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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Word’

Hebrews 1:3 is a deeply insightful verse about our God: “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” I have long been fascinated by the phrase “radiance of His glory” and have written about it once upon a time here (Radiance Check out the poem, too.). “Radiance” is translated “brightness” in several versions but seems to fall short of conveying what Jesus accomplishes by revelation to us of His Father. He shines forth His glory, that is, we could not know of God without seeing His glory in Jesus’ representation of Him. You only see the sun because of the light radiating from it. Analogies can be taken too far, in this case to make Jesus out to be something or someone separate from the Father. That is heresy and not at all my intention in explaining radiance. Rather, hear what Jesus said, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9) That verse, of course, bears on the phrase “exact representation” also. In the ESV it reads, “exact imprint”. As an illustration I pressed my truck key into Play-Doh. I pointed out that plastic could be poured into the imprint, harden and used to open my truck door. Again, you could get into positive/negative imprint or representation being a facsimile rather than the original but that is not what the Scripture is saying. These analogies fall short because of the mystery of the Trinity, meaning our inability to understand the essential nature of God, but He gives us insight to extend our understanding even though we fall short of full understanding.

The next phrase is the one that has caught my attention most recently. I am now going to indulge in some manifest musing (or “thinking out loud” as we usually say if I were talking to you). Heupholds all things by the word of His power.” “Word of His power” is an odd construction in English. NASB, KJV, NKJV, and ESV use this phrase. NIV, HCSB, and NRSV say, “His powerful word”, and the RSV says, “his word of power”, both phrases which seem to me to have a different meaning from “word of His power”.  I suspect the three newer translations (NIV, HCSB, and NRSV) made interpretative decisions for the purpose of clarity. Is this change justified? The Greek Interlinear Bible (http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/heb1.pdf) has the literal English word order as “declaration [word] of the ability (power) of Him” (“[]” being my addition and “()” being theirs). Not claiming to know more than the slightest inkling of Greek grammar, I can at least say that the majority translations are going with the more literal wording. The interlinear translation and Strong’s help us with what the particular words mean. “Word” here is not logos, the expression of God, but rhema, a declaration. And “power” is dynamis, which means ability or potential for power or action.

The “of” is important. It denotes possession. If I say, “son of mine” I mean the same thing as “my son”. The shade of difference is the emphasis on son in the first phrase. So the reason I don’t think “word of His power” and “His powerful word” mean the same thing is that “powerful” is not possessive, but a descriptive modifier. It says His word is powerful. “Word of His power” says His power’s word. The power is expressed in a declaration (word). Rather than saying His word has power, it seems to be saying that His power has word. His power proceeds forth as that which communicates what will be (be that static (“upholds”) or dynamic (“created” Isaiah 40:26)). Word modifies power rather than power modifying word. If we had the word it could read, ‘His wordful power’. The emphasis is on declaration (word) that upholds all things but the source of that word is His power. From His power proceeds forth a word which upholds. The way his power is being exhibited is through efficacious declaration.

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My pastor taught on Jesus’s warning in the Sermon on the Mount concerning false prophets found in Matthew 7:15-20. He asked, given the teaching of 7:1, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged“, and theme of how to live in the Sermon, why is this passage about false prophets (and teachers) here? He concluded that there is a balance to not being condemningly judgmental in 7:1 that emphasized being discerning and discriminating. False Prophets destroy the church from within frequently before their presence is detected. They must be recognized and ousted. The pastor showed from the passage that they have three characteristics: 1) Inwardly Corrupt (outward appearance with no inward experience), 2) Bad Fruit (coming from deeds of the flesh), and 3) Destined for Destruction (true belief includes growth in righteousness). On the second point the pastor describe a bad tree with bad fruit. As happens on occasions my mind drifted off into a parallel illustration.

Eastern Black Walnut (Juglans nigra (I actually remembered that without looking it up, but I can’t remember people’s names. I have poor skills at people name association.)) is an easy tree to identify in the woods. As you approach it you know what it is before you can discern leaves or bark. Very little grows under a walnut tree. The fruit (really the hull of the fruit surrounding the nut) has a poison that prevents other trees and many herbaceous varieties from growing under it. A tree given wide berth by other trees in the eastern forest is rare. More frequently trunks are quite close and roots intertwine each other if sunlight is sufficient for both. When I arrived home I found that the leaves and twigs, but especially the roots, also have the poison,“juglone” (5 hydroxy-1,4­ napthoquinone) (https://hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-193.pdf). The information I read says that many trees and plants are tolerant to juglone, but my observation in the woods tells me that though tolerant in the sense that their leaves don’t turn yellow or the plant die, the plants do not evidently sprout well under walnut trees since the ground most usually looks almost as if it is mowed.

 The spiritual metaphor here is the same as that of a fruit tree but more caustic perhaps? Green, developing walnuts look nice enough and are certainly abundant. The False Teacher may have the appearances of fruitfulness in quality and quantity, but they inhibit life and growth. And the source is the roots which one source said can poison the ground for several years after the tree is removed. Wow! This happens in churches so that they are still reeling years after the false teachers has been run off. “You have seen their abominations and their idols… so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood. (Deuteronomy 29:17-18) And Jesus said, Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Matthew 12:33-34) May God multiply to His Church the grace of discernment to recognize and biblically deal with false teachers in their midst so that the sheep are not led astray and poisoned. May He strengthen and refresh those churches who have fallen prey to the poison root and fruit of false prophets that have inhibited growth among its members. May God purify us and build us up in the knowledge of Him so that we may worship Him in spirit and truth and share His glory accurately in the world.

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In the book “10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health” by Donald 
Whitney, the second question he asks is, "Are you governed increasingly 
by God’s Word?" Following is an outline Bible study that I put together 
based on that chapter. In parentheses are my thoughts and partial answers
to questions.
1. What is the most valuable object in the world?
   Rare, beautiful, large, or necessities of life perhaps
   Bible- likened to the basic of life
       Amos 8:11, Jeremiah 15:16, Matthew 4:4
(Without the Bible we would have no purpose, direction, or explanation 
of salvation and godly living.)
2. Psalm 119:72 Do you value it that highly?
   (My evidence of valuing the Bible comes with reading, studying and 
    heeding what it says.)
3.Does the ready availability of God’s Word cause you to de-emphasize 
  its importance in your thinking and priorities?     
  Prov. 29:18, Hebrews 4:12, I Peter 2:2
  (I would value it more if it were about to be taken away or even if 
   I had to hide it and read it in secret.)
4. What practical ways do you value the Word of God on a daily or 
   regular basis?
   (I value God’s Word by reading, studying, memorizing,hearing it 
    preached, sharing it with others, seeking to live by it, and 
    changing my views based on its words.)
5. Do you consciously inquire as to what the Bible says about specific
   areas of life? If so, what are some areas?
   (I do inquire about what the Bible says about His will for me, what
    is right and wrong, how I should interact with my family, neighbors,
    church members, fellow citizens,the lost, and people I am offended by,
    and seek to live by it.
6.Do you ask spiritual leaders to help you apply Scripture in particular
  situations? Do you literally open the Bible to search for God’s will?
  (A quote by Octavious Winslow on p.31-32 may be summarized as "nothing 
   perhaps more stongly indicates the tone of a believer's spirituality,
   than the light in which the Scriptures are regarded by him.")
7. What is your response to spending time in God’s Word?
   Psalm 119:47, 48, 97, 113,119, 127, 163
   “Indifference to truth is a mark of death.” John Piper
   (David says numerous times that he loves God’s Word.
    Indifference to God’s Word is little different than hatred.)
8. Jesus, the Living Word, quotes and obeys the written Word of God 
   because it…
   a. contains truth   John 17:17
   b. contains the Father’s will and words   John 14:23-24
   c. is sufficient for all life and godliness   2 Timothy 3:16
   d. is an example for us Luke 10:26; 1 Corinthians 10:11
9.The human Jesus lived by and memorized the written Word of God
  Matthew 4:4
  (Can you imagine Jesus as a boy memorizing Scripture? OK, I'm not
   too into "sanctified imagination when it comes to Scripture, but
   seriously, when He was running over a verse, did He ever muse, 
   "Did I say that before (a long time ago)?"
Isaiah 8:20: "To the Law and to the Testimony"
             (is like saying “What does the Bible say?”)
10. How important is Scripture? Deut. 32:47
    (“no dawn”, “no light”- spiritually dead Is 8:20
     “it is your life” Dt 32:47)
11. What does the Bible say?
    Example: “God helps those who help themselves.”
              No, Romans 5:6-8 and Galatians 3:2-5
    (Rom 5:“helpless”; sanctification the same Gal 3;
     An argument could be made that helping yourself is like being 
     careful “walk and please God” and lead a “quiet life” (I Thess 4:1-12)
     and God blesses your obedience and diligence, but helping yourself
     instead of clinging to God to even do good works is humanism.)
12.  Other examples to explore: How should my child be educated?
     How would God have me vote in the next election?
     Should I make a purchase (What is its purpose?)?
     What should I be doing and not doing in my church?
     Do we have qualified biblical leaders?
     How should our church reach people with the gospel and what is my part?
     What should I do with my life when I retire?
     (In other words, “all of life-events and choices great and small-
      should be governed by the Word of God.” p.35)
13. Psalm 119:105, Acts 18:26 Have you within the last several years
    revised your beliefs and actions based on what you learned in 
    God’s Word?
    (I believe I have gained a balance in my understanding between the
     importance of covenants and times in God’s economy for the end.
     I value relationships more now than formerly.
     I crave and take more opportunity for witness as I become more
     convinced of the judgment to come.
     I have a different view of divorce and remarriage.)
14. How might you deepen your desire for God’s Word?
    (Deepen your desire for God’s Word by
     reading it, listening to sermons, meditating, praying Scripture,
     seeking out promises, searching Scriptures for life’s answers,
     training yourself to ask,“How does the Bible speak to this?”)
15. Examine your spiritual health by asking yourself,
    “Am I governed increasingly by God’s Word?"

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In the fourth generation and 60 years after King David died there arose a king over Judah whose name was Asa. His father and grandfather had no heart for God, worshipping idols and allowing the people to run wild in their pursuit of idolatry. And his great-grandfather, Solomon, turned away from God in His old age because of the enticement and idolatry of his many wives. So it is a surprise the high praise Asa is given in I Kings 15: “Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father. He also put away the male cult prostitutes from the land and removed all the idols which his father had made. He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah; and Asa cut down her horrid image and burned it at the brook Kidron… the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days.” (v.11-13, 14b) Much of Asa’s story is repeated in II Chronicles 14-16, but as is frequently the case the story includes more spiritually commentary on details given in Kings. Besides removing idols and their worshippers, II Chronicles 14 also says that he “commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers and to observe the law and the commandment” (v. 4) and God rewarded him in that “the land was undisturbed, and there was no one at war with him during those years, because the Lord had given him rest.” (v. 6) Asa took advantage of these benefits of time and security by fortifying cities and strengthening the number and equipment of his army. And yet he did not put his trust in these but called on God to defeat a million man Ethiopian army that came against him. In response God indeed defeated the army and sent Azariah the prophet to strengthen and encourage Asa and Judah to continue seeking God because there is reward in it (II Chronicles 15:1-7). Asa indeed took courage and increased his reforms in Israel by more idol worship removal, restoring the altar of the temple and sacrificing on it, and promoting a covenant among the people to serve God only. There was peace for 20 more years.

     In all of this glowing report about Asa there are two blindspots of his that arise in the story. One is obvious and the other is not. “In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa brought out silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the Lord and the king’s house, and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Aram, who lived in Damascus, saying, ‘Let there be a treaty between you and me, as between my father and your father. Behold, I have sent you silver and gold; go, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so that he will withdraw from me.’” (II Chronicles 16:1-3) Baasha does withdraw and Asa has all of his people carry away the materials of fortification to build other fortifications. Well played, right? No, poorly played because as the prophet Hanani points out, “you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the Lord your God.” (v. 7) Asa’s blindspot, indeed his sin, is pride in the form of self-reliance. This had not been a problem 20 years before when he had called on God to defeat the enemy. Three indicators that it is indeed pride and not a simple oversight follow. Asa throws the prophet into prison and oppresses some of the people, maybe because they agreed with Hanani. The third indicator of his old age pride appears three years later when God further tests him with disease in his feet. “Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians.” (v. 12) The word “yet” indicates that this activity was a continuation of the self-reliance with the scheming that trusted a king rather than God. Such self-reliance is a danger for us all. For youth it may generally fall more in the realm of strength and supposed invincibility, but for the wizened king it may have been more the bane of years of experience without continued growth in reliance upon God due to comfort. We cannot let our guard down, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (v. 9) The biter was the prophet’s next words: “You have acted foolishly in this.” If Asa had repented right then and there God may not have strapped him with so much war thereafter, or not tested him with foot disease. God is more concerned with purifying us than making us comfortable.

     The less obvious blindspot of Asa appears in one short phrase basically repeated in the other passage. “But the high places were not taken away,” and “…not removed from Israel.” (I Kings 15:14a; II Chronicles 15:17a) These detractors from Asa’s reputation are almost dismissed by their follow-up phrases: “nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days,” (I Kings 15:14) and “nevertheless Asa’s heart was blameless all his days.” (II Chronicles 15:17) It seems that even though the high places were an oversight in Asa’s reforms and worship, his intentions toward God in worship were always pure. But this is not quite the end of the discussion because the Chronicles passage adds some facts that seem to confuse this whole problem. One of the first things that II Chronicles 14 indicates that Asa did was “he removed the foreign altars and high places, tore down the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherim…” (v. 3). Did he remove the high places or did he not? I think that the answer is both yes and no. This latter mention of high places is surrounded by mention of “foreign altars” with specific examples. The other high places may have been of the type mentioned when God spoke to Solomon in I Kings 3: “The people were still sacrificing on the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the Lord until those days. Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” (v. 2-5) Solomon along with the people and subsequent kings all had this blindspot. They were worshipping God but not how and where He told them to worship. In fact it was not until Hezekiah, 9 generations and over 210 years later, that “he removed the high places…” (II Kings 18:4) The Assyrian general scoffing at Judah’s confidence confirms that these are the high places of worship to God when he says, “is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem’?” (II Kings 18:22) What then is my point by all of this “high places” discussion? What may I learn? As I grow older I certainly want to avoid the glaring sin of self-reliance, and repent where it rears its ugly head. But I also want to ferret out the more subtle blindspots, sins of my culture that are dragging us down and we don’t even see it. God is gracious with us overlooking so much. When our heart is right before Him, He extends more grace, guiding us through many difficulties with help and rest on all sides. But our blindspots are not overlooked; He knows them every one. O Lord, reveal them to us so that we may go deeper with You, gain Your blessing on ourselves and our culture, and glorify Your name in every crack and cranny of life, so that “we are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5).

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I kept wanting to go to the mountains but people, responsibility, and other priorities kept preventing it. Seeing my repeatedly frustrated efforts my wife said that I should go tomorrow. I wasn’t going to second guess the cessation of chores and her encouragement to go. Besides, after taking a walk with her early on this August 1st I knew that it was an exceptionally clear, low humidity, and cool day. (65 degrees was enough for several people to say it felt like the first Fall day- wishful thinking with August and September ahead.) So a hasty breakfast and quicker packing job and I was gone. I like solitude but I like company, too, but the whole reason I was going alone was because I couldn’t find anyone and one had even backed out. 

I even enjoy the drive up on a very curvy rode in a small, good cornering car with a clutch and adequate power. The air was crisp, the sky totally blue, and my heart was light. Bouldering by yourself is considered to be quite risky by some, but I have observed others doing it with care. You only attempt climbs that are straight up over the pad with no barn door potential. The weather meant exceptional friction, almost unheard of in the humid South in the summer. I was climbing well, but I can’t say if I was climbing exceptionally well because I couldn’t try anything really hard because of the ground rules for climbing alone I’d set down. During rest breaks I took pictures of fern and tree leaves.

Rockcap Fern (Polypodium virginianum) I believe

Rockcap Fern (Polypodium virginianum) I believe

Frazier Magnolia

Frazier Magnolia

I set up several videos of me climbing (I just admitted to a selfie! I will not let this become a regular event and certainly not an addiction. I must keep this under control.) You may check them out by clicking on the names below. It will be immediately obvious that I’m no rockstar, but I enjoy the challenge, nonetheless:

Disc and Throw

Chainsawleft

Trillium fruiting

Trillium fruiting

American Chestnut "bush"

American Chestnut “bush”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After bouldering around until my forearms were quite tired, I walked up to the top of the ridge, sat down, took in the view, ate lunch, and read my Bible. Actually, when I first arrived up top I lay down on the bouldering pad a prayed for awhile. There was such a rest in telling my Father all my burdens about work, family, and internal stress. I have been enjoying, not just tolerating reading Leviticus and Numbers. Numbers 2 and 3 seem like lists of camp arrangement and numbers of fighting men, and numbering religious servants, but they reveal several things about God’s character. He is orderly and efficient and given to detail.  The arrangement of Levites reveals His concern for His holiness among the people and grace to not destroy them with His fierce justice. The taking of the Levites in place of the firstborn and the redemption of 273 additional Israelites by a gift of five shekels each reminds us of the depth of our sin problem and the gloriousness of God’s solution in salvation. The more I read the Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy) the more I feel like Jesus is repeating Himself when He points to God’s holiness and the Law. As a man did He have “aha!” moments of learning the Word from His parents or the synagogue teachers, moments when He said, “I remember saying that.”? All of His Word speaks of His character and what is important to Him. Are we bored with it because we have little passion for knowing Him and what He cares about? Knowledge of Him is our ultimate goal here. Beautiful days in the mountains and hard days of difficulty or frustration are profitable and meaningful if we allow them to direct us to knowing Him more. Yeah, I prefer one over the other but I am slowly learning to muse, “Hmm, I wander how this situation may draw me closer to Him?”

House Fly

House Fly

 

Evergreen groundcover

Shining Clubmoss (or Shining Firmoss) Huperizia lucidula (Thanks for the ID help Sister L)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view up top increased my enjoyment of my time concentrating on God. He created all of the beauty around us to remind us of His beauty and the enjoyment we may have from these gifts from His good hand.

Left to Right: Table Rock, Hawksbill, Gingercake

Left to Right: Table Rock, Hawksbill, Gingercake

Exceptionally Beautiful August Day

Exceptionally Beautiful August Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Creator and Judge

God’s Word is true, beginning to end. How do I know? It says so. History and nature point to its truth. Changed lives communicate it. We don’t get to pick and choose which parts are true. It is all true or it is none true. It outlasts every attempt to do away with it or explain it away or ignore it or water it down. Look around the evidence is everywhere:

Beautiful features around the world

Remnants of origin and change unfurled

Point to Creator and Judge of all

First it was good and then came Adam’s Fall

 

Exists by the Word of His Power

Sky, land, and sea, every bee and flower

Sculpted by the Flood, rearranged now

Destroyed, yet beautified, amazing how

 

Every force balanced perfectly well

In the life zone with tides and more we dwell

Self-adjusting ecosystems work

Provide food and recycle as a perk

 

Fine layered strata formed in a day

Coal seams the same age formed in the same way

Mountains folded, canyons scoured away

Forces of judgment, Flood remnants that stay

 

Does it matter how it came to be?

How it changed long past to what we now see?

Indeed it does, acknowledge God true

As Creator and Judge and Savior, too

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It is poem writing season again. I had trouble starting. When I tried the only thing that came was the first line. The more I thought about it the more I realized that I was vaguely sad. As that settled on my soul I began to think why that would be so given the blessing and lack of obvious stress in my life just now. Rather than try to figure it out I set to pursuing the solution which is found in Scripture. I Peter 5:3-4 says, “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Colossians 3:2-4 says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Romans 6:11 says, “consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Nehemiah 8:10, “this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Given the context, the last verse is not saying that we should never be grieved, but that there is a time not to be. A perpetual state of sadness means a consistent looking away from God toward the circumstances. May God rescue us from that.

Dear Lord help me when I’m sad

To learn Your joy by faith known

Dwell on Your grace and be glad

More my Savior’s beauty shown

 

In trials and temptations be

Focused on heaven’s riches

That in hardships we may see

Purpose and service niches

 

Find passion for mundane chores

In praise it brings to our Lord

Through crises open the doors

To know God and Him adored

 

When loved ones die or withdraw

Find solace in Father’s eyes

From His Word and prayer we draw

Comfort to resist lonely lies

 

As stress births desperation

Then retreat to His strong side

Flee your worry creation

Rest when in Him you confide

 

When overwhelmed totally

Seek out saints to hold you up

Build vulnerability

God will through them fill your cup

 

Not as though struggle will stop

Short of heaven it will not

World, flesh, devil will not drop

The constant barrage of rot

 

But Christ has overcome them

For those who trust God can know

Victory and joy in Him

And witness to others flow

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