Two Quick and Offbeat Thoughts On the Perseverance (= Preservation) of the Saints…

(1) John 10:27-29 says “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and NO ONE will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” 

The Point: “No one” up above surely means NO ONE. I mean absolutely no one.  So … even YOU cannot snatch yourself out of God’s hands.

(2) The second one I got from the Puritan John Owen (1616-83). John Owen basically raised a question of the good King Hezekiah whose story is recorded the Bible. And as the story went, Hezekiah was about to die due to being very ill and so he prayed to God asking God to spare him and God gave him an additional 15 years of life.

~~> So the question becomes, given that God has given Hezekiah a 15 years extension on his life, is Hezekiah now free to do as he pleases?

Does he need to look after his health anymore? Can he eat and drink as he pleases now? Can he now become a drunkard, drinking excessively because it will do no ill to his liver? Can he stop doing all exercise?

From John Owen, The Saints Perseverance, in Works, 11:280, accessed at The Puritans on Perseverance of the Saints by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones

 

Genesis ~ Quick Note in Passing…

“Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven.” ~ Genesis 47:28

~ I just want to jot an odd note from a commentary that I read. This note has to do with the deaths of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The commentary that I read was Genesis: A Commentary by Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks.

From pg. 591 –

“Interestingly, the factorization of the lifespans of the patriarchs follows a distinct pattern: Abraham 175 = 5 x 5 x 7; Isaac 180 = 6 x 6 x 5; Jacob 147 = 7 x 7 x 3.  Sarna explains, ‘In this series, the squared number increases by one each time while the coefficient decreases by two. Furthermore, in each case the sum of the factors is 17.  Through their factorial patterns, the patriarchal chronologies constitute a rhetorical device expressing the profound biblical conviction that Israel’s formative age was not a concatenation of haphazard incidents but a series of events ordered according to God’s grand design.'”

~ Honestly, I don’t know how people observe or figure out such things. Go figure!

Here is another article, that discusses said issue:

The Mysterious Numbers of the Ages of the Patriarchs by Duane L. Christensen @ jbburnett.com

 

Submitted Strengths & Admitted Weaknesses

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

What is weakness? Can such a thing actually be good? Of what use is a weak person?

weakness_distinctions

I have been thinking about weakness a lot and let me start off by saying that broadly speaking, I think there are two kinds of weaknesses, amoral and immoral. They are in the little drawing I have placed above. Of these two, the amoral (or non-moral) weaknesses are what I think are in view in the verses up above.  This is the kind of weakness that God works through. It is the kind that God blesses – not the immoral weaknesses. 

Any my current take: I think a good way to understand strength and weakness in the Bible is to understand strength as submitted strength and weakness as admitted weakness.

Let me start by talking about submitted strength. What I mean by this is that God gives us various gifts and talents. We do this for God’s glory. We acknowledge God in all that we do with these. We still rely on him for the proper use of these gifts.  It is all to easy to misuse our gifts or to just run with them without thanking God. Its just simply all too easy to run on gift-power rather than on the power of the Holy Spirit, the end result being dryness or burn-out.  Samson is a classic case in the Bible of unsubmitted weakness. His life ends in a suicide. 

As for admitted weakness, what I mean is that we take our weaknesses to God in prayer and tell him about it. We cast all our anxieties upon him.  The amazing thing is that God will use us still. He will still work through our weaknesses and bring about some great things.

And… and… I suppose it goes without saying ~~~> It all boils down to prayer in a 1,000 different ways. 

Faith & Love ||| Note in Passing

James 2:19 states:

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”

~ In Koine the word used for believe is pisteuō (πιστεύω). It can also mean: to trust, to have faith in.

19 σὺ πιστεύεις ὅτι εἷς ἐστιν ὁ θεός, καλῶς ποιεῖς· καὶ τὰ δαιμόνια πιστεύουσιν καὶ φρίσσουσιν. [1]

~ Note however that in James 2:19, that the word pisteuō is not translated as trust. It does not say or associate trust with demons. What we can get out of this is that the demons believe in there being one God, but they do not trust that there is one God.  Something more is implied in saying that trust is involved. This means that the word trust does not mean exactly the same thing is believe.

~ Now lets go to one other verse, Romans 4:5 in English and in Koine:

“However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

5 τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ πιστεύοντι δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ λογίζεται ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ εἰς δικαιοσύνην· [2]

~ Here pisteuō  is translated as trusts and faith.

So all I am trying to say is this. In Koine, though the word often used in a given verse is pisteuō, in English, it may be translated as faith, believe, trust, etc.  Perhaps this should not be surprising.  Why? Well, we do this in English as well with some words. For example, the word you can have a singular referent or a plural referent.  Or the word love, can refer to something romantic or to friendships or to a fathers love for his child. And so on… We simply understand from the context what is going on.  And …

It seems to me that the Greeks were like that with the word, pisteuō. They simply understood from the context what was going on.

[1] Nestle, E., Nestle, E., Aland, B., Aland, K., Karavidopoulos, J., Martini, C. M., & Metzger, B. M. (1993). The Greek New Testament (27th ed., Jas 2:19). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.

[2] Nestle, E., Nestle, E., Aland, B., Aland, K., Karavidopoulos, J., Martini, C. M., & Metzger, B. M. (1993). The Greek New Testament (27th ed., Ro 4:5). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.

pale

Are Smart People Less Happy? ~ John Piper Interview…

EH_QuoteThe following was one among many question that John Piper was asked on his podcast Ask Pastor John. I found the answer he gave to be very interesting so I decided to transcribe it. The answer that he gives is here (click) , and you can listen to the audio there.

*Note: In the transcription below, the emphasis (underlining, bold face, etc.) and mine. So also the art. 


Tony Reinke: Ernest Hemingway is reported to have once said that ‘Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know’.

Pastor John, what do you think of this? Is this true? Are the deepest thinkers the most unhappy people?

John Piper: First of all, I doubt that Ernest Hemingway ever knew an intelligent, red-blooded, unashamed, thoughtful, articulate, happy Christian. The circles he functioned in, and the jaundiced view that led him to blow his brains out when he was 61 years old,  with a shot gun, didn’t give him a very good exposure to the possibilities of a kind of happiness that thrives precisely amid the sorrows of knowledge. But, he does put his finger on a truth that is biblical. And it is Ecclesiastes 1:18:

“In much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”

Piper: Thats what he experienced. And thats true, so my answer is yes. Its true because the Bible says so. At the end of the book, it says:

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”Notice

Thats true. So the intellectual life. The life of the mind. The life of thinking and wrestling with problems and trying to solve them is a life of increased sorrow and weariness. Yes it is. Yes it is. But notice. It does not say that increased knowledge leads to decreased joy. Increased sorrow? Yes. Decreased joy? No. 

What if sorrow and joy increased together almost in proportion with increased knowledge? 

What if the reason all the intellectuals that Hemingway knew were unhappy, is that they were only increasing in one kind of knowledge and not the kind that brings joy? 

Biblically, the case for knowledge, the life of thinking and understanding is mixed. It increases sorrow and it increases joy.  If you would know God better and know the world better and know yourself better, there is a price to be paid in sorrow and vexation.  It will be costly. And there is also pleasure to be had, and it is the Bible says, worth it all!

So, let me give the reasons that I can think of why the Bible says that increased knowledge increases sorrow:

1. Because the more we know, the more we know we don’t know. Its like paddling your little boat of knowledge further and further out into the endless sea of knowledge which is infinite because God is infinite, away from the comfortable shores of security and ignorance.  

The ignorant people don’t know the extent of what they don’t know. Those who pursue knowing  get to the top of a ridge – switched the metaphor now from paddling to climbing – they get to the top of a ridge, that they’ve been climbing for 10 years and as they pull their chin up over their top, they see 10,000 mountains to climb.

The person at the bottom who hasn’t been climbing, he can’t even see over the ridge. He’s lost sight of the person climbing the ridge, so he is not bothered by those 10,000 mountains yet to be scaled out there, so thats number 1, number 2…

2. Knowledge increases sorrow because the more we know the more we know of suffering. This is a fallen world. The more you know of it, the more you weep. It is.  Its futility. Its brokenness. Its misery. The ignorant feel some of it, but those who increase in knowledge of the world outside and the scope of history – its a “conveyer belt of corpses” one historian said, and we weep because of the more we know of this fallen world.

3. Third reason that knowledge growing increases sorrow is because the more we know, the more we are accountable to live up to.  

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

Our responsibility increases.

“Let not many of you become teachers.”  There is a burden to carry when God has given you insight. Yes, Christ gives help with all of our burdens but Paul spoke of an anxiety for all the churches. He carried so much himself and he wanted them to know so much and it was a burden that they learned this and lived this. 

4. Fourth, knowledge increases sorrow because we are compelled to change our ideas of when we learned something. In jumping from that little boat I talked about – that little boat of knowledge that you are sailing on into the sea of what you don’t know. Sometimes you gotta leap out of the boat because it turns out to be wrong. “I’m sailing the wrong theological boat and there is just a little raft of truth out there and you got to leap for it and you get splinters in your hands and your ego and thats painful to have to change your thoughts.

Eccles1_18

I remember I wept my eyes out in the Fall of 1968 as my theology was crumbling and needing to be rebuilt. Its a very painful thing to be able to walk through transformation of what you think you know. 

5. And the last one I thought of was, knowledge increases sorrow because the more we know, the more dementia will take away.  A mind full of great truth from God’s Word and God’s World will feel the sting of senility more keenly than the mind that has less to lose. 

So yes  Hemingway, much wisdom increases vexation and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow, but the message of the Bible is that it is worth it. Its worth the sorrow. 

The summons of the Bible everywhere is “Get knowledge! Get understanding!” The Bible never says run away from it. It  warns you of the pain, but it never says turn and run. 

“My son if you receive my words and treasure and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”

Thats hardly a warning but aggressive an invitation as you could possibly make to go for it. Go for it! Yes sorrow, but go for it! That was Proverbs 2. 

Proverbs 20 – There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.

Jesus – “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Hosea: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” 

Romans 10: “I bear them witness. They have a zeal for God but it is not according to knowledge.”

Colossians 2: “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

So in other words Mr. Hemingway, increased knowledge does increase vexation and sorrow, but that is only half the story and oh that you had known the other half!  In Jesus Christ, this vexing knowledge is a treasure chest of precious jewels.

JPiper

Reinke: “Yes and amen. Thank you Pastor John and in fact one of  the critical things to learn is how to build our intelligence in order to make us more childlike in our dependence on God, not less dependent on Him.

Karen Swallow Prior and the “Difficult” Call …

Dr. Karen Swallow Prior

~ Karen Swallow Prior is a Professor of English at Liberty University. She got her PhD in English Literature (I assume) from the State University of New York at Buffalo – my alma – Woohoo! Anyway…  Very recently she wrote a short article, Called to childlessness: The surprising ways of God for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. I find the article very convicting and I think she says a lot that needs to be said. She points out a lot of things that rarely if ever are pointed out. Its worth reading!

I will post the beginning of the article here and you can follow the link to read the rest.  You can also read her other writings for The Atlantic here.

God’s model for the family is beautiful and good, the very picture of the union of Christ and his church: the fruitful marriage of one man and one woman.

Yet, the church often doesn’t know what to do with those who—whether by circumstance, conscience, choice or simply through the brokenness of creation—fall outside the mold that shapes this ideal of family life.

There is an unspoken assumption that this failure to fit the pattern is just that—a failure. To be sure, sometimes we break the mold by our choices, even our sins. But ours is a God of great imagination and infinite surprises. He sometimes calls us out of the standard mold and into a new one.

The primary calling of God for all Christians is, of course, the call to salvation, followed by the call to obedience to his will as revealed in his Word. This mold is for every believer. But the way in which God further refines and shapes that mold in calling each believer individually to serve the kingdom—through our vocation—can sometimes upend our expectations and even our desires.

It would be nice if God’s call on our life always coincided neatly with our passions and talents, but that’s not always, perhaps not even often, how it works. While it’s certainly true that our passions and talents hint at our calling, God sometimes calls us to things we don’t want to do and don’t have a knack for.

Just ask Moses.

Just ask Martin and Katharina Luther.

Just ask the fast food worker pulling long hours in order to put a roof over the head of the child God called him to father.

Just ask my many, many single friends who don’t have any particular passion or skill for being alone (quite the opposite, in fact) but have yet to be called by God into the office of marriage.

Or just ask me.

I believe God has called me to childlessness.

 


~ Read the rest here.

 

 

Acrostics In the Hebrew Bible – A Quick Note

~ Apparently, there are very many acrostics in the Hebrew Bible.  Of this phenomena, a Wikipedia article on Acrostics states

“These acrostics occur in the first four of the five songs that make up the Book of Lamentations, in the praise of the good wife in Proverbs 31, 10-31, and in Psalms 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119 and 145 of the Hebrew Bible.[3] Notable among the acrostic Psalms are the long Psalm 119, which typically is printed in subsections named after the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, each of which is featured in that section; and Psalm 145, which is recited three times a day in the Jewish services.”

~ I am curious to see if this is so, so I am going to take a look at this for Lamentations 1:1-5 and post what I find here.  Here is is:

~ Wow! Very interesting!

Source: LOGOS software snip and in particular,

[1] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: with Westminster Hebrew Morphology. (1996). (electronic ed., La 1). Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society; Westminster Seminary.

Esther ~ Notes in passing… (Obscure stuff)

~ In the book of Esther, God is never mentioned. Not even once.  I had heard that if you read the Hebrew however, you can find the word “YHWH” (Yahweh) listed four times in a very unusual way, viz. in an acrostic format. So two of those times, it is written in forward fashion and two of those times it is written in  a backwards, reverse fashion.  I just decided to look this up to see if its so and yes, it is so.

~ Now this is not something to make a big deal out of, however it is kind of interesting. I am reminded that even when we think that God has abandoned us or has just plain disappeared, He is always still there, behind the scenes.

~ Also its interesting that the you have two reverse acrostics. Having forward acrostics makes sense (if any acrostics makes sense!), but why the reverse ones? Who knows? However one of the themes of Esther is reversal as the story ends with the tables being turned on the antagonists.

Anyway … here are some snips I took  from Logos for a couple of verses from Esther. | (I am not sure how to do paste it in properly, so sorry.)

1) Esther 1:20 ~ Reversed order

A comment:
~ In the above, the acrostic is basically in the phrase “… it is vast, all women will give …”

2) Esther 5:4 ~ Normal (forward) order

Two comments:

  • Note that the red letters below are in reverse of the red letters above.
  • The verse fragment is sort of around “ … let the King and Haman come …’

We will find this reversed and forward pattern again in

  • Esther 5:13 ~ Reversed order
  • Esther 7:7 ~ Forward order
  • Esther 7:5 ~ “I AM” in reverse

[1] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: with Westminster Hebrew Morphology. (1996). (electronic ed., Es 1:20). Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society; Westminster Seminary.

[2] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: with Westminster Hebrew Morphology. (1996). (electronic ed., Es 5:4). Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society; Westminster Seminary.

Good Reference: No Matter Which Way You Spell it? The Book of Esther by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., at ReformedAnswers.org

Sorites & Hell (2)

~ Previously I mentioned the thought that when we think in terms of small numbers of people going to Hell, we think that God is loving still. However when we say that millions and millions are going to Hell, then we step back and say something like “How could a God of love do that? A loving Go would not send so many people to Hell.”

~ This line of thinking seems to me to point to a problem of vagueness. I mean where do we set the cut off line as to how many people God can send to Hell and still be loving. If God sends N people to Hell, He is still loving, but if he sends N+1, He is not?

One possible response is that we are concerned with types of people going to Hell. Its not so much the numerics. Surely we cannot say that the likes of Stalin, Pol Pot Atilla the Hun or Mao Tse Zong are in Heaven now? Of the masses of humanity that have exist and exist there are some notable types of people who have surfaced and who have committed unspeakable evil and had unspeakably evil characters.

Surely these types of people are going to Hell and not just your every day Joe or Jane? The masses of millions are not like these types of people. So its about types. Justifiation by faith/works issues aside, the issue here is that it seems to me that Sorites-like paradox crops up once again. Another question arises, viz.,

How many sins must a man commit before he gets sent to Hell?  N sins? N+1 sins? What is the cut-off line?

Aside: I also want to note that in some theological circles there is a doctrine called the Particular Redemption.  According to this doctrine, Jesus died for His Bride, the Church only. He did not die for everyone. There are at least two versions of this doctrine. One, which I called the Accountants Model of the Atonement states that Jesus died for N number of sins. Another version states that the exact number or quantity of sins is not whats important. He died for any number of sins that His people committed. There is more going on.  I am not !00% clear on the latter version as yet.

Anyway, the point is that the Accountant’s Model I think will slip into Sorites-like thinking. Here we sin and suffering are treated as debits and credits which are then tabulated on a T-account, i.e. the Cross.  The question once again arises: Did Jesus die for N number of sins of N+1?

{HOLD: My thinking is getting fuzzy here. Need to rethink this one. So I will stop here. CB2L8R}

 

 

Sorites & Hell

~ In Philosophy, there is something called the problem of vagueness. It deals with things like Sorites, where if you have a heap of grain and you remove from it one by one, one grain of sand at a time. When you do this, a question arises – at what point does it stop being a heap?

Another example is that of a bald man. If a man has X numbers of hair on his head and we pull one out and then another and then another, then at what point can we stand back and look at the guy and say “Your’e bald!”

Now this may all seem like splitting hairs and you may wonder who on earth can be interested in such things. Well what can I say? Analytic philosophers of course. They can split hairs even on a bald man’s head!

That said, I heard something recently that reminded me of the problem of vagueness. Someone told me that they believe that God is a just God who will indeed send some people to Hell. However God would not send untold millions of millions of people to Hell, because that seems inconsistent with being a loving God.

A thought on this:

~ It seems to me that to say that some how its OK for a loving God to allow 5-6 ppl to go to Hell, but surely not millions, admits to the problem of vagueness. I mean if sending millions to Hell is unloving, then what # is loving? 100,000s? 1,000s? Will we reach a point where we can say, “Ok. 603,340 is loving, but 603,341 is unloving?” Is there a cut-off point?  Vagueness…

Weakness – Making Some Distinctions

~ I have always puzzled over the theme of weakness as found in the Bible. An entire book of the Bible, 2 Corinthians, has that as one of its main themes. Here is a classic verse on the matter:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9 

And … Here are some distinctions that I am processing:

(W1) Weakness Transformed:  This is of the form where you work hard at a weakness to improve on it until it is a strength. E.g. John Piper struggled to preach in his early days.

(W2) Weakness Receded: This is where you work on a strength instead of a weakness. So for example C.S. Lewis sucked at math and failed his math entrance exams. As a result he did not go into Engineering. The rest was history.

(W3) Weakness Obviated: Here God basically steps in and does what you cannot do. Your weakness is not removed, but what you needed to get done by way of the weakness gets done anyway by God. Think of Joni Eareckson Tada  and her incredible ministry, Joni & Friends.  (Tada became paralyzed from the neck down on account of an diving accident.)

(W4) Weakness Supplanted: Here God basically steps in and removes the weakness and puts in place the relevant strength. For example, the blind receiving sight by Jesus.

(W5) Sinful Weakness: Like when you just can help but tell white lies habitually or help but go out on the Net and look up porn. This is not the weakness in view when God is talking about God’s strength being made perfect in weakness. See 2 Cor. 12:9 up above.

~ In W1 and W4 your weakness is removed.
~ In W2 and W3 you weakness is not removed.

~ And … With regards to W1-W4, submit your weaknesses to God in prayer and you an have full assurance that He will come through for you.

~ With regards to W5, you have a little more work to do starting with repentance…

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  ~ 2 Cor. 12:10

Joni Eareckson Tada
Joni Eareckson Tada

Thomas Watson on God’s Promise…

worship

~ The following is a brief excerpt from Thomas Watson’s (1620-1686) work, Body of Divinity. Watson describes God’s promises with a beautiful image.

“The Lord may sometimes delay a promise, but he will not deny. He may delay a promise. God’s promise may lie a good while as seed under ground, but at last it will spring up into a crop. He promised to deliver Israel from the iron furnace, but this promise was above four hundred years in travail before it brought forth. Simeon had a promise that he should not depart hence, ’till he had seen the Lord’s Christ,’ (Luke 2:26), but it was a long time first, but a little before his death, that he did see Christ. But though God delay the promise, he will not deny.”

~ From Part II.2 of Body of Divinity Contained in Sermons upon the Assembly’s Catechism

Guidance & Commitment

~ I just heard something very interesting in a sermon just now that I want to jot down. The sermon is titled Captive of Providence and its is about Daniel.  I found it in sermonaudio.com and think its worth noting down and thinking about.

“Commitment leads to guidance. Guidance doesn’t always lead to commitment.”

– Pastor Ken Smith

 

Counting the Cost… (2)

Warning: This is a somewhat discursive ramble. I will come back and clean it up later.

ubsouth_campus_wide_shot

~ In my previous post, I blogged about how way back when I was an undergrad at the Uni, I sat down and counted the cost of becoming a Christian and decided that I was up for it even if the going was rough.  Something about this never quite settled with me. Here I am trying to process this.

So here is a thought. Suppose that as I sat outside of Harriman Hall, counting the cost – what if my thoughts were something like this:

First Thought: “Yes. I know that if I were to become a Christian, the going would be rough. My values and the values of many others would clash. I might suffer ridicule, ostracism and who knows what. It would be tough. However – HOWEVER – I can do it. I’ve got what it takes. I am a winner.  I can do it. Look at my past victories. Lets go!”

~ There seems to be something not quite right about the attitude present in this kind of thinking. It seems to run afoul of verses like:

“… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” ~ Eph. 2:9
“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” ~ 2 Cor. 10:17

Another way to think would be something like:

Second Thought: “Yes. I know that if I were to become a Christian, the going would be rough. My values and the values of many others would clash. I might suffer ridicule, ostracism and who knows what. It would be tough. However – HOWEVER – God will be with me. He will see me through everything.  I know that I bring nothing to the table, but God is there and He is sufficient. I know that I will not be alone.”

~ Why do I point this out? A couple of reasons why.

(1) Prior to becoming a Christian, if you sit down and count the cost, then I am inclined to believe that your thinking would take the form of one of the above two thoughts. If it takes the form of the first thought, then the odds are that you have missed the boat.  You are not a Christian.

After becoming a Christian however if you sit down to count the cost, then it may go as follows…

(2) Most people when they come across the Luke 14 passage on the Tower and the King’s army may likely process it in terms like I often have. They might sit down and think about some challenge that they are facing in life and about whether they have what it takes to overcome it.  If upon reflection, they find that they do not have what it takes to overcome the challenge, they abandon it.

~ The issue here is that when we count the cost, we only look at the raw material that is set before us. This might mean we look at out own skills and assets or some other ones around us, and then decide that they are not enough for the task at hand. So we drop out.

And this may well be a very accurate assessment, however it is still not adequate grounds for abandoning the task.  Not if you are a Christians. Why? Because if you are like me, you may all too often fail to factor God in all this.

This passage is about discipleship.  So it is about God discipling you. So when you count the cost, you need to think about what God is doing in your life. How is He leading you. Even if the challenge seems insurmountable, it may be His will to take you right straight through it to success.

~ I guess what I am saying is that whether we are building a tower or whether we are going to war or just trying to do the Christian walk on a given day, then counting the cost involves the recognition that of our own selves we are inadequate. We do not have what it takes to build the tower or go to a war.  Yet we might still do the very same in spite of coming up short in our calculus. Why? Because our calculus does not just simply involve the material and natural. No. It involves God.

ub

Counting the Cost… (1)

Harriman Hall

Many many many moons ago when I was an undergrad at a U, I sat down outside the hall up above – Harriman Hall – and counted the cost of what it meant to be a Christian. My pastor had suggested that I do as much. So I sat and counted. Suppose the cost was high – would I be willing to go the route? Suppose the cost was low, then what? After doing a bit of thinking, my answer was “Yes!” and in the weeks to follow I told my pastor as much. He didn’t buy it.

Here and there I have thought of my Harriman Hall moment. Its bugged me a little  actually. Today during my quiet time, I came back to a passage in the Bible that more often than not is referenced in sermons and discussions of counting the cost. Here it is along with a comment or two following:

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 

Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

~ So as I said up above, something has not settled in me with the idea of “counting the cost” and discipleship.mw

First I want to put a thought out on the table. This is an idea that comes from a Michael Wilkins book on discipleship, that I read years ago.  Wilkins states in his book, that a person becomes a disciple the moment she accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. She does not repent of her sins, turns to Christ for forgiveness, accepting Him as Lord and Savior and then just lives undiscipled until she enters some church program on discipleship or until some person comes along and disciples her.  No. She becomes a disciple the moment she puts her trust in the Lord.

Now what does this have to do with counting the cost and the passage referenced up above. I am not sure as yet.  I am processing as I write and hope something will come out.

~ TBC

 

J.C. Ryle on Six Ways to Spoil the Gospel ~ Jots from Knots

J.C. Ryle was an Anglican bishop out in Liverpool, England back in the 1800’s. He was known for being a powerful preacher and for writing many books and tracts that the average Joe or Jane out on the streets could understand.  Here I want to just quickly jot some notes from a book of his, Knots Untied which was published back in 1974. You can access the book here.

Ryle said that there were a number of ways that one could spoil the Gospel. While he did not number them, I have been going through Knots Untied, finding his statements and cataloging the ways.john_charles_ryle_vanity_fair_26_march_1881

1. You could spoil it by way of addition. 

“You may spoil the gospel by addition. You have only to add to Christ, the grand object of faith, some other objects as equally worthy of honour, and the mischief is done.” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ One contemporary example of this is the New Perspective on Paul teaching. Legalism also comes to mind.

2. You could spoil it by way of subtraction.

“The plain truth is that false doctrine has been the chosen engine which Satan has employed in every age to stop the progress of the gospel of Christ. … If he could not destroy it, he has too often neutralized its usefulness by addition, subtraction, or substitution. In a word he has “corrupted men’s minds.”  ~ pg. 275, Knots Untied

~ Here one can think of Arianism (in my terms, the “Jesus was just a dude heresy”). The Jehovah Witnesses believe as much (or rather as little).

3. You could spoil it by way of substitution.

“You may spoil the gospel by substitution. You have only to withdraw from the eyes of the sinner the grand object which the Bible proposes to faith — Jesus Christ, and substitute another object in His place — the Church, the Ministry, the Confessional, Baptism, or the Lord’s Supper — and the mischief is done. Substitute anything for Christ, and the gospel is totally spoiled! ” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ I think is very easy to fall for this one.  Life can very easily become Churchianity and not Christianity, and all the while we think we are doing just fine.

4. You could spoil the gospel by interposition.

“You have only to push something between Christ and the eye of the soul, to draw away the sinner’s attention from the Saviour, and the mischief is done.” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ A example of this is Mary worship.  Mary comes between you and Christ.  You do not go straight to Jesus.

5. You could spoil the gospel by disproportion.

“You have only to attach an exaggerated importance to the secondary things of Christianity, and a diminished importance to the first things, and the mischief is done.” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ Here I think of those people (and I was one of these once) who spent hours upon hours brooding over eschatological issues.

6. Lastly, you could spoil the Gospel by confusing and contradictory directions. 

“Complicated and obscure statements about faith, baptism, Church privileges, and the benefits of the Lord’s Supper, all jumbled together, and thrown down without order before hearers, make the gospel no gospel at all!” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ I think that this last one might just be a matter of poor communication.

Some Notes – from an Eric Alexander sermon.

~ I am reading a book, Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul. In it Sproul mentioned a person, a Eric Alexander who he said was a great Scottish preacher. So I looked him up, found this: Eric Alexander.  You can read more about him at the website.

And … and I just now listened to a sermon of his on The Sermon on the Mount and must say – he indeed is a fine preacher.

Here are some very quick and short notes:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6)

Three areas in this verse which need to be examined:
1. What hunger and thirst signify
2. What Jesus means by righteousness
3. What it means to be filled or satisfied

So what does Jesus mean by righteousness?

Three Senses:
1. What God graciously provides in His Son for sinners. This is Jesus’ perfect righteousness that is given to us.
2. What God produces in every believer’s life by His Holy Spirit
3. The righteousness that God prescribes in society. The kind that belongs to human relationships. God is concerned about the oppression of poor, integrity in national life, etc.

~~>Personal righteousness and social righteousness always go together. The righteous care about the poor and disadvantaged.

Re:3 – What does it mean to be filled and satisfied for Jesus said “Blessed are they … for they will be filled.”

When you seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, an abundance of grace is given us. Ephesians 3 – we are filled now with the fullness of God. The very riches of all that God is in Himself fill us as we hunger and thirst for righteousness.

It is important to add that the fulfillment of this promise is never final in two senses.

~~> It is never final in the sense that when we hunger and thirst for righteousness and find ourselves being satisfied, we are satisfied in order to hunger and thirst again.

Because the promise that we will never hunger or never thirst belongs to Heaven and thats the second sense in which our hungering and thirsting is in a sense imperfect here in this world. Our being filled waits for that day when in His presence we shall be able to say “We hunger no more. Neither thirst any more, for we are in the presence of the Lamb.”

One other thing on an entirely practical note.

Many of us may be saying “How do I find that kind of hunger and thirst for God?” I look into my own life and find that I don’t know it in any measure. How then do I find that kind of hunger and thirst for God?

Two things:
(1) No question that it is God who produces it. We need to cry to God to produce it.
(2) French Proverb: The appetite grows with eating.
~ The appetite diminishes as you eat less.

Thats the experience of many Christians who are in a condition of spiritual malnutrition. They eat less and less and they hunger less and less. But you eat more and more and the appetite grows with eating. It is one of the reasons why we need a regular disciplined diet of God’s Word and God’s grace. That is how the appetite grows …

The Wound

Dr. Helen Roseveare recently passed away. She was an amazing woman. Years ago I did a decent bit of biographical reading on her and am right now reading the following: A WOMAN OF WHOM THE WORLD WAS NOT WORTHY: HELEN ROSEVEARE (1925-2016).

The article is prefaced with the following quote:

hr“God never uses a person greatly until He has wounded him deeply.
The privilege He offers you is greater than the price you have to pay.
The privilege is greater than the price.” —Helen Roseveare

~ I find the quote intriguing. And as I think over scripture, this seems to be true because,

(1) Jacob was given a limp.

“The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.” ~ Genesis 32:31

(2) Moses may had some kind of speech problem. When God’s call came, he said:

“Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” ~Exodus 4:10

If it was not something medical (e.g. stuttering), it at least could have came about as a result of not speaking Egyptian and Hebrew for 40 years. Read more here: Bible Contradiction? Was Moses a good speaker? Yes, some people think he was just making excuses, but I think its quite possible that he had some kind of verbal handicap. Even aging can affect ones speaking for the worse.

(3) Jeremiah was young and inexperienced. This is a kind of weakness. Perhaps within a context, a kind of a wound.

“Then I said, ‘Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth.'” ~ Jeremiah 1:6

thorn-735190_960_720(4) Paul was given a thorn in the flesh.

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” ~ 2 Cor 12:7

Aside: On the flip side, we have the case of Samson who exercised raw power in brutal ways. We see how his life tragically ends.

The stories can be multiplied from Church History too. David Brainerd, William Cowper and Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers struggled with severe depression. The Christian mathematician Leonhard Euler would go blind and still do math!

~ This is not the case with everyone in the Bible nor with history, but it does happen enough that we notice. People are given a wound of some sort.

I think the Bible is all about weakness and strength. The weakness it describes is that of dependence upon God, whether that be by way of pouring out prayer, turning to His people, etc.  The strength that it describes is again really about weakness because it is a strength born of weakness. Weakness is the soil from which God’s strength arises.

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Cor. 12:9-10

Joseph: When Gifts Direct (or Misdirect)

~  I just read through a good bit of the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis.  As I read the story, its occurred to me that Joseph basically had three gifts and those three gifts of his basically directed the course of his life.

These are the three gifts and how they shaped the direction that his life took. His gifts either got him into trouble or out of trouble.

(1) Dreams: It is obvious that Joseph had a gift here. By way of dreams he could foretell the future.  His first two dreams had to do with how his father, mother and his brothers would some day bow down to him.  That is to say, he would somehow be over them some day.

Joseph naively went off and told it to them and this did nothing but stoke his brother’s preexisting jealousy and anger even more. The end result of this all was that they sold him off as a slave to the Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt and re-sell him to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officer.

the-sleeping-gypsy-by-henrirousseau

~ Now, what if he had kept mum about the dreams that he had had? What would have happened? Would he have continued his life in Canaan rather than Egypt?

(2) Good-looks: This is also a gift. Joseph was good looking.

“… Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.”~ Genesis 39:6b

This was a gift that Joseph couldn’t help but “exercise” and unfortunately this landed in some trouble with Potiphar’s wife who tried to seduce him. To make a longer story shorter, the end result was that upon her best attempt and failure to seduce Joseph, Potiphar’s wife makes some false accusations about him and had him thrown in jail.

~ Now what if Joseph was just some plain vanilla looking kind of a guy? He was nothing special. A nondescript blah. Would this have a happened? Would his life have been different? Would he have continued to work for Potiphar for the rest of his life? Good-looks kill. No? Maybe not, but they can land you in prison at least.

(3) Managerial Skills: That Joseph was gifted in this way is very clear. The Bible repeatedly points out that whatever and wherever Joseph put his hands and feet, he found success. And his success was so noticed by his bosses, that he basically moved up the ranks. This did not simply just happen. It happened because God was with him.

~ This was the case while he was working as a slave for Potiphar:

“The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands … and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.” ~ Genesis 39:2-6

~ This was the case while he was in prison:

“But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.”  ~ Genesis 39:20b-23

~ This would continue to be the case later on when Joseph would miraculously leap up the ladder and becomes second to none but Pharaoh. Joseph was basically blessed with good managerial skills.

~Now what if Joseph had poor managerial skills? Would he have been put in charge of anything while in prison? And were that the case would he have ever met the baker and the cup-bearer later on? – the latter of whom would eventually get him freed from prison. Perhaps he would have continued the rest of his life in prison.

Joseph Dwelleth in Egypt by James Jacques Joseph Tissot
Joseph Dwelleth in Egypt by James Jacques Joseph Tissot

Evaluation: I think of the above three gifts, the best gift to have is managerial skills. These skills will be with you for the entirety of your life and take you far.

Dreams on the other hand – well, there is something involuntary and uncontrollable about their nature. You no have no guarantee as to when they will come about. You could also get bad dreams which horrify you.

And good-looks , well everyone ages. Your lose your looks over time.

*Aside: Note also that he started his life off as an extremely naive teen, but ended his life as one pretty shrewd guy.

The Mission of Faith – Missio Fidei alt. Faith on Mission.

The Wrestle of Jacob by Gustave Dore (1832-1883) - edited in Xara by me
The Wrestle of Jacob by Gustave Dore (1832-1883) – edited in Xara by me

It seems to me that at times, we need to take stock of what has been taking place in our life in order to grow in faith.  I am going to look at the life of Jacob to see some of this.

The Backdrop:
1) The Promise
1.1) Abraham is told by God multiple times that he will be the father of many nations, that he will have descendants as many as the stars in the sky. In addition Abraham is told that he will inherit a large amount of land – the Promised land and also that God will bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him. This is the Abrahamic Covenant. I like to think of it as God promising Abraham a family, a home and security. These are the three most basic wants of most every human.
1.2) This promise is reiterated to Isaac, Abraham’s son.
1.3) Jacob knows all this because … well because its all in the family and because its been reiterated to him also.
~ This means that when danger arises, Jacob’s life is not going to just simply fold and disappear. Security.
1.4) Family & Security: The Promise seems to be visibly playing out in Jacob’s life as after a certain point, he has become very wealthy and has a large family.

That all said…

2) Home: God tells Jacob to go back to Canaan, the Promised Land. He does so secretly without notifying his venal relative Laban, who he has been working for.
3) En route to the Promised Land, an angry Laban pursues him intending to have it out with him, yet God prevents Laban from harming him. Unbeknown to Jacob, God comes to Laban in a dream and in so many words tells him to be careful of what he says to Jacob. ~ Back to security.
4) En route to the Promised Land, Jacob meets angels
5) En route to the Promised Land, Jacob also meets God, yea wrestles with Him.

So now Jacob is on his way back to Canaan, when he gets news that Esau his brother, is coming with 400 of his men. Hearing of this fills Jacob with fear. Jacob basically thinks that Esau is going to take revenge.

The question – and yes, I know – easier said that done is – is Jacob’s fear rational? If anything at this point, he should be full of faith. No? I know… easier said than done. However let us work through this.

Would it make sense if the story ended like this?

Jacob is on his way to the Promised Land, when Esau suddenly shows up and wipes out Jacob and his entire household? Does this make sense?
– Because if so then the Promise given to Abraham, Isaac and then reiterated to Jacob becomes nullified in an instant.
– Because if so then it makes no sense for God to tell Jacob to go back to Canaan. God basically sent him to his doom. What kind of direction would that be?
– Because if so then it makes no sense for God to protect Jacob from Laban. He should have just let Laban carry out his bad intentions toward Jacob and his household. Maybe this would involve an attack or captivity and being taken back to Padan Aram. So much so for God directing Jacob back to Canaan. It would have been better if Jacob were not directed thus.
– Because if so then the whole episode of Jacob meeting the company of angels and meeting/wrestling with God himself to obtain a blessing was of no use. Why? ***

– Does any of it make sense?

Faith aligns with mission.

The reconciliation of Jacob and Esau by Peter Paul Rubens(1577-1640)
The reconciliation of Jacob and Esau by Peter Paul Rubens(1577-1640)

C.S. Lewis on Joy

pbs~ I need to think about this later… its a quote from C.S. Lewis that I am excerpting from PBS.org which in turn is excerpting from Lewis’s book, Surprised By Joy.

I perceived (and this was a wonder of wonders) that just as I had been wrong in supposing that I really desired the Garden of the Hesperides, so also I had been equally wrong in supposing that I desired Joy itself. Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all. All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring. And that object, quite clearly, was no state of my own mind or body at all. In a way, I had proved this by elimination. I had tried everything in my own mind and body; as it were, asking myself, “Is it this you want? Is it this?” Last of all I had asked if Joy itself was what I wanted; and labeling it “aesthetic experience,” had pretended I could answer Yes. But that answer too had broken down. Inexorably Joy proclaimed, “You want — I myself am your want of — something other, outside, not you nor any state of you.”

Providence is in the Indicative….

thomas_watsonThere is the Indicative and there is the Imperative.  The descriptive and the prescriptive. The is and the ought.  These are found all over Scripture. Take for example, Ephesians 5:25,
 
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” 
 
“Husbands love your wives” is the imperative while “just as …” is the indicative.  The imperative is the command. The indicative is (a description of) a state. And … and the indicative grounds the imperative.  In this verse, the Gospel is the indicative, yea, the Grand Indicative for the command enjoining a husband to love his wife.
 
Another example – also from Ephesians: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” ~ Eph. 4:32 
 
Whats the indicative? Whats the imperative?
 
Quite often we misinterpret scripture when we treat an indicative as an imperative or try to elicit an imperative from an indicative. So if a verse is describing something that the disciples did like handle a snake, we tell people that snake handling is a command for all. (Sorry. I can’t think of a better example off the top of my head.)
 
~ Anyway… all that to say…whew!flavel
 
I think that Providence works in the indicative, not the imperative.

Hard to believe but true, an open door is indicative of an opportunity. However an open door is not a command.
 
“Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and a door stood open for me in the Lord, 13 I had no peace in my spirit, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.… ~ 2 Cor 2:12-13
 
~ Question: By way of Providence, an open door was presented to Paul. He did not walk through it. Did Paul sin? Did people die in their sins as a result of Paul not entering that door?
 
Indeed, it is as the Puritan preacher Thomas Watson said “God’s providence is greatly to be observed; but we are not to make it the rule of our actions. “Whoever is wise will observe these things.” It is good to observe providence — but we must not make it our rule to walk by. Providence should be to the Christian as his diary — but not his Bible.

~ I believe John Flavel (1627-1691), author of a The Mystery of Providence also said something similar.
 

Missions is a Part of the Church – William Edgar

William Edgar (linked from wts.edu)
William Edgar (linked from wts.edu)

~ The following is an excerpt that I am transcribing from a talk given by William Edgar, a professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary.  The talk can be found here.  ////>

“I think often times when it seems the Church is defeated, it only becomes an opportunity for the Gospel to spread in a more pure fashion.  In a country where I have spent a great deal of my time, which is France, there is drastic secularization.  Churches are emptying.  In the Roman Catholic Church, for every 10 priests that retire or move on, only 1 younger priest can be identified that is there to take their place.  Do the math and in just a few years, there will be no leadership at that rate in the Roman Catholic Church. 

And its not a whole lot better in the Protestant churches where people just aren’t attending and they are drawn to things like believing without belonging.  They want to be spiritual. They don’t want to be religious in the sense of being doctrinally driven. 

And into the midst of what seems a completely hopeless situation, the Lord is bringing immigrants with robust faith who are founding new churches every week, particularly in the urban areas. And the liveliness of these immigrant churches is attracting not only fellow immigrants, but the mainstream French person

What seems like a dark providence of secularization is turning into this marvelous opportunity to hear the Word preached and lived in a way far more fresh than anything thats been heard and preached in old Europe. 

France

~ I have heard a similar story elsewhere with regards to something similar happening in Spain.  The secular Spaniard does not listen to believing Spaniard when the latter shares his faith.  On the other hand, when the Filipino nanny shares her faith with the same secular Spaniard, then the person listens. 

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” ~ Mark 6:4

Pessimism & Optimism Quote

~ There are things in the world that we can so consume that ultimately they wind up consuming us.  Moderation is the key.  Here in the States, I have been trying to avoid consuming politics too much and in light of it, to avoid prognosticating too much about the future.

That said I like this statement by Al Mohler:

                                 “For the Christian, optimism is naïve, but pessimism is atheistic.”

almohler

If Reality has a Storified Character …

camusstranger

I have written about this before and just am thinking it over again with an added fact I suppose.

There are some writers of fiction, whose works are understood to be apologias for Atheism. Jean Paul Sartre, I believe was one of them. Camus, quite possibly. Carl Sagan, in terms of this writing, not his movie, so also.

What I am not able to get is the following: In literature we use devices such as allegories, foreshadowing, symbolism, etc. to make certain points or convey certain ideas or thoughts. If you think about it, these sort of things are features of the world of literature. They are not features of the world that we live in.

So for example, the paperweight on my desk – it does not foreshadow anything. Nor the pen and pencils on my desk. If I look out the window, the trees out there – they are not in anyway allegorical of anything. They are just trees. Nothing more. Nothing less. It would be absurd of me to say something like, the trees are allegorical of the fact that human life will always flourish.

Absurd indeed. No? For after all reality unlike fiction does NOT have a storified character.

This is why I find atheistic writers of fiction to be perplexing. If they are trying to argue for a world without anything supernatural, then why utilize literary devices such as symbolism, allegories, synedoches, etc. to describe the going-ons of the world.

(And not just writers – movie makers also. Take for example, the movie Gravity with Sandra Bullock. The movie ends with Bullock’s space-capsule crashing into a lake on the earth and she then swimming to shore and finally crawling up on a beach. This crawling – it is apparently supposed to symbolize evolution. Huw? I argue that if evolution is the case, then symbolism is impossible. Sandra Bullock crawling on the beach is just that – crawling on the beach. Nothing more. Nothing less.)

sandrabullockgravityend761525

Yet – on the flip side, it makes sense when writers like C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien and such argue for something opposite all this and utilize such literary devices.

And… all that to say this one extra thing… my added (inchoate) fact.

If literary devices can be used within literature without any inconsistency as the Inklings did, then can they be used in this world also? That is to say, does reality have a storified character?

Where the Inklings used to meet
Where the Inklings used to meet

Romans 12:12

jih

~ For the last 4 days I have been thinking about this verse… strangely enough even in the dead of the night, in mid-sleep. I have wanted to pass it on to someone going through some struggles and been thinking about it a whole lot.

I’ve been thinking a lot about it because it seems as though it can be translated in both:

  • a descriptive sense and a prescriptive sense
  • an indicative fashion and an imperative fashion
  • a fact and a value
  • in the form of an is and the form of an ought
  • as being and as a be.

Both are important and yet my preference is for the indicative, for being over be (= doing). The indicative seems to be more passive-oriented and about the work being done in you by the Holy Spirit whereas the imperative is about the work that you have to do.

First the Greek:
   τῇ ἐλπίδι χαίροντες,  (= in hope, rejoicing)
   τῇ θλίψει ὑπομένοντες,
   τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτεροῦντες, ~ Romans 12:12

~ Which I need to think though and come back to later… but post for now for future reference. Also I will quickly note the οντες for now… These signal participles or ______-ing words.

And now… the English…
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12, NIV).

~ Notice that this verse in the NIV begins with a “be”. The NIV is a more user-friendly version.

Others

 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12, ESV).

Two be’s.

 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer (Rom. 12:12, KJV).

~ The above is the classic King James Version in its 1611 English. No be’s. Just being?

 “… rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer …”  (NASB)

~ No be’s… two -ings for being but all three describe states of being.

One more…

“… rejoicing in hope, enduring in affliction, being devoted to prayer” (Lexham)

~ this one even has a being in it…

Going back to the context in Romans – I do want to note that verse 9 which precedes it states the following:

“Love must be sincere. …” Romans 12:9 (NIV)
“Let love be genuine” Romans 12:9 (ESV)

So am I being told to allow love to be of a certain sort (= being) or do I do something so that it is expressed sincerely?

Words cannot describe why I like this verse – in the Indicative. I basically like the NIV minus the be.

…  joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12, NIV).

When I first met this verse in the NIV I think, it seem to have wrapped up within it some sort of a beautiful contemplative silence.  A pensive, emotional silence. Something of that sort. I am not sure how to describe it.

Eternal Life & Abundant Life

The following stems from a conversation I had with someone. Had to do some digging around and reading after words.  A couple of things  or points emerged basically.

The First Point: The Bible teaches that there is such a thing as Eternal Life.

~ If you ask a random person out on the streets – someone who is unfamiliars with the Bible – what they thought Eternal Life was, they would probably tell you something like, “Its living endlessly. Never dying. Being immortal.”

This is quite a contrast from what the Bible teaches.

And .   .   .   Annnnnnnnd . . .

Second: The Bible also teaches that there is such a thing as Abundant Life.

jesus_love_life_5___wallpaper_by_mostpato-d4ylhwx

~ If you ask a random person out on the streets – someone who is unfamiliars with the Bible – what they thought Abundant Life was, they would probably tell you something like, “Its having a nice, big, fat paycheck. A good retirement. Lots of money in the bank. A fancy sports car.  Etc.” I.e. An abundance of goods.

This is quite a contrast from what the Bible teaches – not that having an abundance of things in life is bad… (Its about the why’s of it all)

~~~>So what according to the Bible is Eternal Life?

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” ~ John 17:3

And what according to the Bible is Abundant Life?

jesus_love_life_by_mostpato-d4sw8e7

We are not given an exact definition, however it is mentioned in John 10:10:
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

The word abundant as used here has the idea of fullness. It means something along those lines. It is as if Jesus says “I have come that they may have life and have it exceedingly.” (I am going literally from the Koine here.) To understand better what it means however, we also have to look at how John uses the word life all through the Gospel of John. Do that and you will find that Abundant Life = Eternal Life and Eternal Life = Abundant Life.

*The amazing(!!!) artwork is by  Mr. Mostpato (Hernan Jacome) whom I follow out on DeviantArt.

Honor / Shame Cultures – Note from The Big Story

The Big Story by Justin Buzzard

~ I am reading a book, The Big Story by Justin Buzzard. In it, in a section titled Act 4:Rescue, he discusses The Parable of the Prodigal Son. With respect to this he relates the following story:

“I had a chance to preach through this parable while traveling and teaching in Cambodia. It was in a rural context, and the culture had many similarities to first-century agrarian societies like the one where our story is set. I asked the people what would happen if a son in their society came to his father and made the same demands as the younger son in our story did.  Their response was quick and stark. The son would be beaten for his disrespect. Beyond that, if the father was wealthy, he would take out an article in a local paper or publication to definitively disown his son.”

~ I am not really surprised at this reaction from the rural Cambodians. I think similar responses can take place in many Asian and Middle Eastern societies.