IVP - Andy Unedited

January 8, 2019

Bible Myth #17: Who Rejoices in Heaven?

Who rejoices over one sinner who repents? We all know the answer. Or do we?

When the Pharisees complained about Jesus hanging out with irreputable tax collectors and sinners, he told them three stories. First, the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to find the one that's lost. Then the woman with ten coins who searches for one. Finally, the father and his two sons.

At the end of the second story, after the woman finds her coin, she asks all her neighbors to celebrate with her. Jesus concludes, "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10).

So who is rejoicing? Sermons have been preached, devotionals have been written, and songs have been sung about angels rejoicing when a sinner repents.

It's the angels. Right?

Look again. Fireworks.jpg"There is rejoicing. . ." Jesus doesn't actually say who is doing the rejoicing, only where it is--"in the presence of the angels of God." And who is in the presence of the angels? Whose joy might they be witnessing? God is the one celebrating. God throws the party, inviting the whole celestial neighborhood to join in--and he's the one setting off the fireworks.

Yes, we can assume that the angels are inspired by their honored host to join in. But they are secondary. God's joy is primary, like the shepherd who invites his friends and neighbors to celebrate with him, like the woman who does the same, and like the father who kills the fatted calf so the whole town can enter into the festivities.

Why would Jesus be indirect about who is rejoicing? Was he trying to be unclear? No, he was simply using a customary practice of not referring to God directly. To avoid any possibility of using God's name inappropriately, Jews simply didn't speak his name at all. Instead they used substitutes like "Ancient of Days" or "Lord" or even "Heaven."

Sometimes we are so used to hearing and reading a familiar passage of Scripture a certain way that we fail to see what it actually says. But look what happens when we look.

We see that God is not the grump we sometimes imagine, mad at sinners, and only begrudgingly forgiving us. On the contrary he is looking, waiting, hoping for us to return to him so he can run out to meet us, throw his arms around us, and tell everyone to let the feast begin.

Yes, it is wonderful that the angels experience God's joy. But how much more miraculous is it that God himself throws a big bash whenever we turn back to him.

Image: Pixabay

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:16 AM | Comments

December 18, 2018

Christmas Eve 1968

Fifty years ago next week, a manned spacecraft for the first time entered orbit around another celestial body--the moon.

The year 1968 had been a harrowing one for the country and the world. It began with the devastating Tet Offensive in Vietnam and was followed by the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The "Prague Spring" was crushed by Soviet tanks in August with the tumultuous Democratic National Convention a week later.

Weary and worn, we were ready for some good news. That night, Christmas Eve, the crew of Apollo 8 sent a message to everyone on earth in what has been called the most watched television broadcast in history. Here is what they said:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:24 AM | Comments

December 12, 2018

Persuading People Who Don't Want to Be Persuaded

Persuading anyone is hard. Persuading people who have already made up their minds is even harder.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:06 AM | Comments (2)

December 4, 2018

The Christmas Story You Never Heard

You mean you never heard the story of the red, seven-headed Christmas Dragon? You know, the one so powerful that its tale swept billions of stars from the sky and flung them to earth in a fury. That's the dragon that showed up Christmas morning, determined to kill the baby boy destined to rule the nations as soon as it was born.

Right. That dragon!

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:05 AM | Comments

November 28, 2018

Background Check

If we do not make use of historical background to the New Testament, we are in danger of misreading these books and letters with 21st-century eyes. Reading Mark in Context introduces us to important historical and religious writings from the Second Temple Period (roughly from the Jewish return from Babylonian exile in 516 BC to the destruction of the temple by Rome in AD 70). These range from the works of Josephus to the Dead Sea Scrolls to the apocrypha to Rabbinic writings, and more.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 1:42 PM | Comments

October 24, 2018

When Eugene Peterson Was Unknown

As we grieve the recent passing of Eugene Peterson, we remember the first encounter IVP had with him. When Peterson was an unknown Presbyterian pastor in Maryland, he sent IVP an unsolicited manuscript. Here is an excerpt from Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. that tells what happened behind the scenes that led to the publication in 1980 of one of his most influential books.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:27 AM | Comments (2)

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book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.