Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hebrews 7 Lesson

This is passion week.  Of all weeks of the year we should focus on the cross.  We can approach the cross in many ways, some of which are not really doctrinal (re:  Bill O’Reilly).  But we can even from a Biblical standpoint look at the cross from several perspectives, and the best book on this is John Piper’s 50 Reasons why Jesus Came to Die.  The doctrine of the cross is very rich and deep.

One way we must approach it is from the Old Testament views.  Hebrews definitely looks at it more as Christ fulfilling ceremonial law of the priesthood.  So I would like to talk about the tabernacle some and what it was like for a person to “worship.”

There are two chapters in the Bible on creation and a whole book on how to worship, because we don’t worship creation, as marvelous as it is.  Actually, creation is marvelous but also cruel.
You really can’t do a study of Hebrews without an understanding of the Old Testament tabernacle, which became the temple later, with some modifications. 
Key points:
·      Each piece of it was symbolic of God’s work with Israel and some scholars say, of our Christian experience.
·      The whole nation was involved in its building and gave sacrificially for it.  Where did they get the money?  Spoils from Egypt, trading, available in wilderness
·      The directions are intricately given in Exodus 25-40. 
·      The items were priceless.
·      It was moveable and it was located in Shiloh when they arrived in promised land
·      It was always in the center of the camp.
·      The ark was stolen during a battle with Philistines (I Samuel 4) and remained there until David’s reign.

What’s the deal with this fellow Melchizedek?

Two ideas:
A real person who is used as a description of Christ because he (a) was recognized by Abraham as a spiritual authority, and Abraham gave him tithes even though the Levitical priesthood would not be around for hundreds of years, (b) he has no geneaological record, which is a big deal in the Old Testament.  Jesus was human but not in the same sense, he is special and superior.  And (c) he is a priest of the most High God but not Levitical, and Jesus was of Judah, not Levi.  So the idea inherent in Melchizedek is superiority and nonLevitical. 

He is a Christophany. In a few instances in the Old Testament, an “Angel of the Lord” appears for a special purpose.  Some Bible scholars believe those are appearances of Jesus before the real incarnation.  I do not accept those because the New Testament doesn’t refer to them and says that Jesus came once.  It seems to me that the New Testament would mention them specifically.

Chapter 7 is divided into 3 sections:
1-3:  characteristics of Melchizedek
4-10:  relation of Melchizedek to Levitical priesthood
11-19:  Need for a new priesthood because “the law made nothing perfect.” (v. 19)
20-28:  Greatness of Christ as the new high priest. 
            He continues forever
            He is holy, innocent (what does that mean?), undefiled, separate from sinners
            He doesn’t need to sacrifice for himself, as the others did
            His sacrifice was himself, therefore perfect. 

 It seems like all of  these rules didn’t work.  Why didn’t God just send Jesus right after Adam and Eve sinned?  Get it over with, we’d all be happy, right? 

Jesus reframed the Old Testament.  He didn’t do away with it, or say it was pointless and meaningless.   But he fulfilled it, saying “I am the fulfillment of all of these ceremonies, I explain it, I will make it complete and end the need for it.” All cultural groups become fixed on a place, as the Jews had.

Turn to John 4:19 and following.  Jesus said, “Those who worship me must worship me in spirit and in truth.”  Jeremiah predicted “new hearts” instead of legalistic, hard-as-stone ones that caused them to miss the grace. 

Other religions have an iota of truth, but their only value is to show that they are not enough.  Buddhism makes a person mindful, but does not answer the question of forgiveness.  Islam makes a person aware of the separation of God from mankind, but doesn’t bridge the gap.  Judaism lays the foundation but the whole point of Hebrews is to convince those who are tempted to go back into Judaism (due to persecution from Rome and their community) that Jesus is superior to the Jewish system even though that was the starting point—Go on, move forward. 

So, as high priest, Jesus makes the last and perfect offering, he “tabernacled with us” (John 1:4); he offers only for us and not for himself because he is sinless, he understands our weakness and what temptation means, as well as human experience that can pull us toward temptations, he tears the veil, we can come boldly into the holy or holies, he ever lives to intercede for us based on the perfect offering, he makes access possible everywhere and anywhere, he makes us equal, we don’t have to bring some animal to offer or any other human oriented work.  Faith is what we bring, and we walk away with an ability to obey if we use it. 

Reflection:  What can we do this week to focus on the sacrifice of our High Priest?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring Colors

 I look out my front door and feel like I am in a Monet painting.  Cherry blossoms and Japanese magnolia.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


God is the only one who can humble you without humiliating you and exalt you without flattering you. (from Ravi Zacharias, Recapture the Wonder, but not original to him.)

Monday, March 16, 2015

The End of Nuance

It seems like in this polarized world, the ability to listen and discriminate points of arguments is missing.  Of course, the word "discriminate" is inherently bad, right?  Like "niggardly."  Anyway, one first has to listen, put down the phone, look someone in the eye, and fully understand a position to get nuance.

In a professional meeting I was at recently, there was a concern over the world "liberal."  Since the historical meaning of the word is not understood, the real meaning of it now is not.  We are all liberals in the historical sense, whether we like it or not.  Progressive and socialist more adequately describe what is going on now.  Statist, maybe.  But even still, I am missing the nuance of positions and views. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Our unit's secretary said yesterday, "I'm wishing my life away."  That is an interesting phrase (must be a Southernism).  I have been doing that lately in terms of my getting through this doctorate.  No more.  I have eight weeks to graduation and I plan to enjoy them, since I won't see these folks again.

My committee has my dissertation and I am planning the defense, but I have two conference presentations before that, a paper due, and oh, yes, classes to teach and work to do.  And today, making this house semi livable again.

Carpe Diem, seize the day, is not a totally pagan concept.  I live in the future so much (planning) that it is a consummate work of the will to love this minute.  I have also been experiencing depression, odd for me, so that's a concern.

The commercial on TV just said, "Is this the year you plan to spend more quality time with your dogs?"  Oh.  My.  Word.  Quality time with your dog?  But here they are.  They do give us joy but it is totally a social construct kind of joy (perceived by us).

Hebrews 4-5 Bible Study Lesson

Sunday School class
A. Big themes in Hebrews:
1. Keep in mind that Hebrews is about “Jesus is better than the collective ministry within Judaism.”  Lots of references to others who were like Jesus or seemed to be like Jesus in the past but were not worthy of being the savior:  angels, Moses, high priests, animal sacrifices.  They serve as the baseline for interpretation, but Jesus is the platinum standard
2. Faith mixed with hearing.  The word does not good if not responded to and believed.  Faith that responds to the word heard or read leads one to mighty acts, especially in terms of dealing with persecution, oppression, and rejection. Many of the names listed in Hebrews 11 were victims of persecution. At the same time, many of them did some really stupid and wrong human things (even murder in Moses’ case) but faith was what made the difference
3.  Don’t stop, move forward. 
4.  Persecution (the people in the Hall of Fame were persecuted for the most part in some way.)

B.  Hard to understand.  Hebrews has a lot of beautiful passages that we memorize and quote, but they are in the middle of some hard structures to figure out the connection. Just reading it and understanding the flow is difficult.  The writer seems to change subjects and we have to figure out the connection between verses sometimes.  Never the less it is one of my favorite books to study because of the beautiful Hebrews 11-12 passage; the humanity and Jewishness of Jesus is central; it does cause  us to have to think about issues that we take for granted and question.  The two main ones are about Jesus’ humanity and whether a person can leave the faith.

Hebrews has four passages that have caused headaches for scholars for years.  2:1-4, 3:7-4:16, 5:11-6:20 (the most debated), 10:26-31.  These are called the warning passages.  They all say:  don’t neglect this great salvation by going back into Judaism and to move forward in faith, not staying put.  They also use the word therefore a lot, which means to me that these warnings are tied into what has been said before.

They seem to be asides or tangents to remind the readers not to go astray, backward, back to Judaism.  For us, does this have any relevance?  They are reminders to stay close to the church (do not be a coal separated from the fire) and other Christians and moving forward in the faith because there is no telling where you will end up otherwise. 

Also, I have a personal mission to draw awareness to the persecuted church, and Hebrews does that.   

I.  I want to start with 4:11, although that requires us to dip back into the preceding verses.

Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

A.  This points back to verses 1-10, where the writer starts, “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest. . . not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”  This is referring to the Israelites not going into the promised land the first time because they didn’t believe God, except for Joshua and Caleb. 

B. Rest.  What kinds of rest are there in the Bible.
God rests at the end of creation.  Rest means cease from labor and completion, not sleep or fatigue.
Israel entered into the land and rested from wilderness travels.
The land was supposed to rest every 7 years.
We rest from our works to depend totally on Christ for salvation, and for some people that realization doesn’t come until long time after their conversion.
Sabbath rest, which is a symbol of many things but we don’t have to legalistically keep it but see it as a blessing. 
When we die we rest from our labors.
The high priest rested after his work. 

Christ gives us rest—Joshua was not the final word.  Verse 9-10:  There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.  For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

So, does this rest mean death and heaven?  Or something else?  I believe it is “dependence on Christ” fully, moving forward in faith, and realizing, either slowly or quickly, that our works have nothing to do with his love for us and his salvation.  For some of us this comes at conversion experience, for others later, but it is a rest from your labors.  We are resting from trying to please God with our works and self-righteousness and trusting in Christ alone.  This is daily as well as a one-time thing. 

II.  What does the Bible have to do with this?  The next verse (12-13) seems to come out of nowhere, so what is the relationship?  We can look good on the outside, but the Word of God reveals to us our true hearts and motives, thoughts and intents.  If we are deceiving ourselves, the word will reveal that to us, “if the hearing is mixed with faith.”  God knows us.  These issues about rest are personal, between God and us, “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  Have we ever tried to hide our true motives from God, tried to convince ourselves what we wanted was good for others and God’s kingdom but we really knew it was for our glory, our being seen?  What a silly game to play with God. 

This sounds negative, but I think this is positive.  Even being married 33 years, there are some things I can’t be totally “naked” about with my husband because he is just not able to handle them.  God can handle everything.  Since he knows our thoughts and intents, and he uses the Word to reveal those to us, why not come clean?  If what is motivating you is fear, he knows that.  He wants us to confess it “say the same thing as God does” I John 1:9.    

III. Jesus and High priestly ministry

A.  The high priest had certain things going for him.  He was human, so he could have sympathy and empathy.   He was in a vital and important place in Jewish culture.  He was respected, but he was also responsible for getting it right.  Over time, they were not always worthy of their respect (one was in on Jesus’ crucifixion).   Verses 5:1-5 compare the human high priest to Jesus as high priest.  Three things:
1.  The high priest had to offer:
2.  The high priest had weaknesses and sins like others.
3.  The high priest was called  by God.  

Think about hundreds of years of sacrifices, all those animals to remind people how painful their sin was that the death of an animal was needed to pay the price for the debt against God.  Yet it was temporary, not a permanent solution. It pointed to the permanent one. 

B.  v. 15  Jesus was tempted in all points like we are.  How is that true?  What was he tempted to do?

C.  v. 15 Yet without sin.  Could he have sinned?  Differences of opinion.  If he couldn’t have sinned, then it wasn’t a real temptation.  If he could have sinned, how could he have gone on being a holy God?  Jesus got angry at the money changers.  Was that sin?  (In movies he is portrayed as a crazy person).  He came close to despair.   Temptation is not sin.  We don’t need forgiveness for being tempted, but for sinning. 

IV:  What does this mean?  Come boldly before the throne of grace.  Why?  Two reasons: 
A.     He knows the thoughts and intents of your heart, so there is no basis for shame.  You don’t have to hide anything from God.
B.      Second, we have a perfect high priest. 
C.     Boldly doesn’t mean _flippantly, irregularly, lazily.  What
does it mean?

Conclusion:  Poem by Martha Schnell Nicholson, My Advocate

Tennessee Temple Closing

Although it didn't get as much press as the closing of Sweet Briar College in Virginia (a closing that is still being disputed and from what I read seemed premature), on the same day Tennessee Temple University announced its closing, or really its merger with Piedmont International University, which used to be Piedmont Bible College.

This has been harder for my fellow graduates and alumni of TTU (or College when I graduated) than it has been for me.  Working in higher ed, I know these things happen.  And I had long snipped my emotional ties to that institution, except for my many friends.  Of course, the transcript issue is a concern, but Piedmont will (have to) take care of that from now on.  I am not sure all of those people worried about transcripts really needed to be.  What do you need transcripts for except grad school?  Of course, I needed mine at 56 to apply to Georgia, so I have nothing to talk about there.

I have read the posts on Facebook, the reminiscing, the belly aching.  TTU was a place you couldn't feel neutral about.  That was one reason they had trouble with alumni.  The graduates either thought the place was (or became) too "liberal" and wouldn't support it, or they had traumatic experiences there and wouldn't support it.  Those who would have liked to for what they gained usually were in ministry and had not extra money for support.

I have thought about its own legacy in my life.  Six positives and some negatives.
1.  Discipline.  Whether it's walking every day (something my gynecologist told me to do in my 20s and which I have followed faithfully and it has served me well. Two miles a day has helped my mental health, my immune system, my heart, my blood sugar, and to some extent my weight.  However, I know I am seen as the crazy walking lady, especially with my dogs); or Bible study, or just not procrastinating (a practice I do not understand), or paying my bills on time, living on that campus taught me to be proactive, to plan, to get it done, to be responsible.
2.  Bible study.  I was blessed to have a strong Biblical foundation.  Of course, the "place" didn't always follow the Bible's real teaching about leadership, church polity, and treatment of other believers, but what was taught was amazing.
3.  Awesome friends I can't even begin to list here.
4.  Appreciation of the arts and of course being in the communication field, thanks especially to Dr. Steve Euler.  In general, a good undergraduate education (but dated).
5.  A suspicion of people with "new ideas"  or charismatic personalities.  When some fad goes through the "Christian community"--whether The Shack or Bill Gothard or courtship dating or whatever, I roll my eyes and sit it out.  That may be natural for me but seeing gullibility at TTU really reinforced it.
6.  Forensics and debate experience.
1.  My fleshly self-righteousness was more encouraged than discouraged.  Unlike my peers who think of legalism as just outward behaviors, I long ago recognized legalism as a problem within, and especially within me.
2. Therefore, judgmentalism continues to be a struggle for me.  Case in point, tattoos.  I don't get them.  Surely there is a better use for your money and skin than all those indelible designs (not even mentioning the Old Testament prohibition against them).
3.  See #5 above.
4.  Shame.  This is the worst one and the hardest one to explain.  I don't want to be outed as having gone to TTU.  Yesterday a colleague said she met a former colleague from TTU at a professional meeting.  I felt like a secret was out.  Of course, if someone asks, I'll tell them.  Maybe now I can write that my undergraduate degree was from Piedmont International University (I do not advertise my undergrad degree).
The shame also comes from a feeling of being complicit in what others suffered.
5.  A defensiveness about any perception of being taken advantage of or disrespected, since there was so much indirect disrespect of women.  However, this continues in the Southern Baptist Convention.
6.  Gaps in my undergrad education, as someone said, a lack of critical thinking because dissent was forbidden.  But I learned that afterward through being a debate coach there for several years, so that helps.

Comments appreciated.  I prefer to write on this blog, as it gives me more space for nuance.  Nuance is missing in all discourse now, as well as civility.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Update for March 10, 2015

If anyone comes to this blog on a semi-regular basis, I just want to post what's going on.  I am in the midst of many stressful things right now, most notably defending my dissertation this month and feeling totally unprepared to do so.  Ideas are not coming like they used to,  and when they do I am either exhausted or reticent about posting them. I am also in a different (administrative) job which makes me aware of discretion in terms of what I would post, so I self-censor.  The stress has given me some of what I call "immobile days" when forward movement is hard and a pure act of will.  Yet I am pretty productive, just valuing what little time to myself I have.

I have been thinking about the evolution question.  Media types love to talk about how stupid Americans are not to believe evolution.  There are many facets to this issue, but one I am sure of:  those who reject it understand its ramifications.  Where does meaning come from if we are biological accidents?  Can anyone ask that question?  Does it not boil down simply to personal survival, and then why would art, humanity, community, and beauty matter?  In short, I think people have figured out that the two alternatives are being created by a loving God (in some fashion we don't entirely get) and therefore having a point to our lives, or being just so much of a carbon-based life form.  I'll take the former, thank you.

Public Speaking Online, Part IV

During the Web Speech             One of the helpful suggestions from the business writers used for this appendix ...