Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Traditional Jewish mysticism says every man has the present with the future coming toward him.  We cannot plan the past, but we hope for the future.

  In Matthew's gospel I have counted 9 times someone had the faith to be given a different future than the present they were living.  A simple example is the centurion's servant, who was in great pain with paralysis.  Jesus says, I will come and heal him.

  But the centurion knows Jesus has great power, that He does not need to come to heal the servant.  So Jesus says--I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.  The servant was healed the same hour the centurion said what he said.  The servant's life was not what it had been: his future was entirely different from his past.

  As we know, the writer of Hebrews says faith is--the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Certainly the centurion had the conviction that Jesus could do what was not seen.  We cannot live in the past in any realistic sense but by the grace of God we can have faith for a future which is different from the present.

  This can be startling.  Normally we think of God as He who does not change--Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.  We might think our fate cannot change, that we are like the Prodigal Son, stuck in the mud.  And yet Jesus was always changing the life of the one who has faith.

  Two blind men receive their sight in Matt. 9, Peter is saved from the sea in Matt. 14, a woman's daughter is demon-possessed in Matt. 15.  We certainly think about the transformation of the soul in salvation but we don't always realize how different the future can be for the soul touched by Jesus.  And yet Jesus says--I have come that they might have life and life more abudantly.

  What might not be so obvious is the change in the soul can result in changes in one's life.  The woman in Matt. 9 believes Jesus long enough to say to herself--If I only touch His garment, I shall get well.  That led to her challenging the crowd to let her through to touch Jesus so that He might heal her, as He does.

  While we cannot say everyone who is sick will be healed we can seek a different life for ourselves than the one we have.  Two blind men seek their sight in Matt. 20--Lord we want our eyes to be opened.  Jesus is moved with compassion.  He touches their eyes, they receive their sight.  Do they then leave?  No--they received their sight and followed Him.

  The rich young ruler cannot follow Jesus.  Some of His disciples leave Jesus when what He says is difficult to accept.  But these two blind men, kneeling on the side of the road who have the faith to call Jesus--Son of David--these two follow Jesus from that time on.

  Now we hae seen how different someone's life is when they have faith for the future.  This in essence is the gospel, the kingdom of God which Jesus brought.  This is change.  When God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden in Genesis 3, He sent them from a place of no alteration to the world of mutability and change.  Yet that change enabled the first Adam to eventually become the second Adam, Jesus.  That act of sending Adam and Eve out of the garden was what we call grace.  Change is the underlying river of the kingdom of God.  When the angels with Lucifer rebelled, God did not cause them to repent and return; once gone they were lost.

  However, with Adam and the human race we have been given repentance and return.  John, the cousin of Jesus, comes preaching--Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Jesus will begin His ministry by saying the same thing.

Friday, September 21, 2012


In Paul's letters to the Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians he mentions love and truth together.

  In Eph 1 he says, In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.  Paul prays that God would grant the saints there, a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, Eph. 1.17.  In Philippians 1 Paul says Epaphras has informed him, of your love in the Spirit.  For this reason...we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

  I've highlighted the words love and knowledge.  Evidently the apostle sees both together.  I wonder if we do.  Traditions which are committed to relationships seem to sacrifice truth; traditions which are committed to the truth seem to sacrifice love.

  Why would the apostle want to put truth and love together in the same people?  Could it be to produce the fruit of righteousness?  To the Colossians Paul says he prays for the saints there, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please Him in every respect, bearing fruit, Col. 1.10.  To the Philippians Paul says the reason is, so that you may approve the things that are excellent...having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God, Phil. 1.11.  To the Ephesians Paul says the reason is that, we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, Eph. 2.10.

  Evidently the truth of God is given to us to do the works of love and love is given to us to receive His truth.  Possibly if we were to consider the truth of our relationship to God as based on His forgiveness we would have a basis for relationships.  And if we would see the love of God as the basis for our calling we would see the truth as the basis for love.

  Paul seems to be saying this to the Ephesians.  In chapter 2 he speaks of the people there that they, formerly walked according to the course of the world.  Did God leave them there to die?  No, But God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us...made us alive together with Christ.  God forgave them in order to bring them to Himself--this is His love.  Then, immediately Paul says, For by grace you have been saved through is the gift of God. 

  Paul says this to unite the love of God (being rich in mercy) with the truth that God did this.  We know His love by His truth.  He goes on for the entire chapter to privide the details of how God did this.  The truth that God brought us to Himself was to explain His love in forgiving us so He could do just that.

  His truth explains His love; but does His love explain how He chose us?  He chose us before the foundation of the world, so that His love always had us in mind and in His heart.

  If we could teach predestination as love and love understood by truth, possibly we could have the church Paul envisioned.

Friday, September 14, 2012


The passage in Matthew 16 about Peter as the rock has stirred several interpretations, all of which have some value but don't seem to finish our questions.

  When we look at it in Greek, several doors open.  The Sadducees and Pharisees have been challenging Jesus, so He warns His disciples about them. Jesus leaves the region of Magadan, to go to Caesarea Philippi.  Caesarea Philippi is north, near the Mediterranean where cool breezes blow.  It is comfortable, a port of many ships and travelers bringing different philosophies from different lands.

  So Jesus will now ask His own disciples if they know who He is out of all the contending, entangling opinions about God.  Do they know who He is and who God is?  This is the question He will ask them.

  First, the disciples say what other people have said.  Some say He is John the Baptist; some say He is Elijah or one of the prophets.  So Jesus then points His words at His own disciples, But who do you say that I am? Matt. 16.15.

  Peter blurts out, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
  Jesus, ecstatic, then says, ..flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

  Then Jesus continues with the statement which has so many responses.  He says to Peter, You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church, Matt. 16.18.

  The Greek that Matthew uses opens up several interpretations.  The word for rock is petra.  This word is in the neuter gender.  The Greeks did not like to leave a word in the neuter by itself, they liked to connect the neuter with a masculine or feminine word.  So Matthew has given petra a feminine article, ten, to go with the feminine word, tauten, or 'this' as in 'this rock.'

  So is there a feminine word to which 'this rock' can be attached?  The only feminine word is ten ekklesia, the church.  Tauten is not a personal pronoun, so 'this rock' cannot refer to Peter, or petros. What Peter says is being said to the church.

  What is in the verse just before v.18 is, flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  This leads us to Matthew 14 where Jesus is walking on water.   Peter comes out, falls into the water due to a lapse of faith, and Jesus saves him.  When Jesus and Peter get in the boat, the disciples say, You are certainly God's Son, Matt. 14.33.  Now this was not revealed to the disciples by God the Father, they saw what they saw, concluding that only God could do that.  Nicodemus says something similar when he says, ..No one can do the signs You do unless God is with him, John 3.2.

  But Peter did not say what he said because it was evident, rather he blurted out without reservation as the Father burst it into him.  Jesus will say later in John 17 that, The words which Thou gave Me I have given to them and they received them and truly understand that I came forth from Thee and they believed that Thou did send Me.  In John 8.18 Jesus says, I am He who bears witness of Myself and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.  In 8.29 Jesus says, He who sent Me is with Me..  And yet when Jesus said the Father sent Him, the Jews pick up stones to throw at him, John 8.59.

  We can now say the Father gave Peter what he was to say, Peter said it without hesitation.  Peter said that Jesus came from the Father.  This the Jewish religious leaders could not accept, but Peter has.  Consequently Peter becomes the apostle to the Jews, first in Antioch and then later on to Rome.  However, Peter does not take an spiritual authority away from the men and women in the local church.  In 1 Peter 5.1 he calls himself a sumpresbuteros, a fellow elder with the other elders. Not chief elder or bishop but one of several.

  This could only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit.  What this means to us is that the church is built on the gifts of the Spirit to Christians, not on the authority of the leaders.  Peter seems to be saying this when he says, You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2.5.

Friday, September 7, 2012


If you've ever red what the scholars say about Genesis 1-3, you know these few Hebrew words have suggested volumes to our minds.  We have come to realize these 80 verses are carefully written.

  What is written about the creation is simply repeated by the prophets.  But what is written about Adam and Eve is developed by later Biblical writers for all time.

  As we know chapters 1 and 2 describe what might not be able to described, life in the Garden unfallen.  If Paul tells the Corinthians that the natural man--does not accept the things of the Spirit of God--then we could not understand these two chapters of Genesis unless the Spirit of God illuminates them.

  When God created Adam, He breathed on him God's own breath, causing him to be a living being.  Now what does living being mean?  The word in Hebrew for soul is nephesh, a soul which breathes or possible the inner soul of a man or woman, the word for breath is ruach.  The breath of God gave Adam the living soul which would breathe back out the breath of life God breathed in.  What was in God was in Adam.  This is his soul, his likeness to God.

  Probably every living soul searches for that original breath, the satisfaction from within.  When such breath is given to us today we recognize it as the Holy Spirit, the the point of saying, Breathe on me, breath of God.

  Adam saw birds fly on the wind, ocean waves foam with the wind, his own skin refreshed with a breeze.  Today we see sails of a ship filled with the same wind, we see leaves twirl as they fall in winter, we see windmills and feel the wind-chill.  Yet that wind does not satisfy the soul, it only fills the lungs.

  Do I search for that ruach wind of the soul?  I might hear a glimpse of it in the vibrating notes of a Bach adagio.  I might see it in the repose of a church sanctuary filled with sunlight.  But these are but intimations of immortality, shadows of light, the silence after a voice, a remnant of God.

  And yet they are of the Spirit of God.

  I am stirred in my inner being by His presence.  Even as I live in the fallen world outside Eden, I am aware of Him somewhat like the marble feels the fingers of the sculptor

  As breath, music is the vibration of God; the written word is His voice; and life is His being in us.  When Adam and Eve fell they didn't lose that image of God, they lost the capacity to please Him.  And yet, after Adam and Eve left the Garden, God gave them back the capacity to please Him with sacrifices He would accept.  Centuries later, in Jesus God gave us back the capacity to hear His voice, touch His hands, be in His presence.

Can we practice the presence of God?  We certainly don't beckon Him as a demand--He already fills heaven and earth.  But we can prepare our souls for the revelation of Him by asking God to cleanse us, acknowledging His presence in that place within ourselves from which He created our being.  It is that place which first felt His breath.  From that place He sees us--do we turn to see Him?

  The writer of Hebrews said about the Law--for the Law made nothing perfect, and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God, Heb. 7.19.  Later in this same letter, the writer shows us how we can draw near to God--let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, Heb. 10.22.

  Jesus brought the living water to the woman of Samaria in John 4.10 and He can wash our bodies with pure water, today.

  How can we put ourselves under this pure water?  With a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.  In this case, faith is seeing that we are the image of God, faith is having the desire to draw near to God, to turn to Him.  Are you pressing toward Him?  James the brother of Jesus said--Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Then James said just what Hebrews says--Cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, James 4.8.  It is interesting that James uses the same imagery of the well--draw near, cleanse your hands, purify your heart. Hebrews had said, hearts sprinkled clean, bodies washed with pure water

  John the Baptist had said--I baptize you in water...He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire, Matt. 3.11.

  This we can contemplate in prayer: ask God to cleanse us in our innermost being that we might glorify God in His presence.