11.30.2015

Ezekiel 21-24

21 - a sword is coming, and Ezekiel prophesies the details of Assyria's invasion.

22 - Jerusalem will be a crucible in which God disciplines, purifies and refines Israel for their sins.

23 - Israel and Judah are two sisters, one lewd and the other worse.  They prostituted themselves to Babylon and Assyria using gifts I had given them.  So I will judge them for it.

24 - Jerusalem's siege has begun.  It's like a pot being set to boil with meat in it.
Ezekiel's wife dies and God tells him not to mourn but continue prophesying.  This shows that Israel won't have time to mourn when their precious is destroyed.


How this is about Jesus
He strikes the earth with His mouth (Isaiah 11:4), with sword streaming from it (Rev. 19:15).
The destruction of Jerusalem is only a foretaste of the ultimate judgment at Christ's second coming.

11.28.2015

Ezekiel 16-20

16 - Israel's origins were humble.  You were an outcast infant no one wanted.  I cleaned the blood and dirt off you and provided for you from infancy, married you when it was time.  But you gave yourself as a whore to other men, and sacrificed our children to foreign gods.  God will judge Israel by those others: Egypt, Assyria, Chaldea, etc.  You have become Samaria and Sodom.  I will atone for you and give you children again, and you'll be ashamed and shut your mouth at your past behavior and My mercy.

17 - An eagle takes the top of a cedar and plants it in another country.  Will it thrive?
Israel has been replanted, to be kept humble, but she sends to another nation to help rebel against the eagle.  It won't work.  More destruction is coming for you.  God Himself will replant Israel so she thrives.

18 - God won't punish the righteous for the sins of their parents, or acquit the backslider.  Israel may accuse God of injustice, but it is their ways that are unjust.  Turn back to God and live.

19 - Israel was a lion cub that grew up to devour others, but was carried off in a cage.
She was a vine plucked and planted in a desert, and her stalk is withered and no longer rules.

20 - God recounts Israel's rebellion from their time in Egypt to the present, worshiping idols, profaning Sabbaths, and doing indecent things.  He had mercy for the sake of His name.  They always want to be like other nations, but God won't let them.  If you want to worship idols, go ahead, but I won't let you do it on My mountain anymore.


Application
God sets forth His justice and mercy in these chapters.  He won't hold guilty those who don't sin.  He has mercifully saved and provided for sinful Israel many times.

11.27.2015

Ezekiel 11-15

11 - Israel's advisors are fearful and thinking only of saving their skin.  But God will regather them to Israel and their heart to Himself to be His.  The glory of God leaves the city.  Ezekiel tells the exiles what he saw.

12 - Ezekiel acts out going into exile, gathering baggage and digging through the wall, eating and drinking in fear.  The proverb the people use now, that prophecies about the end aren't coming true, will stop.  I'm making it happen soon.

13 - Ezekiel condemns prophets who has proclaimed peace, claiming God spoke, when He didn't.
This extends to making and wearing religious objects referring to false gods or "spiritual" vibes.

14 - elders come to Ezekiel for counsel. God says they pursue idols and He will destroy them for hypocritically cherishing idols in their hearts while seeking a word from Yahweh.
Even if Noah, Daniel and Job all interceded for Israel now, I wouldn't relent.  When you are destroyed, and your houses plundered, your secret idolatrous treasures brought out into the street in daylight, you'll admit I was just to destroy you.

15 - Just like the wood of vines is good for nothing but burning, so Israel is that kind of wood...


How this is about Jesus:
He points out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, as God does in Ezek. 14.

11.26.2015

Psalm 107

    1      Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
    For His mercy endures forever.
    2      Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
    Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,
    3      And gathered out of the lands,
    From the east and from the west,
    From the north and from the south.

    4      They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way;
    They found no city to dwell in.
    5      Hungry and thirsty,
    Their soul fainted in them.
    6      Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
    And He delivered them out of their distresses.
    7      And He led them forth by the right way,
    That they might go to a city for a dwelling place.
    8      Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
    And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
    9      For He satisfies the longing soul,
    And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
    10      Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    Bound in affliction and irons—
    11      Because they rebelled against the words of God,
    And despised the counsel of the Most High,
    12      Therefore He brought down their heart with labor;
    They fell down, and there was none to help.
    13      Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
    And He saved them out of their distresses.
    14      He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
    And broke their chains in pieces.
    15      Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
    And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
    16      For He has broken the gates of bronze,
    And cut the bars of iron in two.

    17      Fools, because of their transgression,
    And because of their iniquities, were afflicted.
    18      Their soul abhorred all manner of food,
    And they drew near to the gates of death.
    19      Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
    And He saved them out of their distresses.
    20      He sent His word and healed them,
    And delivered them from their destructions.
    21      Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
    And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
    22      Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    And declare His works with rejoicing.

    23      Those who go down to the sea in ships,
    Who do business on great waters,
    24      They see the works of the LORD,
    And His wonders in the deep.
    25      For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
    Which lifts up the waves of the sea.
    26      They mount up to the heavens,
    They go down again to the depths;
    Their soul melts because of trouble.
    27      They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
    And are at their wits’ end.
    28      Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble,
    And He brings them out of their distresses.
    29      He calms the storm,
    So that its waves are still.
    30      Then they are glad because they are quiet;
    So He guides them to their desired haven.
    31      Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
    And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
    32      Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people,
    And praise Him in the company of the elders.

    33      He turns rivers into a wilderness,
    And the watersprings into dry ground;
    34      A fruitful land into barrenness,
    For the wickedness of those who dwell in it.
    35      He turns a wilderness into pools of water,
    And dry land into watersprings.
    36      There He makes the hungry dwell,
    That they may establish a city for a dwelling place,
    37      And sow fields and plant vineyards,
    That they may yield a fruitful harvest.
    38      He also blesses them, and they multiply greatly;
    And He does not let their cattle decrease.

    39      When they are diminished and brought low
    Through oppression, affliction and sorrow,
    40      He pours contempt on princes,
    And causes them to wander in the wilderness where there is no way;
    41      Yet He sets the poor on high, far from affliction,
    And makes their families like a flock.
    42      The righteous see it and rejoice,
    And all iniquity stops its mouth.

    43      Whoever is wise will observe these things,
    And they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.

Pilgrims in the Wilderness

from William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.



When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other's heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

Ezekiel 6-10

6 - Ezekiel prophesies against the mountains for all the idolatry in them.
7 - the end, your doom, has come on you.  Disaster will follow disaster.  They'll be plundered and paralyzed by terror.
8 - God shows Ezekiel the priests in the temple worshiping idols in secret.

9 - as God's glory arises from the temple, He calls executioners to the altar, and sends to mark everyone who is grieved at Jerusalem's sins.  The executioners do their bloody work, starting with the sanctuary and elders and going through the city.  Ezekiel cries out in grief to spare the remnant and God says there will be punishment and justice.

10 - Ezekiel sees the glory of God depart the temple, with the same vision of 4 living creatures and wheels as in the first chapter and vision.


Ezekiel 8:12
"Have you seen what the elders... are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures?  For they say, 'The LORD does not see us..."

Ezekiel 1-5

1
God showed Ezekiel the priest visions while he was in Babylon.
He sees a fiery windstorm with 4 living creatures and 4 wheel-in-wheels by each, with a throne above
Jesus: this resembles the vision in Revelation 1 - the voice of God/Jesus is many-waters powerful.
Application: God can go anywhere, even into captivity with exiles.

2-3
God calls Ezekiel to prophesy to the stubborn nation of Israel after he eats the book God gives him.
He is a watchman, responsible to warn Israel, to put them on notice for their sins.
Jesus: also called to prophesy to stubborn Israel.
Application: sometimes we need to speak truth to people even though they won't accept it.  We get that truth from God in His revealed Word.

4
Ezekiel makes a prophetic diarama of Jerusalem's siege.  He lays on his side 430 days, one for each year of Israel and Judah's exile.
Jesus: He not only acts out but takes on ultimately God's exiling punishment of His people.
Application: God keeps Ezekiel from having to eat food cooked with human excrement.  He shields His people from the full judgment their sins deserve.

5
Ezekiel cuts his hair, burns a third, cuts a third with a sword around the city, throws a third to the wind, and puts a few in his pocket.  This is what God will do to Israel for her abominations.  It'll be gruesome.
Jesus: He predicts similar disaster on Jerusalem.
Application: God has many ways He punishes a people.  We tend to fixate on one thing: political corruption, disease, foreign invasion, economic collapse, etc.

11.23.2015

Reading Greek // Battling Depression // What You Ask Yourself Each Decade

A good short article on the importance of knowing Hebrew and Greek if you're teaching the Bible.


Ed Welch writes well on why to get out of bed in the morning, Why Bother


The questions we ask ourselves in each decade of life.  Really short help to greater self-awareness.

1 Timothy 4-6

4
We know men will love false teaching like requiring celibacy, forbidding certain foods, and other demonic doctrines.  Teach the church about these, training yourself in godliness.
Set a good example so they won't despise your youth.
When you meet, priority goes to Bible reading and teaching.

5
Correct older church members by encouraging instead of rebuking them.
Let families support their members first, then the church.  Widows supported should be older, or they should remarry.
Pay elders who are teaching or ruling for their living.
Don't be partial to or against elders when assessing them or accusations against them.

6
Slaves should respect their masters, not be angry or try to take advantage of Christian owners.
Do not tolerate opposition to sound teaching.  Teach contentment instead of constant controversy.
Fight the good fight and keep a good testimony, like Jesus did before Pilate.
Tell the rich to be generous instead of proud.


How this is about Jesus
He is our example of how to stay steadfast when faced with temptation by Satan, or false teaching or despising by Pharisees.
He watches out for His sheep (widows), and for His under-shepherds.


Application
Teachings that God forbids eating certain foods are demonic (4:1-5).
Find ways to honor those older than you, even when they are being dishonorable.
Guard the truth and provide for the needy, more than pursuing your own rights, wealth or winning arguments.

1 Timothy 1-3

1
Timothy, my spiritual son,
Keep at your work of forbidding strange teachings, striving instead for sincere love and pure conscience.
I thank God for saving a chief sinner like me, and the law addresses such in your midst.

2
Have the church pray for everyone, even kings and all in authority, since Jesus is our Mediator.
Women should dress modestly and be adorned rather with godliness, not seeking to teach the church.
God will preserve them in their own risky childbirths, and save them through the birth of His Son.

3
Elders and deacons need to have integrity, self-control, and respectability in all areas of life.
This (chapters 2-3) is how you ought to behave in the church - the point is to worship Jesus.


How this is about Jesus
The center of the book, the end of chapter 3, breaks out in praise of Jesus, the purpose of the church.
Timothy has a spiritual father in Paul.  This is how discipleship is meant to go, and it is modeled on the Father/Son relationship as God has revealed Himself to us.


Application
  • Cultivate relationships of mentoring and being mentored in the Christian faith.
  • Stick to the truth revealed in the Bible and don't get distracted.
  • Chapter 2 addresses temptations peculiar to men and women.  Men tend to neglect prayer or be hypocritical in it; women focus on outward adornment to the neglect of inward or try to control things with their words.  /Generally/ speaking...
  • Only put faithful and respected men in leadership.

11.22.2015

Psalm 137

We hung our harps in the trees when we got to Babylon in captivity.
They asked us to sing, but how could we?
Remember the Edomites who loved to see Jerusalem fall.
Repay them with what happened to us - our babies smashed to death!


How this is about Jesus
He went into a deeper captivity than Israel, agonizing in Gethsemane and suffering on Calvary.
He will judge with poetic justice those who scorn and oppose His people.


Application
It can be hard to sing when we are going through troubles.
There is a time to laugh and a time to mourn.
There is a godly wish for the demise of Christ's and our enemies.

11.20.2015

The Dragon and the Raven

The Dragon and the Raven, or, The Days of King AlfredThe Dragon and the Raven, or, The Days of King Alfred by G.A. Henty

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


My first read of G.A. Henty’s 140 or so books, I came away somewhat satisfied.

The main character, fictional Edmund, is placed in the historical events of King Alfred’s early reign when the Danish Vikings were plundering and overrunning divided England. Edmund, through discipline of himself and his men, helps push back the Norsemen. He acts with honor and courage even when captured. He thinks ahead and plans wisely, fighting in defense of his country, but never for his own aggrandizement.

I read after finishing that Henty was a war correspondent, and that makes sense. Sometimes his writing is rather factual and historical – not always an engaging plot-mover. But he writes mainly for young boys, both to convey history and encourage their personal virtue – a uniquely edifying purpose in books for young readers these days.

Three themes I appreciated:
1. The contrast of Viking to English worldview. Do the strong take what they can for themselves, or use their strength to protect and provide for the weak? Henty more shows and assumes this by how the (his)story goes than preaches about it.

2. Strength and dominance is not always with the virtuous and the Christian. Living at this point of time in the West we can forget this point, though events are pressing it upon us again as we become more and more post-Christian.

3. Unity and teamwork are a critical element to being strong. Edmund’s soldiers don’t succeed until they work together and follow orders in the middle of battles. Coordinated plans with multiple fronts acting together succeed.

May God give us the strength in these days to be self-controlled, work together for the good of others, and to look to our good Lord Jesus Christ for mercy.



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The Bible on Elders

Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church LeadershipBiblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership by Alexander Strauch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Alexander Strauch has written a solid treatment of elders as they were meant to be by the Bible.

At least half the book is exposition of Scripture texts related to elders - a real strength. You need a team of multiple elders who are humble servants who can teach and apply Scripture to the flock in a caring and truthful way. I can see this book being a God-send to Baptist or non-denominational congregations that begin to realize they should have elders and wonder where to start.

It feels like the other half of the book is Strauch’s strident opposition to clericalism. He has a chip on his shoulder against educated pastors being distinct from elders. That can lead to professionalism and the pushing aside of elders doing their shepherding work, but the education is needed, and the distinction should be noted officially in the body (1 tim 5:17). His fixation with not having lone pastors could be very discouraging to pastors in small churches with little other leadership, or it could keep a formally educated elder from feeling he has something important to contribute to the elder team. Churches need to value both the shepherding of lay elders, and the training of a full-time elder/pastor, without devaluing one at the expense of the other. To put this in 2-office, 3-office (2.5-office!) terminology, Strauch is 2.1 office, while I am 2.75 office.

Nevertheless, this is worthwhile and important reading for every elder, or Christian thinking about becoming an elder.



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Systematic (Van-Tilian) Theology

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian BeliefSystematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John M. Frame

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Tri-Perspectivalism

There’s a bulky, unwieldy word to start a book review with. It sums up Frame’s approach to Systematic Theology. Pick any topic, and Frame can in some way relate it to the triad with three perspectives. At the top point is the perspective of authority. God decrees, commands, defines right and wrong as the Creator God. At the left point is the perspective of control. God providentially sets the situation, puts us in the Garden or on this earth, tells us the story of redemption. And at the right point of the triangle is the perspective of presence. God indwells us by His Spirit, has us experience and feel events (situational perspective) and truths (normative perspective).

Frame spends about 2/3 of these 1100 pages on the doctrine of God, teasing out philosophical nuances, so if you’re looking for an even treatment of each topic of theology, this is not it. What it is, is a systematizing of Cornelius Van Til’s pre-suppositional thought into most heads of theology, which was well worth the time. There were a few chapters toward the end where Frame didn’t seem to have much to contribute, and was simply passing on Reformed teaching, mainly from the Westminster confession. But for anyone with an interest in Van Til, this is worth the read. One key theme from him is the Lordship of the Tri-une God. He determines everything about our existence – that we have the senses we do (existential perspective), the world we are in (situational p.), and the logical and moral immutable truths at work in His universe (normative).

Frame begins and ends the book with an emphasis that theology must be applied to life for it to fulfill its purpose. He often accomplishes this (though not always!) applying even esoteric subjects to life.



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How to Be Members of One Another

Members One of AnotherMembers One of Another by Eric Lane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Crisp and practical, Eric Lane writes from a generation ago as an independent Baptist. Yet this presbyterian pastor found a lot of gold! The first two chapters are a great argument for membership. Middle chapters orient us to what formal membership looks like practically. The last chapter has two strengths: it lays out four categories of sin that lead to church discipline, and it calls for churches to recognize each other's discipline, instead of receiving people who have been disciplined by another church.

Excellent resource for both church elders and the layman who needs an introduction to church membership.



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Philemon

Summary
Paul to Philemon: I thank God that you have refreshed the saints.
I am sending your slave Onesimus back to you.  I became his spiritual father and wanted him to stay with me.  But I wanted that to be with your consent.  If he wronged you, forgive him.  If he owes you anything, I'll pay it.  Receive him as you would me, not as a slave to be punished but as a brother in Christ.  Return him to me if possible ("benefit/joy" in vs 20 is closely related to the name "Onesimus").  I hope to visit you soon.  The grace of Jesus be with you.


How this is about Jesus
Paul is being Christ-like, here, interceding for His people, taking any punishment they deserve on himself (vs 18-19).


Application
When we have sinned, as Onesimus appears to have (vs 18), the solution is a direct appeal for forgiveness and reconciliation.
Paul expects slavery to fade away over time, where the Gospel is obeyed.  Christian love should change the relationship between master and slave.  Because of the large financial investment, this may take time to disentangle, and so Paul deals carefully with Philemon about it.

Titus

Summary
Paul writes instructions to Titus for ordering the church on Crete.
Appoint elders who have integrity and can successfully oppose false teachers.
Teach everyone to be self-controlled and respectful in their roles as slaves, wives, old or young, man or woman.
Put away the old life of hatred, reviling rebellion.
God saved us by His mercy, not by our works.
Avoid divisive dissension, disagreements over minutae, and dividers.
Devote believers to useful good works.


How this is about Jesus
We want to make Jesus look good to others.  In church jargon we call this glorifying God.
The center of this short letter comes at 2:11 after a long list of reminding Titus what to teach Cretan Christians about how to behave.  Verse 10: "so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior."  We want to be like Jesus and make Him look good.  Since He IS good, when we are good we reflect His radiance for a dark world to see.


Application
The ongoing presence of false teaching seeking to enter the church, and sin within believers leaves much work for church leaders like Titus to do!
Churches need leaders to dispel the confusion that false teaching and sinful divisiveness brings.

11.19.2015

Sabbath and Worship

Part 6 - Ecclesiology
Chapter 41 - John Owen on the Christian Sabbath and Worship

Calvin and other reformers on the European continent did not view the Sabbath as grounded in creation, but as part of the ceremonial law that passes away.  The Puritans mostly rejected this.  "Strict Sabbath-keeping was certainly a hallmark of the Puritans" (654), and they succeeded culturally in England in getting most of the nation to rest on Sundays.  Yet they were also ridiculed for their strictness in the details.  King James I specifically endorsed archery and dancing on Sundays.

Owen argued for Sabbath as a creation ordinance, from Genesis 2:1-2 and Hebrews 3-4.  The Sabbath was part natural law (inviolable and can't be changed because of who God is and what His world is like), and part positive law (commanded only because God said so and thus able to change).  Since it is part of the 10 Commandments, it is unlikely to be wholly positive and ceremonial, to be abolished with the coming of Christ.  Hebrews 4 points us to God's rest at creation, our spiritual rest in Christ (vs. 3), and a continued day of rest (vs. 9 uses sabbatismos in Greek, not general idea of rest).

The main way we sanctify the Sabbath is worship.  As in everything else the Puritans took the Word as the sole authority for regulating faith and life.  This led them to reject any element of worship not commanded in Scripture.  Packer and others call this a uniquely Puritan doctrine, but Calvin taught the same.  Outward worship according to revelation has always been the design, since Adam.  Even if the outward means change over time, the inward principle is the same.  With the passing of the Old Covenant, we are not freed from any and all outward forms - a better covenant will have better worship.

In worship we

  • sanctify God's name
  • profess Christ as Lord
  • strengthen our faith
  • express our love for and communion with other believers


The beauty of worship "is not to be found in the outward ceremonies and rites of men but in the triune God Himself" (678).


Evaluation
I really enjoyed this chapter, but the worship half needed its own chapter.  The authors charge J.I. Packer with oversimplifying the Puritans' regulative principle as an innovation.  I'm with Packer against Beeke/Jones on this one.  They don't distinguish as they should a strict regulative principle, where each element of worship needs direct Biblical command, from a more general principle of the Word being the sole authority for all of life including worship.  I think these are the same thing to them, as it was for many Puritans.  They try to muster Calvin to their view, but he was fighting superstition and traditional rites in worship that had come to dominate Roman services.  I'm not sure he would have been a strict RPW guy.

The Sabbath half was excellent, laying out distinctions between ritual law and creation ordinance very helpfully.  Fascinating that the Church of England and King James I himself advocated for sporting recreation as lawful on the Sabbath, against the puritans.

I wasn't sure how well these topics fit under the heading of ecclesiology...

11.18.2015

Daniel 7-12

7
Daniel dreams of four beasts: lion/eagle, bear, leopard, and vicious iron beast.
This parallels chapter 2: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
During the last beast's reign, all dominion is given to the son of man when he ascends to the Ancient of Days.

8
Daniel has another vision of a ram (Medo-Persia) conquering, but then conquered by a goat (Greece), which divides into 4 (kingdoms after Alexander).  One of these, who rules in Israel is pointed out as especially evil and harmful to God's people (probably Antiochus Epiphanes who rules and defiles the temple).

9
While reading Jeremiah and learning of the 70 year length of exile, Daniel is prompted to confess Israel's sins.  Gabriel comes, assures him he is loved, and predicts the time between the rebuilding of the temple and the coming of Jesus Christ and destruction of Jerusalem.

10
An angel appears to Daniel who takes his breath away, literally.  He is involved in angelic warfare over Persia and Greece, Michael helping him so he can come speak to Daniel.  He strengthens him so Daniel can listen and speak.

11
A detailed prophecy culminating in the rise and persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes, who ravaged Judea and set up a statue/altar to Zeus in the temple.

12
Michael will guard Israel.  The resurrection to glory or to contempt will come.  3.5 years are specified, but the book is closed until the time is nearer at hand.


Application
Much of this is obscure history, but we can take from it that God is in control of every geo-political turn of events, with an eye on His people's welfare.
Revelation 22:10 God tells John not to seal the book, since the time is near - the opposite of what Daniel is told in 12:9.

Daniel 1-6

1
Daniel and friends are carried off captives to be in Babylon's intelligentsia.  They are indoctrinated in its worldview and renamed, but stay undefiled by the food.  God moves the heart of the eunuch in charge of them to let them try an alternative diet.

2
Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that troubles him, but doesn't remember it.  He demands his wise men tell him the dream and its interpretation.  They admit they can't, but Daniel prays for help and God gives it to him.  He gives all the credit to God, not himself.  The dream was a statue with gold head, silver torso, bronze thighs, iron legs, and clay/iron feet.  A rock strikes the feet and knocks the whole thing over, growing into a mountain filling the earth.  Nebuchadnezzar is the gold head.  He credits Daniel's God as the true God, and reward him and his friends.

3
Nebuchadnezzar makes a statue of himself for everyone to bow down to.  Daniel and friends refuse, and are thrown in a furnace as punishment.  (Note Neb's inconsistent contradiction in relating to God - 2:47.)  God miraculously preserves them, and Neb. glorifies God again.

4
Neb. tells of his insanity and restoration.  He had a dream which only Daniel could interpret:
A great spreading tree cut down - a warning that he would lose his kingdom and go crazy.  He was to repent, but a year later he was gloating over his kingdom, and the dream came true.  Seven years later God restored his mind and kingdom and power, and he gave God glory.

5
While King Belshazzar is feasting with the Jerusalem temple articles, a hand appears and writes on the wall.  It freaks him out, and (surprise) none of the wise men can interpret it.  His mother, Neb.'s wife supposedly) points him to Daniel, who comes in and retells the story of chapter 4.  He points out Belshazzar's pride before interpreting the writing: your kingdom's days are over and it will be divided; you are found wanting.  It happens that night.

6
Daniel survives the regime change to be a senior administrator for King Darius.
Rivals try to take him down by passing a law forbidding any prayer except to Darius for 30 days.
Daniel goes home and prays publicly.  They see, accuse, and condemn him to the lions.
Darius knows it's unjust (more consequences of arbitrary and prideful rule), and acknowledges the true God (vs 20) even before he knows if God saved Daniel, and then again in vss. 26-27


How this is about Jesus
1 - He stayed undefiled by this world.
2 - It is His kingdom that hits the statue and grows to fill the earth.
3 - He is the fourth in the furnace with the friends.
4 - Satan tempted him with such power and pride as Neb. gloried in (4:30).
5 - He is a faithful son, unlike Belshazzar who didn't learn from his.
6 - He survived the den of death and came forth vindicated and victorious!


Application
1 - Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in Christ.
2 - One kingdom follows another - don't be surprised or caught up in loyalty to any one king or nation
3 - Trust God, even when you're not sure you're safe in this world (3:18).
4 - Don't be prideful like Neb.   God preserves our mental sanity, not ourselves.
5 - There is a time to feast and a time to fast.  Know which it is, and be humble and reverent to God.
6 - There is a time to blatantly and publicly, yet respectfully, disobey the law of the land.  God will vindicate you through the condemnation that follows.

11.17.2015

2 Chronicles 36

Summary
Egypt deposed Josiah's son after only 3 months on the throne, and made his brother Jehoiakim king.
Babylon carried him off captive after 11 years of reigning.
His 8 year old son Jehoiachin reigned for 3 months, when Babylon invaded again, and made his brother Zedekiah king.
Zedekiah and all the rulers and people so thoroughly rebelled against Babylon and God that"there was no remedy" (vs 463).  They were destroyed and exiled until Persia was established by Cyrus.  He let Israel go back and rebuild the temple.


How this is about Jesus
Jesus told Pilate that he wouldn't have authority to kill Him unless it was given him by another (John 19:11).  Likewise, these last Judean kings were obviously not in control of political events in their land.


Application
I have on my desk a little camera roll case with ashes and burned wheat, from a city gate in Galilee around the time of this exile.  It serves as a reminder of the destruction God brings when we reject Him.

The call to go up, back to Zion is the last verse in the Jewish order of the Old Testament books.  There is an expectation of restoration, hope and worship.

11.16.2015

Christian Date Verifier // Church Discipline // The Evangelical Label

This is a funny parody, because we tend to make these judgments way too quickly on the inside...
Inspector/verifier for Christian dating site describes his work.


Mistakes to avoid in church discipline.
I really liked #14 and 21, but they are all good.


Is "Evangelical" a good thing or not?
Stephen Nichols argues it is a term to claim and wave, though many liberals try to trash or co-opt it.

Lamentations

The Lord is in the right,
for I have rebelled against his word;
but hear, all you peoples,
and see my suffering - 1:18.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. - 3:21-23


Summary
Jeremiah describes the distress of Jerusalem after its destruction.
He admits her sin and that they deserve this, but there is none to comfort and their enemies gloat.
He knows God won't reject them forever, but time seems to stand still.
Yet, God's faithfulness is great, and renewed every morning.
Restore us, Lord!


How this is about Jesus/Application
Jesus wept over the wages of our sin come upon us - John 11:35; Luke 19:41.
But these two times Jesus wept are very different - one sympathetic for believers leading to resurrection, and the other mourning for those who would be destroyed.

11.15.2015

Hebrews 11-13

11
The Old Testament believers did their good works by faith, believing God had something in store for them in the future.  And he does for them, with us!

12
So endure in your struggle against sin, looking to Jesus who endured the cross.
God is disciplining you, and it's not fun, but for your good.
Strengthen what is weak, so it doesn't go lame, so you don't get bitter and lose the ability to repent.
You've come to a better mountain than Sinai, where Jesus and His Kingdom are.
So don't refuse the Lord and worship Him with reverence, since you're receiving His unshakable Kingdom.

13
Various instructions on godly living: visiting prisoners, welcoming strangers, purity, contentment, obeying leaders, not believing crazy teaching.
Bear the reproach of Christ, who died in humiliation outside the city, like the sacrifices or scapegoat brought outside.
Timothy has been released and I hope to see you with him soon.
May the God who resurrected Jesus give you everything you need to please Him and do His will.


How this is about Jesus
11 - He is the object of our faith, though that wasn't in clear view for the Old Testament saints.
12 - He is King on Mount Zion, and we gather there with His saints and angels.
13 - He is eternally the same (vs 8), died and bore reproach for us (12-13), and was raised for us (20-21).


Application
11 - Strive for the same faith Old Testament believers had, now that you can see Jesus.
12 - Strive to endure to the end - don't wimp out, since your kingdom inheritance is on the way.  Worship God reverently.
13 - Don't give up your faith when you are intimidated or humiliated for it.  God gives us what we need to please Him.  All these exhortations are not about pulling yourself up by your moral bootstraps, but calls to rely on God's grace and power.

Jeremiah 41-44

41
The assassination rumored comes true.  Then a loyal contingent attacks the assassin and kills him.  They decide to head for Egypt, to avoid Babylon's wrath.  They stay near Bethlehem.

42
They ask Jeremiah what God thinks they should do, and promise to do whatever he says.
God makes them wait 10 days before answering - an eternity when they know the news is flying Babylon of what happened.
He tells them to stay in the land and not flee to Israel.  He predicts their disobedience, and Babylon's invasion of Egypt to get them.

43
They claim Jeremiah is lying and not speaking from God, and go to Egypt anyway, taking him and Baruch with them.  God speaks through Jeremiah, that Babylon will come and conquer Egypt.

44
God speaks through Jeremiah that this disaster has come upon them for their idolatry.
They respond saying they will continue to worship the queen of heaven, and that the disaster happened when they stopped worshiping her.


How this is about Jesus
41 - there is a faint echo of Joseph and Mary's flight to Egypt, when Bethlehem is mentioned.


Application
44 - When we refuse to repent for long enough, even God's people can descend to direct contradiction, argument, and refusal of God's Word.

11.14.2015

Members and leaders ministering together

"Since ministry is the duty of every believer, no one person or group of people is responsible to provide the total ministry for the rest of the local congregation....  [This] does not eliminate the need for supervision and leadership within the Body of Christ" (257).

"Many believers will never face their distorted doctrines, immoral behavior, bitterness, divisive conduct or hatred unless they are called into account" (270).

11.13.2015

Hebrews 10

The temple sacrifices couldn't take away sin for good.
When Jesus comes with a body prepared, it's to do away with the need for temple sacrifice (Psalm 40:6-8).
Temple sacrifices are repeated daily, which shows their inability to actually atone.  Jesus did it once and sat down, done.

So we enter God's presence by the new way, the new blood of Jesus.  So draw near with a clean conscience, full assurance, and strong hope.  Keep meeting together.

Don't go back to the temple or to sin, or you won't have a sacrifice left to atone for you.  Don't spurn the Son of God and trample His blood that way!  You suffered with great zeal at first.  Endure to the end and don't shrink back.


How this is about Jesus
He is our effective and final sacrifice.


Application
As fallible people we can wimp out after starting a good thing.  We need help to keep up and finish well the faith we start!

Jeremiah 39, 52, 40

39
It finally happens!  Babylon takes Jerusalem, breaks down its walls, captures Zedekiah, kills his sons in front of him, and puts out his eyes.
Jeremiah is treated well.

52
Retells the taking of Jerusalem.  The temple is burned and broken down, the gold, silver and bronze carried off as plunder.  Chief priests and rulers are gathered and executed.  4600 people go into exile at three different points, over 16 years.  30 years after the first wave of exiles, the king of Judah Jehoiachin is let out of prison in Babylon to eat at the king's table.

40
He can go to Babylon or stay in Jerusalem - his choice.  They make Gedaliah the governor and he tells the people to gather the wine and fruit harvest.  There's a rumor he will be assassinated, but he refuses to believe it.


How this is about Jesus
The conquest of Jerusalem He foretells also really happens.
His ancestor Jehoiachin is released - the line of David preserved.


Application
Don't think you will avoid the consequences of disobeying God.
Sometimes when you stand up for what is right, you are rewarded after the dust settles.

Jeremiah 21, 34, 37-38

21
King Zedekiah has the gall to ask Jeremiah for a message from the Lord, after jailing him (32:2).
Or he has the gall to jail him after he asks gets this message.  Chronology is tricky in this book, but either way, the king was hypocritical and a waffler during this time.

The message is: Judah will be defeated by Babylon and should surrender to them.  God is going to punish Judah for her sins.

34
Zedekiah will go captive to Babylon but die peacefully and lamented by Israel.
Israel freed all Hebrew slaves during the siege, but then it went on or was relaxed for a while so they took their slaves back.  God pronounces Judah free... to the sword and captivity.

37
Egypt musters and advances out of Egypt to attack Babylon, so it withdraws.  Judah takes hope in this, but Jeremiah prophesies they shouldn't.  Egypt will go back home and Babylon will still conquer Judah.  Jeremiah leaves the city when the siege lifts to go finalize the purchase of his field, and gets accused of defecting to the Chaldeans (Babylon).  They beat and jail him.  But the king meets privately with Jeremiah, who gives the same message of coming defeat, and pleads his personal case for unjust treatment.

38
Officials around the king charge Jeremiah with treason and get him thrown in a pit.  An Ethiopian eunuch loyal to Jeremiah lobbies to get him released.  Jeremiah meets privately with the king again, who admits he is afraid to surrender because of the severe treatment he's likely to get if he does.  Jeremiah repeats that it'll go better for Zedekiah and all Judah if he repents and surrenders.  He still doesn't do it.


How this is about Jesus
34:18-19 contains some important cultural information that explains Genesis 15:9-21.  It was called a bloodpath covenant.  To formalize an agreement, contract or promise, you cut animals in two and walked barefoot through the blood between them, to say, do this to me if I break my word in this.  God does this after promising Abraham land and children (Gen. 15:2) in the covenant, and calling him to be blameless (Gen 17:1).  God later gives Jesus as the sacrificed animal killed to make up for Abraham and his descendants' failure to keep their side of the bargain.


Application
Zedekiah is a warning to all spiritual wafflers and dawdlers.  When you have a hard choice or a sacrifice to make, with people around you divided about what to do, listen to God's guidance and don't fear the consequences.

Meanwhile, God's message is clear and consistent through this time of chaos and uncertainty.  The problem isn't if we can understand God, but if we will accept it amidst situations that daunt us.

11.12.2015

Do you put people on pause? // Machen for $1 // The Sued Florist Speaks

Practice uninterrupted conversation!
"I had a friend with a cell phone, and in the middle of a conversation, he put his hand in my face and said, ‘Just hold on for a second, I need to take this call.’ ” My student said to me, “It made me feel like he was putting me on pause, like I was a tape recorder.”.... 
"We think nothing of putting each other on pause…. 
"We are doing something that hardens us, so there's been a drop in our capacity for empathy. We have gotten used to living that way. It turns us into people who are less sensitive to others."

J. Gresham Machen's classic "Christianity and Liberalism" is on sale for kindle for $1.


Barronelle Stutzman explains reasonably why she had to refuse to provide flowers for a friend's homosexual wedding.  May her appeal preserve religious freedom in our land and courts.

Communion - Elders Controlling - Lessons from Job

Good stuff by Derek Thomas.


"By the secret virtue of the Holy Spirit life is infused into us from the substance of Christ's flesh."
John Calvin.


"Too often, elders and pastors think in terms of 'control' rather than 'enabling,' thereby stifling vision."


Lessons from the book of Job: "We have no right or entitlement to understanding why trials come our way.... Some counseling methods are inept.  Job's friends talked a great deal, and though what they said was often true, the context was entirely misunderstood and therefore the counsel utterly irrelevant or wrong."


See the whole interview here.

Hebrews 8-9

8
We have a better priest than the Levites: Jesus.
Jeremiah said a better covenant would come (Jer. 31:31-34).
This means the old one is passing away, on the way to being obsolete.

9
The old covenant had temple worship regulations, but didn't perfect us or deal fully with our conscience.
Jesus redeemed us finally, with His own blood.
The first covenant began with death and blood sprinkled on the people; Jesus began the new covenant by dying Himself.  His better blood makes Him a better mediator of a better covenant, entering a better temple in heaven, offering a better sacrifice.


How this is about Jesus
He is the better everything!  His sacrifice satisfies God fully, where the former sacrifices, given by God, were sufficient to help the worshiper know God's forgiveness at the time, but didn't really deal with sin.


Application
8 - Don't look back to the old covenant for the basis of your relationship with God.  The new and better covenant has come, with Christ.
9 - Jesus has done the ritual work to satisfy God's wrath and get us accepted to Him.  We need to look to His blood, His sacrifice, His intercession for us to be saved.

Commune the Children // Fitzgerald Sinks // Pastors not in Crisis

Robert Rayburn argues for children at the Lord's Supper cogently - only three paragraphs!


As a Michigander, I am ashamed to have missed Tuesday, the 40th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.


Pastors are doing fine, Ed Stetzer says.  This is a great article!

Hebrews 7

Summary
Melchizedek was the first priest, king of peace, and had no ancestry, just like Jesus.
Abram paid tithes to him, so he was greater than Levi, a descendant of Abram.
The Levitical priesthood and ritual law do not perfect us, but Jesus does.
Melchizedek shows us that an effective priest doesn't depend on his ancestry, but on the life God gives Him, just like with Jesus.
So it's a better priesthood with a better oath (Psalm 110:4).  Jesus never dies, but earthly priests do.
His sacrifice was better.  It wasn't needed for His own sins - there were none.  It doesn't have to be repeated daily - it's done!


How this is about Jesus
He is a better priest than any we find in the history of the world.
Being from a non-priestly tribe shouldn't slow us down in accepting Him, for God showed in several ways that He was from God, on God's mission, and accomplished it.


Application
Keep yourself from falling back into reliance on whatever it is you used to rely on before trusting Jesus Christ, by focusing on the truth of who He is and what He has done.  It's better than anything else you are tempted to trust.

Jeremiah 30-33

30
Your wounds and pain are incurable, because of your sins.  But I will heal and restore you after I discipline you.

31
Chapters 31-33 are a highlight of all Scripture.  Here are some high points:
"I have loved you with an everlasting love" vs 3.
"Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance... my people shall be satisfied with my goodness" 13-14.
"A voice is heard in Ramah... Rachel weeping for her children" vs 15.
"There is hope for your future... and your children shall come back" vs. 17.
"I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish" vs. 25.
"I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel... I will write [my law] on their hearts... I will forgive their iniquity" vs. 31-34.

32
While Judah is besieged by Babylon and Jeremiah is under arrest for prophesying to King Zedekiah that he should surrender, Jeremiah's cousin comes and offers him first dibs on a field to buy.  God says this is a sign of hope, that things will be normal again some day.

"They have turned to Me their back and not their face" vs. 33.
"I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them" vs. 39.

33
God speaks again, while the siege goes on and Jeremiah is arrested:  I will give this land peace, forgiveness and joy again.  I will remember My covenant with David and give a Branch/ruler from His line, called "Yahweh our righteousness," to do justice.


How this is about Jesus
He is the restorer of lands - the meek shall inherit the earth.
He is the bridegroom and wine-provider at the Last Wedding, giving joy.
He establishes a new sacrament right before His death, a sign of hope after death.
He is the Branch to rule from David's descendants.


Application
Notice how helpless Israel is at this point, stuck in their grief (31:15) and idolatry (32:29-30).
But God will restore on His own, for His glory (32:36-41).  He will provide a king for us.

11.11.2015

The Ethics of Tri-Perspective Thinking

Part 12 - The Christian Life
Chapter 52 - How Then Shall We Live?

Like a fireworks show, Frame saves a rapid fire series of triads for the grand finale.

Ethics is part of theology, inherently.  We are saved for works, and can only understand Biblical truth when we apply it.  God reveals standards (normative), controls history providentially (situational), and is with us for an example and guide (existential).

Westminster handles the problem of the virtuous pagan (how can unbelievers do any good?) with three conditions needed to please God.

  1. A heart of faith - motive (existential)
  2. Obeying the Word - standard (normative)
  3. For God's glory - goal (situational)
The Bible motivates us to obedience in three ways.
  1. The history of redemption - gratitude for our salvation and looking ahead to reward (situational).  We are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal 5:6).
  2. The commands of God themselves (normative).  1 Cor. 7:19.
  3. The Presence of the Spirit with us, not to grieve Him (existential).  Gal. 5:6.

There are three kinds of ethics:
  1. Command (normative)
  2. Narrative (situational - redemptive history)
  3. Virtue (existential)

In evaluating any ethical situation, we apply a norm to a situation:
  1. The Word of God (normative)
  2. The circumstances (situational)
  3. The person(s) involved (existential)

Frame concludes the book with a defense of his multi-perspectivalism.  This is not relativism.  Rather, since we are finite, we need to look at reality from different angles to take it all in.  Since we are sinners, we need different angles to apply checks and balances to ourselves.  He credits Cornelius Van Til with this way of thinking.

Finally, the ten commandments summarize what God tells us to do: love God (1-4) and love your neighbor (5-10).

Church Offices

The Puritans were united in rejecting the office of bishop, the hallmark of episcopacy, but they disagreed on what was happening in ordination.


God gifts His church with these offices and abilities (1 Cor. 12:4-6; Eph. 4:11).

In the past there were extraordinary ministries, which had infallible direction and usually a supernatural call.  (Moses and other prophets).  Now there are ordinary ministers whose rule is Scripture.

Most puritans saw three offices: minister/pastor/teacher, elder and deacon.
Pastors
All pastors are also elders.  There is a distinction between teaching and ruling, but not as big a one as between elders and deacons.  Taking the office requires an orderly call by a church.  Most Puritans believed the whole congregation had authority to call (vote on) a minister, not just the elders.  The main polity disagreement: "for the Presbyterians, ordination meant something more than simply election to serve a particular church" (647).

Teachers
Similar to pastors in working with doctrine, the teacher aims more to inform the judgement than to apply truth to the conscience.

Ruling Elders
A key role not given place in the church of England, the elders have rule of the church.
Puritans usually made a very strong distinction between teaching and ruling elders, based on 1 Timothy 5:17.
"Some men are fitted by gifts for the dispensation of the word and doctrine in a way of pastoral feeding who have no useful ability for the work of rule, and some are fitted for rule who have no gifts for the discharge of the pastoral work in preaching" (649).
Deacons
This office focuses on the poor and needy, following Acts 6.  It isn't a step on the way to elder, but a different kind of office.  Doing deacon work well keeps you from being a pastor or elder.

11.10.2015

Hebrews 5-6

5
God made Jesus a high priest for us, as Psalms 2 and 110 show.
He was perfected by suffering, and so could save us.
You should know this already, but you are babes, not mature in discernment.

6
If you bring forth thorns and thistles then you are bound for destruction, not glory.
If you taste salvation in Christ, but shrug it off, you won't be saved.
We trust this doesn't describe you.  Be assured of your hope - salvation in Christ.
God swore by Himself to give us this sure hope.
We have it, since Jesus went into the holy of holies and became our priest.


How this is about Jesus
Jesus is our high priest and our hope, who atoned for us in the temple for God.


Application
If we leave Christ, we will not be saved.  This really happens.  Don't take comfort in a past commitment to Christ, to excuse present unfaithfulness.

Hebrews 3-4

3 - Jesus was faithful in God's house, like Moses, but with greater glory.
So don't let your heart and life wander away from obedience.  Maintain your faith to God, so you don't wind up rebellious like Israel in the wilderness.  Don't forget the end of Psalm 95.

4 - There is still a rest for God's people to enter.  David spoke of it, well after entering Canaan!  We receive the rest when we believe (4:3).  We have to work at getting this rest (4:11).  But Jesus, our sympathetic high priest, will help us.


How this is about Jesus/ Application
3 - This chapter continues the pattern of the book: an assertion that Jesus is greater than some Old Testament thing, then an exhortation to stay faithful to Him in life.  In the first two chapters it was angels.  Now we turn to Moses and the rest of the promised land.

4 - Our lives are patterned after Israel's OT history.  We have to be careful to enter God's rest (faith in Jesus Christ), and not rebel out of laziness or presumption.

11.09.2015

Jeremiah 50-51

50-51
My people have disobeyed, and Babylon has sinned in ravaging her.
I'll make Babylon a wasteland.
Write this down, tie it to a rock, and throw it in the river, saying, "Thus shall Babylon sink."


Revelation 17-18 also describes the fall of Babylon.  Her demise signals the restoration of God's people.

The Last Days

Revelation 20 describes the millennium and return of Jesus Christ to earth.
Is the 1000 years literal or not?

Amillennialism
Amillennialism (amil) says no.  It "is proverbial for a very long time" (1087).  Christ's victory is shown on earth, but more spiritually than culturally or physically.  It is also a time of persecution and suffering for the church.  The first resurrection of Rev. 20:5 is our physical death and the following intermediate state.

Post-millennialism
The post-mil view agrees with the above amil view, except that Christianity will grow in influence culturally.

Pre-millennialism
The classic version of this view says Jesus will return before the millenium and reign on earth.
 The dispensational version of pre-mil says Jesus will return twice, once at the beginning of the 1000 years for an earthly reign, and then again at some point before, during or after the final tribulation (pre-, mid-, or post-trib).

For amil
Satan is bound now, during the millennium?  Yes.  This doesn't mean the absence of evil, but that he cannot stop the spread of the Gospel.

For post-mil
Yes, and the Gospel will succeed in its spread before Christ returns!
OT prophecies of the new heavens and new earth seem to be saying this will happen before Christ's return.  And we can't separate spiritual victory from cultural advance so easily, as the amil tries to do.
The church has certainly grown in expanse and influence since 150AD,, for example.

For pre-mil
God's reign on earth described in the OT prophets cannot be discounted so easily (Isa 65:18-20; Ps 72:8-14).  Revelation 20’s description of Satan’s binding and loosing seems future, not past, and the millennium seems future, not present.

Preterism
This view asserts that many prophecies of Jesus’ coming were fulfilled in 70 A.D. at the conquest of Jerusalem.  R.C. Sproul’s “The Last Days According to Jesus” lays this out.  Jesus’ coming is said to be near, within a generation (Luke 21:31-32).  Language of the cosmic end of the world can be figurative meant to describe Jerusalem’s end.  This is partly true.  Matthew 24 and Mark 13 are talking in part of about 70 A.D.  But the resurrection of all, the final judgement, and several other consummation events are still future.  The early church fathers never mention 70 A.D. as a significant event of Christ’s “coming.”

Already and not yet
We are living in the last days now (Hebrews 1:1-2; Acts 2:17).  But we pray for the kingdom to come (Matt. 6:10).

Application

God didn’t reveal all this so we could chart the order of events, but to motivate us to obedience.  2 Peter 3:11: “since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”  1 John 3:2-3: “it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  We must be ready for His return (Matt. 24:44; 1 Thess. 5:1-10)!

Jeremiah 27-29

27
God says He is giving Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon great power.  Surrender to him and it will go easier for you.  Don't listen to lying prophets who say you won't have to serve Babylon, who say the temple articles taken to Babylon will soon come back.  Instead, everything that is left will be taken away, too!

28
Another prophet Hananiah prophesies that God will bring all Israel back from Babylonian captivity within 2 years.  Jeremiah publicly speaks, hoping it is so, but saying, "We'll see."  Hananiah breaks the wooden yoke Jeremiah carries as a prop.  Jeremiah leaves but God gives him a prophecy that Hananiah will die and the Babylonian bonds will be stronger since Israel resists.

29
Jeremiah writes a letter to the exiles already in Babylon:
Settle down there, for you won't be back for 70 years.
He names false prophets who are lying and denying this reality.  Some of them write back to the chief priests calling Jeremiah a madman and asking the priests to silence him.


How this is about Jesus
He had close friends (Peter) who denied the punishment He needed to bear for Israel's sins.
They conspired together to silence and arrest Him, too.


Application
Sometimes lack of repentance shows itself by trying to minimize consequences for sin.
Israel was trying to convince itself that its punishment would be brief and things could go back to normal.
Such admonishment is not opposed to the Gospel of grace, when people first need to know and admit the depth of their sins.


Jeremiah 29:11
I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[d] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 49, 13, 22-24

49
God declares judgment against the Ammonites, Edomites, Damascus, and other cities.

13
Judah will be like ruined underwear: meant to cling closely to God, but ruined and unusable.
Israel will go into exile for her lewdness and disobedience, as Jeremiah weeps.

22
To the king: if you do justice and don't shed innocent blood, then disaster will not come to you.
Dealing with luxuries doesn't make you a king, but doing justice.
The last king was carried off into captivity, and this one will be, too, if you don't change your ways.

23
God will raise up a righteous Branch/Shepherd/King to lead wisely and save Israel.
The prophets lie: I did not send them to say there would be peace.  They commit adultery, too.
Their word is straw compared to mine which is wheat.  My word is a fire that breaks rocks.

24
God shows Jeremiah figs good and bad.
The good ones are like Israel sent into captivity, that will return and be planted again in Israel.
The bad ones are like Israel that remains, that will be rotten and useless.


How this is about Jesus
23 - He is the righteousness Branch (netzer in Hebrew from which we get the word Nazareth).


Application
There is a lot of rebuke and condemnation in Jeremiah, but God does not neglect to provide the solution, too, in chapter 23!

11.06.2015

Divorce over Porn? // Pastor's Call // Who's Intolerant?

An excellent article at Covenant Eyes on whether porn can be grounds for divorce.


Here's a short reminder of the basic duties of a pastor.


This is a little long and ranty, but the thesis is good: disagreement is not intolerance.
What he's arguing against will I think become increasingly a key justification to persecute believers.

Hebrews 1-2

1
God has spoken to us in the best way ever: His Son who is His very image, who atoned for our sins, who has a throne far above the angels' station

2
So listen to this message.  If the angels' message (through Moses) was reliable and fearful, how much more the message through Jesus?  His apostles have done signs verifying the message is from God.  Not everything is subjected to Christ yet, but we see Him having atoned for us (not angels).  Jesus is a merciful, sympathetic and faithful high priest.


How this is about Jesus
The writer uses several Old Testament passages to show the angels are not to be worshiped or exalted above God's Son.  The New Testament message is from Jesus, verified through His apostles, and for us whom He died for and is sanctifying.


Application
Don't go seeking spiritual messages and meaning elsewhere than Jesus Christ.
When you put more stock in such things (visions, angels, leadings, etc.), you demean Jesus and the message He gave us through His apostles.

Jeremiah 47-48

47
God declares judgment against the Philistines at Gaza, that they will be conquered, as Egypt did.

48
God declares judgment against Moab.  They despised Israel and her God, and trusted in their wealth and work.  They've been apathetic, but now they'll have to run and hide in their high hills.


Application
Moab sounds more and more like America.  Trusting our own ingenuity and despising Christians.

Jeremiah 25, 45-46

25
Jeremiah gets quite specific in his prophecy.
Babylon will conquer and exile Israel for 70, but then be conquered herself.
God will silence the joyful sounds in Israel, and make the nations drink the cup of His wrath.
It'll be like a lion roaring and leaving no refuge for shepherds or sheep.

45
Baruch complains, and God rebukes him: I'm destroying the whole land and you expect great things for yourself?  Don't!  But I'll give you your life through all the warfare coming.

46
To Egypt: God is sending Babylon to conquer you.
To Israel: Don't be afraid.  I'll punish you, but restore you to peace and safety.


How this is about Jesus
He had assistants who sought great things for themselves, too (James, John, Judas, at least).


Application
We are like Baruch, seeking to save our own skins when we hear of geo-political shake-ups, or God bringing down nations.  God warns us against this.  Even when He brings sweeping changes, His eye is on His people, that they not fear, but be purified and at peace.


Jeremiah 46:27-28
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,
and none shall make him afraid.
Fear not, O Jacob my servant,
declares the Lord,
for I am with you.

11.05.2015

Colossians 3-4

3
Set your mind to heavenly and godly things, not the old sinful ways of living.  No impurity, lying, coveting, anger or division and despising between social classes.
Put on kindness, compassion, forgiveness and love, which all come by the peace of Christ, which comes by His Word.  Do everything for Jesus, and with His name in mind.  Family life should be loving, according to the roles given each.

4
Pray thankfully.  Be wise in how you act and speak to unbelievers.
Tychicus and Onesimus (Philemon's slave!) will tell you the news.
John Mark greets you (the one who left Saul and Barnabas on their first journey in Acts 13:13; 15:37-39), as does Doctor Luke.


How this is about Jesus
In the call to put off sin and put on righteousness, we find Jesus at the heart of that righteousness (3:15-16).


Application
To get rid of sin we have to replace it with something more powerful, and the only option is Jesus.  Thomas Chalmers called this the expulsive power of a new affection.

Paul's invitation to welcome John Mark is stunning - he had separated from Barnabas he was so unwilling to take him along on their second journey.  Now he commends him to the Colossians.
Demas leaves Paul later (2 Timothy 4:10).

Life is made up of unexpected reconciliations and abandonments.

Jeremiah 35-36

35
God shows Jeremiah how the Rechabite clan are obeying their father's command to abstain from wine to remember their pilgrim status.  Jeremiah is to make this an object lesson for Israel: the Rechabites will obey their father, but Israel won't obey God.

36
God has Jeremiah write the prophecies thus far down in a scroll.  Baruch, Jeremiah's secretary, takes and reads it in the temple.  Some of the nobles take him aside and have him read it to them.  They take it, tell them to hide, and bring it to king Jehoiakim.  He cuts and burns it piece by piece as they read it to him.  The nobility present only mildly object and he ignores them.  God has Jeremiah write another scroll and rebuke the king directly, predicting the end of his children and line.


Application
Disregarding God's Word brings serious consequences, even if it doesn't seem like it in the moment of sinning.

Jeremiah 18-20

18
God sends Jeremiah to watch the potter.  The object lesson is when he starts over making something new with the same clay.  God will do this with Israel and any nation, breaking it down and rebuilding it as He wants.  Israel has unnaturally rejected her God.  Jeremiah is the target of criticism (vs 18) and asks for God to deal with and judge them for it.

19
God sends Jeremiah to the Hinnom valley, to prophesy the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.  Because they have burned their infants to gods, God will make them eat their children during the siege.  And the dead will even need to be buried in this "sacred" place.

20
A chief priest arrests, beats and jails Jeremiah.  Jeremiah prophesies the priest will go into exile.
Jeremiah laments his birth and life, having God put him through these things.


How this is about Jesus
Jeremiah is a foreshadowing type of Christ in these chapters, prophesying Jerusalem's disaster, warning people away from their sins, getting arrested and beaten by ruling priests.


Application
18 - God has no special place in his heart for any one nation today.  All are open to His providential demolishing or exalting.
19 - Today we destroy infants to worship heart-idols, too.  What gruesome things are headed our way for it?  Or are some of them already upon us?
20 - The end of this chapter is especially relevant to those prone to depression.  Verses 11-13 need to overcome verses 14-18.

Beheadings and Marrying Rapists

Islamic beheadings are not a new story, World Magazine reminds us.


Does the Old Testament Law say a woman has to marry her rapist?
Here's a decent explanation of Deuteronomy 22:28-29:
“If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days."

11.04.2015

Heaven and Hell

Part 11 - Last Things
Chapter 50 - Heaven and Hell

This chapter will be on each individual's end, and next chapter will look at Christ's return.
After death "we go on living!"

The Intermediate State
In the intermediate state, from our death until Christ's return, believers go immediately to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8; Luke 23:43).  He has gone up to heaven.  We read of believers taken up to heaven (Enoch and Elijah) and Moses and Elijah appear with Him at the transfiguration.

Roman teaching of purgatory is that we need to be purged of our sins before we are fit for heaven.  This contradicts the Biblical fact taht Jesus paid completely for our sins.

Soul sleep is also misguided.  While the Bible uses sleep as a metaphor for death, it also distinguishes them clearly (John 11:11-14).  Some Psalms seem to say we are unconscious at death (Ps 115:17; 6:5; 88:10-12), but these refer to the body more than the soul.  And God hadn't revealed truth fully to the Psalmist on this point.

In the intermediate state we are with the Lord, but also waiting His consummation.  Rev.6:10-11 shows the saints "not perfectly happy and satisfied" (1077).  Scripture doesn't rule out us having some kind of embodied existence while we await our resurrection, but we don't know.  The disembodied life is incomplete for us.  The wicked are in torment, awaiting judgment.  There is no second chance after we die to change our eternal destination.

The Eternal State
When Christ returns, the saints already dead will come with Him, their bodies rising to meet them, and saints living will rise to meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4:16-17).  All will be judged.  Creation will be remade.  Our resurrection bodies will have enhanced ability or powers.  There will be no sexual activity, but greater intimacy with God and others.  We will worship Him and explore the new creation.  We will remain in time, as creatures of space and time (Rev. 10:6 speaks of no delay, not no more time).  We will be with God in a fullness now unknown.

Heaven
Sin will be utterly absent from us.  We will receive our inheritance, to reign and have dominion (1 Cor 6:3; Matt 19:28).  There appear to be degrees of reward (Luke 19:11-27) but this won't bother anyone since sin is totally absent.

Hell
The Bible clearly teaches eternal punishment for the wicked (Rev 14:11; 19:3; 20:10; Mark 9:43, 48; Luke 16:22-24, 28).  Annihilationism asserts that the soul will be destroyed and cease to exist after a time, but scripture implies the conscious torment continues forever.  There will also be degrees of punishment, based on degrees of knowledge (Matt 11:22; Luke 12:47-48).  Scripture sometimes refers to hell in an evangelistic way (Luke 13:3-5), while we are averse to doing this today (scare them away from hell).  Eternal punishment doesn't seem fair to our sensibilities, but we should remember the magnitude of our sin against the greatness of God, and that He is fair and just in all His ways.

Puritans and Elders

Part 6 - Ecclesiology (Study of the Church)
Chapter 39 - On the Government of the Church

The Puritans were divided between Presbyterian and Congregationalists.
The main question is: who holds the keys of the kingdom?  Is this restricted to leaders of a local congregation, or do presbyteries/synods have such authority?

Presbyterians

  • This group, the majority of Puritans, asserted that church officers hold the keys, not the members of a local congregation.
  • While the people do elect officers, the authority the officers have is from Christ, not from the people.
  • A group of churches can biblically be called a church, singular.  Just as a brother needs the church to arbitrate a dispute with a brother (Matthew 18:15-18), so a congregation needs an authoritative church beyond it to arbitrate a dispute with a brother or another congregation.
  • From Acts 15 we can infer that congregations are subordinate to synods.  Even apostles submitted themselves to this presbyterian form of process!
  • Without this, there is no authoritative way to deal with a congregation that goes off the rails in doctrine or practice.


Congregationalism

  • This group asserted that the keys of the kingdom were given to Peter as a believer, not as an apostle or proto-elder.  Every professing member (Matt. 16:16-19) has the keys.  Still, elders have power to assemble the body, and excommunication cannot happen without them.
  • Synods can be convened by local churches, but their authority is only derived from those churches.  There is no real church authority beyond the local church.
  • Some congregationalists denied the visible catholic (beyond local) church as a category at all.  Most of the rest accepted it but rejected it had any governmental form.  No church officer is meant to relate officially to more than one congregation.


John Owen's view was not simple or clear.  Elders have authority to receive and discipline members.  But he wanted to ensure members had a voice electing officers and giving consent (or withholding it) in major decisions.  Officers must not lead apart from the members' voice.

We learn most from the Puritans' disagreements in this area!


Personal evaluation
As a convinced Presbyterian in this debate, I was a bit saddened to recognize the congregationalist polity strongly present in my current denomination!  Striking the balance rightly is hard. An example:
If you have a strong presbytery, then local elders are less likely to fulfill their ministry vigorously.
If you have a weak presbytery, then too much hinges on the politics in the local session of elders.

What is most needed is a spirit of humility and mutual submission among leaders and members of churches.  Where this is active, the precise form of government is less important.

Colossians 1-2

1
Paul thanks God for the Colossians' faith, hope and love.
He names the one who taught them the Gospel first & points to their growth in it for encouragement.
May you please God, who has called you out of darkness, into His light.
We have redemption and forgiveness in Jesus His Son, through Whom God created all things.
I Paul am a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I suffer to bring this message to Gentiles

2
I work hard to make Christ known, for full assurance and wisdom in you.
Don't let anyone lead you away from Him by empty philosophy, or back to Judaism.  He is the fullness of deity.  You don't need circumcision if you are in Christ.  Your debt of guilt is paid.  No ruler or angelic power has anything over you.  No one should judge you about food or drink or feasts or Sabbaths.  You don't have to worship angels or submit to ascetic regulations.  These last don't even help check sinful desires.


How this is about Jesus
Here are some of the strongest and most exalting words about Christ you will find anywhere.
He is the fullness of God in bodily form.
He holds the universe together.  It was all made through Him and FOR Him.


Application
Paul's great burden is to see these new believers hold fast to Christ, and not get stuck with what C.S. Lewis calls "Christianity and..."  He warns them away from false teachers with a list of things the Colossian Christians don't have to do.
This takes wisdom to sift through teaching you hear, and not take up obligations that teachers impose on you, if they aren't found in the Bible.