Showing posts from 2005

Samuel Adams on Thanksgiving, 1777

"Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to Him for benefits received...together with penitent confession of their sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor; and their humble and earnest supplications that it may please God through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of is therefore set apart Thursday the eighteenth day of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise, that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feeling of their hearts and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor...acknowledging with gratitude their obligations to Him for benefits received. ... To prosper the means of religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth 'in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost'."

God's Hesed in Action (Psalm 90:14)

Psalm 90:14 O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Ever since my first year of Hebrew, I’ve been fascinated with the word hesed. It is one of the dominant OT words for how God deals with us, and without question the most frequently praised attribute of God: “for his hesed endures forever!” Dr. Terry Rude, my first year Hebrew prof., defined it as God’s ‘loyal lovingkindness.’ Of its ± 248 occurrences, the KJV translates it mercy 149x, the NASB – lovingkindness 176x, the NIV – love, ESV – steadfast love, NET Bible – loyal love, NLT – faithful love.

As Dr. John Oswalt said in his Aldersgate Forum lectures on holiness last week: this is a very difficult word to translate. In fact four PhD dissertations in the last century were dedicated to determining the meaning(s) of this word, and I even ventured a shot at it in a lengthy footnote (Ch. 5, ftnt. 34) in my dissertation.

Despite looking at all its occurrences, studying its se…

We are members one of another (Eph. 4:25)

Ephesians 4:25 Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

“We are members of one another.” What does it mean that we are members of one another? The image is clear enough. Paul taught that we are a body in 1 Corinthians 12. Hands, eyes, head—they are vitally connected to each other. Vital connection involves mutual dependence. The well-being of each part of my body contributes to my total health. It’s not difficult to understand that in physical terms.

But do I really view myself as so vitally connected to other believers that my spiritual well-being affects theirs? The issue is not “Is it true?” The issue is what am I doing about this truth?

When I am spiritually weak, dry, or diseased, my ill health spiritually affects the spiritual health of the Body of Christ. When I am growing in Christlikeness, feeding my soul well, and living in the Spirit, my spiritual good health contributes to the…

The Culture of the Kingdom of God

Culture, according to Webster, is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes a group of people. Does the Kingdom of God have a distinctive, normative culture? I mean by that, is there a set of attitudes, values, goals, and practices that citizens of the Kingdom of God share? And what is the nature of that sharing? Is it an accident* of citizenship or is it an essential? Do citizen have to share these attitudes, values, goals, and practices, or are they optional—like most elements of human culture?

I submit that the Kingdom of God has a normative, non-optional culture. I further submit that one of the purposes of God’s word is to teach the attitudes, values, goals, and practices that constitute the Kingdom’s culture. If that is so, then one of the chief goals of pastoral teaching is to facilitate the acculturation of new citizens with the Kingdom’s culture.

Imagine being in a new converts’ class where the leader begins the class with, “Welcome to the Kin…

The Kingdom of God & The Gospel

The Kingdom of God (aka Kingdom of Heaven) has been a subject of interest to me for at least the last 5 years. I remember starting a Bible study on it with Marianne when we were dating. I quit after the first session because I realized I didn’t know enough to continue.

Two things about the Kingdom of God have piqued my interest over the last three years: (1) the realization that the Kingdom of God was core to the Gospel message that Christ preached, yet I can’t ever remember hearing a gospel message that had the Kingdom at the core of the message; and (2) the realization that the Kingdom of God has a culture and the Bible is its manual for acculturation.

Here’s the data that shows how integral the Kingdom of God was to the gospel preaching of the NT:

John the Baptist’s message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat. 3:2).
Jesusmessage was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat. 4:17); “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the k…

A Prerequisite for Revelation (John 14:22-24)

A young man sat in my office not too long ago. He was deeply troubled by questions and doubts about his relationship with God. He longed for God to be "real" in his life, but he feared yielding his life unreservedly to God for His total control.

I suggested two options to the young man: (1) Spend time reading Francis Schaeffer's The God Who is There and/or Escape from Reason. These works profoundly influenced my thinking as a late teenager, and I think they still contain a valuable message to those searching for God. My only warning was that he remember that God will not be found by the intellect alone. Without faith it is impossible to please God (or find Him). (2) The second option I suggested was that he simply yield himself totally to God and pursue relationship with Him, despite unanswered questions and unresolved doubts.

We prayed together and he left intending, I think, to pursue option 1. ...

This morning I sat on a porch swing and read John 14:22-24, which says…

Of Him all the prophets bear witness (Acts 10:43)

Acts 10:43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins. (NASB)

I haven't been able to get away from the radical implications of this verse for the last 6-7 years. I keep coming back to it again and again. Our reading of the OT is very non-Petrine; at least mine has been.

Contextually, "Him" and "His name" refer to Jesus. So we can reword the verse this way, "Of Jesus, all the prophets bear witness that through Jesus' name everyone who believes on Jesus receives forgiveness of sins."

Does that sound as strange to you as it does me? Here are the questions that come to my mind:

1. All the prophets? Really?
2. The prophets talk about believing on Jesus? Where? I've never seen His name mentioned in any of the prophets.

So I went looking ... and what I found was that the prophets repeatedly call upon people to believe in the name of Yahweh (i.e., the LORD). See, for example, Isa. 50:…

An Independence Day Prayer from Daniel 9

Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keep Your covenant and lovingkindness for those who love You and keep Your commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.

Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants, who spoke in Your name to our presidents, our congressmen, our judges and all the people of the land. Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day -- to the men of America, the inhabitants of Washington, D.C. and all the United States, those who are nearby and those who are far away -- because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our presidents, our congressmen, our judges, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against You; nor have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in Your teachings which You set befo…

Rod and reproof (Prov. 29:15)

Proverbs 29:15The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother. (NASB)

The juxtaposition of rod and reproof struck me this morning as I was proofing Proverbs 29 for A Reader’s Hebrew Bible (more info.; sample). Since I am daily shaping the behavioral patterns of my son, it is good to be reminded that it is rod and reproof that gives wisdom.Either the rod or verbal correction alone is insufficient. They work together. The rod I take to be metonymy of cause for effect. In other words, the rod is what causes pain, and pain is (at all levels of development) a motivator to avoid whatever behavior produced the pain. If the rod is seen merely as a physical instrument, I think its real significance is lost. It is the pain of the rod that helps drive away folly. If physical pain is ineffective, other sorts of rods are available (e.g., loss of privilege, loss of play-time, etc.).Reproof involves the verbal instruction that identifies the incorrect beha…

Mansions in the Father’s House (John 14:2, 23)

14:2"In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. (NASB)
14:2evn th/ oivki,a tou/ patro,j mou monai. pollai, eivsin\ eiv de. mh,( ei=pon a'n u`mi/n o[ti poreu,omai e`toima,sai to,pon u`mi/nÈ

The AV says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions …” As child growing up, I assumed that mansions meant what I thought a mansion was: a palatial house with crystal chandeliers, grand staircases, and more rooms than you knew what to do with. Then I studied NT Greek and found out that the word translated mansions means “a dwelling place.” It does not denote or even connote the fabulous sort of residence I envisioned. That was a bit disappointing, initially.

I was also inclined to wonder why the AV chose mansion since it doesn’t mean mansion. In the process of studying NT Greek, I also began to learn something about the history of English. Words change their meanings over time! The word mansion used to be us…

Jesus' Prayer for Unity through Perichoresis (John 17:21-23)

John 17:21ἵνα πάντες ἓν ὦσιν, καθὼς σύ, πάτερ, ἐν ἐμοὶ κἀγὼ ἐν σοί, ἵνα καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐν ἡμῖν ὦσιν, ἵνα ὁ κόσμος πιστεύῃ ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας. 22κἀγὼ τὴν δόξαν ἣν δέδωκάς μοι δέδωκα αὐτοῖς, ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν καθὼς ἡμεῖς ἕν· 23ἐγὼ ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ σὺ ἐν ἐμοί, ἵνα ὦσιν τετελειωμένοι εἰς ἕν, ἵνα γινώσκῃ ὁ κόσμος ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας καὶ ἠγάπησας αὐτοὺς καθὼς ἐμὲ ἠγάπησας.21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (NASB)

Jesus begins his petition for unity in John 17:21 -- "That they all may be one" … how? … "just as you, Father, are in me and I in you.

Perichoretic union, (= mutual indwelling of persons), is the focus of the o…

What's wrong with it? vs. What would please Jesus the most? (Phi. 1:10)

Philippians 1:10εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τὰ διαφέροντα, ἵνα ἦτε εἰλικρινεῖς καὶ ἀπρόσκοποι εἰς ἡμέραν Χριστοῦ,1:10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;Verse 10 identifies the reason Paul is praying for the Philippians’ love for God to abound in knowledge and discernment: so that they would be able to “approve the things that are excellent” (NASB).Or as the HCSB puts it: “so that you can determine what really matters.”As a kid growing up, I developed a set of mental criteria by which I made my decisions. One of the primary questions in my criteria was “Is there anything wrong with this?” That is, of course, an important question. But the more I study what it means to love God, the more I am convinced that that question is not the most important question I should be asking.In verse 10 Paul prays that the Philippians would be able to distinguish not just the good from the bad, but the better from the good, and …

Love for God abounding in knowledge & discernment (Phi. 1:9)

Philippians 1:9Καὶ τοῦτο προσεύχομαι, ἵνα ἡ ἀγάπη ὑμῶν ἔτι μᾶλλον καὶ μᾶλλον περισσεύῃ ἐν ἐπιγνώσει καὶ πάσῃ αἰσθήσει
1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, (NASB)

As an inspired prayer, this passage reflects God’s desire for His people. In exegeting this passage there are multiple questions to be answered.1. Paul prays for their love to abound. Love always has an object; therefore, we should ask, “Love for what?” Is Paul praying that their love for others would abound or that their love for God would abound? Or is it both? Is one primary and the other secondary?Theologically, love for God always precedes and is the source for love for others (1 John). Hence, if it is both, is the primarily love for God. Verses 10 and 11, while mentioning blamelessness which does have an others-focus, seem to focus primarily on our spiritual condition. That leads me to believe that Paul is talking about the Philippians’ love for God.2. H…