Friday, December 28, 2007

Blueberry and Pineapple Smoothies ... They Do A Body Good

Grandpa had the new smoothie maker out last night mixing up a concoction.

The little buddy was happy about that.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas and Isaiah 7:14

It's that time of year again ... the time when Isaiah 7:14 gets beat up like a rented mule. I read discussions of it every year, as I did again this morning, and am still not convinced that anything in the eighth century BC (when Isaiah was writing) can fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah in 7:14.

Isaiah 7:14 talks about a young woman who is a virgin and pregnant at the same time. The word "pregnant" is an adjective describing the virgin. She is not a virgin now who will become pregnant later. In the prophetic mind of Isaiah, she is both a the same time.

Many appeal to Isaiah 8:1-4 as a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, either partially or fully. The problem is that the prophetess of 8:1-4 is not both a virgin and pregnant. She is first one, then the other.

The question is usually brought up, How is the birth of Christ, seven hundred and thirty years later, a sign to Ahaz? The answer: It's not. It was not intended to be. Ahaz had already rejected a sign through a false show of piety, because he had already secured his hope through a foreign alliance. He was not interested in listening to God, and so God was not speaking to him.

The prophecy is given to a group of people, as indicated by the plural forms of the prophecy. It was intended to assure the house of David, and more broadly the nation of Israel, that Tabeel would not succeed in removing Ahaz from the throne, thus breaking the Davidic covenant.

The Davidic covenant would stand, and it would still exist seven hundred and thirty years later when the Son of David, Immanuel, would be born to a pregnant virgin.

So what of the reference in vv. 15-25 to the deliverance of the nation in the eighth century BC? If the prophetic mind of Isaiah sees the virgin as currently pregnant (which it does), his prophecy is made on the basis of that pregnancy. Isaiah does not know the time or the person (cf. 1 Peter 1:10-12). But he did know what he was saying.

There is only "God with us" which is what Immanuel means. And it certainly was not Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. It was none other than Jesus Christ who is our only hope, and who is the only hope for the nation of Israel.

It is further interesting that those who see a fulfillment in Isaiah 8:1-4 do not seem to want to see that fulfillmen in chapters 9-11 which are the conclusion of the Immanuel section of Isaiah. The reason they do not press that fulfilllment is because chapters 9-12 tell us that Immanuel will reign, and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz did not do that. I would suggest you can't have it both ways. If 8:1-4 fulfills 7:14, then it must also fulfill chapters 9-12. Of course, only Jesus fulfills 9-12, which again gives us increased basis for our hope in Christ.

As a side note, it is always interesting to me that people who see no need to see a literal fulfillment of OT promises to the nation fulfilled to the nation suddenly see Isaiah 7:14 as having to have some fulfillment to the person to whom it they believe it was made. These scholars, many of whom are good men, see no need for promises made to Israel to be fulfilled to Israel, but they insist that a promise made to Ahaz must be fulfilled to Ahaz. That seems inconsistent to me. It seems better to see Isaiah as making a promise about the Davidic covenant, ensuring the nation of Israel that God has not abandoned them because of Ahaz's foolish distrust and foreign alliances.

God will be faithful, and he will come to be with us, and to reign over his chosen people. You can count it.

At the Diner

This morning the subject was the lottery. Apparently two people won the lottery yesterday (neither of whom appear to be in my church), splitting some rather large amount of money. (I haven't read the news so I don't know the amount.)

The conversation revealed the great love of money that exists in people, and the lengths to which they would go to get it. Someone jokingly (I assume) asked another if they were one of the ones who had won. He said, "No, if I had won, I wouldn't be sitting here. I would be in Hawai-ya" (phonetic representation of his vocalization). He followed that up with "I'd take me five grass skirts and fill them over there." I wasn't entirely surely what he meant, but the mental picture was pretty clear to me.

Later the conversation turned to the identity of the winners, and whether or not someone had to reveal their identity to collect their winnings. One person said she would tell no one if they won. Another said he would climb up on a dome if that was what it took to collect the check.

Now, I continue to believe that the lottery is simply a tax on people who are bad at math. The odds of winning are so small, it amounts to giving away money. I told someone once they should just give the money to me, and I would immediately give them half of it back. That way they would be sure to get at least some money.

It is played by people for whom money is the sole aim of life. They think that they will be satisfied only when they have a lot of it.

Unfortunately this love of money is not a problem simply in the world. It is a problem in the church just as much as anywhere else. It is a problem that comes from human nature and our desire for self-worship.

The Bible warns us about the love of money many places, but notably in my mind, in 1 Timothy 6:9-10:

But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Do you want grief to pierce your life? Do you want to wander away from the faith? Do you want ruin and destruction? Then love money.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Learning From Esau

Young Esau could not see beyond what was in front of him. He possessed no vision, no spiritual imagination. He had no eyes or mind for God, or for Heaven, or for Hell. Spiritual realities were to him dull and opaque. He was a single-dimensional soul. Pleasure now was his guiding star. For him all that mattered was the excitement of the hunt, a hearty meal, a woman’s company—all good things in proper perspective and place. But pleasure is all that Esau could see. Thus he despised his birthright, selling it for a single meal, and likewise he despised his heritage for the pleasure of Canaanite women. Esau’s blithe arrogance brutalized everything precious to life and fixed him on his tragic course.

For every generation, the challenge is the same—to see that there is more to life than a meal, or a video game, or baseball, or a party, or a movie, or an indulgence of some kind—to see, as Paul put it, that "the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18)

From R. Kent Hughes, Genesis, p. 433.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Mitchell Report

The long awaited Mitchell report on the use of performance enhancing drugs was delivered yesterday. It was commissioned several years ago by MLB in an attempt to get some answers on the prevalence of drug use in baseball.

In this report, former Senator and peace maker George Mitchell names almost eighty current and formers players. Notably absent are Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, the two credited for bringing baseball back from its almost suicidal strike in 1994. In fact, the home run chase in 98 is why some people think MLB led by Bud Selig overlooked the steroid issue for so long. They desperately needed the excitement of that chase and desperately needed to avoid any questioning of its legitimacy in the years afterward.

The biggest "new" name mentioned in this report is Roger Clemens, eleven-time All-Star and seven-time Cy Young Award winner. Clemens came out with a vehement denial of the accusations, but according to ESPN last night, the rumors of Clemens use of performance enhancing drugs have been around for a long time. As John Kruk pointed out, people in professional sports do not get more dominant with age, but Clemens did ... and Bonds did. There is virtually no question that Bonds used drugs, nor there is there any question that Selig did a great disservice to MLB by not taking action against Bonds.

Now Clemens?

Who's to blame? While Selig bears a large part for his mismanagement, the players have no one to blame but themselves. The MLBPA (players association) has long stood in the way of any meaningful drug testing. They refused to make players available for the Mitchell report investigation, allowing players to testify only if they wished.

Why would not the PA come out strongly in favor of protecting the game that has made them multi-millionaires? Why put the baseball public through this charade of indignant self-righteousness when they knew, just as well as everyone else, that there were significant drug problems in baseball. Why not make your players testify before the Mitchell investigation?

All the secrecy just screams out that they have something to hide.

Except it's not hidden very well.

Here's my solution.

1. Institute weekly drug tests that actually test for HGH as well. (Spend the money and figure out how to test for it.) These tests should take place year round, rather than simply during the season. Give each player a yearly four week hiatus in the off season, to account for vacations and travel away from a testing facility.
2. Give every player until May 1 to get clean.
3. Institute a one strike and you're out policy. If a player gets caught with performance enhancing drugs in his system, his is done for life. No appeals, no second chances.

Why so harsh? Because baseball needs its game back. These players need to know up front what the penalty is. And if enhanced performance makes it worth running the risk of never putting on a uniform again, then take the risk. But don't whine when you get caught. And don't plan on sitting out for fifty games, or a hundred games, and then getting back in the game.

One, and your done.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Knowledge of Sin in Evangelism

What does a sinner need to know about sin in order to be saved?

Often, in explaining sin in evangelism, people tend to take one of two avenues. On the one hand, people can be so reductionistic about sin that all they desire to do is get the person they are witnessing to to say that at least one time, at some point in their lives, they may have committed a little tiny sin.

On the other hand, some people are so desirous not to sell the gospel short that they insist on using sin as a billy club to beat someone over the head with, almost insisting on long and specific lists of sin before they will move on to talk about the life that is in Christ.

I wonder if we might not appropriately sum up the issue of the knowledge of sin in evangelism in the word "helpless." When I am talking to someone about the gospel, what I want them to do is not just say that one time a long time ago they did something they should not have (though they most certainly did). Nor am I interested in a annotated enumeration of their manifest depravity (though it would surely be long and gruesome).

What I want them to see is that no matter how bad they think they are, their sin has made them helpless to have a relationship with God. I want them to see that Christ is their only hope.

A person who thinks they can help themselves might only have one acknowledged sin, or they might have a long list. But they are still holding out hope that they can somehow fix their relationship with God. They are not yet ripe for the gospel. It is perhaps best to leave them alone for now and come back to them later.

A person who recognizes that they are helpless apart from Christ alone will recognize that because they see the true nature of their sin, whether it is one sin or more than they can remember.

So in evangelism, while we need not dodge specific sins, it seems to me that we need to focus on the helplessness that sin has created in our lives.

What do you think?

On Prayer

From A. B. Bruce, in The Training of the Twelve:
In the spring of the divine life, the beautiful blossom-time of piety, Christians may be able to pray with fluency and fervor, unembarrassed by want of words, thoughts, and feelings of a certain kind. But that happy stage soon passes, and is succeeded by one in which prayer often becomes a helpless struggle, an inarticulate groan, a silent, distressed, despondent waiting on God, on the part of men who are tempted to doubt whether God be indeed the hearer of prayer, whether prayer be not altogether idle and useless. The three wants contemplated and provided for in this lesson—the want of ideas, of words, and of faith—are as common as they are grievous.
From Daniel March in Night Scenes of the Bible, from the chapter entitled "Jacob's Night of Wrestling":
Sometimes it is the last and greatest act of God's mercy to a prayerless and worldly man to lay so many pains and afflictions and losses upon him, that he feels compelled to cry out in agony of soul, "Lord, help me!" And there is no good thing in the world which a man cannot afford to lose, if the sacrifice and the suffering will only teach him to call upon God in humble and fervent prayer.