Saturday, January 31, 2015

Revelation - Good Commentaries vs. Wild Commentaries

The commentaries arrived last week.
On Sunday Morning, March 22 at Redeemer, we'll begin a 1-2 year preaching project - the book of Revelation. I already had some good commentaries on Revelation (e.g. Ladd, Mounce) but haven't researched this for quite a while. So I purchased four more (of the best, I think) and they arrived this week. I look forward to getting into these studies!

G. K. Chesterton once wrote: "Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creatures so wild as one of his own commentators." (Quoted in G.K. Beale, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, vii.)

In addition to Beale's widely applauded commentary I've got:

Craig Keener, Revelation

Ben Witherington, Revelation

Grant Osborne, Revelation

I'll be getting N. T. Wright's Revelation for Everyone.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Meeting with God In the Waiting Place (PrayerLife)

Green Lake, Wisconsin
10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord.11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
Exodus 14:10-12

The Moses who is about to respond to the fearful response of the Israelites is a different from who he was at the beginning of his journey. Ruth Haley Barton writes: 

"This is the moment where we begin to see more clearly the relationship between Moses’ journey into solitude and his effectiveness as a spiritual leader. Because of his encounters with God, Moses is now a fundamentally different person." (Barton, Ruth Haley, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, p. 95).  

In the face of serious danger Moses gives a deeply spiritual response. He is not going to be strengthened by getting caught up in the people's fears and complaints. Barton writes:

"Instead he turns inward, to that place where he has learned to seek God, and from that place he delivers this most counterintuitive message. He says, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians that you see today you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still” (Exodus 14:13-14, emphasis added)." (Ib., p. 96)

Here in Moses we see the fruit of God-encounters during periods of extended heart-stillness in the presence of God. "Moses’ effectiveness in this moment had to do with the fact that even though he was fully aware of the people’s emotion, he was even more attuned to the reality of God’s presence. He knew that the first thing he needed to do was to help the people still themselves and learn to wait on God even in the face of their greatest fear." (Ib.)

I will pray in stillness before the Lord. I will train my soul in the fortress of silence and solitude. I meet with God in the Waiting Place. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Testament Scholars and the Historicity of the New Testament Documents

T wrote me and requested: "If you have time to dig up a few youtube links, can you give me suggestions for lectures on the historicity of the new testament to counterpoint the hours of Richard Carrier and Bart Ehrman I've already watched. Thanks."

I'm posting my response here.

Thank you T. Here's what I think.

Bart Ehrman is an actual New Testament scholar; Richard Carrier is not. So in terms of NT studies it is important to pay attention to people like Ehrman. I've listened to him and read some of his material. I also have listened some a read of bit of Carrier's stuff. My observation is that, in general, NT scholars pay attention to Ehrman, and Carrier gets no attention. He's just not especially qualified in this area.

The majority of my NT studies on the historicity of the text come from biblical commentaries that dig deep into each word and sentence in their context. I have read lots of textual studies, and watched very little on youtube. So I can't refer to specific youtube presentations. But I can refer you to scholars worth looking at if you can find their lectures on youtube or elsewhere.

My suggestion is this. Any NT studies (books or youtube lectures) by the following NT scholars are worth listening to and reading. These scholars (who pay attention to Ehrman but do not arrive at many of his textual conclusions) include:

  • Craig Keener
  • Ben Witherington
  • Andreas Kostenberger
  • N.T. Wright
  • Craig Blomberg
  • Craig Evans
  • Richard Bauckham
  • Grant Osborne
  • Robert Mounce
  • Gordon Fee
  • D.A. Carson
  • Donald Hagner
  • R.T. France
  • Gary Burge
  • Robert Yarbrough
  • John Nolland
  • David Garland
  • R.T. France
  • Darrell Bock
  • Joel Green
  • Anthony Thiselton
  • Peter O'Brien
If any of these have youtube videos on biblical textual studies they will be worth watching. I have used all of these for the past 20+ years in my preaching through the NT books. This, to me, is the most valuable way to get a grip on historical issues in the NT.

A number of these have especially responded to Ehrman, questioning his methodological assumptions. Kostenberger and Bock have recently written Truth In a Culture of Doubt: Engaging Skeptical Response to the Bible

Warning: all of these scholars study the NT texts as ancient historical texts. You won't find any fundamentalist (and therefore anachronistic) scholarship in them.

Monday, January 26, 2015

First Century Fragment of Mark Discovered

Craig Evans is one of our greatest biblical scholars. He was a lead researcher and expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls. I have his book Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence

Here Evans talks about a first century fragment of the Gospel of Mark found in a mummy's mask. How did this happen?

Ancient mummies were often made out of paper mâché. Non-Christian cultures that had no value for the Bible used - when available - Christian documents written on paper to make the paper mâché out of. 

For the full story see the Washington Post article "Biblical scholar claims to have found the oldest known Gospel - inside a mummy mask." 

The Power of Prayvailing (PrayerLife)

Judge & Condemn                                      Rescue & Save
Yesterday at Redeemer I spent time teaching our 2nd-5th graders. I asked them a question: "What do you think I do as a pastor?" A lot of the kids responded, giving answers such as...

... "You preach."

... "You do weddings."

... "You do funerals."

... "You spend time with people you love."

... "You play games with kids."

... "You get to have a wife."

... "You drink coffee in the church kitchen."

... "You meet with people in your office in Panera Bread."

... "You help people who have problems."

What great answers! All of them are true.

I especially like the last one. I love being used by God to help people.

After spending time with these kids I went into the sanctuary and preached on 1 John 5:16, which reads: 16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. If I see a Christian brother or sister screwing up I am not to judge them, condemn them, finger-point them, post their screw-up on Facebook, slander them, or gossip about them. I am not to view myself as above them and bask in the glow of my own superiority. What I am to do is pray for them, with a promise.

I am to pray for my fallen friend. I am to be on their rescue team. The Greek word we translate as 'pray' is aiteo (αἰτέω), which can be translated as:

  • to ask  
  • to beg
  • to crave
  • to desire
  • to require
  • to command

All these words ramp up the intensity. 

I remember getting off the airplane in Mumbai, India, and walking out of the terminal, only to be surrounded by begging children. One of them was maybe 12 years old. His teeth were brown and rotting. They were touching me, pleading for money. I remember their eyes. 1 John 5:16 says that when you pray for a brother or sister who is engaged in wrongdoing your eyes should look like this, before God. This is praying as craving something; viz., the rescue and saving of people you love.

This is travailing praying. To "travail" is physical or mental work that is sometimes painful. The word is used of a woman in labor about to give birth to her baby. We see an example of travailing praying in Colossians 4:12-13, where Paul writes of Epaphras who is always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. Paul writes that Epaphras is filled with deep concern for his Christian brothers and sisters.

Travailing praying has two foci:

  1. Love for the followers of Jesus.
  2. Concern for what sin can do to them.
Sin can crush a person. Sin can separate a person from God, and can destroy friendships, families, and marriages. We cannot love and help people if we do not have compassion for them and towards the ramifications of wrongdoing in their lives. The foundation of rescuing people is love + concern.

If we see a brother or sister stumble and fall we are to travail over them in prayer. In this we are given a promise, which is: God will give them life. Jim Goll writes, "The prayer of travail is God desiring to create an opening to bring forth a measure of life and growth." Travailing prayer brings prevailing in the fallen person's life. Travailing praying brings prevailing. I call this prayvailing

What if we all went after our stumbling brothers and sisters with prayvailing? What would the environment in our churches look like? They would be safe places. They would be rescuing places. They would be loving and healing places. There would be a new level of holiness and a new level of unity. Fault-finding and gossip would unavail, intercession and love and life would prevail. Wholeness would return to churches, and they would be what God has always intended for them. The Church is a great, prayvailing rescuing community.

This is the power of prayvailing people. It begins with love for one another. It takes sin and wrongdoing seriously. It knows the power of praying for others in the community. Heaven's gates are opened. As we prayvail God gives us life!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Consciousness as Real and Immaterial

In my doctoral dissertation on metaphor theory and philosophy of language I spent time looking at how the physical brain processes figurative language. (One main text at the time was Cognition and Figurative Language, by Honeck and Hoffman.) "Metaphor" is not, as Aristotle and others thought, an elliptical simile (i.e., a simile minus the word 'like'). The brain processes metaphor and simile differently.

One of my doctoral advisors was Dr. James Ashbrook, a neuro-psyschologist/theologian. I will never forget Dr. Ashbrook sharing the time when he began to do neuro-studies and held, for the first time, a physical human brain. He was filled with awe and wonder that this 3-pound blob of jellylike goo processed language and contained consciousness. How could this crazy thing called the "mind" emerge from or supervene upon or causally effect the physical brain?

These questions have not gone away. See Oliver Burkeman's well-written essay "Why can't the world's greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness?" Consciousness is real, and seems to be nonphysical. As neuro-philosopher David Chalmers says, I’m talking to you now, and I can see how you’re behaving; I could do a brain scan, and find out exactly what’s going on in your brain – yet it seems it could be consistent with all that evidence that you have no consciousness at all.” If you were approached by me and my doppelgänger, not knowing which was which, not even the most powerful brain scanner in existence could tell us apart." ("Doppelganger" = a point-for-point physical equivalent to myself, except without consciousness.) 

Some scholars accept Chalmers's ideas, others do not. But what is called the "Hard Problem" of first-person subjective consciousness remains.

There's a lot in Burkeman's essay that is very helpful, and readable. I wonder if the Hard Problem is in principle unsolvable, since one would, it seems, have to posit consciousness in order to theorize about it. 

Or, perhaps it can never be solved because...

"... we’re just constitutionally incapable of ever solving the Hard Problem? After all, our brains evolved to help us solve down-to-earth problems of survival and reproduction; there is no particular reason to assume they should be capable of cracking every big philosophical puzzle we happen to throw at them. This stance has become known as “mysterianism” – after the 1960s Michigan rock’n’roll band ? and the Mysterians, who themselves borrowed the name from a work of Japanese sci-fi – but the essence of it is that there’s actually no mystery to why consciousness hasn’t been explained: it’s that humans aren’t up to the job. If we struggle to understand what it could possibly mean for the mind to be physical, maybe that’s because we are, to quote the American philosopher Josh Weisberg, in the position of “squirrels trying to understand quantum mechanics”. In other words: “It’s just not going to happen.”"

Friday, January 23, 2015

Manic Ball-jumping Dog

Linda and I just saw this on the Today Show. Yes, we both laughed.

Intercessory Praying: Asking God to Do What I Cannot (PrayerLife)

Climbing the huge sand dune at Warren Dunes State Park (Michigan)
I'm preaching this Sunday at Redeemer on praying for others when their spiritual lives are failing (1 John 5:16). During my own praying time this morning I am praying for people. And I am reading portions of Richard Foster's book Prayer. Foster writes:

"In the ongoing work of the kingdom of God, nothing is more important than Intercessory Prayer. People today desperately need the help that we can give them. Marriages are being shattered. Children are being destroyed. Individuals are living lives of quiet desperation, without purpose or future. And we can make a difference…if we will learn to pray on their behalf." (Richard Foster, Prayer - 10th Anniversary Edition: Finding the Heart's True Home, p. 191)

How true that is! In my desires to help other people my severe cognitive and physical limitations show themselves. I am, to a large degree, incapable and unable. But God is capable and able. So I pray for people, asking God to do for the people I love what I cannot do.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Fine Tuning of the Universe & the Existence of God

This video nicely explains the Argument for God's Existence from the Evidence of a Fine-Tuned Universe.

For My Torah Class This Sunday Night


This Sunday (6 PM) I'm going to:

1. Review the last two sessions on biblical interpretation.

2. Add another teaching on biblical interpretation (I'll have a handout for this).

3. Summarize the content of Genesis chapters 12-50.

4. Ask the class if anyone has written a question or thought or comment when you read Genesis 12-50 this week.

5. There is especially one Big Idea in these chapters - what is it?

6. Then I'll make my own comments on:

- Symbolic numbers and literal numbers in the Bible.
- Melchizedek - who was he?
- What it meant to Sarai to be renamed Sarah.
- What's the deal with polygamy in Genesis?
- Camels in Genesis 24.
- What it meant for Jacob's name to be changed to Israel.
- And then...  what it means to "cut" a covenant.

I look forward to being with you Sunday night!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cantor, Hilbert's Hotel, and the Logic of Infinity

Monroe County

In my MCCC Philosophy of Religion classes I'm now presenting William Lane Craig's Kalam Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God. It's formulated as:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
We're looking at two reasons to support premise 2. One of those reasons is: the impossibility of an actual infinite.

If premise two is false, then the universe has always existed, which means it has existed for an infinite number of years. But this cannot be true, since infinity applies to nothing actual. Craig uses mathematician David Hilbert and his famous "hotel" example to show this.

Here's an essay from the New York Times - "The Hilbert Hotel" - using Hilbert and mathematician George Cantor to show the non-applicability of infinity to anything actual.

God Does Not Answer Every Prayer (Sermon, 1/18/15)

On Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015 I preached on:

1) Why God does not answer all prayers;
2) how we can engage in effective praying that God hears and responds to; and

3) how we are to respond when some of our prayers are unanswered.
1 John 5:14-15
The message is online here, with power point notes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Kant's Criticism of the Ontological Argument for God's Existence

This cartoon misses the point of the Ontological Argument

(For my MCCC Philosophy of Religion students.)

Oral exam question #3: explain Kant's criticism of the Ontological Argument.

Here are the bullet points.

1. Kant says "exists" (or "being") is not a predicate.
For Kant there are two types of predicates: Logical (analytic) and determining (synthetic). This is important since Anselm's OA requires "actual existence" to be a predicate (attribute) of "greatest possible being."

2. A "logical" or "analytic" predicate analyzes the subject, but adds nothing to the concept of the subject. A "determining" or "synthetic" predicate adds something to the concept of the subject.

Such as:
a.    “John the bachelor is not married” (analytic).
b.    “John the bachelor is six feet tall” (synthetic).

3. In a subject-predicate statement, "exists" is the "copula" (connector) that connects subject and predicate.

4. If "exists" were a real predicate then we would have the absurd situation that "the real contains more than the merely possible."

Use Kant's $100 example here.

If “exists” was a predicate than we could never get what we are thinking of.

5. For Kant the Ontological Argument fails because it depends on "actual existence" being a predicate, and it is neither an analytic predicate nor a synthetic predicate.

6. Philosopher Norman Malcolm agrees with Kant that "exists" is not a predicate. But Malcolm thinks Anselm meant, not "existence," but "necessary existence."

"Necessary existence" does seem to be a predicate. For example: My wife Linda necessarily exists. 

This statement seems to make an outrageous claim; viz., that my wife Linda cannot not-exist. It attributes necessary existence to her, and thus seems to function as a predicate or attribute.


Kant’s criticism of the Ontological Argument is that "exists," or "existence," is not a "predicate." By "predicate" we mean "attribute," or "quality."

Anselm's version of the Ontological Argument depends on "existence" being a "great-making attribute." But if "existence" is not an attribute at all, then Anselm's argument seems to fail. This is Kant's criticism. "Exists," Kant says, "is not a predicate."

Consider the form of a subject-predicate statement: 

S is p. 'S' denotes the subject, 'p' denotes the predicate.

For example, John's car is red. "Red" is the predicate, or attribute, of the subject "John's car." "Redness" is predicated of "John's car." Or: "redness" is an attribute of "John's car."

In the statement John's car is red, where do we find "existence?" "Exists" is found, Kant would say, in the verb "is." "Is" is the "copula" (connector) that links subject and predicate. The verb "is," in the statement John's car is red, simply posits the existence of John's red car. This neither analyzes the subject nor adds something to our concept (idea) of the subject. 

Kant writes: "'Being' is obviously not a real predicate; that is, it is not a concept of something which could be added to the concept of a thing. It is merely the positing of a thing, or of certain determinations, as existing in themselves. Logically, it is merely the copula of a judgment." 

What does that mean? Here is an example to illustrate that "exists" (or "being," "is-ness") is not a real attribute or predicate.

Consider this. I'm going to tell you some things about my wife Linda. I'll do this by making a series of subject-predicate statements, predicating attributes of the subject "My wife Linda."

·                     My wife Linda is 5'6" tall.
·                     My wife Linda has long brown hair.
·                     My wife Linda is a sushi-lover.
·                     My wife Linda is a piano teacher.
All of these predicates add something to the concept "My wife Linda." But consider this:

·                     My wife Linda exists.
That adds nothing to the subject "My wife Linda." Actually, it functions more like a tautology: My existing wife Linda has the attribute of existence. That statement is tautological (redundant), which means the predicate simply repeats the subject.

Try this.

You go for a job interview. The interviewer asks you to describe yourself, which is another way of listing your attributes. You respond:

·                     I have computer skills.
·                     I graduated from Harvard.
·                     I have worked for Steve Jobs as his personal assistant.
·                     I invented the iPhone.

The interviewer, his eyes wide open and jaw dropping to the floor, is amazed! Probably, he wants to hire you. But then you open your mouth and say...

"Here's one more thing about myself, one more attribute I have that I want to share with you: I exist."

That was a bad move. Because "exists" is not an attribute. And you just lost the job.

Kant further explains this by saying, "The real contains no more than the merely possible." But if "exists" was a real predicate, then the real would contain more than the possible, but that is absurd.

You say to me, “Please go to the bank and withdraw a hundred dollars.” That is, you have in your mind the idea of one hundred dollars. I go to the bank with that idea in mind and make the withdrawal. But upon making the withdrawal I now have, instead of an idea of a hundred dollars in my mind, an actually existing one hundred dollars in my hand.

Is the concept of a hundred dollars in my mind any different than the actual hundred dollars in my hand? If you answer “Yes,” then is it because the hundred dollars in my hand actually exists? In other words, is “existence” a predicate of the hundred dollars I hold in my hand? If you say “Yes” to this, then the hundred dollars in my hand is different than the hundred dollars in your mind. I will have withdrawn from the bank something different than what you asked me to withdraw. I withdrew something that has an extra “predicate” which your idea did not have. 

You are thinking of $100. If we then add that the $100 "exists," in asserting that it exists we add nothing to the concept of the $100. The $100 is the same whether it exists or not; it is the same size, the same weight, the same colour, the same value, etc. The fact that the $100 exists, that the concept-of-$100-in-the-mind is exemplified in the world, does not change anything about the concept-of-$100. Therefore “existence” is not a real, or first-order, predicate.

A real predicate adds something to the concept, which is the subject of the judgment. If the actual $100 has a predicate (“existence”) which the idea of $100 does not have, then they are not the same thing. And the thing I withdrew was not what you had in mind. Which seems absurd. I don't wish to say "Here is the $100 you were thinking about but it has the extra attribute of "existence."

Kant writes:
"A hundred real dollars do not contain the least coin more than a hundred possible dollars. For as the latter signify the concept, and the former the object and the positing of the object, should the former contain more than the latter, my concept would not, in that case, express the whole object, and would not therefore be an adequate concept of it. My financial position is, however, affected very differently by a hundred real dollars than it is by the mere concept of them (that is, of their possibility). For the object, as it actually exists, is not analytically contained in my concept, but is added to my concept (which is a determination of my state) synthetically; and yet the conceived hundred dollars are not themselves in the least increased through thus acquiring existence outside my concept. . . ."

(By "analytically contained" Kant means a predicate that adds nothing to the concept of the subject, such as in the statement: John the bachelor is not married. A "synthetic" judgment contains a predicate that adds something to the subject, because it is not analytically contained in the subject, such as: John the bachelor is 99 years old.)

Therefore existence is not a predicate. It merely posits the existence of the concept in mind. As Kant puts it, a hundred real dollars contains as much as a hundred imaginary dollars. 

"The real contains no more than the possible."

For Kant to say that something "exists" is to say that the concept of that thing is exemplified in the world. Existence, then, is not a matter of a thing possessing a property, "existence," but of a concept corresponding to something in the world.
Anselm's version of the Ontological Argument, at this point, seems to fail.

Kant writes of this in his Critique of Pure Reason. The relevant passage is found here

The Road to Rediscovering Jesus

Wilberforce, Ohio
In my Spiritual Formation class at Payne Seminary two weeks ago a number of my students were brought back to their "first love," which is Jesus. In an atmosphere of quiet, silence, solitariness, and community emerging out of individual solitude with God, people were rediscovering Jesus.

Those who then build this into their daily lives find themselves constantly rediscovering Jesus. There is an ongoing freshness in one's experience about this. The emotions include delight, wonder, and surprise. God will always draw us back to Jesus.

Thomas Merton expresses it this way: "Today, in a moment of trial, I rediscovered Jesus, or perhaps discovered Him for the first time. But then, in a monastery you are always rediscovering Jesus for the first time." (Merton, A Year with Thomas Merton, Kindle Locations 1311-1312)

The road to rediscovery is the intentional Christ-abiding life. This is the life that "bears much fruit." The fruit is borne out of relationship. The relationship with Christ includes ongoing revelation and illumination of the Real Jesus. We become more deeply acquainted with our first love.

Today A Year with Thomas Merton is available at for Kindle for only $3.99!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Host a "Surrendered Life" Event at Your Church

Connie Goncin

You can host a "Surrendered Life" event at your church. Connie Goncin will share her amazing testimony of how God rescued her out of darkness and into His light (see "A Wild Weed Finds a Home In the Garden of God").

Sue Anderson will follow up with her clear, excellent teachings on "Living Out of Your Identity in Christ" (See the video clip above).

Sue writes: "I have a passionate desire for Christians to know the finished work of Christ in their lives. To know they are a New Creation and the old has passed. My heart is to equip them to never give life circumstances, or the enemy, a voice in determining their identity and relationship with God. We are to run this race well living in faith and relationship with our Heavenly Father showing the world His love."  

Sue and Connie are from my church. We hosted a "Surrendered Life" evening this fall, and it was powerful and beautiful!

To inquire about having a "Surrendered Life" event at your church please contact:

Dr. John Piippo


Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Long Ages of the Patriarchs in Genesis 5

John Goldingay (Fuller Theological Seminary) is one of our greatest Old Testament scholars. In his Genesis for Everyone book Goldingay gives a suggestion about how to interpret the long ages of the patriarchs mentioned in Genesis chapter 5. For example, all the days that Adam lived came to 930 years.

Remember the importance, in interpreting any text, of identifying the literary genres involved.

Goldingay writes:

"We do not really know how to interpret their ages. With big numbers in the Old Testament, more “realistic” numbers may have come to be misunderstood; perhaps an earlier version of this family history had more realistic numbers. But something is going on here beyond simply the ascribing of preternaturally long lives to people; these men don’t even father their first child until they reach the kind of age when we would expect them to die or to be well past fathering. (There are Middle Eastern records that give much more wildly unrealistic numbers for the ages of various kings.) 

Whatever their background, the numbers as they appear in Genesis suggest something striking. Adam lives to be 930; Seth, to be 912; Enosh, to be 905; Kenan, to be 910; Mahalel, to be a mere 895; but Jared, to be 962. Now, when I hear of someone who lived until they were 99, I am inclined to think, “Oh what a shame she didn’t live until she was 100.” There is something about that magic number. In Genesis 5, the magic number is 1000 (compare the millennium in Revelation 20). But no one quite makes it. We will soon read of the famous Methuselah, who almost did; he reached 969. But he, too, died before reaching the magic number. The impression that the numbers are significant will be confirmed by two others that come in Genesis 5: 21– 31. Enoch lives 365 years, the number of days in a year; he indeed realizes a full life. Lamech lives 777 years, another number of completeness. As the number of days in the week, seven stands for completeness, so 777 suggests three times completeness (contrast 666, the number of the beast in Revelation 13: 17– 18)."

- John Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone: Part 1 Chapters 1-16, p. 86.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

IN MY TORAH CLASS at Redeemer Sunday night I will...

1.   Teach how ancient Israel was a hearing-dominant culture, which means we have to think differently about “books” and “authors” in the ancient world.
2. Explain how Genesis 1 is to be understood as a Temple story, and what the words “God rested” mean.
3. Give the answer to “Who were the Nephilim in Genesis 6?”
4. Show a 3-minute video from N. T. Wright on how to interpret ancient texts.
5. Explain the old ages of the people in Genesis 5.
6.Have a lot of fun doing all of this and some more from Genesis 1-11!

Suffering In the Believer and the Church's Response, by Lisa Dubois

Our dear friend and sister in Christ Lisa Dubois died on Tuesday, August 16. She was 48. At age 21 she was hit with cancer - Hodgkin's lymphoma. She lived 27 years with this cancer, having many treatments, going in and out of remission, and finally, around 2004, refusing any medical treatment and trusting in God. 

But Lisa lived as if she did not have cancer. People who met or hung around Lisa would not necessarily know of her struggle. This cancer, for Lisa, was an unwanted enemy, and she refused to acknowledge that it had any power or influence over her. Her excellent physician at the University of Michigan Medical Center, Dr. Henry, told Lisa and her husband Marty that she lived way beyond what would normally be expected of someone with untreated stage 4 cancer.

Before Lisa died I asked her to put together thoughts we've talked about on faith and suffering. Here is her essay. Thank you Lisa for writing this! Linda and I and many in our Redeemer family have rarely seen such trust, faith, hope, and joy in the midst of suffering. We are, and remain, deeply inspired and encouraged by Christ in Lisa, the hope of glory.

By Lisa Dubois

I have observed, in my own experience in the body of Christ, as believers in Jesus and students of the Holy Bible, that we understand suffering to be part of our Christian walk. There are many scriptures that point to this. Some include:

1. Christ was made perfect through suffering.

  • Heb 2:10 - In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
2. Suffering disgrace made the disciples counted as “worthy.”

  • Acts 5:41 - The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
  • 2 Thess. 1:5 - All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.
3. Suffering produces perseverance, character and hope.

  • Rom. 5:3-5 - Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
4. Painful trials should not surprise Believers…

  • I Pet 4:12 - Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
5. Sharing in His sufferings is part of being a child of God.

  • Rom 8: 17-18 - Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
  • 2 Cor 1:5 - For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
6. A believer’s suffering may be for the benefit of others.

  • 2 Cor 1: 6-7 - If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
  • Eph 3:13 - I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
7. Our response to participating in Christ’s sufferings is to rejoice.

  • I Pet 4:13 - But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
8. God’s glory is revealed in our suffering.

  • 2 Cor. 4:6 - 2 Cor.5:7
9. Paul wanted to “fellowship” in Christ’s sufferings even becoming like Him in death.

  • Phil 3:10 - I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
Christ’s sufferings were not limited to those of persecution. He suffered betrayal, rejection, loneliness, fear, physical pain, grief, loss, hunger, lack of sleep, all manner of temptations, etc. As believers, and as humans, we suffer many of these things as well.

Our suffering may originate from different sources than those of Christ’s sufferings. For example, betrayal may come to a believer through the unfaithfulness of a spouse. Rejection may come from a parent who disowns their child. Physical pain may come from a disease brought on by demons or an injury.

In my own personal experience, I give over all my sufferings/circumstances to Him. I desire to “fellowship” with Him in my sufferings. I seek first His possible greater purpose for my current suffering. (Romans 8:28-29: And, we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.) Is the Lord wanting to conform me to the likeness of Christ as in Roman’s 8:29 above? If He does not appear to be in my current sufferings, then I am the first to be rid of them! But my initial response to any suffering is: to submit it to the Lord.

As part of the greater body of Christ, it appears to me that most Christians’ first response to an individual’s suffering is to “pray away the suffering.” That is, to rebuke devils, to pray for immediate physical healing, to pray for persecuting bosses to cease or new jobs to be found, to pray for grief to lift, or for sadness to leave, etc. As the body of Christ, are we praying against the Lord’s will in some of these circumstances— perhaps against His “timing?” Think of the person who has been prayed for countless times and the Lord has not healed them of their grief or despair or physical pain. What does this cause them to believe? Perhaps, as a result, they feel more isolated and lonely. They may feel there is something really wrong with them. They may even begin to feel rejected by God. When we have an expectation that God does not want any suffering to linger in our lives, we may be setting people up for further harm.

How wonderful for me it has been to have fellow believers to come along side me in my own sufferings and walk with me in the perseverance of the faith, encouraging me with hope and comforting me in pain—without an expectation of immediate release or showing impatience with the lack of progress.

Many years ago several lady friends and I spent much time together praying for our troubled marital relationships. Each of us was “suffering.” We spent time being with one another, encouraging one another, shaping (“perfecting”) ourselves in Christ, etc. We have all come out of it stronger in faith and as believers. I wonder what faith would look like, what the greater body of Christ would look like, if we applied a more moderate, patient, enduring, long - suffering approach to individual believer’s sufferings? I do think this does happen actually—but what seems most applauded and celebrated are the quick heals, the quick fixes--when God comes down and rocks our world with what only He can do.

I am not against God doing wonderful, miraculous, instant healings. I just think that, at times, it can be over-emphasized to the neglect of those whose sufferings are of the “long” suffering nature. It seems to me that there are many, many individuals in this category. What does the greater body, the Church of Christ, provide for them? Some believers will seek out their own support network. But I fear that other believers, perhaps younger ones, are left to feel isolated, rejected, lonely and perhaps defective. I have been seeking the Lord about what maybe He would have me do in this situation and I do hope He gives me an answer.

- Lisa Dubois