Monthly Archives: October 2018


Disagree with me or balance my statements if you feel you must; I’d not be unhappy with that. I don’t pretend to have my views worked out to a final decimal point or anything that approaches such a mindset but I’m a bit weary of christianly “vagueness” in profoundly important areas where at least some degree of clarity is clearly possible.

God bless you and me as we reflect on the suffering of our human family. 

  1. God doesn’t micromanage human life. In making humans humans He knowingly and freely, with fatherly sovereignty, created all that goes with being a human as a human. Humans become hungry and thirsty because God chose to make them humans. He asked no one’s opinion about what to create or how they would best be created. But He doesn’t micromanage their choices on what to eat, how much or how often or at what times. He created them with the capacity and (within limits) to make decisions about countless things that not only affect the chooser but also affect those who do not make those specific choices.
  2. In creating God created the means and methods of human procreation. This He did in the initial moment of bringing humans into existence and He sustains those means and methods as His will and way to continue to bring humans into being. But with the Fall, with (as the Holy Scriptures teach us) humanity’s chosen alienation from God the procreation process developed weaknesses and deformations and genetic and other faults so that humans suffered and now suffer from abnormalities that are passed through the processes which God set in motion and continues to keep in motion. That which was good (that is, suited His overarching purpose) became the very means of passing on disability, abnormality and all the painful, heartbreaking  consequences experienced by humans.
  3.  God is the Creator and sustainer of the biological/physiological “laws” that make such agony-generating occurrences possible. The same “laws” that govern the production of “normal” and healthy humans govern the conception and birth and condition of the hurt and “abnormal” babies. That is, if a “seriously bad gene” is there it will result in a seriously hurt human. Say it better than I’m saying it, say it more carefully than I’m saying it and with more knowledge and understanding than I have but in the end the same physical/biological “laws” govern biological development. “Bad genes” (or whatever) produce hurt humans and “good genes” (or whatever I should be saying) produce healthy humans.
  4. Let me repeat that God is the creator & sustainer of the “laws” and conditions of human procreation. There would be no two-headed little babies or little girls who are “normal and healthy from the waist up but look like an octopus from the waist down due to the development in the womb of more than one human. (Forgive me please if my speech here is too crass. Her condition is too distressing to make less of it.)
  5. We know this and God’s critics hold Him responsible for the results in a world like this. Even His friends in their heartbreak will cry out like Job. And many of God’s other friends shush the protests and work to show that God is not responsible for the result. They don’t want Him to get “bad press,” don’t you see! But God won’t have it! He, Himself, claims ultimate responsibility. Christians who take the Holy Scriptures seriously will allow God to say what He says rather than what they wish He had said.
  6. I understand the dilemma. They believe for many good reasons, that God loves the entire human family with a love that knows no limit in a God like Jesus Christ. Since that’s true they don’t want to believe anything that casts Him in a cruel light! So everything is laid at the door of human sin and corrupted free-will and in this way God is exonerated.
  7. Well not everything! The Devil is the main culprit and is granted miraculous power that beggars description and he is made to appear almost equal with God in power and wisdom. And so once again, God is not responsible for the disease, death, cruel and brutal abuse that exists in the world–it all the Devil’s fault!
  8. And who is the Devil who does all these unspeakable things? Where did he come from? God created him? God keeps him alive and operational? God gives him life and power to do what his inexpressibly evil heart does to a human family that God so loves that He gave His Son to save them? God gives life and power to that one and that is how we plead God’s “innocence”?
  9. In various ways we say, “God has nothing to do with these hurts and losses that humans experience—He is not responsible!” Why is it then that He says He is responsible?

                                            10. God says I am responsible!

  1. In Exodus 4 we have Moses trying to squirm out of the job God is calling him to; but God isn’t having it. Moses says he is not a good speaker so God is calling on the wrong person. God brushes the excuse aside by telling Moses that He knows all about such disabilities (real or pretended). God says it this way in 4:11: “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (ESV)
  2. Some years ago I asked an Old Testament scholar about the text. He said it meant that God “allowed” them to be mute, deaf and blind. I remarked that it would have been nice if that is what God had said instead of what he actually said. “Allowed” is a good word and in some texts it works well but God knows how to say “allowed” when that’s what He means to say (Acts 14:16).
  3. Then there’s this text in Amos 3:1-8, particularly 3:6. The prophet Amos has traveled north to bring a warning from God to a spectacularly wicked kingdom, Israel, who was God’s chosen nation to teach and bless the world by honoring God and who instead degraded Him before them. For this God would come in chastisement that would finally result in 722/721 with the dismantling of the kingdom and exile. They would see signs of that chastisement but would offer various explanations for this or that national setback. Any explanation but God’s work would do but God won’t have it. In light of their evil and in light of this warning He says (3:6), “Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord has done it?” (ESV)
    14. Finally for now there is Deuteronomy 32:23-30, with the entire chapter. It is a scathing denunciation of Israel’s treasonous, traitorous, persistent rejection of the God who took them for His own. He was faithful to His promises, He delivered them from Egyptian slavery, saved hem in battle, endured their lack of trust and brought them to a home of their own. And so He rages in His anger because they dishonor Him and hinder His purpose to bless all the nations through them. To underscore the depth of their apostasy He says this (32:23-30), “I will heap disasters upon them…they shall be wasted with hunger and devoured by plague…outdoors the sword shall bereave and indoor terrors for the young man and woman alike…” (then note this particularly)…”I would have said, ‘I will cut them to pieces; I will wipe them from human memory,’ had I not feared provocation by the enemy, lest their adversaries should misunderstand, lest they should say, ‘Our hand is triumphant, it was not the Lord who did all this.’ (then He goes on to say of the enemy nation)…For they are a nation void of counsel and there is no understanding in them. If they were wise, they would understand this…How could one have chased a thousand, and two have put ten thousand in flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up?”

***Here is an interesting thing! Many lovers of God are afraid of God’s enemies thinking God did these things and He is afraid that they will think He didn’t do them. ***

(To be continued shortly, God enabling.)




What He Has Done & What We Should Be Happy He is Doing!

He’s “King of Kings and Lord of Lords!” He’s the “Ruler of the princes/kings of the Earth!” He sits “Far above all rule and dominion, above all the powers, above every name that is named in this world and any other world, present or future!” He “is the Lord of the dead and of the living and the Lord of Sin, Death and Life itself!” In Him, “all things without limit ‘hold together’!” He’s “the Prince who brings peace and hope and assurance that on a coming day of His choosing all wrongs will be righted and both victims and their impenitent, exulting abusers will receive what unlimited wisdom and love with bring to pass!” When He was here, visible to the human eye, touchable by human hands and hearable by the human ear He revealed His Holy Father by going around healing and blessing and delivering and assuring and fiercely opposing and exposing and…teaching!

He did all this in living! He rebuked disease in every form and ordered demonic power to leave; He confronted Death at funeral processions and in tiny bedrooms and with a word transformed sobs and heartache into laughter and praise that God had made Himself present there and He brought fellowship and self-respect to people who were shunned and isolated by their powerless and fearful neighbors. All this He did in living and He did no less in His dying—He did more in His dying because as he said Himself, “My Father loves Me because I lay down my life that I might take it again!” (John 10:17-18)

Like His Holy Father who sends the rain on the thankless, the evil, the rabid atheist, the godless abusers, the religious leaders who are whited-sepulchers and lukewarm believers Jesus gave and offered purpose and power, life and understanding to humans of every class. And He did it not only because they needed it—He did it to proclaim that this is what GOD wanted for them. In watching Him people were seeing without understanding that God was reigning in their presence, in their bodies and minds, in their homes and in their families, in their daughters and sons.

And it’s true—much of it was miraculous and could only be manifested by someone such as He was. But it was bigger than miraculous—the miracles were also messages within a grander message. In Him we’re not seeing astonishing though temporary transformations—in Him and what He did God was saying, “See Me! See what I’m offering you! See what kind of God I am! Don’t just see the miracles—don’t just see the bread that could be a meal for a family becoming a meal that fed thousands. See ME expressing My heart by healing and feeding and liberating! Don’t ask why all weren’t healed and fed and liberated! Don’t wrestle with why I didn’t make Myself miraculously present at all times and everywhere—rejoice that I showed Myself anywhere at any time. Know that IAm! Know that in Jesus Christ you have seen Me and so trust Me. Know through Him, the resurrected and glorified Lord Jesus that I can be trusted and that a day will come, in the “fullness of time” when you in wide-eyed speechless joy will see that what I have done in a spellbinding manner in Him was a revelation of the nature and unchanging character of my Kingship and reign.

“In the light of His death see your own! In the light of His mission see your own         purpose for being! In the light of His vision of Me, see your own! See the rain and the sunshine the way He saw them—My gifts to all. Don’t doubt Me because right now not everyone everywhere experiences My gifts; be happy that anyone anywhere experiences them. I purpose all that is freeing and for the heart’s upifting. See the past miracles as tokens of My reigning presence in a world that lost its way by walking away from Me. Know through Him that My way of reigning is not by violence or corruption or sheer punitive means. Imagine how this world could have been and could be if the human family—if you, the Church—acted and thought and taught as He did and believed as He did.

“In Him, within the limits of just one human person, I have experienced the hurt and the pleasure, the ugliness and the beauty, the glory and the gloom of life as a human. I have taken all that on Me as a human and by this I wanted you to know that I take your pain and loneliness seriously and in raising Him from the dead to an unending climax of all that is wondrous and right and joyously thrilling I show you who I am and what I’m about.

“You wouldn’t like me nor could you worship Me freely in love and joy if I were nothing but almighty power. You could never trust Me and gladly commit yourself and all your beloved ones to Me if I were heartless wisdom and self-centered in My limitlessness. You could never share with anyone a Story about Me if I loved only some of you that I have created and if I had purposed to bring only a select handful to life eternal. Believe Me, believe in Me and believe in Me through Him.

“And believe this, My work in Him has not ceased because you can no longer see Him (though you will see Him in a coming day). In light of Him I continue to express my kingly reign in its nature and purpose in the midst of My enemies (Psalm 110).

“A day of My choosing will come when My Lordship will be known to all but in the meantime remember this, you can see My reign in anyone, anywhere you see human life respected, where leaders, men and women, nations and governments, reign in solidarity and unity, where a just and righteous order is sought and worked for, where orphans and widows, the vulnerable, powerless and voiceless are noted, where their pain is felt, where their needs are supplied or at least where the wise attempt is made to supply them; there, where human beings are given the opportunity to be what I intend them to be, THERE I am revealing My kingdom power!”   (The heart of this last paragraph is from Mortimer Arias.)

(Holy One, in the Lord Jesus you have not only saved us for you and one another, you have saved yourself for us. In Him we who have been blessed with the truth about Him, see who you are despite what nagging questions, layers of bad religion, bad religious teaching and the awful suffering of a world in agony bring to our minds. Grant us an even clearer vision of you through your Holy Scriptures given to us by faithful trustees and by your work among us in daily living so that we will doubt any doubts that make us feeble. Empower us that we might admire you more in a grander view of you that brings you nearer to us and we to you. Help us to be happy that you are manifesting your glorious kingdom power in countless homes and relationships all over this world and strengthen us in this happiness that we might feel free to commend such people and tell them in truth who it is that is blessing them in this glorious manner that they might turn to you in thankful response.  We’re coming to trust you more as we begin to see you more clearly in Him through whom we offer this prayer, The Lord Jesus Christ.)


In the mid-seventies and speaking about “the Church” Carl Braaten wanted to know, “What do we remember?”
Jesus when He saw some Greeks heading in His direction knew the divine clock said the hour of sorrow-filled pain had come (John 12:27). He would offer Himself to His beloved nation as their champion against the hosts of wickedness of the invisible realms, their deliverer and their way back to the God who loved them beyond words (Luke 4:16-21). He, the man that God was being, would offer Himself to them in that very public way (Mark 11:1-11) as their King and they would definitively reject Him. They (in company with the Gentile powers) would reject Him as they had done down the centuries (so their own prophets said) and that God who was being the young man Jesus of Nazareth, later asking three friends for help, would lurch off to a garden filled with overwhelming sorrow (not fear!) and express the agony of His heart’s feelings, asking, “Must it be this way?” That same God who was being the young man hanging on the cross cries out (can’t you hear the hoarseness of His voice?),  He cries out, “They don’t know what they’re doing!”
This was GOD being a man who sat on a hillside overlooking the city, sobbing His heart out. “If only you knew,” He said, “If only you knew that this was the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44.*
This was the one who on the night He was betrayed took bread and wine and said “This is my body and blood…remember ME.”

Remember who He is, remember what who He is means.

Not remember “this meal” but in this meal remember ME.

Not remember there was such an individual as Jesus of Nazareth but remember what His being Jesus of Nazareth means! The Incarnate God, the God who lived among us, who suffered and died with us, from us and for us and then rose from among the dead for us and will return in a final ”visitation” to right all wrongs and initiate an unending climax for the countless ones of all the ages who are embraced in His saving and redeeming work. He is more than some sweet young Jew who lived many years ago.
Say this in a soft pious tone: “How lovely he was, how kind and compassionate he was and how he hated injustice. We should all try to be more like him and we would have a better world.” Sickeningly sweet reductionism!
He’s the immortal Lord Jesus! He’s the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! He is the invisible God made visible! He is the indwelling Spirit that constitutes those who have embraced the truth about Him to be His Body, His concrete presence in the world today. We have no identity as the chosen People of God without the indwelling Lord Jesus! Remember ME He said! “Give My love to the world,” He said.

* TEV paraphrases well: “You did not recognize the time when God came to save you.” See also the NEB and Moffatt.


It’s humans God created. It’s humans God communicated and continues to communicate with. It’s via humans that the Spirit of God has given us the Holy Scriptures and not by Dictaphones. I’m content to believe with Jesus Christ and His commissioned witnesses that it is GOD who speaks to us in the Scriptures whose origin and canonization were superintended by His Spirit.

I think I do understand that such a common view generates many questions but I’m not particularly interested (especially at this moment) in theories of inspiration, canonicity debates or current literary/hermeneutical questions. I’m happy to let the scholars or those who think they are scholars or the would-be scholars—I’m happy to let those continue to debate each other about the nature of the Holy Bible.

In the end we’re all going to have to call things as we see them. I’m not dismissive of scholars! It’s probable that no day goes by that I don’t thank God for men and women who have spent years becoming specialists in some area of truth that affects the masses of us. Though I don’t live in the same world as Alasdair MacIntyre I can still sympathize with his low view of philosophical work that doesn’t stay in touch with the actual living of life. The same is true of Clifford Geertz, the cultural anthropologist, who confesses to be weary with those in his own discipline who prove the obvious one more time and then publish their findings.

I think I do recognize the need for fresh thought and critical study and I confess I don’t know what (consistent) balance is or whether it can ever be gained when it comes to determining “how much” and what is “critical study”. How much do we need to know? How much do we need to “know for sure”? “How do we know what we know?” Epistemological certainty is a never ending quest with philosophical types. Where does it stop? And in the end, who knows a lot?

That remarkable man George Bradford Caird (a teacher who had a profound influence of N.T. Wright) wrote a book called The Language & Imagery of the Bible. He begins the book with this statement, “This is a book by an amateur, written for amateurs. Only an amateur could undertake to write on such a subject, since one life-time is too short for anyone to become an expert on more than one of the qualifying disciplines. For language is not the concern of the linguist alone, but of the literary critic, the psychologist, the anthropologist, the lawyer, the philosopher and the theologian as well. A prudent expert cultivates his own garden, not wasting time in looking over the fence at what his neighbors are doing. The amateur accepts cuttings from everyone, hoping that they will take in his own soil. I am content to…”

What is true of linguistics is true of everything else. Everything is linked to something else and the truth about anything is astonishing if someone teaches us to ask the right questions; not only astonishing, but in the end and in its entirety it’s “ungettable”.

So what we all do is this: we fence off a tiny plot of ground and work in that. That makes sense and as Caird says, we take cuttings from others to make our little garden grow with some semblance of order and maybe beauty. But we’re not to nod approvingly at Caird’s point and then ignore it—it’s not ignorable! Everyone is an amateur!

And then, of course, there are “gardeners” and gardeners. Some work at it, gratefully borrowing cuttings from here and there; content to settle for what does well and find pleasure and beauty in it. And there are those who are easily carried away with the latest fashions and die in pursuit of them.

Finally there is this that I can never quite be content: how much do I need to know? And if there is a lot that needs to be known am I the one that needs to know it? And the people I sometimes get the privilege to teach, what is it they need to hear from me?

Reuben Shapcott, a long-time friend of “Mark Rutherford” (a troubled soul of many years ago) thought Rutherford’s central problem was that he got in over his head with issues too great for him. I’m not sure what to make of Shapcott’s advice. See what you make of it.

“There is one observation which I may perhaps be permitted to make on re-reading after some years this autobiography. Rutherford, at any rate in his earlier life, was an example of the danger and the folly of cultivating thoughts and reading books to which he was not equal, and which tend to make a man lonely.

It is all very well that remarkable per sons should occupy themselves with exalted subjects, which are out of the ordinary road which ordinary humanity treads but we who are not remarkable make a very great mistake if we have anything to do with them. If we wish to be happy, and have to live with average men an d women, as most of us have to live, we must learn to take an interest in the topics which concern average men and women. We think too much of ourselves. We ought not to sacrifice a single moment’s pleasure in our attempt to do something which is too big for us, and as a rule, men and women are always attempting what

is too big for them. (To the bulk of us) the wholesome healthy doctrine is, “Don’t bother yourselves with what is beyond you try to lead a sweet, clean, wholesome life, keep yourselves in health above everything, stick to your work, and when your day is done amuse and refresh yourselves. It is not only a duty to ourselves, but it is a duty to others to take this course. Great

men do the world much good, but not without some harm, and we have no business to be troubling ourselves with their dreams if we have duties which lie nearer home amongst persons to whom these dreams are incomprehensible . Many a man goes into his study, shuts himself up with his poetry or his psychology, comes out, half understanding what he has read, is miserable because he cannot find anybody with whom he can talk about it, and misses altogether the far more genuine joy which he could have obtained from a game with his children, or listening to what his wife had to tell him about her neighbors.”



“There are foundational elements…people… that are the brick and mortar of who we are. People that are so deeply embedded that we take their existence for granted until suddenly they’re not there. And we collapse into rubble…..” (Daniel Cerone)

Thank God for people (young or old) who look out for us.

But if we’re very fortunate we recognize early the saving power of these unheralded people and live with the joy and strength they bring to us and we find ourselves better than we would be if they hadn’t been in our lives. And part of that inspiration is there because we treasure them so much that we desire to please them by living in honor and that desire gives us power to keep from sinking into contented mediocrity. But it’s more than that, isn’t it; they enable us, we feel, to rise above where we are into someone worth their trouble.
Thank God for people (young or old) who inspire us.


The noted Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson’s poor health meant he lived, as someone put it (I can’t recall who), “a lifelong crucifixion.” But from childhood he was blessed by a tender and patient care-giver he called “Cummy”.* I enjoy many of his letters but few as much as the one in which, many years later, after he had become famous, he wrote to tell her how good she had been to him, a very sick little boy. He said he had often hoped he would become “someone worth talking about” if for no other reason than that Cummy’s trouble over him would not be wasted. Well it wasn’t wasted (love’s efforts are never wasted because it’s the motivation that makes them worth talking about). They write letters to such people as Cummy and they sing songs and write books and make movies about them. RLS lived a gallant and cheerful life from the cross he always hung on and to a profound degree it was due to his tender old nurse that was looking out for him.
Thank God for people (young or old) who see our need and embrace the trouble that is us and embrace it FOR us.
With his health deteriorating and coming to a close Stevenson wrote:
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie
Glad did I live and gladly die
And I laid me down with a will
This be the verse you grave for me
‘Here he lies where he longed to be
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.’
Thank God for people who help us to earn a fine death.
Praise to a GOD who looks out for us and wants to look out for us
* His care-giver was Alison Cunningham and one of my fine grandchildren is called Allison Cunningham. Someone who cares a lot and gives a lot.


[Leviticus 17:11]



4. THE OFFERERS WERE NOT *PUNISHED* HESHE/THEY WERE FORGIVEN (Leviticus 4, entire chapter and elsewhere that speaks of “atonement” and “forgiveness”.)



7. THE SINNERS COULD NOT OFFER THEMSELVES SPOTLESS TO GOD BUT IN OFFERING THE SPOTLESS SACRIFICE GOD PROVIDED THEY WERE OFFERING A LIFE THEY WOULD LIKE TO GIVE. (This presumes they offered their hearts as they offered the sacrifice. It was their heart’s commitment in obedience God wanted rather than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6; Psalm 51:16-17; 1 Samuel 15:22).. God didn’t look for sinless obedience since they were already sinners when He chose them—He sought for heartfelt commitment to Him as the one true God. Be sure to read ALL of Deuteronomy 30.


The faithlessness of Gentiles & Jews in Romans 1:18—3:20 leads to a discussion of God’s faithfulness to His covenant promise to Abraham as it is found in the Lord Jesus (3:21—5:11).

Then comes a summary in 5:12-21 of sinful human history as seen in Adam and God’s response to that in another “Adam” (5:14 and 1 Corinthians 15:45). In being sinful sons and daughters of sinful Adam we chose alienation from our source of fullness of life and found death—his history becomes ours. When by God’s grace we (Jew & Gentile) reject that Adamic history and by God’s grace choose Christ’s history as ours we experience reconciliation, forgiveness and life (5:17-21).

But in the course of that summary Paul says (5:21) the (Mosaic covenant) law entered and instead of curbing Adamic Sin, matters were worse—Sin increased, was seen as a vaster issue and more sinful (7:13, exceedingly). But the good news Paul had to offer was that the augmenting of Sin resulted in a more glorious expression of God’s grace and, of course, that brings more glory to God.

But that led to a possible protest. “If the more we sin the more glory comes to God for being more gracious. If that were true and since humans (Jews & Gentiles) exist only to bring God glory then we should sin more and get Him more glory.”

That leads to 6:1—8:17 (and see 3:3-8) where Paul develops and defends his understanding of the law, and particularly the Mosaic covenant Law and why it did not take care of the Sin problem. And note the summary remark in 8:12 in response to 6:1.

He then returns in 8:17—39 to God’s covenant promise invested in Abraham which was interrupted by the discussion about the Law. You might think it helpful if you read 4:9-25 and then began with 8:17—39.

What happened to the Abrahamic promise that he and his children would “inherit the world” (4:13)? If God’s faithfulness/righteousness is seen in Jesus how is it that the blessings have not been fulfilled? How is it that the creation/world and the followers of Jesus continue to experience suffering and death and all that goes with the human condition?

Paul insists that the creation (the world) and the sons and daughters of God must go through the same experience Jesus went through—suffering and glory to follow. The entire section 8:17-39 is about just that and 8:29 says that those embraced in God’s overarching purpose were to be “conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” In that text Paul is not talking about moral behavior (he dealt with that at length in 6:1-11)—here it has to do with living in hope like Jesus and all the faithful did (see Acts 2:25-28; Hebrews 11:39-40).

And so he lists all the possible experiences or realities that would dispute God’s faithfulness or God’s powerlessness to fulfill His promises and ends with that glorious “No! In all these things we are more than conquerors…I am persuaded that…nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Among the things he lists as possible God-deniers is “life” Not only hunger, physical pain, disease, abuse, persecution, death, invisible powers—life.

That also? Is life itself a threat? I wonder what he might have had in mind.