Monday, July 27, 2015

GRACE


Christianity is not a religion of moralism, it is a gospel religion of grace. Burke Parsons

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the measurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your doing: it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast. Galatians 2:4-9

Monday, July 20, 2015

Calvin on abortion


"For the fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, and it is a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man's house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light." - John Calvin

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Triumph of the Son of Man (part 2)


7:13-14
The Son of Man

The first part of Daniel 7 showed us a picture of earth’s history of a succession of evil kingdoms opposed to God. Each was temporary, although powerful, culminating in the most powerful kingdom of all in the 4th beast. Despite their power, each ended in judgment and destruction by God.

It shows us that God will let sinful man run his course for a time. But, at the end of that time, God will demonstrate his power and sovereignty by judging the kingdoms of evil.

The next part of the vision, recorded in verses 13 and 14, showed one like the son of man arrive in heaven on the clouds. This is an Aramaic term meaning “human being” as contrasted to the beasts.

But it takes on more meaning for us than it would for Daniel, for it is used 69 times in the Synoptic Gospels and 12 times in the Gospel of John to refer to Christ. It is also the title Jesus most often used of himself. The Hebrew term translated “son of man” was also used to mean a human being in contrast with the divine being. Numbers 23:19 says “God is to man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.

The image of one like the son of man in Daniel 7 is used to portray Christ in Revelation 1:13.

The Son of Man comes with the clouds. In the Old Testament, only God comes on the clouds. It is a symbol of divinity. For example:
Isaiah 19:1 says “Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud”:
Ezekiel’s first vision of the glory of the Lord began with a cloud that had brightness around it. (Ezekiel 1:4)
When God came to Mount Sinai to make a covenant with Israel, there was a thick cloud on the mountain. (Exodus 19:16)
At his trial, Jesus was asked by the high priest if he was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus said he would see the Son of man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven. The high priest accused him of blasphemy, understanding he was claiming to be God. (Matthew 26:57-68)

The Son of man was presented to the Ancient of Days. This is how we know he ascended to heaven in this vision. The Son was presented to the Father. The son received dominion, glory and a kingdom. This must have been confusing to Daniel, for this Son of Man had human and divine traits. It makes sense to us, though, for we know Jesus was fully human and fully divine on earth and will keep his appearance, in glorified form, for eternity.

In this kingdom all peoples, nations, and languages serve and worship the Son. This is the same language used in the kings proclamations in Daniels to refer to all the people of the world. The dominion of the Son will last forever. it will never pass away. It cannot be destroyed, unlike the kingdoms represented by the beasts. (14)

7:15-16a
Daniel Asks For An Interpretation

Daniel was anxious. These terrifying images scared him. He did not know what they meant. So he asked one of the beings standing there in the court of judgment what it meant. And this person gave Daniel the meaning, the interpretation.

Before we go on to the interpretation, let us pause for a moment to think. Where God, in his Word, gives us an interpretation, we are bound by it. We cannot interpret the symbols differently. But, further, when God gives us the interpretation, he tells us the part upon which he wants us to focus. In our scatter brained human way, we often want to spend our time trying to figure out or speculate on other matters and miss the point. When God gives us the point, let us focus on that point.


7:17-18
The Interpretation - Short Version

Daniel was anxious about the vision. The beasts were scary and the implications for God’s people were dire, at least until the beasts were defeated.

The person Daniel asked gave a very specific meaning of the vision. He said the four beasts are four kings on earth. But the saints of God will receive a kingdom that lasts forever. That, my friends is the point of the vision.

So, not only will Christ reign, we will reign with him. 2 Timothy 2:12 says “if we endure, we will also reign with him”.

But, our first instinct is to try and figure out what kingdoms are represented by the beasts. Volumes have been written on this. The problem is, God did not reveal it other than in very general terms. In retrospect, we may find kingdoms that exhibited the traits mentioned. But so did other kingdoms. And, no time period is given. But the point remains, kings will rise and fall, they will get worse as time goes on, but ultimately God’s kingdom will come and saints will enjoy it forever.

7:19-27
More About The 4th Beast

Daniel, like us, wanted to know more. He especially wanted to know more about the 4th beast, for it was terrifying. and different than the others. It also had those horns, including the little horn that spoke.

Evidently, the vision continued as Daniel asked his questions. Think of a child asking his father questions during a movie. As the vision continued, the little horn made war with the saints and even prevailed against them until the Ancient of Days came and judged the beast on behalf of the saints.

The person still does not identify the beast as a particular king or kingdom. But he describes more fully the actions of the beast. He adds that:
he will speak words against the most high;
he will wear out the saints;
he will think to change the times and the law; and
the saints are given into his hand for a time, times and half a time. But, in the end, the court still judges him, God takes away his dominion and destroys him. (26)

Again, the person says that, in the end, the saints receive an everlasting kingdom that is God’s kingdom.

7:28
Still Alarmed

Daniel was still alarmed. He focused on the beasts, and especially the 4th beast, and was afraid. It is the first time we have seen Daniel actually afraid or alarmed.

So, in a way, Daniel missed the point of the vision, as many today miss the point. That is because he focused on the wrong thing. He focused on the beasts and not the victory of God.

If God wanted Daniel, and us, to know the identity of the beasts, he could easily have told us. Many have firm beliefs as to what they are. All of that time spent on such conjecture, however, is wasted to a large extent. The better thing would be to focus on the message God intentionally delivered: things will get bad on earth, the saints will suffer, but God will triumph and those who believe in Jesus will triumph with him, enjoying a perfect kingdom forever in God’s presence.

There are those who believe that humankind will make things better and better until the end. That is not the message of Daniel. Daniel’s message is that things get worse until the new age, the new kingdom arrives.

The end of the beasts, even the most powerful one, is judgment and destruction. All kingdoms and kings that have power on earth and exercise it against God and his people will be judged when Jesus returns, and will be destroyed by eternal punishment in Hell.

Come Lord Jesus!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

DANIEL 7: THE TRIUMPH OF THE SON OF MAN (part 1)




7:1
I Dreamed A Dream

The writer dates this dream for us. It is out of chronological order for the book. Daniel saw this dream and vision in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign. This would put the event somewhere between chapters 3 and 4. The Babylonians still ruled the world. They seemed invincible.

The night vision granted to Daniel in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign is a rich source from which the imagery of John’s visions will be drawn in Revelation.

The message of this apocalyptic vision is simple: hope for God’s people that are oppressed, for victory belongs ultimately and permanently to God and his people.


7:2-8
The Beasts

The first things Daniel saw in his dream, or vision, was a series of beasts. They were all terrifying. Each was worse than the preceding ones.


The beasts came up out of the sea. (3) The sea was churning with the winds of heaven. Remember that the sea was seen by those in the Middle East as dangerous and scary. It was the epitome of chaos and evil. It symbolized rebellion against God. For the beasts to come out of the sea, then, indicated they would bring danger and evil to God’s people.


The first beast was like a lion, but it had eagles wings. it is a combination of two unclean (under Old Testament law) animals. This beast was lifted up to stand on two feet like a man and the mind of man was given to it. (4)


The second beast was like a bear. (5) It raised up one side, as if to attack. It had 3 ribs in its mouth from something it had already devoured. But it was told to “devour much flesh”. (5)




The third beast was like a leopard, but with 4 wings on its back. (6) As if that were not enough, it had four heads. Dominion was given to it, meaning it ruled over other nations.


Finally the fourth beast was the most terrifying of all. Not much is told of its appearance. It was terrifying, dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth that destroyed everything in its path. It stamped on the remains with its feet.

The fourth beast also had 10 horns. (7) Horns are symbols of power. Ten hors symbolizes massive strength.


While Daniel looked at the 10 horns, another, small horn came up, causing 3 of the first horns to be uprooted. This horn had eyes like a man and was boasting (saying great things).

We will see in verse 17 that each beast represents a king, each worse than the preceding one.

This vision all occurs on earth, from the sea to the land. But the next verses, 9-10, shift the scene from earth to heaven.

7:9-10
God on his Throne

While on earth the beasts caused chaos and destruction, the scene is heaven is quite different. Thrones were set up. In the center, God the Father, the Ancient of Days, took his seat on his throne. Daniel’s first sight in heaven is dominated by God on his throne. Likewise, when John is taken to heaven in his vision in Revelation, the first thing he saw was God seated on his glorious throne. (Revelation 4:2-3)




In Daniel’s vision, the throne was fiery flames. It wheels were burning fire, reminding us of Ezekiel’s vision of a throne in Ezekiel 1, with fire all about and wheels that blazed with the fire of the four living creatures that bore it.

Daniel saw other thrones as well, the picture of a court of judgment by rulers. (9) In fact, it says the court sat in judgment and the books were opened. (10) The idea is that the books are accounts of the sins of all who lived on earth. Those are the books Daniel also saw, as judgment is about to come in his vision also.

John also saw 24 thrones and 24 elders sitting on them. (Revelation 4:4) John also saw judgment as books were opened. (Revelation 20:11-12) Daniel had no other book. But John saw the Book of Life containing the names of all who are in Christ and, therefore, saved in full.

Daniel described God anthropomorphically. He described human traits, but these, I believe, are symbols. God’s hair was white, probably symbolizing wisdom. (John in Revelation says the Son of Man’s head and hair are white like wool or snow.) His clothing was white, symbolizing purity. Fire came out from the throne, symbolizing the power and right to judge and destroy his evil enemies.

God is also attended by an uncountable number (then thousand times then thousand) beings who served him. (10)

7:11-12
Judgment of the Beasts

The speaking horn continued to boast up to the last minute when the beast was killed, its body destroyed, and it was given over to be burned with fire. The other beasts suffered the removal of their dominion, but lived for a while longer.

7:13-14
The Son of Man

The next part of the vision showed one like the son of man arrive in heaven on the clouds. This is an Aramaic term meaning “human being” as contrasted to the beasts. But it takes on more meaning for us than it would for Daniel, for it is used 69 times in the Synoptic Gospels and 12 times in the Gospel of John to refer to Christ. It is also the title Jesus most often used of himself.
The image of one like the son of man in Daniel 7 is used to portray Christ in Revelation 1:13.

The Son of Man comes with the clouds. In the Old Testament, only God comes on the clouds. It is a symbol of divinity. For example, Isaiah 19:1 says “Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud”. Ezekiel’s first vision of the glory of the Lord began with a cloud that had brightness around it. (Ezekiel 1:4) When God came to Mount Sinai to make a covenant with Israel, there was a thick cloud on the mountain. (Exodus 19:16) At his trial, Jesus was asked by the high priest if he was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus said he would see the Son of man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven. The high priest accused him of blasphemy, understanding he was claiming to be God. (Matthew 26:57-68)

The Son of man was presented to the Ancient of Days. The Son was presented to the Father. The son received dominion, glory and a kingdom. This must have been confusing to Daniel, for this Son of Man had human and divine traits. It makes sense to us, though, for we know Jesus was fully human and fully divine on earth and will keep his appearance, in glorified form, for eternity.

In this kingdom all peoples, nations, and languages serve and worship the Son. This is the same language used in the kings proclamations in Daniels to refer to all the people of the world. The dominion of the Son will last forever. it will never pass away. It cannot be destroyed, unlike the kingdoms represented by the beasts. (14)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Fellowship

So between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1954), 18.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Going Forward

Good article by Beth Moore at www.stream.org.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

JOY PROMISED AND DELIVERED


JOY PROMISED & DELIVERED

When Jesus knew the time for his death was imminent, he told his disciples. In John 16, he told them “a little while and you will see me no longer”. Jesus knew he would die. He knew he would be buried. In a little while, they would not see him because his body would be in the tomb.

But Jesus promised they would see him again. He said “and again a little while and you will see me”. Jesus knew he would rise from the grave and present himself to the disciples.

Jesus knew more than the physical facts, though. He knew the emotional facts. He told them they would weep and lament. They would be sorrowful. But their sorrow would turn to joy. That joy would be permanent. Jesus said “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you”. (John 16:16-22)

In Acts 1:9-11, we see the promise of Jesus fulfilled. The disciples watched Jesus ascend into heaven. They returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple blessing God. They rejoiced because Jesus was alive. He conquered death, rose to life and ascended to his throne in heaven.

Knowing these things were true, the disciples knew all that Jesus said was true. They knew he would keep his promise to return. He would keep his promise to send the Holy Spirit to them.

The disciples never lost their joy, just as Jesus said. This joy carried them into the world to preach the gospel. This joy sustained them in suffering and death.

We did not see Jesus after his resurrection. We did not see Jesus ascend to heaven. But we believe it. And this gives us joy also. In one sense, coming to faith in Christ is entering into joy. John wrote that he told the story of Jesus so that we might have fellowship with the disciples, whose fellowship was with the Father and wit his Son, that “our (John and his fellow believers) joy may be complete. (1 John 1:3-4) As believers are added to the fellowship, the joy of the church grows to completion.

Paul urged us to rejoice also. “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord”. (Philippians 3:1) Rejoice is to have joy, to express joy.

Our joy is not based on external circumstances. Paul and John knew great persecution. Yet the rejoiced in the knowledge that Jesus is alive in heaven, on this throne, ruling until all enemies are placed under his feet, waiting to return and collect us to be with hims and see his glory.

Live in joy today. Rejoice! Joy will be your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) Joy is good for you. It is good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22) It is the proper response of one who believes in the resurrection and return of Jesus.