Saturday, November 26, 2016

In that Secret Place & why I do not write so often

As a new Christian, a young teenager, I was allowed to lead the opening services for my church’s vacation Bible school. In this little store front Southern Baptist church, that position meant telling stories about different Christians and their lives and witness. One, for example was about John Newton, his life, and his song, Amazing Grace. One story that particularly impressed me was the story of a woman who had raised her family leaning heavily on Psalm 91. The one that begins, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

When my husband and I were married we had a picture taken of our hands together over that Psalms.  It is the first picture in our wedding album.

Recently, at Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, which we have once again been attending, the choir sang an anthem that uses that Psalm as its focus. The music and words were so beautiful. And as I sat listening to the refrain I felt myself lifted into the presence of the Almighty, I felt myself in that place which is, as the song states, “the shadow of our mighty King” the “dwelling place where angels cry.”

Who dwells within His most secret place
Is never far from His blessed grace
'Neath His great shadow all will be well
No better place now for us to dwell


The secret place of God Most High
The shadow of our mighty King
The dwelling place where angels cry
Is where our praise will forever ring

Fear not the terror that comes at night
Nor flaming arrows by morning light
His truth is always our sword and shield
Against His power, all foes must yield


A thousand fall now at ev'ry side
Ten thousand more may have yet to die
Yet plague and sword can
Ne'er kill the soul
His angels guard us now safe and whole


Refuge and fortress for all who trust
No safer pasture for men of dust
'Neath wings and feathers of Holy Lord
No greater comfort can He afford


I write this to try and explain a little about why I do not write as often as I used to write. It is hard. I wrote earlier, more than a year ago that my husband has what is called mild cognitive impairment. It is getting worse, he is slowly losing word usage and deep abstract thinking. There is so much I could say but I simply can’t. I would recommend, for those who are interested a book, Second Forgetting: Remembering the Power of the Gospel During Alzheimer’s Disease by Dr. Benjamin Mast.

To add to my sadness, I am experiencing absolute rejection from two people that I love dearly.  And I cannot write about that either, but I want to recommend another book, Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way: A daring Path into the Abundant Life. It is about drawing close to Jesus and reaching out to others through our own brokenness.  I just finished it last week and it is so helpful.

But, needless to say, both the sadness and the interruptions of my days are keeping me away from writing. But it is that secret place that place under His shadow, that place where angels cry holy, holy that holds me in grief in peace and His comfort.

Friday, November 4, 2016

My answers to a Muslim's video- "10 Reasons Why Jesus is Not God!"

On a Facebook page that I belong to, Happy to be a Presbyterian, it is mostly progressive and PC (U.S.A), a fellow Presbyterian put up a video by a Muslim, I believe his name is Joshua Evans, who is offering ten reasons of why Jesus is not God. The person who placed the video there wrote, “he makes a lot of great points and arguments I would say; especially reasons 9, 7-4, and 2. Reason 3 is troublesome and seems contradictory to me because Jesus Himself was quoted to have said to His disciples before departing to "go and make disciples of ALL nations....and unto the ends of the earth"; not just to the Jews. But the majority of the rest of it seems to be quite accurate. Are there other things in this video that are wrong? If so, please leave in the comments below what they are, and why. Thank you.” I decided to write about this for several reasons.

The Muslim man is concerned about others salvation. That is good, so am I. But more importantly it is a false view of the incarnation, in fact a misunderstanding of Jesus. I am placing the video on this page and then answering the reasons below, starting with number 10 as he has:

10. The 10th reason this person gives for not believing Jesus is God is because God cannot be born. This is a problem he has throughout his presentation. He does not believe in the Incarnation, nor does he have any understanding of what that means. God took on flesh, took on humanity. Jesus is both human and divine. Jesus Christ is eternal since he is divine, but in his humanity he was born. And it should be noted that Jesus tells the Jewish leaders who did not believe him, “before Abraham was born, I am.”(John 8:58) (Only the Holy Spirit can cause the human mind and heart to understand. Pray for Mr. Evans.)

9. The 9th reason Jesus is not God, according to the speaker, is that God’s nature is one. Israel is to worship only the one God. He believes that nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus or the text state that Jesus is God. But this is not true. In the synoptic Gospels Jesus does the very acts of God. He stills the storm with his command, he rises the dead and heals.  John the Baptist is said to be making way for the Lord as he prepares the people for Jesus. John’s Gospel explicitly tells us that Jesus (the Word) was with God and is God. Jesus in this Gospel refers to himself many times with the “I Am” of Exodus. “ “God said to Moses, ‘I AM Who I Am.’” He is God. (Of course this is why we use the term Trinity)

8. The 8th reason that Jesus is not God according to the speaker is because no one has seen God and lived. However it should be noted that Moses saw his “backside” others saw him in Theophanies for instance Samson’s father and mother and Abraham before God told him he was going to destroy Sodom.

The speaker attempts to say that when Jesus says he and the Father are one, he is speaking of them being one in purpose not one in essence. On John 10:30, where Jesus states, “I and the Father are one,” biblical scholar William Hendriksen states:

“However, inasmuch as in other passages it is clearly taught that the oneness is a matter not only of outward operation but also (and basically) of inner essence (see especially 5:18 but also 1:14; 3:16) it is clear that also here nothing less than this can have been meant. Certainly if Son and Father are one essentially, then when Jesus states, “I and the Father, we are one,” he cannot merely mean, “We are one in providing protective care for the sheep.” The economic trinity rests forever upon the essential trinity. …”

In saying this Hendriksen means that the actions of the persons of the Trinity rests upon the oneness of the Trinity.  Hendriksen goes on to write, (and here I am sorry I do not have the computer capability to put the Greek text in the quote:

“Note how carefully both the diversity of the persons and the unity of the essence is expressed here. Jesus says, “I and the Father.” Hence, he clearly speaks about two persons. And this plurality is shown also by the verb (one word in Greek) “we are” … These two persons never become one person. Jesus does not say, “We are one person” …, but he says, “We are one substance ….’ Though two persons, the two are one substance or essence. … Thus in this passage Jesus affirms his complete equality with the Father.”[1]

The beauty of the good news here is that God now allows us to look on his image in the Son and we see him clearly in Scripture.

7. This seventh point is filled with misunderstandings and falsehood. He believes that because the early Christians worshiped in the synagogue they didn’t believe that Jesus was God. Added to that is his idea that it was only Paul and the Council of Nicaea that taught that Jesus was God. (He needs to reread the Gospels.) Early Christian worship in the Temple and the Synagogue was clearly connected to who they believed Jesus was, the promised Jewish messiah; the One who was meant to be king of the Jews, the savior who would save his people. And not only did they meet in Jewish places of worship, they met in homes.

Paul’s New Testament letters are the earliest writings, and the speaker fails to consider that Jesus was resurrected and Paul had a deep relationship with him. In the midst of controversy about the deity of Jesus, the Council of Nicaea simply confirmed the truths that the early churches already held.

I am not sure why the speaker keeps referring to the Qumran community; it really has nothing to do with the early Christians. But instead it has to do with the Essene community who had preserved their own writings and a great deal of the Old Testament.

6. The 6th point is once again simply a denial of the Incarnation. Why did Jesus need to eat, to sleep, to pray? Jesus took on humanity and suffered all that entails for our sake. He prayed because the Son had always communed with the Father.

5. The speaker refers to those texts where Jesus states that only the Father knows the time of his coming. And to another text, John 14:28, where Jesus states that the Father is greater than him. This again has to do with the Incarnation and the Muslim’s misunderstanding. Jesus, according to early church fathers, is speaking of himself in his humanity. He was submissive to the Father as he waited to fulfill his purpose. Calvin, adding to this verse Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 15:24, 28, sees both Jesus and Paul referring to Jesus’ work as mediator between God and humanity. His conclusion is beautiful:

“Christ is not here comparing the Father’s divinity with his own, nor his own human nature with the Father’s divine essence, but rather his present state with the heavenly glory to which he was soon to be received. It is like saying, “You want to keep me in the world, but it is better for me to ascend to heaven.” Let us therefore learn to see Christ humbled in the flesh, so that he may lead us to the source of blessed immortality for he was not appointed to be our guide merely to raise us to the sphere of the moon or the sun, but to make us one with God the Father.”[2]

4. The complaint in number 4 is that Jesus in John 17:3 states that the way to God is to believe in the one true God and Jesus Christ who he sent. He believes Jesus is in this statement denies his own divinity. He also refers to Jesus’ words to Mary Magdalene that he is ascending to my God and your God.   
On this point the speaker slips a little extra into the text. He states “and Jesus Christ as a messenger.” “As a messenger” turns the text into a Muslim text and changes the work that Jesus came to do which was to die on the cross for our salvation. God here in this context is the Christian term for addressing the Father rather than the Son. But Jesus is telling his listeners that knowing both the Father and the Son is having everlasting life. And that knowing is an intimate knowledge, it entails knowing Jesus in his life, death and resurrection. It is so much more then hearing the words of a messenger. And in knowing Jesus we know the Father.

3. His third point has to do with Jesus’ title as Son of God. He insist that many in the Bible are called sons of God. And they are. He speaks of a pastor who says that Jesus was unique, he was the begotten Son of God which the pastor supposedly defined as given because Jesus was conceived without a father. Islam teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin as Christians also believe. But this is not the meaning of begotten Son of God.

Answering the question about the meaning of begotten Son of God in his commentary, Hendriksen states, “We conclude that the reference must be to Christ’s Trinitarian sonship, i.e., to the fact that he is the Son of God from all eternity. This is favored by the context (1:1, 18) and by such passages as 3:16, 18, which prove that the Son was already, the only begotten before his incarnation.”

Indeed the New American Standard translation of John 1:1 states, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has explained him.” And this is from the oldest manuscripts found.

2. For number 2.see 1 and 6. But it should be added that God’s nature is clearly seen in the Incarnation since in God’s compassion and mercy he took on human flesh and suffered for humanity.

1.This last point has to do with the worship of God. The speaker becomes totally confused. He states that in Matthew 15 & 18 Jesus tells them it is vain to worship him. But the quote in 15, it is not in 18, is Jesus quoting from the Hebrew Bible and it is God telling Israel it is vain to worship him since they hearts are far away from him and they are teaching traditions rather than God’s word.

The speaker then has to turn to the Koran to make his point about Jesus. He also says that Jesus never allowed anyone to worship him. But this is simply not true. There are several places in the Gospel where people do worship Jesus and he graciously receives their worship. The beautiful story of Thomas is perhaps the best. Thomas has doubted the resurrection, but when he touches the nail prints in Jesus ‘hands and the wound in his side Thomas states “My Lord and my God.” In the Greek it is the Lord of me and the God of me.

There is so much more that could be added but this is already too long.

[1] William Hendriksen, The Gospel of John, New Testament Commentary, eighth printing, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 1979).
[2] John Calvin, John, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, Alister McGrath & J.I. Packer, (Wheaton: Crossway Books 1994).
* The video is a Merciful Servant Production

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Trump's new video, is this not like Goebbels?

Someone, a friend, placed this video on Facebook. It was just  posted by President Donald Trump HQ . It immediately  reminded me of some of Joseph Goebbels' propaganda speeches. Here is the video:

It isn't that Trump is blaming the Jews, but he is blaming  mysterious  global  special interest groups as did the Nazis. And it isn't that the Clintons haven't been dishonest and they do have some awful views about morality, (I am not voting for her or him), but Trump has elevated our problems to the level of a global conspiracy just as Hitler did. And he is making himself a savior figure which we as Christians should reject with every ounce of our faith.

Here is part of a speech by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Much of it, in my opinion sounds like Trump except of course, it is about Germany, and the Jews are the main bad guys:

"We are just good enough that international capital allows us to fill its money sacks with interest payments. That and only that is the result of a centuries-long history of heroism. Have we deserved it? No, and no again!

Therefore we demand that a struggle against this condition of shame and misery begin, and that the men in whose hands we put our fate must use every means to break the chains of slavery.

Three million people lack work and sustenance. The officials, it is true, work to conceal the misery. They speak of measures and silver linings. Things are getting steadily better for them, and steadily worse for us. The illusion of freedom, peace and prosperity that we were promised when we wanted to take our fate in our own hands is vanishing. Only complete collapse of our people can follow from these irresponsible policies.

Thus we demand the right of work and a decent living for every working German.

While the front soldier was fighting in the trenches to defend his fatherland, some Eastern Jewish profiteer robbed him of hearth and home. The Jew lives in the palaces and the proletarian, the front soldier, lives in holes that do not deserve to be called “homes.” That is neither necessary nor unavoidable, but rather an injustice that cries out to the heavens. A government that stands by and does nothing is useless and must vanish, the sooner the better.

Therefore we demand homes for German soldiers and workers. If there is not enough money to build them, drive the foreigners out so that Germans can live on German soil.
Our people is growing, others diminishing. It will mean the end of our history if a cowardly and lazy policy takes from us the posterity that will one day be called to fulfill our historical mission.

Therefore we demand land on which to grow the grain that will feed our children.

While we dreamed and chased strange and unreachable fantasies, others stole our property. Today some say this was an act of God. Not so. Money was transferred from the pockets of the poor to the pockets of the rich. That is cheating, shameless, vile cheating!

A government presides over this misery that in the interests of peace and order one cannot really discuss. We leave it to others to judge whether it represents Germany's interests or those of our capitalist tormenters.

We however demand a government of national labor, statesmen who are men and whose aim is the creation of a German state.

These days anyone has the right to speak in Germany — the Jew, the Frenchman, the Englishman, the League of Nations, the conscience of the world, and the Devil knows who else. Everyone but the German worker. He has to shut up and work. Every four years he elects a new set of torturers, and everything stays the same. That is unjust and treasonous. We need tolerate it no longer. We have the right to demand that only Germans who build this state may speak, those whose fate is bound to the fate of their fatherland.

Therefore we demand the destruction of the system of exploitation! Up with the German worker state!
Germany for the Germans!"1.

It is of course horrific that we must endure either candidate; God is undoubtedly searching our hearts as his people. This is that very clear time when we must not put our faith in man or woman but in our Lord.

1. This can be found at Calvin College which has an excellent archive of Nazi propaganda.