Who and what theological tradition said this:
“the Word of God precedes the Bible and surpasses it. That is why the center of our faith isn’t just a book, but a salvation history and above all a person, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.”
Who and what theological tradition said this:
“the Word of God precedes the Bible and surpasses it. That is why the center of our faith isn’t just a book, but a salvation history and above all a person, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.”
The day after Christmas (boxing day for us Brits) I decided that I should go to the doctors and check out the cough I have had for some 3 weeks.
It’s quite ironic. My mom, back in the UK has also had a similar cold, cough for quite a while. The contrast in how the medical process unfolded here in the USA and back home, is really interesting. My mom has been telling me of the hours spent in the waiting room of her GP, only to have been prescribed antibiotics TWICE and now being told she may have to have a chest x-ray which would mean a another trip to a hospital and some more hours waiting.
On Dec 26 I drove, without an appointment, to the doctors. I left the house at 10am. I was sitting in the triage section of the doctors, having my blood pressure, weight and temp checked at 10:40am. I was then taken to one of the 11 available cubicles, with a bed and computer in it. I had taken my iPad and was reading for a while. A nurse came back and asked me to change into a gown – a technician would be in shortly to take me to have my chest x-rayed. By 11am I was waiting for the doctor to see me. A nurse popped her head round and apologized for the delay and assured me they had called another doctor to come in. The doctor comes in at 11:15am. He pulls up the x-rays on the computer. I have bronchitis and ‘walking’ pneumonia. I need three meds including antibiotics. They have a pharmacy on site, would I like to spend the $10 each prescription and he could get them now and bring them back to the cubicle. Sure I say. 11:30am, I was leaving the doctors with a diagnosis and the meds I needed to get well.
Home by lunch time.
Two hours – x- ray, diagnosis and medicine. Yes, you pay for your medical insurance. Yes I will get a bill for the chest x-ray, despite having a good medical insurance.
But the contrast is remarkable. My mom has had a doctor guess what has been going on for the past few weeks, without my mom getting better. Now, after two doctor visits, her GP is suggesting a chest x-ray and she is still not feeling well.
Remarkable. Truly remarkable.
My wife and I took somewhat of a risk to move State to become the Minister of a small church plant last year. We have never regretted the move. However, there are certain times when the facts of where the church is and how things are going are put down very starkly – and budget time is one of those times. This morning, over pineapple, coffee and almonds the finance committee sat down to go over the numbers in order to present to the budget to the vestry and then to the church.
The Lord has blessed us mightily and today was a blessing. Including children, over this past year, we have grown 51%. Our income is up 16%. And our expenses have not gone up too much. This meant that the meeting was not about what can we cut, but what do we want to do! And at the end of the meeting we had a budget which was not just acceptable but one which made us excited.
The Lord has been good to us this year and this morning was a great encouragement. Praise him.
I often find it amusing that people insist on having ‘literal’ or word for word translation, as if that is the best and only translation to have. That is of course false. A great blog post by Daniel Wallace gives the 15 myths of Bible translation. Here are the first two to wet your appetite:
1. Perhaps the number one myth about Bible translation is that a word-for-word translation is the best kind. Anyone who is conversant in more than one language recognizes that a word-for-word translation is simply not possible if one is going to communicate in an understandable way in the receptor language. Yet, ironically, even some biblical scholars who should know better continue to tout word-for-word translations as though they were the best. Perhaps the most word-for-word translation of the Bible in English is Wycliffe’s, done in the 1380s. Although translated from the Latin Vulgate, it was a slavishly literal translation to that text. And precisely because of this, it was hardly English.
2. Similar to the first point is that a literal translation is the best version. In fact, this is sometimes just a spin on the first notion. For example, the Greek New Testament has about 138,000–140,000 words, depending on which edition one is using. But no English translation has this few…
Read the whole article here.
That was what we had at this years CHristmas Eve Service. It kinda blew our minds – the pageant was packed with kids and people just kept walking in. God is always good and his goodness was very evident tonight. Thank you Lord.
I am very fortunate. I serve as a priest under one of the most godly men and Bishops I know. He is certainly the best Bishop I know, for many different reasons. But one small, yet I think powerful, indication of the type of leader and pastor my bishop is comes on a day like today – Christmas Eve. This is the second Christmas as Rector of my parish and this is the second Christmas Eve that my Bishop has called me to see how I was, and to pray for me over the phone. He is doing this with all the clergy in his Diocese. It is both a blessing and a wonderful affirmation that just hours from a Christmas Eve service my bishop has prayed for me, for the service and for the ministry. I am very fortunate and blessed indeed.
One of the privileges I have is sitting on the committee which examines those who feel God is calling to them to ministry in the Anglican Church and our Diocese as well as the committee which examines those graduating Seminary and about to be Ordained.
I have been swatting up on Anglican Theology and on the 39 Articles. In reading one book, “The Very Pure Word of God: The Book of Common Prayer As A Model Of Biblical Liturgy” by Peter Adam, a strong reformed Anglican, I was amazed to see him quote from “Wolf Hall”, Hilary Mantel’s novel on Thomas Cromwell and the Reformation period in England. Some have labeled Wolf Hall and Mantel’s follow up novel “Bring Up The Bodies” as advocating moral relativism. Yet here is the very conservative Adam quoting from her novel. He quotes this bit: They have seen their religion painted on the walls of churches, or carved in stone, but now God’s pen is poised, and he is ready to write his words in the books of their hearts.
The tragic killings of young lives today will live in the memory of this nations history. The town will become infamous and famous because of this horrendous event.
However, the pro-gun lobby are already subtly preparing the sound bites to defend gun ownership in the aftermath of this event. The call for gun reform will inevitably come. But this time I hope that the pro-gun lobby simply bow their heads and take the hit. There is nothing to say. It was as bad as bad can be. No defense. No sound bite. No argument. Children died at the hands of a man with a gun.
Pray for the families.
The world we live in right now looks scary. Watching the news is a task of endurance as you go from one crisis to another crisis, with no apparent solution or end in sight.
For many, it appears that the world has become a different place – an strange place – it has changed beyond recognition from their childhood.
Many feel they are living in a foreign land.
Daniel faced something very similar.
He and his nation were in exile, in captivity in Babylon. Everything Daniel had held dear to him had been ripped away – his way of life, how he worshipped, his culture, what he ate, how he dressed, even how he spoke. The Babylonians even took his name away from him – Belteshazzar.
What happened to Daniel and Israel was effective Armageddon – the end of the world.
Daniel’s people, the Israelites, had a very simple worldview. They had always believed that the stability of the world was guaranteed by the fact that Yahweh, created the world and ruled over the world. Yet Israel faced a crisis. Daniel, I believe, himself faced a crisis. The stability of the world had fallen off a cliff. When a nation was defeated – so was your god. So when you believed that you had the most powerful god in the universe, and then this god does not rescue you from defeat, the question is – was the other nations god more powerful than your god.
Daniel believed Yahweh to be the one true God – creator and sustainer of all things and that all other gods were subject and under the power of Yahweh. But the defeat by Babylon meant that this worldview was being severely tested.
Had God forgotten Israel? Was he able to defeat the Babylonians? Why was evil prevailing? What was going on?
The future looked grim for them. It looked hopeless – and it looked like a future without Yahweh.
It is in this contextual background that Daniel gets this vision in Chapter 7 V9-14. The vision has one simple point – God has not abandoned his people to the will of their oppressors. Those who remain faithful to the end will see the consummation of God’s Sovereign purpose.
Yahweh was a “to go” God – He was not restricted by the temple, or national boundaries – God – Yahweh was right there in Babylon, with the people of Israel, and even working on the King of Babylon himself – but that is another sermon.
Boy, did they need to hear this. God had not abandoned them. He is not powerless to stop what had been happening.
A similar thing was happening with the apostle John. John had served his God and his master Jesus, but was now, banished to the island of Patmos during a time of persecution. Christians were being killed – the world ruled by a mad and insane man. Jesus had not yet returned. What was delaying him? What is going to happen? Then John receives this revelation – revelations of things that have happened that are happening and that will happen.
I want you to notice something. We often call Revelation the revelation of John. But that is not accurate. Look at the first line of our reading this morning.
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon take place; and he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.
This is a the Revelation of Jesus – given to Him by the Father, and then given to John. This is directly from the Father to the Son, and then to us!
Daniel and John are given two incredible visions which take us into a place which is quite remarkable – a glimpse into the heavenly perspective of time.
And these visions, given by God are not here in scripture to satisfy human curiosity about heaven but to affirm faith and give hope in the midst of difficulty and encourage obedient service.
The vision of Daniel 7 is of a court room – the Ancient of Day has taken up his place in the court of justice, and this court, the court of God, is always convened. In fact it is convened right now – his justice is always flowing; even as the earthly kingdoms exist – God has already passed judgment on these Kingdoms, and on the Kings, prime ministers and Presidents of the world – and in due course, the sentence will be passed into the physical realm of this world.
God is on the heavenly throne, even when it appears that earthly thrones are occupied by tyrants.
There is a story of two friends used to play basket ball in a public school after they had finished work. On the side lines, an elderly janitor waited patiently until the two finished playing. Invariably he sat there reading his Bible. One day one of the players asked him what he was reading. The man answered, ‘The book of Revelation.’ Surprised, the man asked if he understood it. ‘Oh, yes,’ the Janitor assured him. ‘I understand it!’ ‘What does it mean?’ the man asked. Quietly the janitor answered, ‘It means that Jesus has won, Jesus has won.’”
What is your view of the world right now? Do we look at the world with hope or fear? Do we see a future which is bright or dark? Do we have confidence or are we uncertain of what is to come.
Our future as Christians is entirely controlled by the past. The past, of course, is the victory of Jesus on the cross. When Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death, and ascended back to heaven, the Kingdom of Christ won – and it began to conquer. As people give their lives to Jesus, when they trust in Him alone, and live under HIS kingdom, his government, the Kingdom of God is conquering. It is running parallel with other kingdoms, but all other kingdoms and governments will fall, just as Babylon fell, the Med & Persian Kingdom fell, Greece fell and Rome fell. Christ’s Kingdom will continue forever and ever.
Faced with suffering, injustice, and oppression and with no deliverance or remedy at hand, hope has to lie in the belief that there is more to reality than is apparent – that there is a righteous, holy and mighty God who does sit on his throne and who acts to deliver the faithful.
There is a Kingdom coming and the Kingdom’s of this world cannot stand against it.
Our Gospel reading is a fabulous illustration of this.
Right here we have the confrontation of two kingdoms – the Kingdom of Rome, of the world, of which Pilate is a representative and the Kingdom of Jesus, the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is the visual image of what Daniel and Revelation is illustrating. Visually, the Kingdom of Rome appears to be winning. Pilate is interrogating Jesus. He has the authority. Pilate believed this. He tells Jesus in Chapter 19: 10 Pilate therefore said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” The oppressor, the ‘evil’ man appears to be in control and to have won the day. Pilate had no doubt that he was in a place of power – for it was his kingdom that ruled on earth.
But how wrong Pilate was.
There is another Kingdom – and even here, Jesus is speaking to Pilate about this kingdom. Jesus is ministering to Pilate and even now, in Pilate’s palace, is offering him the chance to take hold of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus’ response to Pilate is so amazing – Jesus asks Pilate, why are you asking me whether I am the King of the Jew? Your motive for asking will determine the answer i give.
In other words, If Pilate is truly asking because he wants to know then Jesus will say yes. If Pilate is just repeating the charge of the Jews then the answer is no, because he is not the King of Jews that the people expected.
No, even here – even as Jesus is about to be judged and sent to the cross, Pilate is not in control. The ruling government is not in control. Jesus is. The Lord is. God is.
Jesus’ kingdom is not from this world. It does not operate like the kingdoms or governments of this world. And it has been Jesus role and the Churches mission, to tell the world about the truth of the Kingdom of Heaven.
N.T Wright is a very well known theologian and scholar, as well as being the former Bishop of Durham in the UK. He said that the Gospel is the declaration of four things which stem from the prophets:
• That on the cross Jesus defeated all evil & the power of sin and death
• In Jesus a new age has dawned of the fulfillment of the prophets and scriptures and that the whole world would be addressed by one God
• That Jesus is the long awaited messiah and King
• That Jesus is the Lord and one true King of the whole world to whom one day every knee will bow to.
The Gospel is a declaration of truth – of fact – of the Kingdom of God.
And this kingdom is returning – he is coming back. Jesus has won. Evil will not win.
CS Lewis said that If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.
Do we live in this knowledge despite what our world shows us – despite what life is throwing at us right now? Do we know that God’s kingdom has arrived? Even though it is not yet here in its complete fullness? Do we see the wars in the world today and the conflicts and the evil people and political empires who oppress and kill and know that God has judged them and that sentence will be passed soon. Do we know that in the struggles of life that face us through illness, or hardship; in our work places or families, that we belong to Christ’s kingdom and that our future is with Him.
The message of Daniel and John is the same, and it is illustrated by Jesus as he stood before Pilate.
If we base our faith only on the realities we see here and now, we will flounder and lose hope. But if we place our hope deep into God’s future promises, which he has revealed to us now, it will hold us through the very worst of storms. As the Psalmist said this morning: The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. Amen!
The question that is first on our lips when we read a passage like Genesis 22 is Why Does God ask Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac?
There may be a number of reasons but I my view one of the key reasons that God asks this of Abraham is because God is teaching Abraham the principle of First Fruits.
And the Principle of First Fruits is this: the FIRST born – or the FIRST of something belongs to God. It is His. And it must either be sacrificed to God or redeemed.
Where does this idea come from? Well, to find the answer to this we need to go back to the very first Passover in Egypt. The Passover is a time of judgment. God declares that he will judge the Egyptians for ignoring Him and Him ways. If you remember, the Israelites are commanded to put blood on the door posts of their houses. This was a sign for the angel to Passover that house and so the first born in that house did not die. Every other first born – both man and animal, died that night. This was about “the Egyptians and Israelites.” God passed his judgment over ALL the people in Egypt – and only those who followed the command of God were not killed. If an Israelite ignored the command to put blood on the door post, all the first born of that household would have doed. Being an Israelite by birth would not have saved them.
Now the fact that no Israelite died that night did not mean they had been let off. God’s judgment came upon everyone in Egypt – and the Israelites were no better than the Egyptians – they were sinners. So a price still had to be exacted from Israel. God is a just and righteous God. Forgiveness without justice is not righteous. Therefore God does not forgive without a price and the salvation of Israel from Egypt required a price.
In Number 3 verse 11 we are told what that price was to be.
The LORD also said to Moses, 12 “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They are to be mine. I am the LORD.”
So the result of the first Passover was that every first born male Israelite, instead of dying like the Egyptians, had to be given to the Lord. But so that families did not have to hand over every first born child, God chooses the Levites as a first born offering among the tribes, this meant that first born males did not have to be given to God, the Levites took that role and that place.
However, the Israelites were required to give to God the first born male of their flocks and animals, or the first fruits of every harvest.
Exodus 13:12-13 says: you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the LORD’s. 13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.
Ex. 23:19 “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.
Thus, every first lamb born to your flock had to be sacrificed. If it was an unclean animal, like a donkey, you had to redeem it with a spotless lamb, or a monetary offering or you had to break its neck. Kill it. And every first harvest from your crops had to be given to the Lord.
Why? It was to teach the Israelites total reliance on God. The risk of giving God the first fruits is that you had no idea that you would have any more flocks or harvest. God does not say “ Let your ewe produce 9 lambs and then give me the tenth”. No, God says, “Give me the first one and then trust me that you will have more” It was a statement of faith that if we give to God the first, he would provide all that is needed.
What then is God asking of us?
Faith. It ALWAYS requires faith to give the first, because you have no idea what is coming. This is the point of faith – we do not see but we trust. Most of us would prefer that our faith is based on what we can see. But scripture is very clear:
Romans 8:24 says: Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees?
Hebrews 11:1 says Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
And we know, don’t we, that we say paraphrase this verse as – Faith is the reality of things fully expected, the certainty of things not seen.
God asks us to give HIM the first even before we see if we are going to have enough.
This is because we are trusting that God will redeem the rest – when the first is given to God, God redeems the rest.
And this is not just about money.
The question is do we give God the first of everything.
For example – Do we give God the first of our day – do we give him the first 15 – 20 mins of our day to him in prayer, and a devotional time? By giving him the first minutes, we let him redeem the rest of the day for us.
Prov 3:9-10: Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; 10 then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.
We don’t have time to go through ALL the passages of scripture which show this, so we will take two. Joshua 6. In Joshua chapter 6 God prepares the Israelites to attack Jericho.
What is the significance of Jericho?
It’s the first city they are to attack in the promised land.
Josh. 6:18 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. 19 But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.”
Do you see? This is the FIRST city – and everything IN that city is dedicated to God. Here again is the first fruits principle. And when the Israelites give God the first city he could Redeem the other cities. The next city they defeated they could have the loot!
Another example is Genesis 4. We all know the story of Cain and Abel and that Cain’s offering is rejected and Abel’s is not. Why? Well, lets read it she [Eve] also gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel became a shepherd of a flock, but Cain cultivated the land. 3 In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the LORD.a 4 And Abel also presented |an offering|—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast.
Abel offered his first fruits – Cain did not and so God rebuked Cain. Notice this. Cain makes an offering – but he has not given God the first and it is for this reason that God rejects Cain’s offering.
Now, the scriptures are totally consistent is EVERY way and the first fruit principle is found in the New Testament, perhaps in it’s most remarkable way.
Luke 2:7: And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Jesus we know to be the firstborn of Mary. But he is also the firstborn in other ways;
Col 1:15: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
What does the principle of first fruits tell us? That the firstborn, must die to redeem the rest.
What does Jesus do? He dies that we might live. As one theologian has written: When Christ redeemed us by his sacrifice he brought us back to God. He is literally a first fruits offering. In a very real sense, Jesus was God’s tithe!
In fact, the day that Jesus rose from the dead was the Jewish feast of First Fruits – the third day of the Jewish festival of Passover, 16 Nisan (Lev 23).
The first of everything we have – finances, time, family, work, all belong to God. Our hearts should say “ God, I am going to give to you first in every area of life and trust that you redeem the rest.”
And the giving of our first fruits to the Lord must not be begrudgingly but joyfully. Most of you know that I think the guilt driven stewardship campaigns of many churches are utterly unbiblical. It’s not about us wanting your money. It’s about God having your heart. If this Church were to have a motto for stewardship it would be 2 Cor 9:7: Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not out of regret [or reluctantly] or out of necessity [or compulsion], for God loves a cheerful giver.
God wants us to be joyful in what we give. Why? Because that helps us to be spiritually healthy. Joy in our giving, whether it be money or our time, or energy helps us to be spiritually healthy.
We see this in our gospel reading. I think this is one of the most misunderstood texts in the New Testament.
What on earth is the good eye that makes your body full of light and and the bad eye which makes your body full of darkness? In the Hebrew scriptures and rabbinic tradition the term good eye – ayin tovah – means generosity while the term bad eye – aiyin ra’ah – means stinginess or selfishness. A rabbi would say, “If a person gives a gift, let him give it with a good eye.”
We see this in proverbs 22:9 – A generous person will be blessed, for he gives some of his food24 to the poor. Some translations will have a footnote which says that the word generous is literally good eye.
Jesus was saying that generosity is the light of the body. If we share ourselves and our resources with others, we will be full of light because we have good eye, just as to be stingy and selfish with resources and ourselves is to have a bad eye.
As I have said before this is not just about money. Sharing wisdom can be as, if not more valuable than giving.
But the key is – will we be a fellowship who stands on the principle of first fruits. God asks the first of us, The first of every thing!
There is a prevailing belief, not unreasonably, that if you do everything right – if you follow the right steps, everything will turn out for the good.
This was drummed into me at school. If you study hard, you will get good results and you will be able to either go to university or get a good job. If you follow the right steps, the outcome will always be good.
This is how we dream, isn’t it. I used ask the Senior High’s in my youth group what their dream was for life – and it was always to work hard, graduate, get a good job, settle down, find the right person , marriage, kids, travel etc.
I would then teach on the curve balls of life – the 20 year olds who die in road accidents, or get paralyzed playing sports, or encounter a season of disease, treatment and rehabilitation. We don’t factor into our dreams that life can throw the unexpected and the unpleasant.
My brother in law, who passed away at a tragically young age experienced this. He did everything right. He went to school, graduated from Cambridge University – one of the very best in England – became a nuclear chemist, married, had children. He did everything right. But then his wife left him. The stock market crash led to the company which held his pension to fold, losing him 60% of the money he had diligently saved and then he passed away from cancer at 48 years of age.
You can do everything right and it still not turn out right. Life can be tough. We live in a world which is fallen and imperfect.
This is why it is so important for us as Christians to realize exactly what it is we lean on in life. If we lean upon our good decisions, careers, pensions, abilities, income, good works, even religion then all of these can be taken away, and we will crash to the floor.
If everything were to be stripped away from you today – everything, what would be left?
The two widows we encounter in our reading today have had everything stripped away. We have no idea whether they had been wealthy or not – or what their husbands had done. All we know is that when we encounter them in the scriptures they have nothing left. And they themselves probably did not envision the latter half of their life being so hard and difficult. In the days of both Elijiah and Jesus, a woman without a husband was very vulnerable – work was very hard, if not impossible for a woman to get and so without an income and without help and support very often widows would die.
What is remarkable about these two widows is their heart. In the midst of their complete hopelessness and destitution they reach out to God.
Let’s look at each of these widows.
The first is a widow who lives in Zarapheth. That means she was a gentile – a pagan widow. Zarapheth was between Tyre and Sidon and 80 miles north of Samaria. This is Baal country. In fact this is the Domain of Jezebels father, Ethabaal (1 Kings 16:31). The King of Israel at this time was Ahab and he had imported the cult of Baal, his wife’s god, into Israel.
But the irony here is that in the middle of the cult of Baal was this widow who believed in the God of Israel – Yahweh.
The fact that God would send Elijah to her tells us two things: (1) God always hears the cry of his people, no matter where they are or who they are; (2) God judges those who ignore his grace.
Jesus gets into hot water by recounting this event in the Synagogue in luke 4:25-26. Jesus points out that there were many poor widows in Israel, but because of Israel’s continued rejection of God’s ways, Elijah was sent to a gentile. This infuriated Jesus’ hearers – they could not believe such an interpretation of the scriptures – that God would favor a gentile pagan over an Israelite.
The Israelites were trusting in and leaning on something other than the Lord – and so God exercises his judgment, symbolically, on them by going outside of Israel to bless a pagan who believed in God! God clearly shows that his grace is not based on what you are but on what you believe in and trust in.
In what appeared to be the end of hope for this widow in Zarapheth, gathering wood for the final, pitiful meal before the inevitable outcome of death, hope appears. God honors her faith. But look at what he asks of her! Elijah asks her to give HIM the last of their food. If she gave him everything, God would take care of her.
And she does. She leans entirely upon the Lord. She trusts in him utterly. She gives everything over to him. And notice how the miracle plays out. She does not receive twenty barrels of oil and flour miraculously outside her house. She has to live day by day and each day she receives the miracle which allows her, her son and Elijah to live. She was reliant daily on God’s continued provision.
As one writer has said, In the absence of Baal who lies impotent in the netherworld, Yahweh steps in to assist the widow and this is done in the heart land of Baal.
Israel, the people of God, have adopted Baal, who is powerless, and yet here in the very center of Baalism, Yahweh performs a miracle and saves!
Whatever it is we face, even in the face of our last meal and even death, it is on faith, on the very word and promises of God that we are to lean – for from that comes life – just as this widow experienced.
It is this same attitude which accompanied the widow in the temple.
Just was the writer of Kings would have us make the comparison between the nation of Israel, the supposed visible representation of God on earth being bypassed by God in favor of a woman in an pagan, idolatrous nation because of her faith, so the gospel writer makes a similar comparison between the leaders of the God’s people and an insignificant, poverty stricken widow.
Who had the real faith? Who truly leaned upon the living and true God? Who put their money where their mouth was?
Jesus is scathing. These men were men of ostentatious attitudes and corrupt morals.
Ostentatious in that they wanted to be seen and they wanted to be revered and they wanted to be honored. Everything they did was to advance their own selves. Jesus’ charge is simple – they had attitudes of Lords rather than attitudes of servants. Their long prayers presented an impression of piety that masked greed. They pretended to love God greatly but their aim was to get people to love them greatly. They wore flowing robes. Why is this mentioned? Not to attack their dress but to show the type of people they were – you could neither hurray NOR work in such robes. They were men of leisure. They enjoyed being called Rabbi = my great one.
They were also, largely corrupt. Teachers of the law in Israel received no official income. They depended upon voluntary contributions and yet all were wealthy. They had large benefactors who would contribute to their ‘ministry’ and they had no qualms from taking money from old ladies and widows. To support a teacher of the law was seen as a blessing – God would bless you for supporting such a person. And instead of the teachers of the law saying to little old ladies and widows, “You do not have to give your money – keep it” they took it happily – indeed they solicited from such people.
The teachers of the law were spiritually poor, and physically prosperous. The widow was physically poor and spiritually prosperous.
This even takes place in the Court of the Gentiles. There were 13 trumpet shaped metal reciprocals where the offering were put. These boxes made a very recognizable sound as the coins were dropped into them. Often those Pharisees who wished to boast would drop a large number of coins in at once. This was called sounding the trumpet.
And in the midst of all this coming and going and all the large and impressive giving Jesus points out this one woman.
Oh, we will meet her in heaven. We will have the privilege of speaking with her. A woman who had lost her husband, her support, her provider. She had nothing. And she takes her two coins – her lepta – worth in todays value 1/5th of a cent, and put’s both into the offering.
Her actions do two things:
1. It expressed her love for God. She had come to the temple to worship – to bring her offering, to express how she felt to him and she gave God what she had.
2. it expressed her trust in God to sustain her. She gives it all because she believes God will help her.
The means of the giver and the motive are the measure of true generosity.
This woman gave her all. She trusts in the Lord. She leant entirely on God. And this means that whatever the outcome, even, I believe, in the event of her starving to death, she trusted the Lord.
Both these widows gave everything they had to God. They held nothing back, even in their most difficult situation.
There is a great symbolic truth here. There is nearly always something we hold back. We rarely make the ultimate sacrifice.
These two widows did. And these widows did.
God calls us to give everything – to hold nothing back – to give ourselves to HIM – that is to lean on God utterly – to trust in him completely. For he will never fail us nor forsake us.
Lastly, while we do not have time do focus on this, I did want to mention the fact that there is no sense that these two widows were angry or bitter with God.
A baptist theologian and pastor John Piper says:
Adversity by its very nature is the removal of things on which our comfort and hope have rested and so it will either result in anger toward God or greater reliance on him alone for our peace.
And his purpose for us in adversity is not that we get angry or discouraged, but that our hope shift off earthly things onto God.
God’s main purpose in all adversity is to make us stop trusting in ourselves or any man.
This is the cry of the Psalmist. Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help: Whose hope is in the Lord their God.
These widows trusted in God regardless of the situation or the outcome. They leaned on Him utterly, whether in the miracle of his provision, or even in the face of death. And they appear to have done it without bitterness or anger.
May our faith be like this. May it lean on the our very real and eternal hope, Jesus Christ.
It has been the quintessential thanksgiving day today. The morning was spent outside on a stunning day – sunny and quite warm! Then, in the afternoon, we were invited round to a parishioners house to join 19 others to celebrate the day. Along side the traditional turkey and trimmings we drunk beer and watched Houston pull out a great win over Detroit and the Redskins beat the Cowboys. Turkey, football and a house full of people and children running and having fun…. Happy thanksgiving indeed…
It has become clear to me now that the Episcopal Church is now just like Israel before the exile. The ‘priests’ and ‘prophets’ are doing their own thing despite the warnings from the minority. Jeremiah preached against the abuses of the religious leaders and yet the leaders not only ignored Jeremiah, but they claimed all was well and then tried to shut Jeremiah up.
No amount of rhetoric from the Presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church or those who support the liberal agenda changes the fact that the Episcopal Church is not just advocating unbiblical practices and lifestyles but claiming righteousness in their advocacy. This is tragic. They have departed from the narrow way that Jesus called all to walk and are now encouraging people to walk on the broad way to destruction. And in doing so they claim they are being Jesus centered; doing what Jesus would surely have done, accepting gay and lesbian behavior as normal. The liberals claim they uphold a Jesus centered tolerance and inclusivity for all. And yet in the very next breath they exclude conservative, biblically focused priests and bishops. You cannot claim tolerance and inclusivity and then attack those who disagree with you. You cannot claim tolerance and inclusivity and vilify a conservative diocese like South Carolina and its bishop Mark Lawrence.
The fact is scripture shows us that when ever Israel departed from the ways of God, the leadership thought they were doing fine. When ever they ignored or persecuted a prophet who called them out on their liberal, unbiblical ways, they attempted to silence and remove the prophet.
The Episcopal church has turned away from the clear teaching of the biblical to endorse and embrace that which cannot be endorsed by those who follow Christ. It is that simple.
We know what happened to Israel in the scriptures. God judged them. His judgment was aimed at drawing the people back to him and to obedience to is ways, his laws and his kingship. God will judge all who depart from his ways, he will judge in order to draw people back to him.
In the meantime, may the voices ring out loudly – may the message of the gospel and the truth of a Christ centered, biblical, Christianity which desires to follow, not change God’s ways be proclaimed even in the face of persecution, dismissal and a church leadership intent on traveling a path which leads away from the ways of the Lord.
Dr John Lennox, a mathmatician in Oxford, and a strong evangelical Christian, has written a book attacking the 6 days creation view of Genesis. Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis responds. Read it HERE.
Read it all HERE
This is very interesting from the Gospel Coalition Blog…. READ IT ALL HERE
This is a sad article by World Magazine. Read it all HERE
There are two things which make me sad reading this article. Firstly D’Souza has shown an incredible lack of judgement and discernment. To file for divorce on the 4th Oct and yet on the 28th Sept, announces to a group his new fiancee & they share a hotel room together is a horrendous lack of judgment.
Secondly, what on earth has the Church come too when people can charge $10,000 for D’Souza to come and speak. Surely the standard / the tariff of what to charge for truth was determined by Jesus!! Of course a worker is worth his wage – but in my opinion no-one, and I say no-one should ever get RICH off the gospel.
Very sad indeed.
One of the interesting learning curves I have been on over the past year is regarding the management of time. Now pastor of a small church plant, it took a little time to re-adjust from a larger church environment with a staff and administration facilities to, well, ME only. Once settled into that things went well.
And then, more recently, another adjustment had to happen and this time it was a little more difficult. This time it was in regards to growth. Literally, over two weeks, we grew by 5 families. Not a big deal you may think – but for us it was. The children’s ministry went from 4 to 12 overnight. And meeting in a school, with all the challenges that brings, meant we needed to suddenly make sure we had a nursery.
All these have been good challenges – exciting challenges. But it has also taken up time and energy – hence the silence here. But now, I am catching up. I have ‘re-adjusted’. God has been so good. So faithful. So amazing! He blesses despite our failings. He encourages us despite our unfaithfulness!
1. You are pastoring a parade – sometimes, God removes people from your ministry for your benefit. And, I am sure, sometimes he moves them for their benefit!
2. The people who demand the most serve the least.
3. You will see ugly behavior.
4. You are irreplaceable (but not at church). You likely were not the first pastor of the church you are serving and hopefully you won’t be the last. But your role as husband and father are the only truly unique roles you will have in life.
5. Preach the Word.
Read the whole article HERE
I found this article fascinating. It’s by a Christian couple who have sold their home and have found greater freedom and no regrets. The article resonated with me because right now we would love to sell our home. We have owned two homes in the 23 years we have been married. Currently we live in Washington DC, and own a house in SC. We are renting and paying a mortgage. The Lord has been incredibly faithful to us in helping us make ends meet. However, I can safely say that when the Lord moves and we sell our house in SC we will not own another home, as we seek to serve God’s calling for us.
Anyhow, read the article HERE if interested.
Apparently there is a growing group of traveling evangelists. Not the type you would imagine. These are pastors who have lost their faith and then gone out to tell people why life without God is a good thing. the article in todays New York Times focuses on one such pastor. A pastor of some 25 years who has now become an atheist.
Read the Article HERE
I am on vacation until August 5th. While away I will post some of my notes from a series I have started at the Church on the Overview of the Old Testament…..
The Old Testament, on the one hand, is very easy to understand. It is really one story – that of God’s interaction with humanity and how humanity went from the fall back into relationship with God. It deals with what man was, what happened when he rebelled against God and how God rescued man from the consequences of the rebellion, and what happens when man chooses to follow God, and when he chooses not to follow God. That is the Old Testament in a nutshell.
The intricacies and depth of the Old Testament rest fundamentally on this foundation.
There are some fundamental things to remember when approaching the OT. These always need to be kept in mind even when you read what at first may appear to be a hard passage.
1. This is the word of God.
ALL the OT IS THE WORD OF GOD and therefore every passage is the O.T is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
2. God is righteous, true, loving and compassionate
There are not two God’s, one of the OT and one in the NT. It is the same God, with the same characteristics, so when we read something troubling, or disturbing we need to approach it with this in mind.
3. The OT contains different genres of writing.
There is narrative, prophecy, wisdom literature, law and poetry all wrapped up in the OT. We need to recognize when something is poetic, rather than narrative (story based) or prophetic. Not to do so can lead to problems when interpreting passages.
4. There can be two meanings to a text – the meaning for the time and the meaning for all time
As we read scripture we must understand that the OT has a context – a historical context. Hence the prophets speak into a situation, just as the Psalmist is relating a specific issue that he had experienced. But also, because this is the inspired word of God, the meanings have universal meaning – speaking to us today. Eg. Ps 22; Is 9
5. Jesus is the center of the OT
The whole OT is a testimony for and towards Jesus Christ. Jesus told the Pharisees that if they believed Moses they would also believe in him.
Background To The Pentateuch
What is the Pentateuch? They are the first five books of the Old Testament – known as the Torah. The word Pentateuch means five books – Pente (five) teuchos (scroll).
These five books are written by Moses and are the foundation of the Jewish faith. Why do we say Moses wrote them?
Jesus says that Moses wrote the Law – John 5:45-47: Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
When you hear the word Law spoken of in the New Testament it is often referring to the Five Books.
Excluding Genesis 1-11, the Pentateuch is about a family that grew by God’s grace into the nation of Israel – God’s people. God delivers his people from Slavery and entered into a commitment of intimacy with them.
Genesis – Deuteronomy is a self-contained story with a clearly defined beginning, an intricate plot with sub-plots and a decided ending.
But the Pentateuch is more than just a history of God’s people. It is meant to be an encouragement to faith in God, both for those to whom it was first written and to all to came after. It’s core purpose is to show us God’s faithfulness to his people which in turn should encourage us to believe and trust in the Lord.
The Pentateuch and indeed the whole Bible shows us God’s dealings, his faithfulness, his love, for his people and for the world, even when his people go astray and disobey him.
We would summarize the Pentateuch as follows:
Genesis is a book of origins – it describes the beginnings of the universe and the origins of God’s people; Exodus traces the salvation of his people, who are helpless to save themselves; Leviticus calls for holiness as the only lifestyle for the Israelites and as the only possible response to God’s grace; Numbers is a book of wanderings in which God’s people suffer the consequences of their unbelief and Deuteronomy concludes the Pentateuch on a positive note, presenting a program of renewal as the nation prepares to enter the promised land.
The theme of the Pentateuch is found in Genesis 12:1-3:
Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Here God promises Abraham 4 things:
1. A Land to live in
2. Numerous descendants
3. Blessing (divinely granted success)
4. Blessing through Abraham for all the nations of the world.
God’s benefit for the nations is the climax or goal of the promises: promises 1-3 are steps on the way to the final goal of universal blessings.
The first book of the Bible is of course Genesis. The Hebrew Bible named it’s books after the first word of the book – the first word in Genesis Bereshith = beginning or origin.
Genesis has two basic parts – Chp 1-11 = a prehistory, while chps 12-50 is the story of the beginning of redemption with three main characters – Abraham, Jacob and Joseph.
Moses writes Genesis for the people of Israel whom he has led out of the land of Egypt. His purpose was to encourage the Israelites with a number of truths:
1. Yahweh is the creator of the universe
2. Humanity is created in God’s image
3. The nature and consequence of human disobedience
4. The beginning of the divine covenants
5. God’s choice of a people through whom he will bless the nations
The major plot of Genesis has to do with God’s intervening in the history of human fallenness by choosing a man and his family to begin the line from which the chosen seed would come. While Abraham, Jacob and Joseph have major roles you are never to forget that God is the ultimate protagonist. It is HIS-story.
Alongside the major plot, there are three important subplots:
1. The occurrence of the first two covenant between God and man. The covenant with Noah has God promising never again to cut off life from the earth. While the covenant with Abraham promises the gift of the seed and the gift of the land.
2. Holy War – a more subtle subplot is that of the Holy war. The curse that God puts on Satan talks of the enmity that will exist Satan and the woman’s seed. Of course that seed is Jesus but also includes humanity. There is a battle – Cain & Abel; Ishmael and Isaac; Esau and Jacob; Pharoah and Moses; idolatry and worship of Yahweh.
3. God’s choice of the younger / weaker / or most unlikely to bear the righteous seed. God regularly bypasses the firstborn in carrying out his purposes 9a considerable breach of the cultural rules). Also, the seed is often born of a barren woman – Sarah (18:11-12); Rebekah (25:21); Rachael (29:31). Finally, the chosen ones are not chosen because of any goodness within them. Indeed they have flaws – flaws that are fully exposed in the scriptures. What makes them the godly seed is that in the end they trusted God and his promise that they would be his people.
So, what is the big picture of Genesis? We see God’s power in the creation, we see his anger over sin, we see his plan to redeem man from his sin, we see how God fulfilled his promises to Abraham and how he guided and protected those who trusted in him, even in difficult times (Joseph).
Our response to Genesis? It should lead us to worship. God is strong. God is faithful. God is just. Genesis tells us that under every condition the failure of man is met by the salvation of God. Alleluia!
The following short sermon clip is from Voddie Baucham. Ironically it’s very close to what NT Wright says in his work on Justification and the Gospel.
Bishop Welby of Durham – former oil executive, Libor scandal inquiry member and possible next archbishop of Canterbury – discusses corporate sin and the common good
Paddy Power has him as 6:1 to be the next archbishop of Canterbury. But Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, is having none of it. He really doesn’t want the job. “Lets be clear, I’m one of the thicker bishops in the Church of England,” he tells me. I’m not taken in by this disarming self-deprecation – something for which Old Etonians like him are not especially noted. No, there is nothing remotely thick about Bishop Welby. Which is one of the reasons why he has just been asked to be a member of the new Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards looking into the Libor fixing scandal. That, and his background in the City. For, despite a faintly Mr Bean-like appearance, the fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England is no otherworldly bumbler. Until his ordination in 1992, he was a senior executive in the oil industry for 11 years.
Read the whole article HERE
This is remarkable – considering this is the country of the freedom of speech. To deny chick-fil-a permission to open a restaurant is Boston because of what they believe is beyond belief.
Read it all HERE
Replacement theology – the idea that the contemporary Christian church has replaced the Jewish nation in God’s covenants – is causing damage to the message of the Gospel around the world, according to the author of a popular book about the relationship between Christians and Jews.
Such beliefs could bring about the literal destruction of the Jewish nation, he contends.
Pastor Victor Styrsky, author of “Honest to God-Christian Zionists Confront 10 Questions Jews Need Answered,” was interviewed by WND while attending the Christians United for Israel seventh annual national summit in Washington, D.C., for whom he serves as eastern regional coordinator.
Styrsky told WND that replacement theology – based on the presumption that when Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, God then rejected the Jewish nation with whom he had covenanted for generations – is dangerously prevalent across many segments of the contemporary Christian church.
He estimated fully half of Christian organizations hold such beliefs.
“When you do that and don’t see the Jews as beloved of God, and don’t see God as a promise-maker and a promise-keeper, then Israel occupies [the land], and they are not inheritors.”
Read the whole article HERE
The Rt. Rev. Mark Joseph Lawrence, the Episcopal bishop of South Carolina, fears for the future of his church.
One week after the U.S. Episcopal Church overwhelmingly voted to approve a provisional rite for blessing gay unions and the ordination of transgender people, Bishop Lawrence said in an interview with NBC News that his denomination is moving too far out of the mainstream.
“Do I think that these two decisions will cause further decline? I believe they will,” Bishop Lawrence said. “I think we’ve entered into a time of sexual and gender anarchy.”
Read the whole thing Here
Interesting interview with Stephen Mansfield. Mansfield is a well known christian author. He has wriiten on many people including George W Bush. In fact the ministry I worked for a while back hired Mansfield for a project. His latest book is on the Mormonizing of America. Here is a taste.
Q: Are you now more or less likely to defend Mormonism when evangelicals call it a cult?
A:My basic approach is to get people to work with Mormons for social good today and to be informed about their history, which in my case leads me not to accept the supernatural side of their history that they claim but still embrace them and have friends among them. That’s what I urge evangelicals to do.
Really? I find this both a strange and worrying answer.
Read the interview here.
SALT LAKE CITY – Stephen R. Covey, author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” as well as several other books that together have sold millions of copies, has died. He was 79.
In a statement sent to employees of a Utah consulting firm Covey co-founded, his family said the writer and motivational speaker died at a hospital in Idaho Falls, Idaho, early Monday due to complications from a bicycle accident in April.
“In his final hours, he was surrounded by his loving wife and each one of his children and their spouses, just as he always wanted,” the family said.
Covey was hospitalized after being knocked unconscious in the bike crash on a steep road in the foothills of Provo, Utah, about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Read the whole report here