September 2009


An Amazing Revelation captured on film!

No, this time I’m not referring to the scandals of Wall Street or the multiple debacles of failed government both State and Federal, that we have been forced to view daily on the news in the last year. This time, I’m happy to be able to report on a much richer and far more uplifting project that is now ready for viewing about the real soul of the American people- including those we refer to as the “Native Americans”.

It’s all there; recorded for us marvelously in the epoch film-making of Ken Burns married to outstanding texts narrated by a rich assortment of eye witnesses from both the past and the present. It is the PBS production of “Our National Parks: America’s Best Idea”. Set to premiere on Sunday, this wonderful National treasure can be viewed on the internet in multiple clips that give us a sample of what it’s all about- our national soul; touching the living spirits of the land and the ancestors that have gone ahead before us. Don’t settle for this one clip! Press on to view as many as you can emotionally stand. And remember the theme: This land belongs to YOU and ME, this great land which is AMERICA.

Gleening truth fom the Jewish faith

My wife and I were having a wonderful time of noting the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and reviewing the heritage of the Old Covenant in the Christian Bible. This was the day after we had the joy of studying in our Bible classes on Sunday, Psalm 105 and 106      which close Book IV of the Hebrew Psalter.

Give Thanks to the Lord, for He Is Good

106:Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,
or declare all his praise?
Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!

The Ram's Horn announces the New Year

The Ram's Horn announces the New Year

Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them, [1]
that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory with your inheritance.

Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
that he might make known his mighty power.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11 And the waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left.
12 Then they believed his words; they sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert;
15 he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.

16 When men in the camp were jealous of Moses
and Aaron, the holy one of the Lord,
17 the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
and covered the company of Abiram.
18 Fire also broke out in their company;
the flame burned up the wicked.

19 They made a calf in Horeb
and worshiped a metal image.
20 They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21 They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
25 They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the Lord.
26 Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 and would make their offspring fall among the nations,
scattering them among the lands.

28 Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor,
and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
29 they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
30 Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was stayed.
31 And that was counted to him as righteousness
from generation to generation forever.

32 They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account,
33 for they made his spirit bitter, [2]
and he spoke rashly with his lips.

34 They did not destroy the peoples,
as the Lord commanded them,
35 but they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
36 They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
38 they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.

40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
and he abhorred his heritage;
41 he gave them into the hand of the nations,
so that those who hated them ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them,
and they were brought into subjection under their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes
and were brought low through their iniquity.

44 Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
46 He caused them to be pitied
by all those who held them captive.

47 Save us, O Lord our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.

48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the Lord!                          –  The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

Anyone who has read and studied the Biblical narrative of the Old Testament at all, has noticed a distinct theme that seems to be a recurring pattern-a cycle, as it were in the history of Israel. The birth of Israel as a people/nation is often taken to be the great deliverance from Egypt under Moses. The pattern then looks something like this: Deliverance- Rebellion- Judgement- Confession/repentance and cry to God to save- followed by a new deliverance. I personally believe this cycle is embedded in the very heart of the Jewish calendar and the holy days.

I have gleened so much through the years, and now more than ever, by listening to those who live and practice the Jewish Faith today. It has taught me the richness of my Hebrew heritage which I have ” been grafted into” (using the words of the Apostle Paul) in Christ Jesus of the Christian Faith. In fact this is one of those themes that many of us are re-visiting, the Jewish context of Jesus and his first century followers.

I found a great post on my favorite Jewish blog which I hope you will visit. Shalom. For my Jewish friends, may you have a truly blessed holiday season leading up to and including Yom Kippur. Roshgreeting

For those who are not Jewish, would you like to guess the location of “The Third Oldest” Jewish congregation in America? Visit this link.  How about 275 years!

AN URGENT NEED!     John enjoying a baseball game w/ His brother

 

ACT3 President Coming To Madison County-

October 4th – 5:00-7:00pm

 (John,on the right, with his brother Thomas on opening day of the Marlins)

Dr.John H. Armstrong will be speaking at Trinity Church PCA, Richmond, to a unity celebration sponsored by E4Unity, Sunday at 5:00p.m. The web site of ACT3 ministries pretty well sums up John’s passion since 1991: “Equipping Leaders for Unity in Christ’s Mission”.

Since about 1998 John has been a personal friend and a great encouragement. Though I am a few years older, I have found in him a worthy model of what I am advocating and seeking to promote in the local area among all the churches. He will be with us to talk about his new book to be released by Zondervan in April, 2010. It is a book that he says is his own personal vision that God has been teaching him about the urgent need among American Christians. It is entitled, “Your Church is Too Small: Why unity in Christ’s Mission is vital to the future of the Church”. 

John has served the church in a number of ways for some thirty years and has authored books(twelve) that demonstrate his love for Christian churches of all the different traditions. In his sermons, lectures, and books and writing, John is focused on providing resources and counsel for Pastors and leaders. He is a capable Biblical scholar himself serving as an adjunct professor of evangelsim at the Wheaton College Graduate School.

If you are in the Lexington-Richmond area, we urge you to join us for this very profitable session regarding the church, her unity, and her mission.

For location of Trinity Church PCA  (here)

For an example of the resources ACT3 provides for the churches see the forthcoming Biblical Forum, a periodic gathering for serious Biblical theology, Oct.30,31, in the Chicago area. The theme will be, “Reading the Old Testament as Jesus Did”.

HEALING the HUMAN TRAGEDY

I believe that active members of every faith tradition recognize the reality of the “Human Tragedy”, and are trying to do all they can to heal it on behalf of the race. If you will invest eight and one half minutes to view this clip from the Broadway production of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde”, you will understand why I say this.

There are many things included in the script, that as a Christian, I can perfectly relate to and I think that will be true of those from other faith traditions. Here is a sterling example: “The true self is locked inside a facade of hypocrisy”. We cannot seem to extricate ourselves from this human condition, no matter what we do including in modern science and medicine, or with philosophy and religion, all super-charged now with the latest technology. I have come to the conclusion that our only hope has to come from “outside” the human race.

We shall all be changed, in the twinkling of an eye!” Yes, but how? The Biblical narrative has one answer, other faiths have different answers.

PSALM 9 from the Song Book of the BIBLE

New-york

9:1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

When my enemies turn back,
they stumble and perish before [3] your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
their cities you rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished.

But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!
Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. [4] Selah

17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

19 Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before you!
20 Put them in fear, O Lord!
Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

The theme of vengeance is not an obscure part of the people of faith including the faith of the Psalmist, who is generally taken to be King David himself in this composition. If the Psalms is the “Song Book of the Bible” as Bonhoeffer and others have suggested, then this song touches the very heart of the ancient faith. The confidence of the righteous in the face of oppression and hate was a stedfast assurance that God Himself was to be looked to for vindication: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord! “The Lord will judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”, wrote the author of the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament.

If you have a Bible you can confirm for yourself the presence of this theme in the entire Biblical narrative. Here are just a few chapters that will serve as “evidence that demands a verdict”.

The Song of Moses- Deuteronomy 32 and 33.

The Wrath of the Lamb- Revelation 6

The Song of the Lamb- Revelation 15

So you see, there is a lot of singing going on by the people living by faith in the God of the Scriptures. When we consider today the persecution, oppression, and even destruction by the wicked that right now going on in the world, we need to have this quiet assurance and confidence so that our soul may be at peace, knowing that the Most High God will judge righteously. Selah.

Be Still My Soul (video by Selah)

Meditating on the Prayer Book!                                                   

The Book of Psalms in the Hebrew Bible has been called by various names but the one that appeals most to me is, “The Prayer book of the Bible”. From one of the resources listed in E4Unity “toolbox” comes this very unique essay on what he calls the “gateway Psalms” of the entire book.  

 

 

Solus Christus in the Psalms  Book

It would be tempting to highlight “particularly Messianic” Psalms and say “There, see, Jesus is spoken of here and there in the psalter.” But I’m not sure that’s right. I once told a friend I was helping preach through an 8 week series called “Jesus in the Psalms”. He said “Right, so you’ll get through Psalms 1-8, when are you going to do the other 142??” I was chastened! That’s absolutely right. It’s not like Messianic Psalms form a sub-division of the psalter: like there’s imprecatory Psalms, Psalms of lament and messianic Psalms. You’d never think of having the ‘God Psalms’ as a sub-category! Christ is not a sub-category of Christian revelation or experience.

Think of the doctine of sola fide (faith alone) for instance. There are a number of passages that we can readily turn up to demonstrate its truth. And a paper on sola fide will spend time going through those specific passages, but not so as to prove that sola fide holds in those cases alone. We look to the specific passages to show that this pattern holds for all God’s dealings with man. And it holds even for those parts of the Scripture which opponents may erroneously claim refutes it. It’s like this with solus Christus (Christ alone). We look at the specifics to demonstrate a divine dynamic which holds for all Scripture.

So as we think about Christ in the Psalms we’re not going to pick out messianic mentions here and there. Instead we’re going to look at Psalms 1 and 2 and see how these model for us what to expect in the rest of the Psalter.

Psalms 1 and 2 are often called the gateway to the Psalms. They belong together for many reasons not least the “blessed”s at the beginning and end. Just as with the Sermon on the Mount, the “blessed”s tell us exactly who is in on what’s about to be discussed. In the Sermon on the Mount, the “blessed”s tell us who’s in the kingdom which Jesus describes. In the Psalter, Psalms 1 and 2 tell us who’s in on the worship of the living God. And who is the blessed man??

Well He is an ‘ish – a representative man. In fact He is the Man. This is an audacious claim. (I rarely even claim to be a man!) Verse 2 says He is a night-and-day Bible-meditator, which makes Him a king (cf Deut 17:18-20; Josh 1:8). Verse 3, He is also like a tree (think ‘Branch’ or ‘Root’ or ‘Vine’ – kings are described like this). Not only this but He can make others become prosperous (causative hiphil stem).

This one Man, this definitive Man, is contrasted in v4 to the many wicked. The Psalm does not begin by comparing righteous people to wicked people but rather The Righteous Man is contrasted with the wicked masses. Then (presumably through the Man/Tree-of-Life causing many others to prosper like Him) we hear about other righteous ones (v5-6).

When we turn to Psalm 2 we see the Man given more names. The LORD’s King (v6) is here called “Anointed One” (Messiah, v2), and “Son” (v7). Though He is raged against, He will be poured out on Zion (v6) and publicly vindicated by the Father (v7) before claiming universal rule. (v8-9) All must love and take refuge in Him – both Judge and Saviour. (v10-12)

Here is the gateway to the Psalms. We ought not to rush into the Psalter without stopping here and asking who is welcome in the Psalter. And the answer is: “Blessed is the Man… and Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” We must be rightly related to Christ to be welcome in the worship of the living God. He, supremely, is the Scripture-meditating, righteous, flourishing, tree-of-life-like Worshipper. But as Calvin comments on Psalm 22:22, He also is the heavenly choir-master who tunes our hearts to sing God’s praises.

Now what implications does this have for how we read the rest of the Psalter? Well one big help we have received in this, the gateway, is that we’ve been introduced to the four main characters in the Psalms. Here we have:

(1) the LORD;

(2) the Christ, the Blessed Man;

(3) The Righteous who take refuge in Him; and

(4) The Wicked who oppose Him.

All the Psalms are about the interaction of these four groups. In some, like Psalm 1, the Blessed Man is shown before the LORD and then the righteous and the wicked are contrasted. In some, like Psalm 2, the righteous complain to the LORD about the wicked and then He reminds them about the Blessed Man, Christ. In some we have simply the words of Christ. In others we have the words of the LORD to Christ. In some we simply have the words of sinners like us taking refuge in Him. But all of the Psalms are about the inter-relation of these four groups. And they all work together to speak to us of Christ. Let’s be alert to that as we read the Psalms, they are related to Christ.

From blog of Glen Scrivener, Church of England pastor in UK)

 

 

SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL this weekend

“At that moment . . .there was a feeling. . .HOPE: it was the feeling that something better was going on, and what you’re doing has some special meaning! I was lucky to live at that moment.”

Studs Terkel WPA writer

Studs Terkel WPA writer

I caught part of Bob Edward’s program on PRI this morning and it was fascinating. Turns out it was about a program that the Smithsonian channel is showing this Labor Day weekend:

FDR’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) funded four arts program.  One of those, the Federal Writer’s Project, employed thousands of writers and started the careers of some of America’s most famous authors like Studs Terkel, Ralph Ellison, Richard Writer, Saul Bellow, and Zora Neale Hurston.  Bob talks with writer David Bradley about a new documentary that tells the story of the Federal Writer’s Project.  “Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story” premiers on the Smithsonian Channel this weekend.

 I had never heard of this WPA project before. Evidently at the time it uncovered more than a few of America’s “dirty linen” such as the extent to which “slavery” was still alive and well in the 20th century. But there is a lot more I’m sure about the strength of America’s grass roots communities immediately following the ravishes of the Great Depression.

I hope you get to listen to Bob’s program sometime soon and for sure take time to see the special on SmithsonianChannel.

PREVIEW Sneak Peak (video)

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