Tradition & Community

In the context of community, traditions enable the living out of the Gospel. Appropriate traditions will enable us to live out God’s commands in this time and place. Tradition often gets a bad rap in today’s world, but without it we could not function. What’s more, without a collection of consistent practices we will be unable to successfully reflect God’s image to the watching world, because we don’t reflect as individuals so much as we reflect as a Body.

Tradition, by its very nature, is a flexible, changing collection of practices. Traditions exist to aid in the honoring and observing of God’s way, and they vary from location to location, from time to time, and from society to society. Consequently, we must use our Reason to contemplate the words of Scripture and the history of Tradition in seeking to ensure that our practices continue to serve the same purpose for which they were created.

It must be remembered that Tradition is a tool that exists to serve the principle that is obedience to God. Whenever we begin to keep traditions for Tradition’s sake, we have allowed that which exists to serve to become that which we serve, and a sense of bondage inevitably results: a new law is created.

This is what had happened to Israel at the time of Christ. Because their identity was more, “we are Israel” than “we are those rescued by God,” they grew proud in the accumulation of their efforts to be godly. Prompting Jesus to rebuke them vigorously, “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

Community is formed by a collection of common traditions. This is how we observe the Sabbath; this is how we memorize Scripture, this is what we pray after eating, etc., etc. Community is the environment in which we practice the application of God’s instructions in a collaborative and supportive manner.

Holy Saturday Reflections

It’s Saturday. It’s not Friday, when the terrible passion of Christ came to its climax.

It’s Saturday. It’s not Sunday, when death was dealt a final blow as Christ rose victorious from the grave. No, it’s Saturday. What do we do with Saturday?

Why, we might ask, do so many moments of salvation in scripture come on the third day? And what is the purpose of the second day?

“For I delivered to you as of first importance,” St. Paul writes in chapter 15 of the first letter to the Corinthian church, “what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures….”[1]

Why is it that of the three events just listed only two capture our attention? Christ died for our sins, yes, and he was raised on the third day without a doubt, but what about that forlorn phrase, “he was buried?” What is the purpose of the second day in God’s three- phase plan?

Perhaps, in its own way, Saturday should mark God’s people as much as Friday and Sunday do?

In Genesis we read of Abraham obediently marching toward the sacrifice of his only son, Isaac. Genesis 22 tells us the story:

“…God tested Abraham and said to him…”Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering…. So Abraham rose,” and prepared, “and went to the place of which God had told him.” Can you imagine the seemingly interminable journey toward Mt. Mariah? Day one, Abraham rises early, selects two young men to accompany him, cuts the wood for the offering, and finally sets off. But on day two there is nothing to do but think as he sets one reluctant foot in front of another; the waiting, the wondering, the pondering, the weight of keeping their plans to himself. On day three, however, Abraham “lifted up his eyes” and behold the ram which is his salvation—indeed, the rescue of God’s promise—is on the mountain. [2]

Come now to Egypt with Joseph’s brothers, in search of saving grain, who find themselves cast into prison. Can you imagine? Day one they were likely incensed at their unjust imprisonment, accused of being spies, day two, however, I suspect the guilt—so long suppressed—of their actions against Joseph may have begun to eat at them, but then on the third day Joseph speaks, “Do this and you will live….”[3]

Israelite spies, delivered by Rahab from the enemy city of Jericho are told to hide for three days, and then they may safely go their way.[4]

The future of the entire Israelite people weighs in the balance when Esther goes to fast and pray. On the third day, the king welcomes her into his presence.[5]

It’s not just the stories, but the words of the prophets which point us to take note. Hosea urges us, “Come, let us shuv, let us return to the Lord for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.”[6]

What is the structure of this three-day pattern? On the first day there is trouble; on the third day there is deliverance. What is on the second day?

On Saturday we don’t know that this will be a third-day story. There is only waiting, there is only angst, there is only distress and confusion, there is only despair. But no, there is something else. What is there for the faithful servant of God?

We cry out Hosanna!, Save us! Rescue us! and on Saturday it seems that God is silent. We’re still plodding toward Mt. Moriah, we’re still languishing behind bars, we’re still shivering in the wilderness outside Jericho, we’re still fasting for the future of our people. And what is God doing? God is resting.

This, it seems, is the message of Saturday. I got this; you, rest.

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time, he might lift you up. Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.[7]

You see this is where we are in history. God has shown himself real, shown himself powerful, shown himself here. The first fruits of our eventual rescue has ‘been here, done that.’ We are to rest as we wait for the fulfillment of the down payment we carry in ourselves—the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Yes, let’s lament Friday; let’s celebrate Sunday, because the rays of day are piercing the darkness, but where we live now as we wait is typified by “we have this treasure in earthen vessels;”[8] it’s a longing to be set free from bondage to corruption. Yes, we groan inwardly, but we rest.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.[9]

For you see, “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”[10]

Perhaps the 7-day paradigm is to show us redemptive history while the 3-day paradigm illumines our experience, but they both point to the same reality. So when you’re groaning in the midst of a second-day experience, remember that God’s work is done, indeed, his works were finished from the foundation of the world, but since it still remains for some to enter it, he appoints a certain day: today. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, but identify yourself with his death, with his burial, and with his resurrection.[11]

Return to the words of Hosea: “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out [to save us] is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”[12]

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Messiah Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death—so do not despair—rest in the assurance that this day two has been framed by the 7th and 8th day—so that, “just as Messiah was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”[13] So, “let us therefore strive to enter that rest so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”[14]


[1] 1 Cor. 15:3-4

[2] Gen. 22:1-14

[3] Gen. 42:6-18

[4] Joshua 2:15-16

[5] Esther 4:15 – 5:3

[6] Hosea 6:1-2

[7] 1 Peter 5:6-7

[8] 2 Cor. 4:7

[9] Romans 8:18-25

[10] Heb. 4:9

[11] Heb. 4:1-11

[12] Hosea 6:4

[13] Romans 6:3-4

[14] Heb. 4:11

Uncle Nate’s Anti-Flu Elixir

Guaranteed to Provide Significant Psychosomatic Benefit

***Warning, if  this elixir travels through the esophagus in reverse it may cause discomfort. However, the pleasure of its original consumption may overpower the regret.***

Ingredients:

One bottle Hot (or Medium, if you insist) Salsa

One can family size Tomato soup

2 onions; 1 red, 1 white

1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

1 lemon

1 entire cluster of garlic

1 jalapeno pepper

fresh ginger root

3 tsps Thyme (approx.)

3 tsps Oregano (approx.)

Instructions:

Dice, chop, and/or puree the fresh ingredients, then add to saucepan with tomato soup, salsa, and ACV.

Squeeze in lemon juice then cut into smaller chunks and cook 1 half of lemon with soup (remove before serving)

The longer you cook this mashup of deliciousness, the better it will be.

Actually tastes pretty darn good. It will, however, increase the running of the nose and the fluidity of the tear ducts.

Whatever you do, DO NOT rub your eyes during the preparation of this elixir, or anytime in the 4-6 hours afterwards.

NOTE: this delicious and healthy elixir is not a substitute for whatever your doctor may prescribe or recommend.

Resolved

Resolved: to be as biblical as possible in writing about the crisis of twenty-first century human culture;

Resolved: to frame the contemporary issues with biblical categories, in order to name with accuracy, the protagonists in our present struggle for truth and sanity in a world seduced by lies;

Resolved: to strengthen the faith of the rising generation of Christians, who are being raised in a world increasingly hostile to Christian truth, by helping them recognize and embrace the coherence of a biblical Two-ist worldview, as well as understand and reject the attraction of the pervasive One-ist lie;

Resolved: to clearly articulate the distinct lines between One-ism and Two-ism, so that faithful believers can distinguish orthodoxy from heresy in the present Church, and resist with discernment the thoughts of “progressive evangelicals” whose teachings lead believers into pagan apostasy;

Resolved: to aid non-Christians in understanding the spiritual issues of life, the worldview they have consciously or unconsciously adopted, and to consider the power of biblical truth and the good news of God in Jesus Christ;

Resolved: To oppose the all-invasive multi-cultural synthesis of contemporary discourse, in order to stimulate the recovery of an “antithesis” approach to reality, where the options of One-ism and Two-ism are clearly perceived and stated, and to stimulate a renaissance in antithesis preaching, antithesis scholarship, antithesis art, music, literature, science, law and commerce, to the glory of God, the Creator and Redeemer, who is blessed forever. Amen.

(Adapted from Peter Jones. One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference)

A Letter to My Kids: Some Things You Need to Know

What kind of person you will be is entirely up to you. God enables and empowers you, but the day to day necessity of self control, patience, discipline, kindness, and gentleness that are necessary to be a competent, healthy, and successful person come from within you. God placed the raw materials of every character quality within each of us.

This confuses some people because how much gentleness or joy comes naturally varies from individual to individual, because God creates us all differently. However, the reality that everyone will have to work on something never changes. One person may have a lot of natural self-discipline but have to practice to develop patience. Another person may be naturally kind, but have no self-control to speak of. It makes no difference; everyone has to work on something, and we all need to have the various fruit of the Spirit in order to live a God-pleasing, successful life.

It is also important to remember that none of us will be perfect and the various differences in personality and character makeup that we bring into the world with us form both a beautiful spectrum and a necessary variety in strengths and weaknesses that helps the world-but most importantly advances God’s Kingdom agenda-better than if we all had the same percentages of qualities and style of personality.

One thing I hope you observe from this is that God loves variety, and that beauty is comprised of variation. You see, God said that everything He created was good, and He obviously delights in a wild range of difference. Consider the vast difference in landscapes that He made, many of which we have had the privilege of exploring together. Is any one of them less beautiful than another? Now, indeed, you may have a personal preference, but God declared them all good and delights as much in the high desert of Idaho, as in the green valleys of southern Indiana, and the vast expanse of frozen Alaska.

This is also true about people’s appearance, and in our society this is very important to remember because the North American media constantly bombards us with the suggestion that there is a single look for women and another for men, or perhaps a few looks, that are ideal, acceptable, and beautiful (or handsome). But let me remind you, God loves variety, and He delights in making very different looking people. Not only does He see beauty in them all (therefore so should we) but He also designed different people to be good at different things. Someone with long arms is going to have an advantage at swimming, for example, while someone with short arms will have an advantage at lifting heavy objects. Someone very skinny might be able to run forever, while someone heavier will last longer and have more energy during a famine. So a thin person might need to run for help and a heavier person might need to nurse other people who have succumbed to exhaustion. Do you see what I mean? Everyone has a purpose, everyone has an advantage, and everyone has a disadvantage.

Now, it is true that we can neglect the bodies or the character traits that God gave us, and then we become less attractive or less useful than God intended, but I want you to always remember that whoever God made you to be is wonderful! Similarly, I don’t want you to fall into the trap of looking for a spouse based on whether they look like or act like what the world tells us in so many subtle and not so subtle ways that they should look or act like. Who cares what the world says! The world has rejected God and suffers in brokenness for it. Don’t fall for the world’s trap; they want to feel better about themselves by making everyone else broken and hurting too. Do you think that is what God wants or how He operates? No! A thousand times, no. God wants everyone to be healed and strengthened: the best they can be, the person He envisioned when He planned and made them.

I have been watching people carefully for a long time and I can tell you that I have seen beauty in a short, round woman delighting her guests with a warm hospitality and delicious food, and I’ve seen strength in a super skinny man supporting his broken-hearted wife. The reality is that love, truth, and beauty have no single appearance, and no exclusive type. God loves diversity, and God delights in who He made each of us to be. So, ponder who you are and what you are designed for, and set about being the best you possible.

Now, please remember that being the best you possible requires planning, practice, effort, analysis, flexibility, and determination! We’ll talk more about that in my next letter. In the meantime, I want you to practice looking for love, truth, and beauty in surprising places. Develop the skill of seeing strength and beauty where others miss it; the whole world will become brighter and more delightful.

I love you!

Daddio

Consternation

How can one man make you stand up and cheer one minute and send a wave of discouragement over you the next? And a godly man at that?! (I know, I know…it’s the reality of human nature.)

First the cheering:

In order to understand Paul properly we must grasp how his perspective both continues and modifies the religious tradition in which he was reared, especially his understanding of his Old Testament roots.

First, we must recognize his own sense of continuity with his heritage. Paul sees himself and his churches as being in a direct line with the people of God in the Old Testament; and despite his deep convictions about the radical implications of the coming of Christ and the Spirit, he regularly reaffirms that continuity. He includes a primarily Gentile church in the events of the exodus: “all our forefathers were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor 10:1-2). … Paul never speaks of a “new Israel” or “new people of God”; his language is now composed of Jew and Gentile alike as the one people of God.

Now the weeping:

But just as clearly, there is significant discontinuity. The people of God have now been newly formed. Christ is the “goal of the law” (Rom 10:4), and the Spirit is “the promised Holy Spirit” (Gal 3:14, Eph 1:13). Christ’s death and resurrection have brought an end to Torah observance (living on the basis of the Old Testament law, (Rom 7:4-6; 8:2-3); being led by the Spirit has replaced observance as God’s way of fulfilling Torah (Gal 5:18); indeed, the righteous requirement of Torah is now fulfilled in those who walk in/by the Spirit (Rom 8:4).

Argh!!! Gordon Fee is one of the most excellent exegetes of the 20th century (he lived mostly in the 20th century and it’s too soon to tell what impact he will have on the 21st century), and yet here is a grievous misunderstanding, in the midst of a book titled Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God that is jam-packed with excellent material on the Holy Spirit! It makes me want to scream. His reputation and excellence give added weight to his words; do I dare give this book to eager learners?

I sure wish I could call up Dwight Pryor and chat about this one.

But, here we are, so let’s deal with the section I referred to as “the weeping.”

The people of God have now been newly formed.” Well, yes and no.

Yes, they are now re-invigorated with a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit specifically for the expansion of the Gospel to the nations (Acts 2) and given an awareness that God specifically intends for the Jewish nation to be the agent for the spreading of His message to the nations. This had been prophesied all along, but it was a new awareness for the Chosen People. They’ve been newly formed in that they now believe in Jesus Christ as their long-awaited Messiah, and they’ve been re-invigorated with a new and fuller understanding of the tools God had given them all along for the purpose of transformation into His image. Those who felt they could earn their way into God’s graces, have been disabused of that notion, and their entire heritage has been re-cast in the light of Messiah’s identity and teaching.

No, the same people have always been the people of God, and “those of faith,” to use Paul’s language in Galatians 3:7 have participated in the New Covenant all along, whether they were aware of that fact or not. They’re not so much “newly formed” as newly added to, and newly invigorated with a renewed or new understanding. And, they are being taught about the reality that they are new creatures in Messiah–the old has gone and the new has come. But this is not a new reality, just a new understanding, and there is much evidence that it’s not even entirely new understanding. Certainly new to the majority of the Gentiles, to whom Paul is writing, but not new to all the Jews.

Christ is the “goal of the law (Rom 10:4).” For sure, and assuredly Fee gets it right when he renders telos as “goal” rather than “end.” Certainly also, “the Spirit is ‘the promised Holy Spirit’ (Gal 3:14, Eph 1:13),” and yet the Spirit is not new either. Joshua was “a man in whom is the Spirit,” as were all the prophets, Moses, David, etc. Assuredly there were Jews not filled with the Holy Spirit, but in whose name do you think R. Hanina ben Dosa performed miracles? It seems that the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost with a fresh infusion, with an anointing for a task of newly epic proportions–take the Gospel to the nations, rather than let the nations come to you–but it was not as if He had not already been indwelling “those of faith” for centuries already.

being led by the Spirit has replaced observance as God’s way of fulfilling Torah (Gal 5:18)” What? No! Being led by the Spirit is synonymous with observing God’s law…after all, who was it that was to write the law on our hearts? “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” (Jer 31:33) It was the Spirit, aka, the “finger of God” that wrote God’s law on the stone tablets, and it is He who also writes God’s law on our hearts.

indeed, the righteous requirement of Torah is now fulfilled in those who walk in/by the Spirit (Rom 8:4).” Well, yes, of course, for now that we are in Christ and His law is being written in us, as we walk by the Spirit, He guides us in the Way (Ps. 25:8-9,12; Ps 119:1, 30-33)

______________________________

1 Gordon D. Fee. Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996. pp 3-4.

Love Works in Surprising Ways

Sometimes it’s the little things that get you.

Yesterday I used up the last of my bar of Grandpa’s Pine Tar soap (wonderful stuff!), and I thought, “Oh, need to make sure I grab a new bar,” but by the time the shower door closed I was thinking about why κοίνου is translated “unclean” in Romans 14:14.

Today when I hit the shower, there was a brand new bar of soap! Only my wife would first of all notice that my soap was gone, secondly, remember further than the bathroom door, and replace it with a new bar. I am truly blessed by an amazing woman, well-suited for me!

Now you folks need to understand, I live in a home with multiple families and my soap is kept in our bedroom, not in the bathroom, so if I had stepped into the shower to find no soap at all… well, that’s just a very inconvenient circumstance!

Babe, I love you! Thanks for enabling me to think theologically no matter where I find myself!