Daddy, Father

Last night, my Pastor, Terry Wragg, preached on John 12:27-36.  In this passage, Jesus is coming to a conclusion of his public ministry, preparing for a private ministry with his disciples leading up to his crucifixion.  I noticed something small, but interesting in the passage.

In verse 27, Jesus says,

“Now is my soul troubled.  And what shall is say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I have come to this world.”

In this first statement, Jesus uses the term ‘Abba‘ for ‘father’.  This is the Greek word that is the much more personal term for father.  Think of it like a child calling their father ‘daddy’.  In this moment, Jesus finds Himself physically vulnerable, knowing His time is coming.  He asks, “Should I cry out to my daddy?”  I’m not going to shrink back from this, because this is why I have come.

Jesus follows this up with this simple statement in verse 28:

“Father, glorify your name.”

In this statement, Jesus uses the word ‘pater’, which is a more formal term for father.  This is a term of honor.  Jesus is recognizing that God has sent Him for this purpose, and that He will proceed in obedience.  It is interesting to note that as He approaches the cross, at the end of chapter 16 and in the high priestly prayer in chapter 17, Jesus sticks with ‘pater’ to address God.

Jesus was staring death in the face, knowing that He was about to bear the condemnation and punishment for the sin of the redeemed.  He was about to have the wrath of God unleashed on him.  He was admittedly troubled, but was determined to honor His Father, his pater, and obediently walk to the cross.   Small observation, but a very neat implication.

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The Enthusiasm of One Seeing for the First Time

Last week, my kids had their annual ‘Car Rally’ at our church’s kid’s program “Pathfinders”.  Once a year, they climb in cardboard cars and watch some sort of movie or movies.  In the past, we have watched the Torchlighter’s series, which concentrate on different men and women of faith through history who have courageously stood up for the truth of God in the face of opposition.  I can’t necessarily vouch for all of them, but they are overall pretty good.  This year, we watched the Torchlighter’s work on the Gospel of John.  It is always impactful and interesting to see the words of scripture brought to life on the screen, and this was no exception.

One scene that I particularly enjoyed was based on John 9 and the story of Jesus healing the man born blind.  To quickly sum up the story (though you should probably just read it), Jesus uses the circumstance of being put on the spot to heal a man who had been born blind.  The man followed Christ’s directions and was healed and his sight was restored.  The Pharisees, outraged that Christ would do ‘work’ on the Sabbath, called the man before them to investigate this outrageous rebellion of their law.

The Pharisees don’t believe him and call his parents in to confirm that he had actually been legitimately blind.  They are able to confirm this, but want no part in saying how he was healed, saying that their son is old enough to speak for himself.  So, for a second time, they decide to ask the man, and he hilariously responds, “I have told you already, and you would not listen.  Why do you want to hear it again?  Do you also want to become his disciples?”  Can you imagine the looks on their faces?!

They respond by saying they serve Moses and don’t know where this Jesus comes from.  The man thinks that is pretty funny, saying they probably should know who He is since He can restore sight.  He then stops short of calling Jesus God, but saying “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”  They can’t respond to this, so they shame the man as a sinner and cast him out, scolding him for trying to teach them.

What I loved about the scene was the all out exuberance of the man healed.  He was marvelling at things he was seeing for the first time, so thrilled he didn’t have the slightest concern for what those around could do to him.  He had new sight, believed that Jesus was God, and worshipped him (9:38).  The man is shown being dragged away excitedly proclaiming that Jesus had healed him.

I love seeing things like this because it reminds me of the enthusiasm we should each have, now seeing the amazing grace God has shown to us.  We too were born blind, having no appreciation for the truths of God, but in his grace, while we were dead in our sins, He made us alive together with Christ.  He gave us new sight, new life.  We should be the ones bouncing down the road ready to tell whoever is around us of the One who has given us new life and new sight.

 

When God Changes Your Perspective, Not Your Reality

There have been a few times in my life where I have found myself at the end of my own rope, only to realize that I was trying to control it rather than proceeding in faith.  We are all, at some level, prone to using God as a ‘Break Glass in Case of Emergency’ option rather than the first resort for our hearts to run to.  I have found that as God has grown my faith, I have fortunately found myself turning to God in faith earlier and earlier, which is sanctification I suppose.

What can be breathtaking to see is when you find yourself in a tough position, only to see that the solution was not a deliverance from it, but a shift in perspective about it.  Let me illustrate what I mean with a flash back in my own life.

I was in my first year of seminary, struggling to keep my head above the water.  I was blessed to have a job that allowed me to commit myself to my studies, but I was at an end of myself.  I had heard plenty of testimonies about the difficulties of seminary, but was making it through my first year ok.  Whenever people would say it must be difficult, I would just respond saying that it was a pursuit aided by the Holy Spirit, so if God was behind it, I would get through it.

I had never really struggled all that much throughout school.  There were things that were difficult, but I never had to pull an all nighter, never had to scrape by.  But I did always struggle with languages.  In my first year I was taking Hebrew and s-t-r-u-g-g-l-i-n-g.  In addition to my Hebrew class, I had my Greek class, and my other two classes.  It. Was. Hard.  The end of the semester was quickly approaching.

I was at my little pool house home, studying late at night, and a great sense of anxiety rolled over me.  I was finding it hard to breathe.  I started feeling warm, getting sick.  I had never experienced ANYTHING like this.  It was completely foreign to me.  I sat and thought about everything that I had due between then and the end of the semester.  I was doing the math of how much time things would take and came to the conclusion that there was no way I could finish this.  I remember collapsing into my bed begging God to help me.

Funny thing happened after my humiliation before God that night.  All my work got done.  And it wasn’t a skin of teeth effort.  What I realized after this episode was that my circumstances were only overwhelming because my perspective was flawed.  God never changed my circumstances.  What needed changing was how I was approaching everything and depending upon my own effort and abilities to get it done.

This is a lesson that God has continued to teach me throughout my life, and one that I am happy to say I anticipate more and more.  Last month, when I lost my job, there was an obvious shock that it was over, but I was completely ok with it.  When I lost my job, I knew that my wife was at the dentists office and that the kids would be waiting in the waiting area.  I drove there and hung out with the kids, and surprised my wife when she walked out.  She was surprised to see me, and I just whispered, “I lost my job!” with a smile.

What I was excited about was that God was working in my life.  We knew that I would be there as long as He wanted and not a minute longer.  I was excited about seeing what God was going to do in this process.  It was obviously a situation that I couldn’t navigate by myself or by my own means.  I was excited to see how God was going to show me how He had things lined up and what how He was going to provide.  What I can say, a little more than a month into this new reality is that God has been so unexpectedly gracious.  God’s gracious provision has hit us on all sides and I can’t wait to see how He is going to continue!

A Past and Present Reality

In my last post I reviewed some of the basics of Greek verbs that can help us better understand the text and the message the author was trying to convey.  In this post, I wanted to provide a simple example of this in the passage we covered at our previous Foundation’s Bible Study.  We will be looking at a very familiar verse that we may not fully appreciate.

In Romans 3:21, Paul is transitioning from an exhaustive argument about how man is living under the just condemnation of God.  Paul spends a good part of the first three chapters disarming any argument that man has before God and giving us a vivid look into the spanless canyon between us, the sinner, and God.  Man has exchanged the glory of the Creator for the Creation.  Man refused to give Him thanks or give him the honor He deserves.  Verse 21 begins with a ‘but now’ that shows how God is stepping in to change the reality we live in.

This brings us to one of the most well known verses in Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  When you take a look at the tenses of the verbs in Greek, we see that the verbs are in two different tenses.  You would probably expect the two verbs to be the same tense, but Paul switches it up.  This unusual combination is certainly used as a device to communicate something significant.

The verb for ‘have sinned’ is in the aorist tense.  The aorist tense is a simple occurrence, a completed action without regard to the time it was completed.  It is just a past action.  Paul is saying that all of mankind is guilty of sin.  It is a state they entered into at some point in the past.

The second verb, ‘fall short’, is in the present tense.  It is a present, active, indicative.  This means that man is constantly in a state of falling short of the glory of God.  It is an going state.  We are perpetually failing to live up to the holy standard of God’s righteousness.

In using two simple verbs in different tenses, Paul shows the reader that man has entered into a state of guiltiness before God and is actively do everything to stay there.  There is nothing within man, in the present or past, that has achieved any approval before God.

One can dismiss understanding Greek tenses as an unnecessary academic practice, but this is how God decided to communicate to us.  The original authors did not pen it in English (thankfully, otherwise it’d be pretty boring).  One doesn’t have to be a Greek scholar to understand this, but there has been a lot of work done to help bring the cookies down on the lower shelves for us to be able to appreciate and grow from.

The Benefit of a Little Greek Grammar

This past Foundation’s Bible Study, we dove a bit into some basic Greek grammar.  This exercise could cause some initial panic at the thought of dealing with a foreign and ancient language, but the idea is to equip us with a small amount of knowledge that will help the words of the New Testament come to life.  Foreign languages have always been a struggle for me, but these tools are easy and accessible.  First, I’m going to discuss the benefits of being able to distinguish between different verb tenses.  Secondly, I will explain the differences and features of the different tenses.  Finally, I will give you some tools you can use to be able to find out the Greek actually is without having to take a Greek class (though that is greatly recommended if possible!).

 

1. The benefits of knowing the verb tenses. 

Any casual observer could take one look at the Koine Greek language, which the New Testament was written in, and the English language are two different schools of thought.  In the English language, we have 3 main tenses: Past, Present, and Future.  In the Greek, there are a lot more.  For the sake of this exercise, we are going to focus on 5: Present, Aorist, Imperfect, Perfect, and Future.

Each of those different tenses have various features that will enrich the message of the author.  Unfortunately, when it is translated, we are more limited in the English language.  There are a few tenses in Koine Greek that could be translated as a past tense in English.  Which one did the author use?  He probably had a pretty good reason for choosing the one he did and it could change the way you see the passage if you knew it.

2. The basics of Greek verbs.

I am going to make this as basic and clear as I can.

Voice

In Koine Greek, there are three basic voices: active, passive, and middle.

Active- An action a subject is presently doing.  John 3:22- After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing.

Passive- An action being done to the subject.  Mark 1:9- In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

Middle– Subject acting on their own behalf or doing the action to themselves.  Philippians 2:12- “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,”

 

Mood

Indicative- An actual occurrence.  A vast majority of the verbs you will see are in the Indicative mood.  This is a basic action.

Imperative– A command.  II Timothy 2:22-   “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Interestingly, there are times where there are Imperatives in the passive voice.  In Romans 12:2, the command to be ‘transformed’ is passive.  Almost a command to let it be done to you.  The command to not be ‘conformed’ is in the middle voice.  So don’t do conform yourself to this world, but allow yourself to be transformed by God.

Subjunctive– what possibly could happen.  Ephesians 3:10- “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

 

Tense

Present– Continuous action, presently in progress.  Ephesians 2:22- “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Aorist– A simple occurrence, completed action without concern to the time it was accomplished.  Simple past.  Ephesians 2:5- “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”

Imperfect- continuous action in the past.  Something that was ongoing, but in the past.  Ephesians 5:8- “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light”

Perfect– This is a very cool one!  It is a completed action, but the effect is ongoing.  Ephesians 3:17- “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,”

Future– action to be completed in the future- I John 3:2- “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

 

3. Tools for further study.

If you are interested in learning more about these basic Koine Greek concepts, this a great resource that I gathered information from.  It breaks it down pretty succinctly.

If you want to study on your own and know what kind of verb it is, go to Blue Letter Bible.  Once there, place whatever text you would like into the search bar and select which translation you want it in.  Once you see the text, there will be a box next to each verse that says “Tools”.  Click that link and the verse will be broken down by each word.  Under the Greek text, there will be two tabs, “Interlinear” and “Reverse Interlinear”.  Click on “Interlinear” and a column will appear on the right that says ‘Parse’.  If you click that, a small box will pop up that will show you what the parsing is.

There is another fun tool you can use in your New Testament studies, and it is Kenneth Wuest’s “New Testament” translation.  While most translations strive for ‘readability’, this translation strives to give you the truest sense the author was trying to communicate.  This often means using a lot more words, but he will give you the sense the author was trying to communicate.  If it was a Present Active Indicative verb, usually it would be translated “walking”, but Wuest will translate it “continually in the process of walking”.  It is a fun translation to read if you are studying a passage or doing some repetitive reading.

 

I hope this was helpful to you, in your quest to understand God’s Word.  The text is deep and rich and there is a lot there if you are patient to mine it out!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: “Long Story Short” by Marty Machowski

One challenge that all Christian families face is how to lead their children in a regular Bible time.  The responsibility is huge, particularly for the fathers.  One of my favorite parts of the book of Deuteronomy is the instruction in chapter 11, verses 18-21.

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul… You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way and when you lie down, and when you rise… that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.”

While these words were spoken to Israel concerning the law that they were given at Sinai, the principle still applies to us as families.  You need not look much further in Israel’s history to see the consequences of not passing these things down.

The Word of God is incredibly important to the young person.  Consider the following words:

“How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to your word.”  Psalm 119:9

“I have store up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”  Psalm 119:11

“My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.  Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.  For they are life to those who find them and healing to all their flesh.  Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”  Proverbs 5:20-23

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”   Proverbs 2:1-5

The task to guide a child’s heart through God’s Word is possibly the highest responsibility that is laid at our feet.  They are children for such a short time, and not a day can be wasted.

You may wholeheartedly agree with the above sentiments, but still find it a struggle to be consistent.  Let me assure you, you are not alone.  I have found that there are times where the intentions are good, but you may lack direction to go in.  Let me suggest the following resource:

Long Store Short: Ten-Minute Devotions by Marty Machowski

Long store short

In this book, Marty Machowski takes you through the Old Testament to show God’s faithfulness to us and pointing your hearts to Christ.  The book is broken down into sections that consist of 5 separate lessons.  Each lesson covers a different section of scripture.  The first two days relate the story they are focusing on, while day three takes the perspective of how it points forward to Christ.  On day four, the kids are directed to ask the parents a question relating to the story, to get their perspective, and on day 5, Machowski points to either the Psalms or a prophet.  (It was always a fun game for the kids to try to guess which one it would be.)

One of the strengths of Machowski’s is to bring each section to a point to convey the Gospel and show how it really does point to Christ.  Rarely, does this feel forced.  If you haven’t already, you too will see how Christ is the destination.  He also does a great job at providing questions for discussion.  These won’t always be necessary, as some passages will produce their own natural conversation, but they can sometimes help you understand the text in a way that will be understandable to a child.

At the beginning of each section, Machowski often provides some sort of activity to capture the attention of your kids, but I rarely used those.  They often took more preparation and called for materials I just didn’t have.  But if you do take the time to look ahead, they can sometimes be of some value.  Either way, I would always recommend looking ahead so that you understand the lesson before you teach it.  The presentation would be lacking if you spend more time struggling to understand it yourself, and then having to explain it to a child.

One of the fun things about this book is that it forces you to slowly go through the Old Testament.  It isn’t a quick scan.  This is a long haul.  You will see continuing themes and patterns.  I was struck with the continual faithfulness of God, despite the frequent unfaithfulness of man.  This isn’t just a study for your children.  You too will grow and be challenged.

For those of you that make it all the way through this book, Marty Machowski has also produced a book called “Old Story New” in which he goes through the New Testament.  We are presently going through this volume and will probably start all over when we are done.

I hope this is helpful for you and that if you are searching for something to give you some framework and direction in your Bible time with your family, that you will find it in these volumes.  The greatest investment you can make is leading your child’s heart to the Word of God and understanding the Gospel.  The stakes are high, and the reward is eternal.

The Responsibility of the Receiver

I am continually amazed when God seems to bring about certain truths into our lives at the perfect time.  This past week, we happened, in God’s sovereignty, to go through a section on giving in our family devotional time.  Part of the section that we went through brought us to II Corinthians 9.  This is a passage that I’m pretty familiar with and have read through and taught through multiple times.  But just because you spend so much time in a passage doesn’t mean that you have exhausted the depths of truths it contains!

I say that it was God’s sovereignty that drew us to this passage because of the season of life that we find ourselves in.  In a few days, I will have been without a job for a month.  This month has been difficult, with the normal business of the holiday season, combined with doctor’s visits for ongoing health issues.  Shortly after I lost my job, we were informed by my daughter’s doctor that she was recommending we go elsewhere for treatment.  This was shocking and maddening.  We had invested a lot of time and money into pursuing treatment with her, and now it was over.

This, in itself, was actually an answer to prayer, as we had been uneasy with some treatment options, and had prayed for wisdom and clarity in what direction to choose.  So we went about the work of finding a new doctor.  There was one that she highly recommended, so I called that office.  Shockingly, I found out that that doctor charged $1,500 cash for an initial, plus follow ups and testing.  This would cost us $3,000-$4,000!  I was outraged, frustrated at her previous doctor.

But God often brings us to places we don’t want to be to show us things we could not see otherwise.  From there, we went about finding a more reasonable option, but one that would still cost us a bit out of pocket.  This was difficult, knowing I didn’t have a job.  But that is when God went public with His provision.  First, we received an anonymous gift through our church.  A few days later, a check showed up in the mail.  A few days after that, friends handed us some more.

Now this presents a very difficult situation.  I am not one that is quick to accept this kind of help.  My initial reaction is to refuse it, point the gift in another direction, think of someone more needy than myself.  We attempted this, but they were insistent on following through with their gift.

That is when God brought to my mind II Corinthians 9:13-14.  I realized that God just didn’t just give direction to the giver, but also to the receiver.

“By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.”

The larger context here is encouragement to the church at Corinth to continue in their giving.  But in these two verses, the apostle Paul speaks to the responsibility of the receiver of these gifts.

  1. The receiver is to glorify God.  This seems like a basic idea, but it is radical when you think about it.  When one gives out of obedience to God, it is an act that brings glory to God.  But not just on the giver’s part, but also on the receiver.  It is an action that doubles the glory!  The giver and the receiver both glorify and praise God.  One action has two reactions.  The receiver glorifies God because the giver is responding to the Gospel in their own life.  It is hard to receive the gift, but the person has been moved by God and the gospel to give.
  2. The receiver longs for the giver.  I believe this is a longing for fellowship and encouragement.  This is pursuing opportunity to fulfill the ‘one anothers’ of the New Testament that we are charged with.
  3. The receiver prays for the giver.  While I cannot immediately respond with financial restitution, I can respond by praying for them.  I pray that Paul’s words earlier would be true, that those who sow bountifully would reap bountifully.  I pray that God would greatly bless them for their obedience, that He would continue to grow their faith and strengthen their convictions.

 

It is never easy to accept charity, but this is how God designed the Church to function.  So we also respond by looking down the road to when, Lord willing, we will be able to doubly produce glory for God and bless others in response to the work of the gospel in our own lives.