as your Son taught us to pray, singing…


Saturday, January 02, 2010

Yahweh the Mighty

Isaiah 41:13 is a nifty little chiasm:

Like a mighty man
>shall go forth
>>like a man
>>>for battles
>>>>rouses himself
>>>He will shout
>>Yes, He will roar
>at His enemies
He will show himself a mighty man.