3.31.2015

Deuteronomy 17-19

In determining guilt, 2 or 3 witnesses are needed, not just one.  Death for idolaters, and those who disregard the judges' rulings for them.  Have a supreme court in the appointed place of worship.  When you have a king, make sure it isn't a foreigner, and he may not gather many horses, wives or gold.  Instead he should copy this law by his own hand.

Give the priests their due in each town.  If a priest comes to the capital to serve, give him a position and a portion.  Don't let sorcerers live.  God will send a prophet for you to heed.  You will know it because what he says will come true.

Set up cities of refuge close to all your territory and easy to get to with good roads, so an accidental killer can flee there.  The judges there determine if it was accidental.  If not, they turn him over to the victim's avengers.  Don't move boundaries.  If a false witness arises, do to him what would have happened to the one he slanders.

How this is about Jesus
He knew the law, as a faithful king should (chpt 17).
He tells us to establish matters by 2-3 witnesses, if needed (Matt. 18:15-18).
He is the prophet God sent (18:15).  Luke 19:41-44 is one example of Jesus predicting something that came true, besides His own death and resurrection.
He was falsely accused before the Sanhedrin (Matt. 26:60).

Application
Don't believe one side in a dispute, without hearing the other side.  This perverts justice.
Listen closely to the words of Jesus!

Deuteronomy 14-16

Don't be like the nations around you in how you mourn the dead or in what you eat.  Take your tithe to God's appointed place each year.  Every third year, keep it in your town to give to the Levite and widow there.

Every 7 years, forgive all debts owed to Israelites.  Give generously to the poor without taking advantage of them.  Also don't profit from your firstborn animals - sacrifice them to God.

Feasts reviewed: Passover and unleavened bread, Weeks, and Tabernacles are the three feasts all the men need to attend (16:16), and they are meant for the whole family (16:11, 14).  Do justice with judges in every town.  Don't plant trees or set up pillars (signs of fertility) near the appointed worship space.

How this is about Jesus
  • He speaks of having an evil or good eye, and 15:9 explains what that means: generosity and compassion.
  • He said we will always have the poor with us, a nearly direct quote of 15:11.  Many read this as a callous disregard of the poor on Jesus' part, but the context shows it is just the opposite.

Application
  • We can be very stingy in our giving to God and to the poor.
  • Our giving to God should include our time in going to worship Him with His people regularly.  Lest any argue that three times a year is often enough, see Leviticus 23:3 for the command to assemble WEEKLY.

Deuteronomy 11-13

Moses is talking to the adults who saw (when they were children) God save them from Egypt, who saw with their own eyes what happened to Dathan and Abiram.  The land you are entereing is very fertile - more than Egypt was - so be careful not to forsake God.  If you are faithful, the land will stay fertile, and you will drive out the Canaanites.  If not, you will be cursed.

Don't sacrifice to God anywhere you want, in Canaan, but only the one place God appoints.  You can eat meat anywhere (not the blood).  Do not copy the nations in how they worship their gods.

Don't tolerate false prophets who lead you away from God.  Even if your closest friend or wife suggests worshiping other gods, put them to death.  If you hear of a nearby city in Israel that has gone after other gods, go investigate.  If it's true, kill everyone and burn it to the ground.

How this is about Jesus
He was tempted to idolatry by Satan, and quoted Deut. 6, to worship God alone.
He is the true prophet who leads us TO God, not away from Him.

Application
We have not seen the Exodus or crucifixion with our own eyes.  We are the children of those who did, and have their writings in the Bible.  Like this text, those writings are not just Moses' or the apostles' words, but God's very words (see Deuteronomy 31:9-13).

3.29.2015

Deuteronomy 8-10

8 - God taught you in the desert to rely on Him.  Don't stop when you enter Canaan's prosperity.

9 - God isn't giving you Canaan because of your great righteousness.  You have been stubborn with the golden calf, complaining for water, and refusing to enter Canaan the first time, so that I (Moses) had to intercede for God not to destroy you.

10 - Moses made new tablets and the ark, after the calf.  God set the Levites apart to minister before the ark.  Stop your stubbornness!  God has been kind and good to you, so fear and love Him, and love the stranger among you, too.


How this is about Jesus
He quotes 8:3 to Satan - God taught Israel in the desert that man doesn't live by bread alone.
He is the reason we can enter God's paradise - not by our own righteousness, but by His (Phil. 3:8-9).
He restored our relationship with God, as Moses set up the holy of holies with the ark and the law.
He was kind to the stranger, the Gentile and the sinner, when others ostracized them.

3.26.2015

Deuteronomy 5-7

Moses recounts God speaking the Ten Commandments at Sinai, and Israel asking for a mediator.
Love and fear God, and teach your children so.  Don't forsake Him when things go well in Canaan.
Give no quarter to the gods of Canaan. God is faithful to you; be faithful to Him.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus interprets the law on a mountain in Matthew 5-7.
"If you love Me, keep My commandments."

Application

  • A healthy fear of God is important to true piety.  Fear as a noun is not inherently bad - it depends what you fear.  God commends Israel for fearing Him, and says that's why He gave them the Law (6:3).
  • Teach your children the commands, the fear, and the salvation of God.
  • Give no place to any remaining sin in your life.  Attack and mortify it ruthlessly.  It leads to destruction.

Sing! / Broken homes / Manliness / Courts not Supreme

Sing your heart out at church!
"Too many in our churches are overly self-conscious about what others will think of them if they sing too loudly or, at times, out of key.... While we certainly want to strive for excellence in how we sing to our God, the sound of a child singing extremely loudly or, even at times, out of key, is a sweet sound that brings God great glory (Ps. 8). If we would simply seek to sing with joy in our hearts to the Lord we would lose self-awareness and embrace God-awareness. We would not fear what others might think about our singing."
Some people will do anything to save a marriage, including hurt or endanger people.  It's a classic case of Sabbath being made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Is "The Art of Manliness" the answer to our masculinity crisis?  Paul David Tripp says not.

How should we respond if the Supreme Court gives a pro-same-sex marriage ruling?  Hint: the courts are not supreme - not the final word - in our system of government.  Right?

Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness


On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



A delightful story.

It starts out really wacky, takes a while to get going, and ends with a bit of a whimper.

But the plot does become compelling and the story is richly biblical. Part one of a 4 part series. Worth the read, especially if you're looking for something for your kids to read - in the 10-14 age range, probably.

Themes include sibling loyalty, trusting parents, fighting anger and resentment, coping with hardship, and the importance of joy and laughter together.



View all my reviews

Word of God in Nature, History and Words

John Frame's Systematic Theology
Part 4: The Doctrine of the Word of God
Chapter 24 - God speaking in events and words

The Word of God almost always comes to us through some medium: words on a page, or spoken language with a person, or events, etc.  This does not make it necessarily flawed.

I. Events
  A. Nature and general history
    God speaks through nature, clearly and powerfully.
    Nature is not itself the Word of God.
    We must know about nature or history to apply Scripture meaningfully.
  B. Redemptive history
    Exodus, resurrection, apostolic miracles are all examples
    These make God's presence and power and lordship known
    It's wrong to say this is grace, while nature reveals law.  Both show His kindness and judgment.
    Lessing's ditch, separating history and faith is also wrong.  Events call forth faith.
    Faith is required to understand history.
II. Words
  Word and event complement each other.  Words explain and preserve events uniquely.
  A. Divine Voice - Sinai is the most powerful example, Elijah's still, small voice, and many others.
    How do we know it's really God, when there are lying spirits out there?  We just do.
    There is no standard above God's Word to test whether it is from Him or not.
  B. Prophets and Apostles
    There is no downgrade" in God's Word when He speaks by prophets (Ex. 4:14-16; Jer. 1:10-12).
    OT prophets include Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Samuel, etc.
    In the NT, the Spirit comes on the 12 apostles, and they pass Jesus' words on to the church.
    John 14:26; 15:26 prove this urgent question of where we find the words of Jesus.
    There ARE false prophets, after all.  True prophets truly represent and apply God's covenant.
  C.  Jesus is the ultimate prophet, who both receives and speaks the Father's words faithfully.
    He fulfills Deut. 18:18.  His words are life, and must be obeyed.
    Where are those words?  That's the next chapter...

3.25.2015

Deuteronomy 3-4

Israel also conquers the Amorites of Bashan.
The 2 and a half tribes will settle there, after they fight for Israel.
Moses cannot enter the land, but gets to see it from Pisgah.

Moses reminds Israel of all God has done for them from the Exodus, to hearing His voice at Sinai, to recent battles won.  So stay loyal to God when you are tempted to worship idols and nature.  Israel is unique in that God made them a nation from another nation, and gave them unique and excellent laws.


How this is about Jesus

  • He is the firstfruits of the resurrection, and wins the victory at the cross before the victory is fully won at the consummation.  In the same way, God gives Israel victory and some inheritance to dwell in, before they cross the Jordan and all the battles are won.
  • Jesus wants our children to come to Him - forbid them not!  And Moses calls Israel to tells their children what the Lord has done for them.

3.24.2015

Demons and Puritans

Section II: Theology Proper (Study of God)
Chapter 12 - Demons

Puritans talked a lot more about Satan and demons than about angels, mainly "our conflict" with them.

Their nature
Demons have the same nature as angels, but are permanently falle a dn corrupted.  Satan is their leader (Matt 25:41; Rev 12:7).  Their fall is barely spoken of.  Jesus saw it, Rev 12 describes it.  A few Puritans saw Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 as types of it.  A few speculated, along with an ancient source, that Satan fell in refusing to go along with the plan to worship an incarnate Christ, but this is not in Scripture.  Their fall and lack of redemption shows the grace of God.  The "younger brother" of His creation is raised to prominence.

Their power
Like their leader, they are malicious, subtle and strong.  God allowed them to rule this world until Christs coming, and they still hold sway among men rebelling against Christ.  They can control nature, animals, and unbelieving men.  Even on the believer they can bring disease and bring up evil thoughts as temptations.  "Physical objects cannot protect us." (192).  Apart from Christ we are in bondage to the devil and our sins.  Jesus destroys his work, and the believer has resources to resist them.  Their power is limited by God's providence.  Where Satan intends our destruction he only achieves our refinement in fire.  Charnock's illustration: he polishes us when he means to rub us out.

Their schemes against us
Satan's main way of temptation is deception.  He tempts different people differently.
  • He starts with small sins and we get used to them and let them grow.  We should not give him an inch.
  • He persists in suggesting particular sins and we succumb.  We should reject the promises sin makes as false.
  • He gives us a minor victory and we get proud and presumptuous.  We should stay watchful.
  • He makes evil seem good.  "Greed becomes frugality, and lukewarmness appears to be moderation."  We should love God's Word of truth.
  • He traps us in lawful things and we take them to extremes in bad stewardship (recreations, food, work, etc.).  We must be content, and avoid occasions for sin.
  • He gives new revelations, miracles or sensational experiences.  We should test the spirits and not believe any supernatural thing we think we see or hear.
  • He shames us with how intense or perverse our temptations are, and we despair and isolate ourselves from others.  We should remember we are vulnerable to any kind of temptation, and confide in trusted friends.
  • He gets us to trust charms or objects instead of God, prayer, and the Word in our hearts.
  • He gets us to doubt our salvation, since we sin or are tempted as we are.  We should remember that true believers are not perfect.
  • He convinces us it's okay to sin, since we can repent later.  We should remember that true repentance is a gracious gift of God.
  • He gets us to neglect work or worship/devotions, by pursuing one at the expense of the other.
  • He swings us from one extreme to another: severe rigor and judgment to lax "mercy" and looseness.

The main thing is to look to Christ for strength and final victory - He has crushed the serpent's head!

Luke 2

A government census forces Joseph and Mary on a long trip to Bethlehem right when she is due to give birth to Jesus.  The only place to lay Him is an animal feed trough, since the inn(s?) are full.

Angels announce it to shepherds outside town.  The angels praise God.  The shepherds go see Jesus and tell everyone they meet what happened.

Joseph and Mary keep the law, circumcising and naming the baby Jesus on the 8th day, and going to the temple after 40 days.  There they meet Simeon and Anna, who prophesy that Jesus is salvation for Jew and Gentile.

They go settle in Nazareth, and when He is 12, they take Him to the Passover feast at the temple.  He stays there after Joseph and Mary depart, wisely discussing Bible with the teachers, who are impressed.


Application

  • Governments can oppress and humiliate people, and Jesus let that happen to Him and His parents. (1-7)
  • No matter how humble your situation, there are glorious angels praising God with you and watching over you. Tell others about Jesus! (8-20)
  • Keep God's Word, even when you think you have a "special case." (21-40)
  • Even the best parents lose track of their kids now and then. (40-52)

Deuteronomy 1-2

Moses explains the Word of God to Israel before they cross the Jordan - His farewell sermon.
God sent us from Sinai to Canaan, through the desert.
God had us set up intermediate judges and leaders under Moses.
Israel refused to enter Canaan, afraid of how big and strong the Canaanites were.
God declares only Caleb and Joshua will enter, and the children of those rebelling.
Israel tries to go in, and gets beaten by the Canaanites.
They wander in the desert for 38 years (total of 40, with the first 2 taken up going from Exodus to Sinai to Canaan the first time).
They leave Moab and Ammon alone, and conquer Amorites.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus, before He ascends to heaven, commissions His disciples to go to all the nations.
Moses, before he died on the mountain, commissioned Israel to go into Canaan.
Jesus also points out when we rebel against him (Rev. 2-3).

Application
The world won't just leave you alone, if you promise to leave them alone (2:26-31).  Someone will always be dispossessed, and the other in charge.  America's goal may be freedom of religion, but our goal as the church is the conversion of the nations, not a pluralistic neutrality of religion in the public square.  I'm not arguing here for forced conversions or imposing religion on people in any way.  But we work for Christ to have dominion from sea to shining sea.

3.23.2015

Numbers 34-36

God describes the borders of Israel's land: Jordan on the east, Sea of Galilee in the upper northeast corner (Chinnereth), Mount Hor in the north, Kadesh-Barnea in the South, Mediterranean on the west.  Chiefs of each tribe yet to receive land are named.

Levites get 48 cities total, throughout Israel.  6 will be cities of refuge, where accidental murderers are protected from avenging family.  Intentional murderers may not receive such protection, and are to be executed.

Daughters who inherit land, need to marry within their tribe, so that the land of a tribe stays in the tribe.


How this is about Jesus

  • He is our real inheritance.  He made heaven and earth, and so our ultimate sense of home is not a land or a place, but Christ the Lord.
  • He is our refuge, who protects us from Satan, the accuser.  At the death of the high priest, we go free (35:28).
  • He takes His bride, the Church, in such a way so as not to lose any inheritance (Psalm 2:8).

Application
Do justice in punishing intentional and high-handed sins more severely than accidents.
Respect your boundaries and borders in relationships, neighbors, nations, etc.

Numbers 31-33

God has Moses do one last task: destroy Midian,  They kill the men and take captive the women, children and cattle.  Moses has them also kill every male child and woman not a virgin.  This is in response to Numbers 25.  They kill Balaam, too.  The soldiers get half the plunder and Israel gets the other half.  The soldiers bring an offering to God from it, for not losing a single man.

The tribes of Reuben and Gad, and some Manasseh-ites want to settle in the land just conquered, east of the Jordan.  Moses doesn't like it, at first, seeing the same rebellion Israel committed 40 years ago.  They must go fight for Israel west of the Jordan, then they may settle back here.

God recounts all the places Israel camped for the last 40 years, and tells them to be sure to drive out all the inhabitants and smash their idols.  Anything they leave alone, will ensnare them later, and God will drive Israel out, too.

How this is about Jesus
The Psalms are full of language about Christ ruling and defeating His enemies.  Psalms 2 and 110 are good examples.  Revelation 19, also.

Application

  • We must show no mercy or pity to the remnants of sin left in our hearts, families, or churches.  One Puritan said, "Be killing sin, or it will be killing you."
  • How did these tribes know they had found their inheritance?  The land fit their possessions of cattle.  Sometimes God guides by circumstances, IF we will also follow His revealed Word in that situation (in this case, fighting for the rest of Israel, and protecting your families).

3.22.2015

Numbers 28-30

Sacrifices are reviewed for each feast, emphasizing the amounts of flour, oil, and wine for each sacrifice.

We must keep our vows.  Fathers and husbands have authority to overrule vows their family members make.  Silence is consent, if they are aware of the vow.

How this is about Jesus
Interesting that bread and wine were given with every sacrifice.  Jesus keeps these elements in the NT sacrament of the Eucharist, remembering His final sacrifice.
Jesus gives instruction for His house, the church, in the NT.

Application
There is much family design instruction in chapter 30.  It is a proof from Scripture that family leaders are to guide the spiritual practice of each member as shepherds.

Luke 1

Several accounts of the things fulfilled have been written, and Luke wanted to write, too, having thorough knowledge of it all.

Zachariah, a priest married to Elizabeth but with no children, offers incense and the angel Gabriel appears and promises him a son to name John.  He will be a Nazirite, the Elijah coming before the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6).  Zachariah doesn't believe, and so will be mute until he is born - 9 months!
Elizabeth conceives and rejoices.  Gabriel goes to Mary 6 months into Elizabeth's pregnancy.  He announces the birth of Jesus, and that He will be the eternal King of Israel.  Mary asks the same question Zachariah asked, but from faith, not doubt.  The Holy Spirit will mysteriously bring about her conception.  Mary goes to visit Elizabeth.  Elizabeth blesses Mary, led by the Spirit, and calls her the "mother of my Lord."

Mary sings a song of Scripture (Magnificat), praising God for scattering the proud and filling the hungry, for helping Israel as He told Abraham He would.

John is born, Zachariah assets to name him John, and can immediately speak.  This is talked all over.  Zachariah prophesies, blessing God for redeeming Israel as He promised Abraham He would.  He tells baby John that he will go before God's coming as a messenger.  God is bringing knowledge and light by forgiving their sins.

Application
We bless God for keeping His Word.
We take Him at His Word, not doubting that word.
We know His Word well enough to know when and how He kept it, and quote it in songs (which Mary and Zachariah do here).

3.20.2015

Numbers 26-27

God has Israel take another census of every man twenty and up.  There are 601,730.  Of these, only Joshua and Caleb were numbered after the exodus, the eat have died in the desert.

A man has no sons but five daughters and asks what happens to his inheritance.  It goes to the daughters.  God tells Moses to go up a mountain and see the land, for he will then die.  Moses asks God to give Israel a leader, and He says to ordain or inaugurate Joshua to that office, since he has the Spirit.

How this is about Jesus
Like Joshua and Caleb, Jesus is faithful in the desert.
Like Zelophehad, Jesus saw His inheritance possibly cut off, but will see His seed prolonged(Isaiah 53:8, 10), thanks to God's promise.

Application
Sins often remove earthly blessings we might otherwise have had.  Israel and Moses cannot enter Canaan.  This does not endanger our forgiveness or our salvation, though.

God's people need leaders.

3.19.2015

Angels and Puritans

Section II: Theology Proper (Study of God)
Chapter 11 - Angels

The Puritans lived in a magical worldview, compared with our mechanical one.  Superstition abounded, and the Reformation sought to stamp much of it out, looking to scripture alone.  Our spirituality should be supplication, not manipulative.

Angels are spirits who serve God and His people (Heb 1:14).  There are myriads of them: 10,000 times 10,000.  Some are higher than others (1 Thess. 4:16), but we don't know more than that and shouldn't speculate. They are strong and overpowering in their presence.  But they are not immutable or divine, they are creatures.

A history of angels
God decreed their existence and glory.  They are not saved, but some are foreordained to damnation and others preserved in faithful glory with God.  Edwards thought this leads to union with Christ, like redeemed people have, but scripture does not specify they are in Christ as we are.
God created them with the heavens in Genesis 1:1, and they rejoiced in the creation of earth (Job 38:4-7).
God uses His angels to serve Him in the present age.  See below.
God will consummate this age with angels.  They come with Christ at His return.  They gather the harvest of men into God's barns.  They are judged themselves.

The work of angels
They rejoice at the conversion of sinners, bring messages to men from God (in the accounts Scripture gives us), work God's providence in the world and in people generally, and have charge to care for God's people.  The Bible describes them doing this last one in several different situations.

Communion with angels
We worship God together and they are fellow servants with us.  To what extent angels help us in sanctification, scripture speaks less than does tradition, paganism, and our own speculation.


My thoughts
Several thoughts are left out, here.  Jesus says the angels go up and down on Him, the ladder between heaven and earth.  Matthew 18:10 isn't even quoted: "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven."  I assume this is an overreaction to the speculation and extra biblical attention the subject of angels can bring.

Hebrews 1:1-4 is important: God spoke ultimately through His Son, who is far greater than angels.  At the same time, scripture speaks after that of the possibility of entertaining angels.  I doubt this refers to human messengers or pastors, as they are said to entertain them unaware.  And I don't dismiss as bogus all the claims of people in un-reached areas seeing visions, dreams or angels that point them to Jesus, His Word, or the church near them.  This is different than speculating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or who all the archangels are.

God wants us to be aware of angels, but not to focus on them instead of on our calling and communion with God.

Review: Emma


Emma
Emma by Jane Austen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



50 chapters of exasperation with the main character Emma, gives way to relief in the end.

Frivolous and meddling thoughts will lead to thoughtless and unkind speech at some point, as it does for Emma. We need to deal with people in truth and love. Not as our personal projects to improve, but as image bearers of God in their own right, no matter how provincial or annoying they may be.

Sheep often like to try shepherding others right when they most need to be shepherded themselves. This is Emma. Her shepherd stares her in the face the whole time, but she is oblivious, self-deceived and just clueless. He is willing to give her a straight forward yet loving rebuke, instead of play coy games that toy with her heart, as she and others do to each other in the book.

Peter Leithart's book, Miniatures and Morals, was a helpful reading companion.

Are you really seeking the good of that other person you are dealing with, or are you advancing your agenda, stroking your ego, and exalting yourself before others?
That is Austen's question for you in Emma.



View all my reviews

Review: The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving


The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving
The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving by Randy Alcorn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Pretty good, on giving.

The treasure principle is that you can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead. Alcorn encourages giving, starting with the tithe, and going on to other offerings. This should flow from an eternal perspective, that assets here are short term compared with the Kingdom of God. This perspective and actual giving is the best antidote for materialism. Your heart will go where your treasure does, so give to what you know you should care about!

One weakness of this book was lacking a more positive view of work, enterprise and money on this earth. He comes close to calling it dirty and second class often. Alcorn seems to hold the evangelical view that money and business are only good for the giving to the kingdom that can result, not as a vocation in the marketplace itself. The ending illustration uses Scrooge, a great image of a changed heart being generous and neighbor-loving. But Dickens fell into this same error regarding "business" as cold and callous in itself.



View all my reviews

Mark 16

The women go to anoint Jesus' dead body with spices.  They are surprised to find the tombstone already removed, and an angel tells them to go meet the risen Jesus in Galilee, and tell the disciples.

Jesus appears to the disciples and rebukes them for not believing the women.  He sends them to evangelize the nations with accompanying miracles, and He ascends to God in heaven.

Sins this may reveal
We do not expect resurrection.  Even knowing this central story to our faith, we continue to doubt God will restore where damage and hurt has come to our lives.  Believe the good news!

Numbers 23-25

Balaam prophesies four times of Israel's blessing, each time more intense than before.  The Spirit comes on Him and He sees Jesus, the coming, ruling Star of David.
Israel falls into sexual sin and idolatry, seduced by the women of Moab.
Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest, kills two sinning people, and God commends him for it.

How this is about Jesus
24:17 is clearly Messianic.  Not only will Israel rule over Moab, but this happens in a person, a Him.
John 8 is a great foil for how Jesus deals with those caught in the act of adultery.  We are called to no less vigilance in purity, but civil consequences are different in ancient Israel and now.

Sins this may reveal, or application
23:21 says God has seen no wrong in Israel, after all the complaining and plagues in the whole book of Numbers!  This is a declaration of justification apart from works, of forgiveness from sin.
Balaam obeys God and the Spirit comes on him, and he speaks God's words, yet he Has some part in their sin in chapter 25 (see Rev 2:14).  Those given wisdom or speaking ability are not immune from sin themselves, and may lead God's people astray.

3.18.2015

Numbers 20-22

Miriam dies.
Israel complains with no water.  God tells Moses to speak to the rock to give water.  Moses hits it instead, also claiming ability himself to bring water.  God still lets the water come, but punishes Moses with no entry to Canaan personally.  Israel asks Edom nicely to pass through but they say no.  Israel goes around.  Aaron dies and Eleazar replaces him as high priest.

Israel conquers Canaanite Arad after it attacks and kidnaps some Israelites.  Israel complains against God again, and He sends snakes and then gives a way to be saved from their death.  They pass through Beer(Sheba?) where there is a well of water they appreciate.  They ask the Amorites to pass through, but they attack instead.  Israel wins, and also conquers Bashan.

The Moabite King Balak next door gets nervous and calls for a prophet Balaam to curse Israel.  God tells him not to go at first, to emphasize that Balaam needs to listen to Him.  Then God's angel appears to his donkey and it talks to him, to get Balaam's attention again, because his heart is still not committed to saying what God says to say.  He goes to Balak but is now more loyal to God than to the paying customer Balak.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus is the rock that gave Israel water (1 Cor. 10:1-5).  Interesting Moses hits it/Him.
Jesus is lifted up on a stake, like God has Moses do with the snake (John 3:14-15).  It is a picture of Satan crushed for good, by Jesus being crushed for a while.
Jesus tests some Gentiles while ministering on earth, as God tests Balaam, finding them faithful at least to speak the truth about God.

Sins this reveals
We go back to complaining as often as circumstances deteriorate, even temporarily, not learning from history that God will provide for us.
We pursue enterprises and opportunities for our own self interest, regardless of God's take on it.

The Word of God

John Frame's Systematic Theology
Part 4: The Doctrine of the Word of God
Chapter 23 - God and His Word

The Bible has a pattern of God saying what He will do, doing it, and then explaining it.
The Word of God is His speech, the way He reveals and expresses Himself.
His words bring creation, judgment, healing, conversion.
God is inseparable from His Word, and His Word is inseparable from His Spirit and the Son.
The Bible speaks of the Word as God Himself (John 1:1), and as something other than Him that He uses (Psalm 33:6).  This is a Trinitarian mystery, but it means we can say that the Word is an essential attribute of God, and is Jesus Christ, and is all His communications to Himself (1 Cor. 2:10-11) or to us.

God as true
An internal standard governs the Word of God: His truth.

  • God is true metaphysically: He is all He should be, the genuine article, the ultimate and only (Jer. 10:9-10; John 14:6).
  • God's Word is true propositionally.  It matches reality, won't mislead us.  He is the standard of truth Himself, and does not conform to some standard above Him.  Liberalism denies Scripture is propositionally all true.  Neoorthodoxy grant the Word power, but not still does not affirm the propositional truth of all of Scripture.
  • God is true ethically, in that He is faithful.

Metaphysical truth leads to propositional, which leads to ethical truth.  Genuineness leads to speaking  true words and doing faithful deeds.  Going the other way, to be ethically faithful requires saying what is true, and that requires knowing what is really so.

God's Word shows His control, authority and presence

  • Control.  The Word both hardens our hearts in judgment, and converts and blesses us in grace.  God does His work by His Word.  God's Word is never impotent, though it may appear so (Isa. 55:11).  The Word is always "doing something to you," not the other way around!
  • Authority.  God's Word imposes obligations on us, like when He spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden.  To question it and claim autonomy for our decisions and standard of truth is to follow Satan.
  • Presence.  God is near us in His Word (Deut 30:11-14; Rom 10:6-8).  Jesus the word came and dwelt with us, as the tabernacle was with Israel.  The Spirit is now with us, as He hovered over creation at the beginning, and He inspired the Word in the first place.

Numbers 17-19

God gives another test to show Israel He has chosen Aaron - it isn't just Moses playing favorites.
13 staves go in the holy of holies over night - one from each tribe's leader, and Aaron's.  In the morning, only Aaron's staff has budded, blossomed and produced almonds.  The people despair that they can never approach God because of their sin.

God speaks to Aaron.  His family and all Levites are to guard the tabernacle.  Priests get the people's sacrifices that don't go to God.  Levites get the tithes.  Both need to tithe on what they receive, to God.

Once you are ritually unclean from touching a dead body, you need to be twice sprinkled with water mixed with ashes from a red heifer sacrificed at the tabernacle - once on the third day after, and once on the 7th day after.


How this is about Jesus

  • God gave many miracles to show that Jesus was His chosen Messiah and beloved Son.
  • As the son, Jesus is greater than the servants in the house, the Levites.  They were a type of (a pointer to) the Son, as they were taken instead of all the firstborn sons in Israel.
  • We are washed clean by Jesus on the inside (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Application
  • Notice the people's despair in 17:12-13.  This is the danger of true repentance and conviction.  When we see our sin for what it is, we realize we are undone.  If we don't look beyond ourselves, we will despair.
  • Do what you can to respect and encourage church leaders, instead of criticizing or tearing them down.
  • Sin requires spiritual cleansing: repentance, receiving forgiveness, restitution

Mark 15

Pilate tries to get Jesus release.  He sees the rulers are envious of Him, and that Jesus Himself is no military threat to him.  But the rulers are determined and would rather have an immediate threat to them in their midst - Barabbas.  Pilate gives them what they want - the death sentence for Jesus.  Soldiers mock Him, beat Him, flog Him, strip Him, and crucify Him.  Passersby and rulers mock Him.  He is nailed to the cross at 9 a.m. (the hour of morning sacrifice), darkness comes at noon, and He dies at 3 p.m. (the hour of evening sacrifice).  The temple veil is torn.  women who were with Him are watching.  It is Friday.  Joseph of Arimathea asks for His body and buries Him in his own tomb.

"He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By His wounds you have been healed." - 1 Peter 2:24.

3.17.2015

Numbers 15-16

God goes back to the sacrifices, right after they refuse to try to enter the land.
The main point is to bring a grain and wine offering with your animals, and to have one law for Israelites or foreigners who want to sacrifice.  Sacrifices for unintentional sins are reviewed.  High-handed sins are different; one happens (gathering sticks to make a fire on the Sabbath) and God has him executed.  To punctuate the point, God has them sew tassels on their clothes to remember God's Law.

Korah, Dathan and Abiram gather a faction opposed to the leadership of Moses.  They refuse the test Moses proposes and won't respond to his summons.  They sway the people, but when Moses warns that God will destroy any who stand with them, the people move away from them.  God makes the earth swallow them up and they and all their families die.  The censers they were using are smelted and hammered as a cover for the altar, as an enduring warning to Israel: only Aaronic priests are to offer incense to God.

The NEXT DAY the people complain that Moses killed them!  God begins a plague, which is stopped when Aaron offers incense out among the people.

How this is about Jesus

  • Jesus offers bread and wine to God, and leads us to do so, as an enduring sacrifice of remembrance for Christ's work in fulfilling all sacrifice for atonement.
  • Jesus kept every commandment of God and entered the Promised Land of God's Rest first, making a way for us to go in.
  • Though the priests rejected Him, Jesus never rebelled against them or reviled them in any way.  He rebuked and exposed their sins, but was not a Korah/Dathan/Abiram.


Application

  • Before we can enter the promised land, we must worship and live rightly, trusting the work of Christ to bring us in.
  • We are quick to complain or get envious when God calls some to more visible and prominent service than we have.
  • We accuse God of wrongdoing when He punishes His people for their rebellion against God!

Mark 14

Leaders want to arrest Jesus quietly.
A woman anoints Jesus with very expensive perfume/spices, which brings pietistic protests about the poor.
Judas agrees to betray Him.
Jesus arranges for the Passover.  During it, He says a disciple will betray Him.
He institutes the Lord's Supper: bread and wine for His body and blood of covenant.
Back on Olive Mt., Jesus again predicts their leaving Him.  Peter protests; Jesus predicts his denials.
Jesus prays, asking the Father for another way, but submitting to His will.
The 3 closest disciples can't stay awake with Him.
They awake to His arrest.  Judas kisses Him.  There is a brief struggle, which Jesus stops.
When He submits to arrest, they flee.
Caiaphas gets Jesus condemned by the Sanhedrin, for affirming directly that He is the Christ.
Peter then denies Jesus, when others start linking him to the condemned - he may lose his life, too...

Sins this reveals
So many!
Wanting to pursue our selfish agendas away from the eyes of others (vs. 2).
Appealing to the poor to get a piece of the action ourselves (vs. 4-5, and John 12:6)
Claiming to follow Jesus more faithfully than we actually do or will.
Rejecting Jesus quickly without examining Him and His claims (vs. 63-64).
Denying Jesus to save our own skin.

It is interesting that the Gospel writers pile on describing the sins of those around Jesus, in the hours just before He goes to bear them at the cross.

3.16.2015

Numbers 12-14

Moses' siblings, Aaron and Miriam, criticize him for marrying an Ethiopian woman.  God confirms Moses' unique leadership by word and miraculous leprosy on Miriam.

God has Moses search out the land with twelve spies, one from each tribe.  They say the land is good, but well occupied and fortified by strong people.  Caleb and Joshua alone of the spies say they should make the attempt.  The people want to stone them.  God wants to destroy them.  Moses intercedes and God relents.  But He kills the unfaithful spies, and doesn't allow anyone but Caleb and Joshua to enter the land.  The rest will die wandering in the wilderness.  The people change their minds and decide to go in.  Moses warns them not to, but they don't listen, and are defeated.

How this is about Jesus
We can try to reject some things Jesus said or did, while accepting Him as Lord - an impossibility.
Jesus is the rest God graciously gives us, after we fail to enter rest through our own disobedience (Hebrews 3-4).

Sins/application
Refusing to believe God will grant victory and overcome enemies before us.
Criticizing and judging people for doing unexpected and non-traditional things, though they are not forbidden in God's Word.

3.14.2015

Numbers 9-11

Three months after the Exodus, Israel was at Sinai.
Nine months later, the tabernacle was set up, and they celebrate Passover at Sinai before moving out. God provides for an alternate feast a month later, if you're unclean and can't celebrate at the usual time.

The cloud and fire will move and direct Israel when to move and where to go.
Trumpets will signal when to break camp, or gather the Chiefs, or gather the whole nation, or prepare for war.
Right after Passover the cloud lifts and they break camp according to the instructions.  Moses asks Jethro to go, but it is unclear if he does.

Israel complains about the manna menu; Moses complains about the burdensome people.
God says to choose 70 elders to help Moses bear the burden.  They gather and God Puts His Spirit on them, like on Moses (Pentecost!).

God provides quail, but also a plague on those who complained.

How this is about Jesus
He dealt with complainers and arguers, too!  But He bore the burden of the people all alone, with the help of the Spirit.

Sins this reveals
We are quick to complain, slow to believe, and often want to rest when God calls us to march.  Or we want to fight when God calls us to rest...

An open letter to the saints in Jesus Christ at First Baptist of Zeeland, Michigan

1 Peter 4:12-17 says,
"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?"

Did you ever imagine protesters outside your church on a Sunday morning - in Zeeland, Michigan?

I've driven by your church dozens of times, a former boss attended years ago, and I now have family that worship with you, but otherwise I don't know you personally.  I live hundreds of miles away.  Something moved me to put some thoughts down, though, for you or for others who will face similar situations in the future.

Expect such hostility.
Matthew 10:22-26 - “You will be hated by all for My name’s sake.... 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! 26 Therefore do not fear them.

As 1 Peter 4 told us, the world will not leave us alone, just because we are nice.  This is not a horrifying event that signals the end is near.

Jesus wants you going through this.
See 1 Peter 4:14 again, above. Don't get thinking in your head, "What have we done or said to call the media down on us and put us in the spotlight?"  The answer is, you have spoken a truth that the world insists must be rejected.  Do not be discouraged.  Jesus was crucified, and we can't assume our lives should go better, much less that we be free from criticism and persecution.

Satan doesn't fight fair.
The media is focusing on 1-2 sentences from an hour long sermon, and wondering if you are all Westboro types, now.  Of course, as your pastor said, it's absurd to shape your identify so completely by a perversion like axe murdering or sodomy.  But we live in an absurd world now, where the bizarre will be vigorously defended.  The culture is moving to marginalize those with biblical views, rather than those who embrace perversion.  We are on the ropes, and need to be ready with an answer.

Beware half truths mixed with lies.
Notice adversaries and the media grab on to the axe murderer picture and ignore the point of the analogy made.

Half Truth One: Homosexuals are dangerous like axe murderers.
All sinners are dangerous, yes.  But some are more dangerous than others.  The comparison to an axe murderer was unfortunate.  While technically true, it is a PR blunder.  The brief qualification that it is on a completely different field is undone by the structure of the pastor's argument.  He actually IS comparing them.

Half Truth Two: All sins are the same
In one sense, every sin deserves God's condemnation, and so the morally upright housewife who tells a little white lie to a friend is just as guilty as the most debauched homosexual.  In another sense, sins are more heinous than others, based on how much harm they do to others.  An axe murderer does more harm than someone with same sex feelings.  An aggressively recruiting homosexual predator can certainly wreck a lot of lives, I understand.  But it is an overstatement, on the surface.  A better analogy might be a thief who doesn't stop stealing, while claiming to have become a Christian.

Half Truth Three: All homosexuals are the same.  Or, You can be Christian and gay.
A key question the church is asking today is, How are we to view homosexuals?
Our uncertainty about this as a church, combined with the cultural full court press we're getting, is a recipe for disaster.  Axe murderer is the wrong answer to the question, and I don't think your pastor was answering that question that way.  But the point of the pastor's analogy is right:
  • If we define ourselves by the sins we decide aren't really sins, we are patently apostate and reject God's Word as an authority in our lives.  The church should not admit me as a member and I shouldn't claim to be Christ's follower.  This is NOT to say all homosexuals are like axe murderers.  Personally, I stand with First Baptist in proclaiming this to the world, just when the world is insisting that everyone must accept homosexual behavior and not call it sin or aberrant.  No.  We need a backbone at this point, on this issue, and First Baptist is showing it.  Good for them.  Sadly, many Christians will back away, accepting the media's distorted version of what First Baptist is saying.
  • If we struggle with same sex attraction, but believe God's Word that that attraction and the behavior it leads to are outside Gods design, just like attraction to a woman not my wife is, then I am not a danger to society or to the church, anymore than any other believer struggling with his sin is.  The church's message to the world often denies this category exists.  I think many conservatives wonder in their hearts if homosexuals are an inherent danger, because of the aggressiveness of the homosexual lobby we've watched beat us up for the last 10 years or so.  But most are not.  Much like Islam, we see the radically aggressive version of it on TV so much, we assume our Muslim neighbor must be a threat to society.  But they aren't.  They are wrong, and outside God's Kingdom.  But we should always be open to the possibility that God may convert an atheist, Muslim, homosexual, or our serially adulterous co-worker - and that He may use us to do so.

What do we do about church tomorrow morning?
Be there
Do not hide your children from this by staying away from church.  Tell them in a simple way that many people around us don't love Jesus.  They reject the truth our pastor preaches.  They are protesting God's Word.  We need to pray for them, that God would change them and help us know what to say to them.  This is probably a part of the broader church's outreach strategy that has been missing, that God is now graciously supplying to you.  Here they are in real life, on our doorstep, the people we must reach for Christ.

Give an answer, if you have it
This is the cultural engagement we are looking for.  It's time to give an answer.  Go and talk to the protesters tomorrow morning.  Meet their hostility with grace.  Absorb insults and screams, whether on signs or from people.  Listen to criticism and respond with grace and truth.  Think a few steps ahead before you go.  Know their argument, their concern from their point of view.  You may protest to them that they are slandering you by identifying you with Westboro.  They will counter that you slander them by comparing them to axe murderers.  What do you say next?  If you aren't sure, don't go, and leave it to others with the gift of apologetics and evangelism.

Worship God
Read the Psalms, which have an intense awareness of the presence of Christ's enemies.  Our worship as the American church has generally lacked that in recent years.  Give God the glory among the nations (Psalm 96).

Remember your brothers and sisters in Christ
In a very small way, you are facing a similar problem that the church in Myanmar, China, Syria and Niger has faced on Sundays for a long while.  "What will happen when we assemble for worship today?"  Will they shut us down?  Will they come in and interrupt the service?  In many ways, it is good for us to be shaken a bit, and not be so sure.


But we do know that God will be with us.  He will speak in His Word.  He will define right and wrong, repentance and apostasy from that Word.  He will promise His people the ultimate victory, whether we are chewed up by the beast here very soon like the 21 in Egypt, or whether we continue fighting unfaithfulness in our heart and family and world with relatively little outward hostility and opposition.


First Baptist Church, I will be praying for you, and will think of you as I preach on these verses tomorrow:
"Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love."
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

3.13.2015

Cage-stage folks / Celebrity preachers / kind husbands

RC Sproul on contending for the truth without being contentious

The podcast preacher isn't your pastor

On becoming a kind husband

Mark 13

Jesus speaks of the time the temple will be destroyed.
Many troubles will come, but don't listen when they say Jesus has returned.
Get out of the city when you see the temple defiled.
Powers will be shaken.  The end is near then, but no one knows the exact time.
Stay awake and alert and watching.

I find it very likely that everything Jesus was talking about here was about the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70A.D.  See verses 2-4 and 30.  Some of it, especially in other Gospel accounts, also applies to Christ's final return, still in the future.

Numbers 7-8

Israel brings offerings for an initial sacrifice to God.  Each tribe brought:
1 silver plate, with flour and oil
1 silver basin, with flour and oil
1 gold dish, with incense
1 bull, 1 ram, 1 lamb for burnt offering
1 goat for sin offering
2 oxen, 5 rams, 5 goats, 5 lambs for peace offering
They also brought it in carts with oxen, for the Levites to have and use.
Moses would go into the holy of holies, and heard God's voice from above the ark, giving instructions.

7 lamps are set up before the main lampstand.
Levites sprinkled with water, shaved, and an offering made for them, to consecrate them to serve in the tabernacle.  They were to work there from age 25 to 50.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus appoints helpers in His house (Ephesians 4:11-13) and we bring Him a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15).
We do not hear His voice audibly anymore, but have it more confirmed in the apostles' word written in the Bible (2 Peter 1:16-21).

Sins this may reveal
We are slow or reluctant to give to God or to support those serving His church or mission.

Numbers 5-6

Confess your sins and make restitution.  If there is no one to pay back, pay the priest.
If a man suspects his wife of unfaithfulness, he can go to the priest and undergo a ritual test of adultery.  She takes an oath that she is innocent unless the dirty water she drinks makes her sick.  The priest writes out the oath and scrapes the ink into the water for her to drink, too.  This provides a way to resolve a lingering suspicion in a marriage, kind of like God gave the Urim and Thummim to consult to know His will.  Given for a time, for Israel.

You could take a Nazirite vow, of special devotion to the Lord.  You don't eat or drink anything from the vine or grape, and don't cut your hair.  At the end of the period of time, you bring an offering to the tabernacle, cut your hair and offer that, too.  Then you may drink wine again.

God gives Aaron a blessing to give Israel: three-fold blessing of Yahweh to keep them in grace and peace.

How this is about Jesus

  • Jesus need never use this with His bride, the Church, as He is omniscient.  He has no undue suspicions or jealousies, but rather knows our every fault and weakness.  He loves and accepts us rather than accusing us, in spite of this knowledge.
  • He was set apart to serve God at His baptism, when the Holy Spirit rested on Him.
  • Jesus IS God's blessing: God's face shone upon us (2 Corinthians 4:6).


Sins this reveals

  • When we sin, we figure a quick apology will do, rather than consider how to make it up completely to the person we have offended.
  • We try to hide sin from others; we suspect others of sin when they've done nothing wrong.
  • Samson broke all the Nazirite vow rules, which God put him under (Judges 13:4-5).  God still used him when he sought God.

3.11.2015

Trinity: How Father, Son and Spirit Relate

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief
John Frame's Systematic Theology
Chapter 22 - Father, Son and Spirit
Frame focuses on the distinction and relationship of the Three Persons of the Trinity.

Sabellius and others in church hsitory have downplayed the distinction, making God one person who shows us 3 faces.  This makes more sense rationally, but doesn't fit with Scripture like John 1:1-2; Rev 3:21; 7:10; John 17.  The Three Persons are distinct.

Scripture speaks of the Spirit as a Person, and He acts like one. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 and Romans 8:9-11 seem to speak of the Spirit and Christ as the same Person ("Spirit of Christ").  But they speak of the Lord more generally as God, and of the work of the Spirit and of Christ as closely linked.  Other texts distinguish between Son and Spirit (John 14:16).

The Persons indwell and glorify each other.  The Father is in Me, and I in the Father, Jesus says.  They defer to one another (John 16:7; 3:35).  And we are brought into this fellowship, the Son serving US, and making us one with Him (John 17:22).  Not in a way that blurs the Creator-creature distinction, of course.

The Bible doesn't get more technical than this, but it's important for us to avoid error, so here goes.  God is one being, substance, essence or nature.  He is three persons or subsistences.  Don't insist on the details of definitions of these words too closely, as opposed to Scripture.  They can be used to express heresy or orthodoxy, depending.  The main thing is that God is one unity in one sense, and a plurality of three in another sense.  Father, Son and Spirit are each God, and Father is not Son or Spirit.  Anselm actually said that in Scripture there are "Three I-know-not-whats"!

Augustine and Aquinas both emphasize relationships between the Persons as definitive of God's essence.  This can easily land you in modalism: God is really one, but as we understand Him to relate differently to us or Himself, He is Three.  No, no!  Each Person can be described differently (Father as unbegotten, Son as begotten, for example), but each is God, Who is one being without multiple parts.  We shouldn't call this irrational or contradictory, but it is highly mysterious and we are quick to admit we don't know how this works together.

We can distinguish the Trinity as ontological (what God is in Himself) and as economic (how God relates to His creation).

The Son is begotten of the Father (John 1:18), but we know more what this does NOT mean than what it does.  Human begetting involves sex and time, which are out.  The Son has no origin or cause, and the Father doesn't maintain His existence in a dependent relationship, either.  It isn't His divine nature that is begotten.  The best choice is His Sonship is generated by the Father.  We can't say what this means for sure.

We're just as unsure about the Spirit eternally proceeding from the Father.  John 15:26 Jesus uses this word, but it's really about sending the Spirit to us in history, probably not a description of the Father-Spirit relationship from eternity.  But the idea of Spirit as breath, coming out of God (God-breathed Scripture, for example) points in that direction.

A controversy arose when the Western churches added to the Nicene Creed that the Spirit proceeds from the Son, as well as from the Father.  This is probably valid, reasoning by analogy from John 15:26.  But the West shouldn't have done it without the consent of the whole church, and it wasn't worth splitting over.

The Father seems to have a primacy of role, but no Person of the Trinity is subordinate in nature to the others.  They voluntarily defer and submit to one another.  This is a divine attribute, it seems!  We are called to submit to God and serve others, as Christ did.

There are two main ways to illustrate the Trinity.
1. Psychologically, as one mind with multiple aspects: knower, thing known, and the knowledge.  Or, lover, beloved and the love itself.  This starts with unity and seeks plurality in it.  The Western approach of Augustine.
2. Socially, as three persons with a unity so deep it is of the essence.  There are three centers of consciousness that converse, love, submit, etc.  This starts with plurality and seeks unity from it.  The Eastern approach of the Cappodocian Fathers.

Trinitarian doctrine isn't for speculation or curiosity, but to make us better Christians.  It shows we are to worship Jesus and the Spirit as our Savior and Sanctifier.  Only God can save us, and Jesus is God our Savior.  God does not need a world to love - He is loving within Himself.  But He can directly touch and save His world Himself - He did as Son and Spirit.

Mark 12

Now Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem and has a final confrontation in teaching with Israel's leaders.
He tells stories that show He the King has come but the stewards are rejecting Him.
They fight back with words, since they can't openly arrest Him - He's too popular.
Jesus doesn't give an inch when they try to make Him unpopular over taxes.  The rulers hypocritically liked Roman rule since it gave them a stable position, but they wanted to share in popular hostility against Roman occupation.  Jesus' response exposes this.  AND He gives a clear principial truth about the boundaries and relationship between state and religion.
They try to mock the resurrection, but He flatly rejects their shame with Scripture.

A more sympathetic scribe asks Him a softball question, and we get the Shema and two greatest commandments (Deut. 6:4-5; Lev. 19:18).
He shows from Psalm 110:1 that the Christ will be greater than David.
He warns us away from proud teachers, and points to the humble as examples instead.

Application
His teaching is very poignant when we remember they will arrest and crucify Jesus within 4-5 days.  He knows this.
In almost every section of this chapter, Jesus quotes Scripture.  When you come to testing points in your life, get closer to the Word.

Numbers 3-4

The Levites are counted: 22,000 men at least a month old.
Levi had 3 sons: Gershon, Kohath and Merari.  According to those clans
Gersonites had charge of tabernacle fabrics and camped west of the tabernacle.
Merarites had charge of the tabernacle frame and camped north of it.
Kohathites had charge of the tabernacle furniture and camped south of it.
Moses, Aaron and priests camped east of it.
The Levites are consecrated instead of Israel's firstborn, which are 22,273.  So all the firstborn of Israel pay 5 shekels to make up for the extra 273.

Chap. 4
Levites work from age 30 to 50.
When they break camp, Aaron's sons cover the furniture and Kohathites carry it.
Aaron's son Eleazar oversaw the whole operation.
Aaron's son Ithamar oversaw the Gershonites and Merarites.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus began His ministry at age 30.
He WAS the tabernacle, in His body (John 1:14).

Sins/application

  • We need to take care and attention since God is with us.  Pay attention to Christ's person and work as we move about from place to place.  He is always with us.  In our business and busy-ness it's easy to get careless about His presence.
  • We also remember that we have been bought and consecrated to God with a price, like the firstborn were.  Were it not for that mercy, we would deserve death.

3.10.2015

Numbers 1-2

God tells Moses to take a census of Israel, counting every man 20 years old and older, which meant those who can go to war.  There are 603,550.  The Levites were not counted, as they are exempt from military service.

The tribes are arranged around the tabernacle:
East of it: Judah, Issachar and Zebulun
South of it: Reuben, Simeon, Gad
Tabernacle
West of it: Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin
North of it: Dan, Asher, Naphtali

This is the order of movement, too.

How this is about Jesus
Judah is first!  God has officially made them the leader, as Jacob said in Genesis 49.  Jesus comes from this tribe.
There is a lot in the Psalms about God's anointed king and His armies and banners.  See Psalm 45 for an example.  These are talking about Jesus ultimately.

Application
We need order and structure in our lives, or we won't be much able to produce (work) and protect.
The word "submit" in Ephesians 5:21 is a military order sort of word, much like what happens in these two chapters.
The individual, family and church should each see themselves getting geared up for spiritual warfare.  Fall in!  Weapons at the ready...

Leviticus 26-27

God promises Israel blessings if they will obey Him, and affliction if they rebel against Him.
If they repent of disobedience He will restore them.

You can dedicate people, fields, etc. to God.  Rules for doing this related to the year of Jubilee and undoing the vow and buying it back.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus obeyed God completely, and God favored Him fully.
He took our affliction and curses for our disobedience.

Sins this reveals
We often do not think to dedicate our stuff to God.  A special ritual may not be needed - I'm not sure there's a direct application of these laws anymore - but our mindset should be to use all of our resources for God, not just to advance our estate and agenda.

3.09.2015

Leviticus 25

Give the land rest every seven years.
After the seventh sabbath, 49 years, the 50th year is jubilee, when all returns to its original owner and all debts are cancelled.  Houses in cities and foreign slaves are exempt from this - do not need to be returned.

How this is about Jesus
At the beginning of His ministry Jesus alludes to the Jubilee by quoting Isaiah 61:1-2.  He brings ultimate liberty, not just financial or political peace and freedom.

Sins this reveals
We don't want to give rest to people and things that serve us.  We would exploit them selfishly, but God gives laws for fairness.  Those impoverished even by their own sloth into slavery, should have a long range plan (Jubilee) for getting back to independence and productivity (Eph 4:28).

Mark 11

Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey, intentionally fulfilling Zechariah's prophecy (9:9).
He curses a fig tree and it withers.  This represented the leaders of the nation.
He cleanses the temple, rebuking the leaders of the nation.
The disciples are amazed that His rebuke is effective, and He points them inward - to work at prayer and forgiveness instead of reveling in power over the powerful.
Leaders confront Jesus, but He catches them between a rock and a hard place about John.

It's a heady business, speaking truth to power.  It's exciting and gives the normal person a pride problem or a martyr complex.  Moses struggled with both at various points (striking the rock, and complaining to God while confronting Pharaoh).
Following Jesus is not just a private, individual enterprise.  He calls for justice in the public square.

3.07.2015

Leviticus 23-24

God lays out the feasts for Israel

  1. Sabbath.  Weekly assembly.
  2. Passover.  1/14 (month/day).
  3. Unleavened Bread.  1/15. Seven days.
  4. First fruits. No date but always a Sunday.  Wave offering of bread and wine.
  5. Weeks, Pentecost.  Fifty days after first fruits.
  6. Trumpets.  7/1.
  7. Atonement. 7/10.  Affliction of soul.
  8. Tabernacles. 7/15. Seven days.  Festive camping to remember Exodus and wilderness wandering.


Priests are to keep the lamp stand and showbread supplied.
A man takes God's name in vain in a curse while fighting, and God says to stone him.
Punishment must be proportional (eye for eye).

How this is about Jesus

  • He fulfills every feast - our rest, lamb, pure bread, first fruits in His resurrection, harvest and Spirit -sender, director of our movements and times (trumpets), atonement by His blood before God, and shelter.
  • He is the light of the world equipped by the Spirit (oil for lamp stand).
  • He is the bread of life. 
  • The first thing He wants us to pray for is God's name to be hallowed, not defiled.
  • He took the capital punishment our sins deserved.

3.06.2015

Mark 10

Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce, probably to decrease His popularity.  Jesus appeals to Genesis 1 and 2.
He wants children to be allowed to come to Him.
But if we try to justify ourselves, we will have to sell all we have to follow Him.
To follow Him, we may have to die as He did, and we will serve as Jesus did instead of seeking high position.
Jesus heals a blind man in Jericho.

Everyone seems clamoring for a spot next to Jesus, as He heads for Jerusalem.  They see a conquest or victory coming, and want in.  But they are willing to keep others away to get close themselves.  The children and Bartimaeus get shoved aside.  We need instead to have more concern for bringing others to Jesus.

Review: Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life


Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life
Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Helpful.
Wilson shows what he tells.
He says to be clear, and his structure couldn't be clearer.
He says to use metaphor, and spins one off like Swan Lake.
He says to love words and be interested, so you'll be interesting. And he shows that love and interest in a way that helps the reader see how to do it, not just showing off his ability.



View all my reviews

Leviticus 21-22

Priests must marry virgins, and not touch dead bodies unless its immediate family.  Priests with physical defects may not go into the temple to offer sacrifice.  I wasn't sure if this forbids animal sacrifice on the bronze altar, or just going into the holy place to lay out bread and offer incense, until I read 22:25, which calls animal sacrifices the bread of God.

Priests may not eat of the holy food while unclean or diseased, nor eat unclean food ever.
The holy food is for the priest and his immediate family, not guests or even children that leave the home.
No sacrifice may be blemished.  Newborn animals can't be sacrificed until the 8th day.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus our great high priest was pure in all ways, a clean, acceptable and pleasing mediator between God and man.

Sins this may reveal
Skimping on tithing; offering God the throw-aways of our goods, the cheapest possible.


I am the Lord who sanctifies you, 33 who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord.”  Leviticus 22:32-33

3.05.2015

Puritan Providence

Section II: Theology Proper (Study of God)
Chapter 10 - The Puritans on Providence

Basic teaching
  • God sustains and rules everything He made.  Heidelberg questions 27-28 are a great comfort.  God uses means to govern, but doesn't have to.   
  • God moves all things to the end He has intended for them - His glory.  The flood is a great example of providence.  
  • The world wouldn't stay standing if God stopped exercising His providence.  
  • Providence extends to the details of our lives (Matt. 10:29-30).  
  • God's foreknowledge is exhaustive (Acts 15:18).  
  • We cannot see the whole picture, but we will.  
  • We can study God's providence to us, to increase our gratitude and the performance of our duties.  
  • Providence brings about the conversion of men (Acts 8:26-39; John 4:1-42).

Fighting about Providence
  • Rome asserted that special canonized saints had a power of secondary providence given them by God.  Puritans rejected this.
  • Socinians denied "God's omniscient foreknowledge of future free actions."  Owen opposed this ably in Vindicae Evangelicae.  Descriptions of God repenting are figurative.  It's not an insurmountable contradiction to affirm that God knows and decrees all things, and that we make free choices according to our nature.
  • Arminians denied God rules over man's will, to affirm man's free agency.  Owen said we should affirm both man's free agency, and God's sovereignty over our choices (Prov. 16:1, 9; Dan. 5:23; Ps. 86:11; Matt 16:18).

Questions about Providence
What about laws of nature?  They exist, but it is God working behind it.
What about sin?  God permits it, but isn't responsible for it, doesn't cause it.
Can we know God's will?  We may get "hints and intimations" from circumstances, but they are "no stable rule of duty nor sufficient discovery of the will of God" (170).
Does it matter what we do?  Yes!  We are responsible to do our duty and use what God gives us to serve Him.

Submitting to Providence
This is an area the Puritans excelled.  There is a gold mine of pastoral wisdom here.

  • "We may groan to God, but we must not grumble against God" (171).
  • Satan tries to exploit our uncertainty and doubt in adversity, so we have to be sure what God's promises are and not rely on "wishful thinking."
  • A blacksmith's tools don't look very attractive, but they shape the metal well.  So is God's providence with us.
  • On Romans 8:28: "I may lack a  thing which is good, but not which is good for me" (173).
  • There are several reasons God may send trials: to stir us to obedience, convict us of sin, keep us from sinning, etc.

Considering Providence
  • Think about your personal history, and how God's timing and provision is shown.
  • Connect life events with God's promises and ways in Scripture.
  • Respond properly to events.  Avoid pride, despair, and trying to figure it all out.  Move to commune with God and trusting Him for His past provisions (1 Sam. 17:37).

Insults, small groups, resurrection and a free conference

Don't deride the president.  Name-calling is not only lazy criticism in politics, it is sin.
I disagree with the current president's policies as much or more than the next guy, but firing up the conservative base doesn't justify this.  Talk show hosts are especially bad at this, and I've seen it creep into attitudes of some Christians.

Worship is more important than your small group.
Why?  "It matters more what God has to say than what we have to say."
Hm.

Randy Alcorn is always good on heaven.  Careful how you think of your "bucket list."
I'm preaching on the resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15 this Sunday, so I especially enjoyed this one.

Ligonier's recent national conference is free online - very good stuff here!!

Leviticus 19-20

Chapter 19
Be holy, because God is.  Various laws related to fairness, and loving and honoring your neighbor.

Chapter 20
Punishment for gross sins: Child sacrifice, sorcery, cursing parents, adultery, incest, homosexuality, bestiality all call for the death penalty.
Verses 24-26 gives a clear reason for the food laws: to show Israel is meant to be morally distinct from other nations around them.

How this is about Jesus
Because of the resurrection, I believe these sins now warrant excommunication, rather than death.  John 8:1-11 is one proof of this.

Sins this reveals
These chapters relate mostly to Ten Commandments 5-8.

Mark 9:30-50

Jesus keeps talking about His coming death and resurrection, and the disciples don't dare talk back about it anymore.  Instead, they argue about which of them is greatest!  Jesus tells them that the great will serve, receive children, welcome help from allies, keep from causing others to sin, and be severe with their own sin.  A good disciple has the unquenchable fires of hell on his mind.

Sins this may reveal
We like to change the subject and set our attention on pleasant things like how great we are.  We will go to great lengths to avoid focusing on Christ's cross and ours, and on the hellfire that is the end destination of the path of our selfish ways.

3.04.2015

Every Enemy Defeated - Post-millennial Preview

One argument for post-millennialism that I haven't accepted comes from 1 Corinthians 15:24-26.

"Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death."

Jesus reigns until all enemies are defeated.  Then He returns at the Second Coming and delivers the Kingdom to the Father.  Ergo, all enemies will be destroyed within history, before He returns.  Doug Wilson gives this a go here.

This makes a couple assumptions that aren't valid.

  1. "Christ reigns in heaven, so if He is returning, He isn't reigning anymore."  Wrong.  His reign consummates in His destruction of death and calling all men from their graves to His judgment (John 5:28-29).
  2. "If He is putting enemies under His feet, we're still in normal history before His return."  Wrong.  Revelation 19 clearly portrays otherwise.


The last enemy, death, is destroyed in Revelation 20:14.  The very next verse is the new Jerusalem descending from heaven.  Fitting 1 Corinthians 15 together with Revelation 19-21, it seems clear to me that Jesus defeats death (and plenty other remaining enemies) when He returns to earth.

So there is no chronological argument here that every enemy (or all but a brief resurgent apostasy in Rev. 19) except death is defeated before He returns.  Only that every enemy will be defeated when He returns.  Revelation 19 is clear about this, though I realize most post-mil folks don't read that as an account of the Second Coming.  I think they should.  Though I grant that there is a present reality to parts of it, too (the sword coming from His mouth in verse 15 is striking the nations now, through the preaching of the Gospel).

I have yet to see clear inference from Scripture that at the return of Christ the world will be largely evangelized with most of Christ's enemies defeated.

I DO believe we should not operate from a defeatist "it's all going to pot, anyway" mentality.  There will be sufficient continuity between the old and new earth to justify long-term thinking and culture building now.  Your labor is not in vain.

More on this when I finish a post-mil treatise and review it...

Does God Suffer with Me? / Defining marriage

Here's a great piece on the comfort that comes from knowing God is impassible, that He doesn't experience disordering passions like we do.  It is an excellent rejection of modern theology's desire for a God who is like us, vulnerable and who suffers with us.  Instead it advocates for the classical doctrine of God as a solid anchor beyond our difficulties.  I was delighted to find the author is a professor at the seminary I graduated from.  Good things happening, there!

In defining marriage against the same-sex push today, this is spot on.

This is a fun satire on the new government regulation of the internet.


"Though you become greatly sanctified by the Holy Ghost, expect that the great dog of hell will bark at you [tempt you] still"
- Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Feb. 20

Mark 9:1-29

After even Peter has a hard time accepting Jesus' predictions of His suffering and death, He takes them up a mountain and pulls back the veil of His true glory a little, for a minute.  Elijah and Moses appear, speaking with Jesus, Luke says about His death.  This convinces the disciples, but they wonder when Elijah will come.  Jesus says He already did (John the Baptizer).

They come down the mountain, and like Moses the people are amazed on seeing Jesus.  He heals a boy, casting out a demon.  Moses and Jesus' disciples couldn't do this.  The uniqueness of Jesus is clear!

Sins this may reveal
Our silliness when the glory of Jesus is shown us (vs 5-6).
Our slowness to understand what God is doing (vs 10-13).
All the caveats and conditions we put on Jesus' power to save and to heal (vs 23-24).

Leviticus 17-18

Summary
Every animal killed had to be brought to the tabernacle entrance, to avoid offering it to idols.  The blood may not be eaten, but should be covered with earth.

No sex allowed with parents or step-parents, siblings or step-siblings, grandchildren, uncle or aunt, son- or daughter-in-law, the spouse of a sibling, a menstruating woman, anyone else's wife or husband, anyone of the same sex, any animal.  Don't take sisters as multiple wives.  Don't sacrifice your children to idols.  This is the kind of junk I'm kicking the Canaanites out of your land for.  Don't copy them!

How this is about Jesus
Jesus rejected the temptation to bow to Satan, worshiping other gods.  His blood atones for sin.  He was sexually pure.

Sins/application
Sacrificing children to idols during their first year of life was a real practice Molech required.  Usually your first child, I think.  God's version of this is found in Exodus 13:11-16.  The modern equivalent is abortion, to the idol of career, convenience and finance.
Homosexuality is in the same category with incest, abortion and bestiality.
Abortion is closely connected with sexual sin.

"I have given [the blood] for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life." Leviticus 17:11