Acts: The Gospel of The Holy Spirit (Part 11)

Watch the latest video from McGuiggan Reflections.
For the next few months, we will be exploring the book of Acts in a series titled Acts: The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. We hope you enjoy and can benefit greatly from this study. To contact Jim, feel free to email him at holywoodjk@aol.com or visit his website at http://www.jimmcguiggan.com.
Watch on Youtube via IFTTT

Death Of A Tyrant

“…see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again, The Lord will fight for you and you have only to keep still.”     Exodus 14:13b-14

The ancient Greeks told stories of Si-syphus, the cunning founder of Corinth. For making fools of the gods of the underworld he was punished to labor at a hopeless task. He was to roll a huge block of granite up a high, very steep hill and roll it down the other side. Each time he got the huge stone to the pinnacle his strength was gone and it rolled back down to the bottom. It wasn’t just the effort that bathed him in sweat and exhausted him completely that made the punishment intolerable; it was the “almost but never” aspect of it coupled with the unceasing conviction that the next time he could manage it.
Exodus 14 tells of Israel trapped between the Red Sea and the most powerful army in the world, between an insurmountable obstacle to freedom and a return to pitiless tyranny. In response to their despairing protests Moses assures them God will deliver them. “You see these Egyptians?” said God (14:13), “you will see them again no more, for ever!” The waters opened up for Israel and closed to bury forever the army of their bitter oppressor. The text tells us that Israel looked at the dead bodies of their once feared tormentors and believed in God and Moses. Finally! Those who picked their bones clean, those who bled them white were dead! “You will never see them again” said God. Whatever they had to face in years ahead—that battle was won and it would remain as a prophecy, a promise that nothing was beyond their hope if it rested in God! See Deuteronomy 7:17-19.
Years of torture, generations of humiliation—ended. How many rebellions had been planned and come to nothing? How often had they turned their eyes heavenward in despair? The hope born in youth would often die in old age. Optimism and cheerfulness would have been replaced in a nation’s heart by grim submission and a sullen endurance. Then with such speed and finality the tyranny was obliterated and the years of bondage were forgotten in the joy of liberty as they gaped on the corpses of their oppressors on the shores of the Sea (14:30).
And has “the Exodus” no message for the world at large? Is there any aspect of biblical teaching more eagerly sought than the message that the God of all the earth hates oppression, punishes unrepentant oppressors, takes note of the weeping of the poor and exploited and that the Lord of all the earth will right all wrongs? Israel wasn’t just lucky that their God happened to hate cruelty and felt the pain of the defenseless. No, Israel’s God is the God of all humans and they all need to hear that He is as opposed to their tormentors as He was to Israel’s! This is the one true God we must take to the nations of the world who have turned their eyes to lifeless idols or dark and savage deities or even to governments that lack the power and heart to brings us to where we finally long to go.
Well-bred and well-fed secularists sneer at a message which has become too familiar to them but which has laid the foundations of their freedom and prosperity. Clark Pinnock protests that we in the West allow the bored and argumentative secularists to set the agenda for our proclamation while multiplied millions of religious people are eager and need to hear about the true God who delivers the oppressed from the clutches of their enemies (see Psalm 10). Since secularists thrust the message from them perhaps we should turn to the rest of the world and (maybe) they will hear.
But the message of “the Exodus” is not only for brutalized nations and communities; it has a word of assurance and hope for all who suffer under tyranny of any sort. Too many of us have lived under a tyranny of a personal nature such as uncleanness, bitterness, drunkenness, greed, gossip, arrogance, immorality and self-righteousness.
To be endlessly assured that we we’re forgiven is grand but not nearly enough. Years ago we became captives; so long ago, perhaps, that we can’t remember when we knew what freedom was. There was never a doubt in our minds that it was slavery and there never was a time when we didn’t long to be free but endless rebellions, countless uprisings against the dictator came to nothing, hope died and we were left with gloomy a view of the future; a future in which we saw ourselves as old men and old women still in the clutches of a cruel parasite and when that became our vision life became grim submission and a joyless patience. Better than nothing, of course, but so far beneath the life in which the soul dares to believe that the tyrant can and will be destroyed.
Then one day it happened. For some of us the calendar could be marked because on that day our Redeemer arrived, not silently and in secret but as though with a mighty rush of water and we saw the enemy dead and lying all around us. For many of us the passage from death to life, from slavery to liberty, from shame and humiliation to honor, happened without our noticing it and the tyrants we saw in former days passed away. We saw them again no more. Whatever the future was to hold, whatever tyrant we were to face—we’d see that slave-lord never again—not ever.
(I don’t believe every person is enslaved to a particular besetting sin that is of life-destroying proportions. I believe that every person—no exceptions—is in dire need of saving and keeping grace. I believe that every person—no exceptions—can be humbled by a tyrant and I believe that there are those who haven’t yet seen their bondage. Comparing themselves with themselves they’re blinded by their own glory. I believe that God is anxious to deliver hosts of us not from particular and grievous wickedness but from pathetic lives, shallow views and trivial pursuits. But it’s mainly for those who struggle with evils that single them out, evils that make others doubt the genuineness of their discipleship, evils that cause even themselves to doubt their longing for a holy freedom—it’s to those that these words are especially aimed.)
The healing of others mustn’t be viewed as one more nail in our coffin but as another prophecy, another assurance that tyranny will die; that God will not allow his child to vanish without rescue. Your day is coming. Your name is not Si-syphus. Those who have never known a deep, enduring and awful struggle can still sympathize and are praying you on. Those who have finally found God’s redeemer in a friend, a husband, a wife, a child, a parent, a doctor and now know the joy of liberation, they are urging you on. One day God looking out of heaven will hear you, out of the darkness of your own crucifixion, taking on your lips the words his own Son had on his: “It is finished!” Finished the power and lure of the evil; finished the shame and humiliation of it; the bird has escaped the snare and the tyrant is dead!
Psalm 124.

I’ve taken this from HEADING HOME WITH GOD. Amazon has it.

The Dragon & Shape-Shifting

So a preacher says, “The Bible is a book on a journey.” I don’t think I have a major quarrel with the wording. But I’m old enough now to observe the shift of “authority”. It used to be, “the Bible.” That is, the Bible carefully listened to. It used to be the Bible listened to as the place where the authority of God (and there is no other authority!) is peculiarly though not exclusively expressed (note Psalm 19 with Genesis 1 assisting it).
It isn’t as easy to “listen carefully” to the Holy Scriptures as some preachers say but it was and is the task that devoted and fervent believers felt and feel they were called to and it became for them, “faith seeking understanding” from the Holy Scriptures.

But we became “wise” as we ate from the “tree of knowledge” (Genesis 3:6) and the gifts God gave us as humans—gifts like intellect, reason and rationality, creative imagination and literary skill were used against God and the Holy Scriptures.

Our rational capacity could be corrupted and we could logic our way to become fools even while we could make logical arguments to vindicate our logic. Before one knows it A requires B and B requires C and C necessitates D and that logic is unassailable but then we find ourselves at T and sense that something is wrong. But we got to T via unassailable logic and there’s no going back so we travel on to WXY and find we’re saying things that make no sense. Some of us then pick out a place where we feel comfortable, maybe U, and call anything more than that “extreme”.

That move works well in some ways. It allows one to stay “in the game”—the Bible game, I mean, the religious, moral game I mean. You can still appeal to the Bible for support when it agrees with your rational and cultural/social convictions. It’s a “wise” move that. It’s the move the “bold” Enlightenment thinkers took when they appealed to “Jesus” while dismissing what the Holy Scriptures say about Him—while dismissing what the Holy Scriptures say He said about Himself. Schüssler Fiorenza laments that the Bible is not going away soon and is a world-shaper so it’s still important to use it when it supports one’s social/religious convictions. That way fervent believers might think you really think highly of the Bible—that you might even think it is somehow “the Word of God” when in fact you believe it’s only the convictions of ancient religious people shaped by their culture and their intellectual limits and is utterly false in who knows how many ways.
But with the new-found wisdom we feel rationally and socially comfortable. We like letter D, stop there and call the P’s and Q’s extreme. Then it dawns on some of us that we’re not appealing to the Bible we’re really appealing to ourselves. We find ourselves dismissing Paul with words like, “Paul is just another fella with religious and theological opinions—some of them good and some of them not at all good.” I’ve come across some of us who thought Paul tried to make his case for change, failed to do it and settled for a status quo that he knew was wrong and against the gospel he preached.
I don’t have all the answers for ANYTHING but I am persuaded that we underestimate how sly, and smooth, and plausible and persuasive evil is. It comes whispering to us that we’re entirely reconfiguring the Bible on the basis of good sound logic and heartfelt honesty.
But what if this thing that breeds in the dark, that feeds on the corruption of the mind and throws us morsels of truth and gobs of plausibility from a cultural anthropologist here, a linguistics specialist there or a gifted philosophical theologian somewhere else and we end up with a certain mindset made up of bits and pieces thrown together from a hundred different quarters and Jesus Christ Himself (whatever “He” or “it” He turns out to be—the god Sophia or a worshipper of the god Sophia, as some are telling us)—what if He is irrelevant?
GB Caird in his Language & Imagery of the Bible opens his book confessing he is “an amateur” in the area in which he now writes but goes on to say that’s how it is with everyone because no one can become an expert in more than a couple of areas in a lifetime. He’s right, of course.
Scholar A relies on scholar B in another field and B relies on C and C relies on D and we the rank and file rely on a wide scattering of opinions woven together by preaching amateurs we pay good wages to—thinking they’re experts and firm believers in what they preach. Not long ago I heard a university professor explain what Walter Brueggemann has done for Churches of Christ. Bless me, if you could make that case stick I suppose you can make anything stick.

I have no deep-laid concerns about the future of the Church that is the Body of Christ. When the smoke cleared after Her war with the Roman Empire John shows her as beautiful, indestructible (with walls 1400 miles high) and with God dwelling in Her. Rome, the Empire Structure, I mean, that had its authority and power from the Dragon (Revelation 13:4) was just another satanic expression of what is anti-God, anti-life and anti-human, as was Pharaoh and Assyria and Babylon. Ancient or modern, military, social, cultural, economic, literary, political or whatever empires and movements—none of these is new to God or to His People, those who in their pain or confusion, even when they gasp with Habakkuk at what they see and hear and fear. They will still wait at their post until they hear God say “Those that trust, those that are trustworthy will live that way and they will rejoice at a happy ending.” Habakkuk 2:1-4; 3;16-19.
It shouldn’t surprise us if every now and then we hear of some teacher/preacher throwing his/her Bible on to the lower shelf, believing now it has nothing to offer that can’t be got somewhere else.
But then there’s that Jesus Christ.

Maybe everything will work out okay if we dump everything said about Him, everything He (is alleged to have) said.
Good luck with that.
If Jesus is dead, said the currently much-maligned Paul, “We have nothing to preach! Nothing to believe! We’re still in our sins, without hope that is real, our beloveds along with numberless faith-filled believers have perished and of all the people in the world we are the most to be pitied because we have been the most duped.” Then he tires of the hypothetical and shouts out:

“BUT NOW IS CHRIST RISEN!” and our response is:

“He is Risen indeed!!!!!”

And that’s more than enough!!!!

 

 

 

Acts: The Gospel of The Holy Spirit (Part 10)

Watch the latest video from McGuiggan Reflections.
For the next few months, we will be exploring the book of Acts in a series titled Acts: The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. We hope you enjoy and can benefit greatly from this study. To contact Jim, feel free to email him at holywoodjk@aol.com or visit his website at http://www.jimmcguiggan.com.
Watch on Youtube via IFTTT

Acts: The Gospel of The Holy Spirit (Part 8)

Watch the latest video from McGuiggan Reflections.
For the next few months, we will be exploring the book of Acts in a series titled Acts: The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. We hope you enjoy and can benefit greatly from this study. To contact Jim, feel free to email him at holywoodjk@aol.com or visit his website at http://www.jimmcguiggan.com.
Watch on Youtube via IFTTT