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Showing posts from April, 2014

Taking a Break

I will be taking a break from blogging, April 27-May 5. I will be on my way to Oxford tomorrow, expecting her to look a bit different with her spring colors than she looked in November (in the photo above). I plan to post photos and content from my trip starting May 6, as well as resuming my blog through the Bible for this year. Don't worry. We've covered so much of the Bible thus far that we will have plenty of time to cover the rest before the end of the year!

Keys to Growth--Review

I received a nice review in the mail today of one of my books which is always a pleasant happening....


Will Vaus is a pastor and has produced a fine volume on Acts. His forty-one chapters covers well the twenty-eight chapters of Acts....Keys to Growth is fresh; following the Acts narrative, Vaus enhances the familiar story with stories of his own. Loads of them. He is a practical expositor. Each chapter is laced not only with good exposition, but simple anointed applications. For any one, especially younger pastors, wanting to get at the heart of Acts for an extended series, Keys to Growth will be a reliable home base to operate from....Whether it be for mere inspirational reading, sermon ideas or assistance in teaching through Acts, Keys to Growth will be a valuable resource. It would make an excellent follow up book for a new Christian. John F. Sills, Ph.D., General Superintendent Emeritus, The Evangelical ChurchTo learn more about the book and/or purchase a signed copy, click here:

Job 21-24

Chapter 21 offers yet another of Job’s speeches. Here he begins by asking: “As for me, is my complaint addressed to mortals?” (21:4) The answer is “no”. Job’s complaint is addressed to God. Job longs to come before the Almighty. In chapter 23 he says,Oh, that I knew where I might find him,That I might come even to his dwelling!I would lay my case before him,And fill my mouth with arguments.In short, Job wants to have his day in court. I had a class in seminary many years ago where we studied the Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures. In that class, we held a sort of mock trial where Job presented his case before God and Job’s “friends” testified against him. I do not remember how the trial turned out; perhaps the conclusion was similar to the one at the end of the book of Job. However, that little exercise helped us to visually see, and to act out, what was going on in this book. Job longed more than anything else to come into God’s court and to be heard by the ultimate judge.Job…

Job 17-20

"Job's Despair" by William BlakeAs we begin this section of Job, I think it is important to remember where we are in the entire structure of the book. Here I turn to David Atkinson’s commentary on Job for help. Atkinson points out that the text of Job between chapters 4 and 27 is divided into three cycles of speeches. They can be outlined in this way:The three friends’ speeches:            Job’s replies:Eliphazchs. 4-56-7                     1516-17                     2223-24Bildad89-10                     1819                     2526-27Zophar1112-14                     2021Atkinson characterizes the approaches of Job’s three counselors in this way:Eliphaz: the logician, who effectively places his rationalizations above faith in the living God. He argues from his experience about God’s transcendent holiness.

Job 13-16

If the book of Job were a theological tract, simply answering the question of how a good God can allow suffering, then it would or could be a much shorter book. However, the book of Job is more than that. It has been recognized as one of the greatest works of ancient literature. This book is more like one of the great works of Mozart’s maturity, and not “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. Thus, the book repeats many themes throughout the speeches of Job and his friends; it repeats themes but with various permutations, building slowly to its climax.Job’s words in at the beginning of chapter 13 reveal once again that what people who are suffering really need is not our words, not our pontifications on theology, but simply our presence. They need the Word to become Flesh (John 1:14). Most of all, Job longs for the presence of God. “But I would speak to the Almighty…” (Job 13:3).If Job has sinned, he wants to know it. “Make me know my transgression and my sin.” (13:23) He thinks perhaps he i…

Job 9-12

In 9:2 Job asks a profound question: “how can a mortal be just before God?” The problem is not merely one of human sin. The difficulty is that human beings and God are on two vastly different levels.Job continues to maintain his innocence (9:15). Thus, this begs the question: why is God still punishing him, or allowing Job to suffer?Job’s longing is simply to have his case heard by God. However, he says: “I cannot answer him.” (9:15) “For he is not a mortal, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together.” (9:32) Job’s words here sound very much like some of the psalms. Often the psalmists express that if their case could only be heard by God, then there would be justice. That is why we encounter the repeated refrain throughout the Bible: “Hear me, O God!” (Psalm 86:1)Yet, Job takes things a step further. He says, “There is no umpire between us.” I other words, Job wishes that there were someone to adjudicate his case before God…but there is no such person, fo…

Job 5-8

So far, in our reading of Job, we have seen that Job “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1) In chapters one and two, we have also seen how God allows Satan to test Job with various trials. C.S. Lewis once summarized Satan’s role this way: “Satan is without doubt nothing else than a hammer in the hand of a benevolent and severe God. For all, either willingly or unwillingly, do the will of God: Judas and Satan as tools or instruments, John and Peter as sons.”[1]At the end of chapter two, we see Job’s friends (Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite) gathering to comfort and console Job. They act very wisely at first. “They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” (Job 2:13) This is, I believe, most often, the best thing we can do for those who are suffering: not say anything, but simply be with them. The ministry of pre…

Job 1-4

As we begin our study of Job today, once again I find this introduction from Lawrence Boadt helpful….The dramatic dialogue between Job and his three friends about the relation of suffering to human behavior, and Job’s impassioned assault on God himself, have made the Book of Job one of the all-time favorite classics of world literature. Many modern playwrights, including Archibald MacLeish (J.B.) and Neil Simon (God’s Favorite), have used it as the basis of successful plays. Job itself is constructed like a dramatic play:1.Chapters 1-2: The scene is set with an old folktale about how God tested Job, who proved faithful in every case.2.Chapters 3-31: A dialogue between Job and three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, over the meaning of divine justice and Job’s suffering, ending with Job demanding that God appear and defend himself if he is a just God.3.Chapters 32-37: A sudden appearance of a fourth adversary, Elihu, who challenges both the friends and Job, and demands that they sub…

C. S. Lewis on Easter

"The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences were the “gospel” or good news which the Christians brought: what we call the “gospels,” the narratives of Our Lord’s life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracle of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. Nothing could be more unhistorical than to pick out selected sayings of Christ from the gospels and to regard those as the datum and the rest of the New Testament as a construction upon it. The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection." C. S. Lewis, Miracles, Chapter 16

Esther 9-10

The closing chapters of the book of Esther focus on the revenge that the Jews took upon their enemies, on the sons of Haman and upon thousands of others. Personally, I cannot imagine anything more contrary to the spirit of Jesus Christ who said, “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” (Luke 6:29) Rather than taking the lives of others, Jesus laid down his life for us. Through that gift of his life, we can receive new, everlasting life.The one good thing that came out of these events recorded in Esther is the feast of Purim. I say that is a good thing because on that feast day the Jews were instructed by Mordecai to give gifts of food to one another and offer presents to the poor. However, I find it hard to imagine a holiday that is more unlike the supposed event it commemorates than Purim.Hopefully, as we read the story of Esther in the context of the whole of Scripture, it reminds us what an evil thing the act and spirit of revenge can be. Hopefully, we look to On…

C. S. Lewis on Christ's Descent into Hell

Descent into Hell, Tintoretto, 1568
Today in the Church calendar is Holy Saturday, the day when we remember Christ's descent into hell.

Every Sunday, Christians all over the world confess their belief in Christ's descent into hell when they recite The Apostles' Creed. This doctrine is based upon 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6. 

C. S. Lewis had this to say about the doctrine in a letter to Mary Van Deusen, written on January 31, 1952. Mrs. Van Deusen must have asked Lewis about the fate of the "heathen" for Lewis answers...
On the heathen, see I Tim. IV. 10. Also in Matt. XXV. 31-46 the people don't sound as if they were believers. Also the doctrine of Christ's descending into Hell and preaching to the dead: that would be outside time, and include those who died long after Him as well as those who died before He was born as Man. I don't think we know the details: we must just stick to the view that (a.) All justice & mercy will be done, (b) But that nevertheles…

Esther 5-8

If nothing else, the book of Esther is great literature. In fact, I believe it is one of the greatest literary pieces, one of the greatest bits of storytelling, in the entire Bible. It ranks right alongside the book of Ruth in that regard. Much of the reason for this assessment can be attributed to timing. The story draws the reader in and builds slowly to a climax.In these middle chapters of the book, we see the wisdom of Queen Esther. In order to save her people, the Jews, from catastrophe, she does not immediately ask the king to fulfill her desires because she probably knows that to make her request immediately and straightforwardly will not meet with success. Instead, she invites the king and the wicked Haman to a banquet. Then, when the king again offers to meet her request for anything, up to half of his kingdom, she again strings him along with an invitation to another banquet.Meanwhile, Haman’s anger towards Mordecai begins to bubble up to the boiling point and he has a gallo…