Tuesday, May 29, 2007
On March 29, 1995, Pamella and I ventured from our home in Luling, LA to the movie theater in Kenner (both burbs of New Orleans). We were to take in the special edition of Star Wars. It was great! Near the end of the film Pamella "informed" that she thought she had begun labor. That began our great adventure. We drove to Houma, LA (but I had to stop and get gas for my Geo Metro). When we arrived at the hospital in the middle of the bayou they were going to send us back home but then got really worried about Pamella's blood pressure which had gone through the roof. So they started a drip in an IV to make her continue in labor. Early the next morning, May 30, Rachael Nichole Valentine entered our world. The first person at the hospital was none other than Pastor Feelgude (Don Neyland) who preached just down the road, and still does.
That night I spent the night at Don's house and there was a terrible thunderstorm. I go early the next morning to go back to the hospital and there was the most beautiful and brilliant rainbow I had ever seen, I knew everything was going to be alright. I have been sitting here looking back over 12 years and wondering how in the world that much time has gone by.
I remember playing pony (I was the pony), bouncing, reading Go, Dog, Go! a billion times or Good Night Moon over and over and over again, playing doctor (I was the patient) or her first day of school, first time for summer camp ... she is getting big. Let me share a photo or two or maybe three ...
The Delight of a Child
Rachael's Eighth Birthday Party in our apartment in Milwaukee
Rachael in her ballet costume
Rachael ready for Halloween
At the Races Last Summer
With her sister in the land of Scorpions and Saguaros
Rachael you have come along way since 1995. How big you have grown. I have loved ever minute of having the honor and blessing of being your daddy. I am very proud of you and I love you dearly. You really do live out the meaning of your name ... you are indeed a little lamb of God. Happy Birthday.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Yesterday was the magnificent Day of Pentecost. We explored Acts 2 together as a church family noting all the great themes that come together. Today is a day when the American flag flies at half mast in honor of those who have fallen. Yesterday was a day of the Christian faith and today is a day flowing from American civil religion.
If we really honor those who have fallen, however, it seems to me that we would strive to make their death's count for something that matter, not simply for Americans but for all humanity. We honor them by praying for a restoration of shalom ... we seek that by praying for our enemies as Jesus taught us to. What follows below is a magnificent prayer by a medieval Christian by the name of Anselm. I have found and still find the prayer to be beating with the pulse of Jesus' own prayer. May it bless you as we seek God's shalom in this fallen age.
"A Prayer for Enemies"
Almighty and tender Lord Jesus Christ
I have asked you to be good to my friends,
and now I bring before you what I desire in my heart for my
For you see, O God, the reins and the heart,
you penetrate the secrets of my mind.
If you have sown in the soul of your servant
something that can be offered to you,
you see it there;
nor can it lie hid from you
if I and the enemy of mankind have sown there
that which will have to be consumed by fire
Most gracious God,
do not despise what you have sown,
but cherish and increase it, perferct and preserve it.
I can begin nothing good without you,
neither can I bring anything to fruition
nor maintain it, without you.
Merciful God, do not judge me
according to that which displeases you in me,
but root up that which you have not sown
and save the soul you have created.
For without you I cannot amend,
because whatever is good in us you have made
and not we ourselves.
My soul would not be able to bear it
if you should judge it accoring to its sins.
You alone, Lord, are mighty;
you alone are merciful;
whatever you make me desire for my enemies,
give it to them and give the same back to me,
and if what I ask for them at any time
is outside the rule of charity,
whether through weakness, ignorance, or malice,
good Lord, do not give it to them
and do not give it back to me.
You who are the true light, lighten their darkness;
you who are the whole truth, correct their errors;
you who are the true life, give life to their souls.
For you have said to your beloved disciple
that he who loves not remains dead.
So I pray, Lord, that you will give them love for you
and love for their neighbor,
as far as you ordain that they should have it,
lest they should sin before you against their brother.
Tender Lord Jesus,
let me not be the cause of the death of my brothers,
let me not be to them
a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.
For it is more than enough, Lord
that I should be a scandal to myself,
my sin is sufficient to me.
Your slave begs you for his fellow slaves,
lest because of me they offend
against the kindness of so good and great a Lord.
Let them be reconciled to you and in concord with me,
according to your will and for your own sake.
This is the punishment
that in the secret of my heart
I want to exact
for those who serve with me and those who sin with me --
this is the punishment that I ask
for those who serve with me and hate me -
let us love you and each other
as you will and is expedient for us,
so that we may make amends to the good Lord
for our own and for each other's offences;
so that we may obey with one heart in love
one Lord and one Master.
This is the revenge you sinner asks
on all who wish him evil and act against him.
Most merciful Lord
prepare the same punishment for your sinner.
Do this, my good Creator and my merciful Judge,
according to your mercy that cannot be measured.
Forgive me all my debts
as I before you forgive all those indebted to me.
Perhaps this may not be so
because in your sight I have not yet done this perfectly,
but my will is set to do it,
and to that end I am doing all that I can.
So I offer this to you here, Lord,
so that you may perfectly forgive my sins
and deal with me as gently as you can.
Hear me, good and great Lord,
for my soul hungers and longs
to feed upon the experience of your love,
but it cannot fill itself with you;
for my heart can find no name to invoke
that will satisfy my heart.
For no words have here any taste to me
when my love receives from you that which you give.
I have prayed, Lord, as I can,
but I wish I could do more.
Hear me, and answer as you are able,
for you can do all that you will.
I have prayed as a weak man and a sinner;
you who are mighty and merciful hear my prayer.
Fulfill my prayer, Lord, not only for my friends
and the enemies for who I have prayed,
but distribute the healing of your mercy
wherever you know it may help anyone
and not be contrary to your will,
both to the living and the departed.
Hear me always with your favour,
not according as my heart wills or as my mouth asks,
but as you know and will that I ought to wish and ask,
O Saviour of the world,
who with the Father and the Holy Spirit
lives and reigns God
throughout all ages. Amen.
(The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm, With the Proslogion, trans. Benedicta Ward, pp. 216-219). This is a Penguin Classic.
I realize this is a fairly lengthy quote but this is a rich prayer. The idea of the "punishment" to be received is that we "love" one another is, in my view, wonderful. Can you imagine what might happen in our divided churches, our divided communities and broken marriages... and nations if we prayed for our enemies like this? A revival might come!
Saturday, May 26, 2007
A Book Review: N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press, 2003). 817 pp.
A little over two weeks ago I found myself in Barnes & Nobles with Rachael looking for some book on dragons (Eragon or Eldest?). Somehow I ended up in the religion section of the store and N. T Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God caught my eye. I had wanted this book for the last couple of years but never got around to ordering it from Amazon, but now it was in front of me. So I picked it up and began to read through a few pages and could not put it down. So after shelling out 39 dollars (as I recall) I came for dragons and left with Wright. Being home alone in the evening has left me with a lot of quiet time for reading into the wee hours of the night. I finished all 738 pages of text Thursday night.
My first encounter with “Tom Wright” was as a student at IBC when one of our teachers, Stephen Broyles, assigned reading from a book called The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861-1986. Wright had recently updated the classic originally written by Stephen Neill. But I did not know who he was and honestly he had not attained the stature he has today. In the early 1990s I ran into him again in his excellent book The Climax of Covenant in Paul in which he really began to make a name for himself.
Today, without a doubt, “Tom Wright” is the most influential New Testament scholar on the planet. He has taught at
N. T. Wright is more than an incredible scholar. He is a lover and disciple of Jesus the Christ. I had the privilege of hearing Wright speak in person while in
Wright’s love for the church finds expression in his not so new (now) role as Bishop of Durham. I have listened to and read many of his sermons and he does better than many who are far less informed in their “scholarship.” Recently Wright wrote a book called “Simply Christian” that has been hailed as the new “Mere Christianity.” Fellow blogger Bob Bliss has posted a review of that work on his blog in the last couple of days,
The Resurrection of the Son of God
This book won the Association of Theological Booksellers “Book of the Year” award in 2003 and it deserves that honor. I wish I had read this book before I started my series on “Heaven.” The book is divided into three parts with a total of 19 chapters.
Part I is called “Setting the Scene” and in two hundred pages that surveys the Jewish and Greco-Roman context of Jesus and the early church is explored in depth. Wright’s mastery of the primary sources of the ancient world is phenomenal. This man’s knowledge is incredibly broad but it is also deep. Do not let the word “depth” scare you away. Wright is hardly a difficult person to read. Martin Heidegger is hard to read. Karl Barth’s Epistle to the Romans is difficult to read. Wright is deceptively simple (kind of like a Gospel writer). One of the most stimulating parts was he exposition of the Wisdom of Solomon that I just ate up. He devotes a full two hundred pages in setting the scene, students this is an exercise in historical context. He concludes this section with this observation,
“We begin by reaffirming the preliminary definition with which we began. ‘Resurrection’, with the various words that were used to for it and the various stories that were told about it, was never simply a way of speaking about ‘life after death . . . Resurrection was, more specifically, not the redefinition or redescription of death, a way of giving a positive interpretation … but the reversal or undoing or defeat of death, restoring to some kind of bodily life those who had already passed through that first stage. It belonged with a strong doctrine of
This is an important point for Wright. He believes it is imperative to nail down as best we can what the first century folks meant by the word. I happen to agree with that methodology and anyone who has ever had a discussion about the meaning of baptizo does so as well … even if we are not consistent in applying that method.
In the next section Wright explores Paul (he devotes a full 50 pages to the exposition of 1 Corinthians 15 alone), the early Gospel traditions (not the resurrection narratives per se at this stage of the book), then he makes the interesting move to look at what the early Church believed about the resurrection. Here he spends another hundred or so pages looking at the Ignatius, Polycarp, Athenagoras, New Testament apocryphal writings, he even looks in the earliest Christian writings in Syriac. Then he explores key Gnostic texts and demonstrates beyond a shadow of doubt that there is a radical difference in what NT writers affirmed and the “orthodox” writers affirmed and what the Gnostics did.
Finally Wright gets to the Resurrection Narratives. Wright’s method here is simply good critical scholarship. He is after two of the most fundamental questions that can be asked at this point in the ball game: 1) What exactly is it that the early Christians believed about the “resurrection;” and 2) WHY did they believe it? Why did the early Christians hold onto a belief that, as he shows clearly and convincingly, was so at odds with the culture … when the Gnostics showed that it was theoretically possible to affirm some kind of faith in Jesus without affirming a monstrous doctrine like the resurrection of the body. Further Wright asks how the affirmations of “Messiah” and “Lord” could have survived in early Christianity. The answer to these questions is that God did for Jesus of Nazareth what the Jews had believed about the word “resurrection!” The Creator God of Israel (a theme vital to the early post-Apostolic Christian writers) entered into history and reversed the verdict that Jesus was a fraud.
In my view The Resurrection of the Son of God is not simply a book that will exercise your brain, it is not simply a book that will open up the heart of the New Testament in ways that many of us never imagined possible but this is a book that when you are done reading it you will find that your faith has grown muscular and confident.
I am waiting (patiently?) for volume four of Wright’s series to come out. Wright has changed the way I read the Bible. I commend this book to your as one of the truly monumental books in print. In a sea of fluff passed off as insight this book shows that loving the Lord with your mind does not imply a failure to love him with your heart.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Heaven (11): The Resurrected Lord, Raising Resurrected Bodies, Living on the Resurrected Earth - Rom 8 #1
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Saturday, May 19, 2007
"[Yahweh] upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. Yahweh sets the prisoners free, Yahweh gives sight to the blind, Yahweh lifts up those who are bowed down, Yahweh loves the righteous. Yahweh watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked" (Psalm 146.7-9)
On Sunday and Thursday nites hundreds of homeless people in the city of Tucson assemble in an open, dusty, empty lot between a hotel and an auto parts store. Here a group of Christians gather to provide a meal, try to meet some clothing needs and try to get to know people from all walks of life. This past Thursday nite we had an old fashioned cookout and Palo Verde's own blue grass band for dinner and a show. Here are a few photos of this week's adventurous journey.
"Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied" (Luke 6.21a)
"All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do" (Galatians 2.10)
"I saw the tears of the oppressed--and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors" (Ecclesiastes 4.1)
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother and sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in him?" (1 John 3.17)
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19.14)
"Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise" (James 5.13)
"At his gate was laid a beggar name Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table" (Luke 16.20-21)
"Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you." (Deuteronomy 15.14)
It is our prayer that we participate in God's Year of Jubilee ...
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Now the question for some contemporary Christians is this: does God resurrect our dead body and then destroy it? This is clearly not what the early church, nor the historic church, has believed. The Creed links our resurrected body with eternal life. We will spend eternal life in our resurrected body.
This post is not trying to establish our theology from the Creed. Rather the Creed shows us what Christians have always believed. That belief could be mistaken yet I do not believe it is. The Apostles’ Creed bears witness to profound biblical theology. For example in previous posts we have seen how God is the Creator and Lover of his Creation; he created the world as a place where the divine and human could experience fellowship; he is about redeeming and reclaiming that world through the work of Christ on the Cross.
The last statement is of fundamental importance. What we think about heaven and earth is not some esoteric point. The Creed does not wrangle about instrumental music. No. What we believe about redemption tells a great deal of what we think God did through Jesus when he shed his blood. Did Jesus death undo the work of Satan? That is the question. The early church in fact understood the atonement primarily in terms of Christ's defeat of the cosmic forces of Satan, not substitutionary as the Reformers did (and most Evangelicals do) This ancient view is known as Christus Victor. Christ has conquered. The Latin fathers exclaim, "Vicit agnus noster; eum sequamur" (Our lamb has conquered; let us follow him.).
In the next three days I will make three more posts: one on Matthew 19.28 and Acts 3.21 and their wider contexts; one on Romans 8; and one on Colossians 1. The plan is that next week we will take a hard look at 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21 and 22.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her ... Her husband is respected in the city gate ... Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her" (Pr 31.10-11, 23, 28)
Not only does she make her husband and kids look good in the city gate, more importantly she does so at the race and the game (Milwaukee Mile) ...
"Turn your eyes from me; they overwhelm me ..." (S of S 6.5,8-9, NIV)
Pamella watches over her children as they grow (like they have since this picture of Christmas 2004); Molding them to be lovers of Jesus and his kingdom.
Scripture must have had her in mind when it reads: "How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful ... your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely ... " (S of S 4.1, 3, 11).
She is wonderful to her family
Noble, loving and caring as she is, Pamella also reminds me of the heroine Judith. Judith was "beautiful in appearance and lovely to behold" (Judith 8.7). Soft on the outside and tough as nails on the inside. There is that subdued strength to do the unbelievable--in Judith's case it was to deal ever so boldly with Holofernes who threatened God's people. She is my own Storm (for those who read comic books).
"Your eyes are doves" (S of S 1.14; 4.1)
Rachael, Talya and I thank you very much for making us all look good. Thank you for teaching us, caring for us, protecting us, praying for us, playing with us, and loving us. For the record the girls picked each picture ... plus one with the belly button. I love you and am proud to say you are my wife and mother of my children.
Beauty and the Beast ...
On his wedding night, the young Tobias asked his bride, Sarah, to kneel in prayer ...
and blessed is your name in all generations forever.
Let the heavens and the whole creation bless you forever.
You made Adam, and for him you made Eve
as a helper and support.
From the two of them the human race has sprung.
You said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone;
let us make a helper for him like himself.'
I now am taking this woman of mine,
not because of lust, but with sincerity.
Grant that she and I may find mercy
and that we may grow old together."
Your loving Husband
Friday, May 11, 2007
They have been making fun of me here in the land of Saguaros and Scorpions because I have felt it was a little on the warm side. But they keep telling me (why??) that I haven't seen "nothing yet." Well it seems to me that 103 degrees is hot by any standard. Yes it will get hotter still but agree with me 103 is still hot!!
But it is a dry heat. I am sure you have heard that one before and it is true to some extent. Going from the sunshine into the shade makes a big difference. But in case you did not notice there is not much of that in the desert.
I'm not really complaining. I will have a pool I can boil in one day. The good thing is I am trying to sell my Saturn (its value recently went up considerably, :-) ) and get a Harley. I will strap some ice packs on my chest and drive down the street ....
My family recently went hiking in the Coronado National Forest (really not many trees) and witnessed that even the Saguaros get burnt up in the heat. Witness this skeleton of two giant Saguaros.
In the middle of Coronado National Forest is what is supposed to be the "most photographed" rock in the forest. It looks like a face. Click on it and check out the expression.
Now that is a face that has been ... baked, :-)
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
In our previous post we reviewed briefly the life of
Edwards had an incredible reverence for Scripture. His mind is saturated with it and it flows from his pen. When one reads Edwards the impression is left that he has the entire scope of biblical history before him as he tries to communicate. Indeed Edwards approach to the Bible was in some ways “before his time.” Rather than simply reproducing the scholastic theology of many of his Puritan forbearer's he conceived of God’s work with creation as sort of a narrative, a story, or to use his own words, a history. The plot to that history is Creation, Fall, Call of Israel, Jesus and the New Heavens and New Earth. If we look at the actual contents of Scripture that is a pretty good outline of the actual contents of the story revealed there.
The beginning of the History of Redemption is none other than Creation itself. Edwards published a work titled The End for Which God Created the World and is often seen as one of his greatest published works but also his least read. Edwards asks the all important question of why did God create in the first place? Was God in need?? Did God need something to boss around?? If God is perfect in himself then what is the point of creation?? These are, beloved, incredibly important questions. For Edwards the doctrine of the Trinity precludes any “need” on God’s part. He already existed in a state of perfection in glory and most of all in love. God has existed as Father, Son and Spirit for eternity and they exist in holy communion and perfection of love. Thus for Edwards, any understanding of Creation must reflect the character of God. The heart of his analysis is the many scriptural references that the highest end of creation is “the glory of God.” God’s glory is his love. Thus, in a nutshell, God creates to extend that perfect internal love outward. It is an extension of the glory of a perfectly good and loving being to communicate that love with others. Thus for the “whole is of God, and in God, and to God; and God is the beginning, middle, and the end in this affair.” Thus Creation itself is good, and godly, because it reflects the glorious love of God. It is the expression of the love that exists within the Trinity itself. I suppose if we stop to reflect on this it can tend toward revolutionary thoughts.
But with contemporaries like Voltaire, Edwards was quite aware that this age is hardly the ‘best of all possible world’s” (as Dr. Pangloss quips in Candide). This age or world has been infected with Sin. Creation suffers under a curse because of humanities rebellion against the God of Glorious Love. Indeed because Creation is on God’s side it would deal swiftly with humanity if it were not for the “sovereign pleasure of God.” As Edwards expressed it in that most infamous of sermons “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,”
“Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun don’t willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth don’t willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air don’t willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in service of God’s enemies. God’s creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and don’t willingly subserve to any other purpose, and grown when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope …”
There is a lot in that paragraph. It is dense with thought. Creation is God’s, it is good and it is on his side. There is plenty in this paragraph that is anything but politically correct. But we see some of the initial glory of Creation even in the Fallen world. We humans were meant to exist within Creation, we were intended to serve and bring glory to God both with and within Creation.
The History of Redemption for Edwards is centered on God’s desire to reclaim and heal that which expressed his perfect love. Writing in 1739 Edwards unpacks redemption with power and clarity. The narrative history of redemption reveals several things:
First, Redemption means the putting down all of God’s enemies under his feet and that the supreme goodness of God finally triumphs over evil. What enemies and what did they do? Satan rose up against God to frustrate his design in Creation “of this lower world, to destroy his workmanship here, and to wrest the government of this lower world out of his hands, and usurp the throne himself.”
Second, Redemption means that by subduing God’s enemies he will “perfectly restore all the ruins of the fall … therefore we read of the restitution of all things.” But what is it that was “ruined” in the Fall? “Man’s body was ruined by the fall, became subject to death. The world was ruined as to man as effectively as if it were reduced to chaos again, all heavens and earth were overthrown. But the design [of Redemption] was to restore all, as it were to create a new heaven and a new earth.” God’s love is triumphant in the history of redemption. What is that wonderful place going to look like? Edwards puts it like this in his Notes on his unpublished magnum opus,
“And then shall all the world be united in peace and love in one amiable society; all nations, in all parts, on every side of the globe, shall then be knit together in sweet harmony, all parts of God’s church assisting and promoting the knowledge and spiritual good one of another . . . all the world shall be as one church, one orderly, regular, beautiful society, one body, all the members in beautiful proportion.”
Heaven is not a realm of love because human beings live in the the new earth but because the “eternal society or family of the Godhead in the Trinity dwells there." Here in the new heavens and new earth the goal of God's creation is realized. God dwelling and communicating his love for us.
This post has grown long so I need to bring it to a close. But I find Edwards to be refreshing, challenging and above all true to the history of redemption. We need to reflect on the history of redemption …