Author Archives: Jim McGuiggan

About Jim McGuiggan

Jim McGuiggan was Ethel's husband for fifty-three years. They have three children and eight grandchildren. Ethel went to be with Christ on Easter Sunday, 2009 at the close of a gallant life. He has written some books including: Celebrating the Wrath of God; Heading Home with God; Life on the Ash Heap; Jesus: Hero of Thy Soul; The God of the Towel, The Scarlet Letter; and The Dragon Slayer.

“Just To Take Him At His Word.”

We hear from some the claim that the physical act of Baptism need not be practiced­­. Some scholars working with their self-adopted interpretative strategies write long essays, even books, to make the case that believer/faith Baptism may be helpful, perhaps important in some ways, but whatever else it is, it need not be practiced or called for if a person has faith in the Lord Jesus. These writers aren’t at all interested in undermining completely the millennial-long practice and much less bringing it to a halt.
Just the same, the story they now tell is that it is not required and so it should not be spoken of as if it were definitively linked with forgiveness or entrance into the Lord Jesus and His death. (See closing notes.) The result is, that on this view, if faith in the Lord Jesus is present, New Testament Baptism is definitively linked with nothing.

This is so because, on this view, if it were not practiced at all (as is the case with some Christian-faith groups) it would be no departure from the New Testament Holy Scriptures. That would also be true because ‘rightly understood,’ those Holy Scriptures don’t link the physical Baptism of believers to salvation, forgiveness, union with and initiation into the Lord Jesus Christ. They only appear to do that!
So we’re told.

With the right hermeneutical strategy gained by personal reflection and borrowing from others and their personal reflection, we would know, so we’re told, that the New Testament Holy Scriptures don’t link a physical faith-Baptism with such fundamental gifts of God in the Lord Jesus, His person and work.

(It’s true, of course, that with the ‘right’ hermeneutical strategy we can show that the New Testament Holy Scriptures approve of homosexuality in any of its forms. That’s not an uncommon view now.)
“Interpretative strategies are handy that way. A bit like Lego pieces, don’t you see. Choose one or a combination of numerous strategies (a sort of Lego store) that allows you to construct Lego structures that suit your current view of life or Scriptures.
But after all the ‘combining,’ ‘explaining, ‘adjusting,’ ‘modifying,’ ‘defending,’ ‘interpreting’ and the required new terminology, we open the New Testament Holy Scriptures and look: the physical act of Baptism of believers is commanded, called for, pleaded for, even repeated where it is thought doubtful in the first place and it is linked explicitly and definitively to the Lord Jesus and all God’s blessings that are found in Him.

Peter said, “…baptism now saves youby the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
(
See 1 Peter 1;3 and 3:21.)

On this matter, the Spirit of God kills every self-chosen hermeneutical strategy. We can argue until the cows come home about what believer-Baptism doesn’t do—the voice of God in this text through His appointed envoy tells us what it does do and definitively, explicitly links it with salvation through the resurrection of the Blessed Lord Jesus, the Redeemer.

Why would God through Peter say such a thing if it were not so?

And who loses if we all accepted this truth about Baptism?
The resurrected Savior and Redeemer Peter here speaks about in 1:3?   The repentant and trusting believer in such a Lord? The trusting and forgiven person who is now a part of the Holy Nation that Peter speaks about in 1 Peter 2:9-10?

Would unity be *destroyed* if we all embraced and practiced such Baptism?
Would grace be denied or undermined if we followed the teaching and personal practice of the ‘apostle of the grace of God’? (Cf. Acts 22:16 and Acts 19:1-5.)
Sigh.
“Woe unto you scholars. You take away the key of knowledge…and those who were entering into [the kingdom] you hindered.” Luke 11:52

 

 

UNCOMPROMISING!

“When in Babylon, do what Babylon does.” That doesn’t work for everyone. It never did.
It never worked for Daniel (God is my Judge) or his three lesser known companions, Azariah (The Lord is my Strength), Mishael (God is Incomparable) and Hananiah (the Lord is Gracious) who were as uncompromising as their names.
Dragged away from home, young, groomed for political office by threats and the finest treatment and promises, they just wouldn’t dance to the Babylonian music. They wouldn’t eat, they wouldn’t drink, they wouldn’t bow, they wouldn’t quit praying and they wouldn’t live up to the new names they were given. They were dragged out of their home but their home wasn’t dragged out of them. They were given Babylonian names but they couldn’t be given Babylonian hearts or minds. They’d burn before they’d bow, they’d starve before they’d eat food in honor of pagan gods and they’d out-stare pacing hungry lions before they’d stop praying to Yahweh.
And why so stiff-backed that they wouldn’t bow when everyone else was bowing and scraping; why so politically incorrect—why couldn’t they just eat like everyone else, why make a big deal of it; why couldn’t they have made prayer a completely private matter and walked in step with the rest of the political and religious world? Why were these young strangers so uncompromising in the corridors and offices of central government? What got into them? Who did they think they were that they wouldn’t conform to the new power?

What got into them was an uncompromising God they knew by the name Yahweh! And who was that? It was the God who went to Egypt to bring his People home and who wouldn’t leave without them even if it meant bringing the Egyptian kingdom to wreck and ruin.

The Egyptian king finally wanted to negotiate—“All right then, they can go to worship but they are to stay within my territory” he said.
“No!”

“Okay, then, they can go to worship, but only the men—the women and children will remain here. You must negotiate, compromise is the way forward.”
No! They’re all going—every one of them!

‘The flocks and herds, they stay! All the people can go, but the herds and flocks are to stay,” he said, still trying to be shrewd, still trying to be a god, the son of Amon Re.

No!” said the God who wouldn’t compromise. “Not a hoof or a garment, not a cooking pot or a kitchen towel will be left behind; not a man, woman, girl or boy will remain here in Egypt!”

And in Babylon when they said to the four young Jews,
“All right, just eat a token amount of the food dedicated to the gods—you can leave the rest,” back came the answer.
“No! Not a scrap of it.”
“Look, you three, I know you don’t believe in the gods here—I get that! But just pretend, in this sea of people bent down you don’t want to be the only three standing. There’s a lot at stake here—if you don’t bow down I will be humiliated and that will send ripples throughout the kingdom. Just out of respect for me, for the sake of peace and your own health don’t make waves—bow, for pity’s sake.”
No!
“No one will notice—bow!”
Yahweh would notice. We’re not bowing.”
“Aside from your God no one would know it. Go ahead and bow.”

Aside from our God we would know it. We’re not bowing.”

“You’re taking what you call non-existing gods very seriously.”

“So does our Living God—He hates false gods that alienate nations from Him, the one true God.”

“Come on, give a little.”
Not an inch!
“You act and speak as if you have done no wrong—ever.”
“Oh, we’re sinful like everyone else in the world but there are some things we will not do, there are some commitments we will not walk away from and there some vows that even sinful people like us take so seriously that we can’t be turned from. Our final answer is—no.”
The three looked at each other, nodded and together prepared to meet whatever came their way in life.
Such people are still saying “No” to shrewd negotiators because they’ve said “Yes!” to GOD.
No one is writing novels or making movies about them but God sees, listens, smiles and keeps a record of the most ‘ordinary’ men and women, girls and boys (Malachi 3:16).
Emperors, kings, presidents, prime-ministers, scholars and fashions grow old, the latest books soon lie unread in dust and and the authors come and go but the Lord, and His Holy Bible reign and abide forever.

 

 

Knowing Everything Except…

Mark Twain had become famous and was invited to dine with the emperor of Germany. His little daughter innocently said to him, “You’ll soon know everybody except God, won’t you, papa!”
Kavin Rowe has complained that the massive lake of interpretitive strategies has broken its banks and the text of the book of Acts has been drowned under scholarly glossolalia.
Scholars read and borrow from or argue with scholars.
Thank God for the historical and textual Jesus.

(Holy Father, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re overwhelmed and confused by the ‘wisdom’ of the scholars. We’re sometimes frightened by it because we don’t understand what they’re saying and the Holy Scriptures have become completely foreign to many of us—yes, even frightening. A growing number of us can no longer read the Holy Bible though we are urged: “Read the Bible for yourselves.” We hear of growing numbers of younger people who become atheists while studying at ‘Christian’ universities. When we voice our fears we’re out-talked, the scholars are too educated for us.  Many of us, perhaps the greater number of us, are older, and what we get from the pulpits and behind the lecterns are hermeneutical strategies. The gap between us and the scholars or the wanna-be scholars or the obvious dabblers, who parrot scraps they pick up from scholars—that gap can only grow as congregations starve.
We’re too ignorant to know what to do. These people take our money and feed us confusion, doubt and consequent weariness.  Some of them understand what they are saying but so many of us go through the motions of worship, wondering which Jesus it is that we’re to embrace, the textual/canonical Jesus of the Holy Scriptures or the one offered by the often conflicting interpretitive strategies. We are now unsure what ‘Holy Scriptures’ we are to feed on. The Bible that has been around for millennia or the one we’re now told is the ‘real’ Bible that ‘saves us from the Bible,’ as one writer has put it?  Thank you for the ‘ignorant’ millions who have down the years kept your Word alive and needed. Thank you for scholars like Stanton who remind us that “scholars die but the Bible text lives on.”
Though saddened by so many questions we can’t answer because there are too many and we are so ignorant, yet we’re happy to be blessed with a faith created by You through your Holy Scriptures; a faith that doesn’t need to put You “in the dock” or engage in pyrrhic victories against the Holy Bible and simple believers when they vainly protest.
We’re happy that that experience of being called in question by ‘reasonable’ questions is not new to you and that you are the GOD and LORD of the gods and lords that we the sinful human family continue to worship though we’ve dropped the names such as Hermes or Thoth. Keep us from idols and keep us near your heart and our hearts near you because idolatry is ever attractive to us and seductive. This we ask in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Lord over every name named in this ‘world’ or any other.)

It’s so sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to take Him at His word
Just to rest upon His promise
Just to say, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’

Is There a Gospel for the Happy?

She said, “ I know you have a gospel for the poor, the hurting, the unhappy; do you have a gospel for the happy?”

I know we have a gospel for those weighed down with sins; do we have a gospel for those who aren’t burdened down with sins?

Is our gospel only one of assurance for the fearful, a promise of future deliverance to the captives and the oppressed; is it pretty much summarized in the old hymn, “We’ll understand it better by and by?

We do hear Jesus say, “If you’re weary and heavy laden come unto me and I will give you rest.” And there was the time (Luke 4) when he said he had come to free prisoners, to heal broken hearts, to deliver people from demonic bondage and to give sight to the blind.

Unhappy, sad people, and overburdened. We don’t need to apologize for such a gospel; He didn’t! He saw multitudes like sheep without shepherds and He had compassion on them.

But is that the entire story? Can you ever imagine Jesus saying, “Come to me if you’re energetic, happy and not a prisoner of besetting sins and I will give you a commission to match your blessedness? Something that will challenge you to use the joy and energy to oppose the hosts of wickedness in the invisible world in My name and for the oppressed.”

When people in their tens of thousands stepped out in faith to be baptized “into Christ…into His death” (Acts 2:36-38; Romans 6:3), what was that all about? They knew what the enemies of Christ had in mind when they put Him to death but the thousands who came in faith to be baptized into His death saw it as gospel. In faith they were saying to His enemies, “You saw it as shame you heaped on Him; we have come to know it is glory His Father heaped on Him (John 12:27-28; Colossians 2:15; Galatians 6:14). His death in His own eyes was many things and in the eyes of those who in faith were baptized into Him, it was glorious (Galatians 3:26-27;6:14).

It was glorious for many reasons and one of them was that it was the death of Death. Hebrews 2:14-15. That’s the death people in faith were baptized into—His death. Those embraced in Christ don’t die when they die. That’s what He said! John 6 & 11. Easy to say? For Him it was! He said Death had no power over Him, but how can we know that’s true? He demonstrated it by rising never to die again. That’s the death into which the early believers were baptized. (The Romans setting has an ethical thrust I’m bypassing for now.)

Christ’s death led to His resurrection, to immortality (Romans 6:1-11) and it’s that death, His death we’re baptized into. It is a death that is a prelude to life unending. But it was death. And so is our biological death. Jesus of Nazareth glorified biological death that is an expression of trust in and glad obedience to God. And so is ours, in Him!

We experience sadness at the death of our beloved ones—and we won’t apologize for it. But we will not live as victims of death. We are called to live in and as His image! Through His faith-filled followers He continues to share in the suffering of the human family and we too are to share their anguish in all its forms. Romans 7:17-18, 29, with the entire context that speaks of suffering while we wait for the glory that follows. We are called to take up our cross and follow Him. We are not to seek exemption. Paul did not see himself crucified on his cross, but on Christ’s Galatians 2:19-20 (“co-crucified” is the Greek word). To see our death in Christ as less than glory is to rob ourselves or be robbed by our teachers. And indeed if we are baptized into Christ’s death we are baptized into the meaning and glory of His death and nothing less than that.

We refuse to be the prisoners of disease, old age, terminal wards, hospice care or old cemeteries! Nor despite our tears will we think of our beloved ones as slaves of any of these.

 (Oh you mysterious, wondrous God and Father of mankind, thank you for making us conquerors in Jesus Christ come what may. This prayer in His name.)

Baptism    Death      Happiness    Glory

 

 

Why Does He Say This?

1 John 3:20, “For if our heart condemns us God is greater than our heart and knows everything.”
This must be read with the immediate context, of course! Still, what exactly is he saying and why is he saying it?
Is it possible for our heart to condemn us and God, who knows our heart and our limits does not do that?
Is 3:20 assurance to self-doubters but who who do not doubt the God who became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth?
Is the condemnation justified self condemnation?
He addresses them as “beloved” in this context why might their hearts condemn them!
Some of them have hearts that “condemn” them and some  have hearts that don’t condemn them.
Do you have something thoughtful to share with us about this?

God bless us all this incoming year according to our particular needs in our particular life situations and in the specific times of special need.

In the love of God,
jmcg
 

What About Them?

God is at work in the world! Jesus said so (Matthew 5:45-48). Paul said so (Acts 14:16; 17:24-29). We see His work all over the place, in non-Christians as well as Christians. It’s just that millions of us don’t know that it’s His work when we love faithfully or think and do lovely things or refuse to do what we know is plainly unjust. We do see this all around us and we need to acknowledge it as the work of a gracious and faithful God who works in the midst of a world of humans who don’t know the truth about God or themselves. Are we capable of cruelty and selfishness beyond belief? Of course! Who doubts it?
Sin in all its forms is brutal, infectious and corrupting; it blinds and enslaves, it justifies itself in sophisticated ways—“It’s right that we should do these things because…” and individuals and movements and nations offer moral justification for what they do. Once more, “What we are doing is morally right because…” Few are willing to be and do evil without attempting to justify it. It’s true that in some quarters the question, “And why did you beat her to death?” gets this for an answer, “Hmmm, maybe because it was Tuesday and I was in the mood.”
Humanism in its strident crusading form proclaims as its watchword: “Goodness without God!” “Humanism” doesn’t weep but many humanists do. Humanism doesn’t help others but many humanists do. Humanism doesn’t place the ‘blame’ where it belongs for cruelty and selfishness that beggars belief—on powerful, cruel and selfish humans but many humanists do.
There are those of us who had grown weary of the evil we were/are addicted to, evil that God couldn’t or didn’t help us to overcome, so we say we converted to Humanism without God to build a better life and to help others live freely and in peace. No Sin, you see! This is ‘the higher calling.’ Reject God and you reject “Sin” and find peace and a guilt-free life. Rather than confess we are enmeshed in sleaze or cruelty we become ‘intellectually honest’ and turn from God, no remorse about the past or repentance required in the present or future.
I suppose that would mean no one sins. We end up with a world that agnostic and humanist, Bertrand Russell, looked at with great sadness; confessing that he saw things going on in the world that appalled him but he said he had no rational grounds for condemning it. Agnostic Nietzschean scholar, Walter Kaufman said, “Try not to call anything evil.” No one lives this way! No one can live this way. We all end up believing there’s a ‘higher ground’ and Herbert Butterfield (Cambridge professor of modern history for 35 years) said he learned down the years that all the nations claimed they stood on that higher ground. History proclaims a central sin: “Self-righteousness.” You never heard Stalin, Hitler or Paul Pot confessing they had done wrong. You would have heard them admit they made tactical or strategic mistakes, but they were always doing the right thing.
Oh God!
The wave that is climbing highest and becoming stronger in the West, in scholarly theological gatherings and religious conversations and sermons, is the social justice wave. How can we regret the desire for social justice and the concrete attempts to gain it? We can’t and shouldn’t! It matters much to GOD! Read through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures, and if you have a mind to, read some of Rabbi Heschel’s work on The Prophets and see how fiercely interested God is in social justice.
But the speech of the prophets is saturated with phrases like, “Thus saith the Lord!” What they had to say was not based on rational argument or warm humanitarian feeling (though they would  not sneer at such things)—what they had to say was the voice of GOD and they weren’t educated enough to hide that!
Most of what we (at least what I) hear these days is sociology and the religious/theological fashion which is the result not of sustained listening to and reflection on the self-revelation of God beginning in Genesis and culminating in the indwelling Lord Jesus—Humanism and many fine humanitarian people are the engine that drives it.
Of course if that’s what it takes to waken God’s Companions we should thank Him for it but, as Lesslie Newbigin, warned us years ago, it’s astonishing how quickly the reign of God becomes a church program or a theological fashion.

This piece has wandered from what I meant to say and say in few words. Humanism promises a better world now, or at least soon, and it promises it on the basis of human effort and thought (without GOD, of course). It’s a bit like looking in a cemetery for the secret to staying alive. (See Isaiah 8:19 which is addressed to God’s people.)
The Humanistic speech is addressed to those who have the time and freedom to think about it. It might be useful to a great host here and far away but it assumes they’ll be alive tomorrow to hear it and benefit from it.
The trouble with a Humanism without GOD that troubles me most is that it destroys—utterly destroys—all hope of justice for the unnumbered millions who never got any from the day they were born until the day they were butchered or burned, raped and sold and starved into oblivion!
What about them? What about them?
The future offered by Humanism is THE VAST DEATH OF THE MINDLESS UNIVERSE THAT KNOWS NOTHING OF ‘JUSTICE’ AND NEVER DID! It ignores the machete-hacked parents, the boy-soldiers in Africa and the very young girls who are kept to be gang-raped to death before they become mentally unhinged and kill themselves.  This! This is superior to the prophetic “God will judge the world in righteousness and has given assurance that He will do it by raising Jesus from the dead”? Acts 17:31.
Lectures and sermons that nod at appropriate ‘liberation texts’ from the Holy Scriptures, and then proceed to offer sociology and historical surveys, without remainder, are no substitute for establishing congregations of Jesus Christ with Him and the meaning of Him as the throbbing center of “the whole counsel and purpose of God.”
No doubt we will, and should, take any help God gives us through any avenue but when hermeneutical strategies and society’s newest and focused interest become our major interest and impetus and our teaching/preaching/writing and lecturing is for peer review or peer sampling then the Holy Scriptures are pushed into the background and the entire world suffers loss as it spins farther from its Sun and deeper into unfathomable cosmic darkness.

(Holy Father, give us we pray, teachers drenched with a rich understanding and living relationship with your Holy Bible and with yourself the loving Creator and the Judge of all the earth who has done, is doing and will finally do what “is right.”)

 

The Lord: Present or Absent?

  1. Thoughtful [truly thoughtful] people are not nor do they need to be thoughtful in the same areas. They have different interests, life-settings, giftedness and so forth. (To oversimplify, these are the product of ‘nature and nurture’—or lack of it—and they lead persons to reflect in and about some areas and not others.)
  2. Many people share similar life-situations but they differ in depth, intensity so some are ‘interested’ in music and others are ‘obsessed’ or ‘taken’ with it.
  3. A person can be “present with” and “absent from” us in the same experience though not in precisely the same way in that experience.
  4. The physical note you sent that I read was you making yourself present. The medium you used to make yourself “present” isn’t making itself “present”. It made no choices, has no mind.
  5. You made yourself “present” using this medium. There was a “meeting of minds”—your mind met mine. You chose to send your mind into mine. Your questions, proposals, doubts, convictions and other realities entered my ‘world’ of questions, proposals, convictions and such and dialogue begins.
  6. “Mind” is notoriously difficult to define because there are so many aspects, facets of a human. Our “mind” is not the totality of us—it is an aspect of us, it is not our physical body though in this phase of human living it cannot be severed from our physical make-up. It’s an entire person that “thinks”. “Thought” does not “think”. We think. “Speaking” does not speak—we speak. “Writing” does not write—we write. Imagine this:
    “Did you get a note from Herman?”
    “No, but I got a note from his mind.”
  7. In you sending me a note we didn’t make contact in any of the five physical senses ways so in that sense of “present” you are “absent.”
  8. Nevertheless, your thoughts, tone, emotional depth, attitude are currently with me. Since none of this is possible without you as an entire person in that sense you are really present with me.
  9. If someone should say: “The person is not really present with you,” they would be using “really” within the “five senses” limits. In saying that they would be saying, “The only way someone can be ‘really’ with another is if they are physically/spatially there.” That makes sense only if we confine the word ‘really’ to physical/spatial reality.
  10. Our words and thoughts are not the totality of us but they are us functioning as a total person. If that were not true then we (persons) never do anything. It would not be you that loves or weeps, or builds a house, or teaches a class. It wouldn’t be me writing this.
  11. The note did not come from X. So it isn’t who contacted me—it was you; you and not another person. The note did not write itself so I am not in touch with a self-created note. Nor did it come into being by chance so I am not in touch with a mindless and therefore purposeless note. An actual, particular person made her or himself ‘present’ in and to me.
  12. So it is with the ‘absent’ Lord. We “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” He is returning so in that sense He is ‘absent’—He is not physically/spatially ‘present’ at this time. But in many ways He speaks to us and in particular and centrally He speaks to us via the Holy Scriptures. But it is HE who speaks to us. They are “Holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:15) because the Holy Spirit speaks to us in and through them. As it is you who speaks to me via your letter so it is that it is God who speaks to us through His Holy Writings.
    Your letter doesn’t speak, the Holy Bible doesn’t speak—you speak and God speaks in and through the media you choose.
    (Of course we commonly identify the letter or the book as the writer. That only drives home the truth that the person makes him or herself present in what they write. “Of course ‘she’ said it. Look! It’s written right here in her book.” She said it. Or even more pointedly, in a dispute, “You said it; look, it’s right here on page 29!”
  13. I need to end this! I’m particularly interested in God making Himself “present” in Holy Scripture. He doesn’t need to do “space travel” to make Himself “present.” He wills to be “present,” wherever, and He’s there. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear know He makes His presence felt in sunshine & rain and fruitful seasons (Matthew 5 & Acts 14). But it’s His presence. The sun/rain is not God but He makes Himself present in our world and lives by those media.
  14. Take issue with whatever you think you need to in this piece, presuming you think it worth your time and energy. But if you think God makes His heart and mind present in and to you via the Holy Bible do allow yourself the joy of knowing HE, He Himself, is making Himself present with you. “He is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17)