Wednesday, July 20, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 40

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

The Hall of Faith: The Object is the Creator

The Writer of Hebrews, after spending so much time establishing the greatness and glory of the Son, writes a section on the glories and wonders of faith. Each example a proof text for his opening thesis:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. (Hebrews 11:1-2, NASB95)

The first example shows faith's role in apprehending God as the creator of the universe:

By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. (Hebrews 11:3)

Before God's creation, there was no universe and no time. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The Bible is clear that the universe had a beginning--and that it was God who created everything. The sun, moon, and planets are not gods--they are created objects. Not yet 50 years ago, materialistic scientists were secure in their belief that the universe had always been. Julian Huxley in his address to the 1959 Darwin Centennial Conference said that man no longer needed "to take refuge from his loneliness in the arms of a divinized father-figure." No long afterwards, the discovery of the back-ground radiation propelled the big-bang theory of cosmology into the forefront. According to that theory, the universe had a beginning and time had a beginning. It was a conclusion that materialists had been pushing away for 50 years, since Einstein fudged one of his formulas that predicted it.

The opening of Genesis and this statement in Hebrews are such simple statements that we do not appreciate how fundamentally profound and radical they are when compared to other religions and other ideas through the centuries. When the world was awash with myths of slain gods and great struggles among deities as the source of the world; when Egyptians were carving images showing that the stars were ornaments on the body of a goddess; when primitive cultures were imagining spirits animating rocks; the ancient people of God affirmed that all of creation was there by the voice of one almighty God.

I am currently reading "Modern Physics and Ancient Faith" by Stephen M. Barr. He is a physicist and writes of the implications of modern scientific theories and their power and strength to challenge the materialists views. It is written to scientists and the scientifically literate reader. But, as he implies over and over, the evidence will never be enough to actually convince the materialist that God created all this. The creation and the God behind it have always and will always be discerned by faith. Modern scientific evidence is evidence of the truth of the scriptures--and a back-bone for the implications of this passage:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

But it is not sufficient for faith, which apprehends the unseen world and commits the believer to choose and act on the basis of these unseen realities.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.

Monday, July 18, 2005

A Dance of Divine Appointments

I have a friend, I'll call him B, who has a prophetic nature. It is a gift that he has and uses with very little adornment. It has been a relaible gift, as I have observed, and I trust him. I like to tell of the time when I was teaching through Ephesians and came across the phrase "manifold wisdom of God." I had read this phrase dozens of times, but this time I realized I had no idea what the word "manifold" meant. So I looked it up. It means "many faced." So the "manifold wisdom of God" is something that can be looked at from several directions to yield new insight into His nature. I decided to have fun with this and planned to ask the class the next day what the word "manifold" meant. B walked in sat down, set a book in front of him and said, "I brought the dictionary in for you, Don." He had no idea what the connection was, just that the Holy Spirit had directed him to bring in a dictionary that day. My friend was called to other places, so I only hear from him occasionally now. ------------ In the beginning of July, my pastor informed me that he would be on vacation and would I please teach on July 17th and 24th. I readily agreed. On July 6th B sent me an e-mail that read in total, "I believe a good book for you teach on these days would be 1 John. Just felt like sharing...Have a great day." To prepare a study to cover any of 1 John in just 2 lessons was a daunting task. I was familiar with the book. I knew that most quotes were from its comfortable sections, but I would need to give a flavor of the letter as John intended. It had some truly, almost contradictory sections, and its six chapters jump around--1 John does not have the thematic flows of Romans and Hebrews. I had 11 days--except that I had just begun my vacation at Zion National park, which gave me 7 to find the heart of the book and organize a teaching. But as I read and re-read 1 John, I felt an anointing come on me. It showed me 1 John was a fistful of small diamonds. It showed me that John created intentional traps to make the reader slow down and ponder what he was saying. Under the anointing, the themes in 1 John emerged and structural handles around which I could organize them revealed themselves. I presented the first sermon yesterday and I was pleased with the material and the response of the congregation. But this post is not about the lessons. ---------------- This post is about a dance of divine appointments that began with B's e-mail suggesting out of the blue and perfectly timed that I teach 1 John. In the first place, I ended up inviting B to attend. This only made sense. I had not seen him for awhile, and I felt that he should be part of the outworkings of the word he had. In the second place, I gave credit to B in the lesson for being the inspiration. I did not point him out. He is a humble man and prefers to not have attention drawn to him. It was embarrassing enough to be named. We have 2 services. After the first, a woman came up to me and asked if my B was the same as a B that she knew. They were the same. She then told me of a web site wherein B offered interpretations of high-schooler's dreams. B had never told me that this activity was going on. I knew that he had some interest and success in this area, but this exchange made this knowledge fresh. At the end of the second service, B and I were catching up with each other. A young man, J, came up and asked me, "I have had a dream that I need some help with." J had never discussed nor mentioned dreams to me before that point. I was fresh with a reminder that B has a gift in this area. B was there because I was teaching 1 John because B had suggested it out of the blue. I connected B and J together and left them alone. I have not inquired of details, but I do know that there were some important issues of strongholds and battle-grounds discussed. I would be comfortable in saying that my teaching 1 John and the means by which I chose the topic were for the sole purpose of linking B and J together for the benefit of J. On the other hand, my reward has been insight into 1 John that I never knew was there--and many were blessed and challenged by the teaching. But I marvel at the pieces and how they linked one to another to another to accomplish what God wanted in the lives of His children. At the end of Perelandra, C.S. Lewis narrates a time of praise between Ransom, the green lady, and the green man. It swirled around on the theme of the dance. This is what played out here. E-Mails, remembrances, dreams, people. All of it shows the individual personal concern that the Father has for his children. Test Everything. Cling to what is good.