Sunday, February 29

God Rules!

During the times our family has been gone from the Yukon on sabbaticals, we have attended the Evangelical Free Church of Bemidji, MN. Here is an interesting sermon by Pastor Fred Martin from Daniel 2 on the sovereign rule of God and how it fits together with our personal choice, and how it ought to spur us on to action. A few excerpts:

Two themes weave themselves through the story of Daniel: the importance of personal choice and the sovereign rule of God. We often think of those two teachings as contradictory. They must rule each other out. If God really knows the future and rules the events of this world, then in what sense do our choices make any difference? We must be kidding ourselves into thinking that our choices even matter. On the other hand, if our choices really count for something, then God cannot rule the world. In fact, some people conclude that God can't even know the future. But here in the opening chapters of Daniel both of those teachings are right in front of our faces. We can't escape from either one of them: the importance of personal choice and the sovereign rule of God. Our choices do make a difference, and God does rule over the events of this world....

Think about how the importance of personal choice and the sovereign rule of God work together here in Daniel. They are not opposed to each other. They work together and feed off of each other. Why should Daniel think that his actions can make any difference in Babylon? He's young and a foreigner. He may be a member of the royal court, but he's just one among so many of the king's counselors. Why should he make an attempt to remain faithful to God in such overwhelming circumstances? Here's the reason why: God rules! The living God of heaven and earth can take Daniel's small acts of obedience and turn them into something significant. Our belief in the sovereign rule of God inspires us to make choices because we know that God can do something significant with those choices....

Because God rules, you and I have reason to believe that our actions can make a difference in an ungodly world. The odds against us may seem insurmountable. Why should we speak up about our faith in Jesus Christ when we know that others will either mock us as religious fanatics or accuse us of being intolerant bigots? So why speak up? Why should we stand for right and wrong when it comes to matters of sexuality? Why should you and I take the hard path of obedience, when cutting a few corners would make life so much easier? Why? Because God rules!

God rules. That is not just a dry doctrine for theological debate. It is our conviction that propels us into action. God can take your decisions and your choices and use them to accomplish his good and holy purposes. Therefore, whatever the challenge that confronts you, face it with confidence. You may not know how God is going to use your choice, but you can be sure that he will. So go! Choose to live for God and stand up for his standards. The sovereign God who rules over all the kingdoms of the world will honor your choice and accomplish his purpose through you.

Saturday, February 28

A Certain Movie

Those of you who just can't stand that I'm not discussing a certain movie might enjoy this thoughtful discussion on Passion-Fever by Mr. Standfast.

Friday, February 27

Looking Back and Looking Forward

How do we keep the faith through difficult times?

By following the examples of the faithful ones who have already completed this race:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us.... (Hebrews 12:1)

The testimonies of the Old Testament saints spur us on to faithfulness. They looked forward to the provision God would make for them and kept the faith. They longed for something beyond this material and temporal world and trusted that God would provide it for them:

These all died in faith without receiving the things promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them and acknowledged that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth. For those who speak in such a way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. In fact, if they had been thinking of the land that they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they aspire to a better land, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrew 11:13-16)

Have you ever heard that phrase "Too heavenly minded for any earthly good"? What this passage in Hebrews says is exactly opposite: It was heavenly mindedness that kept the Old Testament saints good on this earth. They understood that the physical land of promise was not the real deal and that God had something better than the earthly territory thay had left behind waiting in the wings for them--a heavenly land He had promised them.

Their testimonies are examples to us of what true faith is--trusting God to fulfill His eternal promises to us and valuing the eternal more than the temporal. And how much easier it ought to be for us, because what they could only see through longing eyes peering into the future has already invaded our world.

And these all were commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised. For God had provided something better for us, so that they would be made perfect together with us. (Hebrews 11:39,40 NET)

The day Abraham saw through eyes of faith has come. We can look back on what has been done for us and also forward to what is yet to be given to us: inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God's power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4,5 NET)

So let us not grow weary and lose heart!

Wednesday, February 25

The Joy Set Before Us

How do we keep the faith through difficult times?

By keeping our Leader in focus and following His example:

keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up. (Hebrews 12:1,2 NET)

Jesus looked beyond the cross to the joy of bringing "so great salvation". The pain and humilitation of the cross were willingly accepted by Him because His suffering was a means to something glorious--the joy of "bringing many sons [and daughters] to glory".

Those of us who follow Him can consider what He has done for us as incentive to continue to be faithful throughout our struggles. We do because He did. And just as His suffering was working something wonderful, so is our suffering. Our suffering has meaning, too:

Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons.....he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7a, 10b,11 NET)

Christ's suffering was working a great salvation; our suffering is working the fruit of our salvation: peace and righteousness. God's aim in our suffering is that we "share in his holiness". This is the joy set before us: We are being remade in the likeness of the One we follow. We are one of the sons and daughters being brought to glory.

So we gather ourselves together....

Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees (Hebrews 12:12 NET)

....and keep on running the race, enduring the difficult process for the sake of the joyful product.

And the Winner Is....

....Hans Gatt!

When Hans Gatt left the ice of the Yukon to guide his dogs up the steep river bank and on to Mainstreet in Whitehorse, crossing the finish line at 6: 54 am, he became the 2004 Champion of the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race with a new Fairbanks-Whitehorse record of 10 days 18 hours and 48 minutes.

Congratulations to Hans and especially to all his dogs....

Friday, February 20

All Boys Need Some Derring-do

Oooh, I've been waiting for years for an opportunity to use that word! I suppose I should have some sort of scientific study to back up that statement, but if you've raised any sons to semi-adulthood, you probably know that this is true. Adolescent boys have an inner itch for adventure, and if they don't get enough of it in relatively safe and lawful activities, they may just find it for themselves in unsafe and illegal ways. Sometimes it can be a challenge for parents to provide enough opportunity for this sort of physically demanding, courage testing activity, and for a solo mom, this is even more difficult.

At our house, this need is being met right now through the sport of skijoring--you know, harnessing the dog (or dogs) and letting her pull you while you ski behind. Nearly every day my 14 year old son puts the booties and the harness on our golden retriever and off they go in the Yukon bush for a good run/ski, and my son experiences two things boys long for--a challenge against the elements and breath-taking speed!

Thanks... Adrian Warnock for recommending my blog on his.

Another Big Score at the Salvation Army Thrift Shop Yesterday

A couple more good books for 25 cents each. (The Christian books are all 25 cents. They must not be hot movers!)

The first one is a commentary on Hebrews by Leon Morris ( link. Amazon says it is out of print). I was reading his comments on chapter 2 last night, looking for what he had to say about those verses I quoted so often in my "divine blood" posts. He makes this interesting comment, something I hadn't really thought of:

The author pursues his argument [of the excellence of Christ] by enlarging on this thought of the genuine humanity of Jesus. It may be thought that this is a digression, that instead of carrying on with the thought of Jesus' greatness he now turns aside to speak of a different truth. But this would be a superficial understanding. He has spoken of a great Saviour, greater than the angels, who produced a great salvation. Now he proceeds to show that in pursuit of this great aim Jesus stooped so low as to come down to where we are. To secure the salvation that was set before Him He was great enough to take the lowly path. The emphasis on the true humanity is an integral part of the author's argument concerning the excellence of the Christ.

The proponents of Christ's "divine blood" wander into the heresy of the denial Christ's full humanity in an effort to keep Christ exalted. This passage in Hebrews is giving us reasons why Christ is excellent, and it gives Christ's willingness to become fully human as one of the things that makes Him so wonderful and worthy of exaltation. Denying His full humanity is not protecting His worth, but instead is making Him something less than He really was.

The second book is a really nice copy of Pilgrim's Progress. Well, now I have to make an admission: I have never read this book as an adult. I either had it read to me or I tried to read it as a child--I don't remember which--and I was not impressed. So, to this day, when someone mentions Pilgrim's Progress, all I can think of is a boring story about some guy named "Christian" who gets stuck in the mud.... or something. Now the book is on my nightstand and I'm thinking it might be time to move beyond my childish prejudices.

Wednesday, February 18


I noticed this morning that the daylight is just starting to appear during the morning commute. The tide has turned, and spring is on its way.

He made the moon to mark the months,

and the sun sets according to a regular schedule.

You make it dark and night comes,

during which all the beasts of the forest prowl around.

The lions roar for prey,

seeking their food from God.

When the sun rises, they withdraw

and sleep in their dens.

Men then go out to do their work,

and labor away until evening.(Psalm 104:19-23, NET)


Tuesday, February 17

NET Bible

One of the best resources on the web for Bible study is the NET BIBLE. I love it not so much for the actual translation--although that is good, too--but for the tranlation notes, which are a real gold mine of valuable info for the Bible student.

Just for fun, let's look at that favorite verse of all, John 3:16. Here it is as found in the NET BIBLE:

For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Hmmm...some interesting changes from the way we're used to quoting it. Let's look at the translation notes.

Notes on "For this is the way..." (The Greek fonts will be messed up, but we'll ignore them.):

Or "this is how much"; or "in this way." The Greek adverb ou{tw" (Joutws ) can refer (1) to the degree to which God loved the world, that is, to such an extent or so much that he gave his own Son (see R. E. Brown, John [AB], 1:133-34; D. A. Carson, John , 204) or (2) simply to the manner in which God loved the world, i.e., by sending his own son (see R. H. Gundry and R. W. Howell, "The Sense and Syntax of John 3:14-17 with Special Reference to the Use of Ou{tw"...w{ste in John 3:16," NovT 41 [1999]: 24-39) .Though the term more frequently refers to the manner in which something is done (see BDAG 741-42 s.v. ou{tw /ou{tw" ), the following clause involving w{ste (Jwste ) plus the indicative (which stresses actual, but [usually] unexpected result) emphasizes the greatness of the gift God has given. With this in mind, then, it is likely (3) that John is emphasizing both the degree to which God loved the world as well as the manner in which He chose to express that love. This is in keeping with John's style of using double entendre or double meaning. Thus, the focus of the Greek construction here is on the nature of God's love, addressing its mode, intensity, and extent.

Here is the note on "one and only":

Although this word is often translated "only begotten," such a translation is misleading, since in English it appears to express a metaphysical relationship. The word in Greek was used of an only child (a son [Luke 7:12, 9:38] or a daughter [Luke 8:42]). It was also used of something unique (only one of its kind) such as the mythological Phoenix (1 Clement 25:2). From here it passes easily to a description of Isaac (Heb 11:17 and Josephus, Ant. 1.13.1 [1.222]) who was not Abraham"s only son, but was one-of-a-kind because he was the child of the promise. Thus the word means "one-of-a-kind" and is reserved for Jesus in the Johannine literature of the NT. While all Christians are children of God ( tevkna qeou' ,tekna qeou ), Jesus is God"s Son in a unique, one-of-a-kind sense. The word is used in this way in all its uses in the Gospel of John (1:14, 1:18, 3:16, and 3:18).

On "perish":

In John the word ajpovllumi (apollumi ) can mean either (1) to be lost (2) to perish or be destroyed, depending on the context.

And on "eternal life":

The alternatives presented are only two (again, it is typical of Johannine thought for this to be presented in terms of polar opposites): perish or have eternal life.

Fascinating stuff, isn't it?

Monday, February 16

The Toughest Race of them All

Well, the most grueling sled dog race of them all has begun again. No, not the Iditarod, but the Yukon Quest:

The first Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race started in 1984 and has been run each year since over the 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of rough, sometimes hazardous terrain between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska (view race map). This event takes place each year in mid February when the weather conditions can be the coldest and/or most unpredictable of the year. The starting point alternates between the two cities, even years from Fairbanks, odd years from Whitehorse. The race starts on schedule regardless of weather and will take from 10 to 13 days to complete, depending on conditions encountered on the trail.

Unfortunately, one of the old favorites, William Kleedehn, has been forced to scratch already due to a broken leg.

Keep up on the lastest race results here.

Sunday, February 15

Divine Blood, The End...

...well, we can all hope, anyway.

The scripture is pretty clear that Jesus was both fully God ("In Him all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt..."), and fully man ("...he had to be made like his brothers in every respect..."), and the historical creeds and confessions affirm this as well. This truth is hard to understand, and impossible for us to put together in a way that does not contain logical tension, but we accept it because we believe that scripture tells us that this is who Christ was. Whenever we hold truths that contain logical tension, our finite minds are always attempting to move away from the tension, and into something that is more comprehensible to us. Throughout Christian history, this has happened with some regularity with the teaching about the two natures of Christ. There have been heretical groups that either denied Jesus' divinity or implied that His divinity was not full divinity, and those that denied His humanity or implied that He was not fully human.

What does it hurt that some mistakenly believe that Jesus has divine blood? Why take up all this space to refute the notion? Isn�t it just a little mistake in understanding that has no great consequence?

The mistaken ideas about the person of Christ that tend to upset us the most are those that err on the side of downplaying his divinity, and it is indeed a serious error to deny the full divinity of Christ. Is it not just as serious an error, however, to denying his full humanity? The Apostle John certainly seems to think so, for he maintains that anyone who denies that Jesus came in the flesh--that He had a body just like ours--is the spirit of the anti-Christ. This is a serious accusation that John makes. Shouldn't we be standing in agreement with him? Denying that Jesus' blood is not human blood is not a minor error, but one that is a least pushing forcefully at the fence of orthodoxy, if it is not already standing outside of the fence.

It is true, I think, that most of the people I know who believe this error are doing so partly out of ignorance, and partly because they want to protect Christ's divinity. They cannot understand that a doctrine that teaches that Christ had a body just like ours with human blood flowing through his veins is not a doctrine that makes him somehow less than God. But ignorance and good intentions are not adequate excuses for having wrong ideas about who Christ was. The question of who Christ is the most important question we as Christians need to answer. We confess Him and adore Him; shouldn't we know the One we confess and adore?

This is one of those places where getting rid of the logical tension in the truths we hold, where trying too hard to wrap our minds around the incomprehensible doesn't lead to more truth, but less. It leads to a wrong answer to the question of who Christ is, and it leads to a wrong answer to what it is He has done for us. Our Savior is One who humbled Himself to become like us in every respect, to be tempted in every way like we are, and yet remained perfectly obedient even to the point of dying a criminal's death on the cross. As He mediates for us, He understands us because He is the man Christ Jesus. He sees things from our viewpoint as an advocate on our behalf. This is a glorious truth--one that should make our hearts sing--but one we miss out on if we don�t recognize His full humanity.

Here are a couple of links if you find this sort of thing interesting and want to know more. This one discusses the divine blood idea down through history, and this is one by Matt Perman on the incarnation.

Thursday, February 12

Divine Blood, The Proof Texts

Okay, now it's time to look at the two texts use to support the idea that Christ's blood is divine blood. The first one is Acts 20:28:

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

I have quoted from the KJV, since the people I have discussed this with prefer that version. The point they make from this text is that the blood by which God purchased the church was God's own blood, so the blood that Christ shed was not human blood, but divine blood.

Is this the point that the verse is making though? Is it saying that the blood is God's own, meaning that God purchased the church with the blood that was physically within Christ's veins--blood which is not human, but God's own blood; or that the blood is God's own, meaning that God purchased the church with something precious that belonged to him--by the sacrifice of His own son?

It seems pretty clear to me that the last option is the best one. First of all, it's difficult to understand how someone who is spirit can have physical blood. How can there be any such thing, really, as divine blood? When you take this difficulty and put it together with Hebrews 2:14-17 which says that Christ shared in the same "flesh and blood" as we did--that He was like us in every respect, how can this verse can be taken to mean that Christ's blood was physically different than ours because it was somehow God's own blood?

Moreover, there is ambiguity in the text, and some versions translate this as "with the blood of His own" rather than "with His own blood". This makes Acts 20:28 a rather weak proof text, since the precise meaning in the original is a bit unclear, and it could be saying simply that God purchased the church with His Son's blood, rather than God's own blood.

Now on to the second supporting text found in 1 Peter 1:18 and 19:

...knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, {the blood} of Christ.

This text is used because it says that Christ's blood is not a perishable thing, and it is assumed that in order to be imperishable, the blood must be divine, for if it the blood was human blood, it would automatically be perishable. I am not sure it is true that human blood is automatically perishable (Isn't perishability the result of the fall?), but I don't think that's the point of the text anyway. The contrast is between perishable things and the unblemished and spotless nature of the One who redeemed us. Christ was not tainted by sin, either by birth or by His own actions, and it is this complete sinlessness coupled with His complete humanity that makes him valuable to us as our Redeemer. He can receive our stripes in our place because He deserves none of His own. He can represent us because He is truly one of us.

Neither of these proof texts, then, really argues against the humanness of the blood of Christ, while other texts seem to quite straightforwardly argue that he had all that was required to be fully human, including taking on the same sort of body that we have.


Wednesday, February 11

Divine Blood, A Parenthesis...

Before looking into the two proof texts used as evidence that Christ's blood was divine, it might be useful to consider what is meant in scripture when the blood is mentioned. Does it always simply refer to blood as a material or physical thing, or does mention of the blood often bring with it other concepts? Is the word blood sometimes used to represent other related concepts?

When scripture uses the word blood, it oftem seems to carry with it the idea of the life sustaining properties of blood or, more specifically, the life given up in death when the blood is shed. "The life is in the blood" is not only speaking of the life of the creature, but also is pointing to the life being taken in death. When Paul says in Acts 22 that the blood of Stephen was shed, he is not refering to Stephen physically bleeding, for stoning someone to death does not necessarily cause a lot of bleeding, but to the way Stephen died--His life was taken from him in a violent way.

Notice, too, the parallels between Christ shedding His blood and giving His life. We are told that Christ "gave His life as a ransom" and also that He "purchased [men] with His blood", both refering to believers being bought, either by Christ's death (the giving of His life), or by His blood. The two phrases seem to be used equivalently.

In addition, against the backdrop of the Old Testament sacrificial system, the term blood sometimes brings with it the thought of sacrifice. The New Testament believers, familiar as they were with sacrifices of the priests, would have seen the references to Christ's blood as cleansing in the context of the cleansing of the old covenant animal sacrifices. The blood of the old sacrifices cleaned in some sort of outward way, while the blood of Christ cleans, too, but in a complete way that the old sacrifices only hinted at. The blood of bulls and goats were not able to take away sins, but "we have been made holy through the sacrifice the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10).

I have taken this little detour here in order to lay a bit of a foundation for the examination of the two texts used as proof for Christ having blood that was divine. In our next installment let's look at those two proof texts.


Monday, February 9

A Few Good Books

Here are a few book I have read and enjoyed recently:

Faith: Tried and Tiumphant by D. Martyn Lloyd Jones.

A collection of sermons on Habakuk and Psalm 73. A more devotional sort of book, but just what I needed when I read it. Found this goody in the used book section of the Salvation Army Thrift Store.

The Atonement:It's Meaning and Significance by Leon Morris.

The same subject matter as The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross but written specifically for lay people. Lots of good information in this one and it was another thrift shop find for me.

Paul: An Outline of His Theology by Herman Ridderbos.

I read this one little by little. It's translated from the Dutch, and the language is often a bit difficult to understand, but what you find underneath the difficult writing is profound and thorough. Many of the things I have written about here I began mulling over because of this book. If you are interested in some samples from this book, here are a couple of excerpts: In Christ, With Christ and Reconciliation.


Thursday, February 5

Divine Blood, Part 2

Let's pick up where we left off several days ago and look at the problems with the doctrine of the divine blood of Christ. I will not be dealing with the so-called scientific evidence, which I believe is misinformation, because for those of us who hold the scripture as the foundation for any doctrine, whether the theory has scientific support is largely irrelevant. What matters most of all is whether the theory can be supported by the text of scripture. So, what does scripture tell us about whether Jesus had blood that was not human, but divine?

It's interesting that those who hold this doctrine dear to them see it as the only way that Christ's death could mean anything for them. It's the only way, according to this view, that there could be help for them in the atonement Christ made. Scripture, however, seems to say something that is exactly opposite of this:

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:14-18)

According to these verses, it is because Christ was like us (shared our same flesh and blood) that His death had power for us. It is because He identified himself fully with us, or as the text says--He was like us in every way, even to the point of being tempted as we are--that we can be identified with Him in his death, and He can serve as our priest and make propitiation to God on our behalf. Christ had to become fully human in order for His death to aid us, and His death does not aid those, like the fallen angels, with whom He did become identical. There is no doubt in my mind that if the cells of Christ's blood were to be DNA typed, the DNA would be human DNA, for if they were not human cells, then Christ was not like me in all things. And if the Christ I have put my faith in is not like me in all things, including the full humanness of the blood flowing in His veins, then He is powerless to help me in my greatest need as a human being--freedom from my slavery to sin and the death that comes as the just consequence of that sin.

What do those two texts used to support the divine blood theory really mean, if they don't mean that Christ's blood was not human like ours? I hope to look at each one of them in my next post.


Monday, February 2

Well, I suppose I could have done worse....

So I took the "What Theologian Are You?" quiz. It says I'm most like John Calvin. I was really happy until I read the arrogent and rude part.....

"[To] serve God properly we must learn to give up our own wills, thoughts, and desires. Why?
Because otherwise we will be wise in our own conceits and will imagine that we can serve
God with this or that, and thus spoil everything."
You are John Calvin!

You're the most intellectual and thoroughly intense theologian on the block. You know what
you're talking about and you recommend people to ignore you at their own risk.
Yeah, baby, you know your stuff. You speak in riddles and confuse people for fun. Still,
this hurts your social skills a lot... and you end up always appearing arrogant and rude.

What theologian are you?

A creation of Henderson