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Saturday, August 20, 2016

A World of Apparent Injustice and Suffering

Today I would like to talk about the subject of human suffering and how we as followers of Jesus Christ can seek the best for the other person who is facing suffering to the glory of God. You have likely heard someone say, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I know that the Scriptures teach us that no one is good, but I do not think that this is what is in mind when this question is asked. There are those who are following the Lord and seeking the best for their neighbor who undergo tremendous tragedy, seemingly without explanation. The thinking in most people’s minds when asking this question is that if you do good you get good and if you do bad you get bad.
By profession I am a Critical Care Registered Nurse; which means that I help people, who, because of illness or injury are unable to sustain life without help. Everyone who is in the intensive care unit is there, because either they want to get well or someone else wants them to get well. I see a great deal of human suffering in this profession, many people do get better but many others do not. Why does one person who does things that seem foolish with regards to health; like excessive drinking and smoking live well into their 80’s, while another person who does not do these things has a massive heart attack at half that age and either dies or suffers with heart failure for several years before sub-coming to the disease?
 The books of Job and Ecclesiastes deal with this question on a personal level, but neither gives the full answer as to why there is human suffering. These two books acknowledge that evil and human suffering both exist. These two books also acknowledge the attributes of God’s divine power; that God is sovereign and omniscient.  These two books also acknowledge the attributes of God’s goodness; that God is benevolent and just. In the face of human suffering people have a tendency to doubt God. John M. Frame said, “We simply feel a discrepancy between our experience and what we believe God to be.”1 The thought process is this; if God is all powerful and God is all good then he would not allow evil to exist.2 This is because human logic puts God into a box, we forget that God is incomprehensible.
The book of Job gives an answer for Job's suffering, but Job himself is not given an answer. We the readers get to look in on a scene in heaven that Job is not privy too. We know that Job is suffering, because God’s policies for running the world are on trial. The acquisition by Satan is that Job is righteous, because God is good to him. Job suffers to demonstrate the righteousness of God. Job is never given the reason for his suffering, but comes to understand that God is incomprehensible.
Then Job answered the Lord and said,
"I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?'
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know."
'Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.'
"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes."

The preacher/teacher in Ecclesiastes says that all is vanity, that the wise and the fool alike die.4 The preacher/teacher in Ecclesiastes concludes that retribution theology is wrong, God gives good things to both the evil and good alike, because he is benevolent, therefore we should enjoy the good things that God gives us.5 “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. We should fear God and keep his commandments this is true worship.”6 The conclusion that the preacher/teacher makes in the book of Ecclesiastes is that God is benevolent to both the evil and the good, but you need to fear God and keep his commandments because when all is said done God is judge. This brings to mind the name of God given to Moses on Mount Saini.
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."7

In conclusion neither Job nor Ecclesiastes gives the answer for human suffering, both point to the fact that human suffering does exist. Therefore, when talking with someone who is suffering we should not deny that evil exists nor pretend that we have all the answers. What we do know is that God is sovereign and good, but let us never forget that God is incomprehensible. Therefore, let us not put him in a box. So when others are suffering acknowledge their suffering. Walk with them in their suffering, hold their hand and pray with them. Let them know that you do not have all the answers, but also let them know that God is good and God is Sovereign even in the face of their suffering and loss.



1 John M. Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God an Introduction (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 1994), 150.
2 Cf. Ibid., 150.
3 Job 42:1-6 (NASB).
4 Cf. Ecclesiastes 2:12-17.
5 Cf. Ecclesiastes 5:18 & 9:9.
6 Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NASB).
7 Exodus 34:6-7 (NASB).

Bibliography

Frame, John M. Apologetics to the Glory of God an Introduction. Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 1994.
The Lockman Foundation. The Holy Bible, Updated New American Standard Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.



Sunday, August 7, 2016

Psalms Classifications

Hermann Gunkel in his form-critical approach to the Psalms identified seven types or genres of psalms.1 The seven types or genres that Gunkel identified are: the individual lament, the communal lament, the hymn, the psalms of thanksgiving, the royal psalms, the wisdom and Torah psalms, and the entrance liturgies.2 Others have recognized only three general categories of psalms: praise, wisdom, and lament with subcategories within each category.3 For example, the individual lament and the communal lament that Gunkel identified could be generally categorized as lament psalms, then further subcategorized.
For the purpose of this article I will be identifying three general classifications of psalms: lament psalms, hymns, and wisdom psalms. I will give one psalm for each general classification of psalms describing how that psalm illustrates the classification. I will be presenting them in the order that they appear in the book of the psalms.
Psalm 1 is a good example of a wisdom psalm. Being that it is the first psalm, it sets the foundation for all of the other psalms. What is that foundation? The phrase “Fear of the Lord” is exposed throughout wisdom literature as being the beginning of wisdom. The actual phrase “Fear of the Lord” is absent from psalm 1, but its definition is manifestly present.4 Therefore, you must begin reading the psalms with a “Fear of the Lord.” Psalm 1, as well as other wisdom psalms parallel two very different lives; the life of the righteous and the life of the wicked. Read Psalm 1 yourself and see how it compares these two lives.
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.5
Psalm 54 is an example of a lament psalm. Lament psalms typically have five parts in their structure: an opening address (O God, My God, or Lord), a description of what is wrong, a plea to Yahweh for help, a profession of faith, and a promise to praise God or offer a sacrifice. Most all lament psalms have these five parts, but not necessarily in the order that I have listed.6 In Psalm 54 the author (David) begins with a plea for salvation followed by the vocative “O God”. Then he tells God that strangers have risen up against him (a description of what is wrong). Then after the exclamation “Selah” the author gives a statement of faith in God, the one who he is pleading to for help against his foes. The author then tells God that he willingly will sacrifice to God and give thanks to his name (Yahweh).
Save me, O God, by Your name,
And vindicate me by Your power.
Hear my prayer, O God;
Give ear to the words of my mouth.
For strangers have risen against me
And violent men have sought my life;
They have not set God before them.
Selah.
Behold, God is my helper;
The Lord is the sustainer of my soul.
He will recompense the evil to my foes;
Destroy them in Your faithfulness.
Willingly I will sacrifice to You;
I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.
For He has delivered me from all trouble,
And my eye has looked with satisfaction upon my enemies.7
Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the bible and is a really good example of a hymn psalm. Hymns can also be called songs of praise; they make up about 20% of the psalms. Hymns have only three elements; an opening invitation to praise Yahweh, a reason or rational for that praise, and a reinvigorated call to praise Yahweh God.8 You can see this format easily in the short psalm of 117 being that it has three clear statements. The beginning statement is an opening call for everyone to praise Yahweh, “Praise the Lord, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples!”9 The second statement gives the reason that we should praise Yahweh, “For His lovingkindness is great toward us, And the truth of the Lord is everlasting.”10 The author is stating that we should praise Yahweh because of his nature; Moses made haste to bow low and worship Yahweh.11 The third and final statement in the psalm is a renewed call to praise Yahweh, “Praise the Lord.”12
Praise the Lord, all nations;
Laud Him, all peoples!
For His lovingkindness is great toward us,
And the truth of the Lord is everlasting.
Praise the Lord.13





Bibliography

Hearson, N. B. "Notes on the Psalms." Kansas City: Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, n.d.
Longman III, Tremper, and Peter Enns, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament Wisdom, Poetry & Writings. DownersGrove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2008.
The Lockman Foundation. The Holy Bible, Updated New American Standard Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.





1 W. D. Tucker Jr., “Psalms Book of” in Dictionary of the Old Testament Wisdom Poetry and Writings, ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 581.
2 W. D. Tucker Jr., “Psalms Book of” in Dictionary of the Old Testament Wisdom Poetry and Writings, ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 581-585.
3 N. B. Hearson, “Notes on the Psalms”, I. b. i.
4 cf. Deuteronomy 10:12-13.
5 Psalm 1 (NASB).
6 W. D. Tucker Jr., “Psalms Book of” in Dictionary of the Old Testament Wisdom Poetry and Writings, ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 581-582.
7 Psalm 54 (NASB).
8 W. D. Tucker Jr., “Psalms Book of” in Dictionary of the Old Testament Wisdom Poetry and Writings, ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 582.
9 Psalm 117:1 (NASB).
10 Psalm 117:2a (NASB).
11 cf. Exodus 34:6-8.
12 Psalm 117:2b (NASB).
13 Psalm 117 (NASB).


Monday, July 25, 2016

The Day of the Lord

The concept of the Day of the Lord is a time in which Yahweh intervenes powerfully and effectively into the affairs of this world.1 The Day of the Lord can include, but is not limited to warfare, cleansing, redemption and theophany. The Day of the Lord means that something big has happened, is happening, or is going to happen. Sometimes it takes revelation to see that what has occurred is an act of God rather than the normal everyday affairs of men. By this definition every act of our Lord Jesus Christ would be considered The Day of the Lord, as well as His entire ministry.
These concepts in Zechariah include punishing the enemies of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:1-9). Zechariah prophecies the piercing of our Lord Jesus Christ who is of the house of David (Zechariah 12:10). Zechariah 13:1-2 speaks of cleansing the house of David and Jerusalem from Idolatry.
Joel uses five references to The Day of the Lord that span the entire book.2 The concept in Joel goes from The Day of the Lord being an attack against Israel to Israel being rescued. First they will be punished, but the they will be rescued. In Joel 2:31-32 The Day of the Lord means destruction, but there is a promise to escape destruction with repentance.
The Day of the Lord concept is much larger than any one prophet. Therefore, to understand the concept of The Day of the Lord we must derive that concept from all of scripture. The Day of the Lord is when God directly intervenes in the affairs of men. That intervention can be either grace or wrath and may even be both at the same time. The concept of The Day of the Lord would, therefore, include the theophany of Yahweh appearing to Abraham in Genesis chapter 18 (grace) followed by the destruction of Sodom in chapter 19 (wrath). Once you understand that The Day of the Lord to be a time in which Yahweh intervenes powerfully and effectively into the affairs of this world you will see it in all of scripture whether declared as such or not.



1 J. D. Baker, “Day of the Lord” in Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets, ed. Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012), 142.
2 J. D. Baker, “Day of the Lord” in Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets, ed. Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012), 139.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Immanuel a Prophecy for the Past, Present, and Future

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear A Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which translated means, " God with us." (Matthew 1:22-23)
I would like to talk with you today about the Immanuel prophecy that Matthew is referring to in our text. Matthew is saying in verse 22, that the birth of Jesus and the way that it took place was to fulfill divine prophecy. We know from Matthew 1:18-21 that Mary (Jesus mother) was a virgin, being betrothed to Joseph she had not yet been intimate with him, but was with the child Jesus. An angel of the Lord told Joseph in a dream that the child conceived in Mary is of the Holy Spirit.1
Let’s shift gears for a minute and look at the prophecy itself, and the meaning that it had at the time. This is good to do, because as is often the case divine prophecy has multiple meanings. I like to compare biblical prophecy to skipping stones on a smooth body of water. When I was a child my parents liked to take us camping in the state parks. The center of the park usually had a body of water alongside which we would put up our tent. I would walk along the banks, find a flat stone and toss it across the water watching how many times it skipped.
Biblical prophecy is a lot like skipping rocks on water. The prophet cast the stone and it touches the water (the first meaning of the prophecy); the rock then lifts up off the water and touches the surface of the water again (the second meaning of the prophecy); eventually the rock reaches its culmination and plunges into the deep (the final meaning of the prophetic word).
Turn to Isaiah chapter 7, beginning in verse 10 and read through verse 16 the Immanuel prophecy as written by the prophet.
Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, "Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!" Then he said, "Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken. (Isaiah 7:10-16)
A little historical background so that we are able to put the text into context. Ahaz was king in Judah during the ministry of the prophet Isaiah for 16 years, and was in many ways just like the kings of Israel in his idolatry.2 A situation arose in which Rezin (king of Damascus) and Pekah (king of Israel) had formed an alliance to attack Jerusalem and set up a puppet king (son of Tabel) as king in Jerusalem.  The Lord speaking through Isaiah told Ahaz that they would not be successful, and in 65 years they would both be destroyed.3 God speaking through Isaiah told king Ahaz to ask for a sign so that Ahaz would know that it was the Lord speaking through Isaiah, and therefore, trust in the Word of the Lord. King Ahaz refused, but the Lord gave him a sign anyway.
In Isaiah chapter 8 we find this prophecy being fulfilled in the birth of Isaiah’s son. Isaiah approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then the Lord told Isaiah to name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz; and that before the boy was of the age to speak Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.4 The Lord would then allow Assyria to attack Judah, but only up to the neck; Assyria would not take Jerusalem. Why? Because it was not the will of the Lord that Assyria should destroy Jerusalem, “For God is with us.”5 Immanuel translated means, “God with us.”6 Therefore the Immanuel prophecy was fulfilled.
This demonstrates the power of divine prophecy. A prophecy can have a present meaning to the people that it was spoken too as well as a future meaning that could only be understood once revelation occurs. Matthew saw that meaning in the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Did Isaiah understand that the Immanuel prophecy would ultimately culminate in the birth of the Son of God? I do not know, but if Isaiah knew he likely did not fully understand. Isaiah being a prophet of God was given much of the mind of God, but with that being said he (Isaiah) is not God; therefore, his knowledge and understanding of prophecy is limited. There is indication that he might have had an inkling since he prophesied in Isaiah 9:6-7;
 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

Difficult times lay ahead for Israel and Judah, but there is hope of peace in the future. This prophecy when it was written was looking ahead to the first and second advent of Jesus Christ. The first advent; “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us”7 has been fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ. We are now looking ahead to His second advent when the government will rest on His shoulders.8 What I hope that you take from this brief sermon is that divine prophecy has more than one meaning and application. It has a meaning for those who it was originally spoken to, it also has another meaning in the future; ultimately all prophecy is fulfilled in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.



1 Matthew 1:20.
2 cf. 2 Chronicles 28.
3 Isaiah 7:1-9.
4 Isaiah 8:3-4.
5 cf. Isaiah 8:5:22.
6 Matthew 1:23.
7 Isaiah 9:6a.
8 Isaiah 9:6b.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Our Only Hope

I am writing this blog post today as a ministry update. The Lord has given me a new location to tell people about Jesus. Every Monday morning, I am going down to the Smith County Court house. As stated before; the Lord granted it to me to memorize The Gospel According to John and I am now using it for His glory.
I arrive at the court house at 7:45am. I position myself on a corner at the backside of the court building in the pathway between juror parking and the entrance to the court building. I pass out Gospels of John between 7:50am and 8:00am to the early arrivals (jurors must be in the court building by 8:30am). I then proclaim in open air chapters 1, 2, and 3 out of The Gospel According to John.
Preaching time is less than 20 minutes. I spend the remaining time up to 8:30am passing out gospels of John. I have inserted the Follow Me tract inside the gospels as a book mark. I am doing this out of upward love for and thanksgiving too God for what He has done for me in Jesus Christ. I am also doing this out of lateral love for my neighbor. Pray for the Lord to give ears to hear and hearts to perceive this message of life.



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The End of Every Man

"It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart."[1]

In 2013 there were 7.125 billion people in the world. The average life expectancy worldwide is 70.78 years. I took those figures and did a little math. 7.125 billion people divided by 70.78 years divided by 365 days in a year means that 275,792 people die on average every day. Let that figure sink in for just a moment. That is equivalent to the entire population of Corpus Christi, TX, dying every day. Maybe you have never heard of Corpus Christi, TX. Then let us look at the largest city in Texas. It is equivalent to the entire population of Houston, TX, dying over a 2 week period of time. Maybe you are not from Texas, so let us look at the largest city in the United states. It is equivalent to the entire population of New York City dying during a 2-month period of time. For more clarity let us look at the largest city in the world. Shanghai China has a population of 24,256,800 people. The world wide death rate is equivalent to the entire population of the largest city in the world dying during a 3 month period of time.[2]
Jesus lived a righteous life, He never sinned, and therefore lived a life pleasing to God. He promised eternal life to everyone who believes in Him (He is the Christ, the Son of God); then He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again; presenting Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs.[3] Jesus demonstrated by His life that He is trustworthy and He demonstrated by His resurrection that He is able. Therefore, the only logical thing for us to do is repent and put our trust in Jesus.


[1] Ecclesiastes 7:2.
[2] World Bank and U. S. Census Bureau.
[3] cf. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Monday, June 13, 2016

I Hope So


            In one of his recent sermons, my pastor Phillip Dancy, of Sylvania Church in Tyler, Texas, said; all religions in the world except Christianity are hope so religions.[1] Ever since I heard that statement it has been on my mind, because of its familiarity. Just ask someone; Are you going to go to heaven when you die? The typical answer is, “I hope so.”
A few days ago my wife Darlene and I took a trip to Sam’s Warehouse where you get a discount on food items by buying in bulk. I dropped her off at the front door and proceeded to park the car. I noticed two women with two children crossing from the parking lot to the store. All four of them were dressed in African attire. One of the women was wearing a hijab, which is a veil covering the head and chest typically worn by Muslim women in public. What my pastor said came to mind. I began to ponder, why do people put so much effort into a hope so, when the free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus is a trustworthy promise?
Jesus lived a righteous life, He never sinned, and therefore lived a life pleasing to God. He promised eternal life to everyone who believes in Him (He is the Christ, the Son of God); then He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again; presenting Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to the disciples in bodily form on three separate occasions in The Gospel According to John.[2] Jesus demonstrated by His life that He is trustworthy and He demonstrated by His resurrection that He is able. Therefore, the only logical thing for us to do is repent and put our trust in Jesus.




[1] Phillip Dancy, sermon on 2 John, Sylvania Church, May 29, 2016.
[2] cf. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.