Thursday, January 31, 2008

but now these three are abiding....

Between the first and second advents of Jesus, there is a triad of Christian character that should mark out those awaiting his return. These traits are faith, hope, and love. Love is greatest of these for several reasons [1 Cor 13.13, 16.14]. It fulfills the law [Mt 22, Mk 12, Rom 13.8-10]. And it will always abide. Faith shall be sight and hope will be fulfilled. But love endures forever. May the Spirit work these in us more and more as we give ourselves to kingdom labor.

Here are a couple places where they are found in close proximity:

  • 1 Cor 13.13
  • Heb 10.22-24
  • Gal 5.5-6
  • 1 Ths 1.3
  • Rom 5.1-5
  • Col 1.3-5

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

ROMANS 12.1-2

Rom 12.1-2 might be two of the most pregnant verses in the Bible. They hinge on the previous eleven chapters of grueling and articulate theology. Paul’s plea with those in Rome is to do the impossible – to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. This is, of course, ridiculous. Sacrifices don’t live. Paul knows that. But apparently, doing this is the height of service and worship to God.

In 12.2, we finally have a direct command, two imperative verbs actually. What is strange though is that both of them are passive imperatives [“don’t be conformed” but “be transformed”]. I don’t want to over-theologize a verb tense, but how should we take these? Is their passive nature simply because of the essence of the command? Or is it due to their relation to God’s mercy in 12.1? Is it that these are heart and mind commands and they can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit? However these are taken, their end is to know God’s good and pleasing will. This is the goal of Paul’s exhortation.

I kind of like the NIV’s “in view of God’s mercy” in 12.1. But what “mercy” does Paul have in mind here? I think he is generally referring to all of chapters 1-11, more narrowly referring to chapters 9-11, and most specifically to the mentions of “mercy” in 9.15-16, 9.23, and 11.30-32.

There can be no thought of moving forward in sacrificial and unconforming transformation unless one’s grip is tightly on the mercy of God in Jesus.

everybody must buy this book [and an excerpt]

No, the Bible isn't a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his treasure. It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne - everything - to rescue the ones he loves. It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life.... There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the centre of the Story there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle - the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I was recently challenged to see how Mark's gospel account draws from Isaiah. This is especially true in how Mark portrays Jesus as the YHWH's servant, just like Isaiah does. Also notable is that Mark's gospel opens not with a genealogy, but by quoting Isaiah 40, which is the beginning of new covenant comfort in Isaiah 40-66. Here is a list of Markan texts that I believe have some of their thematic background in Isaiah.

YHWH is a fighting warrior [exodus 15.3]

  • Deuteronomy 1.30
  • Deuteronomy 3.22
  • Deuteronomy 20.4
  • Joshua 10.14
  • Joshua 10.42
  • Joshua 23.3
  • Joshua 23.10

more Shane Claiborne

It is a great joy to me to put Shane Claiborne on here for several reasons. One, I don't agree with him on everything, but I have more respect for him than almost anybody. Two, I know scores of people who think I'm a moron for reading him. I think he's friends with Rob Bell. Isn't that evil or something? Three, he always gives food for thought. As I said, there's no Calvinist, charismatic, or Catholic that can read him and not be pricked in their heart. I'm sure there's more reasons, but here we go...
I am going to Iraq because I believe in a God of scandalous grace. If I believed terrorists were beyond redemption, I would need to rip out half of my New Testament Scriptures, for they were written by a converted terrorist. I have pledged Allegiance to a King that loved evildoers so much He died for them [and of course the people of Iraq are no more evil or more holy than the people of the US], teaching us that there is something worth dying for but nothing worth killing for... We are all wretched, and we are all beautiful. No one is beyond redemption. May we see in the hands of the oppressors our own hands, and in the faces of the oppressed our own faces. We are made of the same dust, and we cry the same salty tears.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

i hope i get old like Moses and John Wesley

Although Moses was 120 years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated [Deut 34.7].

Today I entered on my eighty-second year and found myself just as strong to labor and as fit for any exercise of body or mind as I was forty years ago. I do not impute this to second causes, but to the Sovereign Lord of all. It is he who bids the sun of life stand still, so long as it pleases him. I am as strong at eighty-one as I was at twenty-one; but abundantly more healthy, being a stranger to the headache, toothache, and other bodily disorders that attended me in my youth. We can only say, "The Lord reigneth!" While we live, let us live to him [John Wesley].


Caring for the widow and the orphan is where the Bible puts emphasis when discussing social justice and mercy. The Lord has really dealt with my heart on these issues over the past year or so, especially reading Shane Claiborne and listening to Tim Keller. Here are the main texts that directly address this:
  • Lam 5.5
  • Js 1.27
  • Is 1.17
  • Is 1.23
  • Dt 24.17-22
  • Dt 10.18
  • Ex 22.22
  • Jb 22.9
  • Is 9.17
  • Is 10.2
But that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to know why the widow and why the orphan? Why not the rape victim, the war victim, the jobless father, or the sojourner? Why widows? Why orphans?

I remember leaning back in my chair and asking God this after
I read Deuteronomy the other day. Here's what came to me... that He desires to reveal Himself as the perfect Husband and the eternal Father [Jn 14.16-31, Is 54.5, Is 62.4-5, Hos 2.19-20, others].

I guess the point here is that the extending of the Gospel should revolve around Him.
Even the way we serve “the least of these” should cause us to dwell on His character. Lord, give me specific grace to this end.


Romans 11 is just as tough as Romans 9 or any other text in Paul. Along with slowly trudging through Romans, I’ve also been reading a little Cambridge Greek commentary on Romans from 1912. It’s so refreshing because much of it is removed from modern debate and discussion. It offers some excellent summary statements. On 11.23,

As the Gentiles came to share in the hope of Israel, so fallen Israel may share the hope of the redeemed Gentile.

On 11.25-32,

The argument is summed up in a picture of the wide and patient purpose of God… to bring both Jew and Gentile under His mercy.

Another helpful thing to remember while reading Romans 11 is that chapters 9-11 are a single unit. Many say that these chapters must be read with the covenant in view. I tend to agree with this. The word “covenant” is only used twice in Romans – 9.4 and 11.27, as bookends for the whole section [and only 9x in Paul total].

The phrase “according to election” is repeated in 9.5, 11.5, and 11.28 so as to give further pointers to his purpose.

Lastly, when reading 11, it is important to note which uses of “Israel” are referring to physical, ethnic Israel and which ones are referring to spiritual Israel.

9.14-23 is a tough pill to swallow; 10.8-17 shows the simplicity of the response to mercy; and 11 is unique about God’s plans for Jew, Gentile, and “Israel.” But Paul’s theological explanation [all of 9-11] and his emotional angst [9.1-5, 10.1-2] are not two issues, but one. Their union leads to the birth of great praise and gratitude for God’s wisdom for all mercy and redemption in history [11.33-36]. Impenetrable is the depth of God’s wisdom and knowledge for His sake.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


[and nine other misconceptions]

Mark Driscoll is usually pretty faithful and culturally astute in walking through books of the Bible in his preaching and teaching. This time, however, he's taking another approach.

He let people ask questions online and then vote for the nine they wanted to hear him preach on. Because of who and where he is, both the questions and his answers are fun to listen to. Give it a listen here or here. The issues are:

  1. birth control, etc
  2. humor & how he makes fun of people
  3. predestination & the problem of evil
  4. what he struggles with the most
  5. dealing with sexual sin
  6. understanding faith & works
  7. Christian dating & courting
  8. learning form "emerging" churches?
  9. the Scriptures, theology, & methodology

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


It was a bloody battle. 34,000 Hebrews died. They thought they should bring the ark of the covenant into town. After all, it was YHWH's presence. Maybe then they'd win or something. The Philistines heard them screaming and hollering when the ark rolled in. They got scared. Being the sneaky enemies of God that they were, the Philistines went and stole the ark of the covenant. Eli was judge at this time. When he found out, he fell out of his chair and cracked his neck in half and died. When Eli's daughter-in-law, who was pregnant, found out about all this she went into labor and gave birth and died. Before she died, she, probably in a really painful tone, said we should call her son Ichabod. Ichabod means "the glory has departed."

Then, these wily little Philistines put the ark of YHWH in their god's cute little house. His name was Dagon. The next morning, the Dagon statue was bowing down before the ark. Not cool if you're a Philistine. So they just sat ol Dagon upright again. The morning after that there was more bad news in the Philistine Herald, the local news papyri: the Dagon statue had not only fallen down again, but his hands and his head were busted off. After realizing how stupid their statue god was, they knew they had to get rid of the ark. But before they could, YHWH struck them with tumors and killed many of them. He is holy [6.19-20]. Don't presume on His glory or His presence.

After 50,000 more were slaughtered in Israel, the Hebrews knew that God's presence could not be confined to a box and that His promised mercy was all they needed. Thus, they pleaded with Samuel, "Don't cease to cry to YHWH for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines" [7.8]. Knowledge of need for intercession and rescue was not enough. They needed YHWH himself. But they rejected him as king [8.7].

Spiritually and practically pondering, how do I treat the presence of the living God? Or is it even on my radar screen? How often does His holiness influence the decisions I make? How often do I see my functional and pragmatic gods fail and fall before His wisdom, yet I still return to them? Under what circumstances do I think of Him as my King?

Father, thank you for Jesus and how all your promises are yes in Him [2 Cor 1.20].

MUSiC [trinity, harmony, infinity]

Thomas a Kempis said that

If your heart were right, then every created thing would be a mirror of life for you and a book of holy teaching, for there is no creature so small and worthless that it does not show forth t he goodness of God.

In music, there are only 12 notes. And within these 12, there are technically only 7 notes that help to define the remainder of the 12 [the notes A, B, C, D, E, F, and G are what we use to label the notes A#, G#, Eb, Bb, etc]. So, I really don’t know the huge significance of the 12 and 7, but let's just say that they indicate wholeness. For example, you can spell every word in Webster with 26 letters. In the same way, every song ever written is really just 12 notes intentionally rearranged. But here’s where it gets good.

I was giving a guy guitar lessons the other day and was trying to explain to him how every major chord has only 3 notes. I kept reminding him though, that each note in that chord can be played by itself. See, each note is one and each chord is one, but the chord is also three.

Best of all, music exists totally apart from what you think about it. Music is. It doesn’t have to have your stamp of approval. You can’t say that an E major chord is not an E major chord. It just is. However, your experience, involvement, and dedication to the external reality known as music can help other people cherish its beauty even if they can’t explain how they delight in it.

How much more does it have to be spelled out for us? He is there. He is here. He is near. And we are in need of a participation with something that can unplug our deaf ears to hear Music.

this is pure. you will cry.


Monday, January 14, 2008

10 things i wish JESUS never said [book review]

What I love about this book is the sources from where Victor Kuligin quotes. I haven't checked precisely, but it would not surprise me if he has cited writings from every century of church history. This includes quoting mystics, revivalists, the fathers, the reformers, monks, and academicians. He also has no shame in taking poignant jabs at American Christianity. It is devotional, theological, practical, and humbling. The impossibility of taking up one's cross is felt on every page. Lastly, Kuligin's tone is experiential. It is evident that he has fought some of these battles himself.

So, read away. Even if you're not on board with him 100% theologically, you will still be greatly encouraged, highly convicted, and find yourself totally dependent.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

haha t-shirts

Go buy the funny....

am i an anarchist or a libertarian?

My wife and I are in the library right now taking political quizes online to see who we should vote for for president. We have found out that Mitt Romney and his wife Ann are the best looking. John McCain is the oldest and thus the most likely to die from natural causes. Hillary gets hype because she's a woman and used to sleep with a former president [Bill, of course]. Mike Huckabee is an excellent bassist and is a Southern Baptist with his head on his shoulders. Obama was born in Hawaii, has a winsome personality, and has morbid thoughts on abortion. And I guess John Edwards is just a good ol boy [he grew up in Seneca, SC!] who ended up rich as snot.

All of this is just to put in perspective how much I'm looking forward to kingdom consummation and Jesus reigning eternally and unhindered. And maybe, just maybe, this book will help tide me over. And if its contents don't, its title will. It's due out in March 2008.

"who do you say that i am?"

"I cannot say that Jesus was uniquely divine. He was as much God as Krishna, or Rama, or Mohammed, or Zoroaster." [Mahatma Gandhi]

"I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It's just that the translations have gone wrong.” [John Lennon]

"If Christ was here now, there is one thing he would not be... a Christian." [Mark Twain]

"Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history." [H.G. Wells]

"If Jesus came back and saw what was being done in his name, he wouldn't be able to stop throwing up.” [Woody Allen]

"I would like to ask Him if He was indeed virgin born. The answer to that question would define history for me." [Larry King]

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

why i want to study, be like, and delight in JESUS

How are people not compelled to study Jesus and what he taught. Chronological history is understood by the time of his birth. Secular history asserts that he rose from the dead. He never wrote a book, but more books and songs have been written about him over anyone else. His wisdom transcended modern philosophy; his love crossed the boundaries of culture, family, race, and socio-economic class; his authority frightened dynasties and demons; his teaching perplexed the religious; his pervasive awareness numbs psychology; and his humility is an example to the truly pious.

He is the Lion and the Lamb.

He is the master and the servant.

He is full of grace and truth.

CHARLiE BROWN [a theology]

How can community, peace, and joy emerge in a cruel and competitive world? The famous comic strip
Peanuts is used as a paradigm to answer that. Here. Read.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


It doesn't matter when you leave the Grand Canyo
n, you always feel like you shouldn't. Well, at least in some sense. Being on the edge of something so much bigger than life and so much bigger than you envelopes you in its purity. The weight of fear I felt when I looked over the rail-less canyon into a 2000 foot drop of rock and ice matches the sweetness I sensed while taking in the magnitude of its beauty. Quick videos of it would fail. Words are blasphemy. Stories of "how good" can't do it justice. It must be experienced.

Here are my feeble offerings so that you might see a spark of glory and get the heck out there and experience it yourself. Who would've thunk a ginormous hole in the ground could be so amazing.

ROMANS 1.16 and 10.4 [present active substantival participles carry a durative nuance.... "are believing!"]