Breaking the Divide

When Jesus instituted the Supper He was in the middle of the Passover Feast. Jesus was a Jew, His disciples were all Hebrews, and so they were observing a national event in Israel. Some twenty-five years later Paul wrote 1 Corinthians which included an extensive section about observing communion. By that time the Supper had clearly crossed national boundaries. Perhaps there were some Jewish members of the church in Corinth but many were Gentiles.

Jew/Gentile fellowship is a frequent issue from Acts into the Epistles. The apostle Paul famously wrote:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Even to mention Jews and Gentiles together would have angered Jews and offended Gentiles. Read 1 Maccabees for some history of violence. Then read the Gospels for inspired accounts of hostility. For centuries there had been bitter fights, exile and captivity and death, if not of themselves, of their ancestors. The Passover itself was a deliverance from a brutal enemy. This was a relationship with very little peace.

Yet we can look back into the earlier chapters of the story (such as Genesis 10) to see how God’s power propelled man’s fruitfulness and then pushed man to the far corners of the earth. His power established boundaries, His power caused kingdoms to rise and fall, His power sent rain and sun to grow food, His power made hearts beat. We live in a world that runs on His power and for His purposes.

His purposes include a global kingdom for His Son. God’s power created nations and God’s gospel breaks down the dividing wall of hostility between the nations (see Ephesians 2:14). So we have no need to be ashamed of the gospel. Let us celebrate His sovereign grace and His international rule through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

No Stand Ins

The first of the Ten Commandments prohibits the worship of false gods. The second prohibits false worship of the true God.

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4–6)

God, apart from Jesus–whom the original recipients of the Decalogue did not know, does not have physical dimensions or limitations, so any sculpted or painted artwork intended to depict Him directly is lying. It is a false representation of God so it cannot honor Him. Even though creation points to God, nothing in the ocean, on land, or in the sky can stand in for Him.

God desires exclusive worship and He wants that worship to be pure. He forbids whatever would misrepresent and distract from the revelation of Himself in the Word.

It is interesting that He attaches His own jealous character as a reason for this commandment rather than to idolatry. Those who claim to worship Him alone but who worship Him according to their own imaginations will be punished generationally. Certainly this applied to Israel, but Peter’s description of “futile ways inherited from your forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18) seems related. Error propagates. Error about God is itself one of the judgments on those who hate God.

On the other hand, God spreads blessing over and through those who love Him. Well beyond three or four generations, His steadfast love extends “to thousands.” Our obedience to His commandments starts with undivided and undistracted worship in spirit and truth.

Why My Night Was Like a Storybook

I spent some time in the hospital last week and my oldest daughter wrote the following story putting together some details from her visit and additional info from her mom. We thought it was funny and, since she doesn’t have her own blog (yet), worth sharing here.

Why My Night Was Like a Storybook
By Maggie Higgins
 It all started when my dad got sick. It wasn’t a normal sickness. It started as a normal cold around Christmas. It got horrible quickly, a bad cough, congestion, so on, and lasted so for about two weeks. After this it died down a bit, but he was obviously still sick. Mom wasn’t worried. It was just a weird virus.
   Two months later, my dad was getting worse. Finally, on February 1, my mom decided that he needed to go to the doctor. That day his best friend, who also was my headmaster, had told Mom that Dad was not doing good, and needed some sort of medical attention. Apparently, at a meeting earlier in the day, he had been white as new pair of tights, and had eaten half a “girl sized pizza, standing up.” This is not normal behavior for a full grown man, even if he has a cold. We went home from school and tried to be quiet while Mom and Dad conversed over his medical fate. In the end they decided that he would go to the doctor that very night and try to figure out what was wrong with him.
   After me and my three siblings got home from swimming, things started to happen. While we were eating dinner and wondering if they had figured anything out by now, Mom showed up with some news. The doctor did not like what he was seeing, and had decided to send Dad to the nearest hospital by ambulance. Of course we were worried, he is the best dad in the world, and always will be. The shock wasn’t unbearable though, seeing as it was not as bad as the time we found out he had cancer. (Different story, different time.) So anyway, Mom went down to spend some time with Dad and hear what the doctors had to say.
   Me and my siblings all slept in the same room. This was for the comfort of the two youngest, because they were sad and did not like the present situation in which they found themselves. After telling them a bedtime story along the lines of, "Three cats lived…then they died," we all fell asleep and stayed so for a few hours.
   My Mom came in around 1:30 in the morning. Dad had low blood pressure and a high heart rate, probably caused by intestinal bleeding. Of course, I only found this out later, because I was sound asleep on the floor.
   The next morning we went to school like normal, except for the fact that Dad didn't come to teach his normal classes because he was still in the hospital. People at school were very understanding. They made cards (21 in all), made us dinner, and gave us hugs. After school we found out that Dad wasn't coming home that night, and they hadn't found where he was bleeding from internally. Mom took us kids to visit him.
   Dad being sick wasn't really what I want you to hear about. I want you to know about the crazy roommate on the other side of the curtain in Dad's room.
   As you walked into the hospital room, my Dad was on the nearest side to the door. This meant that I didn't see the crazy man on the other side very much, but I did get a few glimpses and enough audio and stories from my mom to put together a rather interesting sketch of this man.
   Have you read N.D. Wilson’s Dragon’s Tooth? If you have, you have met the old man named William Skelton, or Billy Bones. The Man Across the Curtain was pretty much the human form of Skelton. I for one, would not have been surprised if the hospital had started burning down because of his old friends, or if he beckoned me and my brother over to tell us that we were his heirs. But alas, all the satisfaction I got was listening to him rant to his phone, and the stories that my mother told me later.
   He was an older man, around the ages of 60-65. His white hair reached to his shoulders, and he had the beginnings of a white beard. He had a pirately face, and looked as if he ought to have a parrot sitting on his shoulder. If he had, the language of that parrot would have been abominable, for the man himself was not the cleanest of mouth. I shall leave out the unclean words for sake of your dignity and clean mind. My mom saw him a little in the many hours that she spent in the crowded room, and she said that his skin was the color of a highlighter, most likely from drinking too much alcohol. Later Dad told us that he had heard the man telling the nurse that on some days he could end up drinking 190 oz. of any alcoholic beverage. Clearly this man had a bad life, and was trying to escape from it for a while when he could.
   He was very proud of his white hair. Mom told us that the nurse had brought him some cleaning essentials including a comb, and he had started brushing it. After a few seconds he made sounds like an angry bull, picked up his phone, called his friend, and yelled, “BRING ME MY BRUSH! This stupid hospital comb is RUINING my hair!” Of course, this is the more digestible version of what he said; there was a little more that was actually said.
   Beside his alcohol problems, he seemed to have a great deal of illegal substances hid away that his friend needed to find for him. Along with his mind, his furniture seemed to be going missing. For instance, his friend didn’t know where the man’s sofa was, and he was selling his tv. This man could definitely have been part of Phoenix's gang of mad men with bone tattoos. I would not have been surprised a bit if he had.
   This man was one part of my story book night, the other was a motel sign and rain. After leaving the hospital and getting a soda and cookie for us all, we stopped at a red light. Me and Mom felt all of a sudden that we were inside of the book by N.D. Wilson. Crazy old men, crazy circumstances. And now there was a heavy rain and broken motel signs were all around on the streets we drove through. All we needed was a lightning bug and old tooth. After all, who says that fiction isn’t true?
P.S. Some poetic license was taken in order to make my interesting night into a story that could convey the "adventure" that I had that night.