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Archive for December, 2010

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…to present us spotless before the Father.  Whatever the cost.

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You’ll have to view this one on the blogpage

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Happy Friday

It’s still only the 7th day of Christmas you know.

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Cheek Turning – a repost

when you are struck…

don’t strike back, take the blow

don’t protect yourself, expose yourself

don’t lead with justice, lead with mercy

don’t retreat into safety, advance into danger

don’t retaliate with strength, retaliate with weakness

don’t shrink into self-pity, move out into self-giving

don’t insist on your rights, open yourself to wrong

don’t cower in defeat, hold fast in meekness

don’t stand on your dignity, stand on your shame

don’t harden into bitterness, soften into tenderness

be defiantly peaceable

be immovably vulnerable

be steafastly gracious

be victoriously wounded

be like Jesus.

Who, when we lashed out at Him…

did not come in violence.  nor remain in indifference

did not strike back.  nor shrink back

did not retaliate.  nor harden

He absorbed the blow

And He turned again to us.

He upheld His offer.

Arms outstretched, even to His killers.

Especially them

Only them

You, even.

There is strength in this weakness.

Strength to redeem the world.

It begins with surrender.

Laying down your arms.

Receiving His peace.

It continues with service.

Following His way.

Absorbing your own blows.

Today. Every day.  Turning your cheek.

To this you are called.

To be lower than a door-mat.  Far lower.

A door-mat is passive

But you thow yourself under the feet of your enemies.

To be lower than a slave.  Far lower.

A slave walks his alotted mile grumbling in his heart.

You walk two miles with a glint in your eyes.

For you know the power of this weakness.

It reconciles the world.

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See also Turning the Other Cheek in the OT and Cheek Turning 101

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Well it’s up.

Now I’ve just got to write 365 posts.

Here’s my page about the blog.

And here’s my page about Jesus.

Please link to it if you can.  And if anyone has ideas about design (header, etc), let me know.

:)

 

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The Old Testament is fulfilled by Jesus.

Tuck that thought away somewhere, it will come in handy.

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In this 8 part series we look at our experience through the lens of the children of Israel in the wilderness.

Wilderness Church 1  Introduction  (Deuteronomy 8)

Wilderness Church 2  Saved by the blood  (Exodus 12-13)

Wilderness Church 3  Brought out  (Exodus 14-15)

Wilderness Church 4  Sustained  (Exodus 16-17)

Wilderness Church 5  Guided  (Numbers 9)

Wilderness Church 6  Lead  (Numbers 27)

Wilderness Church 7   Promised  (Numbers 13-14)

Wilderness Church 8  Fulfilled in Jesus (Matthew 3-4)

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At the end of this thread Paul makes bold to interpret my position.

Some might say he needs to add such words because my own have been so confused and inconsistent.  That’s certainly a possibility.  But I think if you approach my words with the expectation that I know what I’m saying it’ll make more sense.

Some might say that Paul is proclaiming something new.  Well certainly his words convey an insight and depth that is peculiar to him.  But from my perspective he’s just saying what I’ve been saying (because really, I’m just saying what he’s always been saying!).

In between my original authorship and his authoritative summary there have been ten days of mixed reception.  Well that happens doesn’t it?  It’s a blog after all.  But it’s been interesting that occasionally a commenter has gotten the wrong end of the stick about what I’m saying.  But when that’s been corrected their response has been to impugn the original clarity of my position.  Apparently I’ve needed to progress in my revelation of these thoughts.

Well that’s a possibility.  But another possibility is that I was clear and consistent in the beginning and the confusion has come in the reception not the revelation.

The bottom line is whether the original author can stand up and say of the authoritative summary: Yes indeed, this is what I was always on about.

And indeed I can.  Here’s Paul’s summary.

As far as I can see, Glen’s proposal is clear enough. The issue is not that everybody or even most people trusted Jesus as Moses and the Prophets intended them to do. The faithful remnant might have been a very small remnant.

I don’t think that is the main point… but I may have misunderstood this.

As far as I can see, the issue here is about a correct exegesis of the Hebrew Scriptures. The simple claim is that the apostles preached Jesus *out* of the Hebrew Scriptures rather than preaching Him *into* those Scriptures.

Glen is saying that Jesus is *exegeting* the Scriptures as Moses and the Prophets originally intended. In other words, Jesus is not reading meaning *back* but reading meaning *out*.

The reason that myth 2 is a problem is that it gives support to and is typically consciously joined to the notion that Jesus was not the Messiah that the Hebrew Scriptures intended. I remember recently hearing a speaker who with great passion and excitement claimed that Jesus, in a brilliant creative move, joined together ideas of suffering/sacrifice with triumph/glory in a way that *nobody had ever seen before*. This was intended as a kind of compliment to the creative genius of Jesus… and yet if it is true it means that Jesus was wrong in His little Bible Overviews.

As far as I can see, Jesus seems to say that His reading of the Hebrew Scriptures is the one that everyone must take and that was held by Moses and the Prophets.

As we have often said in this thread, Jesus Himself, both before and after His crucifixion/resurrection summed up the Hebrew Scriptures with a clear statement about His own life of suffering, death, resurrection and glory –

“see Matthew 16:21; Matthew 26:24; Matthew 26:53-54; Mark 8:31; Mark 9:12; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:32-34; Mark 10:45; Mark 14:21; Luke 9:22; Luke 18:31-33 – “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” Luke 24:6-7; Luke 24:25-27; Luke 24:44-45.”

Again, as we have said in this thread, Peter says that the ancient saints were looking forward to the sufferings first and then the glory of Christ.

Over the years I have been in different conferences and forums when I have said something like “The Hebrew Scriptures teach that Christ will suffer, die and then be resurrected. This is the Biblical Faith of the Old Testament church and it is still the faith of the church today.” Nearly every time that I have said that kind of thing, somebody [and sometimes many people] come up to me or post after me that this was *not* the faith of the Old Testament and that they didn’t know or intend or understand those things about Christ. Usually they point to Biblical or extra-Biblical examples of teaching/people who did not think like Jesus about the Scriptures. Yet, again, that isn’t the point. We all know of many, many, many examples of teaching about Jesus/Hebrew Scriptures in every age that is different to His own teaching about Himself.

The claim is that Jesus’ own simple Bible Overview is a *correct* statement of Hebrew Scriptures as they were originally intended… and that this understanding of Christ is what He Himself expects from His people in every age. He expected the church of His own day to trust Him in that way… regardless of whether many did.

Jesus is angry about other views of the Scriptures/Himself [no matter how embalmed in tradition or popular they are] because He is the object of saving faith.

If someone says that the Hebrew Scriptures were not *intended* to be about Jesus but we should preach them as if they are about Jesus, then I’m left really confused.

As far as I can see, Glen is not saying anything more than Jesus Himself is saying in His simple Bible Overviews. Glen is not making any massive claims about the views of *everybody* at any point in history. He doesn’t seem to be saying anything about the kind of extra-biblical teaching that might or might not have been around at any time in history.

He simply seems to be saying that Moses and the Prophets intended to speak about Jesus Christ in the way that Jesus Himself understood them… and that this understanding was expected of the church in every age. How many people or what percentage of the visible church really did trust Christ in this saving way… who knows?

 

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King James Phrases

In the new year I’m planning on starting another blog – The King’s English.  I want to blog on a phrase a day that has passed from the King James translation into common parlance (2011 is the 400th anniversary of the translation).

I’d like it to be as jargon-free as possible and aimed at non-Christians – though I hope Christians might find it nice and devotional.

Once I secure the right domain I’ll let you have the link and if you can publicize it on your own blog / facebook / twitter I’d be really grateful.

I’ve whittled down the phrases to 365 below.  I’m sure I’m missing loads from the prophets and kings/chronicles.  But it’s interesting that Jesus’ words in the Gospels are at least half of all the Bible’s quotable quotes!  Are there any glaring omissions you can spot?

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(more…)

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Happy Christmas!

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Just did a crib service meditating on the littleness of the little LORD Jesus.  Most of the congregation were not regular church goers.  And so as I spoke there was another voice in my head.

It was the voice of a hundred other Christmas sermons I’ve heard.  You know the part where you’re meant to challenge the saccharine sweet domestication of Jesus with an embarassed: “But of course the baby in the manger grew up.  We mustn’t leave Jesus in the crib!  He’s a full grown man now you know!  Don’t look down on Jesus.”

Familiar?

It’s the attempt to wake people up from their preconceptions and show them something surprising.  But you know the way to really shock people.  Dwell on the manger.  Make a determined effort to look down on Jesus.  And proclaim that here – right here – is the true and living God.  That’ll wake em up from their preconceptions.

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A Repost

6 Christ Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.  (Phil 2:6-11)

Divine humility.  Sounds contradictory?  You don’t understand Christmas.

Jesus Christ, existing in the form of God, made a judgement.  That’s right.  Before Christmas morning, Jesus took a decision.  (btw, v6 is proof that it’s ok to call the pre-incarnate Son ‘Jesus’ – but that’s for another time…)

Now you didn’t decide to get born.  I’m guessing if you had been offered the chance to get born, you’d have taken it.  But Jesus had to choose to get born.  And I promise you, if you were in His shoes, you’d never have chosen what He chose.  If you were in very nature God, surrounded by the worship of heaven, able to do whatever you pleased, you would not have chosen what Jesus chose.  Because this is how Jesus considered things:  Being in very nature God, He chose not to grasp at His power or to exploit it.  Instead He chose total self-emptying.  He chose servanthood.  He chose to humble Himself.  He chose obedience.  He chose death.  He even chose the death of the cross – lifted up as an accursed thing.  That was Jesus’ consideration – being the God that He was.

Question:  Would you have chosen that?

Answer:  No.  Every day I fail to give up even the smallest of comforts.  Let alone to give up my very life!  Let alone to suffer godforsaken hell – and that for enemies!  Would I have chosen this path?  No!

Question:  Well if Jesus did make this choice, did that stop Him from being in very nature God?

Answer:  By no means!  He is ongoingly, continually ‘in very nature God’.

Question:  Well then, is Jesus’ self-emptying a major detour from His glory in the form of God?

Answer:  No this is what equality with God actually looks like!  This is the very expression of the Father’s glory – not exploiting but emptying.

Since He is in the form of God so He took to Himself the form of a slave!  And in this self-emptying He shows what true equality with God looks like.  It looks like the crib and the cross!

Christmas morning and Good Friday are not detours from the glory of God.  They show us that divine glory at full strength.  In eternity Jesus made this consideration.  He chose His history as the incarnate Servant to be that which truly expresses His equality with God.  And the Father affirms this choice – hyper-exalting He who hyper-humbled Himself.  And into all eternity we will gladly serve the Servant.  (And don’t forget, He will serve us! Luke 12:37!)

Implication:  The baby in the manger, the victim on the cross – this is what it means to be in very nature God.

What is God’s nature?  Don’t simply look to the crown.  Look to the crib and to the cross.  God’s nature is disclosed as one of utter self-giving.  Divine humility.

Glorious!

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A sermon by Darrell Johnson on this passage (one of my favourite sermons ever!)

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See other Christmas posts here.

And of course the ultimate Christmas sermon:

 

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I’ve only caught snatches of the BBCs Nativity, but two scenes interested me.

When Gabriel appears to Mary he doesn’t tell her the news.  There are no words from on high here.  No, no, that would be oppressive and authoritarian.  Instead he invites Mary to look within to the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit gives her an experience of the truth.  A very modern (or should that be ‘post-modern’) take on revelation.

And faith?  Well the Magi (from a very brief viewing) seem pretty much in the dark about the whole thing.  Only one of them has any kind of certainty about what they are seeking.  And even he keeps his cards close to his chest.  They seem a lot more sure about the astronomy than about the Child.  And what really matters is the journey.

Now, back to preparing our own nativity…

 

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Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heavenward by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.

The following is a word about the author from John (Confessing Evangelical:)

Frank Houghton was editorial secretary for the China Inland Mission (now OMF), and he wrote the hymn in the aftermath of the savage martyrdom of two missionaries, John and Betty Stam, who were beheaded by bandits in China in 1934 (their three-month old daughter miraculously survived, unnoticed by the bandits). The Stams’ great-nephew, Chip Stam, takes up the story:

The news of these sorrows had reached the mission’s headquarters in Shanghai. Though this was a very dangerous time for both the Chinese Christians and the foreign missionaries, Frank Houghton decided he needed to begin a tour through the country to visit various missionary outposts. While traveling over the mountains of Szechwan, the powerful and comforting words of 2 Corinthians 8:9, “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor,” were transformed into this beautiful Christmas hymn.

I already loved this hymn, but the “backstory” only adds to its power. Had it been written in comfortable, western safety, this would already be a great hymn. But how moving it is to think of a hymn so full of the love of God being written in circumstances of such precariousness and fear.

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Emma ‘Getting Real’

I think my wife manages to get most real when she gets most surreal.

From her latest post (on the new blog!)

Perhaps it’s human nature to feel that our neighbour’s grass is greener and more carefully maintained. Singles imagine that all couples are locked in some kind of rom-com loop, playfully nibbling each other’s toes and whispering phrases like, ‘you complete me’ or ‘no, no – you’re the wind beneath my wings’. Meanwhile the objects of such envy may spend Saturday evening wedged together with Jeremy Clarkson, dreaming of the freedom enjoyed by those without marital shackles.

Or here’s another possibility. For those struggling to have children, the absence of such blessings can cast a shadow over every aspect of daily life. Everyone else seems to be effortlessly and carelessly reproducing, thrusting their progeny forward at every opportunity. Yet for parents, the reality can include permanent exhaustion or the feeling that they’re just not good enough compared to the other Alpha-mums. Perhaps a wistful yearning for the old romance that’s been supplanted by Horlicks and an early night –  in separate bedrooms.

We might think that the Problem of Other People can be solved by cutting them out of our lives.  But the opposite is true.  By avoiding others we intensify our struggles and become isolated from the community and support that can bring real comfort.  Instead, if we’re prepared to get real with each other, such relationships can bring healing and understanding. The single person starts to pray for the couple who are struggling in their marriage. It’s still a battle to wait on the Lord, but this is tempered with a new patience and realism about the nature of such relationships. By including those without families, parents may gain a new appreciation for their children – they are also freed up to enjoy more time together and to model to their kids the importance of friendship and caring for others.

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Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

 

Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

 

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

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Norway’s answer to Bez just edges out Bellafonte for sheer car-wreck-watchability…

Long time ago in Bethlehem
So the Holy Bible say
Mary’s boy child, Jesus Christ
Was born on Christmas day.

Hark, now hear the angels sing
A new King born today
And man will live forever more
Because of Christmas day.

While shepherds watched their flock by night
And see a bright new shining star
And hear a choir sing
The music seem to come from afar.

Now Joseph and his wife Mary
Come to Bethlehem that night
And find no place to borne she child
Not a single room was in sight.

By and by they find a little nook
In a stable all forlorn
And in a manger cold and dark
Mary’s little boy was born.

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Here are three assertions that trip off evangelical tongues, almost without a second thought.  They are the air we breathe.  Almost never challenged.  And almost never justified in any Scriptural sense.  Everyone just knows them.

Trouble is they’re not true.

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Myth #1 – The prophets spoke better than they knew.

Take any text from, say, Handel’s Messiah.  Try to use it as justification for Messianic faith in the OT and count the seconds before someone counters “Ah, but they spoke better than they knew.”

What chapter of Hezekiah is that in again?  I forget.

Just pause for a second.  Why on earth should we think that?  Why shouldn’t we assume that “the prophets knew what they were talking about?”  Wouldn’t that be the most obvious assumption?

Why would we doubt that Isaiah knew what he was talking about?  Apart from a Darwinian belief in progress.  Apart from what CS Lewis called chronological snobbery.  Seriously, where have we got the idea that prophets – those whose job it is to enlighten the people – are actually so thick they can’t understand their own prophecies.  I mean that would be a really odd model of prophecy wouldn’t it?  But, you know, I’m willing to go with it – if the bible teaches it.  But where does the bible teach such a model of prophecy?

Caiaphas?  The murderer of Jesus?  His one off pronouncement is our model for Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel?

And yet the myth persists.  It is asserted very strongly and very often.  And it needs to be if pop-biblical-theology is to avoid imploding under the massive weight of OT evidence to the contrary.

But the thing is, it’s not true.

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Myth #2 – No-one expected the kind of Messiah that Jesus was

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a home group bible study in my life where this myth was not mentioned at least once in the night.  “Well, of course, the people all expected the Christ to come on a war horse and overturn the Romans.”  Well it’s a decent guess that some Israelites might have been of that persuasion.  But show me the verse that says all Israel conceived of the Messiah only in such terms.

It seems like, relative to any supporting Scriptural evidence, this assertion is punching way above its weight in terms of its general acceptance among bible believers.

And in fact, there’s lots of Scriptural evidence that the people were well able to comprehend the kind of Messiah Jesus was.  At Christmas we remember Simeon holding the baby Jesus and rejoicing that he’d therefore seen salvation.  The kings from the east bowed to a child and the songs like the Magnificat are Scripture-full acknowledgements of what an upside down kind of king the Christ is.  Read on in John chapter 1 and you have Simon, Andrew, Philip and Nathanael perfectly able to comprehend that this carpenter was Messiah, King of Israel and Son of God.

Absolutely there were comprehension issues among the disciples – especially as the way of the cross was set before them (same with us right?).  But it’s just not the case that first century Israelites were unprepared for the kind of Messiah Jesus would be.  They were very prepared.  And the faithful among them (like Simeon and Anna) understood it very well.

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Myth #3 – The Apostles read Messianic meaning into Hebrew texts that weren’t intended by the original authors.

Myth #1 is deployed whenever an Old Testament text threatens pop-biblical-theology TM.  Myth #3 is deployed whenever a New Testament text threatens the system:

“Ah yes, but Paul had apostolic warrant to reinterpret OT texts in ways not intended by the author.”

How very odd.  And to think Paul was able to reason in synagogues with Jews and win some over when apparently his claim is that he’s not giving Moses’ meaning but a new one!

Strange indeed, but ok, I’m willing to go with the weirdness because I imagine there must be explicit biblical warrant for it.  There must be a mountain of verses telling me about the apostolic re-reading of Hebrew texts.  Right?  And married to that, there’d have to be loads of verses telling us not to follow the Apostles in their exegesis because they were authorized to do weird stuff.

But, hmm.  Where are these verses?

And Paul even explicitly says “I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen, that Christ would suffer and rise and bring light to the Gentiles.”  (Acts 26:22f).

So then, what’s driving this myth?

Could it be that the pressure to believe Myth 3 comes not from biblical arguments but from the need to protect against biblical arguments??  Could it be that Myth 3 is required as the only escape route pop-biblical-theology has from the mountain of NT verses stacked against it?

I’ll let you decide.

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You might not think this is a very Christmassy theme.  Well think of it as answering this question: “Did Israel really sing ‘O Come O Come Immanuel’ or can we only put that song on their lips after the fact?”

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