Travelling Images – Cleansing the Temple

In the book, On the Way to the Cross, the reading was in John 2 where Jesus cleared out the temple of the money changers.  There is a quote from St. Augustine (5th C) who spoke of those who came to church not to be redeemed but to make a profit.  Origen (3rd C) spoke of the love of money invading the human heart.

How far can the image of money changing in the place of worship be taken?  Is it only a historical reference about Jesus view of worship in his time?  Can it be compared by analogy to commercialism within the church (profit instead of worship in the place or worship)?  How about the individual believers heart (where we are seen individually as a temple, a place where God dwells by his spirit)?

As far as authoritative teaching, we ought to as a rule of thumb travel conservatively – making sure we have a clear path from one location to another.  Can we draw a principle that the worship of God should not be derailed by financial gain?  but for a meditative, personal reading, we can have more freedom to explore the image.

The Church Fathers, the Medieval Church and even the Reformers were not above taking trips on images.  some are justified and some are not.  Read some 19th and early 20th Century christian preachers, and you will find the same. However, the books on interpretation (hermeneutics) usually frown on this sort of thing.

When the New Testament seems to do this with the Old Testament.  Matthew 2:15 quotes Hosea 11:1 in reference to Jesus being taken as a child to Egypt.  But the original reference in Hosea was to the nation being called out of Egypt at the Exodus.  Some accuse Matthew of an error.  However, it also seems that Matthew along with the Apostles at large made an analogy between the life of Jesus and the life of the nation. (To and from Egypt, 40 years/days in the desert, mana/bread in the wilderness, 12 tribes/apostles, etc).  Matthew uses that principle to make his reference “work.”

The long and short of it is to make the leap with thought and care – or your conclusion could take the path of Wile E Coyote, over the cliff and into the void.


The Gospel in James – James 1:18

James is described as a practical book. It seems to be guidance for the converted – preaching for the choir.  Some, including Luther, have had difficulty with James and specifically where we find the Gospel.

J. A. Motyer has the insight that the first chapter of the book is aimed at the individual (see the pronouns) and then later he deals with issues of life in community: wealth, words, favoritism, the needy.

With that in mind, the first chapter is preparation for the wisdom journey he wants us to travel. It includes a reminder of the Gospel – without spelling it out.

“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.”  If this were merely about natural birth in the world, then who are the “we” and are they distinct as first-fruits?  He is speaking of the redeemed  – those who have heard and received the “word of truth”.  So we are saying the word of truth is the Gospel.

Is it not reasonable to think that James, speaking to believers does not spell out the “word of truth” because his audience knows it.

Isn’t it this below, my take on John 3:16?   Yes the verse Tebow had on his football eyeshadow at U of Florida and which the rainbow wig guy held up in the end zone for years:

God, the creator of all things, including the heavenly lights, so loved the world, even though it is sick with sin, and all the people in it, even though we argue, rebel and ignore him, that he sent his only begotten son, Jesus, who was with him at the creation of all things, and was born to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem in Judea.  He did this so that whoever believes in him, that is to say, whoever trusts in him, knows that he is the Son of God and Savior and relies on him totally for the ability to receive Gods life, will not perish, as a consequence of our sin and stubbornness, but will have eternal life, which starts at the moment of faith and lives on beyond the projected 5 billion life span of our solar system into the light of eternity.

Friends, “lent” me your ears #1

‎”And as ice formed on water covers its surface as long as night and darkness last but melts under the warmth of the sun, so death reigned until the coming of Christ; but when the grace of God our Savior appeared and the Sun of justice rose, death was swallowed up in victory…” Basil of Caesarea

This is a book I am reading for Lent, or as we “low church” types say, “the season before Easter.”  This follows readings from John with some Psalms and suggested prayers.

On the Way of the Cross, Thomas Oden, IVP, 2011


The view from my neighborhood on a late winter morning


Fresh Bibles? Really?

This image was in my inbox under the heading of “Fresh Bibles”.  Note the suggestion of getting a new Bible for Spring or Lent or oh, I dunno, Arbor Day.

OK, this is not a big deal, but really, a book is MORE than its cover.

Right Brain, Left Brain and Commenataries

So the Left Brain is more or less linear and reasonable, the right brain is more or less intuitive and artistic.  That is, I know, an overstatement.   We stipulate that Fresh Read is about the Bible not neuroscience.

That being said, I find that I value the left brain (nuts and bolts, definitions and outlines) kinds of commentaries to get things like authorship, date, outlines and word definitions.  But I LOVE the right brain commentaries that show the relationships of things – the literary shape and the artistry of a writer.

“A word apt spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

I am starting a new sermon series on James. I found that Doug Moo’s commentary (Tyndale series) is somewhat balanced, with a lot of left and some right-brained material.  I dutifully read and noted the important facts detailed.  I was surprised to find how often he noted the literary catch words in the passage.

Then I turned to J. A. Motyer in the Bible Speaks Today (IVP)  Series.  Wow!  Right off the bat a big picture diagram of the interrelated and literary unity of the book.    I am still in the introduction and I am making notes and saying “yes” out loud.

So I am biased – yet I recognize the value of both types.    We do need accountants and programmers but we also need poets and painters.


Igniting your own sparkler: A memory verse from Francis Schaeffer

A speaker at the L’ Abri conference in Rochester MN, said that Isaiah 50:10-11 was an imporant idea for them.  To walk in the light of God and not to ignite our own sparklers.  Here it is in the ESV

The original idea is the folly of idolatry.  We can make idols of our ideas, methods, things, pop culture (“American Idol”).  It made me think of Indiana Jones and how he always found torches in those dark snake filled caves and crevices – who put those there?   Well, that is a mystery for another time.

10 Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the voice of his servant?
Let him who walks in darkness
and has no light
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God.
11 Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
who equip yourselves with burning torches!
Walk by the light of your fire,
and by the torches that you have kindled!
This you have from my hand:
you shall lie down in torment.

“You have a lot of books.”

This is what people say when they walk into my office:

You have a lot of books.

     It is part of being a pastor, which requires study of the Bible, theology, and a hodge-podge of other things – including practical matters such as when to build or relocate as well as philosophy and art.  I also took a degree in History. I come from book people. I once asked  my father in law for a book on the Civil War, he went to a used book  store and sent me a box.

It has come to the dynamic equivalence phase: to make room for a new book, i have to sacrifice an old one.  As Beyoncé says, it is time for an upgrade.

If I wrote a book…

If I had the time and focus to write a book, well, I have a few ideas.

Isaiah for Preachers: how to make the massive book with its rich theology and poetry available to preachers and learners in the church.  Ok, I need to shorten the title a little.

Wisdom on the Road: how wisdom literature is another dialect that can speak to “blue state” Americans.

Reformed without the Tulip: Is it possible to grasp onto the Kuyper like approach to culture without getting hung up on the old Reformed theology debates (plenty of books on that).

Reading the Books: the book of Scripture and the book of nature, with emphasis on the right side of the brain, and a nod to the Belgic confession.


Why I detest church health/growth/technology/ books with badly borrowed social science wed to superficial exegesis.  This one will get everyone mad.

Ok, next on the to-do list:

Better titles!

Tally Man – John Stott on Romans 12:21

I encountered this quote from John Stott while studying Romans 12:17-21

John Stott, Romans, 1994, IVP, p. 337

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

“In all our thinking and living it is important to keep the negative and positive counterparts together.  Both are good. It is good never to retaliate, because if we repay evil for evil, we double it, adding a second evil to the first, and so increasing the tally of evil in the world.  It is even better to be positive, to bless, to do good, to seek peace, and to serve and convert out enemy, because if we thus repay good for evil, we reduce the tally of evil in the world, while at the same time increasing the tally for good. To repay evil for evil is to be overcome by it; to repay good for evil is to overcome evil with good.  This is the way of the cross…”