| smart video network

online bible study

  • Living begins with joy and ends in peace

    Scripture: Philippians 2:1-11; 4:4-9

    1.  Self effacement, humility, is required of Christians. 

    Having the same mind in full accord means doing nothing in selfishness. Christians should be modest people working together to further God’s kingdom. Paul doesn’t want us to get caught up in petty arguments or pride, it interferes with God’s business.

    2.  The mind of the Christian as far as possible should be the mind of Christ.

    Paul turns to the model -- Jesus. Kenosis who empty Himself to become human. Dedicate your mind to God.  Take on the form of a servant like Christ.  “Became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” one day.  Can ignore Christ in life but not in death. Don’t mess with Christ!  

    3.  The operative life style of Christian begins with joy and ends in peace.

    “Rejoice in the Lord always, again rejoice,” Paul declared from jail. He speaks to joyful faith in difficult times. We rejoice because we know God, let our gentleness be known to everyone. Lord is near, have no anxiety. Sometimes it is hard. When we are anxious we should pray with thanksgiving. Peace with God keeps heart and mind.

    4.  There are merit badges in the Christian walk.

    Be true, just, honorable, lovely, pure like Christ, graceful and elegant. If lovely, not ugly, someone might think we are a Christian! From Melville’s Moby Dick “be a patriot to heaven and eternal delight will be his who says I have striven to be thine.”


  • Living bravely in crisis reveals God to unbelievers

    Scripture: Daniel 3:10-25; 29-30

    1. Hubris (unlimited pride) has been a human problem since the Fall. Nebuchadiezzar’s gold statue is a classic example.

    Even though Daniel’s friends have been given high positions, when a golden statue is created and all told to worship it, the three confessors refuse so are thrown into the fiery furnace. Anre Noren Catholic scholar says, take the Holy scriptures and read for contemplation and meditation when your heart is open the Spirit will reveal God in the story.  We get caught up to much in little issues, parable or literal truth and miss the power of God’s message for living. The eternal is involved in the text so let the Spirit master you instead of the mastering the text. Consequence of hubris is aggressive hautiness, arrogance with expectation of privilege and power. Began in the garden and still a danger today. Who will be God? Will we choose self or God.

    2. In the arena of faith one must consider the cost. How much can I prepare to give to God?

    Advance decision needs to be made before crisis arises or challenge faced.  Three friends of Daniel made a decision early on that under any circumstances they would serve God. First test of diet was fairly easy. Second is a death sentence. Who is the God you will serve? “If our God delivers us fine, if not, we still will not worship your golden statues.” They had to decided to die for faith. Must also decide cost of lesser things. How often will you publically worship? How much time will you give to mercy or justice?  How much money? Will I witness to Christ when the opportunity arises. Response to ordinary the same as deep. Can’t be said, but must be a lived defense.

    3. Lives lived bravely in crisis by the faithful can reveal God even to unbelievers.

    One of the beautiful symbols is the fourth figure in the fire. The inivisible God always becomes visible to His followers in crisis. Crisis with God is very different from crisis without God. Our companion is the God who is our hope. Nebeccanezzer also saw God in the young men’s triumph. Fourth appeared like the Son of God. Afterwards the King blessed the God who delivered them. For a period of time, the king and people saw the greatness of God because of the followers. The idol disappears from the story. Life is a whole journey back to the one who loves us...God. Daniel not present in story. Strong testiment that God uses followers as well as leaders for His work. We in God’s view are equal to heroes of faith. Different gifts with different effect, but all with great potential to be used. We should examine again our commitment to God and ask should it be more?


  • Loving one another is the only thing worth living for

    Scripture: Exodus 25:17; Isaiah 58:3; Matthew 19:13 and 1 Peter 1:3-9

    1.  Mercy begins with God. Initial worship was at the mercy seat of the ark.

    Hebrew “kapor” meaning to cover over -- atonement. God said, “I will meet with you...speak with you.” From very beginning...mercy is what God is. Constitutive, always on, constant.

    2.  Human mercy is derived from divine mercy. Its absence blocks a valid relationship with God.

    Humans can choose, mercy on or off. Isaiah says, “you seek your own pleasure and oppress your workers...fasting like this will not get your voice heard on high.” You want to worship God, feed hungry, bring poor in, clothe naked. Do this and God will be your rear-guard. Heaven doesn’t need money. “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” 

    3.  Rewards of God’s mercy have a different vision, new feelings and a willingness to act.

    Seeing God’s vision brings new emotions: compassion, desire to do good, express unmerited love. When we see and feel, we ACT. Acts of mercy can be big or small. Everyone of us is called to be a steward of mercy on God’s behalf.

    4.  To love human beings is the only true sign one is a Christian.

    Soren Kierkegaard asks, “What is all this that would hinder you from loving?” What excuses. “To love human beings is the only thing worth living for...Truly a profession of faith is not enough.” Like for like. When we practice mercy, we receive mercy. In time and eternity, God expects us to manage His mercy business.


  • Money: God rejoices in those who give

    Scripture: Matthew 6:19-21, 24; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 19:1-10

    1.  God’s gifts to us can be transformed to gifts to God.

    God is first cause and differs from everything else. He is unlimited. Does not change. All gifts come from Being Itself. Natural response is Thank You and give back. Humans have potential. Wants us to be one with Him, filled with Spirit and His aims. He gives us talents to use. Give away gets bigger. 

    2.  The church must be a counter-cultural community about money.

    Lay up treasures in heaven, where all that we have is for the glory of God. We are not like culture around us. Storms, bank failures, death. Money is fragile. Only safe place for money is ministries of poor, hungry and lost. Church must be counter-cultural or it betrays Christ. 

    3.  Greatest love gifts of money to God flow from absence of discretionary income.

    Discretionary income – after paying food, shelter, education, transportation, etc. what is left over. Jesus watched treasury and He is watching us. Call disciples come look. Widow gave out of poverty. Jesus watching her loved her for it. Sacrificial giving is serious. 

    4.  Greatest functional gifts of money flow from Christ followers with wealth. 

    Jesus loved widow, but also loved Zaccheus. He gave half away and replaced four fold. He’s a Son of Abraham and I came to save him. God rejoices in God followers who give. All kinds of voices calling you – find God’s. The place God calls you is where your deep gladness meets the world’s greatest need. 

  • online bible study

    Online bible study video content from organizations, professionals and individuals.

    Video proFile® page is a profile for each video. Using analytic tools, we optimize its title, description and tags to match your video message to relevant search keywords and phrases, and submit them to Google, Bing and Yahoo for indexing.

  • Our business is to offer love and mercy, not judgment

    Scripture: James 2:1-13

    1.  Don’t judge.

    Be aware as you travel through life. Go away from those who intend harm but don’t judge people by looks or behavior. Separating thoughts blind us to people who are loved by God. They are worthy of the cross but not worthy in our minds. Who comes to our door anonymously?  If we take the name Agape/Christian it has responsibility. We make I AM statements when we look for places and people to help...we serve Christ. Moments of rare beauty, light and connections appear even in sadness, displacement, sickness or death. There are many strong people with us in the work and the blessings come back, and come back, and come back.

    2.  Love your neighbor as your self.

    This is the Royal commandment. “Love one another and by this all men will know you are my disciples. I gave you an example.” Jesus said do love -- being and practicing this faith.  If judgmental about others we are probably judgmental about self, seeing our failures instead of our gifts. This radical religion frees us to love and discard our perceived selves to find mercy, love others and serve Christ.

    3.  Mercy triumphs over judgement.

    What measure of mercy we use will be the measure of mercy we receive. To love is a verb and its an action. The Bible doesn’t talk about outcomes or results, that’s God’s business. Our business is to offer love, mercy and The Good News of Christ to any in need.



  • Paul proved faith has nothing to fear from thinking

    Scripture: Acts 9: 1-19

    1.  The conversion of Saul is the most important in Church history. 

    Saul was the greatest persecutor and the greatest theologian of Church.  His writings helped convert millions throughout history. 

    2.  The miraculous Damascus road experience made Paul a twice-born person.

    Defining before and after in his life. Fanatical persecutor before and after the most zealous evangelist. Thought his conversion was foreordained. God had his eye on Paul. Jesus demands second birth. Not so dramatic for most of us. Self becomes second and God becomes first. Need to listen for God’s quiet demands and say yes.

    3.  The mortal hero of Paul’s conversion was Ananias. He is the model of the everyday hero of Christ.

    Mighty acts of God depend on humans.  Ananias, a mystery, except he was a disciple. Disciple’s a good second name. Ananias characteristics: was available to God, here I am Lord; willing to question God, he is evil and I am afraid; went in spite of his fears; showed the enemy love “Brother Saul”; told resurrection and baptized him. Paul received physical and spiritual sight. We can be God’s agents.

    4.  End result of Paul’s conversion was permanent theology of Christianity.

    Paul proved faith has nothing to fear from thinking. Albert Schwitzer said, “Paul is the patron saint of thought. Those who want to squelch thought should stay out of his way.” Paul leads us to deeper understanding of sin and forgiveness, making us finishers for God.


  • People slide from faith. We are called to rescue.

    Scripture: James 5

    1.  God is not against wealth, but He is resolutely against economic and social injustice.

    James starts out like to be rich is a sin. Wealth is neither good or bad. Spiritually dangerous because it substitutes for God if primary focus or security. Jesus made it clear don’t store of treasures on earth but in heaven. From beginning to end God cries for justice...woe to those who make the poor suffer. God followers have two duties: fight evil and seek justice, salvation of immortal human souls. Jesus is ruthless in his comments about rich who disregard poor. No mercy for merciless. Passivity in the face of injustice is not acceptable to God or God-followers.

    2.  Christians are to be patient and enduring in the faith.

    Sometimes it takes a long while to come to God. Job took a long time, I had heard of thee, but now I see and repent. Remember prophets, Job, Keep the Fath, keep working and endure in the faith. Methusal tree 4470 years old lives in the most hostile environment -- brittle, cone but still fertile due to something inside.  Brittle cone Christians still fertile in old age or illness.

    3.  Christians should use unadorned language -- yes and no.

    Be clear - don’t swear, falsely or at all, Jesus said. But what you say be yes or no. Sterling self-evident truth and character who uses it. Nothing else. Integrity of one who speaks. Need to be trustworthy.

    4.  Prayer is a constant need of Christians, for self and others.

    Prayer is the answer. Sick pray, joyful praise, “Fervent prayer availeth much.” Ecstatic prayer is outside self seeing in God’s terms. Successful prayer is open to Holy Spirit and feels connected to God. Inner difference. Most prayer is spontaneous and situational. Formal prayers that speak better than you found in Psalm 61.

    5.  People slide away from faith. We are assigned to rescue.

    When anyone wanders from the truth and one brings him back, he will save his life from death and it will cover a multitude of sins. If you can’t believe anymore I know you care about others. Commit yourself to that and God will come back. Don’t want to be judgmental, just in the business of rescue. Brittle cone Christians.

  • Praise God for faithful who don’t allow fear to trump truth

    Scripture: Galatians 2: 11-21; 3: 28, 29

    1.  Early biblical revelations superceded by later, more powerful revelations. 

    First revelation Creation. Nature is not God, but created by God. Jerusalem Christians wanted to place Torah above Christ’s coming. Christ revealed how to live. 

    2.  One cannot let fear trump truth, here the fear of ecclesiastical authority.

    Original laws were to keep them faithful to God and separate from pagan cultures. Easier to say “I keep dietary laws than help the poor.” God declared all foods clean to Peter. Some believed ok for Gentiles to be saved but not to share a meal, Peter and Barnabas went along. Paul considered them hypocrites. Peter made a mistake here but was never afraid to preach the Gospel or die for Christ.

    3.  Justification, forgiveness of sin, is vested in the Christ event, not the law.

    Law and prophets were the forerunners to Christ’s grace. We know people are justified by faith in Christ not works, or who they eat with. Salvation is always unmerited love by God. Law is important for core issues -- love God, love neighbor and ten commandments. 

    4.  The first question is not “What do you believe?” but “To whom do you belong?” The answer is “Christ.”

    We live by faith when we belong to Jesus. There is a constant stream of righteousness and love that flows through Him into our hearts. Hope resides in us. Praise God for friends in the faith who don’t allow fear to trump truth...Christ is life on earth and in heaven.


  • Prepare Yourself to Talk about Serious Questions

    Scripture: Luke 10:1-5; Acts 16:25-34; John 3:1-7

    1.  The Gospel is a gospel.

    Agents for God in the witnessing business share good news.  In a gloomy world agents of glad tidings is a high calling -- hope, joy, purpose and relationship with God.  High calling to make Christ known to people.  We elevate hope in life and after life.  Joyful business.

    2.  Everything Christians do is a witness to the God of the Gospel.

    Christ sent out 70 to go before him doing deeds and sharing words of witness to God. Travel light, carry no stuff, don’t be delayed by chit chat on the road. Don’t have time. Heal sick and tell them God is near. Don’t be shy about sharing the Word. I do this because Christ commands it and so you, like me, can share the relationship. Explanational and invitational.  Would you like to join us.

    3.  The Gospel speaks to two major problems: an empty life and eternal life.

    This is the way we work. Share personal witness, offer hard truth talk about sin or wrong choices, offer other witnesses (books, names, stories) and ask if they want to pray. Gospel always speaks to the fact that we do not cease to be. Jesus tells Nicodemus “Life has to change. Need to be born of water and spirit to enter the kingdom of God.” Gospel promises new life in time and after life. Stewards of witness want to make life clear to loved ones before they die.

    4.  Witnessing is both planned and spontaneous.

    Planned witness was 70 followers sent out to villages where He would come later. Knew what they were doing and going to say.  The jailer ask the question of questions? “Sirs what must I do to be saved?” Paul replies “believe in the Lord Jesus and He will save you and all your household.”  All are called to the question of witness. Be prepared with stories, Psalms or favorite verses of Scripture, other’s stories. Be serious about witness but remember a job to be Christ’s partner in witness.


  • Primary sin has a way of returning

    Scripture: Daniel 5:1, 5, 6; 13-31

    1. Thanks is enough for servant of God.  They do not wish to be paid for doing good.

    The King was terrified by the ghostly hand that wrote on the wall, but he assumed he could buy the answer of what it meant. Bribed Daniel to get an answer, would make him the third highest man in kingdom. Daniel’s response “Let your gifts be for yourself...” Expect no pay for serving God. Daniel an onerocritic -- interpreter of dreams.

    2. Primary sin has a way of returning.

    Made an acknowledgement of rescue by God, but later reverts back to pride.  Walking on roof of palace said, “look at this great city I built.” Immediately a voice from heaven said, “your kingdom is gone.” King had a mental breakdown, went out and lived like an animal in the fields eating grass. Glory taken from him.  Jesus talks about the danger of recurring sin in Luke 18. Daniel said, “you have worshipped objects that know nothing, instead of the God who holds your very life in His hands.” 

    3. A major chacteristic of Sin is mural dyslexia: inability to read the handwriting on the wall.

    King not able or willing to read the writing that God puts on all our hearts and minds. Basic revelation. Those that are separated from God don’t get the message. “Your days are numbered, this God you don’t know has found you wanting, your kingdom will be divided.” Even after Daniel’s revelation, King assumes things will be the same, but that very night the Mede comes and kills him. His mural dyslexia was fatal. Eternal unworthiness has its penalties. Can stay blind in life, but not in death. There are moments in life when decisive action is needed. Repentance should not be postphoned, our own or others. Study, pray and tell the stories of God.


  • Scripture is instruction for righteous living

    Scripture: 2 Chronicles 34:14-19; 29-33


    1. The last Book of the Law is thought to contain Deuteronomy 12-26.

    Not trapped by our genes or circumstances. Josiah’s father and grandfather where both evil kings, but he desired to know and worship God. Core doctrine of Old Testament: do away with pagan gods, do slaves justice, feasts, murder and trials, during war care for environment, marriage, adultery, justice and protection of weak, Israel to be people of God. It was a major loss to society when the Book disappeared.

    2. The Book of the Law was ordered to be kept by the kings but had not been. They were a long time scripture-less.

    King shall read book, not be arrogant, nor turn aside so he can live long in the land.  Evil kings had not followed law.  Symbol of God, the temple, had fallen into disrepair. If you forget the temple and God’s law, the community suffers. Josiah had a heart for God but was uninformed. He wished to be faithful and started to repair the house of the Lord at cost. He had a memory of God.

    3. When Josiah heard from the Book, he instantly repented.

    They found the Book in the wreckage and when Josiah heard the words of the Book, he rent his clothes, grieved that he had not done as kings should and repented immediately,  Characteristic of Bible -- it tells us when to repent and Josiah got the message, but did not stop with sadness.  He did something.  General rule, when you repent also take action. Josiah gathered everyone in Jerusalem and read the Bible to them.  Stood in his place and made a vow to worship God and all the people stood and promised to follow also. He got rid of the idols when he knew what to do. Bible tells us when to repent, listen, recommit to god and take action. Josiah was the second best king next to David and reigned 31 years.

    4.  The aim of Biblical faith is for our lives to be a parable of the Word.

    Lesson of Josiah was about the written Word. Transforming event was the English Bible authorized version that transformed the world, many died to make it so. It is amazing that we have the Bible available. Can’t be a full Christian without the Bible. “All scripture is available for instruction in righteous living.” Lived Word is crucial.  “We should each live our lives as a parable of the written Word,” said William Stringfellow.  Biblical faith distinguishes itself from all others because it insists on the presence of the Word of God. We have to live and be ready to speak on a moments notice the love of Christ.

  • Seek the wisdom from above in pilgrimage of faith

    Scripture: James 3:1-10; 13-18

    1.  Speech is a defining characteristic of the human animal.

    James addressed negative speech: might refer to teachers not living up to teachings, cursing, or injustice. Christian speech should be a blessing. Mentioned before why humans are different from animals, but a sixth -- speech. It is a critical gene humans have. You might teach animals (birds or monkeys) to repeat sounds but they don’t understand grammar or syntax. Speech is a great gift from God.

    2.  Speech has an enormous potential for evil.

    James calls the tongue a rudder or flame, more used the greater chance for iniquity, infects the whole body. Speech causes harm in three ways: lies or gossip; truth can be harmful (you’re ugly or dumb); and unused. Express love to God and others. Matthew 12:36 Jesus also warns “I tell you on the day of judgment you will render an account of your words.” Three tests -- is it true, is it needful, is it kind.

    3.  Seek the wisdom from above in pilgrimage of faith.

    Show your works by your life; be pure, peaceable, willing to yield, full of mercy and good will, showing no partiality. Wisdom driven by love is our business. Imagine if we didn’t have speech...all Jesus’ words of hope to the world. Tremendous gift to be able to speak about Christ. Soren Kierkegaard said, “To be a Christian is to be so specific as to not be confused with anything else.” Know who you are.



  • The first journey was over travelers and the church rejoiced

    Scripture: Acts 13:1-12; 14_24-28

    1.  Church at Antioch vibrant and seriously worshipped. God used it.

    Paul is the main man; had Jewish background, Roman freedom, understanding of faith, heart for God and people. His capacity to speak and write was unmatched. His immortal words still encourage us.

    2.  First missionary journey signals the movement toward universal faith.

    Three great strengths: Church behind them; friends in the faith to walk, talk, laugh and cry with; and Holy Spirit in the work. Jesus sent the 70 out in pairs, especially if at risk. God, Church, and each other is all we need for grand and victorious work. 

    3.  First encounter on the trip was a magician, Elymus. Sorcerers still exist.

    Elymus wanted to distract intelligent ruler. Always characters with their bag of tricks seeking to bend the will of God to the will of man. They use God or promise wealth and health. Almost always contrary to will of God. No sin, no need for salvation in their message. Paul not deceived. God made Elymus blind for a time and ruler stunned by power believes. Shows the power of teaching. 

    4.  When the first journey was over travelers and the church rejoiced.

    Church celebrated faith of Gentiles. Wasn’t easy. Paul stoned, left for dead, but lived. Despite suffering still joy. Glorious things happen when faithful. Rejoice that First Church always did the best thing in the worst times. How will we respond today? Two heart people love God and others while taking on the difficult challenges of ministry. 

  • The Ultimate Question for Christians: 1999 Brown Lecture Series | First Presbyterian Church Dallas, TX

    This lecture concerns the “ultimate” question - Do you love Christ?

    John 21: 15-19

    The Gospel of John is in many ways the most remarkable document in the New Testament. As Professor Reynolds Price has said, “The whole story is seen in the first three paragraphs.  The Word was God and God was the Word.  The Word became flesh.”  There are almost no moral teachings in this gospel, only the astonishing claims of Jesus culminating in the famed doubled amen statement: “Amen, amen I tell you before Abraham was, I Am.”  I Am – the name of God.  So, he says not that he is the only Son of God, but I am God himself, here and now; I have always been, will always be.  

    In John there are four post-resurrection appearances.  He speaks with a woman, the Magdalene, at the grave, he breathes the Holy Spirit on the eleven disciples, he satisfies the doubt of Thomas, and he helps the disciples catch fish and feeds them breakfast.  And then it comes.  The ultimate question for all Christians, but addressed specifically to Simon bar Jona, whom he called Peter.  “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

    There is one absolutely unique thing about the God of the Bible not seen in the Eastern religions, Hinduism or Buddhism, not in the Quran nor mentioned in the worship of Islam.  There are many similarities in the teachings of the Jerusalem cluster – Judaism, Christianity, Islam:  all posit a single God; all three say God is good, just and merciful; all three say he makes moral and ethical demands; that final fate (heaven and hell) depends upon one’s actions in life.  But the Bible says something absolutely unique.  It says that God is love.  That God loves humans - and even more surprising - that the Maker wishes his creatures to love him.

    Why did Jesus ask Peter and not one of the other disciples the ultimate question?  Because Peter had betrayed and thrice denied his friend and lord.  I think that is why Peter was chosen - to save Peter from the devastating, never forgotten memory of his denial of Christ.  So the question came three times.  "Do you love me?"  And three times the answer came: "Yes, Lord, you know I love you."  Do you see the balance?  There had been three denials and now three times the Christ allows Peter to confess his love.  

    That is recapitulated in each of our lives.  We deny and continue to deny, and yet in the deepest part of what we are, when he asks the ultimate question, with trembling heart we say, "Yes, Lord, you know I love you."  Based on the Peter episode, I think we can say with all certainty that beyond every flaw, every denial, every sin, he knows that we do love him.  Because he is the Savior of the world.  

    So the first point is that the ultimate question for Christians is: Do you love God?  Do you love the Christ, the incarnational I Am?  There are two other lessons from this gospel.  If the answer to the Lord is “yes,” it cannot be an abstract answer.  Peter receives a thrice repeated demand: Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.  What that means is that lovers of the Christ become caretakers of the world for the children of God from young to old.  For any need.  For every need.  What Jesus was saying at the end is this: “I was the shepherd.  Now I am leaving.  Serve awhile in my stead.”  Point 2: when we answer “yes” to love with love returned we are to be surrogate shepherds standing in for the chief Shepherd of the flock.

    The last lesson from the reading has three parts:  

    First, the discipleship of Christ always comes with cost, sometimes with very high cost.  A high cost does not come to all of us as Jesus told Peter his death would, but we have to be ready if it does.  

    Second, the cost to others and their call is not to be our concern.  Peter wanted Jesus to exclude the disciple who betrayed him, but Jesus says to him:  “If I want him to stay until I come, what is it to you?”  The interaction between a person and Christ is their business, not ours.  And no comparisons can be made.

    Finally, Jesus gives the instruction that allows the disciple to pay a high cost and to not make comparisons.  He says simply, “Follow me.  You follow me.”  This is the universal instruction to Christians. 

    So ends the great fourth gospel.  

    John has recorded the final words of Jesus.  I repeat them.  There is the ultimate question about love for the Shepherd.  There are the demands: tend the sheep; pay the price, even to death; be concerned with your discipleship, not that of others.  Follow me.

    Professor Price, in concluding his book, Three Gospels, wrote: “It had been two years since they first met him and they’d never see him again on earth.  It would only be slowly that they came to see how, in the time they shared his life, his hard ordeal and calm return had ended all things as they’d been from the start.  And whatever they lacked that final dawn, they gave the rest of their lives to his other task – to make all people know that God is at hand with his flaming love, comprehensible at last - and they never lost hope to see him come again to claim them.  One of their cries was ‘Lord come now.’  In other lives that cry has lasted near 2,000 years.  It is always the same.  'Come now, into my life now.  Come then, at the hour of my death.' "  

    That final day began with the ultimate question, "Do you love me?" and ended with the answer, "Yes Lord, you know that I love you."  On his behalf, I ask it again now.  

    Do you love the Christ?


    Brown Lecture #2     1999

  • Through Scripture, God is our companion on the road

    Scripture: Nehemiah 8:1-3; 5-6; 814; 17-18

    Ezra given credit for main feasts that Jews still celebrate today.  First day of Jewish New Year Rosh Hoshana. Tenth day of fifth month Day of Atonement, no work, second feast Yom Kippur. Third feast Booths, temporary shelter, remembrance of exile and Eygpt. Ezra was reading from Book of Law.

    1.  It is a sign of spiritual health when the people of God desire to hear the Scripture.

    People demanded to hear the Scripture.  Unusual, priest and prophets usually brought people together to hear Word from God.  Scholar and priest attributed to Ezra, men and women called to hear, not separated.  Scrolls (Pentateuch 5 Books of Moses).  The Bible when translated in to King James Version was the most influential book ever and contributed to move to colonies where all are created equal under God, not kings.  Text ready to read in Ezra’s time. People had been away from worship for a very long time. Hearts empty because of the absence of Scripture.  Those with faith in God find their hearts empty if not exposed to Scripture.  Ezra read from morning until noon and stood above the people who stood in respect, he read and the people said Amen and bowed down to worship.

    2.  When the Scripture is read communally and authoritatively worship is induced.

    Private reading of Scripture is crucial and a powerful discipline.  Something special happens when Scripture is read together with other Christians.  In unison they placed their faces on the ground. Jesus said “even if two or three are gathered, I will be there.” Read book clearly and give people the understanding to know what is going on. Don’t say too much or too little.  Ezra talks movingly about Great God. Induces the desire to worship.

    3.  When the Scripture is seriously heard, tears are often induced.

    This days is Holy do not mourn or weep. Nehemiah governor, Ezra the priest read of ancestors unfaithfulness so people wept.  When one has wounded love one or God, one weeps. “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, steadfast in love, forgive us our sins.” Often weep for sadness and for joy because of hope. Psalm 34 only one example. Spiritual greatness of Psalms is it recognizes dark shadows of life but evokes a light of hope.

    4. The first of the booths is a memory that life is transient and that God is our companion on the road.

    Go and drink wine and eat portions, and feed those who have nothing. Be joyful and gather branches for temporary shelters (booths) and there was great rejoicing and they kept feast 7 days and on 8 day where solem. God is God on the journey. Let not your hearts be troubled, rejoice for the time we have spent together, remember we will see each other again.  Same truth applies to us. We need to be less casual about the gifts of life we take for granted. We have a tough and good companion to teach us truth.  Without written Scripture our lives are incomplete. We are People of the Book. 


  • Transfiguration: Jesus’ birth, his death & resurrection.

    Scripture: Mark 9:1-10, 14-41 


    Buddy Jordan: "If you’ll turn with me to Mark 9 verse 2; and after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves, and he was transfigured before them and his garments became glistening intensely white there no fuller on earth could bleach them. There appeared to them a Elijah with Moses and they were talking to Jesus, and Peter said to Jesus, “Master it is well that we are here let us make three booths; one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah,” for he did not know what to say for they were exceedingly afraid."

    "A cloud overshadowed them and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved son listen to him,” and suddenly looking around they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. As they were coming down the mountain he charged them to tell no one what they had seen until the son of man should have risen from the dead, so they kept the matter to themselves questioning what the rising from the dead meant."

    "Fourteen; and when they came to the disciples they saw a great crowd about them and Scribes arguing with them, and immediately all the crowd when they saw him were greatly amazed and run up to him and greeted him. He asked them, “What were you discussing with him,” and one of the crowd answered him, “Teacher I brought my son to you for he has a dumb spirit and wherever it seizes him it dashes him down and he foams and grunts his teeth and he becomes rigid, and I asked your disciples to cast it out and they were not able.” He answered them, “Oh faithless generation how long I’m I to be with you, how long I’m I to bear with you, bring him to me."

    "They brought the boy to him and when the spirit saw him immediately it convulsed the boy and he fell on the ground and rolled about foaming at the mouth, and Jesus asked his father, “How long has he had this,” and he said, “From childhood and it has often cast him into the fire and into the water to destroy him but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of child cried out and said, “I believe help my unbelief.” When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together he rebuked the unclean spirit saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit I command you come out of him and never enter him again."

    "After crying out and convulsing him terribly it came out and the boy was like a corpse so that most of them said, “He is dead,” but Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up and he arose, and when he had entered the house his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out,” and he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” They went on from there and passed through Galilee and he would not have anyone know it for he was teaching his disciples saying to them, “The son of man will be delivered into the hands of men and they will kill him, and when he is killed after three days he will rise.” They did not understand the saying and they were afraid to ask."

    "They came to Capernaum and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way,” but they were silent for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest and he sat down and called the twelve and he said to them, “If anyone would be last he must be last of all and servant of all.” He took a child and he put him in the midst of them and taking him in his arms he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me and whoever receives me receives not me but him who sent me."

    "John said to him, “Teacher we saw a man casting out demons in your name and we forbade him because he was not following us,” but Jesus said, “Do not forbid him for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me, for he that is not against us is for us. For truly I say to you whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward,” the word of the Lord."

    Audience: "Thanks be to God.

    Dr. Dan Foster: "Mark 9 is the second of the great chapters for the New Testament; I’ll send what next week is at by Marty’s email. I didn’t get back into town until last night and I had a hard enough time trying to get this lesson together much less saying what the next chapter is going to be. Mark 9 has as its central feature the transfiguration of Jesus but it contains multi factorial lessons, it’s really pregnant with lessons for the faith. All three of the synoptic Gospels contain the story immediately after Peter’s confession about the transfiguration and they differ slightly, but really not very much."

    "As we said last week there are people who don’t believe this actually happened as an event, the disciples clearly interpreted as an event, they put a time schedule on it, it’s six days after the sayings of Peter. Although in Luke, Luke says that the disciples were heavy with sleep when the transfiguration begun but they woke up and saw everything that happened. If you don’t believe that God can do miracles then you are not going to believe anything that sounds supernatural or miraculous, I do not hold that view, I believe that whatever God wants to do he does and as a consequence I will interpret this as I always do in terms of what it was meant to be. Although in passing if this turned out to be vision it’s a very instructive vision anyway, God has used visions all though the Bible to get truth but I’m presuming that this event was as it’s written."

    "The first thing I want to say is if the transfiguration is the most significant event between Jesus’ birth and his death and resurrection. The transfiguration is the most important event in the entire New Testament between Jesus’ birth and his death and resurrection. There are five important insights in the transfiguration story itself that are instructive for us and I want to go over those in sequence. Here is the way it read let me read it again as buddy said, after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves. Luke adds that the purpose as usual that Jesus took them up where he would pray, that’s a slight addition in Luke. He says it was about eight days that this happened about a week after that, so they went up on the mountain."

    "First and foremost the transfiguration is a crucial importance, is the main event because it comes immediately after Jesus’ first announcement of his coming death. He announces his passion and immediately afterwards the transfiguration occurs, it’s as though God says, “Listen disciples don’t make a category error here.” A category error is to describe one thing in terms of another, a classic example from a book called Dilemmas is that if somebody was asked a foreigner from Mars or something were asked to describe a university and went to a university and came back and said, “Well it’s a funny place, ever hour people get to move from building to building and on Saturdays they sit in a crowd in a big bowl and yell all day it’s a football thing,” that’s a category error. A university is a community of scholars not a place where only football takes place."

    "The category error here would be to consider Jesus to be a mere human; a lovely and prophetic human but a human himself because he is going to be taken and murdered and the most disgusting way. God seems to say in the transfiguration, “Listen don’t make a category error here,” and to make it sure that they did not the transfiguration takes place, the glorification of Jesus on the mountain on this high place. He is revealed in this event in his pre-incarnational and his post-crucifixional glory. He is in the human form now, but what happens in the transfiguration is that he is glorified, he is shown to these three disciples in his pre-incarnational glory and his post-crucifixional glory so that they would not forget, he was just not a very great prophetic human. He was transformed before them and his garment became glistening intensely white there is no fuller, there is no bleach on earth could make them."

    "Matthew adds that his face shone like the sun and Luke said that his face was altered, so the glorification was not just in his clothes it was on his very being, on this face. The New International Version says that his face was like lightening, so intense was the glorification there. The shining glorification is not all to the lesson here, because out of the cloud comes the voice of God re-speaking the baptismal statement, “This is my beloved son.” There is a duo glorification here; a visual one and a spoken glorification about Jesus. The transfiguration was a reminder that even though he would become the suffering servant his hidden reality was the glory of the God head itself. That is the first important thing about the transfiguration. It’s been said of Christians that high hours, shining hours what Maslow used to call peak experiences should be held on to that they would say that this experience should be held on to when they have to face the grief of his death, it was a high hour. I’ll come back to that a little bit later."

    "Now the next two lessons from the transfiguration event have to do with Moses and Elijah, verse four said and there appeared to them Elijah and Moses and they were talking to Jesus. Luke adds that Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus about his upcoming death, they said, “Behold two men talk to him; Moses and Elijah who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Moses and Elijah appear and converse with Jesus in the event on the top of the mountain, and the symbolic lesson here is from the presence of Moses and Elijah is that there is a continuity between the faith of the first covenant, the Old Testament and the faith of the new covenant which is in the Savior."

    "The fact that they are joined together is a symbol of the continuity of biblical faith, it is one faith, in the Old Testament we have Moses and the law and Elijah is a symbol of the prophets. The old covenant, the initial phase of the faith the law and the prophets and it is one faith all the way it evolves, it evolves in the New Testament to the faith vested in the savior. It’s a powerful lesson here that Moses and Elijah are here, that they symbolize one faith to which we are called. The third lesson about Moses and Elijah is even more important, Moses and Elijah had been dead mortally for a very long time centuries, in mortal terms they had been dead for eons and yet in the event they are not only alive, they are recognizable as who they were."

    "This is true despite the fact that this is long before the perusia the second coming, there is in the New Testament there are significant statements about the fact that the dead when they die in some sense are put in limbo. Paul and the great fifteenth chapter of 1st Corinthians says that, when the world ends, when Christ comes there will be a final trumpet and he says, we will all be changed in the moment in the twinkling of an eye and the dead shall rise. The vision in transfiguration is different than that and I believe that there is an error in Paul’s interpretation about in some sense going into a shield like state to be in limbo after death. The symbol of the recognizable living Moses and Elijah is that when we die we instantly pass into the presence of God."

    "Moreover while we have no idea what heaven is like and what we will be like, what this says is that we are not ghosts, not fuzzy fog unrecognizable at all. We are in some sense in the same essence that we were before symbolized here by the fact that Moses and Elijah were recognizable. That is why we use terms like the when we had the Eucharist we talk about the communion of saints, we say not goodbye to our loved ones who die, we say in essence in C. S. Lewis’ terms so long, see you later in a while."

    "This is the powerful third lesson of the transfiguration that we do not go into limbo, but we go into the presence of God in the moment of our death. It is an affirmation that we do not cease to be even for a period of time and you simply have to say, “Well there is a conflict between some of the things that are said and you simply have to choose what you believe.” You’ve heard me say that many, many times you can and I repeat myself about these things, in the moment of death you can just simply sense the disappearance in the room. You don’t see anything but you just sense it, you can almost feel the soul leaving there and just leaves a shell there would you say. This is a powerful lesson from the transfiguration."

    "Now the fourth lesson from the transfiguration is that it is a fearful thing and awesome thing to come into the presence of the living God. Here to come into the presence of the glorified Christ and to hear only the word of God, it was awesome for them. Peter is so frightened that he does a very dumb thing he says, “Master let me make three booths; one for Moses and one for Elijah and one for you.” Now some of theologians say what he is really doing Mark doesn’t believe this, but what he says is that he is trying to hang on to Jesus, he has heard this is like the feast of the tabernacle. I’m going to give you a place to live so you don’t have to go to Jerusalem, you don’t have to go to Jerusalem to die and I’m trying to try to hold on to you. Mark apologizes for peter he says, “He didn’t know what he was saying he was just scared to death and he just blurted out anything that he could think.”"

    "There is no hint to me that he is trying to hold on here, I think he has just had his pants scared off because of the awesomeness of the glorified, the deified Christ and the word of God. Matthew says that when the disciples heard the voice they fell on their faces and were filled with awe. The fourth lesson is don’t trivialize the awesome power of God, a lot of folks particularly well I’m not going to judge, but there are a lot of folks who talk about God is so he is their very best friend he is going to be sure and give them a parking place so forth like that. It’s not, they trivialize God. I tell you the truth I think most of us will be scared to death when we first pass into heaven to be when the glory is there."

    "Revelation says, “Every time they mention it the elders fall down on their face,” it’s an awesome thing to fall into the hands of the living God. If you think about the big bang you just see a little derivative thing that he built a world out of a big bang, think what it must be like to be in his awesome presence and that’s what they saw here."

    "Now the last lesson from the transfiguration is that only the Christ is worthy of worship. Now there were two great heroes of the faith here; Moses and Elijah great heroes of the law and the prophets. What Peter says is well there is a lot of one and the same will make a booth for each, now he is scared to death he has not though this through. The voice comes and says, “This is my beloved son,” and they fall on their faces in awe, then when they lift up their eyes they see no one but Jesus only. The writers say great heroes and heroines of the faith, great preachers, wonderful saints like we have a church full of here are worthy of respect and love but not worship. The central feature of worshiping Christians is that they have eyes for Jesus only, and they don’t confuse anything in the world as being of equal importance, for Christians Jesus has a way of dimming the glories of the world so that he alone is seen."

    "It’s wonderful to have respect for the strong in the faith, it’s wonderful to have a great preachers we’ve had a whole bunch of them in this church got one sitting here in the front row, but they sometimes get worshiped. Sometimes Sunday school teachers I mean people I teach a Sunday school lesson somebody says something to me about that, that’s just not worth saying. You can say well, it’s good to teach Sunday school and occasionally you think the lesson is okay or something right, but no deification of the servants of God, that’s what I’m trying to say I hope that’s clear."

    "Now, very briefly I want to point out several other important things in the 9th chapter of Mark, and the second thing I want to say is that in the healing of the epileptic Jesus chose his fully human nature. He was exasperated and irritated in the healing of this epileptic boy, it’s a classic description of someone who has grand mal seizures it’s a beautiful description. Interesting passing it will take me too long if I do, but Jesus calls us this demon deaf and dumb, one of the things we’ve just discovered in the recent time is that there is a form of continual convulsive activity in the brain that is not accompanied by convulsions it’s called CFES, Convulsion Free Status Epilepticus."

    "What you do when you convulse over and over again is that you die from that, but we just I didn’t know about this myself until about three weeks ago. We had a patient like this who came in, a man who came in and couldn’t speak and couldn’t hear and just had his eyes and we couldn’t figure out why, everything we looked at he didn’t have encephalitis, we thought it might have West Nile or something he had not a single thing. Finally with prolonged EEGs of the brain, it was clear that he had a convulsive disorder which is going on, and it’s a convulsive disorder that locks you in and it turns out like everything else these days when you start to read you find that this is well not recently well established but its known, I didn’t know anything about it."

    "A deaf and dumb spirit I swore to say, “Well I want to Jesus calls you deaf and dumb I guess maybe he knew ahead of time that we are going to find that now in 2007, we were going to find it trapped in epilepsy,” and it happens with older people. The warning is and you can’t do it we are just a regular EEG it’s too quick you have to sometimes trace some for three days and may people who are in Intensive Care Units who are unconscious actually turn out to have this form of epilepsy, but at any rate."

    "Jesus comes in and there is a crowd there and it’s astonishing, now he’s not transfigured anymore but the crowd when they see him they are amazed. What the New International Version says about it is that that they were full of wonder when he just walked up. He says, “What’s going on here,” and the father answers him, “You see I’ve got this kid with convulsions,” and he describes it in a beautiful way and he says, disciples tried to cast it out and they couldn’t,” and Jesus answers, “Oh faithless generation, how long I’m I to be with you.” Translate that, how long I’m going to put up with this stuff."

    "It’s probably aimed at the disciples because he had told them and they had gone out and heal people but they couldn’t heal this one, and he was exasperated, disgusted because he thought they did not have a full enough faith. How long I’m I going to have to put up with you, and then though he says, “Bring him to me,” when the kid comes, when the lad comes he convulses again that’s stress. He’s coming convulsions could be set off by any kind of stress."

    "He is coming in, he convulses again and his father having brought him there says to him, “But if you can do anything have pity on us and helps us,” and Jesus is irritated again by this. He says if I can, if you can, I can just hear him, “Don’t you know who you are talking to, haven’t you heard of these healings that I’ve done. If I can,” so he is irritated, he’s teed-off about this; the lack of faith that the disciples and his father’s statement, but that doesn’t drive away his mercy at all, doesn’t drive it away and he says, “You can do anything if you believe,” and then the father speaks for all of us, “I believe, help me unbelief."

    "Calvin commenting on this wrote, “He the father discloses that he believes and yet acknowledges himself to have unbelief,” then he adds, “There is none of us,” Calvin says, “There is none of us that has not experienced both that is believe and unbelief in ourselves,” this man speaks for all of us at certain times of our life. John Bunyan catches this in a remarkable way and the solution to it, at the end you remember pilgrim who has become Christian is approaching the end of his life, he’s is going to go to heaven he has lost his faith, he didn’t want to cross the river of death and so forth but he is not even sure that the crystal city is real and his friend helpful says to him, “Oh Christian do you not remember Mount Clare?” What a description for the mountain of transfiguration, “Don’t you remember, didn’t you hold to that high shining hour, don’t you remember mount Clare? The mount that shows the Christ didn’t you hold on to that, hold on and believe that Mount Clare.”

    "I think if you don’t remember anything else about this chapter just that phrase that there is a mountain called Mount Clare that reveals the ultimate truth about God. That’s the real importance of the epileptic healing here not just the healing itself, but its meaning and it’s very comforting to realize that the savior of the world being fully human has all the accoutrements of being fully human, he would get mad he didn’t do it very often just in the temple, clearly he could get irritated here, he got irritated at his family one when they tried to say that he was crazy and so forth. It’s comforting to know that the savior of the world has a lot of things that are like us because then he understands these things for ourselves."

    "The third thing I want to say is that the sacrificial passion was not canceled by the glorification of the transfiguration. Right after this healing that Jesus then tells him again, this is a second prediction of the passing he says, “The son of man is to be delivered to the hands of men and they will kill him and when he is killed after three days he will rise, but they again did not understand and they were afraid to ask him.” Jesus is telling them that he has to die he came to die, without him dying the great sacrificial event for the forgiveness of our sins would not have occurred, he had to die. As a consequence the glorification that he participated in which anticipated the post passional events did not cancel the need for him to die. That’s pretty impressive because most of us say, “You know who are they are not going to crucify us look at this,” so the passion devoid of glory is absolutely devoid of glory except symbolically at the end of it, had to be carried out."

    "The forth lesson is this, that the quest for greatness that is the demands of the ego are anathema to Jesus. The demand for ego reward is anathema he hates it, he hated pride and when he found out that disciples were arguing about who was greatest, he took a child and put him on his arm and held him. I love these pictures in the New Testament of Jesus holding these children, because he understood that a child at least early in the development is not paralyzed by ego or even an understanding. What he is saying is, “You need to be child like in your faith and have the same demands as a child. You should quite in your demands to be first and in fact if you really want to be great you will be blessed, and the way to accomplish that is to be like this child.”"

    "Then he says, “By the way,” he can’t ever not say this, “And we see a child take care of it in the, when you see a child any child.” I should say I mean a child and age in a child is adulated, because all of us a children of God. What he is saying is when you take care of a child you take care of me, so here is another one of these powerful lessons in this chapter. You take care of a child and you take care of me you see."

    "Then the last formal point and then I want to come back to a real life situation is that Jesus is comfortable with allies who may not be his disciples, that’s the last point. John says, “Teacher we saw a man casting out demons in your name and we forbade him because he was not following us,” but Jesus said, “Do not forbid him for he that is not against us is for us.” Antipathetic mean that when human beings who are not yet in faith act as though they are, that they practice love and mercy, that they and the terminology which is being used here about this man cast out the demons of loneliness or pain or suffering in other human beings that Jesus says, “They are on my side because they are doing what I am doing.” I believe the Savior of the world accepts as allies those who are not yet fully informed about the Savior."

    "Now to be sure in Mathew 12:30 he says, “He who is not with me is against me,” and interpret that to mean that if one who is not a disciple is living in ways opposite to what God desires, but that’s not an ally with somebody who is not part us. He says both way, “If you’re not with me you are against me that means if you are not living in love and mercy you are against me, but if you are living in love and mercy you are my ally and we don’t forbid him.” They had to learn that Jesus concerned about what humans do is not narrow in such a way that good people not yet in faith are worthy of inclusion in the humans who are living like they should live."

    "Now I always believe, that the great things about the faith is that they are lived out and you see them in real life situations. I want to tell you about the one that illustrates two of the principles here that we’ve been talking about in this great chapter; that is the issue of unbelief and the issue of life after death. I think I’ve mentioned this; I’m the president of the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas. This is all the members of the national academy, so elected to the national academy who live in Texas and the organization has taken on a response to the rising above the gathering storm report, which is saying that if we don’t do something about the teaching of Math and English and Engineering and Science in the schools the United States is a goner."

    "That’s the prediction is that if we don’t do something about this the innovation, just for example the number of patents in this country has been going steadily down and most of them are from foreigners. It used to be 10% increase a year 3% now, the evidence is overwhelming that we are not doing well and that India, we graduate seventy thousand Engineers a year in the United States and half of them are internationals, and India makes two hundred thousand engineers we don’t even know how much China makes, we are losing the most important and smartest people in the country you understand. Well, the academy has decided to try to do something about this in the Texas Schools to examine it and this conference we had thirty five master teachers from around the state and some of the most terrific programs that has overcome these defects even in minorities. We are trying to see if we can put together something that will help change the schools in Texas and use two of our programs have been going over all the nation."

    "The dinner the opening dinner, the kick off of this experiment was in the Houston Museum of Natural History, it was an incredible place to have it amongst the dinosaurs and so forth and so on, we didn’t get to see Lucy Thomas. There were three hundred people there, these teachers and many of the academicians who have thought about this. I had given a little history at the start, as I say I was the MC as the president and I had given a little history at the academy where it started, and I pointed out that the academy was started by our senior senator Kay Bailey Hutchison together with two Nobel laureates in Texas that is; Michael Brown at south western and Rick Smalley who won the prize in physics at Rice. He died fairly recently from acute leukemia, he was only fifty something like that and I had mentioned that his wife whom I had never met was here, Debby was here."

    "After the introduction of, after I introduced Senator Hutchison and when I listened to her remarks we served the dinner and I was sitting next to the key note speaker for the night who was Dr. Leon Lederman who also won in physics, he has discovered many particles I won’t go in to that, he is a very charming person and then on the other side of him was Debbie Smalley who I had never met. I knew because she had shared emails with the academy of people who knew her husband very well about his struggle with leukemia and ultimately his death, and I was touched by one of those when she was asking for prayer so I had sent her and email and saying, “You don’t know me,” and that’s all I know that I had never seen her before and she was a very attractive middle age person. She started to, I said, “I appreciated what you shared with us,” so she started to talk about her husband and I only want to say two things about it related to this."

    "He and Lederman sitting in between us, Lederman is a Jew I don’t know what he thought about this conversation that’s going on. She said when he got leukemia, this sounds like a strong Christian person maybe better than most, he told her, “That I don’t know whether what we are facing but if we have only one minute of joy in ten thousand minutes I want us to focus on the minute of joy and not the ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine minutes of sorrow and pain.” She said, “You know,” he got a bone marrow transplant and everything else but she said, “He never once complained of struggle.” This not a religious man, “He never once complained, he focused on joy and not on the problems.”

    "Then she said, “He did not have a religious faith, but I had told him that I did,” and I had seen an email about that. “When my mother died I was convinced that I would see her again,” and she said, “You know Rick Smalley is a person when he focuses his mind on something,” he discovered the fullerene the thing, he is really the father of nanotechnology here it’s going to. She said, “When I talked to him about eternal life he was interested and he begun to learn all he could about the Christian doctrine of eternal life.” He was symbolic of, “Debby, I believe help my unbelief.”

    "You see centuries later the same thing that the father of the epileptic said came with one of the most brilliant minds of our country, and we don’t know because he died fairly soon, we don’t know whether he was able, I don’t know she didn’t know for sure. She has this hope she said to me, “I believe that he may be in heaven,” well that’s her hope. I suspected that might be true because if he can’t believe that’s one thing, if he just refuse to believe that’s another and what refuse to believe is to not open the mind to the possibility of it and he opened his mind and heart to studying it you see, if he can’t get there then God is going to have mercy on him, I’m absolutely … If he had said, “I’m not going to believe a word of this,” and he probably did a lot of it just because of his wife’s faith and so forth."

    "The point I’m trying to say is that these things we talk about here on Sunday mornings are not abstract things, and the lesson is that we need to be ready in the real world to speak to our faith and actions and sometimes as in this case in the theology of it as it was with Debby and Rick. As Mark 9 is what we are about in a spiritual sense we have eyes only for Jesus that’s central, and we proclaim the message of salvation and love because of that and we proclaim the reality of life with God after death and the communion of the saints that we will see each other and will receive all the children; old children, little children, homeless children, sick children, whatever. Our business is in taking care of the children and we do it in a child like way not for ego reasons but for the honor of bearing the name Christian which means to be like Christ. That’s why Mark 9 is so powerful, there a lot of other things I could have said but in the forty minutes that’s the best I can do, but don’t forget who we are and don’t forget who he is, that’s what we are in the business of."

    "Let’s pray, heavenly father we thank you for the events you share for us, to mold us in what you want us to be, we thank you for the incarnation event, we thank you for the transfiguration event for the power it brings to us about the nature of Jesus of Nazareth. We thank you for the fact that the Savior could be tired and exhausted and irritated and exasperated with us and Lord if we confess we are also are exasperated with ourselves and others too, so that’s encouraging. We ask that you would make us worthy of carrying his name that you will bless our church, that you will bless the church universal, that you would somehow help this world that seems so dark to see the light that is already here and help us to be at least little pinpoints, little flash lights of that light. We ask all these things in the name of Jesus of Nazareth whom to know is life eternal and life fulfilled while we still live in Jesus name, amen okay."

  • We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you

    Scripture: James 1:17-27

    1.  Every good and perfect gift comes from God. The procreation of Christians comes from the Word of Truth, the Gospel.

    Voice of practice Christianity. Amidst all humanity, God brought into being a subspecies eterna -- by the Word of Truth with a chance to be Christ-like. Called out to be God’s people...Moses and Isaiah...spoke the Word of Truth for early times, a good start. 

    2.  God wants us to be in control of self so that the “first fruit” is not spoiled. The antidote to evil in self is implanted Word.

    Listen, speak less, be slow to anger. Anger is a mark of an uncontrolled life. “Put away all filthiness.” Submit habits, attitudes, emotions and temptations to the control of God. James gives the antidote. Receive with meekness the implanted Word of Truth -- great gift. God wants a spiritually controlled life. James calls it the law of liberty. Surrender means we are freed from self and sin, can live for God and neighbor. Enduring joyful freedom. 

    3.  Hearing the Word is not enough. It must be lived, done.

    Hearing is not enough, implanted Word must be done. Blessed for doing. Soren Kirkegaard, “Only a lived word is echoed in eternity.” On the journey we become antidote-bearers to fight evil in the world. We must use the Word of God freely and without apology. James ends with, “visit widows and orphans in affliction and keep oneself unstained from world.”



  • What Awaits Us at Death: 1999 Brown Lecture Series | First Presbyterian Church Dallas, TX

    What Awaits Us at Death?

    We begin with a statement acknowledged by atheists as well as by people of faith.  Death is the one certainty of life and it is an issue with which we shall all have to deal.  

    1. The nature of life and death in biochemical terms.

    Biological life derives from the capacity to generate high-energy phosphate bonds, the key molecule being adenosine triphosphate or ATP.  There is a property of matter that is called entropy.  In plain terms, the natural history of both the universe and individuals is that everything is running down.  We see entropy in action all the time: buildings crumble and fall into ruin, fruit rots, we age and die.  Death is defined as the state caused by the inability to generate ATP so that everything runs down.

    This can occur by multiple mechanisms.  While the electron transport chain can be poisoned by drugs, most often the terminal event is an inability to deliver oxygen to the tissues secondary to failure of the heart or lungs or the controlling centers for these systems in the brain.  Less often hemorrhage or infection can cause shock, a disastrous fall in blood pressure, that even a sound heart cannot overcome thereby producing the oxygen deficit.  Operationally death is declared when the physician finds no pulse or  respiration.  For those on life support, absence of brain waves by EEG represents clinical death.

    2. The nature of humans and the concept of spirit or soul.

       There is not much mystery at the gross level about the human body.  We know almost everything about how it works and what can go wrong with it.  The real problem comes in understanding the essence of life.  What is it that gives life to the body?  Philosophers and theologians have called the unknown life force the soul or spirit or some similar term.

       In one sense there is no mystery in death.  Its sign are clear: no heart beat, no respiration, no brain waves.  But there is mystery in the event of passage from life to death.  From many years of observing death first hand, let me describe the act of dying.  Death is usually peaceful when it does not occur from violence.  That is because in moments of injury or in disease with impending death the brain releases wonderful molecules called endorphins - opiate-like signal transducers that act to minimize pain and fear.  One does not have to fear the act of dying.  Sometimes eyes are closed but often they are open in the final hours.  They usually rove up toward the ceiling and around the room.  It is as though the one dying sees something we can’t see, that they are searching for something.  It is like they are seeing or searching for God at the threshold of death.  Then death comes.  One moment life is there and the next it is gone.  What has left?  The organs still work. They can be transplanted and last for years.  But life has gone.  What is “it?” The only answer I know to give is that the soul has gone.

    3.  The negative fears and positive hopes of death.

       There are, fundamentally, two subset serious questions that comprehend the larger question before us, what awaits us at death?  The first is: When I die, do I cease to be?  The second is: If I do not cease to be, is there judgment in the universe?  And if so will I be found wanting, guilty of an insufficient mortal life?  In the first lecture, “Does God Exist?” heavy weight was given on the positive side to the fact that humans generically have always worshiped a higher being.  It is likely that thoughts of God are intrinsic to human hood, induced by the God who wishes His creatures to find Him.

       The same is true about actions presupposing life after death and judgment in the universe.  We now know that Neanderthal man (70,000-50,000 B.C.) already believed in the continuation of life after death.  A classic later expression of belief in the afterlife coupled with judgment is seen in the Egyptian Book of the Dead around 1,500 B.C.  According to the book, after the soul entered the afterworld and recited shortcomings during life, the heart was weighed against “the feather of truth” to determine worthiness to enter the company of Osiris, the chief deity of the dead.  From earliest history in India the theory of reincarnation was operative, with future life based on the consequences of actions in earlier life.  

    4. The Christian answer to what awaits us at death.

       The answer of Christianity to the subset questions is straightforward.  In death we do not cease to be and there is judgment in the Universe after death.  The God of the Bible is a transcendent God who stands outside humanity and makes moral demands on our lives.  His ultimate demand is that we love Him exclusively.  Failure in morals or failure in divine love brings judgment.  Judgment is present from beginning to end in the Bible.  Only mercy is of equal or greater importance.

       The history of life after death in the Bible was slower in development.  For more than a thousand years doctrine of Israel was that death was followed by entry into Sheol, a space beneath the earth, dark and silent, a place of oblivion, not joy.  Hints of resurrection or life after death began to be found in the Psalms: (139th) “When I awake I am still with thee.”  The New Testament is unequivocal in teaching that there is life after death.  At the death of Lazarus, Jesus says:  “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”  In the farewell discourse He says: “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and will take you to myself that where I am you may be also.”

       What awaits us then at death?  First, we cannot know precisely because much of the language is symbolic.  Moreover, there are inconsistencies.  Some of the scriptures suggest deep sleep until resurrection on the last day of the world.  On the other hand, Jesus tells the thief on the cross that he will be in paradise that very day.  Here is what awaits us in our individual death or the end of the world, as extracted from the New Testament scripture:

       First, we will come into the unmasked presence of God.  The mysteries of the invisible God in temporal life will become clear and answered.  Corinthians 13: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, then I shall understand fully even as I have been fully understood.”

       Second, we will be faced with judgment on our lives.  As John wrote in the Apocalypse: 

    “…another book was opened, which is the book of life.  And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.”  A word about judgment, which is a great fear.  That is because it may be negative.  The soul is either accepted (Heaven) or excluded from eternity (Hell).  Paul Tillich noted that God’s justice is that He lets one choose hell through self-destructive choices in life.  His reconciling love offers mercy and forgiveness in the Christ event.  One of the gifts for which Christians are most grateful is that they have already received forgiveness in life and therefore know minimal fear of judgment after life.

       The third thing that awaits us at death is a beatific life.  Whatever eternal life turns out to be, in the Kingdom of God the negatives of finitude are no more: no pain, no tears, no sorrow, and no death.

       The fourth thing that awaits us is reunion with deceased loved ones and communication with all the saints.  That this is likely is clearly understood from the great vision of transfiguration recorded in Matthew 17.  Jesus speaks on the mountain top with Moses and Elijah and they are recognizable essences, not anonymous ghosts.

       How do you get ready for your own death?  I would say you live in the lively hope of Christ and in anticipation of the beatific life that begins with our death.  C.S. Lewis once wrote that Christians never say goodbye, just so long, see you later.  That is the hope of hopes.  That is what the gift of this faith brings - that you can have a glorious death, provided you have had a long walk with Christ.

        I close with two quotations.  Both have to do with the sometimes difficulty of faith and belief.  Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, the writer, came back to faith after a long absence and wrote these words: “Can I prove that what I love exists?  Of course not.  Proof is the work of grace.  But if my belief in the immortality of the soul, the inevitability of judgment and the hope of resurrection is a lie, it is a lovely delusion - a necessary delusion.  I make no claim to living a good life.  I know I would live a worse life without Him.  And I would always be lonely.”  The Methodist theologian, Fred Craddock, said the same thing more succinctly.  “For those who will not to believe, no proof is enough.  For those who will to believe, final proof is not necessary.”



    Daniel Foster, M. D.

    Brown Lecture #6     1999


  • Who Is the Christ: 1999 Brown Lecture Series | First Presbyterian Church Dallas, TX

    Who Is the Christ?

    The scholarly and theological literature about this question is enormous – not hundreds, but thousands of paper and books speak to it.

    The first person to ask the question was Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus said to the disciples: “Who do the people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27)  Even John the Baptizer asked from his prison cell, “Are you He who is to come or shall we look for another?”  Who is he: non-historical myth?  The greatest of teachers?  Prophet?  Messiah/Savior?  King of Kings?  Great man? Hero?  Fool?

    The importance of the question

    First, what is meant by the word Christian?  Two different items are essential to anyone calling himself a Christian: (1) you must believe in God and immortality; then (2) you must have some kind of belief about Christ – at the lowest the belief that Christ was, if not divine, at least the best and wisest of men. 

    You have to answer the question.  His claims (about himself) will not allow otherwise.

    Our very life is defined by how we answer.  The negative critics say Christ is in question and humanity is the answer.  People of faith say humanity is in question and Christ is the answer.


    A brief history of Christology

    Christian theology was not delivered all wrapped up in a complete, consistent package.  Jesus lived only a little more than 30 years and wrote nothing down.  The church began with only the oral remembrances of the eyewitnesses.  Even the canonical scriptures did not give a finished theology, a uniform Christology.  

    What we have are clear clues to what Jesus thought of himself.  He made astonishing claims like:  “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:28); “No one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6); “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

    It took 451 years for the church to come to its formal answer to the question of “who is the Christ?”  And what it said was: He is the Son of God, consubstantial with God and consubstantial with humans.  He at once reveals the essence of the mystery of God – he reveals Being itself – and in his incarnate life and human death he is the Savior of the world, making possible reconciliation of humans with God their creator.


    Negative views of Jesus as the Christ

    For 1,800 years Christianity took for granted that the Gospel portrayal of Jesus was a literally factual account of Jesus’ lifetime.  This changed with the 18th century “Enlightenment” movement that exalted human reason and empirical scientific investigation.  What followed was an approach called “the quest for the historical Jesus” which concluded that the gospel stories had been so embellished by the faith of the church that the picture of Jesus was not historical, but fundamentally myth.

    The latest manifestation of the historical questioners is the Jesus Seminar, consisting of less than 100 scholars who vote on decisions about what the historical Jesus authentically said.  They concluded that only 20 percent of the sayings are authentic or might be authentic.


    A counterview to the negative historical critics

    Reynolds Price, in his book Three Gospels, comments “The effort to recover the historical Jesus is at once legitimate and laughable.  Its fallacy is that it presumes it can know from many centuries away more about the life of Jesus than the gospel writers and early theologians of the church.”

    A modern Christian can accept solid scholarship and recognize that past phrasings of faith may be time conditioned.  This does not require an assumption that the historical critics are correct or that the gospel sources are suspect.  Rather, one may assume that God guided the unfolding of salvific history in Jesus Christ from the oral traditions based on the accounts of eye witnesses through the early sources to the final canonical New Testament.  This means that the unseen hand of divine revelation raised up writers and editors who produced a document that is a reliable and valid foundation for faith.  One accepts that it has inconsistencies, contradictions, and errors that are revealed by scholarship, but that the final record may reliably be called the Word of God.

    How does one then believe in Jesus the Christ?

    Even with intact faith it is a constant challenge how to explain and share the Good News of Christ to a world that doesn’t believe.  For ourselves and for others, the first thing we have to acknowledge is that it is a very strange story.

    Three critical steps to belief:

      First, it rarely happens seriously in the absence of an awareness of emptiness, guilt and

      despair about the pain and evil in the world.  It requires a longing for a better world for

      self and others.  

      Second, one must listen to valid and reliable witnesses in history and in the present

      time.  Study of the scripture is necessary.

      The third step in wanting to believe in Christ and follow Him is to live the life He

      taught. It is to love God with all heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love neighbor as

      self.  It is, then, to practice an agape life in an imitation of Christ whether one yet

      believes or not. There is an old saying that one becomes what one beholds. 

    Which brings me to the answer to the initial question from the lips of Jesus.  To the question who do you say that I am?  Peter answered: “Thou art the Christ, the son of the Living God.”  Whereupon Jesus said: “Blessed are you Simon bar Jona!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”  In the end it is an affirmation from the Holy Spirit speaking to the desperate and hoping and partially believing heart that brings us to the answer.

    Who is the Christ?  

    I join my voice with voices of all the saints:  He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.