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Archive for November, 2008

Sorry Barack…

From Byron:

Advent is the time when we remember that we are not the ones we have been waiting for.

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I’ve just realised I’ve never really posted on why my blog’s called Christ the Truth.  That’s a bit of an oversight.  So let me now begin a series on how Christ is the starting point for all true theology.  It’s taken from this paper on my website.

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Christians believe in revelation.

We know God, not through our efforts and ingenuity, but by the gracious gift of His self-revelation. The question of how God reveals Himself will, therefore, affect every aspect of our theology. If we get this issue wrong – everything else will go awry.

With this in mind let’s turn to Matthew 11:25-30 and hear Jesus set us straight on the fundamentals of revelation.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

From this, a number of things can be said:

Firstly, revelation is a fact. It is not a possibility. Revelation of the things of God has happened. We must not waste any time wondering about the “possibility of revelation”. We know that the infinite can communicate with the finite precisely because it has happened!

How has it happened? Well at first glance we may get the impression that God’s revelation is grudging, indistinct or enigmatic. Verse 26 says the Father takes pleasure in hiding the truth from the wise and learned. Verse 27 seems to present an impenetrable union between Father and Son. The Father knows the Son and the Son knows the Father. The question is, how can we break into this intimate family secret? Is there a way into a knowledge of God?

Yes there is! The Son chooses to reveal the Father. In verse 27 we see the hiding place which the Father has chosen for all the things of God – all things are hidden in Jesus.

This must be a truth we live by as Christians. God the Father has chosen to mediate all His revelation through Jesus, God the Son. “No-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” To know God – we must come to Jesus. Jesus is the One to Whom the wise and learned refuse to come. Yet He is the One to whom all the little children can come in dependence and love. And when people come to Him to learn the truth – Jesus liberally reveals the very deepest things of God.

In verse 28, Jesus calls all people to come to Him, the great Revealer, and He presents this coming in terms of entering rest. The implication is clear – to come to true revelation is to come to true salvation. Both are offered freely in the Son.

Jesus makes the link between revelation and salvation even more explicitly in John 17:3. There He says: “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Coming to know God through Jesus is salvation. Revelation and salvation go together.

The Bible gives us both sides of this truth again and again:

Fallen humanity does not know God

1 Samuel 3:7; Psalm 14; Matthew 7:24-27; 11:25-26; John 1:5; 1:18; 5:37-38; 7:28-29; 8:19; 14:17; 15:21; 17:25-26; Romans 1:18; 3:10-18; 8:7; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 2:11-14; 3:18, 19; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 4:17-19; Colossians 1:21; 2:6-8

To know God is to be saved by Him

Proverbs 1:7; Matthew 11:25-30; John 1:10-13, 18; 14:6-9; 17:3; Rom 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6; Eph 4:17-21; 1 Tim 2:3-4

All that we know about God, we must learn from Jesus. Jesus is the point of contact between God and humanity. God can only be known in the place of His choosing. God chooses this place by committing all things into the hands of Jesus. We must come to Him or we remain without hope and without God in the world.

All Christian truth, all true statements about God, must be built upon, defined by and shaped after Jesus, the Word of the Father, for we have no other presentation of God.

The Apostles John and Paul agree:

John 1:18: No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.

Colossians 1:15: He [Christ] is the Image of the invisible God

Jesus is not an optional extra in our theology – He is the foundation. He is the pole star that guides all our theological enquiries. Anything we want to know about God the Father or indeed God the Trinity, we must arrive at by thinking through ‘who is Jesus?’ The Father has chosen Jesus as the point of contact between Himself and us, we must always go to Jesus.

This post begins a series on theological method.  The other posts are here…

How not to know God – reason

How not to know God – religion

How not to know God – creation

Christ the Truth

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Still don’t have the time to write properly on a Christian approach to cosmology.  Never mind I’ll jot down some thoughts as they occur.

 

For now, let me just jot down three thoughts on the multiverse, two quotes from Barth and then a suggestion about how to pursue Christian cosmology.

The multiverse

1) The Bible teaches a division of creation into invisible and visible – the heaven and the earth.  This is not the same as the observable universe versus the non-observable multiverse.  For the bible the unseen realm is intimately linked to the seen.  Heaven is the counterpart to earth in a way analagous to the unseen Father’s correspondence to His visible Image, Jesus. 

2) The seen and unseen realms are reconciled to one another in the decisive, once-for-all event of the crucifixion.  (Col 1:20)

3) There simply is no room in a Christian cosmology for multiple incarnations or multiple atonements.  And this is really the downfall of the multiverse – its relation to Christ.  Christ does not bridge multiple universes in multiple incarnation, He bridges heaven and earth in His singular incarnation. 

 

Two Barth Quotes from Dogmatics in Outline

“‘Heaven and earth’ describe an arena prepared for a quite definite event, in the centre of which, from our standpoint of course, stands man.” (p60)

“…heaven and earth are related like God and man in the covenant, so that even the existence of creation is a single, mighty signum, a sign of the will of God. The meeting and togetherness of above and below, of the conceivable and the inconceivable, of the infinite and the limited – we are speaking of creation. All that is the world. But since within this world there really exist an above and a below confronting one another, since in every breath we take, in every one of our thoughts, in every great and petty experience of our human lives heaven and earth are side by side, greeting each other, attracting and repelling each other and yet belonging to one another, we are, in our existence, of which God is the Creator, a sign and indication, a promise of what ought to happen in creation and to creation – the meeting, the togetherness, the fellowship and, in Jesus Christ, the oneness of Creator and creature.” (p64)

 

How to proceed in Christian cosmology

Beginning from ‘the Cosmic Fine-Tuner’ would be like beginning with heaven alone.  Beginning from the standpoint of the anthropic principle would be like beginning with earth alone.  The Christian can refuse both option.  We begin with the heavens and the earth – the theatre of God’s Glory.  Of course God’s Glory is His Son, dying to save.  The cross is the crux of creation (Col 1:20).  When we begin with this in mind we are able to relate the unseen and seen coherently.

The Christian knows that not only is there a Word (Logos) to make sense of the world – not only an explanation beyond.  That Word became flesh, taking our world to Himself.  Therefore the Word from beyond has become a Word in our midst.  The Christian can simultaneously be in touch with this world and with its Explanation – they are one in Christ. 

While we ought not to approach Christ ‘according to the flesh’ (2 Cor 5:16), still according to the Spirit there is a way of examining this earthed Logos.  Now ‘according to the Spirit’ means ‘according to the Scriptures’ and therefore this will be a thoroughly theological enquiry.  And yet it will not for that reason be a groundless, ethereal investigation.  This world in its this-world-ness has been taken up into the life of God and proven to be, beyond any question, a realm fit for God (Col 2:9).

Now that we have seen the creative Word in the world and now that we have seen Him – the visible Image – reconcile the world to the invisible Father in the creative Spirit, we have seen a triune dynamic that is inherent to all creation.  Interpenetration of spirit and flesh, then and now, unseen and seen is at the heart of reality.  This will lead us to expect similar perichoretic dynamics in the created order.  As we move on from what the bible strictly says about creation, we will wear these bible-glasses to investigate creation.  This conceptual framework will help us to understand the inter-related-ness of space and time, of waves and particles etc etc. 

I’ll have to leave it there.

Night night.

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We’ve talked about how Jesus is the Good Samaritan.  But seriously – this is how you preach it…

ht Fools Gold

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I was like a wounded man

Jesus came all the way down.

On a Friday evening, He died on a Roman cross

Early one Sunday morning He got up

How many of you believe – He got up?

Thank You, for being a Good Samaritan

Thank You, You didn’t have to do it

Thank You, for taking my feet out of the miry clay,

Thank You, for setting them on the rock

Thank you, for saving me,

Thank You, for binding up my wounds

Thank You, for healing my wounds

Thank You, for fighting my battles

Did He pick you up?

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Blogging personality

Further to previous discussions on personality (here, here, here, here)…

This site will tell you your Myers-Briggs type based on analyzing your blog. 

(ht: Biblical Studies and Technological Tools)

It came up with INTP for me.  I’m officially ENFP but my E and T are quite weak so that’s a pretty good guess.

Does it get you right?

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PS I’ll get around to writing the last science post some time soon.  Bit busy at the moment.

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Let me say before I continue that I’ve had no formal training in science and my views on contemporary scientific theories are completely amateur and I’m sure terribly simplistic.  However, if we’re looking for academic credentials, my first university could probably claim to have ‘trained’ me in philosophy of religion and science, cosmological debates etc – that’s what I studied much of the time.  But really, that’s not why I’m writing about it.  I’m writing about this because these scientific claims are theological.  They are all-embracing world-views founded upon a logos other than Jesus.  That makes them fair game.  It also means I should try to be as even-handed and informed in my criticism as possible and this I will seek to do.  But that’s where I’m coming from.

In the last post we considered that belief in multiple universes or belief in an intelligent Designer are just that – beliefs.  They are not directly testable by the science that faces them.  It is not the case that the naturalistic scientist deals in the realm of pure facts and the supernaturalist shadily slinks off into the realm of faith.  Both positions are founded upon and shaped after beliefs.

Yet not beliefs divorced from evidence.  Both positions claim that their belief has more explanatory power in accounting for that which is testable and both move forwards on the basis of this belief.   Everyone conducts themselves according to the dynamic of ‘faith seeking understanding’

(As an aside, naturalistic science conducted according to it’s own beliefs and methods will turn up many fascinating things, draw many remarkable links and make innumberable positive contributions to our common life.  This is precisely parallel to the ‘good’ done by atheists and other religions in many charitable causes.  It is not testimony to the ‘rightness’ of their underlying beliefs but to the inter-relatedness of all things in Christ’s creation.  The child who makes a bridge out of their mechano set will, on one level, have produced something good and useful.  On another level the components used were meant to form a helicopter and it’s all ‘wrong’ – but it works (but it doesn’t).)

But now that we’ve established that the multiverse and the intelligent Designer are faith-positions – should we accept the dilemma offered to us?  Should we prefer a Cosmic Fine-tuner to a multiverse explanation? 

Well, both positions are inferences from human reason to possible explanations.  Therefore, by my reckoning, neither option is properly Christian.   Why not?  Well the route to both explanations begins with the certainty of us, of ‘the facts’ and of our ability to assess ‘the facts.’  It then puts confidence in our working towards the truth.  Finally, at the end of this process, we come to ‘God’ who is posited as the most probable of the explanations (even if the probability claimed may be astronomically ‘likely’).

Such an intelligent design deism falls into a number of errors. 

First, it effectively considers God’s Word as one among many voices to be considered. And in practice it is a much lesser and later voice in the process.  First we investigate the strong force of the atomic nuclei, then we listen to God!

Second, it capitulates to the naturalist’s worldview from the outset.  It makes the starting point for both the Christian and the atheist the same – us!  We decide to go along with the belief (and it is a belief!) that, while the existence of a deity can be doubted, the veracity of ‘the facts’ and of ourselves as competent judges of reality is bedrock truth! 

Third, it falls for a god of the gaps.  When our human enterprise comes to an end, ‘god’ comes to the rescue as the explanatory cause.  God is not the beginning, middle and end of our doctrine of creation, He is the poly-filler to be used only where our ‘understanding’ falters. 

Fourth, it is natural theology pure and simple to argue from nature to God.  I’ll let David Congdon lay out the perils of this:

[Natural theology] is antithetical to the Christian faith for a number of reasons: (1) we do not know who God is apart from Jesus Christ; (2) we either begin with the triune God revealed in Christ or we do not begin at all; (3) we are incapable of knowing anything about God apart from faith, because the Fall has noetic implications, i.e., our reason is fallen; (4) therefore, knowledge of God is saving knowledge, because we only know the God who saved us in Jesus. There is no other god, no prior abstract deity, no foundational divine reality upon which Christ builds. The point of these (and other similar statements) is that we either know the one true God who reconciled the world in Jesus Christ or we simply have some concept devised by fallen human reason that has no connection to this revealed God. Philosophy does not provide a stepping-stone to theology. We either do theology from the start, or we don’t do theology at all.

(For more on this see David Congdon’s post here.  I agree with the first three of his four theses).

So really it’s not a case of sitting with the atheistic scientist, agreeing to their presuppositions, their epistemological self-confidence, their scientific method and then demurring on their conclusions.  If ‘their science’ leads them to the Cosmic Fine-tuner that’s interesting.  It’s not the stepping stone to faith in the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ.  There is only one Mediator and He’s not the god of intelligent design.

What can we say?  Maybe next post I’ll give some thoughts.

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…in the same week you find out that both Ron Frost and now Paul Blackham have blogs!

Paul’s is less a blog, more of a one man theological mega-resource. 

You will be introduced to his excellent ‘Book by Book’ bible studies.  These are ready-made resources (DVD and all) to be used individually or in groups.  The books covered thus far with DVDs are:   

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Psalms, John, Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians.  Esther, 2 Corinthians and 2 Timothy are coming.

Watch sample episodes and read overviews…

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You can also read his articles on issues such as:

Did the NT writers misunderstand the OT

Explaining the Trinity

The Trinitarian God

The Life of Jesus

The Death of Jesus

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But perhaps my top recommendation of all – visit his Frameworks page where Paul is building up a doctrine course podcast by podcast.  I did Paul’s Frameworks course about 8 years ago at All Souls Langham Place.  It remains hands down the most challenging, profound, heart-warming, life-changing and Christian theology I’ve ever been taught.  Everyone… Everyone… will be fed, challenged and equipped by listening to these.

So go to it…!

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This is hilarious!

ht Stephen Murray

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Don’t believe me?  Check out this article which seeks to explain the fine-tuning of the observable universe.  (source: MetaCatholic).

Here’s a representative quotation:

Physicists don’t like coincidences. They like even less the notion that life is somehow central to the universe, and yet recent discoveries are forcing them to confront that very idea. Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet to endure for a few fleeting ticks of the cosmic clock. In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us.

Call it a fluke, a mystery, a miracle. Or call it the biggest problem in physics. Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multi­verse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.

The idea is controversial. Critics say it doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory because the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved. Advocates argue that, like it or not, the multiverse may well be the only viable non­religious explanation for what is often called the “fine-tuning problem”—the baffling observation that the laws of the universe seem custom-tailored to favor the emergence of life…

It boils down to this:

“If there is only one universe,” [Physicist Bernard] Carr says, “you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.”

So, we’re told, it’s a choice – either we posit some kind of god or we posit an unobserved and unobservable reality, a multiverse. 

To be honest I don’t think that is the choice.  And I don’t think the Christian position is to deduce from the data ‘some kind of god.’  It’s not as though we’re the brave defenders of ‘The Cosmic Finetuner’!  More on that in the next post.  But first let’s have some fun thinking about the multiverse as a faith commitment

Because above all else, that’s what the multiverse is.  It is not a conclusion suggested by the data.  It is a theory that comes to the rescue of a scientist determined not to accept the alternative.  Don’t let any naturalistic scientist tell you they deal in the realm of objective fact while the Christian runs off to the realm of ‘blind faith.’  Not only have scientists not observed direct evidence of the multiverse, there can be no direct observation of alternate universes – they lie beyond the reach of experimental science.  There’s nothing more ‘intellectually honest’ about postulating a multiverse as opposed to faith in intelligent design.  That’s the minimal point I’m making at the moment.  I don’t actually think the real choice is between fine-tuning and multiple universes (more in the next post) but if the scientific establishment think that those are the options, then both positions should own up to being faith-based.

And that’s ok.  True enquiry is necessarily faith seeking understanding.  This was Anselm’s description of theology, but, as these considerations show, it holds also for science.  Everyone has beliefs about the nature of reality that shape how they enquire into that reality.  On top of this methodological issue, those beliefs further shape how the data is understood.  No-one simply deals with ‘the facts’.  What we believe affects every level of our enquiry.  This is not a lamentable state of affairs, it’s just the way things are.  And it means that all endeavours, science included, are believing endeavours.  This is inescapable.  (Go here for a post on the Large Hadron Collider as a prime example of faith seeking understanding).

All scientists are believers.

Next post we’ll consider this supposed crossroads – either multiverse or Cosmic Fine-tuner.  We’ll see that in spite of what the scientific community thinks (including the Intelligent Design proponents!) we do not follow their methods, forced to choose between absurdity and deism!  We tread a different path.  

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Mark 5:21-43

mark-5

So we’ve seen how the woman’s expectation was frustrated, she was driven down then lifted up. 

The same happens to Jairus.  He had expected Jesus to come and heal His little girl.  But talk about frustration.

Can you imagine being Jairus in v24?  You’re leading the way back to your place, Jesus is coming but the crowd is holding everything up.  How fast can you go when a large crowd is pressing around?  You can bet Jairus wished the whole crowd would just disappear.  I mean there are even people grabbing hold of Jesus’ clothing as they’re racing back to his house.  But frustration just isn’t the word when in v30, Jesus stops.

“Why have you stopped Jesus?  Didn’t you understand v23: my daughter IS dying.”  This is a race against the clock.  Jesus has brought everything to a halt and now He’s looking around a large crowd and asks ‘who touched me?’  Put yourself in Jairus’s shoes. 

“Who touched you?  Who touched you???  A) Everybody.  B) Who cares!!”  It’s incredible isn’t it.

I mean verse 31 from the disciples is just dripping with sarcasm and incredulity:

“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask,’Who touched me?'”

That’s how the disciples were thinking, how must Jairus have been thinking?? 

I have no medical training, I have no healing powers but if you told me your daughter was dying I’d come with you in a second.  And nothing would get in my way.

Jesus is very different.  He frustrates our expectations.  We keep coming up against this in Mark.  Just think about the last three weeks.  In Mark 4 a hurricane blows up and not only does Jesus not immediately still it, He takes a power nap.  And the disciples say “Jesus don’t you care if we drown!?”  Jesus does not do what He’s meant to.  Unbelievably Frustrating.

Last week we saw Jesus deliver a man oppressed by an army of unclean spirits.  If you were here last week you’ll remember Jesus had granted the request of the demons, He’d granted the request of the hostile crowd but when this delivered man just wants to hop aboard and be with Jesus, Jesus says ‘No.  Go back as a missionary.’  Jesus frustrates our desires. 

Here a father wants healing for His dying girl.  Is there anything wrong with that request?  Anything wrong with wanting your twelve year old daughter to live?  Well then Jesus, if you have the power and if you’re good, you’ll do this thing.  But what does Jesus do?  He waits. He stops and talks to a woman – a destitute, unclean woman who wouldn’t have even been allowed into Jairus’s synagogue.  And what’s more this woman has been bleeding for 12 years now, she could wait another hour Jesus.  But no.  Jesus is unmanageable.  He has His own agenda.  He’s insanely frustrating.

And verse 35,

“While Jesus was still speaking to this woman, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler.” 

And here are some of the most painful words you could ever hear

“Your daughter is dead.” 

“Your daughter is dead.”  Put yourself in Jairus’s shoes.  He’s left his daughter’s bedside.  He’s come and put his career on the line, he’s prostrated himself at the feet of Jesus – begging for his little girl’s life.  And Jesus has not come through for you.  Now you hear ‘Your daughter is dead.’

Jairus’s story is our story.  Every one of us either has had or will have moments like this in our Christian lives.  We have come to Jesus.  We have real needs.  We are sure we know the best way He can help us.  But He doesn’t do what we’d thought and our worst nightmare happens. 

These last three weeks have been teaching us painful but invaluable lessons. 

The storm of Mark chapter 4 taught us: We will go through storms and Jesus won’t calm them right away.  It will get to the point where we say “I’m dying here and you don’t care do you?”.  The story of Legion in Mark 5 taught us:  Jesus will say ‘No’ to us even when our desires seem completely legitimate and godly.  This week we learn:  Jesus will delay and nightmare scenarios will arise. 

What do we do?

This is what we’re supposed to do – v36:

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

That’s incredible.  How can that be in the bible?  How can Jesus say that?  Everything in us tells us this is the moment NOT to trust Jesus.  This is the moment to conclude He’s not good or He’s not powerful but either way He’s not helping, He can’t be trusted.  Jesus says “Don’t be afraid, trust me.”

Jairus is being driven down further than he’d ever anticipated.  You would have thought at the start of the story that begging Jesus for healing was as desperate as Jairus could have been.  But no, his daughter is now dead and still Jesus asks Jairus to trust him.  Jairus is being driven down.

He is brought to the point where there is no earthly hope whatsoever.  Only the God of resurrection can be trusted at this point.  When your daughter is dead you must either be swallowed by despair and conclude that nothing is bigger than the grave or you can trust in the God of resurrection, but there’s no other option.  Either death swallows everything or there’s a God of resurrection.  Jesus says ‘Trust me – I am the God of resurrection.  I eat death for breakfast.’

Jairus gets to see firsthand the God of resurrection at work. Let me read from v38 (it’s worth just reading this in full):

38 When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Jairus was driven down and then lifted up in the most incredible way.

Jairus came to Jesus for a healing.  He got a resurrection.  And when it came, verse 42 says they were ‘completely astonished’.  Literally it says they were mega-ecstatic. Mega-ecstatic.  Greatly beside themselves.  Completely astonished.  Jesus raised their dead daughter the way you or I would wake the sleeping.  Those words in verse 41, “Talitha coum,” are in Aramaic – the language Jesus spoke most often.  And Mark leaves them in their original Aramaic because people remembered the exact words that came from Jesus’ mouth.  It was such a precious moment people would always remember the way He spoke to that little corpse.  Jesus said ‘Talitha coum’ which is a term of great endearment.  ‘Talitha’ has the feeling of ‘Little girl’, ‘little madam’, ‘little missy’ – it’s warmly affectionate.  I heard one American translate it ‘Honey.’  Honey, it’s time to get up.  That’s the flavour of what Jesus says.  He takes a 12 year old dead girl by the hand and says ‘Honey, it’s time to get up.’  Immediately she rises from the dead at the word of Jesus. 

And at the end of the story Jesus has saved both daughters.  He’s saved both daughters.  Everyone thought the bleeding woman could wait while Jesus healed the dying girl.  But no – Jesus He’s saved the woman with the flow of blood and He’s saved the dying girl.  He calls the one ‘daughter’, He calls the other ‘Talitha’ – both terms of great affection.  He does care, He is powerful and He does know how to bring things to a happily ever after that far outstrips anything we expected.  Through sickness and suffering, through frustration and painful delays, through death and grief, Jesus brings us through to resurrection and leaves us in verse 43 feasting.  That’s what you do when you rise from the dead you eat.  That’s what we’ll do when we rise from the dead, we’ll feast with Jesus, and on that day we will see how Jesus has brought us through suffering into astonishing glory.

Do you know that the same Jesus who said ‘Talitha koum’ is alive and well and ruling the universe?   Do you really know that?  Do you really know that this Jesus who calls the woman ‘Daughter’ and the girl ‘Talitha’, He is seated on the throne of the universe.  He is the One ruling the events of this world and this week and my past and my present and my future.  This Jesus who is the same yesterday, today and forever, this Jesus is Lord. 

And He was crushed ultimately at the cross so that power could come out for our salvation – by His wounds we are healed.  He ultimately went down into death, and He ultimately rose up again and is now reigning over history and over you.  And now when we come to Him we find forgiveness and cleansing.  We can have a one-to-one with Him where we tell Him the truth about ourselves. And we can know ourselves to be a beloved Daughter or Son.  And one day beyond our own deaths Jesus will say to us ‘Rise and shine.  It’s time to get up.  It’s time to feast.’

In the meantime we may face crippling pain, financial ruin, sickness, overwhelming grief and horrific frustrations.  But all the time Jesus is saying to us “Don’t be afraid, just believe!”  He is saying this to us right now ‘Don’t be afraid, trust me.’  And we can trust Him.  The One more powerful than the storms, more powerful than the demons, more powerful than death itself, will bring us through suffering to a completely astonishing glory of resurrection and feasting.

So, “Wait for the LORD.  Be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” (Ps 27:14) 

Therefore to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit be ascribed all the glory, all the honour, all the majesty, all the power and all our trust, now and forever.  Amen.

 

Taken from this sermon.  Audio here.

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Mark 5:21-43

mark-5

In this story, two people come to Jesus with their needs.  They are very different people.  Jairus is an important man.  V22 says ‘a synagogue ruler’.  He’s a man, he’s a ruler, he has a family, he’s religious and very respectable in the community.

The woman is not even named.  Jesus calls her ‘Daughter’ in v34, which is even better than telling us her name.  But as the story begins she is an unnamed and unclean woman.  She has, v25, an unstoppable flow of blood which made her perpetually, ceremonially unclean.  This woman is unnamed, unclean, sick and now destitute.

Verse 26 details her 12 years of suffering:

She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.

That really tells a story doesn’t it?  Suffering under the “care” of many doctors.  I don’t know if you’ve been passed around from doctor to doctor and they can’t seem to help you.  That in itself is frightening and dehumanizing enough.  But this woman has been suffering at the hands of these doctors.  We can only imagine how these 1st century physicians were treating her or what they were prescribing.  Mark just tells us that she suffered a great deal.  And she paid a lot of money for these worthless and painful treatments.  Now she has nothing, you can add financial ruin to her list of woes.  This woman is in a desperate position.

So this woman has had 12 years of great suffering. 

She is very different to Jairus.  Jairus, we can imagine, has had 12 years of joy with his 12 year old daughter.  But now with his daughter on death’s door, Jairus is brought to the woman’s level.  They are both needy beggars coming to Jesus.

Verse 22 this respectable man falls at Jesus’ feet and pleads earnestly with Him.  This was very dangerous for Jairus to do.  We know from chapter 3 verse 6 that the religious authorities have been plotting to kill Jesus.  So for this synagogue ruler to fall at Jesus’ feet could well have cost him his job and his reputation.  But what’s that compared to your 12 year old girl?

So Jairus and the woman, very different, but both come to Jesus in their need.

And both people think they know how Jesus is going to help them.  They both have very particular expectations of Jesus.

Verse 23: Jairus thinks Jesus ought to come and lay hands on his sick daughter.  And he probably thought that because Jesus had performed other healings where that’s what He did – He laid hands on people.  Other times Jesus healed people from a distance or just with a word, or He spat on the ground and made mud or He put His fingers in their ears.  Jesus didn’t have a single way of healing people, but Jairus thought ‘laying on hands’ was the order of the day.

Verse 28: the woman also thinks she knows how to get a healing.  She thinks if she just touches Jesus’ clothes she’ll be healed.  Why did she think that?  Well quite probably it was because of an Old Testament prophecy. There’s a verse from Malachi chapter 4 and verse 2 that speaks about the Messiah as the Sun of Righteousness who would rise up with healing in His wings.  That might be a familiar verse to you at Christmas.  When we sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing we say Jesus is “Ris’n with healing in His wings.”  Well in Hebrew the word for wings is the same as the word for the end of your garment.  Where we might talk about coat tails, they’d talk about wings.  And so there was this expectation that when the Messiah rose up, there was going to be healing in His wings, His coat tails, in His clothes.  And this woman thought ‘if I just touch His clothes, I will be healed.’  So in her head she was just going to grab the end of Jesus’ coat, get zapped and slink off.  That was her plan.  She had a plan, it was her sickness, she knew how best to be treated.  This is how Jesus is going to help me.

Now you can understand their expectations can’t you?  They seem fair enough.  But for both of them Jesus frustrates their plans and they are driven down much further than they were prepared to go before being raised up much higher than they’d dare dream.

What do I mean they were driven down and then raised up?  Well let’s see it first in the woman.

There she is, just an anonymous figure in the crowd, pressing in against Jesus.  She wants to remain anonymous, she doesn’t want a fuss, she doesn’t want to meet Jesus.  She just wants to get zapped and get on with her life.  Well incredibly even with that kind of belief, which is bordering on the superstitious, even with that tiny mustard seed of faith, Jesus responds. 

Verse 30:  At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from Him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

Power goes out from Jesus.  Isn’t that amazing?  Jesus feels power going out from Him. 

We might imagine that if Jesus is the LORD of creation, well then everything He does is effortless.  Surely the One who calms hurricanes with a word will take a healing like this in His stride.  Well if we remember that the ultimate power of Jesus is shown at the cross, if we remember that the healing of the world happens when Jesus is crushed, then we might start to think differently.  Isaiah the prophet said of Jesus: By His wounds we are healed.  Are we healed by His strength?  Yes.  Are we healed by His omnipotent power over sin, sickness, Satan and death?  Yes.  But it is no less true that “by His wounds we are healed”.  The healing power of Jesus is grounded in His suffering death on the cross.  Jesus is not like a broadband package – unlimited downloads.  It’s not clinical like that.  It’s personal.  Those He heals, He also suffers for. 

If you’ve come to Jesus you should know He has suffered for you.  You haven’t just downloaded salvation from His infinite hard-drive, it’s personal.  He has suffered for you.  Paul would write in Galatians 2:20, “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Christians know this to be true.  I’m not an anonymous member of the crowd who happens to have been zapped by Jesus.  Jesus has suffered for me.  He has felt power going out of Him for me.  On the cross, He was drained… for me!

This woman thought she would mean nothing to Jesus.  She wasn’t going to bother Him.  She just hoped for a zapping.  But there’s no such thing.  You can’t have Jesus’ power without having Him.  His power is a personal power and a power that costs Him dearly.  He wants one-to-ones with each and every one of us.  Immediately Jesus feels that power has gone out and immediately He wants to talk to this woman.

The woman is terrified.  It seems to take her a while to own up.  Verse 32, “Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.”   The woman wanted an anonymous experience.  Jesus wants a personal encounter.  And that’s scary.  This is far more than the woman bargained for.  But eventually v33:

Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.

The woman is driven down.  Just seconds ago she’d hoped for a zap and run, but now face-to-face with Jesus she falls at His feet.  And she tells her story to Jesus.  “This is who I am Jesus, I’m a poor, sick, unclean, desperate woman.  That is the whole truth.”  The woman is driven down further than she’d ever expected, but then Jesus lifts her higher than she’s ever dreamed.  Verse 34:

Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

This woman is not just an anonymous woman to Jesus. To Jesus she’s a daughter.  He doesn’t want anonymous followers hanging onto His coat-tails.  He wants daughters, He wants sons, who tell Him the whole truth. 

And Jesus explains to the woman – your faith has healed you.  Jesus is telling her, ‘It’s got nothing to do with any magical powers in my clothing. You believed in Me, that’s the thing.  I’m the Power that healed you, and you trusted Me.  Now go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’

This word peace means wholeness, soundness, welfare, prosperity, tranquility, friendship.  It’s peace with God, peace with others – Jesus says go in peace.  What a brilliant encounter with Jesus.  She wanted to get zapped and run, Jesus wanted to call her ‘Daughter’ and give her peace.  Driven down, but raised up much higher. 

Do you have a zap and run mentality with Jesus?  He wants a face-to-face.  He wants you driven down to confess to Him your whole story and He wants to lift you up and speak peace to you.  But you can’t just be anonymous in the crowd when it comes to Jesus.  Fall at His feet, tell Him the whole truth. He will lift you up.

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Taken from this sermon.  Audio here.

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Mark 5:21-43

In your imagination, picture olives being crushed and pressed together and the oil seeping out at the bottom. 

That’s a picture of Jesus that Mark hints at again and again.  In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is in almost constant danger of being crushed.

 Mark 3:7-9:

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crushing him [that’s literally the word – ‘crushing Him’].  For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.

That’s why in Mark 4:1 Jesus has to get in a boat to teach people, otherwise they’d smother Him.  When he decides in v35 to go over to the other side of the lake, v36 says ‘they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat.’  He couldn’t even risk stepping ashore, so they whisk Him off away from the crowds. Of course in this crossing, Jesus calms the storm (end of chapter 4), lands on the other side (chapter 5).  Then, do we remember from last week, He meets Legion, exorcizes an army of demons and sends the delivered man back to his people as a missionary.  That probably only took Him an our or two.  So now, with that job done, He returns.  So, v21, He’s back after His flying visit. And the crowds are there again.  Mark says: ‘A large crowd gathered around Him.’

Mark really wants us to get a feel for this crushing crowd.  And so Mark 5:24 says it again:

A large crowd followed and pressed around Him.

The disciples use the same word in verse 31:

You see the people pressing against you [literally]

This is a mini theme of Mark’s Gospel.  The whole world flocks to Jesus in their need.  And in the midst of that crush – healing, forgiveness, restoration, salvation, peace and new life flow out.

The woman in this story presses in – she’s part of this crush – but what she finds is that, in the crush, power comes out of Jesus and she is healed, freed, granted peace.

Now at the end of Mark’s Gospel we see Jesus praying in a garden called Gethsemane.  Gethsemane mean oil press.  It’s where the olives from the Mount of Olives were crushed.  That’s where Jesus was oppressed like you and I would never understand, that’s where He contemplates the cross and He undertakes to die under the weight of a world’s need.  And because Jesus was crushed the oil of His Spirit flows out for the salvation of the world.  In that ultimate crush, that ultimate power was released for all who come to Him. 

Mark 5 is giving a miniature picture of that truth.  Here in this crush, power goes out from Jesus and healing, peace, freedom and ultimately resurrection results…

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I’ll post the rest of the sermon in parts.

For the whole script go here

For the audio go here.

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Left behind

Now this is just cruel.

UPDATE:  There used to be a youtube video here where a girl was “pranked”.  They ‘raptured’ her Christian friends and made her think she was left behind. 

On second thoughts, I’ve considered that posting the video participates in the prank.  So I’ve deleted it.

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Would I be correct in thinking pre-millers would be the easiest to prank?
How would you prank an a-miller?
I suppose the actual return of Jesus might prank post-millers – but then we’d all get a pretty good laugh out of it.

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Happy Blogday to me

candle-1

One year ago I stumbled into blogging the way Aaron stumbled into idolatry.  I just clicked a few buttons at WordPress and out came this blog. (Ex 32:24)  Resemblances to that foul incident could be multiplied.

Anyway, thanks to Bobby for suggesting I start this.  Personally, I think his tactic was to stop me spending so much time leaving interminable comments on his.  ;-)

I’ll take this anniversary week as an excuse to do a bit of housekeeping and collect together my series’ etc and produce a proper ‘About this blog’ sort of page.

Who knows if I’ll notch up another year.  But it’s been fun so far.  Mainly because of the people who have commented – so thanks very much for that, I’ve really enjoyed it.

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big-fish-eat-little-ones2 Mark 5:1-20

Jesus is stronger than the storms (Mark 4:35-41).  He is stronger than death (Mark 5:21-43).  In Mark 5:1-20 He takes on an army of demons to prove Himself stronger than the Strong Man (Mark 3:27).

Read the sermon here

Listen here

 

Sermon in brief…

The Before and After shots of this demonized man would be something to behold!

Before: living among tombs, naked, cutting himself, unable to be held by the strongest chains, screaming out night and day.

After: Seated, dressed, in his right mind.

How powerful is Jesus?

If one boxer knocks out another that shows a certain strength

But what if one boxer simply commanded his opponent and his opponent knocked himself out.  That’s power.  That’s what Jesus displays.

Jesus proves Himself much the bigger fish which makes Him incredibly scary

The locals want Him gone – that kind of power, that kind of liberation even is too threatening.  We are too attached to our little slaveries to naturally want Jesus’ power around.

The stunning thing is – when they ask Him to leave, He goes.

Amazingly Jesus grants the requests of the unclean spirits, He grants the request of the hostile crowd, there’s only one request He denies – that of the delivered man.

This man just wants to be with Jesus – isn’t that a good request?  Shouldn’t Jesus grant this?

Jesus says ‘no’.  Why?  He sends the man back as a missionary.

He’s like us – freed to witness.  We just want to be with Jesus but there’s a job to be done first.

When Jesus returns to the region in Mark 7 and 8 He feeds the 4000.  You can imagine the reunion.  The man had been witnessing in the region and had perhaps brought many people to Jesus.  On that day they would feast together.  The man back in the company of his Redeemer, feasting with Christ and with those he’s brought to Christ.

Same with us.  The only reason we’re not with Jesus now is that we might tell others (beginning with our family) of the Lord’s mercy.  But one day we’ll be face to face and we’ll feast.

And in the meantime know this: Jesus is more powerful that the strongest forces of destruction in your life.  You can’t change yourself – you’re the littlest fish.  But He is stronger.

 

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…The younger brother came to himself and said, ‘My dad’s an old softy.  I reckon if I returned looking sufficiently contrite he’d bail me out.  It’s worth a try anyway.’ he reasoned. 

And so he rose and made the journey back to his father rehearsing his sorry-spiel along the way.  ‘Father, my father.  I know I messed up.  I know I don’t deserve anything from you.  You’d be well within your rights to shun me forever.  But, father, my father,  I’m throwing myself on your mercy.  Here I am, your son – and I know you’re a good dad – will you help me out?’ 

By the time he got to his father’s house his speech was pitch-perfect.  He rang the door-bell and waited.  Eventually he heard his father’s shuffling steps, then the locks turning in the door, one after the other – four in all.  At last it creaked open a crack and the old man squinted up at his son. 

‘Father, my father.  I know I messed up.  I know I don’t deserve anything…’ began the prodigal.  The father’s look began to thaw.  The speech was good.  Perhaps the best yet.  By the end the old man couldn’t help but blurt out, ‘Ah my son!  You certainly know how to tug at my heart strings.  What can I do for you?’ 

The son took a moment to congratulate himself on such powers of persuasion.  ‘Well, father,’ he said, ‘wild living ain’t cheap!  And Lord knows how I’m going to afford my ticket back to the far country…’

‘Far country?  You want to go back?’ asked the father, his face falling.

‘Well just for now.  Unfinished business you see.  But I’m definitely planning on returning…’

‘…Because, son, you know there’s always room for you here…’

‘Yes, sure. Absolutely dad.  And I know I’ll be returning.  Probably quite often.  But there’s things I need to do and, well, I need your help.’

‘How much?’

‘Well there’s the ticket.  Then I need the deposit on a new place.  I’ve found the perfect pad – downtown, the ladies love it.  But that’s another thing,’ he said chuckling, ‘they sure are expensive those women!’

‘How much?’ he asked again.

‘It’s hard to put a figure you know dad, it could be anything.’

They looked at each other for a minute.  The father broke the silence.

‘Blank cheque then?’

‘Blank cheque would be great!  Yeah thanks.  Phew.  You’re a real life-saver dad.  Wow.  I’d hug you, but I’m a bit smelly from the pigs.  Speaking of which, do you have any food?  Ham sandwich maybe?’

‘Ham sandwich??  Look, come inside.  I’ll kill the fattened calf.  Tonight we’ll feast!’

‘Gosh, dad.  That’s sweet but I really don’t have time.  Listen, I’ll just grab something from drive thru.  The cheque’s fine.  And, now that I think of it, don’t make it out to the family name.  I’ve changed it.  Yeah, too many people were associating me with you and… well.  You know…’

Within five minutes the younger son was heading back down the drive.  He spotted his brother in the field and, holding the cheque aloft, called out.  “Ciao bro’!  Enjoy the slaving!”  

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Ron Frost has a blog!

I had no idea Ron Frost has a blog (thanks Dan for highlighting it).  Joy of joys.

A spreading goodness is an extremely readable and insightful blog about bible-soaked, Trinitarian affective theology.  Try these posts as an introduction:

Make this the year – getting into the bible

Living by faith – what is faith anyway?

Choosing to rule my emotions? – the will or the heart?

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Two quotes from the blogosphere this week.  One on the Psalter, one on christology.  The common link – they both put Jesus at the centre:

From Psalterium

Psalms 1 and 2 were not read as two disparate Torah and royal psalms respectively in the final redaction of the Psalter; rather, both depict the ideal Joshua-like warrior and king who through divinely given authority vanquishes his enemies. From this eschatological perspective the Psalter opens and sets the tone for all subsequent psalms.

Cole, R. (2002) “An Integrated Reading of Psalms 1 and 2”, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, pp. 75-88

You can read my sermon on Psalms 1 and 2 here.

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From Chris Tilling

‘[I]t may well be that most Christians tolerate only as much humanity as they deem consonant with their view of divinity’

(172-3 n.4, from Raymond Brown, An Introduction to New Testament Christology, 27)

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Wouldn’t it be radical if we actually allowed Jesus to shape our ‘view of divinity’!?.

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