Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Bruise the Head

    When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness he appealed to His humanity with the bread, to His faith at the temple and to His pride at the mountain. In the back and forth of temptation and rebuttal, Jesus always refers to scripture. Satan does so only once after taking Jesus to the top of the Temple, urging Him to cast himself down and quoting Psalm 91: 11-12 he says, “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.” Recently while reading this psalm, I recognized these familiar verses and was surprised to read verse 13, “You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down.” Lion and snake are metaphors used for Satan in scripture (Genesis 3, I Peter 5:8, Revelation 12:9).
   We usually consider the Resurrection as the moment when Christ fulfilled the prophecy of the Messiah’s victory over Satan given in Genesis 3:15 where God curses the serpent for deceiving Eve, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.” It might be said that Jesus smacked down Satan pretty well in the Temptation also. He doesn’t quote Ps. 91:13 and Genesis 3:15 in reply at the temple but rather Deuteronomy 6:16, “Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Jesus never defends who He is to Satan. Why not? For one thing Satan only deserves rebuke, not correction. He is not eligible for rehabilitation. Nevertheless this threat to the sanctity of the Messiah is severe. If Jesus follows any suggestion of Satan, whether as menial as turning stone to bread or as catastrophic as falling at his feet in worship, the entire plan of Salvation turns to dust, a cosmic and unredeemable perversion of truth and righteousness. 
   In meeting the challenge of these temptations, the Messiah only defers to the glory of the Father, not the Son. Two roles were assigned to the Messiah by historic prophecy:  King and Servant. A kind of coronation is recorded in Psalm 2, “The One enthroned in heaven... speaks, ‘I have installed my King on Zion, My holy mountain.’” Then the speaker changes from the Father to the Son: “I will declare the LORD’s decree. He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession.’” Yet this is not the verse Jesus quotes to rebuke Satan. Instead He says, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”
   In the context of His humanity, it is the Servant that prevails over the devil, not the King. Here may be a lesson for us to consider. When we battle temptation without resorting to our pride we “give the devil no opportunity” and we preserve the lordship of Jesus in our life. When we affirm scripture as Jesus did to counter temptation, rather than our self, we wield the sword of the Spirit and preserve our role as servants. As servants in submission to our Master we triumph over evil and remain a force for good.
    A wonderful expansion on our role as servants was recorded by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:1-18. It is helpful to review and think on his thoughts there.

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Wild Thing Within Me

a novel? a page, a penny for a page!
and two more if I guard well the window of my soul.
alas I succumb to the numbing days,
a million shards of sunlight
jumbled upon my eyes 'til I cannot see.

oh to stand stouthearted against eonian tides
and throw off this parsimonious existence,
'mid the grinding seconds
miniscule in persecutions,
perfections their demand.

'tis a wild thing within me, there is no harness,
a muse of beauty so shy in all its proportions
it cannot stand the noise of day,
so jealous for my attention
it will not share the moment with any detractor.

thus I know not when or how or why,
going onward a stumble, a step, or two, 
by achromatic visions until once again, unannounced,
an excimer shower of joy weeps through the clatter 
and I hold a jewel begotten, wrapped in new light.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Touch My Eyes

‘scuse me sir, could you kindly point me in the direction of eternity?
                   yes, yes I could… and would, if I thought you could get there.
i’d be there now if i had sight.
                    no doubt. why don't you let Me just touch your eyes, see what you see?
it won't hurt will it?
                    not a pinch, if you want to see.
what do you mean?
                    all you know has been discovered in the darkness.
i know the rose is beautiful and its thorns not.         
                    how find you its beauty?
the breath of summer’s shade.
                    what of the thorns?
a brother’s betrayal.
                    what color has it?
                    lost is the soul that sees
                    what was so clearly understood,
                    revealed as unimaginable mystery.
a terrifying mystery.
                    because you do not know it.
how can i approach it?
                    I Am the way.
how can i perceive it?
                    I Am the truth.
what if it destroys me?
                    it will, but I Am the life.
well… alright then, you can touch my eyes.
                    I already have. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

What Purpose Served?

What does it mean to me, Lord?
   I can step out under the broad sky
          exposed to elemental forces
          and not be incinerated,
          asphyxiated or frozen.
In the sweep of Orion’s arm of the Milky Way,
   only on this earth,
          my earth and no other,
          I am not a cinder nor
          a freeze-dried human prune.
Intelligent design?

At night I wink into the celestial,
   impulses dash from retina to brain
          at the speed of light,
          countless stars wink back prismatic hues,
iridescent gas and dust.
In the day a shadow covers my part of the globe,
   sun and moon are one in my sky.
          Eighty moons and more orbit
          the gods of flint and fume
          save Mercury and Venus.
Why does one, only mine, fit the sun?

In orbital eccentricities earth and moon dance, sometimes further,
sometimes closer to each other, to the sun -
   a moon just smaller reveals
          a ring of fire-red H-alpha,
          its chromospheric solar flares
          cause aurora to shimmer in lower latitudes -
   a moon just larger blots out the brilliance
          to display a luminous corona,
          more than a million degrees hotter
          than the sun’s photosphere three thousand miles below -
Neither ascertainable except from the shadow of my moon.

I fit my finite world (or it fits me), breath and life,
   neurons and spirit unite in reverence,
          a uniquely sapient,
          flesh-mantled, hot-blooded,
          intelligent design.
 But an exclusive eclipse... what purpose served?
   Do skies proclaim the work of hands
          or heavens the work of fingers?
          "Let them be for signs and seasons…",
          a hand over my eyes, a holy thumbprint,
the sidereal signet of my intelligent Designer.

by Ken Paxton

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

   The 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