Thursday, April 20, 2017

Simple Christian: "Resurrection"

This week we are going to jump ahead a bit to talk about resurrection, a topic that we will explore much more deeply in due course. Here are the questions:


Resurrection


  1. Who can look at Christ's resurrected body without asking this question: What could God possibly mean by...this?  Do you ever wonder when the women and disciples first saw Jesus' resurrected body in the flesh, how did they feel/react, and what kind of new possibility did they see in...this?  Like, if today all of a sudden wings are growing out of my back, I am bound to think about the new possibilities, right?  Of course, I would also ask Why is this happening to me?  How did it happen?  Still, ultimately all the questions will lead to the future-looking implication: What am I going to do with this?
  2. I think the above question is a very important one, as we often wear our theological lens and think we have it all worked out, but with that, missing much of what was and is still going on in God’s Story.  For example, some of us might have our “atonement theology” on the one hand/end, regarding Christ’s dying, and eschatology on the other, seeing how resurrection is a proof that there is life-after-death after all, and then we linked the two together and say: Easter is about Christ dying for me so that one day I can go to heaven.  To begin with, is this what Easter is all about?  Is this the fulfillment of the Plan, the climax chapter of God’s Story all about?  Is this all what God has in mind before the foundation of the earth was laid down?  If the answer to the above questions are Yes, then things should be much simpler, neater, easier to sell, easier to accept by believers and unbelievers alike.  Maybe that’s why we often succumbed to presenting the “Gospel” this way: Say Yes to Christ--he loves you--and see you in heaven.  But let’s go back to the Bible.  Let’s humble ourselves, once again listen carefully to Jesus and the early apostles.
  3. One of the earliest extended conversation people had with Jesus after his resurrection happened, as it often does, at a very mundane moment of our everyday living.  In this case, walking.  Walking to a small village called Emmaus.  Like when you’re lining up at Costco, complaining how life hasn’t been fair.  Or when we are flipping through the channels, whining about “there’s nothing on TV” tonight.  What did Jesus do? (Luke 24) How did he “explain” to the whining, faithless people like you and me what his dying and resurrecting was all about?  He opened their eyes to the scripture, recounting God’s entire story since the beginning, and then that’s how they were able to finally open their eyes to the Jesus in the flesh and blood, sharing an earthly meal with them.  The result?  Their heart “burned” and they couldn’t help but spread the Good News.  New possibilities, a new mission bursted out of them.  What do you think Jesus told them?  How did he “frame” his story?  Did he articulate atonement theology as we understand it?  “Saying Yes to me so that one day you might go to heaven like what I am about to do now”?
  4. If we look at the chronology of when the New Testament books were written, we will realize, based on the consensus of a vast majority of Bible scholars, all of Paul’s epistles were written way before the Gospel books were put together.  For example, First Thessalonians was written in about 52 AD, and John’s Gospel at or after 85 AD.  People were not unfamiliar with Paul’s writings by the time the gospel books, the first-hand account of Jesus’ life was put down in words.  Of course, in a culture of oral traditioning, people would have been recounting Jesus’ life and stories all along before they were written down.  Even then, does it not surprise you that none of the gospel writers ever articulated the “simple Gospel truth” in the way that we thought Paul has done?  They must have in some way affected by what Paul has written and circulated in the believers’ circle for years, decades; don’t you think?  Then why didn’t Luke make Jesus “spell out” the “simple Gospel truth” on the road to Emmaus to make it easy for everyone?
  5. And if we think what Jesus did on the road to Emmaus, recounting the Story-so-far, is only an one-off occasion for the sake of the two specific audience, I’d like to invite you to re-read the Book of Acts, where you will find the answer to the very first question: “How did the first “Christians” react to this new thing God is doing among them?”  Can you observe how and what did Peter proclaim in Solomon’s Portico?  In what way did Peter and John “present the Gospel” before the Council?  How did Stephen begin to tell God’s Story (one of the earliest lengthy articulation of the “simple Gospel truth”), knowing full well his presentation might well be his final words, that he is on, from man’s view, a suicidal mission, but still telling it the way it needs to be told?
  6. How does our “Gospel presentation” different from any and all of these?  Why?  Sometimes we are tempted to say, Well, that was then, this is now.  Those are Jewish audience, of course they had to say it that way.  But not for us.  Now, I hope this is not how you feel about it.  I can appreciate how there is a different kind of challenge presented to us, not only because our audiences are not Jews, but also we ourselves are gentiles.  But let me say, to begin with, let’s also appreciate it doesn’t mean our challenge is bigger than what Peter and Stephen had to face up against.  We tell about God’s story and get mocked; they told about God’s story and got killed.  Second, even more to the point, I wonder if you know a heresy usually starts with decontextualizing the Biblical story, precisely to serve the aforementioned purpose: To make it work for us.  For example, have you heard of the “Gospel of Thomas”?  It contains over a hundred decontextualized “sayings” of Jesus but doesn't mention his crucifixion, resurrection, his messianic role, or the final judgement.  Why do that?  To make Jesus more accessible, maybe?  To turn him into a mere wise teacher?  All in all to take the edge off Jesus’ challenge to mankind; instead of getting on board to join in the historical unveiling of God’s story, let’s just take comfort in the sayings of a wise man.  We might scoff at such heretical attempt to twist the Gospel out of shape, but I see Christians doing that all the time on Facebook, taking Bible verses out of their context and turning them into footprints on the sand.  Or to misrepresent the Gospel story by telling people it is all about Saying Yes to Christ and going to heaven. I grew up in church; I am not making this up.
  7. Before anyone could come up with a name for this new “resurrection” movement, an angel in Acts 5:17-20 would just simply call it "The Life."  Before the early believers were called "Christians," they were called "The Life."  Interesting.  Why do you think they are called that?  I think there is no denying how we live our lives shows what we truly believes in.  Don’t you agree?  Only two months ago, Peter the coward, Peter the traitor, was about to kill himself, if Christ’s backward glance after the three rooster crows didn’t kill him already.  But now as we see in the Book of Acts he is so very done with dying.  He is all about living, so much so that people called him and his cronies “The Life.”  He is all about being “burned” up inside.  New possibilities and energy are bursting out of him, and he couldn’t stop the music.  He couldn’t help but amplify the Gospel song.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A New Blog

It's been a while since I wrote on a more personal level.  I miss it a lot.

I don't start anything that I don't intend to keep it going.  So after much thought, here's my new blog: "Dear Eugene."

There I will post letters I write to my pastor, Eugene Peterson.  The conversations might be imaginary, but they are conversations in truth.  The way C. S. Lewis wrote to his "friend" Malcolm.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"Simply Christian": “The Glorious Complexity of Life”

Dear Book Club Friends,

Here is a reminder that we’ll spend the next meeting on discussing the piece “The Glorious Complexity of Life” (P.48-51). Please try your best to read through it again and ask questions.

In this meeting, we will also recap what has gone on in the past few months since we started this Book Club, and look forward to what's to come.

You might say so far it has only been one big Prologue. And I wonder how you feel about this so far?

I really wish you would ask questions, share your apprehensions, raise your doubts, or maybe celebrate with everyone a new breath of energetic life that is the Holy Spirit, ready to climb new heights in following Christ our Lord.

Do you like how things are going in the Book Club so far? I am not you, so I don't know what is in your heart and mind. But I can give you what Alex would have felt like if this book "Simply Christian" was presented to him twenty years ago.

The younger Alex would have said, What is the point of all these? Where is the beef? When is this guy gonna mention sin and salvation? I wonder if this Wright guy is even a legit Christian, taking his sweet time going in circle and still not hitting the right notes, the bull's-eye. All these "echoes" and stuffs are nice to know, but not really essential. Just give me what I need to know about God, so that I won't believe in the wrong things, and I am ready to take my right beliefs, go and be a good faithful Christian--which I believe I am already a rather decent one and see no reason that I will ever cease to be...

That's the younger Alex. But let me tell you more about him so that you'll know the context of his above comments. Let's work backward.

He said he believes he is a decent Christian and will continue to be one, and he wasn't lying. He was just denying. Of course he had read somewhere in the Bible that says "Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit," but he would rather abide in the fact that his church pastor has never questioned his faith, and his fellow Christians by-and-large give their stamp of approval to certify him as one of them.

Oh, young Alex teaches Sunday School, no doubt, at that tender age, gaining the trust of the church, but what goes on in his heart is another matter--a matter that even his pastor parents would find no ground to see the need to comment on; so that is another sort of approval--by acquiescence--for young Alex to abide in. Going to church and being a Christian to him is like fish swimming in water, so natural and comfortable that he hardly questions what is water and why does he wiggle his fins...

When young Alex reads in the Bible that a Christian is supposed to "bear much fruit and so prove to be (Jesus') disciples," it did cross his mind that bearing fruit would, to a large degree, have to do with evangelizing, telling the Good News in this bad news world. And he would be bothered by the fact that the so-called Good News, the Gospel, that he proclaims to believe in is something that the world does not want, that he is afraid to take beyond the church walls, and, in his however fleeting moment of half-honesty, is something that does not even occupy his consciousness for more than half a second a day.

So what if Jesus did say a person's fruit is a "proof" that he/she is His disciple? We are Protestants; we believe in salvation by grace alone and nothing else. Young Alex knows his theology, and it works like a straight line of "We humans do the sinning, and God does His saving. You believe in it, you are in for your heaven-bound status and no one can question you." Not even Jesus. Alex would read everything in the four gospel books with his theological lens and filter out all the discomforting parts and let Paul and Luther and Calvin censor Jesus (or by what Alex thought Paul and Luther and Calvin have said)...

So that is the younger Alex. Young Alex would see no value in Wright's approach, and might suggest to burn Wright's book, with God on his side. I am sharing with you so that you will know more about me. I am sure you have your own story, but this is me, and I am only talking about myself.

(Oh, and remember how young Alex commented that he saw no reason to believe he will ever cease to be a decent Christian? That was only until he started to see "faithful" Christians around him beginning to fall off one after another, like witnessing your fellow comrades on a battle field hitting the mud in slow-motion succession under a shower of bullets. And soon enough young Alex also found mud in his own mouth...)

So what is the Truth that we abide in? What is the story we have in our head as we take our very next step in life? This is the topic for our upcoming meeting.

Blessings, Alex

Friday, March 10, 2017

I Pity the Poor Immigrant

"...you shall eat and not be satisfied."

Is that a condemnation, or some sort of pity?

Often when I leave church, I couldn't tell what I was feeling.  Thank God for Eugene Peterson, now I no longer feel indignation; but sadness remains.  Thank God for N. T. Wright, now I no longer feel like giving up; but discouraged nevertheless.

And thank God for Dylan, who speaks what I can't articulate.



I pity the poor immigrant
Who wishes he would've stayed home
Who uses all his power to do evil
But in the end is always left so alone
That man whom with his fingers cheats
And who lies with every breath
Who passionately hates his life
And likewise, fears his death
I pity the poor immigrant
Whose strength is spent in vain
Whose heaven is like ironsides
Whose tears are like rain
Who eats but is not satisfied
Who hears but does not see
Who falls in love with wealth itself
And turns his back on me
I pity the poor immigrant
Who tramples through the mud
Who fills his mouth with laughing
And who builds his town with blood
Whose visions in the final end
Must shatter like the glass
I pity the poor immigrant
When his gladness comes to pass

Monday, February 13, 2017

"Simply Christian" Discussion Questions: Beauty

Simply Christian: Beauty

  1. What is "beauty" to you?  Can you pick one thing (or person or whatever) that you would say is the most beautiful thing you have seen/heard/experienced in your life and share with the group?  (Show clips from “Tree of Life”)
  2. "All good things must come to an end."  Beauty is always transient.  Not just sometimes, not just frequently, but always, the same way that justice seems to always slip through our fingers, relationships however stable could turn turbulent in the blink of an eye, our spiritual thirst can never be fully satisfied whichever way we tried to address our longing.  There seems to be always a "death" of some sort lurking around the bend, negating, even erasing what used to be good. Why?  (Or you don’t even think this question worthwhile, that this is just “how things are” and nothing more needs to be said or mulled over?)
  3. However, if beauty is really so transient, why do we still make such a big deal of it?  Just think about all the arts human created, things we put on our body, food and vacation pics on Facebook, or our ever growing appetite for higher definition (resolution) sights and sounds, or how about photography--what are we really trying to capture anyway, a memory that will soon be lost to us, an alternative reality that seems to have some basis in our actual life but yet can never be fully substantiated by our experience or is sometimes even flatout refuted by it?
  4. Have you considered the “fearful symmetry” as Blake did, and often found horror in the most beautiful things?  Many people love the snow; just the sight of flurry quietly blanketing the world with a bridal gown could evoke unspeakable joy and peace or even poetry out of the most prosaic cynics.  But slush with more than fifty shades of grey of the most ugly kind?  An avalanche?  A collapsed roof?  A motherless child lost in the deep winter woods, wandered into his freezing death?  Sanctifying beauty and senseless horror in the same whiteness.  So is it just a matter of perspective, beauty in the eye of the beholder, so to speak?  What is wrong with this tragicomic picture?
  5. Some say “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.”  Do you agree?  Why or why not?  Wright suggests that we should hold two thoughts together: that beauty is both something that calls us out of ourselves and something which appeals to feelings deep within us.  The implication then seems to be that beauty points away from the present (bad) world to a different (good) one altogether; however, Wright claims this is a “deeply untrue” conclusion according to the Christian belief.  How so?  (Read P.45-47, “Beauty and God”)
  6. Near his life's end, Charles Darwin expressed the following in his autobiography, for his children, no less: “I have said that in one respect my mind has changed during the last twenty or thirty years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds...gave me great plea­sure, and even as a school­boy I took intense delight in Shake­speare, espe­cially in the his­tor­i­cal plays. I have also said that for­merly pic­tures gave me con­sid­er­able, and music very great delight. But now for many years I can­not endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shake­speare, and found it so intol­er­a­bly dull that it nau­se­ated me. I have also almost lost my taste for pic­tures or music. Music gen­er­ally sets me think­ing too ener­get­i­cally on what I have been at work on, instead of giv­ing me plea­sure...My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grind­ing gen­eral laws out of large col­lec­tions of facts, but why this should have caused the atro­phy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I can­not con­ceive...The loss of these tastes is a loss of hap­pi­ness, and may pos­si­bly be inju­ri­ous to the intel­lect, and more prob­a­bly to the moral char­ac­ter, by enfee­bling the emo­tional part of our nature.”  What, do you think, is the cause of his “atrophy”?
  7. Read and discuss C. S. Lewis’s “The Weight of Glory.”
  8. Note: We’ll spend the next meeting on the piece “The Glorious Complexity of Life” (P.48-51), which is so profound in its insight that it's worth one session of discussion and a lifetime of pondering.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Richard Wright passed away last night.

So I took "Clara Callan" off the shelf and started reading it again.  Oh, how I needed a story like this at this moment.

What moment?

How do I describe it?  Vulnerable is the word.  No, I wasn't hurt.  I was feeling the pain of the world, of people close and far, the groanings of the creation.

So maybe I was hurt after all.

I was reading Saul Bellow before I got the news of Wright's passing.  Bellow is brilliant, of course, one and only.  But I felt so weak that I knew I was about to drown in his story's mighty waves.

Wright blessed me once more, even in his passing.  "Clara Callan" carried me to the shore.  Ten pages into it, I was again myself, breathing easier, my hurt validated.  Vindicated: It's ok to feel this way.

Jesus wept.

Words become flesh and find their home in my brokenness.  What good news.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

"Simply Christian" Discussion Questions: Spirituality

Simply Christian: Spirituality

  1. What is “spirituality”?  How would you define a “spiritual longing”?  Transcendence (“something out there”) vs immanence (“something in here”).
  2. Do you agree with Wright’s assessment of the current state of “spiritual pursuit” in the Western world, as articulated in the piece “The Hidden Spring” (p. 20 ff)?  Why, or why not?
  3. Assuming you answered “Yes” to the second question, do you notice how this current state of spiritual affair is manifesting itself even within the church walls, skewing how we understand and relate to the Christian God and our “Gospel presentation”?  If Yes, how?
  4. Going a little further than the present topic, segueing to what is to come later, here’s a question: Under the current climate of spiritual pursuit in the Western world, what do you say is the hardest “sell” of Christianity to the world?  Or to put it another way: What do you consider the greatest obstacle(s) to “bridge over” to someone who simply does not share the same Christian belief system?
  5. I’d say, one of the biggest challenges of our Gospel presentation is to insist on the historicity of the Biblical narrative, that this otherworldly/heavenly/transcendent God dwells among us (this-worldly/earthly/immanent), that history is His-Story, and we are but a part in the unveiling of a many-chapters story with a definite beginning and points to a definite end.  Why is this a challenge (in this so-called postmodern age)?  We distrust any recollection of the past as a reconstruction based on one’s prejudiced agenda, which reinforces our idolatrous tendency to use/exploit things (including God, of course) of use to us and denigrate what we perceive as “useless” (such as history).  How could this be a great opportunity in this age?  Because, as much as we try to “deconstruct” history, traditions,and everything else, we are still story-telling and story-living creatures.  Think of Trump: his success lies in his effective selling of a “mega-narrative,” one that really doesn’t hold water to even an uneducated mind (“I alone can fix it!”), but appealing enough to some of the lowest denominators that one would rather suspend one’s disbelief and ride along to see where the story is going to lead.
  6. Tim Keller once said, we “notice that Paul is able to adapt his message to communicate with a variety of people from very different backgrounds. In Acts 13:13-43, while in Antioch, Paul speaks to an audience of Bible believers – Jews, Gentile proselytes, and “God-fearers” (Gentiles who believed the Bible and met in synagogues but who had not been circumcised). Then, at Lystra, in Acts 14:6-16, Paul addresses a crowd of peasant polytheists, uneducated folk who still believed in the old gods. Next, while visiting Athens, in Acts 7:16-34, Paul speaks to sophisticated pagans who had largely abandoned belief in literal gods, instead holding to a variety of philosophical views (such as Stoicism and Epicureanism). In Acts 20:16-38, at Miletus, we see Paul delivering a farewell sermon to Christian elders, while in Acts 21:27-22:22, in Jerusalem, he speaks to a hostile Jewish mob. Finally in Acts 24-26, in Caesarea, Paul addresses Felix, Festus, and Herod Agrippa – governing elites with mixed cultural backgrounds and knowledge of both Judaism and paganism.” (Center Church, p. 112)  Observe the difference and commonality in his “Gospel presentation” to the different audiences.  How would you “contextualize” the Gospel under the current climate of Western spirituality, for your friend, your family, your next generation?
  7. What is true spirituality?  Read John 4, Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  Our thirst is for the one true God who is both transcendent and immanent, and Jesus is the “Jacob’s Ladder” where heaven and earth are open to each other (John 1:35-51), in him the Word of God became flesh (John 1).

Monday, October 31, 2016

"Simply Christian" Discussion Questions: Justice

I am leading a book club using N. T. Wright's singularly magnificent, peerless "Simply Christian," which, I believe, has outdone Lewis's "Mere Christianity" in more ways than one.

I've also recommended this and many other Wright books to people I know, locally or oversea.

So here I want to post some discussion questions I have written up for my book club.  Feel free to use them for yourself or for discussion.

The following questions are for the discussion of the first "echo" that Wright talks about in the book.

**********


Simply Christian: Justice

  1. When was the last time you shed tears over a miscarriage of injustice? What was it about?
  2. Is the Christian God a God that cares about justice, right and wrong?  How & how much?  Does he care about wrong being set right?  How? (e.g. Five times He declared His creation “good,” until after He created human, "and God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good."  Why the “value judgment” on the state of His creation?  Compare to Ancient Near East myths, how is this God different?)  (e.g. Sabbath: Exodus 20-->reflect God; Deuteronomy 5-->justice) (The Christian God cares about justice so much that He would die to rectify injustice.)
  3. It is often said, “All religions lead people to good,” meaning, it sets people on the right path, instead of letting them stay on the wrong one(s).  Is this true, that all religions are the same?
  4. In our Sunday worship, how often do we celebrate a just God setting the world right? Can you recall a song, a line of lyric that does just that, specifically praise God for justice finally being done in an unjust world?
  5. How often do we appeal to God to carry out acts of justice that is yet to be done? How often, if ever, do we let our hope anchor on a vision of this broken world being set right by a just God (Romans 8:26-27, Revelation 6:10)?  What would “a-world-set-right” look like? Is it a picture that only has to do with the future, or does it have to do with the here and now as well? Does it have anything to do with us the followers of Christ, i.e. do we play a part in God's carrying out of justice?
  6. What is the consequence of our failure to long for what God longs for (P.8 ff. and READ scriptures below)?  It turns true spirituality to mere religion.  If Christians don't care enough about the suffering of the world and justice being carried out, what does it make the Christ that we proclaim to be the solution to all brokenness? It makes him an idol God, a small-minded deity, an escapist fantasy that only has to do with an out-of-this-body and out-of-this-world transcendence sometime in the future, but rather powerless and irrelevant in the here-and-now.  It also has dire consequence to the church itself (Revelation 2: 1-5).
  7. Reflect on this: despite knowing what Jesus specifically taught his disciples to pray about, we usually come to God with a laundry list of our most immediate personal needs.  Why?  “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”--what could this possibly mean?  N. T. Wright says, “When Christians use their beliefs in Jesus as a way of escaping from (the demand and challenge of justice being done), they are abandoning a central element in their own faith” (P.13); do you agree?
  8. If we are not “Good-News” people in how we live our lives, what is to become of us?  For example, look at the young people around us, even/especially those growing up in church; how we live our life, live out our faith has a direct effect on how they live theirs.  They are being thrown into a world that tells them salvation is somewhere else, church is only about me and my friends being nice people now and going to heaven in the future.  In school and in the world, our next generation is being trained to take salvation into their own hands and “set the world right” with their own power, knowledge and ideology.  They study to heal the sick, save Mother Earth, solve economic imbalance and world hunger, battle depression (in themselves and in the world), mend broken relationships, “conquer” cancer, fight against globalization, cyber-bullying, job loss and dehumanization due to technological progress, fight for gender equality, tolerance of every kind and you name it.  But do they, for a moment, know the justice, the fairness, the goodness, the beauty, the cosmic reconciliation that they are longing for are the very passions of God, that He cried and laughed with us (P.10 ff.) and has finally given Himself as the answer to all our struggles, puzzlement, and yearnings? Would our children be able to see this God for his passion to put the world to rights, because they have seen how God’s Kingdom rule being worked out first and foremost among God’s people, in the church that their parents have brought them to since they were young, that God’s future, the final consummation of His Kingdom, is being brought forth into the present, and being lived out, on earth as is in heaven, by His chosen ones, you and I, those being given the full inheritance of “eternal life” (the age to come) in the here and now?  Or are they going to one day declare, “Well, what I used to sing about in Sunday School and youth worship are pure BS, that Jesus is nowhere close to being the answer to our problems.  Look at this surgical knife in my hand--now, this is an answer!  Science, taken into my well-trained hand, carried out in my well-educated brain.”  Or how about if they grow up to be like most Christians in the Western churches are, living a split life, talking about an impossible fantasy within the four walls of the church like watching a Harry Potter movie in theater, only in two hours’ time to leave all the escapist fun behind and face the “reality” “out there” with more “realistic, rational, scientific, humanistic, practical, educated” means to solve our own and the world’s problems?  If our next generation is growing up to be unfaithful, it is only because we are.  They are merely carrying out the rebelliousness and disobedience we have started.  We seem to be repeating the Old Testament story.
  9. Have you seen a disillusioned Christian, one that used to preach about God, even on the pulpit, even running a church, being the Chairman of God’s business, only to one day turn his back on the whole darn thing and declare “God, you are nowhere to be found!”  When does that usually happen, do you know?  When this “Christian” finally faced real injustice done against him and he tried to search his faith in this God for an answer, only to declare that this God who cares about his “eternal salvation” doesn’t really have any practical relevance to the injustice he is still facing on a daily basis, that what he has been prescribing to others as a cure to their disease is a piece of candy, if not sugar-coated poison.  These are harsh words, but nowhere close to those the Bible says, not least those out of Jesus and Paul’s mouth.  I want to say, if being a Christian means we are now safe to care less about the predicaments of the world because Christ has done it all and there is nothing left for us to do, then our “good news” is indeed sugar-coated poison.
  10. What is the Jewish, Christian answer to how evil come about?  It emerges from idolatry: worshiping god-replacement, trusting in something else other than God as the very thing that we should love and hold on to always and in everything.  Result?  We become what we worship.  How do we know we are worshiping the right God & in the right way?  If we worship that which is not God, we become less than the God-image-bearing being that we are made and meant to be (Revelation 9:20-21; one becomes like the idols one worships: blind, deaf, lifeless).  We care so much about “personal salvation”; isn’t it time that we put down our “theological lens,” colored by our idolatrous tendency, and take a fresh look at the words of God, because we long for Him and His Kingdom rule, that we care for what He cares for, burned up by passions that are His very own?  Or do we see our lip-service about our faith in Him, or even our church membership or ministry involvement, as our passport to heaven, blind to the fact that we are actually putting our faith in a circumcision of the flesh, an act of idolatry, for our “salvation”?

SCRIPTURE

  • Psalm 33:5 (ESV) “He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.”
  • Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
  • Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.”
  • Zechariah 7:9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another.”
  • Isaiah 51:4-5 “Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation; for a law will go out from me, and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples.  My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait.”
  • Isaiah 61:8-9 “For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.  Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed.”
  • Matthew 12:50 “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  God will judge us by our deeds (Ecclesiastes 12:14, Romans 2:6-11, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Revelation 2: 1-7).  Why?  Isn’t it about grace alone and faith alone?
  • Isaiah 61 & 62 is about “The Anointed Preacher Renewing the World,” that the Messiah will preach into existence his new, liberated people, who will pray into existence his new, redeemed world. (from the "ESV Study Bible")
  • Revelation 5:8.  Do you know what heaven smells like?  It smells of the aroma that is the prayer of the saints, here on earth.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Years ago my prediction of Alice Munro winning the Nobel Prize for Literature has come to pass.  Last week I told my wife, "Wouldn't it be great to see Dylan winning it, making a precedent for pop musicians?"

Well, this morning we woke up to a precedent, one that will not be repeated.  For Dylan is in a category of his own, a unique prophetic voice.

I spent my entire morning just now playing Dylan songs.  There's so much to say about how I am feeling now, that I guess singing is the only way to let it all out.

And I thought about David Dark's "The Sacredness Of Questioning Everything."

Monday, September 26, 2016

“On the first reading of the Sermon on the Mount you feel that it turns everything upside down, but the second time you read it, you discover that it turns everything right side up. The first time you read it, you feel that it is impossible, but the second time you feel that nothing else is possible."

G.K. Chesterton