6.30.2015

Proverbs 23

This chapter focuses on gluttony and drunkenness, touching on immoral women, which is an important connection.

Verse 26 - "My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways."

The Proverbs are often read as moralistic axioms, detached from Christ or the gospel.  But this verse shows that the goal isn't solely upright behavior, but a heart that pursues the Lord with loyalty.

Response to Supreme Court ruling on marriage

My denomination's statement

John Piper laments.

The Protestant church speaks with one unified voice here.
[Update]: Rob Gagnon, an important scholar on homosexuality and the Bible, demurs.  But of his 5 points of disagreement, I found myself only agreeing with his 3rd one.


Here is my short statement, based on Romans 12:21.
With the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage now out, a ruling probably as significant as Roe v Wade, it is very tempting to be overcome by this evil.  To hate the liberal justices all the more, to curse those who marginalize us.  But this passage tells us to bless those who persecute us.  Not to avenge ourselves, but to make way for God’s judgment.  Our job is to be ready with compassion and truth at all times.  We should not be led by our government to call perversion good – we must resist that, and not submit to such rulings.  But we resist by submitting to God and loving our neighbor, not by taking the law into our own hands, not with bluster or braggadocio.  We resist Roe v Wade with protests and prayers outside abortion clinics, and with rescue clinics of our own.  We will find similar ways to resist this ruling, as we shine the light of the Gospel on a dark world.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Proverbs 22

Verse 7 - "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender."
Those morally opposed to debt love this verse, but it's more an observation than a rule.  It is certainly a caution against going into debt, but the context compares poverty and borrowing.  Is it a sin to be poor?  No, and poverty usually limits your options.

Verse 9 - "Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor."
This verse helps us make sense of Jesus in Matthew 6:22-23: "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!"  A good eye means being generous and open-handed to the needy.

Verse 10 - "Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease."
Strife usually finds its source in one person, while the rest are just trying to deal with it.  If you find that source and can change their behavior, shut them down, or get them to leave, suddenly peace abounds in the home or church.


17-21 - listen to what I've said!
22-29 - don't rob the poor, be friends with the angry, secure others' debts, change your fathers' boundaries, or be slack in your work.


How is this about Jesus?
He often would conclude with "He who has an ear, let him hear."
As the richest man in the universe, Jesus didn't use it to exploit the poor, but has paid off our most important debts.  He lifts the lowly, but casts down the high and mighty.

6.29.2015

Proverbs 21

Verse 17 - "Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich."
Verse 20 - "Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it."


It is very easy, especially to today, to find things to fritter your money away on, instead of saving for the many more valuable and necessary things needed in life.  Coffee, junk food, and entertainment sap finances away from braces, vehicles, college tuition, retirement, etc.

Deferred gratification is a virtue that comes from Christ.  For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.  First comes pain and denial and sacrifice for others, later comes the reward.

6.27.2015

1 Kings 5-7

Solomon makes a treaty with Tyre, and trades wheat and oil for logs and stone to build the temple.  He has an organized labor force.  He builds the temple 480 years after Israel left Egypt.  It takes 7 years and it's beautiful, made of cedar, stone and gold.  The holy of holies is all cedar with the ark and cherubim.

Solomon's own palace and house took longer and was bigger.  He imports a bronze worker from Tyre, who makes:
  • two pillars for the temple, with 400 pomegranates on lattice and lilies around the capitals/tops
  • the water basin for the temple, about 15 feet in diameter, holding 12,000 gallons, resting on 12 bronze oxen.
  • 10 water basins holding 240 gallons each, on wheeled stands
  • other utensils for temple sacrifice and washing work
So much bronze was cast they lost count of the quantity.

Items made of gold: altar, table, lampstands, utensils and door frame sockets.
Gold and silver was put in the treasury in the temple.


How this is about Jesus
He is the greater temple, not made with hands, but restored in 3 days after it (His body) was torn down.  


Application
  • We are the temple of God, being raised now, God's household.  Jesus is the foundation, and we must build in ways that last, using gold, silver, stones, and wood, not hay or straw (1 Corinthians 3:12).
  • The temple was made of costly material, and time and care were put into its beauty.  So also should we in our relationship to God give Him the best of our lives and efforts.

6.25.2015

Proverbs 20

Verse 9 - "Who can say, 'I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin'?"

The implied answer is, no one!  Sin is a stubborn squatter in our hearts.  We drive it out, but it returns with a vengeance.  When the young man calls Jesus "Good teacher," Jesus points out that only God is good.  Today we have a tendency to look to the good in people and define them by that.  This is not wrong in itself, recognizing the common grace God gives everyone to do kindness and love others.  But we cannot in that recognition reject the truth that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9).


Verse 24 - "A man's steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?"

God knows us better than we know ourselves.  We like to think we have deliberate, clear and biblical rationale for everything we do, but we don't.  Since we aren't omniscient, we can't make well-informed decisions about the future.  We trust God and go with what we know to be true.  This verse especially leans us upon the Lord, instead of our own understanding.  This doesn't mean we should intentionally do things out of ignorance, or stay unstudied if we have an opportunity to learn something.  But we can't know it all.

Solomon's Song of All Songs

Chapters 1-3
Her: your love is the best.  Where can I find you?
Him: you are lovely and beautiful, more than all women.
Her: he sustains me with shade and fruit like the best tree in the woods.

Her: he's coming!  And he's calling me away to himself.  He is mine; I am his.
I dreamed I was back in town, and couldn't find him.  When I found him, I clung tightly.

King Solomon arrives in majesty and luxury for his wedding.

Chapters 4-5
He: you are beautiful!  Your eyes, hair, teeth, lips, cheeks, neck and breasts are all lovely.
You have captured my heart.  Come away with me.  My garden girl needs to blossom.
She: come enjoy your garden - me!

She: I had a similar dream.  He was knocking outside but I couldn't answer right away, though I was dripping with desire to answer.  When I did answer, he was gone.  I ran out in the street not decent looking for him, and got a beating for it.

She: his head and hair, eyes, cheeks, lips, arms, body, legs and mouth are strong and lovely.

Chapter 6-8
He: there are lots of women [and Solomon would know], but you are the perfect, lovely one.
Your feet, thighs, navel, belly, breasts, neck, eyes, nose and hair delight and captivate me.
You're like a palm tree with fruit, and I'm climbing and picking.

She: let's go out to the fields - I'll give you my love there.
I almost wish we were siblings, so we could be affectionate in public.
Love is as strong as death, and way stronger than money.

Let's protect those who are sexually inexperienced or weaker (8:8-9).

Hurry to me, so I can hear your voice!


How this is about Jesus????
Jesus compared himself to Solomon in Matthew 12:42.  His desire is that we be with Him where He is (John 17:24).  He is majestic and beautiful (Psalm 45) and makes us glorious for our wedding day with Him (Ephesians 5:27).  It can be frustrating waiting for that time, but wait we must.  Delights and pleasures await us in union with Christ (Psalm 16:11).


Application
Men need to delight in verbally loving their wives, using these verses as a model.
Women need to delight in giving themselves physically to their husbands.
One way sin messes up marriages is by hindering these things.

Singles can cheer on married people in their love, while they wait for their time of love.  It WILL come, either in earthly marriage or in the greater delight at the wedding supper of the Lamb in glory.


"Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away....
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely."
Song 2:13-14

Acts 7

Stephen makes his defense before the Sanhedrin.  He emphasizes that God's work with Israel has never required the land of Israel or the temple.  Also, that Israel didn't understand when God sent a deliverer, whether it was Moses, or Jesus.  The same one they reject becomes the chosen Savior.

In the wilderness, Israel was tempted to worship idols, though they had the tabernacle.  Stephen tells the Sanhedrin that they are doing like their fathers did, rejecting the one God gave them to save them, and turning to idols instead.  In their anger they stone him, Saul of Tarsus assisting.  But Stephen sees Jesus and asks Him to forgive them as he dies.


How this is about Jesus
Stephen's speech hints heavily to Christ without ever mentioning Him.  He is the greater Moses Israel rejects, and the greater temple Israel needs, while they cling to the earthly building.


Application
It is important to know your nation's and your family's spiritual history.  How have your people been prone to disobey God in the past?  Those patterns may be tendencies in your own life.

Conviction of sin brings repentance or anger and rebellion.  If neither happens, conviction of the truth isn't happening in the heart.

6.24.2015

Angels and Demons

Part 6 - Angels and Demons

We turn now from the doctrine of God the Creator, to His creation.
Before coming to humanity, we look at intelligent but not human creatures, angels and demons.

Angels are mentioned over 200 times in Scripture, but their creation and nature are never directly discussed.  There are many different species or names for the class of "Angel:" Cherubim, Seraphim, sons of God, watchers, principalities, living creatures, angel.  Gabriel and Michael are named.  There are lots of them.  That's about all we know about who they are.

What do they do?
We find them guarding Eden first (Genesis 3:24), and the temple later, in symbolic picture.
They are messengers bringing us God's Word, often.
They also protect us.  Elisha in 2 Kings 6:15ff, Daniel 10:13-14, Matt 18:10.
They learn from the grace the church receives and lives (Ephesians 3:10).
They will have a role at the consummation.

Men are less powerful and thus prone to worship angels, but men are made in God's image unlike angels and we will judge angels in the coming age.  We trade places it seems, men a little lower for now, but exalted above them in Christ (Hebrews 1:14; 2:5-9).  Part of the wonder of God's grace is that He saves weaker humans who rebel, but not mighty angels who rebel.

Demons
These are angels who rebelled against God before Adam and Eve did.  Isaiah 14:3-21 and Ezekiel 28:2-19 describe it.  Jesus calls Satan the "ruler of this world" [though he is now cast out].  He is a liar and slanderer - as God's nature is truth, Satan distorts truth.  He is defeated but still dangerous.

Living with angels
Scripture talks more about angels than natural laws - the universe is personal more than mechanical.
Angels engage in spiritual warfare: don't under- or over-estimate the power of demons.
Angels learn about God's grace and salvation by watching us.

Southern Slavery, Flags and Priorities

Confederate flags are coming down in several states this week.

In the same time, a white supremacist has managed to get over 5000 blacks killed since the Charleston shooting last week, Doug Wilson says.
"Since the shooting in Charleston last week, approximately 15,000 children have lost their lives in this country; legally, according to the nine black-robed Nazgul; safely, at least if you don’t count the baby; but scarcely rarely. Blacks make up about thirteen percent of the general population, and yet are represented in about 35 percent of the abortions. That is disproportionate enough to lean genocidal, and to make it the actual legacy of the very white bones of Margaret Sanger. That means 5,250 of these children, slaughtered legally since last Wednesday, were black. Who speaks for them? I don’t count because I have a picture of Stonewall Jackson in my office."
I disagree with Wilson's larger point, that the confederate flag shouldn't have to come down just because people are offended, though.  He's misreading the moment.  The flag is identified generally with racism, because the Confederacy itself was inherently racist.  This isn't just the abuse of a neutral symbol.  Steven Wedgeworth helps, on this point.
"The Confederacy really was distinguished by its commitment to slavery. The concept of states rights was certainly relevant to the conversation, but this was never merely an abstract interest in anti-federalism but rather a commitment to preserve the right for states to possess slaves."

So when you're wrong about two things as a culture (abortion and celebrating a symbol that's generally considered racist), should we criticize or celebrate when the culture fixes one of those things, thus becoming inconsistent?  I say it's progress, not a reason to lambast.  But like Wilson, I want to demonize abortion, not the Confederate flag.  Are we free to speak in this country, yet, as individuals?  We must protect first amendment rights for those with whom we strongly disagree, like white supremacists.  But let's not fly their flag over capitols and on license plates with government endorsement.


Wilson's piece is a strong pro-life statement, which I applaud.
"if you were going to be conceived as the child of black parents in North America, would you prefer Charleston in 1850 or Chicago in 2015? I know which one involves a certified nurse counting up all your pieces so that they can make sure they throw all of you away."
Yes - great rhetoric and also true.  But I do think he is changing the subject, trying to connect to the Charleston shooting.  Abortion is not today a racially motivated enterprise, as far as I know.  Certainly the mother taking each life is not doing so because it hates that race, whatever ghoulish motivations Planned Parenthood had or has for society.

It's a bad idea for Wilson to try to show the horror of abortion by comparing to and downplaying Southern slavery and racism.  Why not simply point out and connect the atrociousness of both?

But it's the piling on with the demonizers that unsettles Wilson, and I'd agree.  This is hard to communicate effectively without being seen as defending the shooter, honestly, and I'm not sure it's worth Wilson's effort.  But we're becoming a French Revolution mob, sending to the guillotine anything or anyone who goes against What Everybody Knows.  It's a disturbing trend, when biblical truth no longer defines What Everybody Knows.  Just ask the Christian cake bakers these days.

So keep your priorities straight.  Don't demonize someone who loves their Southern heritage and history but repents of the racism, while you diminish the decapitations and destruction going on in your home town this week, under the American flag.
"The kind of Christian leader who gets worked up over a decal on a pick-up truck belonging to the sort of good old boy who spends half of every paycheck at Cabela’s, but who has no visceral reaction whatever to that big Planned Parenthood logo which he drives by every day, where today’s horrors are actually being perpetrated, is not, apart from repentance, going to be part of the reformation we so desperately need."

Time to Separate? / Spiritual check-in / Loving Sinners

What kind of relationship can I have with other Christians who disagree with me?
David Murray has helpful words here.
Sinclair Ferguson, here.
"individuals may deal with the same issue, apply the same principles, yet reach conclusions at different speeds, be convinced by different considerations, and indeed have different reasons for their responses as they seek to interpret God’s providences in the light of His Word. Our ability to perfectly bring Scripture to bear on our own situation is limited. Our ability to bring Scripture to bear on others’ situations is often even more limited. If we lose our grip on that principle, we will find ourselves slowly moving into a very limited and limiting fellowship of God’s people."


Time for a spiritual check-up - these are piercing questions.


A great critique of Matthew Vines' book, "God and the Gay Christian," which attempts to legitimize homosexual behavior in God's eyes:
"Vines is correct in one respect: A great deal of work is needed within the Church to ensure that gay men and women are treated with the love and respect they deserve as children of God.  But given the flaws of Vines's arguments, how can orthodox Christians 'affirm' a union that lacks any biblical or biological validity?"
Dennis DiMauro, in First Things, March 2015, pg. 64

6.23.2015

Proverbs 19

This chapter moves from talk of riches to the importance of character.  Verse 1 summarizes:
"Better is the poor who walks in his integrity..."

Wealth is of limited and questionable value (verses 4, 6-7, 14), and wisdom is better.
Men are drawn to wealth, but what they really want is kindness (vs 22).

Acts 6

The first sign of trouble in the fledgling church arises: Greek Christians complain their widows get less than Hebrew Christians in the daily rations being given.  The apostles ask the whole group to appoint seven men to look into this, so they can stay on task.  The seven all have Greek names, showing the group's concern not to discriminate against the Greeks.

It's interesting that priests are mentioned here coming to the faith, as they were dependent on the temple's generosity for their living, much like widows were.  Are they convinced by the effective and pure benevolence program of the church, in contrast with the temple's more corrupt system?

One of the seven, Stephen, does miracles and argues successfully with some Jews.  They falsely accuse him to the Sanhedrin, that he calls for the destruction of the temple and change to Moses' customs.


How this is about Jesus
He did not withhold mercy and provision from Gentiles, even as His earthly ministry before the cross was mainly to Israel.  The benefits of His atonement are not limited to Israel (1 John 2:2).


Application
Stephen's accusers follow Jesus'.  Tell a half lie just believable and inflammatory enough to condemn him.  They did this to Paul later, in Ephesus to start a riot.  He hadn't spoken against goddess Artemis (Acts 19:37), but he did teach the God of Israel was the one true God.

We have the same thing happening today.  Christians are accused of hating gay people, when the truth is that we cannot say their behavior is acceptable to God.  Not the same thing.  Often, the way we are tempted is the same direction as the accusations from the world.  While Christians are called to love and invite all people to accept the truth, we are tempted to disgust and separation from those people (Jonah 3:10-4:4).  The world sees that disgust and accuses us.

6.22.2015

Proverbs 18

Verse 17 - "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him."

Truth is slippery for our feeble, fallible minds and hearts to grasp.  Many love to "take a stand" for truth, and we should.  Be we have to be careful we aren't simplifying or distorting the facts for the sake of clarity at all costs.  If things aren't clear to you, yet, don't be impatient and violate the truth, just to jam the facts into your pre-conceived ideas.  It's okay to respond to someone in conversation with, "I'm not sure about that.  Good question.  Let me think about that a while and get back to you."

Acts 5

One couple in the early church lies about how much they sell land for, to give to the church.  They fall down dead on the spot.  The church and Jews around are impressed and fear God.  But the temple rulers get jealous of their popularity and arrest them again.  An angel breaks them out, sending them to preach in the temple.  The rulers can't find them in the morning, are obviously out of control, and then arrest them again.

They confront Peter and John: "We told you not to speak in the name of Jesus."  Response: "We cannot obey you."  And they preach the death and resurrection of Jesus again, not leaving out His ascension or sending of the Spirit!  Many in the Sanhedrin want to kill them, but Gamaliel counsels to let them be, expecting the movement to die out after a while.


Application
Wanting to look righteous at church can lead us to do silly or sinful things.
Gospel presentation must always center around the redemptive acts of Jesus for us: Incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost.