Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thought for the day

"I would much prefer the days of our beginnings to what we have now. There wasn't anybody clamoring to do what we did, or what 'Love Song' or any of the other early 'Jesus Music' groups did. There were no charts for us to be number one on. Contemporary Christian music charts didn't exist. I think it's sad that, today, Christian music has become an industry rather than a ministry. I don't really know the answer to this—We used to fight against it continually, and we got ourselves into a lot of hot water. We tried to avoid those things that, in our view, were not edifying to the Body of Christ. Now, we have so many magazines, music charts, and popularity contests, it all has the potential to put ministries in competition with each other, rather than coming alongside and working together for Jesus."—Buck Herring about 2nd Chapter of Acts

The mysteries

Contrary to what many moderns seem to think, there was no esoteric wisdom to be found in the ancient Mysteries, no Da Vinci Code to be deciphered.—Jan N. Bremmer, Initiation into the Mysteries of the Ancient World, electronic edition

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The other ones

I almost are the other three books:

Creation and Chaos

Creation and Chaos
A Reconsideration of Hermann Gunkel's Chaoskampf Hypothesis

Edited by JoAnn Scurlock and Richard H. Beal
Eisenbrauns, 2013
Pp. xx + 322, English
Cloth, 6 x 9 inches
ISBN: 9781575062792
List Price: $54.50
Your Price: $49.05

I was at this conference. I'm really looking forward to reading the published versions of the papers.

Family and Household Religion

Family and Household Religion
Toward a Synthesis of Old Testament Studies, Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Cultural Studies

Edited by Rainer Albertz, et al.
Eisenbrauns, 2014
Pp. viii + 324, English
Cloth, 7 x 10 inches
ISBN: 9781575062884
List Price: $54.50
Your Price: $49.05

I really enjoyed the first volume. The second one sounds just as interesting.

And, finally, the Peter Machinist Festschrift:

Literature as Politics, Politics as Literature

Literature as Politics, Politics as Literature
Essays on the Ancient Near East in Honor of Peter Machinist

Edited by David S. Vanderhooft and Abraham Winitzer
Eisenbrauns, 2013
pp. xxii + 562, English
Cloth, 6 x 9 inches
ISBN: 9781575062723
List Price: $64.50
Your Price: $58.05

Curses in the ancient world

I just received a few books from Eisenbrauns (thanks, Jim!), including Cursed Are You!. I was still working at Eisenbrauns when I first heard about the title and was looking forward to reading it. As the foreword explains, it expanded in scope until it became a 500+ page book! That certainly explains why it is appearing 2 years after I left.

Anyway, here's a snippet from the Introduction:

For the ancient Near Easterners, curses had authentic meaning. Curses were part of their life and religion. In and of themselves, they were not magic or features of superstitions, nor were they mere curiosities or trifling antidotes. They were real and effective. They were employed to manage life’s many vicissitudes and maintain social harmony. (page 3)
<idle musing>
We don't understand that type of thinking very well, do we? We love to segment our world into a cause and effect, closed system, Newtonian world. Of course, we allow God in on special occasions, but other than that, we're practicing atheists (as I've stated many times before).

I just finished reading a history of the Jesus Movement (as I've mentioned) and one thing that he brings up repeatedly is that they believed God was real and imminent; the veil was down and God was active in our current world. That was unique in the world of the 60s and early 70s (I would argue it still is); Jesus People expected God to answer prayer. They expected God to supply in miraculous ways. And he did. Imagine that! You expect in faith and God answers...

That's the world that the ANE cultures (and Greeks and Romans, I might add) lived in. The gods were everywhere and curses were real. They could harm you.

The biblical world is a part of that, as seen in Proverbs 26:2: Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest (TNIV). Read Psalm 121 and remember that the sun and moon were gods...YHWH being your shield and protector wasn't just a metaphor to them. But I digress...I'm really looking forward to reading this book (as well as the other 3).

By the way, here's the full link to the book:

Cursed Are You!

Cursed Are You!
The Phenomenology of Cursing in Cuneiform and Hebrew Texts

by Anne Marie Kitz
Eisenbrauns, 2014
Pp. xii + 524, English
Cloth, 6 x 9 inches
ISBN: 9781575062716
List Price: $59.50
Your Price: $53.55
</idle musing>

Random thoughts on the Jesus Movement

Having just finished the book God's Forever Family put me in a reminiscent mood. You might find various snatches of memories popping up here over the next few weeks...

One of the things that the book stresses is the importance of music to the spread of the Jesus Movement. I found Jesus (better, was found by Jesus!) in June of 1972. I was also a DJ at the local college radio station which allowed high school kids an hour or so a day during school sessions and allowed us to run the whole programming schedule on college breaks. The station was only on from 5:00 until midnight, so that was doable.

I remember being in the record vault over Spring break and running across the first Jesus Music. Mind you, this is 1973 and the standard Christian music was pretty drab and boring. The album was Larry Norman's Only Visiting This Planet, which many consider the best album the Jesus Movement ever produced—I agree. Anyway, I played almost every one of the tracks on that album that night. And over the next few months, at least one track per night was on my little one hour segment. I can't tell you what it meant to run across a politically active—yet Jesus focused—album.

Shifting gears a bit, here's a link to what I consider one of the best worship songs ever produced, Come Into His Presence, by Paul Clark, a Jesus Music pioneer.

And while we're at it, here's a link to what I consider the second best one, Lion of Judah by Ted Sandquist, from Love Inn in New York. I first heard it in 1976, when I hitchhiked down to Florida over Spring Break for a Jesus festival called Jesus '76 in Orlando.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Miscellaneous thoughts

Some good thoughts on "Black" Friday from Brian Zahnd
Coming out of Thanksgiving we should be headed for the mystery of Advent— Not the checkout line at Best Buy.

Yeah, I buy Christmas gifts too. I get it. But when Black Friday becomes a “thing” — a shameless celebration of unbridled consumerism — I would rather sit it out. I’m pretty sure that Black Friday as a “thing” is not good for my soul.

When it comes to Black Friday I would rather be less American and more Christian.

Amen! I would expand that to include more than just Black Friday, but, at least it's a start...

And some good perspective on the primary responsibility of a pastor from Missio Alliance

Preaching is part of what a pastor does, but it is not the primary responsibility of a pastor. The primary responsibility of a pastor is to seek God. Period.

Preaching a sermon on Sunday is not the most important thing a pastor does every week. Praying between Sundays is far more important. Praying is the most important thing a pastor ever does. Ever.

And, finally, an interesting video posted by Robin Parry

Food for thought

The Lord Jesus Christ refused to be committed to the parochial needs of His own day and generation; He was not committed to the political situation in Palestine, or to the emancipation of the Jewish nation from the Roman yoke! He was not committed to the pressing social problems of His time, nor to one faction as opposed to another, any more than today His committed to the West against the East, or to the Republicans against the Democrats (as though either were less wicked than the other!). Christ was not even committed to the needs of a perishing world; He was neither unmindful nor unmoved by all these other issues, but as Perfect Man He was committed to His Father, and for that only to which His Father was committed in Him—exclusively!—The Mystery of Godliness, pages 18-19

<idle musing>
I'm tempted to brush this off as too simplistic. It levels the field too much. But, at the same time, he has a valid point. Perhaps my reticence is that far too often I've heard this argument used as an excuse for indifference to injustice.

But, if one is really committed to doing the will of God, how can it fail to overflow into social action? Unless one does a major editing job on the biblical text, there is no way one can escape the social ramifications of being a Christian.
</idle musing>

Thought for a Friday in November

The Christian Scriptures are so deep that, even if I studied them to the exclusion of all else, from early childhood to worn-out old age, with ample leisure and untiring zeal, and with greater capacity of mind than I possess, each day I would still discover new riches within them. The fundamental truths necessary for salvation are found with ease in the Scriptures. But even when a person has accepted these truths, and is both God-fearing and righteous in his actions, there are still so many things which lie under a vast veil of mystery. Through reading the Scriptures, we can pierce this veil, and find the deepest wisdom in the words which express these mysteries, and in the mysteries themselves. The oldest, the ablest, and the most ardent student of Scripture, will say at the end of each day: “I have finished, and yet my studies have only just begun.”—Augustine of Hippo, Letter 137 as quoted in 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, Part 1

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A very good book

I've been reading a good history of the Jesus People Movement, God's Forever Family. Good stuff. I was saved through the Jesus Movement, so I have a special place in my heart for it. Eskridge does a good job of chasing the various strands and tying them all together.

I think this little excerpt, from an Atlanta Discipleship Training Center newsletter ca. 1970, sums up what the Jesus Movement was all about:

We suggest and encourage our new brothers and sisters who are somewhat freaky in dress, hair, and general appearance to ask the Lord in prayer for a balance. We do feel that the beads, bells, and various astrological signs along with the no-bra philosophy of the Hip Scene should be forsaken. We do not believe, however that a shave and a haircut make a you a Christian any more than long hair and sandals....We are not rehabilitating people to melt back into society as good, clean-shaven and well-spruced American citizens, but rather to learn to follow Jesus Christ and do the will of the Father. (Quoted on page 110)
I ran into a good bit of the "Jesus saves and shaves" mentality once I became a Christian. I remember once going with a straight-laced friend to a revival service at a local Nazarene church. There were 3 of us long-hairs with him. I think the evangelist was trying to get us saved the whole night. I'm not sure what he thought afterwards when we greeted him after the service with a "Praise the Lord, brother." : )

Big job

Had He been prepared to accept “religion” as He found it, and recognize the “status quo,” no doubt the Lord Jesus Christ might well have found acceptance, even among the Pharisees; but He was a trouble maker! He dared to cleanse the temple!

Christ did not come to be “accepted,” nor was He “looking for a ‘job’” in contemporary religion! He came to cleanse the temple—and to do a bigger job than just to cleanse the temple in Jerusalem; He had come to cleanse the temples of men’s hearts, that they might be fit again to be “an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22).—The Mystery of Godliness, page 17

Shining lights

Don’t tell me, “It is impossible for me to influence others.” If you are a Christian, it is impossible for you not to influence others! Just as the elements that make up your human nature do not contradict each other, so also in this matter—it belongs to the very nature of a Christian that he influences others. So do not offend God. If you say, “The sun cannot shine,” you offend Him. If you say, “I, a Christian, cannot be of service to others," you have offended Him and called Him a liar. It is easier for the sun not to shine than for a Christian not to do so. It is easier for light itself to be darkness than for a Christian not to give light. So don’t tell me it is impossible for you as a Christian to influence others, when it is the opposite which is impossible. Do not offend God. If we arrange our affairs in an orderly manner, these things will certainly follow quite naturally. It is not possible for a Christian’s light to lie concealed. So brilliant a lamp cannot be hidden!—John Chrysostom, Homily 20 on the Acts of the Apostles as quoted in 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, Part 1

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

But it really isn't as bad as it looks...

It is much easier to confront a person with his sins than it is to confront him with his “sin”…”sin” is an attitude which affects a man’s fundamental relationship with God; it has to do with what a man is; whereas “sins” have to do with what a man does, and we all have a happy knack of being able to detach what we do from what we are! We are all highly skilled in the art of self-justification and are able to produce innumerable reasons as to why what we did was excusable—even if it was wrong!—The Mystery of Godliness, page 13

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth! I ran across a good description of how we view sin a while back:

The difficulty, of course, is that sin doesn't look evil and wrong—unless we see it in someone else. In our lives it appears to be benign, attractive, and even indispensable. How could we live without it? We're so familiar with our sins that they seem second nature. That's the problem!— Christianity Lite, pages 109-110
You might recognize it, I posted it before.


We must not only give thanks to God that He has created us asa intelligent beings, equipped us with the power of free-will, blessed us with the grace of baptism, and granted us the knowledge and help of the Law. We must also give thanks for those things which are bestowed on us by His daily providence. For He delivers us from the cunning of our enemies, and works with us so that we can overcome the sins of the flesh. Even without our knowing it, He shields us from dangers, and protects us from falling into sin. He helps and enlightens us, so that we can understand and recognise the help He actually gives us. By His secret influence, He kindles within us repentance for our sins and for the good things we have not done, visits us with His grace, and chastises us for our soul’s health. Overcoming sometimes the opposition of our own will, He draws us to salvation. And finally, even our free-will, which is quicker to sin than to obey, He turns to a better purpose, inclining it towards the way of goodness by His prompting and suggestion.—John Cassian, Institutes Book 12, chapter 18 as quoted in 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, Part 1

Thought for a snowy Wednesday

Vicious pleasure overcomes the soul that is given to the world. She thinks that there are delights beneath these thorns, because she has never seen or tasted the sweetness of God or the internal delight of virtue. They, on the other hand, who entirely despise the world and seek to live for God under the rule of holy discipline, are not ignorant of the divine sweetness promised to those who truly renounce the world. They see clearly how gravely the world errs, and in how many ways it deceives.—Thomas à Kempis

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A bit of Greek musing

I was reading in Hebrews tonight in the Greek and ran across this:
τότε εἴρηκεν· ἰδοὺ ἥκω τοῦ ποιῆσαι τὸ θέλημά σου. ἀναιρεῖ τὸ πρῶτον ἵνα τὸ δεύτερον στήσῃ, 10 ἐν ᾧ θελήματι ἡγιασμένοι ἐσμὲν διὰ τῆς προσφορᾶς τοῦ σώματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐφάπαξ. (Heb 10:9-10 NA27)

then he added, “Lo, I have come to do thy will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (RSV)

<idle musing>
I had never noticed the repetition of θέλημα (will) before; it gets lost in the English unless one is paying close attention—as does the use of the perfect passive periphrastic—; possibly because in English "that" isn't as clear as if it had been translated "which". And remember that ἁγιάζω can be translated "holy" not just sanctified, which to my mind sounds too lofty and distant. I would English it as "by which will we have been made holy..." or some such to bring out the reference back to the will of God in the previous verse(s), even though it makes bad English : )

Entitlement: Some thoughts from long ago

“Why shouldn’t I enjoy what God has given me? It lies within my power to enjoy it. Didn’t God make everything for our enjoyment?” These words proe you have no knowledge of God’s will… “Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) What if God has made a gift of all things to us, putting them in our hands? Even if all things are lawful, yet “not all things are profitable” (1 Corinthians 10:23), as the apostle Paul says. It was God that gathered the race of humanity into fellowship; He shared out His own goods at first, bestowing His Logos as a corporate possession for all. God made all things for all humans. Common ownership is a reality! The rich may not demand more than their fair share of goods.

If you say, “It is my property, I abound in goods, why shouldn’t I enjoy it?”—that is not a human or social sentiment. What love says is this: “It is in my hand, so I will share it with the needy.” The perfect Christian is the one who embodies the command, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” That is genuine enjoyment! That is accumulating real riches. But what you spend to amuse your silly desires, God registers as loss, not true expenditure. I know God has empowered us to make use of things, but only on the basis of need, and His purpose is the common use of His creation. O how disgusting it is that one human lives in luxury, while most exist in need! How it shines brighter to benefit others than to live in opulence! What a greater wisdom to spend money on people, rather than on gold and jewels! What a greater value to beautify ourselves with friends than with mere dead things! Which brings the richest benefit—amassing property, or showing compassion? In the Gospel, the Lord frankly labels the rich man a fool, when he packs his barns and says to himself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Eat, drink, be merry!” The Lord says, “This very night your sould will be required of you. Then who will get the things you have stored up?”—Clement of Alexandria, The Tutor, Book 2, chapters 12, 119-20, 125 as quoted in 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, Part 1

<idle musing>
I plan on publishing a review of this book later this week, but for now suffice it to say it was an excellent book that I highly recommend. I'm looking forward to reading the other 3 volumes in the series!
</idle musing>


All too often quantity takes precedence over quality, and in this highly competitive age those outward appearances of “success” which are calculated to enhance the reputation of professional preacher, or the prestige of those who have promoted him, are of greater importance than the abiding consequences of his ministry.

In an unholy ambition to get “results,” the end too often justifies the means, with the result that the means are certainly not always beyond suspicion, and the “results,” to say the least, extremely dubious!—The Mystery of Godliness, page 11

I'm the source, didn't you know?

There is no holiness, then, if You withdraw Your hand, Lord. There is no wisdom if You cease to guide, no courage if You cease to defend. No chastity is secure if You do not guard it. Our vigilance avails nothing if Your holy watchfulness does not protect us. Left to ourselves we sink and perish, but visited by You we are lifted up and live. We are truly unstable, but You make us strong. We grow lukewarm, but You inflame us.

<idle musing>
Ain't it the truth! But one that we would conveniently stands in the way of our ego. I want people to congratulate me. I want the center stage! I did it!

But did I? Leaving aside God for the sake of argument, who along my nearly 59 years hasn't had some part in making me who I am today? And I want to say I'm a self-made man? Hogwash! And that's without even adding God into the equation! Put God back in, and...well, let's just say that à Kempis states it very well...

Just an
</idle musing>

Monday, November 24, 2014

Eating up the time

How much can you do without Him? Nothing! So what is everything you do without Him? Nothing!

It is amazing how busy you can be doing nothing! Did you ever find that out? “The flesh”—everything that you do apart from Him—” profiteth nothing” (John 6:62), and there is always the awful possibility, if you do not discover this principle, that you may spend a lifetime in the service of Jesus Christ doing nothing! You would not be the first, and you would not be the last—but that, above everything else, we must seek to avoid!— The Saving Life of Christ, pages 150-151

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth! Sometimes I lose sight of this and fill my days with "nothing." Lord deliver me! May my days be filled with you.
</idle musing>

The end

Jesus refuted the war option when he told Peter to put up his sword. Killing in order to liberate Jesus and his followers from the violent injustice of Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate would have been a just war—but Jesus refused to engage in a just war. He chose instead to bear witness to the truth, forgive, and die. Jesus took the death of a world framed by war into his body and he and it both died together.— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

<idle musing>
That's the final excerpt from the book, and a fitting one, I would say.

What do you think? Did he convince you that war is not an option for the Christian?

I was already convinced—once I became a Christian back in 1972, that was the first thing that God changed in my outlook. I went from being very ready to use violence to overthrow the current hierarchy to being a pacifist. I guess I didn't know enough then to throw out Jesus very clear teachings in the Sermon on the Mount : )
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

What return shall I make to You for this grace? For it is not given every man to forsake all things, to renounce the world, and undertake the religious life. Is it anything great that I should serve You Whom every creature is bound to serve? It should not seem much to me; instead it should appear great and wonderful that You condescend to receive into Your service one who is so poor and unworthy. Behold, all things are Yours, even those which I have and by which I serve You.—Thomas à Kempis

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lamentations and God

I was reading Lamentations this morning when I noticed that "God" doesn't appear very often. In fact, in the CEB that I was reading, it occurs only twice, but "lord" and "LORD" occur frequently. "Most High" occurs a couple of times as well. So, I thought it would be fun to check the Hebrew and see what's going on "under the hood" so to speak.

Here's what I found (numbers are via Accordance):
‏אֵל ('el) occurs once
‏אֱלֹהִים ('elohim) doesn't occur at all!
But ‏יְהוָה (YHWH) occurs 32 times
and ‏אֲדֹנָי ('adonai) occurs 14 times (only Amos and Ezekiel have a higher percentage occurrence)
finally, ‏עֶלְיוֹן occurs twice (only Psalms has a higher percentage occurrence)

Interesting, isn't it? Not quite sure what to make of it yet, but it does seem to reflect the personal nature of the laments. I wonder if there is any significance in the location of אֵל ('el) occurring in 3:41? And that it occurs as ‏אֵל בַּשָּׁמָיִם ('el beshamayim)? The only other place that phrase occurs is Deut 3:24 where Moses is pleading with God to let him cross the Jordan:

Please, Lord God! You have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. What god in heaven or on earth can act as you do or can perform your deeds and powerful acts? (CEB)
The phrase "God of Heaven"—as opposed to "God in Heaven"—occurs (as ‏אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם ['elohe hashamayim (Heb)][9 times] and as ‏אֱלָהּ שְׁמַיָּא ['elah shemaya (Aram)] [12 times]) 22 times. I know, the numbers don't add up—there is a Hebrew occurrence of ‏אֵל הַשָּׁמָיִם ('el hashamayim) in Psalm 136.

So, what do you make of all this?

By the way, אֱלֹהִים doesn't occur in Esther (but we all know that, right?) nor does it occur in the Song of Songs (no surprise there, either) or Obadiah, and it only occurs once in Nahum. Is there any significance that both Obadiah and Nahum are about the destruction of Edom and Babylon (respectively) and Lamentations is about the destruction of Jerusalem?

Food for thought, anyway...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Forgiveness or reconciliation?

Ran across this yesterday in an interview with Anne Graham Lotz.
Lotz spoke of the need for those who have been wronged to forgive those who have wronged them and avoid clinging to bitter feelings. Forgiveness, she said, was "a choice, not a feeling. The reason is because God says so. It's not because they deserve it; it's an act of worship. The only reason I would forgive this person is because God says so and because Jesus has forgiven me, so because I love Jesus I forgive someone else."

Refusing to forgive because it would somehow mean that the other person had 'got away with it' was "like drinking the poison hoping the other person will die. So to refuse to forgive, to hang on to bitterness, resentment, anger, because you think that if you release it they'll will get [away] with what they did: that's killing yourself, it doesn't hurt them.

"So we release that for our own selves if nothing else, for our own moral, spiritual and emotional health. But God says, vengeance is mine, I will repay. God will deal with that person. He is a just God, a loving God, and he has mercy, but there are people in my life who have hurt me and wounded me so deeply, and I'll let it go, because in the end God sees and in the end he will sort it out."

However, she added: "There's a difference between offering forgiveness and reconciliation. Reconciliation takes two people. You can't reconcile with someone unless the other person is willing.

"There are relationships I have that are not reconciled, but I believe I have forgiven everyone I know that has wounded me.

"I live my life for God's pleasure. The worse the wound, the harder it is to forgive, but the greater the act of worship."

She spoke of the importance of building healthy relationships in churches, saying: "We have to be good forgivers. We can't allow ourselves to be easily hurt. Some people are just very easily offended. You just look at the them the wrong way and they've read into it and they're offended.

<idle musing>
That's probably why Peter says "as much as lies within you" to be at peace with all. Reconciliation takes two. Forgiveness is what we do and it is unilateral, but it will affect the way we interact with others, hopefully resulting in reconciliation. But even if it doesn't we are called to forgive.

It also sheds light on the verse in 2 Cor 5: in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them... (NRSV). But we have to be willing to be reconciled to God in order for the whole thing to happen...I think, anyway. Not sure I'm doing a good job of expressing what I'm thinking here...
</idle musing>

Acrostic lament

I just received Dennis Pardee's The Ugaritic Texts and the Origins of West-Semitic Literary Composition via Interlibrary Loan today and have been reading it. Good stuff! Mainly philological stuff that doesn't lend itself to extracts very well. But this one, toward the end of the book is an interesting thought:
Four of the five chapters of this book [Lamentations] show a structure without parallel in Ugaritic literature, that of the acrostic: the first word of each verse beings with a letter of the alphabet in the order of alphabetic recitation—in the case of ch. 3, the verses are arranged as stanzas consisting each of three bicola, each of which begins with the required letter of the alphabet. The procedure may appear artificial to us, but its purpose appears to be that of imposing absolute order on grief so as to objectify it and lessen its power. (page 118)
<idle musing>
Fascinating idea, isn't it? Using poetic technique to get life back under control, so to speak!
</idle musing>

Friday, November 21, 2014

Real life

Eternal life is not a peculiar feeling inside! It is not your ultimate destination, to which you will go when you are dead. If you are born again, eternal life is that quality of life that you possess right now, at this very moment, in your own physical body, with your own two feet on the ground, and in the world TODAY! And where does this life come from? Of Him! He is that Life!— The Saving Life of Christ, page 149

Willing to die for

In his death and resurrection, Christ abolished war. Christ made it clear on the cross that war will no longer be the way the world is transformed. The cross exposes the use of violent force as a shameful practice to be renounced. Yes, Christ has abolished war. The King of Kings won his kingdom without war. Jesus proved there is another way. Jesus is the other way. The question “What are you willing to die for?” is not the same question as “What are you willing to kill for?” Jesus was willing to die for that which he was unwilling to kill for. Jesus won his kingdom by dying, not killing. Ruling the world by killing was buried with Christ. When Christ was raised on the third day, he did not resurrect war. With his resurrection the world is given a new trajectory, an eschatology toward peace.— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching!

I especially like this line: “What are you willing to die for?” is not the same question as “What are you willing to kill for?”

I suspect we get the two mixed up in our violence-happy society in the U.S....
</idle musing>


I don't often comment on current political items. Most of the time they are just a distraction—especially given the current political deadlock and polarization. Christians need to stand above the chaos and speak peace (shalom-type peace) and love into every situation. The problem comes when certain positions become labeled as "Christian" and certain other ones "unchristian" despite the lack of scriptural backing for the categorization...

One of those areas is immigration reform. Everyone acknowledges that the system is broken. But no one can agree on the solution. I certainly don't have the answer! But I do know that as Christians we are called to stand by the stranger in our midst. To stand up for them against the oppressor (whoever that oppressor might be). We are strangers and foreigners in the land ourselves; our true citizenship is elsewhere.

Now it appears that the President has decided to take action—Congress hasn't been able to and certainly won't in the next 2 years. It's too hot a political potato to risk with a Presidential Election coming up. After all, in the wisdom of the world, getting elected is what it's all about, right?

Given the antipathy of certain large segments of the Evangelical community to the current president, this puts them in an interesting position. They claim to be concerned for the "stranger in our midst" but how can they support the actions of a person they dislike? (I could say hate, but that wouldn't be nice—although when I hear the venom in their voice when they mention his name...well, let's just say it isn't love.) Ken Schenck has a good observation and post on the whole thing today. But here's the part I think hits home the best:

[M]any American Christians can't tell the difference between being a certain kind of Republican and being Christian. Well-intentioned to be sure, many American Christians can't clearly see where their faith ends and their particular form of Republicanism begins. It's called civil religion, and it is a major problem in the American church.
Of course, I would expand that observation to include a lot more than just immigration reform...
</idle musing>

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It's not the negatives

The Lord Jesus did not live a victorious life just because He did not commit sin in the negative sense; because He did not tell lies, because He was not dishonest; because He never committed adultery, and was never envious—that was not the mature of His victory. If that had been the nature of His victory and that the criterion of His righteousness, He could have stayed in heaven and been all that! The nature of His victory was that as Man He positively implemented that purpose for which He was incarnate; that apart from not doing the thing that were wrong, He positively accomplished all that was right; that His absolute availability to the Father for every moment of 33 years enabled the Father in His deity to do in and through the Son in His humanity all that had been agreed on between the Father and the Son before ever the world was.— The Saving Life of Christ, page 146

<idle musing>
If you wade through all the negative statements in that paragraph, you end up with a very Patristic thought: God became man that man might become God (Athanasius). Not God in the sense the Mormons mean! And not God in the sense of Nirvana—absorbed into the divine. But God in the sense of theosis (or divination as it is more commonly called in the western church). Union with Christ, sanctification, growing in grace, death to self, the exchanged life, deliverance from sin, add your favorite phrase here...they all mean the same thing. And that's what the Christian life is all about...
</idle musing>

A sword and a cross

So what does the sword-cum-cross in the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel mean? What is its message? Is it intended to communicate to the worshipper that as Christians we are willing to lay down our lives and die by the sword of our enemy in imitation of our Lord? Of course not! It means just the opposite. It is intended to communicate to the worshipper that Christ himself blesses the weapons we wield and the wars we wage. The symbolic message is this: following Christ and waging war are completely compatible. Or perhaps even this: the sword saves the world. Good guys killing bad guys redeems the world. Eliminating evil people can eliminate evil. But it’s all a lie. A terrible, pernicious lie. A satanic lie. It is the unmaking of the cross. It’s a faith undone.— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

Thought for a chilly Thursday

Left to myself, I am nothing but total weakness. But if You look upon me for an instant, I am at once made strong and filled with new joy. Great wonder it is that I, who of my own weight always sink to the depths, am so suddenly lifted up, and so graciously embraced by You.

It is Your love that does this, graciously upholding me, supporting me in so many ne- cessities, guarding me from so many grave dangers, and snatching me, as I may truly say, from evils without number. Indeed, by loving myself badly I lost myself; by seeking only You and by truly loving You I have found both myself and You, and by that love I have reduced myself more profoundly to nothing.— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

SBL Handbook of Style 2nd edition


Only one space is needed after any punctuation, whether within or at the end of a sentence.

<idle musing>
Yes! Now I can point people to a definitive spot : )
</idle musing>

Numbers don't tell the whole story

It is not the statistical frequency or infrequency that makes the initial placement of adverbials special, but the cognitive processing function that they accomplish in this position. In each case, the nonfocal element provides an explicit frame of reference for the clause that follows. It is not the most important part of the clause (i.e., focal), instead it sets the stage for the clause that follows by establishing a specific state of affairs or context for relating the clause that follows to the previous context.—Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament, page 227

I'm not the only one

Good thoughts today from Ted Gossard:
We have to let scripture speak, even if it doesn’t fit into our theology. Our theology needs to be adjusted to scripture, not scripture to our theology...

If we believe we can’t turn the corner in regard to sin, then it makes it less likely we will. Moses was once a person who took matters in his own hands, but we are told that he became the most humble person on the face of earth. Some might argue that he simply grew up and matured. In part that’s surely the case. But didn’t he have to turn the corner on the sin of pride which arguably is thinking of and looking to ourselves and not thinking of and looking to God?

<idle musing>
See. I'm not the only one crying in the wilderness! : ) </idle musing>

Walking with Christ

“As ye have receive Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him” (Colossians 2:6).

How are you to walk in Jesus Christ? As you received Him. How did you receive Him? By faith. Was that very difficult?

How then are you to walk in Him? By faith! Will that be any more difficult?— The Saving Life of Christ, page 136

<idle musing>
But we make it more difficult! Do we do it because we want it to be more difficult? Or do we do it because we want a checklist? After all, if you have a list, you can see how you're doing. If you just have to respond to the Spirit—well it's easy to deceive yourself...

These are honest questions that I'm asking, not rhetorical ones. And I don't have the answer, but I suspect, if I'm honest with myself, that it is some combination of the two.

What's your take?
</idle musing>

I pledge allegiance...

So politically I call for my nation to prioritize caring for the poor, the sick, the immigrant, and the imprisoned, and to renounce an ambition to dominate the world economically or militarily. I do this in the name of Jesus. I pledge no allegiance to elephants or donkeys, only to the Lamb. These are my politics for the simple reason that they are clearly the politics of Jesus. Jesus says so! Are you good with that? Or do your partisan political allegiances make it hard for you to accept the politics of Jesus? If so, you have some thinking to do.— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

<idle musing>
Now that's a pledge I can get behind! A few years ago I heard someone say that if you rejoice or cry at the results of an election, then your hope isn't in God, it's in the political results. I agree.
</idle musing>

So it was happening in 587 BCE, too

Neither Zedekiah, his attendants, nor the people of the land listened to the Lord’s words spoken by the prophet Jeremiah. 

Nevertheless, King Zedekiah sent Jehucal, Shelemiah’s son, and the priest Zephaniah, Maaseiah’s son, to Jeremiah the prophet with this plea: "Please pray for us to the Lord our God." ( (Jeremiah 37:2-3 CEB)

<idle musing>
Yep. We want God's blessing, but we sure won't obey God in order to get it, will we? 

So the health & wealth "gospel" isn't a new problem; Jeremiah was fighting it in his day as well. I'm not sure if that's encouraging or discouraging!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Just arrived

This arrived yesterday afternoon from SBL Press. Total geek out! I can't wait to digest it.

I know, I'm weird! But thanks to Bob Buller and Leigh Anderson for sending it to me! Believe me, I will use it...

What if God died?

Ignoring what they say, and what they sing, and what they pray, countless Christians live as though God were dead—and the Church of Jesus Christ needs above averything else to re-discover the fact that God is alive, and to act as though He were!

Suppose that God were to die tonight! Would it really make any difference to the way you live your Christian life tomorrow? For all you really count upon Him as you go about your daily business, or even do your Christian work, would you notice any difference? Would it make the slightest difference next Sunday in the services in your place of worship, if God were to die tonight? Or would it be business as usual? Would anybody know if nobody told them? Or would the whole machine grind on, with the people in the pew, the parson in the pulpit, and the special offering for the building fund! Nobody ever told them that God was dead!

If we dare to face the hard, cold-blooded truth, we would have to admit today that there is so little in the life of our churches, so little in the activity of so many of our missionary societies and Christian organizations that cannot be explained in terms of man’s ability and promotional activity, that few would cease to function if God were dead.— The Saving Life of Christ, pages 133-134

<idle musing>
Well? Do we really believe that "our life is hidden with Christ in God?" Do we really believe that "in him we live and move and have our being?"

I just finished Forgotten God (yes, I know, it's 5 years old now) yesterday. His theme is essentially the same. And then this morning I ran across this:

In fact there is much in the Protestant ministry world which is a carbon copy of the capitalist corporation. For some the adoption of a commercial, corporate organizational form is simply contextualizing to our capitalist culture. But I wonder if the Protestant church and mission world has crossed a line from contextualization to syncretism...

...The fact that we use either the “for-profit” or “non-profit” designation for nearly all organizations tells you something about the centrality of the commercial, profit-centered business in defining nearly all human organizations. Organizations are labeled by their relationship to profit. We generally would not think of describing non-profits as human flourishing agencies and for-profits as non-human-flourishing organizations...

...The corporate blueprint has pushed us toward treating the gospel as a product, turning our ministries into businesses and people into consumers.

Indeed. There seems to be precious little space for the Holy Spirit in our daily lives; we've got it too together—or so we claim and so we think...I suspect the only person we're really fooling is ourselves (and none too effectively at that!).

But the alternative is, well honestly, just too scary! Let go? Are you kidding! God might require me to actually let Him control my life! I can't have that! (Never mind that I've managed to do a good job of really screwing it up by myself!)

But the Holy Spirit stands there, patiently wooing me home...
</idle musing>

Right or Left?

In political conversation these days, we hear a lot about “right” and “left.” People have a lot of passion about these teams, but I have no allegiance to either the political right or the political left for this simple reason: Jesus has his own right and left! In the Jesus right-left divide, you definitely want to be on the right. (The goats on the left are sent away into the hell prepared for the devil and his angels!) But what does it mean to belong to the true “religious right”? What does it mean to be a “sheep” nation judged to be on the right side of Jesus and blessed by God? It means to be a nation that cares for the poor, cares for the sick, welcomes the immigrant, and practices humane treatment of its prisoners. We can argue about how this is best to be done, but that these are the priorities of Christ is beyond dispute. These values reflect the politics of Jesus. These are the political priorities that flow from the Sermon on the Mount. These are the things that the Son of Man cares about. These are the issues that have priority in the administration of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The poor, the sick, the immigrant, the prisoner. Conniving politicians may say, “It’s the economy, stupid,” but Jesus says, “No. It’s how you care for the indigent and infirm; it’s how you treat the immigrant and imprisoned.”— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

<idle musing>
Amen! He sums up my politics perfectly...
</idle musing>

Thought for a Tuesday

The children of Israel once said to Moses: “Speak thou to us and we will hear thee: let not the Lord speak to us, lest we die.”

Not so, Lord, not so do I pray. Rather with Samuel the prophet I entreat humbly and earnestly: “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.” Do not let Moses or any of the prophets speak to me; but You speak, O Lord God, Who inspired and enlightened all the prophets; for You alone, without them, can instruct me perfectly, whereas they, without You, can do nothing. They, indeed, utter fine words, but they cannot impart the Spirit. They do indeed speak beautifully, but if You remain silent they cannot inflame the heart. They deliver the message; You lay bare the sense. They place before us mysteries, but You unlock their meaning. They proclaim commandments; You help us to keep them. They point out the way; You give strength for the journey. They work only outwardly; You instruct and enlighten our hearts. They water on the outside; You give the increase.

They cry out words; You give understanding to the hearer.

Let not Moses speak to me, therefore, but You, the Lord my God, everlasting truth, speak lest I die and prove barren if I am merely given outward advice and am not inflamed within; lest the word heard and not kept, known and not loved, believed and not obeyed, rise up in judgment against me.—Thomas à Kempis

Monday, November 17, 2014

Balmy Grand Marais

Strange for Grand Marais to be on the list of high temperatures around Minnesota!

Half a gospel

Why is it that a man [Moses] who could lead an unwilling people out [of Egypt] was unable to lead an unwilling people in [to Canaan]? This is the problem with which so many are confronted, who enjoy a measure of success in their evangelistic activity, but whose converts are of such poor spiritual caliber, who find it comparatively easy to precipitate the crisis of decision, but are baffled by the ensuing lack of spiritual substance in those who have made profession of faith.— The Saving Life of Christ, page 126

<idle musing>
Maybe because they don't really believe it's possible to live a holy life? I don't know, but I do know that it is a common problem...
</idle musing>

The truth hurts

Unfortunately, what I’ve learned through bitter experience is that a lot of people don’t want the game changed. They want to win the game— not change the game. My most vehement critics tend to come from those who regard my deep ambivalence toward a political “take back America for God” agenda as a scandalous betrayal. They simply cannot imagine how God’s will is going to be done if “our side” doesn’t win the political game. This is the game most of the church has played for seventeen centuries—use Christianity to endorse or buttress a particular political agenda. Christian then becomes a mere adjective to the dominant political noun. What is dominant is a particular political agenda. Politics trumps everything. The political tail wags the Christian dog. Christianity’s role is to serve a political agenda. So viewed through the American lens, Christianity is seen to endorse democracy and capitalism, just as it was once seen in Europe to endorse monarchy and feudalism. To even suggest that Jesus doesn’t necessarily endorse every aspect of Jeffersonian democracy and laissez-faire capitalism is enough to get you burned at the stake (hopefully only in a metaphorical sense).— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

<idle musing>
Yep. Ain't it the truth! As Christians, our first allegiance is to Christ and the kingdom of God. But far too often, we get the kingdom of God confused with the kingdom of this world—especially Americans!
</idle musing>


For all men praise patience though there are few who wish to practice it.—Thomas à Kempis

Neonicotinoids and other thoughts

No, that's not some new grammatical or theological term! Neonicotinoids (neonics for short) are pesticides that theoretically are more effective than other pesticides. There's been debate about them for years, with many claiming that they are responsible for the significant crash in honeybee populations...

Well, the EPA has been testing them recently, and here's what they've found:

Last Thursday, EPA released preliminary findings on neonic-coated soybeans — a small part of the agency’s broader review of neonicotinoids. EPA’s headline finding? Neonicotinoid seed treatments “provide negligible overall benefits to soybean production in most situations.”

We know neonics are harmful to bees and other pollinators; a growing body of science has been pointing to these pesticides as a key factor in dramatically declining populations for years. But pesticide makers like Bayer and Syngenta have continued to claim that neonicotinoid products are essential for farmers' success.

This isn't the case, as EPA's recent findings highlight. Prophylactic uses of neonicotinoid seed treatments — that is, using neonicotinoids preventatively, before pest problems arise — don't actually increase farmer yields. As the agency's report says:

Published data indicate that in most cases there is no difference in soybean yield when soybean seed was treated with neonicotinoids versus not receiving any insect control treatment.

In other words, save your money folks; neonicotinoid seed treatments help soybean yields about as much as… applying no insecticides at all.

<idle musing>
But will the seed kings stop using it? Not likely! There's money in them there things!

So we continue to destroy our environment because the rich want to get richer...which reminds me: with the Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate, when will they introduce their long-promised anti-abortion legislation? Exactly! Never. It's just a sop to seduce the Evangelicals to vote for them...

Wake up people! There are more issues in the Bible than abortion! Yes, I'm against abortion. But I'm also against exploitation of the poor and the immigrants because God cares for all people. Lest you think I'm picking on the Right, I'm also against the drone war in the Middle East. White House, are you listening? Stop the killing! You're just creating another generation of terrorists!

As Christians, we need to be pro-life—from conception to the grave—and not just American lives, either!

OK, I'm done...flame me if you will. Maybe I've been reading too much of Jeremiah...but sometimes you have to scream to be heard.
</idle musing>

Friday, November 14, 2014

Another argument for house churches

I ran across this interesting little tidbit today here:
[S]ociologist Josh Packard shared some of his groundbreaking research on the Dones. He explained these de-churched were among the most dedicated and active people in their congregations. To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best.

For the church, this phenomenon sets up a growing danger. The very people on whom a church relies for lay leadership, service and financial support, are going away. And the problem is compounded by the fact that younger people in the next generation, the Millennials, are not lining up to refill the emptying pews...

The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.

<idle musing>
Maybe because that's not how God designed the church to function. Ever think of that? Maybe the New Testament model of "one another"—including teaching/sermonizing!!—is the correct model. Maybe simple, organic church, with multiplicity of eldership, involvement in each others lives on more than a superficial, Sunday morning, stare at the head in front of you level really is a better idea. Maybe. But I'm afraid it won't happen until the present top-heavy megachurch franchises collapse...

By the way, do read the entire article; it's very short.
</idle musing>

Sobering thought

When you come to know Jesus Christ in the power of his resurrection, you receive absolutely nothing new from God; you simply discover and begin to enjoy experientially what you received from God the day that you were redeemed; the tragedy is that you can live for ten, twenty, or fifty years or more, having all that God can give you in Jesus Christ, and yet living in self-imposed poverty…— The Saving Life of Christ, pages 124-125

<idle musing>
Unfortunately, I know many people in that boat...Open their eyes, Lord, that they may see the fullness of what salvation means!
</idle musing>

Watch the roadmap

When we hate and vilify others for ideological reasons, when we demonize and dehumanize others for nationalistic reasons, when we use and exploit others for economic reasons, we are on the highway to hell—we have chosen the well-worn road that leads to war and destruction. The deeply disconcerting thing is that it is entirely possible to cruise down the broad road of impending doom while singing songs of praise to Jesus. It happened on the first Palm Sunday. It happened a hundred and fifty years ago in America. It continues to happen today. If we think Jesus shares and endorses our disdain and enmity for our enemies, we don’t know the things that make for peace, and we are headed for an inevitable destruction, even if it takes a generation or two to arrive at our horrible destination. If we console ourselves with the promise of heaven in the afterlife while creating hell in this present life, we have embraced the tawdry religion of the crusader and forsaken the true faith of our Savior.— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

In the cross

Why, then, do you fear to take up the cross when through it you can win a kingdom? In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the cross is protection from enemies, in the cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the cross is strength of mind, in the cross is joy of spirit, in the cross is highest virtue, in the cross is perfect holiness. There is no salvation of soul nor hope of everlasting life but in the cross.—Thomas à Kempis

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Giving up

It seems that after 38 years Moses had come to terms with Amalek [Thomas’s term for the old nature]. But this is axiomatic, for it is the living, risen Lord who must take the place of that old Adamic nature; but it you know Him only as the smitten Rod, a crucified Redeemer, no matter how grateful you may be to Him, and no matter how strong the urge to follow in His ways, you will, like the foolish Galatians, “…having begun in the Spirit,” try to be “made perfect by the flesh.” You will have to come to terms with Amalek, and call him your brother, for you will know nothing that can take his place.— The Saving Life of Christ, pages 122-123

<idle musing>
Again, I have problems with his exegesis, but the point is still valid. We become complacent with sin, thinking that it will always rule in our lives. But scripture says the opposite! The Holy Spirit is more powerful than sin—but I doubt that any of us really believes that!

And, secret confession, we all love our own personal sin too much to really want to give it up. So, rather than be honest with ourselves, we change our theology to justify hanging on to it...

Only the Holy Spirit can make us come to see sin as the debilitating disease that it really is. Only the Holy Spirit can open our eyes and give us the desire to jettison what is really hurtful to us.
</idle musing>

Fly the flag

Jesus said that something has hidden the peaceful way from our eyes … and more often than not, it’s a flag. If patriotism simply means the pride of place that inspires civic responsibility, so be it. But if patriotism means “my country right or wrong,” it’s a kind of groupthink blindness that hides the things that make for peace. Unfurled flags of nationalism have a long history of hiding the things of Christ that make for peace. Whether they are Roman, Byzantine, Spanish, French, English, German, Russian, or American flags, when they hide the things that make for peace, they are no longer the innocent banners of a benign patriotism.— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

Thought for the day

No one, however, is more wealthy than such a man; no one is more powerful, no one freer than he who knows how to leave all things and think of himself as the least of all.—Thomas à Kempis

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


It is almost disconcerting to witness the severity of God’s judgment upon this mighty warrior [Moses]; but he broke the type, he violated the first principle of victorious Christian living—CHRIST IN YOU, the hope of glory! He never got beyond Jesus and Him crucified. In the language of the Old Testament, his Gospel was never more than “Come to Jesus, and have your sins forgiven.” It was a message of “heaven some day, but the wilderness now!” He left Christ on the cross! He knew nothing of the Saving Life of Christ.— The Saving Life of Christ, page 121

<idle musing>
OK, I have bit of a hard time with his exegesis here, but the underlying message is still true. And it's the message that most, if not all, evangelical churches preach. And it doesn't really save, if by salvation we mean a full-orbed salvation from sin—and not just a deliverance from the penalty of sin.
</idle musing>

Unhealthy assumptions

In fact, a reckless assumption that because we believe in Jesus and therefore God is on our side can actually aggravate our addiction to Armageddon. It’s happened before. In America.— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

Great news

I just heard from our son, Ryan, that I'm a grandpa again! That makes nine! Lydia Joy was born this morning at 7:26. May she grow up to be a mighty woman of God.

Who's on first?

Do not those who always seek consolation deserve to be called mercenaries? Do not those who always think of their own profit and gain prove that they love themselves rather than Christ?—Thomas à Kempis

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thought for the day

So Satan will seek to persuade you that “walking in the Spirit” is simply the consequence of your pious endeavor not to fulfill the “lusts of the flesh,” of which he himself is the author, and thus by subtly confusing the means for the end, he will rob you of what he knows to be your only possibility of victory.

Is that not what you have been trying to do? You have been trying not to fulfill the lust of the flesh, in order to walk in the Spirit—fighting a battle already lost. What God has said to you is this, “Walk in the Spirit,” in an attitude of total dependence upon Him, exposing everything to Him, “and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”—for you will then be enjoying through Him the victory that Christ has already won. To walk in the Spirit is not a reward—it is the means! It is to enjoy the Saving Life of Christ!— The Saving Life of Christ, pages 91-92

As it really is

What happened was once the red, white, and blue varnish was removed from Jesus and I learned to read the Gospels free of a star-spangled interpretation, I discovered that my Lord and Savior had a lot of things to say about peace that I had been missing. I was as surprised as anyone! But once you’ve seen the truth, you can’t unknow what you know and be true to yourself.— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

<idle musing>
I thought this would be an appropriate post for Veteran's Day...
</idle musing>

Fair weather friends

Jesus has always many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear His cross. He has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything for Him. Many follow Him to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the chalice of His passion. Many revere His miracles; few approach the shame of the Cross. Many love Him as long as they encounter no hardship; many praise and bless Him as long as they receive some comfort from Him.—Thomas à Kempis

Monday, November 10, 2014

About that victory...

There are countless Christians fighting a battle that is already lost, trying in their own strength to overcome the subtleties of sin. That is a battle you can fight all your days, but I tell you now, you cannot win! It is battle already lost, lost in the first Adam, who was made a living soul, and died; but the last Adam, Jesus Christ, has already defeated sin and death and hell, and Satan himself! Why not accept in Him the victory that He has already won? Victory over the flesh is not to be attained—it is to be received.— The Saving Life of Christ, page 90

<idle musing
And that, my friends, is the true gospel! What could be better news for us who are buffeted by every whim of temptation? Who are assaulted by a culture full of advertising designed to woo you to spend money you don't have on stuff you don't need?
</idle musing>


I suppose the hint of scandal comes from the assumption that pacifism is a sort of cousin to cowardice. This also strikes me as strange. To endorse the dominant view that the employment of violence is compatible with Christianity requires no courage at all—that’s just following the crowd. But to differ from the dominant view on the sanctity of state-sponsored violence may require an uncommon reservoir of moral conviction. Pacifism is not a popular position in America, and especially not among patriotic evangelicals who have ardently sought to amalgamate the American state and the Christian faith into one hybrid entity.— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching!
</idle musing>

Thought for a Monday in November

He who finds Jesus finds a rare treasure, indeed, a good above every good, whereas he who loses Him loses more than the whole world. The man who lives without Jesus is the poorest of the poor, whereas no one is so rich as the man who lives in His grace.—Thomas à Kempis

Friday, November 07, 2014

The present tense

This is the forgotten tense of the Church of Jesus Christ today. We live either in the past tense or in the future tense. We say either “Ebenezer—hitherto hath the Lord helped us,” or we comfort ourselves with “Maranatha—Behold the Lord cometh,”—but we forget that He is the eternal I AM, the eternal present tense, adequate right now for every need!— The Saving Life of Christ, page 70

<idle musing>
I've heard it described as "bed post theology"—we have a great headboard in salvation and a great footboard in heaven, but in between we have a very saggy bed! We hang on by the skin of our teeth until (finally!) we get safely to heaven.

What a travesty! It's a truncated gospel. The present tense needs to be recovered by the church!
</idle musing>

The choice

The Father of Jesus is a preserver of life; the father of the crowd is a killer. Jesus was desperately trying to show them that God was not as they had imagined him. God is not a killer demanding blood sacrifices. God is not a war deity sanctioning the slaughter of enemies. The freedom that comes from God is not power to kill, but the choice to love.— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

<idle musing>
And we (the crowd) will always choose the power to kill, won't we...Lord, deliver us!
</idle musing>

Thought for a Friday in November

You are well versed in coloring your own actions with excuses which you will not accept from others, though it would be more just to accuse yourself and excuse your brother.

Often we are not aware that we are so blind in heart. Meanwhile we do wrong, and then do worse in excusing it. At times we are moved by passion, and we think it zeal. We take others to task for small mistakes, and overlook greater ones in ourselves. We are quick enough to feel and brood over the things we suffer from others, but we think nothing of how much others suffer from us. If a man would weigh his own deeds fully and rightly, he would find little cause to pass severe judgment on others.—Thomas à Kempis

Thursday, November 06, 2014

On the right path

Moses began by being a failure! That was the school from which he qualified! Abraham began by being a failure! That was the school from which he qualified! Jacob wa a hopeless failure! David was a hopeless failure! Elijah was a hopeless failure! Isaiah was a hopeless failure and a “man of unclean lips,” but it is in the school of destitution—the bitter school of self-discovery—that finally you graduate into usefulness, when at last you discover the total bankruptcy of what you are apart from what God is! These men made this discovery, and were blessed!— The Saving Life of Christ, pages 68-69

<idle musing>
Not exactly a good track record by our standards, is it? None of those guys would get past our "holiness" detectors! Of course, those detectors are just a bunch of rules about do this and don't do that. They don't measure the heart at all...
</idle musing>

Freedom is just another word for...

The truth that Jesus was trying to show the nationalistic crowd of Judean disciples is that freedom attained and maintained by killing is another name for slavery! Let that sink in. What they think makes them free actually enslaves them. They are slaves to their practice of collective killing for the sake of power and they self-deceptively call it freedom. For the crowd, freedom was just another word for killing. For Jesus, freedom was another word for love. Obviously they were going to be at odds. Here is the question: Is freedom just another word for the power to kill, or is freedom just another word for the choice to love?— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

<idle musing>
Think about that for a minute. Where do you see the word "Freedom" emblazoned the most? Yep! On those military enlistment posters. On those bumper stickers with weapons. On all manner of militaristic or violence-endorsing posts on the web/social media...says something, doesn't it?
</idle musing>

Do it MY way!

If all were well with you, therefore, and if you were purified from all sin, everything would tend to your good and be to your profit. But because you are as yet neither entirely dead to self nor free from all earthly affection, there is much that often displeases and disturbs you. Nothing so mars and defiles the heart of man as impure attachment to created things.—Thomas à Kempis

Thought for the day

You will be firmly founded in righteousness. You will stay far from oppression because you won’t fear, far from terror because it won’t come near you. If anyone attacks you, it’s none of my doing. Whoever attacks you will fall because of you. Look, I myself created the metalworker who blows the fire of coal and who produces a tool for his work. And I myself created the looter to destroy. No weapon fashioned against you will succeed, and you may condemn every tongue that disputes with you. This is the heritage of the Lord’s servants, whose righteousness comes from me, says the Lord. (Isaiah 54:14-17 CEB)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Oops! Wrong emphasis

…we so often confuse bustle for business, and plant for power, and perspiration for inspiration. What an embarrassment it would be to you if you had a pair of hands that always tried to demonstrate how busy they were! Do you expect your fingers to tell you each morning what their program is for the day, and then demonstrate their enthusiasm by a vigorous show of uncontrolled activity? Do you think you would be succesful in playing the piano on that basis? I would not like to ask a barber who had hands like that to shave me!— The Saving Life of Christ, page 64

Sound bites

That’s the problem with the bumper-sticker approach to the Bible—preaching devolves into sloganeering. Without proper context we end up with empty cliché—nice-sounding bits of nothing.— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

An appropriate thought following election day

Many unstable and weak-minded people say: “See how well that man lives, how rich, how great he is, how powerful and mighty.” But you must lift up your eyes to the riches of heaven and realize that the material goods of which they speak are nothing. These things are uncertain and very burdensome because they are never possessed without anxiety and fear. Man’s happiness does not consist in the possession of abundant goods; a very little is enough.—Thomas à Kempis

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Getting it right

You are not called upon to commit yourself to a need, or to a task, or to a field. You are called upon to commit yourself to God! It is He then who takes care of the consequences and commits you where He wants you. He is the Lord of the harvest! He is the Head of the body—and He is gloriously competent to assume His own responsibilities! Man is not indispensable to God. God is indispensable to man!— The Saving Life of Christ, page 63

Peace, Peace, Peace!

I learned that it is much easier to unite people around a Jesus who hates our enemies and blesses our wars than it is to unite people around a Jesus who calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. It broke my heart to learn that people are not as easily drawn to a gospel of peace as they are to a rally for war.— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

<idle musing>
I'm reminded of this scripture:

 Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek,
that I live among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I lived
among those who hate peace.
I am for peace;
but when I speak, they are for war.
Remember also that Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers...
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

As our intention is, so will be our progress; and he who desires perfection must be very diligent. If the strong-willed man fails frequently, what of the man who makes up his mind seldom or half-heartedly? Many are the ways of failing in our resolutions; even a slight omission of religious practice entails a loss of some kind.

Just men depend on the grace of God rather than on their own wisdom in keeping their resolutions. In Him they confide every undertaking, for man, indeed, proposes but God disposes, and God’s way is not man’s.—Thomas à Kempis

Monday, November 03, 2014

New (old) book

You will have become totally dependent upon the life of Christ within you, and never before will you have been so independent, so emancipated from the pressure of your circumstances, so released at last from that self-distrust which has made you at one moment an arrogant, loud-mouthed braggart, and the next moment the victim of your own self-pity—and, either way, always in bondage to the fear of other men’s opinons.—The Saving Life of Christ, pages 15-16

<idle musing>
Amen! We hang onto our "freedom" and enslave ourselves even further. Once we realize how totally dependent we are on Christ, we begin to experience true freedom.

It will be interesting to see how he develops this theme in the book...
</idle musing>

Advice on a pre-election day

The Jesus way and conventional power politics don’t mix. So we tell Jesus to mind his own business—to go back to church and to “saving souls” and not to meddle in the real affairs of running the world. We sequester Jesus to a stained-glass quarantine and appropriate a trillion dollars for the war machine. This begs the question of why Christians get so worked up over which side has the most representatives in Congress when the entire system is incapable of implementing what Jesus taught. Do you see what I mean? It’s hard to believe in Jesus! To believe in Jesus fully, to believe in Jesus as more than a personal Savior, to believe in Jesus without qualifications, to believe in Jesus as God’s way to run the world, to believe in Jesus and his Sermon on the Mount, to believe in Jesus as the unimagined solution for a world gone wrong and not as merely chaplain or cheerleader for our favorite version of the status quo is very hard to do. It also very controversial.— A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

<idle musing>
Good words of advice on the day before an election...but they will go unheeded by most; the status quo is too strongly entrenched in their thinking...
</idle musing>

Thought for a Monday

We want them to be perfect, yet we do not correct our own faults. We wish them to be severely corrected, yet we will not correct ourselves. Their great liberty displeases us, yet we would not be denied what we ask. We would have them bound by laws, yet we will allow ourselves to be restrained in nothing.—Thomas à Kempis