I’m trying to generate a bit of needed income (so is my friend Kenny Chumbley) so here is a brazen commercial. We have corroborated on a children’s fantasy book called THE GREEN CHILDREN. A child 8–10 would easily read it and parents could read it, of course, to children younger than that. The graphics in it are simply marvelous (done by a young Russian lady), the story, so they tells us (many people that Kenny has tested on it), is very good. I also read it and the reading comes with the book as a CD. At this minute (hand on my heart) I have forgotten how much it costs, something like $20, but you can check it out at Amazon beginning tomorrow but I’m afraid of asking Kenny again–he told me several times and I’ve forgotten.
I think this is so or I wouldn’t say it–I think it would make a really nice Xmas gift. A school-bus driver could play the CD , and it might help to keep the children amused and “quiet”, etc etc etc. So there it is. You can order from Amazon or directly from Kenny Chumbley, email firstname.lastname@example.org or at
prairie-papers.com (note the hyphen on this 2nd one).
If you bought one (or many and spread the word about it ) Kenny would thank you, I would thank you and my little Yorkie dog Cassie would thank you. She’s bilingual, speaks Dogese and English. She might even give you a call on the little smart phone she talked me into getting custom-made for her.
I walked in the other day and she was reading Elmer Duncan’s monograph on the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard. I asked how it was going, she looked at me over the top of the little half-classes she talked me into having custom-made for her, you know the kind; the ones that make the wearer look professorial. She’s the reason I need to generate some income–she has me broke.
I asked her where she was in the book and she said she was in the section where he was dealing with Kierkegard’s teleological suspension of the ethical with regard to the Akedah. I asked her how Duncan was handling it and she said, “It’s shallow. He simply hasn’t grasped the Dane’s point.” Sigh. She’s beginning to “own” me.
When I was a great deal younger than I am now I thought I was going to spend forever in heaven. I believed then as I believe now that if I am “in Christ” when I die I go to heaven. That is, something identifiable as Jim McGuiggan survives biological death and I go to be with the Lord Jesus.
It’s almost fashionable now to say that “We’re going to spend eternity in heaven with God” is the result of our buying into Platonism and even worse into Gnosticism. I don’t know this, of course, but I would suspect that multiplied millions down the years who never heard of Plato or Cerinthus thought they were going to be resurrected and spend eternity with God in heaven. I know that I for one (with help from various writers) rejected Plato’s doctrine of “forms” and the Gnostic notions and still believed in a bodily resurrection as a human and still believed I was going to heaven to enjoy life with God. It’s just too simple to brand a doctrine as a form of heresy or a false philosophy because they might have some element in common. The view that “we’re going to spend eternity with God in heaven” is positively opposed to Gnosticism because it believes in the resurrection of a physical body. It’s physicality doesn’t prevent Jesus living “in heaven” do why would it prevent all who will be raised and glorified as He has been?
Understand that I think I’m as aware as the next person that we are shaped by earlier philosophical, theological and whatever fashions but maybe saying that going to heaven as embodied, resurrected beings to spend eternity with God has nothing in common with Gnosticism or Platonism.
Maybe we came up with that eschatological view because there were Scriptures we read that made us think that way. Why do we have to be saddled as heretical? The “traditional” view (heaven forever for bodily resurrected humans), has been around a very long time. Should we think that the scholars down the generations were all religious Platonists (like Augustine) or Gnostics such as Cerinthus? Maybe we came up with our (mistaken?) traditional view because we misinterpreted many texts. And if that’s the case, perhaps the best way to help us is to deal with the problem texts.
In the end, our eschatological views will stand or fall on what the Holy Scriptures teach us about it. Before we shoot the dog thinking it’s rabid we need to make sure that the foam around his mouth didn’t come from his chewing soap.
2 CORINTHIANS 12:1-10
“I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations.
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
- Focused background to the text
- What Paul is really after in the text?
- Questions generated by the text
- Why was the thorn given to him?
- In light of the precious question, who gave it to him?
- What did it arrive as?
- If it was “given” for a holy cause how was it a messenger
- How so such things arrive?
- How much and what kind of power does Satan have?
See Luke 7:18-23
What his disciples told John
What John said to Jesus through his disciples!
What could John’s words mean?
In light of 7:11-18 & John 1:29-34, is it likely he
doubted Jesus was the Messiah?
What did Jesus say by the words He spoke?
What might or does it signify & imply that God says “no”?
(Make your own list.)
Paul said his thorn in the flesh was a satanic messenger and a hindrance to his ministry for God. Let’s call it X. So anxious is he to bring glory to God that he wanted all “hindrances” removed and in particular in 2 Corinthians 12 he wanted X removed. Whatever X was Paul saw it as weakening his capacity to glorify God but the Lord told him that it is in weakness that His power is perfected.
What does that mean?
Why didn’t God choose Melchizedek rather than the weak-bodied Abraham with the barren wife?
Why does He allow Israel to each rock-bottom and “resurrect” them as in Ezekiel 37 from dry bare bones?
God has placed his treasure in clay jars and has used sinful humans to gain his end: that the glory might be God’s and not ours (1 Corinthians 2:5; 2 Corinthians 4:7).
But what does that mean?
How do those texts look alongside Philippians 2:6-7?
Jesus said he hadn’t come to steal from anyone! He came to bring life to the full (John 10). Doctors and physicists, ditch-diggers and bricklayers, school-teachers or auto-mechanics—not one of them is poorer at the job because they meet and embrace Jesus as Lord. It doesn’t matter where you find yourself in life, Jesus only enriches you.
Still, for all our talk many of us tire of living. He offers more than we can presently embrace and enjoy all the time. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how lovely the meal our host or wife or husband or parent sets before us—we’re simply not in the mood, we have no appetite for it. Who knows why this is so when we ourselves can’t put our finger on the reason why gloom [or something like it] settles on us? Of course we can make educated guesses, sensible guesses, but in the end it is what it is. The “human condition” is prone to vague [or a deep] sense of emptiness in life [have you read Ecclesiastes lately?].
In Spielberg’s E.T. the little alien is befriended by a boy, who, if it came to it, would give his life for the little creature. And what’s more ET senses this and finds a deep pleasure, even joy, in the child’s company. However brief the relationship it was one of those that blossomed immediately, as if it was meant to be. You might have seen such a thing or, if you’ve been very blessed, you might have experienced one like it. A lot depends on the persons involved, doesn’t it? It seems some people can love a lifetime in only a few moments and others, poor souls, seem not to be able to commit to love even for a few moments even in a lifetime.
The child asks ET where he lives, pointing to a place on a world map and then to himself, indicating where he lived. That was his home and he asks ET where his home was. The little alien makes some balls float in the air to illustrate galaxies and then waddling to the window he points out into the night sky and with a heart-jerking and mournful tone he says, “Home.” Several times in the movie we hear that mournful, missing-home tone as he expresses the hurt he feels, “Home.”
I’m not now speaking of those whose lives are one prolonged crucifixion. Most of us have some pain and loss to bear even though we truly believe that all in all we have a good life. But however fine life is for us—if we’re not hedonist to the core—don’t you experience a weariness sometimes? Some say they never do and I fully believe them and I’m glad for them. But for the rest of us I suspect we get world-weary. Sometimes, however rarely, there comes the distant but definite longing just to lay down “the burden” of existing. Just to go to sleep—permanently! We can all, I’m sure, make a list of possible reasons for those feelings and I’m sure too that some of them would be on target.
It doesn’t seem to matter that our finances are adequate, our family is loving and supportive and doing well. It doesn’t seem to matter that we have a job that is satisfying in the various ways we think important or that our health is better than we have a right to expect. We’re able to enjoy music, creation, friends, political freedom, the respect of our peers and the other things that make life sweet. And yet…here it comes…that sense of…unease or weariness; a loneliness that [in the words of Paul Williams] “fills the wishing well and fills the bars” sets in.
The boy was all to ET that he could be and he would have been more if he could—gladly! But for all his longing to please and satisfy him, he still sees ET waddle to the window, point into the night sky with that long bulbous finger and sadly say, “Home!”
And if it should be that every now and then when, despite your blessings and despite the fact that you know you are richly blessed, you feel an inner emptiness, don’t deny it, acknowledge it. It might well be God nibbling at the edges of your mind, telling you that you were made for more than all you now have; that in truth you’ll always be “homesick” away from profound fellowship with God. It might well be that while gratefully enjoying what you have some night you should look into the heavens and hear yourself saying, “Home.”
In the movie adaptation of the The King & I, Ann, the recently arrived teacher, sings to the gathered palace children and others present. She sings Getting to Know You and I wish to claim that the song is a great exposition of how humans come to know God. Well, alright, we understand there are differences and other things to be said. She sings:
Getting to know you
Getting to know all about you
Getting to like you
Getting to hope you like me.
Getting to know you
Putting it my way but nicely
You are precisely
My cup of tea.
Getting to know you
Getting to feel free and easy
When I am with you
Getting to know what to say.
Haven’t you noticed suddenly I’m bright and breezy?
Because of all the beautiful and new
Things I’m learning about you
Day by day.
I wish to say that we get to know and like God the same way we get to know and like our fellow humans. Obviously God is invisible and our fellow-humans aren’t but we are humans and we’re humans because God made us so. He has sovereignly and freely chosen to communicate Himself to us as the creatures He has created. That is, He didn’t create us humans and then purpose to communicate with us as robots, puppets, ghosts or some other sort of creature. In freely choosing to make us as He has done He has freely chosen to fellowship with us within the parameters of humanity and until He changes His mind about that He will work with us as humans.
He speaks to us! For now (so I don’t go wandering off) I wish only to make the point that He speaks to us via the Holy Bible the way people speak to one another via letters. If I write you a letter I am actually speaking to you though it isn’t audibly. When you read what I say, as you are reading this little essay, my mind meets your mind (I don’t wish to stop here and define the word “mind”—that’s a bear of a job). Something actually happens when words are read or heard. I’ve written things, put them out in this way, and people got mad. They weren’t mad at Joe Choynksy because whoever Joe is, he didn’t write it. They got mad at McGuiggan and they didn’t get mad at him until they read what he wrote!
They didn’t get mad at the squiggles on a page—they got mad at McGuiggan who spoke to them via the squiggles on a page which by common consent expressed the thoughts of his mind. McGuiggan’s expressed thought didn’t morph into something like a mystical cloud and penetrate their skull, enter into their brain tissue and “un-morph” and become thought. It’s all astonishing and beyond clear and full explanation but it’s a reality experienced by humans all over the world in every age.
When a preacher/teacher rises to speak “the word of God” (and we hope to God he/she will), it is God speaking to us. I’m putting the best face on this and taking it that indeed he/she does speak His word and that each is faithfully working from the biblical witness. Where that is the case, God is as actually and truly speaking to us as I am speaking to you in this little piece. Spellbinding but true!
I’m done with that for now.
We can’t currently be in God’s near-presence (spatially) but He does (non-spatially) dwell in us and we (non-spatially) dwell in Him. We have human beloveds who are always in our hearts and we in theirs but when we speak this way we’re using spatial phrases to express a relationship that has nothing to do with physical location. Husbands and wives don’t morph into one another—they remain distinct persons no matter how deep their love is for one another and they get to know and love one another in too many ways to list. But some of the obvious ones include, speaking/listening to one another, seeking and being in one another’s company, seeking mutually beneficial purposes, learning the speech of love, what and what not to say and the fruits of such a relationship include “feeling free and easy” or “bright an breezy” and all, “because of beautiful and new, things I’m learning about you, day by day.”
Preachers and teachers and all who have influence on us need to bring us into the presence of God and bring God into our presence so that we can get to like Him as well as worship Him, enjoy Him as well as obey Him, please Him as well as finding His presence pleasing.
There are those who may be tempted to think this makes God too human, too accessible. Personally, I think it’s too late for such thinking. I think that because I can’t help thinking of Someone called, “Immanuel”. I’m certain that God has already done in stubborn fact what some of us are afraid might happen to Him. Some of us worry about God being made to seem too human when in actual occurrence He became human and remains human. God doesn’t want to keep His distance! He became one of us, for pity’s sake!
Is there a better time and opportunity for the gathered people of God to mutually help one another to “Get to know God” than when we gather to Supper with the Resurrected Lord on Resurrection Day?
(Holy Father, give us people who will help us to get to know you rather than by pouring out interesting and informative religious tidbits but by bringing us into your presence and you into ours. Forgive those of us who speak when we try too hard to make you seem “impressive” by veering away to the “interesting” or the “delightful” when you are yourself Magnificent and the old but ever new Story of yourself is what we need to get to know you and your Holy Son, to whom to know is life eternal. Transform us so we can better bless the human family you have and do even now so love. This prayer in Jesus Christ and by His Spirit.)
Jack’s passing by, in no hurry. He’s sitting on a two-wheeled something and his feet are going around and around. What’s he doing?
He’s riding a bicycle.
True! But what’s he doing?
He’s going somewhere.
True, but what’s he doing?
(Did I tell you he had by-pass surgery six weeks earlier?)
Ah, he’s exercising rather than just riding.
True. (Did I tell you his cardiologist is his best friend and he was worried that Jack was acting like a “couch-potato”?)
So, he’s taking his concerned friend’s advice and wants to please him.
True again. (Did I tell you he has a wife and children who adore him and are afraid of losing him?)
He’s loving his family and purposing to be around for them.
Right on target and let’s move on.
No act is a single act. And, it’s especially important to remember that what a person purposes to do is an essential element of what he is “doing”. This means a “single” action is many actions.
Moving on: Luke 13:10-17
Bracketing out for now all critical questions I’d like to focus on one central truth and its implications that clearly rises out of the incident (only one truth among many). Do imagine you are actually there; see all this occurring.
- It’s the Sabbath and a Jewish woman turns up at the assembly.
- For eighteen years she’s suffered from some spinal deformation that leaves her bent double (the way slaves often worked in Pharaoh’s day—compare Leviticus 26:13).
- The Lord Jesus heals her,
- The woman praises God,
- The synagogue supervisor angrily objects and reminds everyone of the halachic ruling: if the illness is not immediately life-threatening the sick one is to wait until the Sabbath is over because the Sabbath is to be kept holy.
- Jesus rebukes him and those of his kind for hypocrisy,
- The crowd cheers!
- Jesus lays the poor woman’s pitiable condition at the feet of Satan as he did with all that that narrows, corrupts or hurts and cheats humans. (This point begs to be developed, but not here.)
Look at Him! What’s he doing? There are scores of rich and central truths embedded in what Jesus does on this occasion, some more fundamental than the one I wish to focus on. List some of them for yourself. His every thought, word and deed arises out of the grand narrative of the life of God as it relates to the human family.
He’s healing a poor sick woman. True! What’s He doing? Now you know the drill. He’s revealing God, He’s exhibiting the Reign (Kingdom) of God and so forth. I wish to focus on a single point.
Look at him here!
He’s keeping the Sabbath day holy!
The Jewish teachers/preachers read the same Bible Jesus read but they didn’t read it with the same heart or mind.
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six says you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work…For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth…and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11, NKJV
“Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy…And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” Deuteronomy 5:12-15, NKJV
Sensitive Jews asked a legitimate question when they asked, “How may I obey this command? What constitutes ‘work’?”
But it isn’t the only good question that may be asked. That question focuses on response to the commandment and particularly on, “What constitutes ‘work’?”
The fundamental questions include, “What God gave such a command and why?” The texts above tell us some truths about that God—He is the Creator of all things and the divine Provider of all that humans need, enabling them to rejoice; when He did what He did He did not need to do any more and He sat down and enjoyed looking at it. (I need hardly say that He continues to sustain all things—compare John 5:27.) He is also the Supreme Deliverer who rescued Israel from “the house of bondage.” See Exodus 13:14 and nine other texts I quickly counted where the phrase is used.
The Exodus 20 & Deuteronomy texts (among others) are the gospel that is heralded in the call to, “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.”
Jesus was never opposed to obedience but in word and deed he ceaselessly spoke of “gospel obedience”. Compare Romans 1:5; 16:26, where the subjective genitive probably stresses the faith nature of obedience that is called for. It is obedience that arises “from” faith and the faith here is faith in Jesus Christ.
The Exodus & Deuteronomy texts called for a response to gospel truth—truth about the God who uttered the commands and made them law. Please read them again and note “why” God gave them. The rationale behind them focuses on God and not the obedient one and the obedient one is called to respond to the gospel in the command. “Do this because of who and what I am and what I have done.”
Mere obedience to the command as a command inevitably to legalism.
This bound woman that Jesus set free is a daughter of Abraham and that means she is a daughter of promise, a daughter of blessing. She has been bound by Satan; does she look like a daughter of Abraham. A daughter of promise? Does she look like someone who exhibits the meaning of Sabbath?
She looks very like the personification of blessed Israel who is yet bound and enslaved who then God via Jesus set free. Again, wounded the dragon, the serpent.
(I’m bracketing out any mythological borrowing by the psalmists or prophets but believe that the Dragon, the Serpent and Rahab are all used to refer back to the day when God freed, loosed captive Israel. Compare Psalm 74:1-17 where a burdened Israelite pleads for God to deliver them and bring them home as he had done when he destroyed Egypt and brought them across the Jordan. See also Isaiah 51:9-11 for the same thing and where God goes on and speaks of himself as creator as well as redeemer.)
In Jesus God is exhibiting the very meaning of the Sabbath in dealing with this daughter of Abraham, this enslaved Israelite. Note Exodus 1:1-11 where the blessed children of Abraham are cursed by the satanic Pharaoh and then 2:23-25 where God saw Israel’s troubled life “and acknowledged them” (supplying “them” though the text is objectless)—“and God knew…” He saw their trouble, knew they were Israelites (1:1), children of Abraham and He remembered His covenant with Abraham. Jesus looks at this child of Abraham, bound by the Serpent and set her free.
The synagogue said she should wait for healing.
Jesus said she had waited long enough!
The synagogue ruler said freedom could wait.
Jesus said it had been too long in coming now that He was here.
The synagogue ruler said freeing an Israelite on the Sabbath say was wrong
Jesus said there was no better day on which to free an Israelite on because that was precisely what keeping the Sabbath was all about!
The ruler of the synagogue would delay freedom as Pharaoh did.
Jesus would set her free immediately.
The ruler of the synagogue spoke in hypocritical anger and the freed woman spoke in praise of God.
The Holy Sabbath was a day for celebration and the people cheered as the woman shouted praise.
Is a Lord’s Day gathering to celebrate and praise or is it a funeral? Is it a gathering to narrow and bind or to enrich and set free? Is it to learn we must respond or is it to get to know the One to whom we are to respond and therefore to learn what true and full response would look like and sound like?
(Holy One, deliver us from religious lecturing and give us those who will faithfully confront us with your Holy Self in all your glory in the Lord Jesus so that in looking steadfastly at Him with unveiled hearts we might find ourselves being transformed and all aglow. This petition in Jesus Christ.)