Podcasts of Lecture Series. Once again, click on the menu page above entitled “An Invitation to the Journey of a Lifetime.” I’ve uploaded a pod cast of Lecture One, Part Two of the lecture series given at the Evangelical College of Theology, near Freetown, Sierra Leone, May 16-19, 2016.
“The ‘Many-Splendored’ Wisdom of God. Monday and Tuesday I have the privilege of doing the Tishomingo County Pastors School at the First United Methodist Church in Iuka, Mississippi. Our study is entitled “The ‘Many-Splendored’ Wisdom of God: Studies in Ephesians 1-6.” If you click on the Ephesians page above, you can download the note-taking guide for these studies. Pastors receive one CEU for participating.
Mike and Deanne
Mike and Deanne, our son-in-law David’s mom and dad, were with us last weekend. We all had a wonderful time. Rosa and I remembered the summer of 2013 when they took us to Ephesus. We took them to Vicksburg and the Old Country Store Restaurant. Somehow the two—Ephesus? Vicksburg?—weren’t quite equal!
Since Mike and Deanne have served for many years in many different parts of the world, we asked them to share in our Sunday school class. Mike began with Isaiah 50:10: “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (ESV).
After reading, Mike asked, “According to this verse, what do we need?” Several class members answered, “light.” “No,” Mike said, “we need trust.” The verse tells us that when we “walk in darkness and have no light” we are called to “trust in the name of the Lord and rely on [our] God.”
God has given us light for right living—remember Ps 119:5: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” He has shown us how to “walk in his ways” (Psalm 119:3, ESV) and “obey the word of his servant.”
But we have no light that shows us tomorrow. We strain our eyes in the attempt to pierce the future’s darkness. We plan for various contingencies, but as we move forward into the coming day, we “walk in darkness and have no light.” But our God sees clearly, “the darkness and the light are both alike” to Him (Ps 139:12, NKJV). It is ours to trust Him. Trust includes humility before His majesty, gratitude before His grace given us in Christ, rest in His character as our Savior, and obedience to His will. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NKJV, emphasis added). This is the message of the Bible.
The Amphitheater at Ephesus
Since my previous post by this title we have continued studying 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 in two more Thursday night classes, with four or five of us in the room and our three friends joining us by Skype from Seattle, greater Mobile, and Mexico City. We have become acutely aware that Paul is talking about the severe real-life suffering that he has endured in the Roman Province of “Asia” (verse 8) for the sake of Christ. From Acts we know about the riot in the Amphitheater at Ephesus that was caused by the success of Paul’s Asian ministry (Acts 19:21-41). You can see a bit of this Amphitheater in the attached picture.
When we realize the severity of Paul’s suffering—he says that he had “despaired of life” itself—verse 7 becomes all the more shocking: “Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort” (ESV). How can Paul be so sure that the Corinthian believers will share in God’s “comfort” because they share in the same kind of sufferings that Paul has endured? Is “suffering” a guarantee of “comfort”?
Paul is confident that the faithful believer will receive God’s “comfort” in the midst of suffering because God is faithful. As the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” He is the “Father of mercies” and thus the source of the truest and deepest “comfort.” Since He is the “God who raises the dead” He is able to provide “comfort” for those toward whom “the sufferings of Christ” abound. No situation, however dire, is beyond his reach.
Paul is talking, first of all, about the affliction through which we identify with Christ’s suffering because it is endured for the sake of Christ and in order that we might be faithful. Suffering from other sources, however, may well threaten the faithful endurance of the believer. God’s “comfort” is there first of all in the form of grace and power to faithfully persevere in obedience whatever we may face (verse 6). God’s “comfort” may also be expressed in deliverance from peril and danger, as it was for Paul “in Asia” (verse 8). Resurrection life is the ultimate “comfort” offered by the “God who raises the dead.” As Paul says in verse 9, suffering is the occasion for deepening our trust in God.
I often fret in the middle of difficulties because I cannot see God’s solution (come to think of it, if I could “see” the solution, what need would there be for faith?). Paul, however, would have us take “comfort” in God’s “comfort”—even when we don’t see His solution—because we know He is faithful, and we know that the “Father of mercies” “knows our frame” and “remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).
Life has been so hectic that I haven’t blogged for over a week. The last post was made from Buffalo, Wyoming, Rosa my wife’s home town. We were visiting along with Ginny and Kate our daughters, David our son-in-law, Kate’s husband, and three grandchildren. Our return trip was quite an adventure. We left early due to a threatened blizzard. About one o’clock last Tuesday morning a fox ran across the road and we hit him. There didn’t appear to be any damage. Later I looked up from a seat in the second row and saw that the van was overheated. It began to sound funny. We stopped at Saint Joseph, Missouri for the night. Rosa contacted our insurance the next morning while I taught a course by Skype. The fox had put a hole in the radiator. After a new radiator and air conditioning condenser, we were on the road again–by now it was Tuesday night. After about three hundred miles the van began to heat up again. We stopped and added coolant. Smoke was billowing out of the exhaust–not a good sign. We had just gone around Memphis and gotten into Mississippi when it began to heat up again. This time coolant didn’t help much. We ended up about four in the morning off the interstate at Como, Mississippi, just south of Senatobia. There wasn’t anything at the Como exit. AAA helped us get a rental car in Senatobia. The tow truck driver took everybody to McDonalds until the car rental place opened–everybody except me, that is. I rode the last 162 mile to Paul Moak Honda in Jackson in the front of the tow truck. For the want of a nail, a horse was lost. For the want of a horse, a rider was lost. For the want of a rider, the battle was lost. For the want of the battle, the war was lost. Well, for the sake of a fox . . . an engine was lost. The bad news is, the van is sitting at the dealership awaiting a new engine. The good news is, insurance is paying for the engine. I wonder if anyone else has ever had a road trip like this one?
Now, as for the topic of the last post–baptism. We posted a picture of the baptismal pool at the Basilica of Saint John in Ephesus. At the ruins of the church where the Council of Ephesus was held in the fifth century, there is a baptismal pool very much like the one at Saint John’s church. See the picture above. It appears that such pools may have been typical of fifth and sixth century churches in Asia Minor.
One of the most interesting parts of Saint John’s Basilica was the baptistry. It was a small eight-sided structure attached to the side of the main part of the church. On one side was a worship center for the ceremony before the baptism. From that center steps descended into the baptismal pool. Steps ascended from the other side of the pool to another worship center for the ceremony that followed the actual baptism. See this picture taken of Rosa and me standing in the pool. I left thinking about what this arrangement suggested concerning the meaning of baptism. How was your baptism like or different from what Saint John’s baptistry might suggest?
The ruins of the Basicilica of Saint John were a short walk from our bed and breakfast. This remarkable church was built at Ephesus by Justinian and Theodora, the great Byzintine sixth century Emperor and Empress. It commemorates the reputed burial place of the Apostle John, who spent his last days in Ephesus. We spent a wonderful afternoon walking over this I fascinating sight. A few of the columns, that once supported the six-dome, cross-shaped structure of this sanctuary still stand.