celebrating repentent sinners

Sean McDonough, one of my great professors at GCTS, posted this on the 15th chapter of Luke, famous of course the parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son. He rightly points out that these parables are directed at the Pharisees, who are grumbling about Jesus' acceptance of sinners.

In other words, the real point of the parables is not - as is so commonly preached - to encourage the sinners about God's great love and forgiveness for them, but to rebuke the (self) righteous for failing to welcome and celebrate their repentance with him and the father. A needed word for many of us who have been sitting in the pews for years.

more philippians

Week three of our Philippians study.
Week 03 [Phil 1:27-30]



I think I am becoming infatuated with this guy. Here is an interesting interview with Dan Phillips the builder from my previous post. There are a lot of things to chew on here.

Here are the things that I think are very cool about him.
(1) He is using the market and a for-profit model for the common good. There are so many non-profit organizations that are trying to create these results. And even though they have great intentions and goals, they are dependent upon giving, grants, etc. to do their work. But if one can develop a profitable business that accomplishes the same goals, well then all the better.
(2) He is exposing many of our assumptions about what is possible. It is so easy for us to go with the flow or keep up the the Joneses, and get caught up in a certain way of life that is unhealthy and unsustainable. Until you see something like this, it is sometimes hard to imagine what is possible.
(3) He is able to critique much of the negative fallout of industrialization, capitalism, and market-forces; but has come up with a way to initiate positive change within the same system. In other words, he recognizes that these forces are driving us and unless we start to drive them, they will destroy us.
(4) He recognizes the value and dignity of work. He is helping the poor by employing them to work and teaching them skills, which will enable them to gain a level of independence and create a sense of dignity they have perhaps not felt in a long time. Plus, they become owners of their own property, which gives them a vested interest in maintaining it.

Check it out in three parts.

Cool Companies

Two in one day. Meet Phoenix Commotion in Huntsville, TX. This is perhaps one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Dan Phillips started Phoenix Commotions building low-cost homes out of reclaimed materials. In so doing, he is able to build homes for low-income folks like single mothers, train unskilled laborers (often-times the homeowners themselves), and reduce the amount of trash going into landfills. See some of pictures of their creations here. Other videos here.

This is practicing resurrection.

Cool Companies

Meet SWAP, Inc (Stop Wasting Abandoned Property). Started in the 70's in the face of a terrible trend of abandoned and blighted property, SWAP began with the mission of revitalizing neighborhoods and properties. As a Christian, I wonder about what a business model that practices resurrection might look like. I think it would be something like this. As the growth and wealth moves out to the edges, eating up more land and wildlife, moving people further from their places of work, and seeing the depreciation of neighborhoods in the interior; is there a place for businesses like this?

Chime in all you business and real estate minded folk.
Read an interesting and moving passage from the intertestamental work, 2 Maccabees. This is a story of the martyrdom of seven brothers and their mother set in the Jewish revolt against Antiochus IV Ephiphanes. It is illustrative of a belief in a bodily resurrection in Judaism before the time of Jesus, and how that belief fueled courage and faithfulness in the face of death.

Click on over to Resurrection and the Source of the Tyrant's Power.


Moral Constipation

Cornel West is a very controversial figure with whom I think I disagree on quite a bit, but whom I find incredibly challenging AND entertaining, nevertheless.

Over at BigThink.com, he did a short interview on "What to Die for." You get a good flavor for what kind of character he is. I especially liked this quote:

"So many folk dealing with spiritual malnutrition, brother. The emptiness of the soul, which is often times inseparable from a moral constipation. Where the good and right just get stuck, and you can't get it out. You need a little ethical diarrhea to get the flow going That is what we need right now."


The Manhattan Declaration

On November 20th, the Manhattan Declaration was released led by Chuck Colson and some 150+ signatories. To the best of my understanding, this is meant to be be a wake up call to Christians and warning to legislators on the matters of life, marriage, and religious liberty.

Read it here:
The Manhattan Declaration

Now let it be said, there are several names listed as signatories, for whom I have huge amounts of respect. But...

My first question? What is hoped to be accomplished? It almost seemed like giving up and saying, “you win, but just so you know, we are not going to obey.” One of my problems in general is our confusion about what our role in the world is to be. There is the sense that I get, that we see our purpose as getting the proper laws in place. In other words, that we would Christianize (or re-Christianize) our country, our government, and our laws. Now, I don’t deny our ability and maybe even responsibility to seek laws that make sense and seek the common good, but it seems that the purpose of the people of God is to call the nations to God rather than to conformity to biblical norms. In many ways, the biblical norms are meant to guide God’s people in the midst of their wicked surroundings. I think we have given way too much credit to the government by giving our responsibilities and our way of life over to them. In the sense that this declaration is written to wake up the church to live more faithfully, I am fully for it.

I would say, however, that it is way too narrow. This – to me – is a case of selective convictions. If we want to have a culture of life, then we also need to be decrying economic practices which exploit domestic and foreign laborers, practices of production and consumption which are harmful to our environment, positively working to provide health care the poor, and so on. Too often, the people who are hammering away at XYZ evils are apathetic or even endorsing ABC evils. (And this possibly because they have sided with a political party’s platform rather than the whole counsel of God.) If we are honest, there is more explicit biblical justification for the (re)distribution of wealth, care for immigrants, just treatment of laborers, and even the just treatment of land and animals then there is against abortion. Now, I am opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage, but if we are going to be faithful to Scripture, we need to open up this discussion wider than the select issues mentioned in this declaration. That being said, I think the mindset found through Scripture is that the people of God would be better than the world. That they would live beyond and better than the laws of the land and thus bear witness to the world of the God’s good and perfect will, expose evil and injustice, and call them to repentance and faithfulness to him. If the rulers and laws demand that we be unfaithful to God, then we would disobey man rather than God. This seems to be the goal of the declaration anyway.

I have more to say on the subject of liberty. But, that will have to be for another day.



new study: philippians

We are pushing right along in our small group moving to the Ephesians' canonical neighbor: Philippians.

Here are the first two weeks:
Week 01 [Phil 1:1-11]
Week 02 [Phil 1:12-26]


Time Management

If he's wrong on other issues, he is not on this one. Thanks, Mario, for this FB status update : )

One of the great uses of twitter and facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was NOT from lack of time. - John Piper