Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pondering the How of Hope {from the archives}

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope.
O Israel, hope in the LORD;
For with the LORD there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He will redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.
Psalm 130:5,7-8, NASB

Your comments  on "Hope Waits" have resonated in my mind all week. I hear you, friends. I hear your wondering how not to let hope slip when things start to go sideways; I hear the tug of the "groaning in the longing"; I hear the confession of deep disappointment scabbing over into distrust of the One who allowed it, and His "tenderly tend[ing] my heart" all the while.

I hear, and I think I understand, having felt and done the same myself.

And then there is the commenter mulling over whether Calvin's faith-then-hope sequence is all there is to the case, whether "a really crucial feature of hope is that it can come *before* faith, and be as it were the seed from which faith grows."

Judging by the dubious standard of subjective personal experience, certainly there seem to have been times for me when hopeful feelings seemed to buoy faith and make it easier to believe what God has revealed to be true as well as times when I needed to turn my back on feelings and hold fast in trust to the truths I knew, waiting for the feelings to follow suit.

Judging by the standard of Calvin's words from the earlier post, there also seems to be room for regarding hope as a "seed from which faith grows," or at least grows stronger:

...faith is the foundation upon which hope rests, hope nourishes and sustains faith….
hope strengthens faith, that it may not waver in God’s promises or begin to doubt concerning their truth.
From Calvin's words (for which I unfortunately do not have the larger context), it seems to be a question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, or in this case the seed or the plant? Each one (or the potential), seed and plant, is present in the other at any given moment, and depending on where one is in the life cycle of the organism the seed may seem to come first or to follow.

Always, though, I want to hold subjective experience and even the best human words up to the straight edge of Scripture. After more meditation than systematic study so far, it seems to me that hope and faith or hope and believ* occur together a fair number of times in the English Bible. Both expect God to be true to His character and His promises, though hope connotes more of a waiting and looking to and faith a relying on. Both occur in noun and verb forms and as commands.

They seem wrapped up so tightly together that I wonder if they are as fraternal twins, Jacob and Esau striving together in the womb, a hand of one emerging, a heel of another, then a head crowns and a body follows, another head, another body, and only the mother and the midwife know for certain who entered the world first.

But how does that work? If I'm the one who has lost hope, as I have been plenty of times, what do I do?

If I have someone to pray for me, I ask them.
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NASB).
If not, I take it on faith that Jesus and the Spirit are interceding for me in the best way. And they are, even if the child of God has no faith to believe it.

Recognizing that we are whole persons and our bodily health and spiritual-emotional health are interwoven, I ask whether there is some remediable physical cause for hopeless feelings: illness, sleep deprivation, inactivity or overactivity, feeding my body the wrong fuel,...

And most importantly, I look to Scripture to find my way.

If there is something to lament, if I am Job on the ash heap, then by all means I am free under grace to lament, to pour out my heart to God. It's all right to grieve. There's nothing wrong with being sad about a loss, whether loss of life or dreams, love or livelihood or health...

But what if I have grieved, if I have lamented, if I want to find my way back to hope but don't know where to look for it? If I am in hopelessness and despair, I know no better example than Jeremiah:
He [Yahweh] has filled me with bitterness,
He has made me drunk with wormwood.
He has broken my teeth with gravel;
He has made me cower in the dust.
My soul has been rejected from peace;
I have forgotten happiness.
So I say, “My strength has perished,
And so has my hope from the LORD.”
 
Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me. (Lamentations 3:15-20, NASB).
What does he do when in such a hopeless, broken state? He digs channels of trust for hope to flow. He searches the archives of his recollection for some truth about God to undergird him and raise him up:
This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hopeThe LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,"Therefore I have hope in Him.”  (Lamentations 3:21-24, NASB).
Regardless of how hopeless I feel or how disastrous things look, God is still love, His compassions never fail, His faithfulness is great, and He is my portion. Hope is a gift to the believer because of the resurrection of Christ, but like love it is also a choice, an action we can take. To hope means, in Scripture, to look, to wait, to expect. Not necessarily to feel optimistic, though that also is a grace when it comes.

By no means do I intend to make light of the deep suffering of lost hope. By no means. I am neither a counselor nor a theologian trained to search these things out in "the right way." Maybe I am a Job's counselor adding platitudes to the suffering. If so, I ask your forgiveness and invite you to help me do better. My intention and prayer here is not to overload bowed backs but to seek after truth alongside you and record for myself as much as for you what has helped me persevere in the dry times.

When there's nothing else to be done, when the problem is not fixable, hope by its very nature waits. Hope waits for the fulfillment of God's promises to appear on the horizon. Hope waits for Him to prove true to His character. Hope waits, "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus" (Titus 2:13, NASB). When I lack the feeling of hope, I can look to the Person who is my hope.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hope Waits {From the Archives}


Hope, like perseverance, is a virtue for the "not yet" waiting time of life in this groaning creation. Hope waits, the father watching at the window for the prodigal to appear, the prophet Daniel in exile counting the years until 70 and the return to the land, the sisters in Bethany waiting for Jesus to come and help their brother. Hope waits for the promises of God to catch up with our desires, or so it seems.

John Calvin articulates the forward-leaning character of hope:
"Hope is nothing else than the expectation of those things which faith has believed to have been truly promised by God. 
Thus, faith believes God to be true, hope awaits the time when His truth shall be manifested; 
faith believes that He is our Father, hope anticipates that He will ever show Himself to be a Father toward us;
faith believes that eternal life has been given to us, hope anticipates that it will some time be revealed;
faith is the foundation upon which hope rests, hope nourishes and sustains faith….
hope strengthens faith, that it may not waver in God’s promises or begin to doubt concerning their truth."
     ~John Calvin, courtesy of Graced Again, emphasis mine
As beautiful as that is, who can weave the groaning, waiting perseverance of the now and the hope of the not yet better than the apostle Paul?
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it (Romans 8:18-25, NASB).
Hope waits, anticipates, groans, and ultimately longs until Christ returns to fulfill fully the promises and kingdom of the triune God. Come soon, Lord Jesus! 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Remembering Nonni (1922-2014)



When their first grandchild came along, my grandparents decided they liked the idea of using the Italian titles “Nonno” and “Nonna,” but my grandmother felt she was too young to be a “Nonna,” which led to the “Nonni” I have always called her.


Greatest Generation

Nonni was a member of the Greatest Generation. She exemplified the work ethic, integrity, thrift, and loyalty associated with those who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II. She remembered the defining national traumas of three generations of Americans: the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the terror attacks of 9/11.

One September a few years ago I asked her how she and Nonno had heard the news of 9/11; my husband and I were living overseas at the time, and it had never before occurred to me to ask. She replied that their neighbor had come running across the street while Nonni was working in the back yard and Nonno was sitting in a chair watching her. The neighbor yelled, “We’re under attack! We’re under attack! Turn on your t.v.!”

Next I wondered how that compared to hearing about Pearl Harbor. Without a moment’s hesitation, she said, “Pearl Harbor. Absolutely. That changed everything.”  She and Nonno were sitting together at his family home, planning their wedding and a honeymoon to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl game and parade. His sister Ellie came running in, yelling that America had been attacked, that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. (Are we seeing a pattern here?) They put away their wedding plans and turned on the radio. Pearl Harbor changed everything for them because the rest of the world was already embroiled in war, and now they knew that America and my reservist grandfather would now enter it. No one knew whether the Allies could defeat Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese. Their wedding was small and quiet, and they didn’t have that honeymoon. The news turned their personal world upside down in a way unequalled by 9/11.


Sports

Nonni was a sportswoman and avid sports fan. Her courtship with Nonno began when he saw her across the office and told his friend, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” Then he invited her to a softball game in which he was playing and promised to hit her a home run if she did. She came, and he kept his promise.

Early in their marriage he decided to teach her golf so she could go out on the course with him. She learned so well, so quickly, that no one could believe it.  She won multiple tournaments and hole-in-one trophies and took those awards with her to her retirement apartment. She even cared for her lawn so meticulously that it looked like a golf course.

She adored college football. The sports highlight of her final decade was TCU winning the Rose Bowl combined with meeting TCU quarterback Andy Dalton in the greeting card aisle at Target. He impressed her so much that she even shifted her professional football allegiance from the Cowboys to Dalton’s Cincinnati Bengals. (I'm sure the Cowboys' recent record had nothing whatsoever to do with the change.)

The sports calendar and family gatherings are permanently linked in my memory because major sporting events were so often playing in the background as we visited: golf at Mother’s Day, Wimbledon Tennis on the Fourth of July, and the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.


Faithful Friend

Nonni was a faithful and attentive friend with a knack for making people feel special. The large lithograph which hung in her dining room for as long as I can remember was a gift from an older neighbor she befriended long before I was born. Her kindness made friends of the people who served her regularly at the deli counter and the library. She really listened and remembered, paying careful attention to individual likes and dislikes. When she made potato salad for family gatherings, she made separate batches with and without onions. At Christmas, she made chocolate chip cookies with and without nuts. She respected my grandfather’s and my dislike of creamy sauces.

She made an effort to learn something about and take an interest in the interests of her family. She often shared or sent us clippings of articles she thought would interest us: gardening tips for Allen, healthy recipes and Cliburn piano articles for me.

She was a trustworthy confidante, good at keeping secrets. Sometimes this proved a source of consternation to her family, but it was also a great help when needed. When I was in seminary, I developed a friendship with a certain tall, bearded fellow student, but he was interested in someone else and told me so. After that “defining the relationship” talk, I happened to spend a weekend at my grandparents’ house. When I confided it to Nonni, she smiled reassuringly and said she’d pray about it, and if it was meant to be, the good Lord would work it out.

A week or so later that bearded man asked if he could court me. I asked him what changed his mind, and he said he just woke up one morning and it was like a lightbulb went off over his head. We’ve been married 15 years as of this August. With a twinkle in her eye, Nonni reminded me of this incident several times as proof that she could keep any secret I shared with her.


During the February of my freshman year of college, my other grandmother passed away. Not long thereafter, parents’ and grandparents’ weekend arrived at my university, and Nonni and Nonno came to visit. It was a wonderful weekend in many respects, but one memory stands out for me. For my birthday that year, they gave me a new Bible I’d requested in a word-for-word translation better suited to the more intensive Bible study I was learning to do. When they came to visit me, they brought a card to affix to the presentation page so I would always remember it was from them.
That Sunday afternoon, after my parents had returned home to my sisters, Nonni and Nonno sat with me around a portable table in the otherwise unoccupied vestibule of the Student Center. They listened as I shared how salvation and being right with God did not come from doing good things and going to church but about having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. They listened because it was important to me and therefore important to them.

I showed them from the Bible they gave me that all people have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory; how the only wage our sin can earn is death, which means separation from God forever; how all our best attempts at righteousness are like filthy rags in God’s sight.

Then I shared that even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us as our perfect substitute, taking the full brunt of the punishment we deserved so that we could enjoy His righteousness and fellowship with God, which we did not deserve. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works so that no one can boast.”

In 2010 when chronic illness confined me to my bed and sofa and I was upset that I couldn’t attend church, Nonni said several times on the phone, “Remember that time when you talked with Nonno and me? Remember how you said that going to church isn’t the most important thing but loving and worshipping God in your heart is what matters? I know you do that, and God knows too.”

It was humbling to have my own words given back to me in that way, but it encouraged me even more than that to hear them from her lips and to know that one brief conversation made such an impression on her. As I said earlier, she truly listened and remembered.


Tradition

With Nonni, tradition was an art form. She loved sending greeting cards and was well known at her local Hallmark store. My wedding anniversary this year occurred during her first hospitalization. When I opened the mailbox on that day and didn’t see an envelope addressed in her handwriting and sealed with a sticker on the back, I choked up, even though I knew why it was missing. A couple of weeks later, when I opened the mailbox again and saw that envelope, I cried.

The masterpiece of Nonni’s traditions, however, was Christmas Eve. She always made ravioli from scratch, all the way down to grinding the meat for the filling and making the pasta. There would be spaghetti, too, and broccoli with homemade hollandaise sauce and Mrs. Bairds’ brown-and-serve rolls. She always provided her trademark biscotti and two kinds of chocolate chip cookies for dessert. The table would be set when we arrived, with placecards holding 2 Andes mints per person.


She made each grandchild a special tree ornament. These were stored at her house and hung with great ceremony and flashing of cameras by each child each year, unless someone was absent, in which case a proxy hung that ornament and photos were nonetheless taken to document the event. When I married, she gave us a keepsake ornament so that my new husband would not be excluded from the ritual hanging of the ornaments.


Sometime that day my grandfather would measure each child against a closet door to record his or her growth. Even though I stopped growing (taller) in 7th grade, he persisted in measuring me until age 21, when I think Nonni intervened on my behalf.


The Rudolph on the right had apparently been in a fight. Also, we subbed red Jelly Bellies for the cherry last year. Don't tell. :) I don't yet have Nonni's skill at making these.

Christmas Eve would not be complete (and still isn’t at my house) without Nonni’s reindeer sandwiches. No actual reindeer were harmed in the making of the sandwiches. Rather, these were triangular quarter-sandwiches, crusts removed, made to look like a reindeer face. Broken pretzel twists formed the antlers, raisins adhered with peanut butter the eyes, and of course a Maraschino cherry made a Rudolph nose.


Exemplary Wife

Finally, Nonni was truly an exemplary and devoted wife. There was never any doubt how much she and Nonno loved each other and enjoyed each other’s company. Nonno could occasionally be a bit on the cantankerous side, but she always respected and honored him in front of us. If she had a concern about something he said or something that had happened at a family gathering, she would speak with him later in private. I only know this because he would sometimes say later, “Nonni won’t let me ____ when everybody’s here because people get upset.”



Ever since he passed away on the eve of their sixty-fourth wedding anniversary, she has been looking forward with hope to the day she would see him again.

Nonni was truly the matriarch and queen of the family. She liked to be in the background, serving in the kitchen, but she was the hub of our wheel. To say she is greatly missed would be an understatement. I love you, Nonni!

Love,
Your Tina Bird

Thursday, October 30, 2014

In Memoriam

In July of this year

Monday night my grandmother Nonni (1922-2014) departed this earth. She is and will be greatly missed. My family welcomes your prayers as we prepare for her funeral this weekend.

With her in her home, April 2013

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Buried Treasure in Matthew's Genealogy of Jesus

My parents teach citizenship classes twice a week at our church and a Sunday school class for non-native English speakers. Recently, a student from a Middle Eastern country asked them a question about the genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17. This inquirer into the Christian faith wanted to know, if the Bible is true, why the genealogy is deficient by one name. If each name provided is only counted once, one of the divisions appears to have only 13 instead of 14 names. They indulged me by sending the research project my way, and below is my response (so keep in mind that it's written for someone without a churchgoer's familiarity with the structure and people of the New Testament). It's not the sort of piece usually offered here, but the richness of the study surprised me. I pray something in it blesses and encourages you, too. [This post originally published Monday, 10/27, but I unpublished and rescheduled it in light of a family bereavement Monday evening.]

            Looking at the role of the genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 in the book as a whole, the best resolution to what at first seems to be a counting error in the three groups of fourteen is that Matthew means the reader to count David twice:  as the last name in the first group of fourteen and as the first name in the second group of fourteen. “Context is king” in interpreting the Bible. To explain why we would count David twice, then, we need to consider the specific context of the Gospel of Matthew, the purpose of Matthew’s Gospel, the reason a genealogy to start the book matters in the first place, and why the structure of this genealogy matters for the book as a whole.

Context of Matthew

            The Gospel According to Matthew (or just “Matthew”) was written by a close follower of Jesus whose name was Matthew. He was also called Levi, and before Jesus called him, he worked as a tax collector for the Roman government. That story appears in Matthew 9:9. When Jesus chose twelve men to be with him as he traveled, taught, and worked miracles, Matthew was one of them. (See Matthew 10:1-4.)  He followed Jesus until His death on the cross. Later, with the other ten remaining disciples (which means “close followers”), he saw Jesus after He rose from the dead. Jesus told those eleven to go and “make disciples of all nations.” He told them to baptize and to teach everything Jesus had commanded during the years they had spent together (Matthew 28:16-20).
            From this background information we know that Matthew was good with numbers, so the mystery of the “missing name” is probably not a counting mistake. We also know that Matthew spent a lot of time with Jesus during His ministry, so Matthew is dependable as an eyewitness to the things he writes about.

Matthew’s Purpose      

            The Bible is different from other holy books, because it is 100% the Word of God but at the same time truly the words of the human authors, too, without in any way lessening the inerrancy or authority of the Book. God used the human authors’ experiences and personalities to shape the messages they wrote. (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:19-21.)
            For this reason, we have four Gospels telling about Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and going up to heaven. The original Greek text of each is without error and trustworthy, while at the same time reflecting the unique personality and purpose of each writer.
            The emphasis in Matthew’s telling of the life of Jesus Christ is the kingdom. He wrote to a mostly Jewish audience who were looking for the King of Israel God had promised in many places in the Old Testament. Matthew presents Jesus as that promised King, who had to come from the family line of King David of old. We see this emphasis in Matthew’s word choices: he uses the royal title “Son of David ten times, more than any other Gospel, and he uses the words “king” and “kingdom” 72 times, more than any other New Testament book. Another important kingly title is “Christ” or “Messiah.” This literally means “Anointed One” and refers to the ancient Israelite practice of anointing their leaders with oil as a sign that they were set apart for holy service. Matthew uses that title 17 times, more than any Gospel except John’s.
            In other words, Matthew seeks to convince his readers that Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the King Israel had awaited for a thousand years.

Why the Genealogy?

            If Matthew is trying to prove that Jesus is the King of Israel, why would he start his argument with a list of names?
            He starts with the genealogy because all the Old Testament promises about the coming King specify that he had to be descended from Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, and also from King David, who was from the family of Jacob’s son Judah.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were the fathers of the whole nation of Israel, so any king of Israel would have to come from them. God had promised each of them that He would bless all the nations of the earth through their offspring (see Genesis 22:18 for one example, with others throughout Genesis 12-50). This explains why Matthew starts with Abraham instead of starting earlier with Adam the way Luke does.
God narrows down the possibilities by making a covenant (binding agreement) with David, the second king of Israel. 1 Chronicles 14 tells this story completely, with the specific promise we need to know here in 1 Chronicles 17:11-14, where God is speaking:
‘When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, 14 but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.’

            David’s heir Solomon did rule the kingdom of Israel, but only for 40 years. 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles explain that story in full. The basics facts are that Solomon did not obey several specific commands of God. His heart was led astray by his foreign wives, so God told him that the kingdom would be divided in his son Rehoboam’s lifetime. That did happen, and the kingdom was never again united until after the people of Israel had returned from exile in Babylon, Assyria, and later Persia. From that time until the time of Jesus, Israel lived in their land under foreign governments and were not allowed to have a king like the one promised to David.
            When Jesus was born, the people of Israel were under Roman rule, and many were unhappy and looking in hope for the king God had promised, the king who would come from Abraham’s and David’s families. In order for Matthew to prove that Jesus was that king, he first had to prove that Jesus was from the right families to be qualified.

Why This Genealogy?

                Matthew had to prove that Jesus was from Abraham and from David. He also had to prove that He was descended from the last king before the exile, who was Jechoniah. This shapes Matthew’s section breaks: first, Abraham to David and the promise of the forever kingdom; then David to the exile and the temporary end to that kingdom; then from the exile to the time of Christ, in an unbroken family line. Section breaks in a genealogy were common as helps to memorizing them, since most people didn’t have access to the written Gospels at first.
            Why does the number fourteen matter? The people of Israel, before they had Arabic numerals for counting, used their alphabet as numbers. This practice is called gematria. In English, we would say, A=1, B=2, and so on until Z=26. In that way, even a name could be represented as a number. The name Abe would equal 1+2+5, or 8, except that Hebrew didn’t have vowels, which would mean that Abe equals 2. In the same way, using the Hebrew alphabet, the numerical value for the name David is, you guessed it, 14. Matthew groups the names in his genealogy in a way that cries out, “David! David! David!” Then he also places David as the fourteenth name on the list. From this genealogy, there should be no doubt at all that Jesus is from the perfect family line to be a possible king of Israel.
            What about the “missing generation”? If we count the names without any duplication, it looks like the last generation only has thirteen. In light of the background discussed so far, though, we know that David’s name is not just any name. (We also know that, as a tax collector, it’s unlikely that Matthew just counted wrong.) On this list and in this Gospel, David’s name is the most important except for Jesus. Also, we should note that in Matthew 1:17, God through Matthew names David twice in his summary of the sections but then uses more general language instead of names after David: “from Abraham to David. . . from David to the deportation to Babylon. . . and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ. . . .” We can also note that Matthew never says in that verse that there are a total of 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus, but rather that there are fourteen in each grouping he lists. All of this evidence leads me to conclude that Matthew intends for the reader to count David twice as one more way of emphasizing his importance in the family line of Jesus. David is the last name in the first section and the first name in the middle section.
            From Abraham to Jesus, everything about Matthew’s arrangement of the generations shouts that Jesus is the Son of David and therefore the heir to the promises God made to David and has a right to the throne of Israel.

So What?

            Jesus’ origin from Abraham through David is the first requirement for Him to rule as King of Israel, but it’s also the first requirement for Him to be the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through whom all nations of the earth would be blessed. Matthew hints at this by including some non-Israelite women in the list and develops it more throughout the Gospel until his closing statement in Matthew 28:18-20:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Through Matthew, God starts this Gospel by proving that Jesus had a claim to be King of Israel. He ends with Jesus claiming for Himself all authority in heaven and on earth and telling His disciples (including Matthew) to make disciples of all nations, not just Israel. That means Jesus claims authority over each of our nations and over each of our lives. He is King of Israel first, but ultimately King of all heaven and earth, and of you and of me. But to get to those “alls,” he has to start with a genealogy.


References:
Matthew book introductions and chapter 1 notes:
The ESV Study Bible; The Holman Christian Study Bible; The New King James Study Bible; The New Bible Commentary: Revised

Web articles:
"Is there an error in the counting of the generations in Matthew chapter 1?"
"Problems with Basic Math?"
"The Origins of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-25)"

Matthew commentaries:
Commentary on Matthew (Commentary on the New Testament Book #1), Robert Gundry

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hope-Full {A Poem}



"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit"
(Romans 15:13, HCSB).


Trust digs channels for hope
To flow from holy Source--
Spurting, splashing, splattering
Down, upon, into emptiness.

Thirsty vessel drinks,
Drop by drop,
Joy and peace--
Filling, fulness, flowing over open lip
Down, upon, into emptiness.


Why, my soul, are you downcast?
   Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:5, NIV

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Autumn Hope

The trees are weeping
Great arid tears
Of scarlet, gold, and flame—
Mourning winter’s onset,
Doubting spring will come again.

Autumn sings in minor key,
Bagpipes droning slave trader's hymn.
Loss, surrender, relinquishment thrum
Beneath the glory of the turning leaves,
The crisp cool air,
The gentler light.

Even as tree limbs release
Their grip on summer's glory
And exhalations of wind carry it
Down, down, down to the earth,
Farmers gather in their harvests,
Golden glory-fruit
Of many seeds of hope
Buried in soil
Nourished
By the weeping of the trees.

"I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop" (John 12:24, HCSB).