4.25.2009

praying today's psalm: psa 76


At your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
Both horse and chariot lie still.
You alone are to be feared.
Who can stand before you when you are angry?
From heaven you pronounced judgment,
And the land feared and was quiet—
When you, O God, rose up to judge,
To save all the afflicted of the land.

Surely your wrath against men brings you praise,
And the survivors of your wrath are restrained.

(Psa 76:6-10, NIV)

Father, forgive us. Forgive us for our lack of fear. Forgive us for drawing you up in our minds as some eunuch—some impotent nice guy in the sky. Lord, you are unsafe and uncontrollable, and may we never forget it. You are the Lord! And as such, restore in us the right and proper fear. Let us remember that your day is both the great and terrible day of the Lord. Amen Amen

4.22.2009

the biggest loser: church edition


The times have made it some slim pickings for churches and non-profits out there. You can sense the desperation when it comes to the financial outlook. Donors supporting these churches have taken a hit to the groin—or they imagine they have—and so giving has dropped and the churches income streams are diminishing.

There is no doubt there is some serious strain out there, but in many cases the cry of desperation appears a little silly. For some, it is kind of like listening to an obese person say “I am starving!” “Sure your feeling hunger pains, but let’s be honest…” It is like the person who lives in a new half million-dollar house, has their kids in private school, and drives a shiny car (or two), who complains about how tight things are these days. The fact of the matter is that many churches are sitting on debts for large building campaigns and have been operating with the mindset that all this stuff is necessary for ministry.

I think that—like the hit show The Biggest Loser, which has risen in the face of our obesity crisis—it will be the ministries that can shed their unhealthy weight who will win in the face of our financial crisis. Rather than trying to increase the income stream, I believe our churches should be thinking hard about how to get back to basics. Like an addict who believes their chosen indulgence makes life possible, we have been seduced by the world’s standards of success, and so high overhead has become the necessary path to success. But it is not, and we know it is not. A friend of mine from Zimbabwe—a country whose financial crisis makes ours look silly (e.g., their 94% unemployment)—tells me about western churches who come to build their churches new buildings all the while the fastest growing movement is one that meets outside under the trees. Do we believe ministry can be done with little to no overhead? I believe the winners in this time will be those who can shed their unwanted pounds and become slim, fit, and healthy. The biggest losers.

Painting is "Diverse Community" by JEM

praying today's psalm: psa 73


This is what the wicked are like—
Always carefree, they increase in wealth.
Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
In vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been plagued;
I have been punished every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
It was oppressive to me
Till I entered the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their final destiny.
Surely you place them on slippery ground;
You cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed,
Completely swept away by terrors!
As a dream when one awakes,
So when you arise, O Lord,
You will despise them as fantasies.

(Psa 73:12-20, NIV)

Father, it is tempting—the life without you. The life unconcerned with your will. The life unconcerned with what pleases or displeases you. The life unconcerned for others. The life without guilt, only pleasure, where whatever feels good should be and is done. It is tempting when people rise to the top. When they get ahead. When they are recognized and rewarded. When they are beloved by the people. Am I stupid to concern myself with what is right and not what is expedient? Am I foolish for trying to reign in my desires and not obeying them? Am I stupid to choose a path no one else is traveling? This is my struggle. But then I catch a just a brief glimpse of you and it seems silly. Then I witness their house of cards fall, and it makes sense. Amen Amen

4.21.2009

praying today's psalm: psa 72


Endow the king with your justice, O God,
The royal son with your righteousness.
He will rule from sea to sea
And from the River to the ends of the earth.
The desert tribes will bow before him
And his enemies will lick the dust.
The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
Will bring tribute to him;
The kings of Sheba and Seba
Will present him gifts.
All kings will bow down to him
And all nations will serve him.
For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
The afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
And save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
For precious is their blood in his sight.

(Psa 72:1, 8-14, NIV)

Father, Jesus, your beloved son, occupies this throne now, and his eye is to the nations. May your kingdom come, and may your will be done. May your Gospel go forward and bear the fruit of repentance. As we become your servants, may we find freedom. For the suffering, may your kingdom come. For the poor, may your kingdom come. For the oppressed, may your kingdom come. For your name’s sake, make your love for us known. Amen and Amen

4.20.2009

A continuation of the posts on The Didache: The Two Paths.

4.17.2009

praying today's psalm: psa 68

Summon your power, O God;
Show us your strength, O God, as you have done before.

(Psa 68:28, NIV)

Father, did you only do great things in the past? Are they the stuff of myth? Or is it that I am blind to see them? Have I not had enough faith to experience it? Have I not prayed sufficiently? Or am I one with blind eyes and deaf ears? Give me the eyes to see. I want to see you. Give me ears to hear. I want to hear you. Show us, Lord, for your name’s sake. Amen Amen

Prayer

In Stephen Barton's The Spirituality of the Four Gospels, he gives this swell description of prayer. He is emphasizing the prominence of prayer in the spirituality of Luke and Acts. Enjoy.


Prayer, therefore, is kept constantly before the reader of Luke's two volumes. It is as characteristic of the apostolic church as it is of the Lord of the apostles. It is the means of communion with God in order that God's presence and Spirit may be experienced and in order that his will may be done. It is linked integrally with the other major aspects of Lucan spirituality we have covered so far, for it provides the channel for joy and thanksgiving, it provides the language for repentance and forgiveness, and it functions as the rich soil in which an enduring faith is able to grow. (p. 91)

If we had to rank the so-called spiritual disciplines—which are never really listed or defined as such in the Bible—I believe prayer is foundational to them all.

4.16.2009

youtube theologians: mcgrath v hitchens debate

Here is a part 1 of a debate between Christian theologian Alister McGrath (Oxford) and atheist author Christopher Hitchens on whether religion makes society better or worse.

praying today's psalm: psa 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us
And make his face shine upon us,
That your ways may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
May all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
For you rule the peoples justly
And guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
May all the peoples praise you.
Then the land will yield its harvest,
And God, our God, will bless us.
God will bless us,
And all the ends of the earth will fear him.

(Psa 67, NIV)

Father, whether by blessing or curse, may you do all things for your namesake. Hallowed be thy name. May your name be sanctified—consecrated. And may it be so in every nook and cranny of this planet. Make yourself known, Lord. Amen Amen

"The Early Church" - Is it a myth?


Over at Read Mor Ded Peepl, I began what will hopefully be a string of posts on The Didache. An interesting discussion has arisen from it. I would love to hear from more of you on this subject. Am I way off base?

It began with my comments in the post:

A pet peeve of mine is when people talk about the early church with very broad strokes and as a way of saying “this is how it necessarily ought to be.” In other words, “This is how things should be done because this is how it was done in the early church.” This gets me for a few reasons. First, it presupposes there was a way the early church did it. I don’t believe there was. Second, there is no clarity as to how early we have to go and when things went wrong. In other words, some people say the golden age was the time before Constantine (i.e., the first three centuries), others while the apostles were still alive (the first century), and others the first few days. Third, it is theologically dubious. If Paul says that the church should be maturing as a man, should we always be going back to childhood to find out what to be like? And if we were more mature 2000 years ago, what does it say about the truthfulness of Paul’s theology? Fourth, it is usually a matter of authority and institutionalism. Thus, we are fed up with the authority structures and institutional order of things, and so we look to the day when things were supposedly so much more free and egalitarian. Fifth, the early church is usually interpreted through our own prejudices. In other words, we see what we want in the early church and thus rationalize our own biases.


The comments that have ensued:

Blogger Travis said...

....If the early church didn't set an example or a model even, and the 'mature' church was what the church became through the past 2000 years a hierarchical structure, then we all should repent and go back to the...oh wait, which one is the original? One might say the Roman Catholic Church, but is that the closest to the main stream of Christian community? or would it be eastern orthodox, or what? And then what of these 'mature' forms having so much involved that seems to contradict Jesus' irreligious theology?

Just some initial reactions of how pivotal this topic is. If I became convinced that the hierarchical institutional structure of church was good and valid, and the way the church "matured" then I am just a lone arrogant renegade here in this catholic town. And I'd have to repent and go to catholic or orthodox seminary, and divorce my wife...yikes...

So this topic obviously has HUGE implications...



Blogger BAB said...

So here is how I see it. I don't think that we have necessarily matured as we ought to have. Today's church - I don't think - the picture of perfection. I am just saying that what the church ought to do or be - I think - is to be determined by its future and not its past. Acts gives us the highlights of the early movement, and I think it does so for us to learn and in some way imitate. It is not the early church.

The question is: what is the church to become? And not what was the church like?



Blogger Travis said...

Did you mean to make the distinction between "the early church acts-300, vs early church as in "acts". That would be a good distinction. I usually think of Acts when I'm talking about the early church. A lot of people are probably including the first couple of centuries in that?

I really am interested in grappling with this question as I have been intently studying this for over 3 or 4 years now.



Blogger BAB said...

I haven't made the distinction simply because no matter what people mean, there is an error that is made. This may sound weird for you to hear me say, but even the church in Acts, cannot be accurately said to be the "early church". Like I said it is a highlight reel. I think it is as much a presentation of what the church should be as it is what it actually was.


So, what do you think? Add to the conversation!

4.15.2009

Following Jesus - II

In my previous post, I presented, as one of the challenges we face when it comes to knowing and following Jesus, that we all see Jesus through our particular lenses. (And by following Jesus, I mean not only that we must seek to live by his teaching, but that we must also seek to imitate his life). That is, not one of us comes to this quest objectively and without our own conditioning. When someone says we ought to follow Jesus, the question could legitimately be asked “Whose?” In the most sinister cases, this is an intentional manipulation to fit an agenda. In the more innocent and probably more common cases, this is an unwitting creation of Jesus in our own image—the way we want or need him to be. So, to the question “Who is Jesus and what does it mean to follow him?” we must first ask the question “Do we really want to know?”

There is a second stumbling-block to the quest to follow his words and imitate his deeds, and that is the question of whether or not it is a legitimate quest in the first place. This might seem like a weird thing to say. For a Christian at least, it seems like a very natural answer in the affirmative: “Of course we want to follow Jesus!” Nevertheless, it stands that even though so many regard Jesus as one of the greatest ethical teachers the world has ever known, hardly anybody—even those who profess to be Christians—shows actual concern to live by his ethics. And even though he was very good, very few seek to imitate his way of life. Why? Because—whether consciously or unconsciously—very few of us think that Jesus’ life and teaching bear any relevance to our personal or social ethics today. To imitate Jesus is not a legitimate or realistic quest.

This is not necessarily a perspective found only outside the church or Christian teaching. Consider how many of the following reasons are reasons you have heard from the mouth of a Christian or even from the pulpit. The following are some of the reasons Jesus is not taken to be relevant to our ethics today. (This is an adapted list, synthesizing surveys in The Politics of Jesus by J.H. Yoder, Imitating Jesus by R. Burridge, and The Sermon on the Mount by R. Guelich.)

+ The ethic of Jesus was an interim ethic, which Jesus only meant for a short time until impending end of the world. This is rather pessimistic view of Jesus’ life and teaching, famously put forward by Albert Schweitzer—who interestingly enough still followed Jesus in forsaking his academic career for medical missions. Nevertheless, he basically states Jesus prepared people for the impending kingdom of God, which did not end up coming, and so his teaching became irrelevant.

+ Jesus’ way of life was a simple, rural, or “face-to-face” kind of ethic, which may work in intimate interpersonal relationships, but has no capacity to work at larger societal or political levels. This is in part the assumption of many Evangelicals and those who hold to just war theory. Likewise, this is the assumption of democracy, which basically, demands that these ethics not be brought into public policy and that we find a common ethic for a pluralistic society. An example of thinking from which this perspective arises is in the logic: “It is one thing to turn the other cheek when your neighbor hits you, but that cannot apply to a society or community.”

+ Jesus and his followers lived as a small, persecuted minority with no power. Jesus’ ethic makes sense in that context, but provides us with few resources for the situation we find ourselves now in which Christianity holds a significant amount of political influence. This has really plagued us since Constantine and Augustine. At least in part, this gave birth the doctrines of the two cities and the Lutheran teaching of “office” (i.e., that as a Christian one holds a personal ethic of the kingdom of God but holds an “office” in the kingdom of the world, and what one must do in the worldly office may contradict one’s personal ethic).

+ It is impossible to establish one consistent and coherent ethic of Jesus. A couple of lines of thought may give way to this conclusion. First, historical criticism casts extensive doubts about what can be known of the the historical Jesus. “We can only know Jesus’ life and teaching after our excavation of the evidence, and only after we can reach consensus on that can we talk about his ethics.” Second, biblical theology often emphasizes the diversity of theologies and ethics found in the NT to the neglect of finding any unity. In other words, the differences—and there are differences—between the four gospels are emphasized without any attempt to describe their similarities.

+ Jesus was concerned with spiritual and not social matters. Jesus was concerned with the individual getting his or her heart right with God (i.e., personal salvation) and not concerned with establishing a way of life for a society. Another form is that Jesus’ life is only meaningful in that he fulfilled all righteousness and died on the cross for our sins. Thus, imitating his life becomes secondary and peripheral. He is our Savior, and we are saved by faith, thus the demand to imitate him is akin to legalism. We might find this in the Lutheran/Protestant interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount that presents it as an impossible ethic, which describes God’s will, and serves to expose our sinfulness and lead us to faith. Another perspective that may fit into this is the classical Dispensational interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount—that it represents the ethic of the future kingdom and thus is not binding for the church today.

There are many reasons why we may not take seriously the demand to follow Jesus: to live by his teaching and imitate his deeds. The second question we must ask is “Would we even be willing to follow?”

4.14.2009

praying today's psalm: psa 65

You care for the land and water it;
You enrich it abundantly.

(Psa 65:9, NIV)

And Lord, may we do the same. Amen

4.13.2009

praying today's psalm: psa 64

Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint;
Protect my life from the threat of the enemy.
Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked,
From that noisy crowd of evildoers.
They sharpen their tongues like swords
And aim their words like deadly arrows.
They shoot from ambush at the innocent man;
They shoot at him suddenly, without fear.
They encourage each other in evil plans,
They talk about hiding their snares;
They say, “Who will see them?”
They plot injustice and say,
“We have devised a perfect plan!”
Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning.
But God will shoot them with arrows;
Suddenly they will be struck down.
He will turn their own tongues against them
And bring them to ruin;
All who see them will shake their heads in scorn.
All mankind will fear;
They will proclaim the works of God
And ponder what he has done.
Let the righteous rejoice in the LORD
And take refuge in him;
Let all the upright in heart praise him!

(Psa 64:1-10, NIV)

Lord, let us trust that wickedness does not prosper forever. May we believe it when we suffer as its victims. May we believe it when we are tempted do be its perpetrators. Nothing escapes your notice. There are no sins that will not find us out. May humility and repentance always mark our lives as your people. Amen Amen

4.12.2009

Now, in the spirit of Easter, read some of Aslan's encounter with the girls at the Stone Table.

praying today's psalm: psa 63

O God, you are my God,
Earnestly I seek you;
My soul thirsts for you,
My body longs for you,
In a dry and weary land
Where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
And beheld your power and your glory.

Because your love is better than life,
My lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
And in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
With singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
Your right hand upholds me.

(Psa 63:1-8, NIV)

Father, man cannot live on bread alone. Our physical hunger pains—if we even let ourselves feel them—are only part of the pain we feel. To be starving for your presence is our greatest pain. Nothing hurts more than your silence. Our lives consist of yearning and hoping—fulfillment is never lasting. Yet we know in our hearts that it is in your presence that our hearts will find their satisfaction. In your presence are pleasures forever. With every ounce of our weary lives, may we pursue it. And we praise you because you will not withhold it. Amen Amen

4.11.2009

praying today's psalm: psa 62

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
My hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
Pour out your hearts to him,
For God is our refuge.

Lowborn men are but a breath,
The highborn are but a lie;
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
Together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
Or take pride in stolen goods;
Though your riches increase,
Do not set your heart on them.

One thing God has spoken,
Two things have I heard:
That you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O Lord, are loving.
Surely you will reward each person
According to what he has done.

(Psa 62:5-12, NIV)

Lord, where else can our souls find rest, but in the one who has made us? Where else can our souls find rest, but in the one who has loved us? Where else can our souls find rest but in the one who has reconciled us? Forgive us for seeking this rest in our idols—all of those things we love, trust, and obey before you. Forgive us for our infidelity—that we have not believed it true that you are strong and that you are loving. May we not rest until we rest in you, our God. Amen Amen
An introduction to The Didache: "It Is Not Gospel, So Why Read It?"

4.10.2009

Read Mor Ded Peepl

In the spirit of Good Friday, read some of the encounter between Aslan and the White Witch here.

praying today's psalm: psa 61

Hear my cry, O God;
Listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
A strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever
And take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

(Psa 61:1-4, NIV)

Father, life is wearying. We cannot sustain our hearts. We stumble in discouragement. We are paralyzed by fear. Please be our strength, our courage, and the one who gives us life. Our spirits long for your presence, but our bodies give way. Our spirits are willing, but our flesh is weak. Have mercy on us. Come be present with us. Amen Amen

4.09.2009

david: the man after god's own heart


In my reading, I have been in 1st and now 2nd Samuel. I forgot how great these books are. Most of it, as you know recounts the life and times of David. There are three things you notice about David: (1) he was courageous, (2) he cried a lot, and (3) he had a profound - almost ridiculous - respect for authority.

His respect for authority began with his respect for God's authority. David believed that God is the one who puts authorities in their places. Consequently, to set your hand against the Lord's anointed is to set your hand against God. How did this translate? In spite of being anointed king, assured that he was the man to replace Saul, and the fact that Saul had actually taken to hunting him down with the intent to kill; David would neither defend himself nor take Saul’s life. When some young Amalekite came and—thinking he was bringing David good news—told him that Saul was dead and that he helped, David promptly executed him because he had the audacity to lift his hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed. (Then he cried.) Later, after he was firmly established as the king, he sought out the only surviving relative of Saul, not to harm him, but to bring him into his house and treat him as his own son.

When I read these stories about David—the man after God’s own heart—and consider today’s situation where rebellion against authority is almost a virtue, I cannot help but thinking we are going to get it. Let’s face it; our own nation was birthed out of the Enlightenment’s rejection of authority. It is in our DNA. In our churches, young 20 to 30-somethings are fed up with their authorities, leaving, and planting their own churches the way they want them. I think that this is going to come back to bite us someday.

The other day, I was listening to a lecture on Albert Einstein. The lecture was meant to highlight the fact that Einstein’s real genius was not his intelligence but his creativity. What I found interesting was that in his later years, he became a fierce defender of the then current consensus. In other words, he was defending the established theories against the new up-and-comers, of which he once was. When asked why, he said that it was God’s punishment for his early rebellion against authority to put him in authority. Someday, the pattern will repeat when all of today’s rebels become the establishment’s defenders of their then tired approaches, while the next generation of young 20 to 30-somethings tries to knock them off for being out-of-date and out-of-touch. Then we can all give a hearty laugh.

"I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.” G.K. Chesterton

praying today's psalm: psa 60

You have rejected us, O God,
And burst forth upon us;
You have been angry—
Now restore us!
You have shaken the land and torn it open;
Mend its fractures, for it is quaking.
You have shown your people desperate times;
You have given us wine that makes us stagger.

(Psa 60:1-3, NIV)

Lord, Let us not think that you are on this nation’s side—or any other. You are on the side of the humble and repentant in heart, alone. May we be so. Amen Amen

4.07.2009

sean mcdonough (of GCTS) on reading scripture

Again another entertaining but poignant post from Dr. McDonough here. This is on the problem with many of our readings of the Scriptures--namely that we read our own thoughts into it rather than drawing out what it is meant to mean.

I especially like his last line.
One final image: God in providing us with the Scriptural witness has, as it were, sent us off to explore the rich biology of a vernal pool. But we become so enraptured by our own image reflecting off the surface of the pond that we completely forget about probing the depths beneath.

praying today's psalm: psa 58

Do you rulers indeed speak justly?
Do you judge uprightly among men?
No, in your heart you devise injustice,
And your hands mete out violence on the earth.
Even from birth the wicked go astray;
From the womb they are wayward and speak lies.
Their venom is like the venom of a snake,
Like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,
That will not heed the tune of the charmer,
However skillful the enchanter may be.
Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
Tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lions!
Let them vanish like water that flows away;
When they draw the bow, let their arrows be blunted.
Like a slug melting away as it moves along,
Like a stillborn child, may they not see the sun.
Before your pots can feel [the heat of] the thorns—
Whether they be green or dry—
The wicked will be swept away.
The righteous will be glad when they are avenged,
When they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.
Then men will say,
“Surely the righteous still are rewarded;
Surely there is a God who judges the earth.”

(Psa 58:1-11, NIV)

(Apparently David has had a very hard day)

Lord, Jesus called us to love our enemies, and it is for that reason that Psalms like these seem incompatible—like the god of the OT is very different than that of the NT. However, Lord, it is for no other reason than that you have promised to establish your justice and avenge your enemies that we are to peaceably endure ours. You judge justly, while we judge selfishly. We remove the wheat instead of the tares. Nevertheless, I pray that you would wake us up from our apathy. That once again injustice would evoke anger from us. That we could not look upon the injustices done to others and the sufferings that others endure with indifference. May our anger be righteous. May it not be about the ways we have been offended, but rather how you have been offended. We hope for a day when the wicked will not prosper. We hope for a day when the righteous will not suffer. We hope for a day when you do set all things right. But we pray that that day would come through repentance—as it has for us—and would not have to come through judgment. Amen Amen

4.06.2009

praying today's psalm: psa 57

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,
For in you my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
Until the disaster has passed.
I cry out to God Most High,
To God, who fulfills [his purpose] for me.
He sends from heaven and saves me,
Rebuking those who hotly pursue me;
God sends his love and his faithfulness.

(Psa 57:1-3, NIV)

Lord, have mercy on us. Have mercy on us precisely because we do not take refuge in you. Because we take our problems everywhere but into the shadow of your wings. Because we cry out for help to everyone except to our God Most High. Have mercy on us. Save us from ourselves—let alone our enemies. Restore in us zeal for your presence. May we rest in no other. May we hope in no other. Amen Amen

4.04.2009

praying today's psalm: psa 55

Cast your cares on the LORD
And he will sustain you;
He will never let the righteous fall.

(Psa 55:22, NIV)

Father, this is an amazing thought - that you would care for our worries, anxieties, and burdens. We hope and trust that it is true. You are not indifferent to our suffering. Ultimately, you are not silent on the matter—but sometimes it seems so. We can take our sufferings to many destructive places, but you ask us to bring them to you. May we trust you enough to do so. Please, sustain us. Please hold us up because it seems like we are going to fall. Prove this promise true. Amen Amen

4.03.2009

a life well lived


Below is the account of the end of the prophet Samuel's life. What a picture of integrity! It amazing that he would be able to stand before his people and seek to make restitution with anybody he has wronged before he dies, but that his life was so well lived that nobody can make an accusation. Oh, that we would all be able to do this!

Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.” “You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.” Samuel said to them, “The LORD is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” “He is witness,” they said. (1 Sam 12:1-5, NIV)

praying today's psalm: psa 54

Save me, O God, by your name;
Vindicate me by your might.
Hear my prayer, O God;
Listen to the words of my mouth.
Strangers are attacking me;
Ruthless men seek my life—
Men without regard for God.

Surely God is my help;
The Lord is the one who sustains me.
Let evil recoil on those who slander me;
In your faithfulness destroy them.
I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you;
I will praise your name, O LORD,
For it is good.
For he has delivered me from all my troubles,
And my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.

(Psa 54, NIV)

Father, sometimes I do not know how to pray these Psalms because I do not live with the same kind of threats. Nevertheless, you do sustain me through trial. I do beg you that you will hear my prayers. But can I give you praise in my suffering? Lord, I pray that I would. Amen Amen

4.02.2009

youtube theologians - brueggemann on preaching

Input from you who occupy the pulpits and you who occupy the pews. This is an interesting piece on preaching. Walter Brueggemann, who is not unpopular with the missionals and emergents, says some stuff that seems very unmissional unemergent. What do you think about what he says? Should pastors devote the majority of the time to study and preaching? Would you want your pastor to do that? Is the sermon dead?

following jesus - I


the problem:
The above video is a hysterical—if not uneasily so—commentary on a very real problem when it comes to the person of Jesus and following him. The fact of the matter is that all of us see Jesus through our own lenses. The blessing of postmodernity—if there is such a thing—is the admission that not one of us sees the world with perfect objectivity. All of us possess conditioning and prejudices that color our understanding of the world. There may be an objective world out there, but we understand it subjectively.

This is what we bring to our quest for Jesus. In many ways, we understand Jesus as we have been conditioned to understand him. In a more sinister way, we understand Jesus as we need him to be. Or even worse, we understand him as we want him to be for our agenda. “I like my Jesus to party because I like to party.” Of course, Cal’s Jesus is an absurd caricature (i.e., NASCAR Jesus), but even in the scholarly quest for the historical Jesus, one quickly sees that a PhD does not give a person an unbiased, un-invested, and objective view of the person. Whether at the academic or popular level there are no shortage of opinions, perspectives, and angles.

You have: Jesus, the ethical teacher. Jesus, the American. Jesus, the Jewish prophet. Jesus, the miracle worker. Jesus, the magician. Jesus, the Cynic philosopher. Jesus, the eastern guru. Jesus, the Republican. Jesus, the Democrat. Jesus, the Marxist revolutionary. Jesus, the homeless refugee. Jesus, the CEO. Megachurch Jesus. Monastic Jesus. Jesus, the hippie. Jesus, the Aryan. Jesus, the apocalyptic prophet. Jesus, the tolerant. Jesus, the intolerant. Jesus, the lover of sinners. Jesus, the hater of sin. Jesus, the teacher. Jesus, the son of God. Jesus, the bastard child of an adulteress. Jesus, the ghost. Jesus, my homeboy.

Ricky's Jesus is just an absurd commentary on what is a real problem. As one example, it is interesting to think about the fact that at the same time in history both Sam Bowers, the Imperial Wizard of Ku Klux Klan, and Dr. Martin Luther King were committed followers of Jesus. Yet, their understanding of him and what it meant to follow him could not be more different. There is no one who is immune—no not one. To take it one step further, I would even go so far as to say that the four Gospels present Jesus from unique perspectives.

So, is there anything we can know about him? Are we, as some have said, unable to know anything about Jesus? Will our quest for Jesus always reveal more about us than it will about him? I think there is a way forward, but it begins with the question: “Do I really want to know?”

praying today's psalm: psa 53

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
There is no one who does good.
God looks down from heaven
On the sons of men
To see if there are any who understand,
Any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away,
They have together become corrupt;
There is no one who does good,
Not even one.
Will the evildoers never learn—
Those who devour my people as men eat bread
And who do not call on God?

(Psa 53:1-4, NIV)

Father, it is hard to face the truth—to look in the mirror. You say that the light shines in the darkness but that we love the darkness and despise that light. The light exposes all that is ugly about us—all that is shameful. It is certainly easy to look out at the world and see that things are terribly wrong. It is easy to see the evil out there. It is much harder to look inside and see the same evil. It is difficult for us to face our own atheism. Forgive us, Father. May we reconciled to you—as you promised—as we own our atheism and turn to you. May we be a people who prove this Psalm wrong. Amen Amen

4.01.2009

praying today's psalm: psa 52

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man?
Why do you boast all day long,
You who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
Your tongue plots destruction;
It is like a sharpened razor,
You who practice deceit.
You love evil rather than good,
Falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
You love every harmful word,
O you deceitful tongue!
Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent;
He will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see and fear;
They will laugh at him, saying,
“Here now is the man
Who did not make God his stronghold
But trusted in his great wealth
And grew strong by destroying others!”
But I am like an olive tree
Flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
For ever and ever.
I will praise you forever for what you have done;
In your name I will hope, for your name is good.
I will praise you in the presence of your saints.

(Psa 52, NIV)

Father, we do trust that you will make things right. We do rest in the hope that in the end there will be justice, that evil will be destroyed. The wicked will not prosper, while the righteous suffer, forever. But keep us from being too quick to call for that justice, for we might be caught in it ourselves. You desire a humble and repentant heart. You desire a people who trust in your mercy and who delight in your presence. Forgive us, Lord, for everything we have trusted in apart from you. Forgive us, Lord, for everything that we have loved and delighted in before you. Forgive us for loving evil rather than good, for practicing evil rather than good. Make us a people who grow strong by serving others. Make us a people who trust not in wealth but in your unfailing love. Make us a people who hope in your name. Amen Amen