Suddenly Comprehending Reality

There is no greater war than that we wage with our fleshly nature. Epic tales of heroic deeds pale in comparison to the battle each must wage with himself. Indeed, perhaps all legendary tales are but a metaphor of the grand struggle within each of us.

“I wrestle not against flesh and blood,” yet I wrestle with flesh and blood as my arsenal, and indeed, as the battlefield itself.

To Give Dignity to a Man

For years there has been a particular picture of a Native American Indian hanging in my study. It was given to me as a gift so long ago, I’m embarrassed to say, that I no longer remember who gave it to me. From the moment I saw it the picture and its caption captivated me. May this acknowledgement serve as a long overdue thank you to whomever was my benefactor.

The caption reads:

To give dignity to a man is above all things.

                                                                     – Indian Proverb

That immediately struck a chord with something deep inside me. A value that has always guided me, but which I’d never previously had words to express. I’ve often pondered the aphorism over the years, but an entirely new aspect of its truth hit me recently.

It is safe to say that our society is woefully lacking in the bestowing of dignity one to another. But I have finally noticed an erosion of my own dignity over the last several years; an erosion that has ebbed in concert with the gradual loosening of self-discipline.

I’m just beginning to grasp the profundity of this connection between self-control and personal dignity. It is clear to me, however, that a society which devalues self-control and bitterly resents any efforts at external control will suffer from a woeful deficit of dignity. And anyone lacking personal dignity is practically incapable of giving it to another.

Because I’m committed to extending dignity to all I meet, I hereby resolve to renew the self-disciplines which I have let lapse over the preceding 12 years.

The concept of dignity and its connection to the image of God merits further exploration, so I will revisit this topic in the future.

Offering

I’ve been going to church my entire life. I’ve been to Baptist churches, Bible churches, Evangelical Free churches, Presbyterian churches, Plymouth Brethren churches, non-denominational churches, Charismatic churches, Missionary churches and the list goes on, but before this morning I have never seen what I witnessed today.

This morning our family visited St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Ft. Wayne. The rector, Fr. Dan Layden, was on vacation and they don’t have a deacon, so they celebrated Morning Prayer instead of Holy Eucharist, which was nice actually as I really enjoy the Morning Prayer service.

Anyway, what struck me was that after collecting the offering they actually took it up to the altar and elevated it before the Lord! I couldn’t believe it; every church in the world should do this. The consciousness of bringing the Lord an offering was the most palpable I have ever experienced.

Just one more reason I so appreciate the Anglican Way. No other tradition has so well maintained an awareness of our connectedness to the Temple service, while also balancing the values highlighted by the Reformation.

Wisdom from Yoda

I was surprised by the intrusion of the profound in last evening’s recreational viewing of Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace at the Long home.

Anakin: What does that got to do with anything?

Yoda: Everything! Fear is the path to the darkside. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate–leads to suffering! I sense much fear in you.

Well, well; you never know from where truth will jump out at you.

A Favorite Post

The following link will take you to one of my favorite blog posts/articles ever. I first read it a long time ago (those of you who know me well will realize that I don’t know if it was 9 months ago or 3 years ago…but it was not recently), and I had the pleasure of forgetting about it and then re-discovering it again tonight.

I highly recommend you read and savor it.

John Locke on the Language of Paul’s Epistles

Google Books now has a copy of John Locke’s A Paraphrase & Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul (1853) up (it may have been there for a while, but I just recently noticed it–thanks to an interesting post about how Locke anticipates some of the New Perspective writers over at Dr. Mike Birds blog).

Something I found interesting, particularly given the timing of Locke’s writing were his comments on the Hebraic pre-text underlying the Greek language of the letters themselves.

The language wherein these epistles are writ is another, and that no small occasion of their obscurity to us now: the words are Greek; a language dead many ages since; a language of a very witty, volatile people, seekers after novelty, and abounding with variety of notions and sects, to which they applied the terms of their common tongue with great liberty and variety: and yet this makes but one small part of the difficulty in the language of these epistles; there is a peculiarity in it that much more obscures and perplexes the meaning of these writings than what can be occasioned by the looseness and variety of the Greek tongue. The terms are Greek, but the idiom, or tun of the phrases, may be truly said to be Hebrew or Syriac. The custom and familiarity of which tongues do sometimes so far influence the expressions in these epistles, that one may observe the force of the Hebrew conjugations, particularly that of Hiphil, given to Greek verbs, in a way unknown to the Grecians themselves. (p vi – Preface)

Given the prominence that the Hebraic Roots and New Perspective movement have given to the importance of recognizing and understanding Semitisms (semitic idioms) in the text, I found it fascinating to read John Locke’s comments. After all, whether a book was originally written in Greek or subsequently translated into Greek is sort of a moot issue. The point is that they were written, without exception (other than the possible exception of Dr. Luke) by Hebrew speakers, to whom the Hebrew language and the Hebraic mindset were native.

I wonder if Dr. Robert Lindsey ever read Locke’s book?

Why I Use Logos Software’s Libronix Digital Library

The Libronix Digital Library System from Logos Software, affectionately known as “Logos” to most users, is second to none in Bible Study software. Apologies to Accordance and Bibleworks users, but no one–and I mean no one–has the breadth of resources available to Logos users. Some Accordance users might gripe that they are Mac enthusiasts, but I’m writing this from my Macbook and the Logos Mac ver 1, Alpha 9 is open and running well as I write this. (Some of my newest purchases don’t work in it yet, but it’s an alpha; I’m confident that will be fixed by the time it hits beta.)

If I remember correctly, I was introduced to the Libronix Digital Library through my purchase of the New American Standard Electronic Bible Library and the Jewish New Testament Commentary on cd, both of which used the LDLS software.

I officially became a Logos customer on November 20, 2003. Something I only know because Logos kindly informs me of this fact at the top of the “My Account” page on their website (a site I’ve found incredibly user-friendly and helpful). My original order was $12.95 for Does Jacob’s Trouble Wear A Cross? by Randy Weiss. Then on April 13, 2004 I purchased Jewish Sects of the New Testament Era also by Weiss and The New Testament Milieu edited by A.B. DuToit. 

I was a huge e-Sword user at the time, and I didn’t really begin to use Logos for day-to-day bible study until they came out with the Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible (a resource I highly recommend). 

Here’s one thing you need to know about the Libronix Digital Library going into it, however. They offer these pretty hefty libraries that provide a ton of resources bundled for one price. Up front it seems like too large an investment, but I learned the hard way that you end up purchasing individual resources one or three at a time and it quickly adds up to much more than you would have spent by biting the bullet and purchasing whichever of the libraries makes the most sense for you.

I began with the Leader’s Library and just recently upgraded to the Scholar’s Library: Silver. But what really got me rolling was a little secret you need to know about: the Library Builder! I believe Bob Pritchett (the founder and President of Logos Software) started this with Library Builder Volumes 1-3 for Christmas 2006, but I jumped on the bandwagon with Volumes 4-6 around Christmas 2007. I don’t remember exactly how many books this gem of a purchase opportunity provided but just Volume 4 contained 121 books. Unfortunately, this resource was retired January 1, 2008, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t Library Builder: Vols 7-9 available for a short time near Christmas 2008.

Here’s some of my favorite purchases from Logos Software:

One of the things I like about Logos is that I can often find little known or hard to find resources like all 57 volumes that A.W. Tozer wrote or Moule’s The Epistle to the Romans. Moule was the former Bishop of Durham (a post now occupied by N.T. Wright) and his book on Romans is a classic published in 1928. You can buy it on Amazon for $12.99 or pay $2 more and get the searchable electronic edition from Logos.
There’s a lot more to tell you about Logos but I’ll save that for another post. Suffice it to say there are some great ways to save significant money!

The Crazy Cycle

Men and women do not have the same fundamental needs. It’s simply a reality. Whereas a woman is satisfied, motivated and fulfilled by unconditional love from her husband, a husband is fulfilled and motivated by unconditional respect from his wife. If either spouse is denied this basic need, disaster is imminent. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs calls this reality the “crazy cycle;” a cycle that will spin toward divorce.

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Suppose a husband fails to show love to his wife. She will react by treating him disrespectfully. Then as she fails to show him respect, he will react by treating her unlovingly. This cycle repeats over and over until the marriage disintegrates. Breaking the cycle is hard work because wives often don’t feel their husbands are worthy of respect, and husbands often feel they’re giving their wives all the love they need, oblivious to the fact that she’s actually love-starved. Either spouse at any time can stop the “Crazy Cycle” by beginning to treat the other spouse with either love or respect. The role of the husband as spiritual leader means that it is his responsibility to begin loving his wife, whether she deserves it or not.

After all, how many of us deserve the love God showers on us? That’s right—none of us, not a one, zippo, zilch, nadie (that’s Spanish for “nobody”). It is notable that the role of a husband as spiritual leader does not mean that he is supposed to begin instructing his wife in how to properly respect him. But that he is supposed to focus on loving his wife in the same manner that Christ loves the church. This is a tall order, one that should be more than enough to occupy each one of us till Messiah’s return.

Check out the book Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs; it’s worth the read.

Applying God’s Word

I was reading the paper “Penultimate Thoughts on Theonomy” by John M. Frame and thoroughly enjoying his comments when I ran into the following. Those of you who read this blog frequently and even more those of you who attend King Messiah Fellowship will probably get a kick out of understanding why I was so tickled by the following observations.

In the application of Scripture, there is never unity without diversity or diversity without unity. Every law of Scripture must be applied to situations. Since every situation is different, every application is somewhat different. On the other hand, since all Scripture is God’s word, all applications have one thing in common: they are applications of the Word of God, applications of a fundamental unity. Rhetoric, therefore, which denies unity or diversity is misleading. Contrary to theonomic rhetoric, there is always “change” from one application to the next of the same law. Contrary to anti-theonomic rhetoric, all of God’s word must be brought to bear upon all of human life (Matt. 4:4).

I like to say, “unity does not require uniformity.” But that’s not the only principle which felt like I was reading my own words. What else do you think had me cheering?

Contemplating Passover & the Eucharist

“Far from a commemoration of ancient events, Passover night is meant to be a profound personal experience. It invites and, indeed, requires us to become part of an event of the utmost significance for us, for our people, and for mankind as a whole, and by so doing to help shape the very destiny of the world we live in. But how is it possible for us to participate in an event that took place 3,000 years ago?”

“The Torah calls our sacred days, days of encounter with God. Each of our holy days carries a Divine message, based on its historical significance; thus Pesach conveys the message of our liberation from Egypt. But these messages do not come to us from the distant past—rather, we are brought face to face with the historic event that gave rise to the holiday.”

“This is difficult for us to understand, for we are used to considering time as stretching out in a long line from a dim past, gone forever, to an unforeseeable future that we cannot anticipate; therefore the events of the Exodus from Egypt, seem to us to lie far back in our history. In reality, however, as the days and seasons pass us by, we are not moving ahead in a straight line, leaving the past behind us. We are moving in a circle or, better, a spiral and thus, year after year, we always again pass through the same seasons, past the same historical monuments of encounter with God that our fathers experienced. So it is that when we thank God for the miracles that shaped our history, we do not speak of great events of those days, “in those days but at this time”—we are still participants today.” [1]

Thus, when we re-live the Exodus from Egypt, the Passover of the Death Angel, the giving of the Torah, Messiah’s Last Supper, we do not merely commemorate these events. In the story of the Exodus we re-live the reality that Messiah led us out of Egypt, breaking the chains under which we labored. In preparation we are to clean out our lives and banish the chametz, or sin, from the furthest, deepest corner, just as we clean out our homes. At Passover we realize that the blood of our Passover Lamb was necessary on the doorjamb of our lives again this year, and we thank God that He sees that blood in looking at us, so that the Death Angel passes over our lives for yet another day, week, month, and year. In the Feast of First Fruits we re-live Messiah’s Resurrection, and we lift up first fruits of our harvest as the symbol of what Messiah will accomplish in our lives through His life, and through the works that we will walk out by virtue of the Holy Spirit’s work and presence in our lives.

As Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto puts it,

“Any achievement that was attained, any great light that radiated at a certain time—when that time comes around again, the radiance of that light will shine again and the fruits of that achievement will be received, for whoever is there to receive them.” (Derech Hashem)

“So we are asked to see ourselves on Passover night as actually partaking in the cataclysmic event by which God took one people from amidst another, demonstrating His mastery of the world and adopting the rescued people as His own, to be the bearer of His message to mankind. By entering into this experience, and dedicating ourselves to the lessons it teaches, we help prepare the world for the coming of Mashiach, the ultimate revelation of God’s glory and His liberation of His people.”[2]

The events and circumstances of the Exodus were designed to make clear beyond possibility of a doubt, to Pharaoh, and to all mankind, that “I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. (Ex. 8:22)—not an abstract Deity in a distant heaven—and “the earth belongs to me” (Lev 25:23)

As we see in the perennial Passover story, God was intent on securing a people unto Himself, a people that would be a blessing to the nations of the world. This, God knew, would require a series of laws, teachings and instructions to properly demarcate His people from the rest of the nations. In furnishing Israel with laws that would secure their well-being God also intended that Israel would thus serve as a sign to the world of the character of their God—a Holy, yet loving and benevolent Father.

“As expressed in the covenant with Abraham (see Genesis 12:2,3), these beneficiaries of God’s covenant are to be mediators of blessing to the nations at large. Seen in this light, the Levitical laws are intended to train, teach, and prepare the people to be God’s instruments of grace to others. Consequently, one of the key purposes for the law of Leviticus is to prepare Israel for its world mission.”[3]

I’m struck by the sacramental nature of this description. Do we understand the role of God’s commandments, wherever they might appear in Scripture, as existing to train, teach, and prepare the people of God to be God’s instrument of evidencing grace to an observing world? Visible signs of an invisible grace imparted to a people by the Holy Spirit’s presence.

Very clearly in the Apostolic Scriptures, but also foreshadowed in the Hebrew Bible, we find the stunning revelation that those who once were strangers to the covenants of promise, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and without hope in the world have been brought near by the blood of Messiah, our Passover Lamb, and adopted into the people of God.

Subsequently, the mission of evidencing God’s grace to the nations becomes our task. The history of the Passover becomes our collective history, and it becomes incumbent upon us also to live out the story of Passover Redemption as the spiral of history comes around once again to that time, and indeed, to that opportunity.

But our celebration of the Passover must change for we no longer anticipate the revelation of Messiah, but we celebrate His revelation that the covenant is secured in Him.

“And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” Matthew 26:27-28 (ESV)

“Sharing a meal together has always been one of the main ways in which human beings have expressed friendship and mutual acceptance. Among the different forms of cultic activities in which the ancient Israelites engaged, for example, were what are called communion-sacrifices. In other forms of Israelite sacrifice the animal or grain offering was handed over completely to God, but in this case part of what was offered was returned to those who had offered it to be eaten by them. In effect, they shared a sacred meal with God as a sign of their acceptance by him through the sacrificial act.”

“The most important of these communion-sacrifices was the annual Passover celebration. Following the prescriptions in Exodus 12, on the day of the festival each family was supposed to take a lamb and offer it for sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem, and then consume it together in a ritual meal.”

“In later Jerusalem, however, sacred meals were not limited merely to practices connected with the Temple cult. Among the more pious, especially the Pharisees, every meal came to be thought of as a religious occasion, and included the blessing of God for the gift of the various things to be eaten or drunk.”

“Furthermore, it was a regular part of Jewish eschatological imagery to portray the kingdom of God at the end of time in terms of a great banquet, at which all those who enjoyed God’s favor would sit down together and feast in abundance. Jesus continued this tradition in his own teaching (see for example Matt. 8.11-12; Luke 13.28-9), and it forms one of the strands in the accounts of the Last Supper: the three synoptic gospels all record in one form or another a saying of Jesus to the effect that ‘I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God’ (Mark 14.25; see also Matt. 26.29; Luke 22.15,18). Similarly, his feeding miracles and the other meals that he shared must also be viewed in this light, as symbolic anticipations of the future messianic banquet, so that those who eat with him now are assured that they will also feast with him in the age to come.”

“Thus, all the meals Jesus shared with his followers, and not merely the Last supper, were seen by the early Christians as expressing not only human fellowship but also the divine acceptance of the participants in the present and the promise of their ultimate place in God’s kingdom.”

The Ritual Pattern

“The accounts of the Last Supper, and also some of the references to meals elsewhere in the New Testament, reveal a pattern that adheres to the common custom followed at all Jewish formal meals. This pattern has been called by some scholars a ‘sevenfold shape’: at the beginning of the meal, the head of the household, acting on behalf of the gathering, (1) took bread into his hands, (2) said a short blessing, (3) broke the bread, and (4) shared it with all present; and at the end of the meal, he again (5) took a cup of wine into his hands, (6) said a longer form of blessing over it, and (7) shared it with all around the table.”

“This means, therefore, that the command, ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ (1 Cor. 11.24, 25), was not intended to initiate some novel ritual practice that the early Christians would not otherwise have done, but was instead a direction that when they performed the customary Jewish meal ritual, they were to do so in future with a new meaning—as a remembrance of Jesus….Our primary concern here is to note that ritual meals like this were powerful expressions of the concept of the participants’ communion with one another and with God. Their presence at this meal was a sign of their reconciliation to God and their membership among the elect who would one day feast together in God’s kingdom, and the intimate fellowship with one another that they experienced around the table was a foretaste, an anticipation, of the union that they would enjoy for ever with God. The whole meal event was thus both a prophetic symbol of the future and also a means of entering into that future in the present.”

“The vision of the eucharist as fellowship was an important one to St. Paul, and he likened the meal to a communion-sacrifice in order to explain the source of the participants’ unity with one another: ‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread’ (1 Cor. 10.16-17). This explains why he was then so angry about the behavior of the Christians at Corinth. For at their eucharistic meals, individuals were apparently failing to share the food that they had brought, so that the poor remained hungry while others over-indulged. What was happening was thus the exact opposite of the intimate unity that the meal was supposed to express, so that Paul concludes that ‘it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat’ (1 Cor. 11.20).”[4]

[1] Elias, Joseph. The Haggadah: The Silberman Edition (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2000)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Kaiser, Walter, Jr. “The Book of Leviticus: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” as found in Keck, Leander, ed. The New Interpreter’s Bible – Vol. I. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994) p 988

[4] Bradshaw, Paul. Early Christian Worship: A basic introduction to ideas and practice. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1996) pp 39-41.