1.31.2015

Matthew 20:17-34

Main idea
Jesus foretells His death and resurrection.
Zebedee's wife asks special favors for her sons, sparking envy among the disciples.
Jesus heals blind men in Jericho on the way to Jerusalem.

How this is about Jesus
He is prophet, foretelling His death.
He is king, who will sit on a throne.
He is priest, healing body and soul.

Sin this reveals
Rivalry and envy about who is the greatest.
Putting politeness ahead of bringing others to Jesus (31). 

Genesis 34-35

Main idea
Jacob's daughter is raped by Hamor's son.  Jacob is too passive in dealing with it, so two of his sons respond with deception and disproportionate violence.  Interestingly, Dinah was living in Hamor's house at the time (26).

How this is about Jesus
Jesus will take vengeance on the wicked, but with no deception or over-reaction.

Sins this reveals
Lust (Hamor's son) and anger (Levi and Simeon) leading to violence.
Apathy in bringing justice to those offended (Jacob).


35
Main idea
God restates His promises to Jacob at Bethel, after Jacob leads his family there, and to get rid of their idols (!).  Rachel and Isaac die.  Jacob's twelve sons are listed.

How this is about Jesus
The promises Jesus fulfills are repeated, and we see growth toward them.  I'm sure the pillar Jacob erects in this chapter is bigger than the one in Chapter 28.  And he has twelve sons now, instead of being a single exile last time he was at Bethel.

Sins this reveals
Clinging to idols, even though raised in the faith.

Genesis 33

Main idea
Jacob meets Esau and delicately parts from him again.
He buys a piece of land from a Canaanite named Hamor.

How is this about Jesus
Jesus like Jacob came to his own land and people and had to tread carefully to avoid problems.  Jacob couldnt fully avoid them because of his sin.  Jesus doesn't avoid them because He bears our sin.

Sins this may reveal
Willingness to compromise with those living out of Gods ways (Esau).
Overly separated from unbelievers (Hamor).
Jacob avoids both of these.

1.30.2015

Review: A Tolkien Miscellany


A Tolkien Miscellany
A Tolkien Miscellany by J.R.R. Tolkien

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



I read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from this volume, not the whole book.

This is Tolkien's translation of a medieval and anonymous text.

It has a strong meter, about 12 beats per line, and heavy alliteration - 2-4 words in every line begin with the same letter/sound.
"When the seige and the assault had ceased at Troy,
and the fortress fell in flame to firebrands and ashes..."


But the real beauty here is the story. A lesser known classic, yet everyone should read this. It's about staying true to your word, confessing the truth when you don't, and the mercy that should follow.

"It was torment to tell the truth:
in his face the blood did flame;
he groaned for grief and ruth
when he showed it, to his shame." (verse 100)

Gawain resists falling into temptation, but does commit a small cowardly and deceptive act. He freely tells the knights of the round table of his fault when he gets back. "A man may cover his blemish, but unbind it he cannot" (101). But five lines later there is a wonderful event of mercy and grace from the covenant community round table. This is a great meditation on how to repent and extend forgiveness.

"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed" - James 5:16.



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Genesis 31-32

Chapter 31
Main idea
Jacob runs away from Laban with more trickery but nothing sinful on his part.  Rachel steals his gods, but Jacob doesn’t know.  It’s hard to stop deceiving when it has become a habit.
Laban gets mad, but God tells him not to hurt Jacob.  Laban says he could hurt Jacob, says everything Jacob has is his, then lets him go.  Rachel deceives her father Laban.  They have left a dysfunctional situation, but took some of the trouble with them.

How is this about Jesus?
Jesus plundered the strong man’s house and took what was rightfully His from the usurper.
Jacob leaves Laban’s house with the goods God gave him, partly in rebuke of Laban’s deceptions and partly to bless the line of covenant promise.

Sins this may reveal:
Greed and claiming things that aren’t really ours (wealth or married children)
Not making a clean break with a troubled past – taking some of the gods with us when we leave.


Genesis 32
Main idea
Jacob is between two hostile family members, leaving a father-in-law and coming to a brother who wanted to kill him last time he saw him.  Jacob tries more plots to save himself, like Abraham and Isaac did with neighboring kings.  What should God’s people DO when vulnerable to hostile and more powerful neighbors?  Claim God’s promises (10-12), wrestle with (trust) Him (24-28), and turn from sin (deceit in Jacob’s case – vs 27).  Jacob asks for a blessing instead of taking one.  He tells the truth about himself instead of lying to his father.  He is only now ready to receive God’s blessing with integrity.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus is the Wrestler, with whom we must come to terms, be truthful, and trust our livelihood in His hands.  He has the right to give (and receive) God’s blessing based on our faith and truthfulness toward Him.

Sins this may reveal

Our struggle to keep trusting ourselves, though we pray, repent and claim to trust God for our safety.

Matthew 19-20

19
Main idea
Marriage, children and wealth – quite a chapter!
Jesus limits the grounds for divorce so much, the disciples wonder if getting married is wise.  Children should be able to come to Jesus.  Wealth can keep you from coming to Jesus, but reward comes in the remade world from following Him.  (I tend to think this new world has yet to come, though many in my circles take it as fulfilled at the Ascension.)

How this is about Jesus
Jesus the King sets the standard for entering His kingdom, and it’s unexpected.

Sins this may reveal

Using marriage or children or wealth for our own advantage instead of for Christ and His kingdom.


Chapter 20
Main idea
Kingdom reward is not always according to strict merit.  God includes many by grace who “deserve” reward far less than others.

How this is about Jesus
He is the King who can give reward at His pleasure.  He treats no one unjustly.

Sins this reveals:
The greed of comparison and complaint.

1.29.2015

Genesis 30

Main idea
Family dysfunction continues, Leah and Rachel in rivalry for Jacob's love, trying to obtain it through children.  Laban cheats Jacob again; Jacob learns shrewd diligence instead of cheating, and prospers.

How is this about Jesus?
We do not earn God's love by our works, children, etc.  God freely loves us in Christ.
The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is life.

Sins this may reveal:
Trying to earn the favor of others in a craven fashion.
Malice in trying to "one-up" siblings, co-workers, etc.

Genesis 29

Main Idea
Jacob the deceiver gets deceived, marrying Leah, then Rachel.
Leah is unloved by Jacob, so God gives her sons.

How is this about Jesus?
Jesus also serves for His bride.  He saw His seed (the fruit of His labor) and was eventually satisfied.  Before that, He also went through the frustration of working an unyielding soil - His ministry to an un-heeding people.

Sins this may reveal:
It can take years of living with consequenes of your selfishness to learn humility.
God has a way of "evening out" our inequalities that result from sin.

God's Aseity and Impassibility

John Frame's Systematic Theology
Chapter 19.  The Self-Contained God

Aseity is from the Latin a se, from itself.  This refers to God's independent existence.
The classic text that shows this is Exodus 3:14, where God tells Moses, "I am that I am."
Theologians usually treat this metaphysically, but it also applies to how we know what we know, and how we know what is right.  Both have their starting point in God.  Truth and right are both defined by who God is, not by some standard outside to Him, to which He must adhere.

God owns all things, and anything we give Him, He gave us first.  So God has no needs (Ps 50:8-12; Acts 17:24-25).  We assume this in our worship (Rom 11:36).

Non Christian thought seeks ultimate being, truth and ethic in natural law, secular authority, human experience, reason, duty or consequences.  But they fail outside of the one God, in whom all three ultimates converge.


God as Impassible
Does God have feelings?  The bible certainly says so often.  Many theologians deny this from a Greek perspective (unbiblical) that emotions are a sign of weakness.  God can think without a brain, so He can have emotions without a body.  Emotion is usually a response to some change and event, which God can have, even if He ordained the change and event.  "God is ultimately active not passive," and the term impassible can be used to mean this.

Proper evaluation of things often requires "exciting language"!  The phrase "King of kings" is more rhetorical or emotional than to say that "God rules."  But it is also more true.  Frame: "without emotions, God would lack intellectual capacity," He couldn't fully express the truth.

There are emotions inappropriate to God.  He doesn't make decisions based on temporary feelings, isn't addicted to feelings, or anxious about things.  But this doesn't mean He can't have any emotions.

Can God suffer?
Modern theologians argue yes, while the classics said no.
God emotionally empathizes with us (Isa 63:9; Heb 4:15; John 11:35).  But this isn't the same as suffering injury or loss.  Jesus suffered on the cross, and thus God did.  It wasn't a human nature as opposed to a divine nature that suffered, it was the Second person of the Trinity.  Since He is one with the Father, He somehow shares in the suffering of the Son, but does not have the same experience the Son has.  He knows the agony.  But "God in His transcendent nature cannot be harmed in any way, nor can He suffer loss."  This would mean losing an attribute like infinity, or losing in Satan's war with Him.

So God can love and empathize with us, but that doesn't make Him vulnerable and weak in His being.

All-Present, All-Knowing God

Section II: Theology Proper (Study of God)
Chapter 4: Charnock
 on God's Attributes
Pages 66-71

The Omnipresence of God
God is not bound by space or time.  Charnock fought the Socinians (basically Deists) at this point by asserting rightly that God is present providentially sustaining the existence of all things.  He is as present in Hell as He is in Heaven.

The Omniscience of God
God knows Himself and all things such that He understands what to do.
God has practical knowledge of all that is, and speculative knowledge of all that could be.
God knows things factually, but He also knows His people with affection (Amos 3:2).
God's understanding is infinite (Psalm 147:5).
Charnock and most Reformed rejected Molina's idea of middle knowledge to account for human freedom.  This asserted that God could know what totally free humans would do without decreeing or forcing them to do it.  But Charnock affirmed human freedom nonetheless.

This is a bit beyond me, philosophically, but I see the seed of Arminian thought here.  How can we be free in any meaningful way if God knows the whole future?  Only if He knows it in a way that watches it, doesn't cause it.  But then we have a helpless God.  Many opt for that to preserve man's freedom!

Sung Prayers; Awful Things; Educating at Home

You pray more than you think.  Here's an enjoyable way to enhance your prayer life.

An overhead look at Auschwitz

Miscarriage - a reflection that may be helpful

10 things for homeschoolers.  #1 and #8 are especially good.


1.28.2015

Matthew 18

Main idea
When the disciples want to know who is the greatest, Jesus tells them to be child like, and caring for the well being of each little lamb.  He also shows them how to restore those lambs (Matt 18:15-18).  Forgiving others is essential to this.

How is this about Jesus?
He came to seek and save lost sheep, forgiving their rebellion against Him.

Sins this passage may reveal:
Our desire to be first and unforgiving hinders our service to God and neighbor.

Genesis 28

Main idea
Jacob flees.  Esau thinks marrying Ishmaelites will be better than Canaanites.
God repeats His promise made to Abraham, now to Jacob, as He sees a ladder.  He takes God as His own, thought there are lots of ifs in his statement.  Is this doubt of a deceiver?  When you deceive it's hard to believe.  Or is it faith in a tight spot, running for your life?

How is this about Jesus?
In Jacobs offspring (Jesus) all families would be blessed.
Jesus the type of Jacob is killed by His Esau.  Herod = Idumean = Edomite = Esau.

Sins this passage may reveal:
Trying to make up for past sins with halfway measures (Esau's wives).
Not realizing God is at work in your life, in your place (Gen 28:16).

Genesis 27

Main idea
Jacob steals the blessing from Isaac meant for Esau, at Rebekah's direction!  Talk about a dysfunctional family.  Esau plans to kill Jacob, and Rebekah plans to send him to her family back in Nahor.

How is this about Jesus?
Caiaphas meant to save Israel by condemning Jesus, but he winds up blessing the One God meant all along to bless.

Sins this passage may reveal:
Favoring and blessing children for emotional reasons, when they need correction (Jacob).
Trying to fix things in a passive aggressive way, instead of dealing straight with people (Rebekah).

1.27.2015

Matthew 17 - Jesus on Taxes

Main idea
Jesus' glory is revealed more fully before some disciples, which convinces them and makes them wonder when Elijah came.
Jesus casts out a demon that His disciples couldn't.  He obviously didn't give them ALL His power.
Jesus rather cynically points out that rulers exempt their families but tax their people; He provides the tax for Peter and Himself miraculously.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus is the Son of the King, glorious and... exempt from paying taxes since He agreed to the heaviest tax penalty and audit of all time.

Sins this passage may reveal
Failing to see the glory and greatness of Jesus