Daily thoughts on aesthetics and theology, and the entire world in between.

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Do we really have guardian angels?

Well ...


Psalm 34.7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

What about The LOOK after resurrection?

My last post concerned The LOOK Jesus gives that tells us instantly who we are.

But why did so many of his closest associates not recognize him after his resurrection?

When coming to the empty tomb, Mary mistook him for the gardener. Two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus walked with him for hours without knowing who he was.

One commentator (Chuck Missler) suggests that it was because of Jesus’ horrendous wounds suffered in the hours leading up to his crucifixion. The scars rendered even the resurrected Jesus unrecognizable. For instance, Isaiah prophesies that his beard would be ripped off during torture. Abuses like this rendered his face unfamiliar -- even after resurrection.

I think this theory is off the mark by a long ways. It suggests that the trials of this life are somehow able to disfigure us not only here, but in resurrection as well. It is a theory that looks backwards to this creation marred by sin, and not forwards to a new creation freed from sin.

And besides, if marks of brutality are the reason why Jesus was not recognized -- (doesn’t this very idea seem abhorrent?) -- then why would Mary think the man she saw was a gardener and not, for instance, some sort of convict? And why would the two disciples allow this horrendous figure to exposit the Scriptures to them for hours as they walked to Emmaus?

Jesus indeed had scars, and he did indeed use them as proof that it was he, and not someone else. The resurrected Jesus said to his confounded disciples: “See my hands and feet, that it is I myself…” But the resurrected Jesus did not say: “Look at this brutalized face; see where my beard was; look what they did to me!” How undignified that would have been! Even war heroes of today rarely mention the brutalities they suffered in war. It is just not part of being a hero.

No. There is something about the resurrected body that is so other that we simply cannot fathom what that kind of newness “looks” like. On the other hand, what we do know is that this other-ness is not so other that the resurrected one is not the same one that we knew (or that we were) on this side of the grave. It is that person. But it is that person glorified. It is us. But it is us glorified.

There is simply a chasm between the two realms. The LOOK I mentioned earlier is that other realm peering into ours. That LOOK tells us who we are. When we are given an opportunity to peer into that other realm, well, even our dearest on that other side are difficult to recognize.

It is something to look forward to, isn’t it, to finally be able to understand the difference someday.


John 20.15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."

Luke 24.13-16 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

Chuck Missler, "His Unfamiliar Face: An Easter Devotional" in Good News Northwest, April 2009, vol 14 issue 4, pages 1, 5-6

Isaiah 50.6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

Luke 24.39 "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have."

The LOOK that tells you who you are

Some men are mending fishing nets along the shore. Jesus comes to them, gives them the LOOK. They drop everything, nets and family, and follow him for the rest of their lives.

I often wonder about that LOOK. And more and more I long for it.

In the universe, there must be a look, the LOOK, which, upon having it trained on me – on you, on each of us – resolves forever who we are. Forever.

Only Jesus can give this LOOK.

You try going up to a bunch of seasoned men hardened by the daily grind of fishes, nets and the sea. You try getting them to drop everything to follow, ahem, you. Good luck.

But Jesus … what did that LOOK look like?

The Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Bathasar remarks that what normally defines us as persons – form, figure, relationship, personal name, home, time and place, even heredity, upbringing and personality – all of these do not “get beyond an accumulation of accidents.”

Beyond all of these contingent things, who am I? What is ME?

Bathasar: The answer comes only from … “the absolute subject, from God. There, where God tells a spirit-subject to its face who it is … where he tells it in the same breath why it exists, thus conferring on it its divinely attested mission, there it can be said … that it is a person."


It transcends doctrine on paper. It transcends principles in the head. It must have been aesthetical. The feel of it must have been like nothing else in the universe.

And I yearn for that LOOK, so that I can finally know who I am.


Matthew 4.18-22 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Hans Urs von Bathasar, ""The human being as person," in The von Bathasar Reader, edited by Medard Kehl and Werner Loser (New York: Crossroad Herder), 91.

God is a potter, not a theologian

Pottery is one reason I search for the missing aesthetic link in my faith.

Throughout his Word, God revealed himself with “visual aids” – with objects we can feel, more than with the abstract objects we can only think about and make systematic theology with. Visual aids like pots.

God is a potter, not a theologian.

He is the potter, we are the clay. We are in his hands, as clay in the potter’s hands. He breaks the rebellious into pieces, like the shards of a potter’s vessel.

We don’t think much about pottery. We hold pottery; we use pottery; we appraise pottery for visual appeal, perhaps for beauty. We like to look at pottery because … there is something about pottery that reminds us of us …

Are pots just “visual aids?”

This physical world, both the nature that he created and the culture(s) that he allows, is imbued with physicality. This physical world is pots within pots; it is all the work of the Potter. And he himself came as a man, God embodied.

The embodied God said this: “God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth.” But the embodied God said that. The truth was not uttered by a voice out of the sky. It was spoken by the Man from Galilee; the Man from Nazareth.

The Man who looked like Pottery more than Theology. The Man who came to us, so that we, as earthen vessels, may be containers of Treasure.

The Man who was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, later used to purchase a potter’s field where they dumped strangers.

What are we to do with pots, potters, pottery and brokenness in theological exegesis? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Arise, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear my words …


Isaiah 64.8 But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Jeremiah 18.6 O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord . Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Revelation 2.27 … and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces …

John 4.24 God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth…

2 Corinthians 4.7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God, and not of us.

Matthew 27.6-7 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money." So they took counsel and bought with them the potter's field as a burial place for strangers.

John 1.46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

Jeremiah 18.1-2 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words."

Sighing at night is normal, but so is the Bread

The last two nights have not been easy ones. Pressures of the day from work and church kept me up. When I did drift off, they woke me in the early morning darkness.

My only relief came when I practiced the presence of God the Father; when I recalled what Words from him I knew by heart. One night it was the Lord’s Prayer.

It strikes me how many times the Psalms refer to tossing and turning at night. The sighing seems normal for one who wishes to walk with God.

But the temptation is always to get rid of the pressures. To confront so-and-so; to try to get out of such-and-such. Why wouldn’t the Lord work it so that this-or-that changes for me?

The crowds came to Jesus because they were fed miraculously. They wanted more. They saw him as the Sugar Daddy. “Sir,” they said, “always give us bread …”

And the answer: “I am the bread of life.”

In my tossing it did occur to me: I knew struggles like these in the past, but I can't recall now what those struggles were over. In those previous times, I also called out to God. That I can remember.

Sighing at night is normal. The comfort comes not with change, but with the Bread that is always with me.


Psalm 5.1-3 Give ear to my words, O LORD; give heed to my sighing. Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you I pray. O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

John 6.34-35 They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty

John 6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal."

Power over distance

A Gentile centurion had a trusted servant who was on the verge of dying. While Jesus was coming to his home, the centurion came out to meet Jesus, and told him there was no need to walk to his home. Just say the word and my son will be healed, he said. And Jesus did so, remarking that the man’s faith was so great, none like it can be found in Israel.

Lazarus, a Jew, and one whom Jesus loved, fell ill and died. When Jesus finally came to his village, Lazarus’s two sisters, Mary and Martha, both complained that if only Jesus had been there, their brother would not have died.

The non-Jewish centurion knew that distance would have no effect on Jesus' power. He knew Jesus as God.

The Jewish sisters thought that distance would diminish Jesus’ power. The farther he was from them, the less powerful he would be. For all of their familiarity in knowing Jesus, the sisters only knew Jesus as a good man.

Blessed are those who have not seen, and believe.


Luke 7.6-10 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. " Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. "For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.

John 11.21 Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

John 11.32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

John 20.29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

The score on depression: The Gospels 161, the Pentateuch 0

Someone once said that all depression is traceable to a faulty father figure.

Of course medical research now tells us that depression can largely be due to chemical imbalances in our system. And so there are all sorts of anti-depressant drugs available. These have their place; I am not one to argue against them.

But in my depressed mood these last few days, it came to me to look up how many times “Father” is mentioned in John’s Gospel. I looked it up for all four gospels (these counts are limited to mentions of “Father” in reference to God in the KJV):

Matthew: 40
Mark: 5
Luke: 14
John: 102

That adds up to 161.

I then thought to count the number of times God is called Father in the Old Testament. This morning I didn’t have time to go through a search of the entire OT. How about in the first five books? I did a very quick count, so I might be one or two off:

The first five books of Moses: 0

That would be zero.

My prayer this morning is I would know the Father in a more intimate way; that, somehow, that would be the solution to my depressions. After all, the score seems to suggest a slam dunk. Below are just a few encouragements about the Father in John.


John 14.2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

John 14.23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

John 15.8 Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples.

John 15.9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue in my love.

John 16.28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.

John 20.17 Jesus said unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

A definition for love

Love is …

… feeling at home everywhere with someone in body, soul and spirit, so much so that, without the other person, it would not be home anywhere. Now, home is the one place in the world we return to (all other places we go to). And home is where things are done together with that someone without pay, and you would be offended if it were not so.


John 14.2-3 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

John 14.20-21 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

John 14.23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

A tiresome thing when preparing a sermon

A tiresome thing when preparing a sermon is this: not waiting. The date for the sermon has been fixed, and it is right around the corner. You must have a sermon to give; this you know. But you do not have the contents of what you are to say. This you ought to know, but this is where it gets tricky. Or tiresome. And if you start making things up, you go down the tiresome road.

There are several junctures in preparing a sermon at which you can take that tiresome detour. The first is right at the start: the Spirit must give you the germ – or better: the germination – of the message you are to preach. For me, usually this comes when a verse or two in context of its larger passage becomes alive in my spirit and, after lunch, or coffee, or chores, or whatever, it remains alive as the right fit for that sermon. If you have it, you have it. If you don’t, you don’t.

I've given my share of sermons without actually having the initial germ of the message. Not good. Certainly a waste of time. But waiting for the germination is hard to do. You have to be relaxed, but watchful in spirit. You can’t chomp at the bit, because then the germ won’t come. And even if it does, you might not hear it.

Another juncture is having the germ of the message – but that is all you have. This is my conundrum this morning. I have the germ of the message I am to give in a week and a half. But man, after several days of preparing, I just can’t get past the introduction. Yesterday I was halfway through writing out the first point. But I had the nagging feeling I was making it up. This morning I am having the same problem ...

(The alternative to making it up is surfing the Spirit. It's the difference between surfing the crest of a wave and, well, paddling in standing water. Paddling is more tiresome, and much less exciting. So when you're tired out and unexcited while preparing your sermon, chances are you’re making it up.

But then: this is a kind of tiresomeness that is sometimes hard to recognize. I often think I'm surfing when I'm actually paddling. The trick is to recognize the fatigue. Then it quietly dawns on me: "Oh yea ... this is just paddling ...").

So here I am, writing this Logos2Go entry because it may be a better thing to do than to paddle out my sermon. Today is probably another waiting day. But may my tongue be the pen of a ready writer.


Psalm 45.1 My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

When flesh is good

The word flesh usually does not portend good things in the Bible. For example, when Jesus said, “that which is flesh is flesh; that which is spirit is spirit,” it is pretty clear that, so far as heaven is concerned, you don't want to be on the flesh side of the ledger.

But there is one case in which flesh is good: “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

Flesh is good when a man and a woman become one flesh in marriage.

I have been married to Valerie for 30 years, and I am just getting a glimpse of what this means. She and I together are one flesh in a way that is more than just my body or just her body. There is something mystically one when two fleshes are joined in the marriage union.

It has to do with bearing the image of God in the world, for purposes of being fruitful in that world, of multiplying in it, and of ruling over it. Far from being a concocted social invention, one that is hotly contested now, the union of a man and a woman together into one flesh to rightfully tend to God’s creation is the only institution that comes from before the Fall.

As my wife recovers from her cancer, I appreciate how, over the last 30 years, we have been fruitful in family, in relationships, as well as in the good works we have done – and much of it unknowing or unintended by us. Unknowing and unintended … because it came simply out of being one flesh together… and just living.


John 3.6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Genesis 2.24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Ephesians 5.31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”*

Genesis 1.28-31 "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good …

Email and the log in your own eye

Email represents a new threat to human relations. It gives new meaning to the term “quick answer.” Email even legitimizes bad spelling in the name of speed: “u” instead of “you” or “cuz” instead of “because.” And then, with a click of the mouse, my reply just got sent at the speed of light to my friend.

Or my ex-friend.

Did I actually say that? How many times have I regretted clicking that mouse, and then spending the rest of the day (or days) anxiously awaiting a reply to an ill-spoken jab? Never before has it seemed more appropriate to compare a deceitful tongue with a sharp arrow. Once I let fly, those words never come back.

When I write them, I think my words are targeting the mote in my friend’s eye.

After I write them, they actually reveal the log in my own eye.

Taking a deep breath and waiting a while before answering an email can go some distance towards sanctification.


Psalm 120.3-4 What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? A warrior's sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!

Luke 6.42 How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.

The difference between art and craft

Art produces one-of-a-kind objects: a Mona Lisa by da Vinci, a David by Michelangelo, a Ninth Symphony by Beethoven. If I were to paint a Mona Lisa exactly like da Vinci’s, it would not be something to be proud of. In fact, I would be accused of being a plagiarist.

In comparison, a craft repeatedly produces a type: a chair, a basket, a piece of pottery. It is much less important that the craftsperson’s name be known. Many anonymous people make chairs, baskets, pots. These are types, not one-of-a-kind objects. And the craftspersons are not one-of-a-kind persons. They were never meant to be.

It might be something of a niche market to collect crafted pieces by famous people. But this is largely an exception. By the time a craftsperson’s name becomes famous, that is one sure sign that his or her crafted objects have somehow attained to the status of Art.

The cultivation of the Christian life is a craft. If we think of it as an art, we then tend to think of ourselves as one-of-a-kind artists. And this always leads to trouble. It results in an attitude of "Look at me!" And that is not the right direction to look in the economics of Christian living.

God is the only artist. We are the objects of his art, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made according to an artistic vision predating creation.

We, on the other hand, are at best craftspeople, charged with making a particular type. What type? The type of one who is a follower of Jesus. How is this craft to be practiced, and how is this type to be made? The latter half of just about any letter written by Paul contains many tips: Submit to your husbands; love your wives; obey your parents; do not provoke your children; obey your earthly masters; whatever you do, do heartily as unto the Lord.

In these lie the cultivation of the craft of being like Jesus.


Psalm 139.14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Ephesians 2.10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Colossians 3.18-23 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

Sparrows and swallows and the house of God

When the psalmist sings of his longing for the house of God, what is in his field of vision? It must be a beautiful scene, so beautiful that his soul longs for it. He sings: “Indeed (my heart) faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.”

What does he see that he so longs for it?

Well, two things that he immediately sees are sparrows and swallows.

So this is not your typical religious understanding of the house of God, which for most means buildings of some sort. For others it might mean service of some kind, in the sense of “serving in the house of God.”

But the psalmist sees sparrows and swallows. And if he sees even the birds of the sky, then he sees all of creation recovered.

The house of God ultimately is not a building, even one that is elevated on some acropolis in the sky. It is more than that; it is all of creation recovered.

But we know that the present creation is groaning until the fulfillment of the sons of God.

While this groaning is going on, it might be good to tend to the nature around us: the trees, the land; fill those bird feeders, plant and harvest. And wait with a quiet anticipation for a consummation this present world knows nothing of.

So I should not be so cast down today with my present dissatisfactions. If I am cast down, I should convert it to groaning, to longing, perhaps even to fainting, for a time when the sparrows and the swallows will, like me, find joy and rest in the house of God.


Psalm 84.1-3
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.

Romans 8.19-23
For the creation waits with eager longing 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 will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Time not yet; Time always here

Jesus says for those who do not believe in him, their time “is always here.” But for himself, his time “has not yet come.” This provocative difference has important implications for how we, as those who do believe in him, are to live.

Jesus mentioned this difference to his unbelieving brothers when they challenged him to go to the festival so that he could, in effect, market himself. Theirs was the logic of this world: If you want to make a name for yourself, then you’d better go do some networking.

No, said Jesus, he will not go because his time has not yet come, but they can go because their time is always here. What does this mean?

And then, another curious thing: Jesus did end up going to the festival, but “as it were in secret.” What does this mean?

For unbelievers, the only time they have is the time they have now. They can do nothing more than to live for the moment, because now is the totality of their horizon of meaning. “Now” in this context means this life and all of its pleasures and demands. This is why there are such sayings as “you only go around once in life” or “go for all the gusto.” Or there is the book: 100 Things to Do Before you Die. These sayings and book titles are poignant, because they reflect the instinctual sense an unbelieving world has that this time is all the time it has.

In this now, faith, hope, love, and all the other attributes of Christ’s character, attributes that can only come to complete fruition in the presence of Christ himself, are at best shadows of themselves, possible only through the various burdens of self exertion, but not via the weightlessness of divine grace. For those who do not believe Jesus, there is all the time in the world for these exertions – now.

But for those who do believe Jesus, and are therefore members of his body, the present now, the now that is always here, is placed in a much larger temporal context. There is either Hope that resides beyond this now, or, as Paul says, we are of all men most to be pitied.

The scheduled events of that larger time, whether it is the crucifixion of Jesus, his resurrection as the first fruit of the new creation, or our resurrection to be with him in glory, the completion of that schedule is not yet. Relative to that schedule, yes we are also at this present festival. But we are at this festival with the knowledge that it is not our festival. We are just here, as it were, in secret.


John 7:1-13 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. So his brothers said to him, "Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world." (For not even his brothers believed in him.) Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come." After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. The Jews were looking for him at the festival and saying, "Where is he?" And there was considerable complaining about him among the crowds. While some were saying, "He is a good man", others were saying, "No, he is deceiving the crowd." Yet no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews.

1 Corinthians 15.19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

Angels ascending, Animals descending

In his dream Jacob saw a ladder telescoping to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it.

The angels were ascending – that is, originating from the earth. How can this be so? Isn’t heaven the home of angels? So they should be descending down the ladder first before ascending. Shouldn’t that be the proper order of things? No, not now.

At the beginning of his ministry, of all the passages from the Old Testament to authenticate his advent, Jesus cites Jacob’s dream: “Truly I say to you, you will see the heaven opened, and the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

So this is the answer to the riddle of Jacob’s dream! Now that Jesus has come to tabernacle with us, the angels are here also. We should not be hoping for angels to come down to us once in a blue moon, because they are here with us, now.

Why wait anxiously for the postman when the package is sitting next to you?

What did Jacob call the place of his dream? He called it Beth-el, the House of God. The house of God today is where Jesus is tabernacling. And with him (which is to say, with us) are the angels. And they are ascending and descending to heaven and back. There is a lot of traffic going on in ministry to the Head of the Church and to his Body.

Even the Pope would be impressed.

Now, in Peter’s dream, a large sheet came down from heaven filled with animals considered unclean in the Old Testament. Peter was told to eat them! And Peter, the proper Jew, was repulsed! He’d never eaten anything unclean; how can heaven tell him to do this sort of thing now!? The answer from heaven: What God has made clean, don’t you call common.

We are living in extra-ordinary times. Angels live right amongst us, ascending to heaven and back. What does descend from heaven are not angels, but a decree that all peoples of the earth, once considered unclean and without hope in the world, are now considered clean, which is to say, qualified to be sons and daughters of God. In carrying this message to all, we need the help of those angels who ascend and descend on our behalf.


Genesis 28.12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! … (and) he called the name of that place Bethel …

John 1.51 And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Acts 10.10-15 … he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." But Peter said, "By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has made clean, do not call common."

Ephesians 2.12-14 … remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

What God has called clean, do not call common

Today I flew to another university to give a lecture. En route I wrestled with one of my usual ghosts: all of this stuff I will say at the lecture, what does it have to do with God’s glory and purpose?

During these depressive moments I usually compare myself with others. Those in the ministry, for example, are serving God “full time.” Certainly they can say their lives are occupied with God’s business. And then there are my friends in engineering or medicine. They deal in fields with actual useful knowledge; they spend their days actually bettering the lives of others.

Me, I’m in design and the humanities. Sometimes it all just seems like hot air. Even as one student said to me years ago, “Dave (and that’s all he called me – not Professor Wang) – Dave, you just made all this stuff up, didn’t you?” Never mind that I am published in international journals, and have co-authored and edited books; that charge will haunt me forever. I just made it all up, didn’t I?

Then the word came to me: “What God has called clean, do not call common.”

Those words were spoken to Peter when, just prior to bringing the Good News to the Gentiles, he saw a large sheet descending from heaven; in it were all sorts of unclean animals. He heard a voice: “arise and eat.” And Peter responded: “no way! I have never eaten anything unclean.”

He then heard it: “What God has called clean, do not call common.”

It is not the content of the words; it is the vessel the words come forth from. That is where the testimony will come from.

I am a Gentile made clean by God. My worth is not in my occupation; it is in my having been made clean because of Christ in me the hope of glory.

Even what I say, if it is borne out of Christ’s life in me, will have the stamp of that cleanness. My hope must be that God, who sustains this world and all of the people who come to hear lectures even if those lectures are not sermons but only lectures rooted in the vessel’s recognition that all truth is God’s truth … my hope must be that that God is somehow much bigger than my pessimism. My hope and my confidence is that he will not only be okay with it; he will anoint me in giving the lecture, because he anointed me in preparing it, in ways I cannot fully comprehend now.

His salvation of me is bigger than I think it is. And it is cleaner than I think it is.


Acts 10.14-15 But Peter said, By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. And the voice came to him again a second time, What God has made clean, do not call common.

No "distance learning" with that Paul ...

Nowadays “distance learning” is all the rage. No need to be physically present in a classroom to learn. With your laptop, you can be in your bathrobe, sipping coffee in your kitchen (no doubt with the sports pages open)… and be taking a class. You can earn an entire college degree on line. I heard from a college administrator recently that the University of Phoenix, an “on-line university,” charges more per credit hour than the traditional state university where she works.

But no distance learning with the Apostle Paul. He writes to the Christians in Rome: “I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you … I have often intended to come to you … in order that I may reap some harvest among you…”

Paul was longing to be with them bodily, physically, in the same room. And since his letter is inspired Scripture, we just can’t dismiss his words as of only historical interest. They didn’t have internet back then, you say. And I say: it was by divine design that they didn’t. And what right do we have to think that that divine design is different now? To share spiritual gifts and to strengthen one another requires being together in the same place, and at the same time.

A point made in a sermon I heard as a young man comes back to me: “It’s easy to love the saints in Australia… it’s the ones next to me I can’t stand.” (I heard that sermon in Richmond, Virginia, a world away from Australia).

Do I actually long to be with the saints as Paul did? It is a searching question – which is a euphemism to cover up the real answer, which is “no.” I guess I am a much bigger fan of distance learning in church life than I would like to admit.

But Paul lists three fruits of being physically together:

The first fruit: Sharing together “some spiritual gift to strengthen…" one another. Notice the general nature of this fruit. Paul doesn’t say “that I may exercise my gift of teaching on you.” No, he just anticipates some spiritual gift; he doesn’t know what that gift is, and that seems to have been part of the reason why he longed to be physically together with them.

The second fruit: Mutual encouragement of faith, “both yours and mine.” Here is Paul, author of just about 50% of the New Testament, longing to be encouraged in faith by others so insignificant that we don’t know any of their names. But to get that encouragement, Paul knew he had to be in the same place, in the same room, with these no-names.

The third fruit: The prospect of “reaping some harvest among you.” Again, note the generality of the tone: Paul didn’t know what kind of harvest he would reap, or even if there would be one. He just knew that if there was any chance of a harvest, he needed to be physically with them.

No distance learning with that Paul. He knew better. There is no cyber-church. The church only comes into being when you and I labor to be built up with the living stones around us.


Romans 1.10-13 … asking that by God's will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you -- or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles.

Where to dig for gold

Christ is the foundation, but some build on it with gold, while others with wood, hay and stumble. The worrisome thing is that we won’t really know what materials we’ve been building with until “the Day,” when the quality of our efforts will be finally revealed. On that Day, the hay and stubble will be burned away; only the people who used these perishable materials will be saved, as if by the skin of their teeth.

My wife is lying in bed after cancer surgery. Coming out of her are six drains that I empty three times a day; along with changing her bandages, cooking for her, and so on. If teaching doesn’t work out, I may try nursing …

Today is Sunday and she is obviously not in any position to be driven to church. So I take the Bible to her bedside, and we are reading about Christ the foundation, and about the gold and silver, and about the hay and stubble.

“What am I doing that is gold?” I ask her. “I wonder if writing this Logos2Go blog every day is gold … or just hay that will be burned away?”

“I don’t know,” she said, “but before you came in I was thinking about how men lead their wives, about so-and-so and so-and-so.”

We converse about the testimonies of marriages we know, some good, some not so good.

Then she said, with the drain tubes coming out of her: “You are leading me by reading the Bible with me; that was intentional on your part.”

So I say, “Maybe to build with gold, it has to involve intention, and it has to involve others.” And then we moved on.

In several weeks, I will be speaking at a men’s retreat about stress in marriage. In preparing for it, the word that has come to me is “Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies … this is a profound mystery, but I am speaking of Christ and the church.”

At the intersection of these passages – building on Christ the foundation with gold, and loving one’s wife as Christ loves the Church – at the intersection of these passages, if one digs down with intentionality, one just might strike gold.


1 Corinthians 3.11-15 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw -the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

Ephesians 5.29-32 … no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church- for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Weaving the word of the Word

We say the Old Testament Law has been fulfilled by Christ in these New Testament times. And this is true. But all too lightly we dismiss the riches – and the challenges – that still remain for us from the OT.

Let me go right to testimony. No matter how deeply I know the Bible, often when the moment arises, I do not have an appropriate word from the Word for the occasion.

It is a real craft to weave words from the Word into the fabric of life. Like any craft, it takes repeated practice to do well.

How many times have I said grace before meals at the family table? How many of those times was a word from the Word woven into those prayers? – as compared with: “Ah, well, thank you for this food … please bless the cat who is sick … you are good and great and gracious … amen.” This is a caricature of prayer; and it probably doesn’t t bless the angels who are watching, never mind Anyone Else of higher rank.

Moses said: “… put the words of God in your heart and soul … bind them on your hands … fix them on your forehead … talk about them when you are at home with your children, talk about them when you are away … and recite them upon retiring and awaking … write them on the doorposts of your house.”

The people of Israel were to weave the words of God into the fabric of their lives. And in return their days and their children’s days would be multiplied, and they will live in the land God swore to their ancestors to give them.

No clever theology can explain away how this Old Testament command is no longer in force. Because it still is. His words are life; our words are at best rough drafts of something else.


Deuteronomy 11:18-21 You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.

1 Peter 1.12 ... Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

Colossians 3.16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

Vapor and smoke

A growing sense at the bottom of my being tells me that life is both a vapor -- in that all of our moments just come and go leaving fading memories of them -- but also, at the same time, it is substance -- in that what goes on in those moments truly have eternal consequence. Vapor and substance. That is human life. We must balance between these two extremes.

The psalmist says: “My days vanish like smoke, my bones burn like blowing embers.” That is the vapor part of it.

But then, Peter says: “Add to your faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly love, and love.” This is the substance.

In God’s design, we are a vapor that has been given faith. Now, how can smoke and embers have faith? I do not know, but an impossibility like this has all the markings of God’s ways.

I am reading testimonials of folks who survived four yours in the Nazi death camps. Hans Jacobson, his entire family murdered by the Nazis, made it to Sweden, where more of his companions died because they were too abused to make it even with medical care. “I was still alive and was saved, but … we were not sure if we wanted to live…” Years later, at 72 years of age, he recounted his harrowing experiences. He has probably passed now; I do not know. I just know that as I read it, the vapor-ness of life filled my inner senses…

What to do in an existence of vapor and embers?

Well, the vapor has been given the substance of faith. In our present condition, it must feel like a vapory faith. But add to that vapory faith goodness … that is the first step. Just get through the day being good; good to others; good to the tasks the day brings; just be good. That is the first step of combating the vapor with the substance of faith. And then, as I can, go on to the next step … add knowledge, self-control, and so on.

And Peter says that, somehow, adding these things of substance will show that this life of vapory faith will not be unproductive in knowing the Lord Jesus Christ.


Psalm 102.3 For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers.

Peter 1.5-8 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Martin Gilbert, The Day the War Ended. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996, 161.

Jesus is no sign; he is Something Else

A sign is something that indicates something else. In this sense Jesus is not a sign. He is the Something Else.

When the Something Else is no longer somewhere else, but right here tabernacling among us, there is no more need for signs.

Nicodemus understood this when he snuck out at night to meet Jesus for the first time: "Rabbi … no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God."

So what Jesus does can be regarded as signs. But Jesus himself is no sign. He is the presence of God. And in the presence of God -- the Somewhere Else of all somewhere elses -- there is no more need for signs.

This is why, after some townspeople met Jesus, they said to the Samaritan woman who first told them about him: “We don’t need to depend on what you say any more, for we have heard ourselves ...” Once The Presence Himself is present, there is no more need for signs about him from others.

But why, then, upon the baby Jesus’ presentation at the temple, did Simeon say, “This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed” (?).

It is because, relative to this world of shadows, Jesus the Something Else will always be, well, something else. He will always be something else because he is from Somewhere Else: “You are from below; I am from above … I am not of this world.”

Therefore relative to the eyes of this world of shadows, Jesus appears as a sign that this world is not the Somewhere Else that is at once the longing of men’s hearts as well as the reason for this world’s judgment. Indeed, because of the Somewhere Else, this world cannot be anything but a world of signs. The appearance of Jesus in this world of signs will be received as a sign that is opposed to any other shadowy sign. And because men love darkness, this Sign – because it is no sign – will be opposed.

But for those who believe on Him, this day, there is no more need for signs, because the Presence is tabernacling right here. May he live through us, cutting across the make-believe that can only be the affairs of this world, and do things that cannot be done unless they are done in the presence of God.


John 2.23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing.

John 1.14 And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth. (Young)

John 3.1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God."

John 4.42 They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."

Luke 2.34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed

John 8.23 He said to them, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John 3.19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Dead trees will fruit again (an aesthetic truth)

“There is hope for a tree: if is cut down, it will sprout again, and its roots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die … but at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant…”

If the Word of God is indeed inspired, and hence true not only for Job who uttered these words but also true for all people in all places for all time, then its aesthetic-propositional depths should be plumbed.

When its aesthetic truth is grasped, then we see that this passage is a window into resurrection life! Not just resurrection life as an abstract propositional concept; but what resurrection life looks like: a life of putting forth shoots, of flowering; a life of a fulsome plant; and no doubt situated in a garden of unimaginable beauty.

Our culture determines meaning by scientifically classifying certain things as “scientific truth,” and other things as “literary illustration.” The scientific truth is certain truth, or propositional truth. The literary illustrations are just that: they are pictures. And pictures may be worth a thousand words, but in our culture they don’t have much cash value, because they don’t deal in certainty. An old stump of a tree budding again because of “the scent of water” is clearly such picture. It may be a pretty picture, but it has little certainty. Or does it?

The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar says that fundamental theology must deal with “the question of perceiving form – an aesthetic problem.” By this he means that by coming in embodied form as a man, the truth of Jesus, which is to say, that truth of the Word of God, cannot ever just be concept, but also subsume the full-orbed experience that includes the sensed dimensions. God created the heavens and the earth, and saw that all of it was good. And in Christ all of that goodness has been recovered.

And so Balthasar says: “Here we encounter a man who claims to be God and who, on the basis of this claim, demands that we should believe many truths he utters which cannot be verified by reason…” To be with Jesus is to be, not only with the perfect man, but also to be with the recovered creation in all of its beauty.

And in the recovered creation, dead stumps shoot forth and blossom again, because of the scent of water. This is not “just” a picture. It must be a picture, because it would talk a thousand words to capture the truth of it – and even then the words would not be enough.

And so it says elsewhere in the Word: the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.


Job 14.7-9 At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.

1 Corinthians15.52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.