Wednesday, August 16, 2017

We Have No King But Caesar

Reading the gospel of John recently I saw an enlightening juxtaposition of two verses. In chapter 12:44-50, John records Jesus’ last summary statement to the Jews (the public he addressed throughout His three year ministry) and in verse 46 He says, “I have come as Light into the world so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” Later after Pilate has declared to them “I find no guilt in Him (Jesus),” the Jews tell him, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).

In the context of the horror of Charlottesville this weekend and all the handwringing over what the President did and didn't say and when and how, over which side is more evil, which side is more right, which side’s leader has fewer “yeah buts” (YEAH he is a chump, he is a chameleon, she is evil… BUT he/she is helping our country be great again) every side sounds like they are saying, “We have no king but Caesar” as if Caesar is the Light. That too is darkness folks. What is appalling in addition to the tragedy in our midst is to see once again that no great country can solve the fundamental problem of man, his innate evil heart. We hate being reminded that a good country can spawn terrorists, some of whom claim a Biblical mandate for their hatred, others who falsely accuse the Bible for spawning hatred.

I hate a lot of human faults, they are disgusting to a degree that rips into my very soul with the potential to divide me from those most dear to me. And all the time Jesus is reminding me that in the Light there is no hate.

So I have to bring my handwringing to Him. I have to let go of it in His presence. I do not want to let go of it. It seems my primordial right to lament evil and demand justice. Jesus said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." This can rightly be adapted to, "Love those who hate your political opinions and pray for those loved ones who get angry, unreasonable, obnoxious, unbearable because you do not agree with them." This is living in Light, instead of darkness. Light must be quite distinguishable from darkness. The apostle Paul piles it on as well, "Love... does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the Truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (I Corinthians 13:6,7). Love must be quite distinguishable from hate.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Stone & Water

Recently at church we sang “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand” and it reminded me of the rock on which we stood Father’s Day weekend in Beaver Creek for family baptisms. The top picture below is of the creek in Big Trees State Park. For scale that log is about 4 feet across at the shoreline. The bottom picture shows the current.
At the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “…everyone who hears these words of mine and does them may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock… and the rivers came and the winds blew and slammed against that house and it did not fall“ (Matthew 7:24,25). Those who followed Christ in baptism were doing what He said to do. We stood on the rock, and we felt its solid foundation against the current of the stream.
On the creek’s bedrock we experienced stability against the current, not only for our baptisms but for our enjoyment. That stability did not keep us from feeling the strength of the flow. The rock didn’t shelter or protect us from the current but made it possible for us to stand and walk about in it. This is how Jesus calls us to follow Him all our life. In spite of difficulty in keeping balance, resistance from constant pressure, and confusion as to where exactly to step or how deep is the water, Jesus tells us to follow Him and trust Him like standing on stone because we are, on the Cornerstone (yet another cherished metaphor of our Savior).
Another symbol of the Christian life is Living Water representing the Holy Spirit. Life in the living water is subject to the current and flow of His will. It is not always quiet and calm. It does not always go the way we want. But when we thirst for righteousness, it is always satisfying.

After the baptisms my young grandkids held my hands so we could walk together around the creek. Through water deep for them they trusted me to keep them from danger, from being whisked away downstream. They were too small to determine how we would go through that water, only I could do that because I was taller and heavier. That is like what Jesus tells us, “Hold onto Me, trust Me and go where I go.” 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

What are You Becoming? (John 1:1-18)

John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” Part of this process of becoming God’s children is what we call discipleship. 

Years ago in his Life of Christ class at San Jose Bible College, one of Professor Dallas Meserve’s assignments was to memorize the Prologue to St. John’s gospel. These very first eighteen verses are astonishing in their literary and doctrinal quality. They comprise a widely acknowledged masterpiece in scripture worthy of memorization. They are perhaps most noted for using the Greek word logos or ‘word’ as a title for Christ Jesus, which was applied to His deity in the context of His eternal and manifest incarnate nature. Many commentaries expand on the depth of the Logos.

Through the years I’ve read and recited these verses many times. Recently I reviewed it in again in a Greek-English interlinear text and made a discovery I don’t recall from any past teaching on this gospel. Looking through five books on John collected over the years found some mention but no comprehensive development.  Following is not such a scholarly development but a highlight for further pondering.

The Greek word for to become (ginomai) is a very hard working word in the New Testament. Vine in his "Expository Dictionary of the NT" shows it was translated by 39 English words in the KJV including “arise”, “marry” and “wax”. Strong in his concordance says it was “used with great latitude” (1096). 

Ginomai is used in six places in the Prologue:

<> Creation through Christ (vss 3 and 10 “All things came into being through Him [Jesus]” )

<> John the Baptist as the witness of Christ (vs 6 “There came a man sent from God whose name was John…”, literally “…came into being a man…”)

<> Believers in Christ born as children of God (vs 12 see above)

<> Incarnate Christ, Jesus born to Mary (vs 14 “…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”)

<> Jesus, the pre-existent and exalted Christ (vs 15 “John [the Baptist] testified about Him… saying, …‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I…” [Jesus was both born (of Mary) and ordained after John] a more literal translation of “has a higher rank” is “He who… has become before me”, and note the word "comes" is the common word for "to come")

<> Jesus, who brings into being real grace and real truth as superior to the ceremonial law of Moses (vs 17 “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” literally “…grace and truth came to be…”.

Here is another exalted view of the coming into being of our faith: Christ creates all things, sends His messenger, gives His people new birth… ever becoming our glorious Lord and Savior, “the radiance of God’s glory and exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). Here we find a foundation for our struggle in this world to know God by faith and to live as His people. It takes more than the do’s and don’ts of religious law; it takes real grace and real truth from a real God. 

Our reading through scripture can be at times somewhat casual, a check mark on our list of things to do each day. It’s good to be reminded of the exalted nature of the Holy Word of God, the revelation of the new covenant as given by Christ Jesus and his apostles. Take some time to prayerfully meditate on these eighteen verses and receive what the Holy Spirit may ginomai in you.

…Ken Paxton
verses are from the NASB

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Reading Psalms

   your Profile Photo, Image may contain: bird, outdoor and waterThe book of Psalms in the Old Testament contains a variety of ancient Hebrew poetry which includes worship songs, prayers for deliverance from trouble, confession of sin, thanksgiving and much more. Some time ago I realized there are many Psalms that are as good, if not better, than any daily devotional I might read. But not all are written for that purpose, so it is good to be choosy. My daily reading now begins with a stanza from Psalm 119 and a selection of the other Psalms. These are read purposefully and prayed through, often aloud. I've found, as so many have through the centuries, no other expressions of faith, praise, thanksgiving and supplication in pursuit of a daily connection with the Almighty to be superior. 
   When we pray through Psalms we are reminded and we affirm it is only God who helps us; only His word that revives us; only His justice that rights the wrongs of the world; only He who is worthy of our adoration and praise; only His fellowship that gladdens our heart, quiets our soul and calms our mind.
   God bids us to do one thing in life, listen to Him. Listen means hear and obey. The very first Psalm tells us that those who listen to God's word are blessed. All the metaphors of scripture as to how that becomes real in our life aim to convey that simple relationship. Jesus put it this way, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
  How do we follow our Savior? We learn from Him. How do we learn? We listen and obey. It is the heart of a living relationship with our loving God.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday 2017

Our view of spirituality through anyone’s book or prophet is cloudy. We have understandably developed the persuasion that what is real is what we can hold with our hands, see with our eyes, hear with our ears. Yet how many of our philosophers, even scientists, have found defects with that premise?  Probably just about all of them because while we explain one phenomena another pops up to take its place, rendering our previous explanation questionable at best. So our quest for reality is never ending. It becomes disheartening and is often abandoned out of sheer weariness of soul. 

What does the apostle John writing in the first century say to this? “That which we handled and saw, what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—  and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ… This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (I John 1:1-3,5).

Our view of spirituality through anyone’s book or prophet is cloudy, until we see the Light. 


After believing in Christ for over twenty years, I found myself depressed and the darkness was particularly acute on Communion Sundays. This coincidence formed a vision of myself kneeling at the foot of the Cross and looking up to see a single drop of blood falling toward me, always falling. For reasons that were a mystery to me this was not comforting as one familiar with the gospel would suppose. After about a year I wrote down the vision and my impressions to go with it in prose. I kept working on it for quite awhile without significant relief. One day I converted it to a rough poetic style and the cloud of despair lifted and has not returned. The link below is that outcome.

Fade Not Again