In the fourth quarter of 2008 American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages per month. That, dear friends, is nothing to LOL about.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
- The rigidity of Puritan morality.
- The extent of fundamentalism's legalism.
- The historic excess of Rome's ritualism.
- The fluidity of postmodernity's [I don't think this is a cool word anymore?] approach toward doctrine and ecclesiology.
I'm not saying that the above list is all bad. However, I do believe that most of any wrongness in these things comes from a specific source: a weak understanding of the Holy Spirit.
St Paul's understanding of the Spirit was that He was vital and active in the church. For Paul, the goal was never to give the Spirit a theological or theoretical head nod. I am even pressed to find an occasion where Paul's purpose is to assert the deity of the Spirit. Yes, he does write about the doctrine of the Spirit with clarity. Yes, he does hint at the deity of the Spirit in such a way that we should not question it. But what is the hub of wheel of Paul's pneumatology?
Paul sees the Holy Spirit as God's empowering presence in the community of faith. The Spirit is experienced corporately and individually as the relational means by which the covenant community lives. He gifts each member of the body for the building up of the body [1 Cor 12.7, 12.11].
I tend to think that a better experience and/or understanding of the Spirit's personal work in the church would have rightly nuanced the motives and practices of our friends in the list above.
Yet, we are all guilty of not yielding to His voice. May we learn to listen carefully to our Helper.
Friday, May 29, 2009
If the kingdom of God has come crashing into this present evil age in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection [Mt 4.17, Mk 1.15, Gal 1.4, etc], how do we live as citizens of that kingdom in the here and now?
St Paul's answer is that we live by the Spirit [Rom 8, Gal 5-6, 1 Cor 12-14, Eph 4-6, etc].
Paul even says that the Spirit is the "down-payment" and/or "guarantee" of the life with God that is to come [Eph 1.14]. This Greek word for "guarantee" is only used several times in the NT. In his excellent book SIMPLY CHRISTIAN, Tom Wright says that this word "in modern Greek means an engagement ring, a sign in the present of what is to come in the future" [pg 125].
Monday, May 25, 2009
This is an excerpt from Kevin DeYoung's book "Just Do Something" [pgs 50-51].
Passivity is a plague among Christians. It's not just that we don't do anything; it's that we feel spiritual for not doing anything. We imagine that our inactivity is patience and sensitivity to God's leading. At times it may be; but it's also quite possible we are just lazy. When we hype-spiritualize our decisions, we can veer off into impulsive and foolish decisions. But more likely as Christians we fall into endless patterns of vacillation, indecision, and regret. No doubt, selfish ambition is a danger for Christians, but so is complacency, listless wandering, and passivity that pawns itself off as spirituality. Perhaps our inactivity is not so much waiting on God as it is an expression of the fear of man, the love of the praise of man, and disbelief in God's providence.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
There are 18 Benedictions in Judaism, recited 3x daily. These blessings/prayers were developed between 5th century BC and the 2nd century AD, strangely straddling the life of Jesus. They are also known as the Amidah and/or the Shmonah Esreh. Listen carefully to several of them.
#1 is a prayer/praise for YHWH being the Father of the biblical patriarchs [Abe, Isaac, Jake].
#3 ascribes worth to God because of His holiness.
#5 is a petition for God to guide His people in the ways of Torah.
#6 is a petition/praise concerning forgiveness.
#7 pleads for God to "look upon our affliction; fight our fight; redeem us speedily."
#10 asks God to restore the exiles back to the land.
#12 desires for God to execute justice on the enemies of His people.
#14 asks God to restore Jerusalem.
#15 cries out for God to usher in a Davidic/Kingly Messiah.
#17 asks God to restore Temple services and sacrifices.
#18 requests that God would grant peace, mercy, and covenant love to His people, Israel.
Now remember, Jesus was a good Jew. He likely knew all of these and so did the people to whom he preached. So, when he says,
Our Father in heavenHallowed be your nameYour kingdom come
Your will be doneOn earth as it is in heavenGive us this day our daily breadAnd forgive us our debtsAs we also have forgiven our debtors
And lead us not into temptationBut deliver us from evil
When he said this, those listening had a specific frame of reference. But what Jesus does is odd. It is especially odd if you read the whole sermon [the one on the mount in Mt 5-7]. He has already spoken poignantly about Torah and he just dished out some painful blows to the super-spiritual regarding their gaudy prayer lives. He now arrives at the "how to" of sincerity in prayer. Kenneth Bailey describes it vividly.
Jesus de-Zionizes the tradition. The Lord's Prayer contains no references to Jerusalem or the Temple, and the disciples are taught to pray for the Kingdom to come on earth, which reflects a global concern for all people. Forgiveness is tied to forgiving others. No attack on outsiders is voiced. And there is no request for God to look on the suffering of His people or for God to fight for them.
Jesus changes it up because he is now the faithful Servant of YHWH who will be a light to the nations [Is 49.6]. He is the Davidic/Kingly Messiah [Mt 1.1, 1.18-23, 4.17]. He is Temple of God [Jn 2, Rev 21]. He is the peace, mercy, and covenant love of YHWH come to His people. He is the only satisfactory sacrifice [Heb 10]. Prayer is now about what God is doing through Jesus.
This angle on the Lord's Prayer is far more potent because it sits comfortably in its own context. Yet, its potency carries with it a kind of contrition that should be evident as well.
For THiNE is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I cannot tell a lie. It's my favorite TV show. I really do hope they come back and do a third season. It seems to be the perfect combination of comedy, drama, action, attempted hilarity, weird love triangles, secret government cheese, and late 80s/early 90s inside jokes. Also, I just recently found out that the main dude, Zachary Levi, is born-again brother in Christ. So, I've been praying for him that the Lord would use him mightily. He seems like a legit fellow.
My job on my set, I believe, is to first just love people and gain that trust with people where they know that I really do love them and care about their well-being, so that when they are running into problems, they will hopefully, at some point, come to me and ask me, “What is your peace all about? What is your comfort all about? Where do you get your love? Where do you get your talents? And I can turn to them and say without blinking, 'Jesus Christ.'"Praise God for believers who are talented and bright enough to ride the crest of the wave of culture in Hollywood.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I love cramming Ecclesiology into 3.5 days with my students. We are just hitting the high points. The only thing I want them to see is this:
If you say that you love Jesus and you don't love the Church, then you don't love Jesus.
That is not for shock value. It means exactly what it says. I could argue this from logic. Meaning, if Jesus gave Himself for the church and that includes me/you, then we must love our brothers and sisters.
Or I could use that text to say that part of walking in the way of Jesus is loving what God loves and hating what God hates. God detests sin, injustice, the work of the enemy. God loves Himself, His world, and His people.
Furthermore, I could send you to John's writings. John often talks about the necessary and righteous love of God to His people, His people to Himself, and His people to themselves. You know, "The world will know that you're My disciples if you have love for one another."
But none of those options is necessary.
"Peter, do you love Me?" This was Jesus' question. And the answer that makes it a reality is for Peter [and you and me] to love/tend/feed the flock of God.
But why did I say that my one-liner was the "only thing" I wanted them to see? Because that is pure ecclesiology. All of the fine points of ecclesiology [sacraments, church discipline, offices, etc] are merely ironing out that one bigger reality.
I guess I should still define "Church" shouldn't I? I'll save that for another time. But even varying definitions will not matter so much because the Church is about Jesus. That's my whole point!
If you say that you love Jesus and you don't love the Church, then you don't love Jesus.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Today and tomorrow in Systematic Theology class we are going to be discussing election. One of my main points is going to be that it was never really an issue of contention or debate. It was often a comfort through trial [Romans 8] or grounds for praise [Ephesians 1].
So, just as Eph 1.3-14 is hymnic in nature, I've tried to find some hymns that express humble gratitude for God's election of His people. Needless to say, this is a tough task. Aside from the classic "Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee" [you can listen to my wife and me sing a version we wrote here or read the lyrics here], I could only find a couple others. I think I like the following because I don't know who wrote it, I only found one verse of it, and I can mysteriously hear myraids of people belting out the "Hallelujah!" part. It is called "Sons We Are Through God's Election."
Pause, my soul, adore and wonder
Ask, "O, why such love for me?"
Grace hath put me in the number
Of the Savior's family
Thanks, eternal thanks, to Thee!
Saturday, May 2, 2009
I was reading some stuff on Blaise Pascal and John Locke this morning. It shot me in quite a lovely trajectory. Here we go.
MATH IS EXTERNAL
Who came up with the idea that 2+2=4? Not you. Definitely not me. I'm going to roll the dice here. It probably wasn't Descartes. What about Euclid? Pythagoras? The ancient Egyptians? The point is that 2+2=4 is true outside of us. It is an external reality from you and me. There are branches of philosophy that would wrangle with what I mean, but the broad point is simple: Math is not of human manufacturing. It's existence was here before you and will be here after you. This, of course, leads to
MATH IS ETERNAL
In first grade you learn to count to 100. Maybe around third grade you learn to count to 1,000. This guy knows 22,000 decimal points of Pi [3.14]. You know, the unending number that can't be a real fraction. He said them on Pi Day a couple years ago. C'mon... For real... Pi Day? Yep. It's March 14. Get it? Anywho. Those 22,000 decimal points are not even getting him warmed up to the eternality of Pi. He hasn't even started to break a sweat. He's not even in the arithmetic on-deck circle. Numbers have no end. That is the nature, beauty, and confusion about math.
MATH IS RELATIONAL
Numbers call out to you for a relationship. Meaning, if you don't know numbers, how will you pay bills? How will you grocery shop? How will you sustain a job? You have to relate to math to make life happen. It even tells us the time of day, which in turn, organizes our whole schedule. And strangely enough, the more we give our self to precision in our dealings with numbers, the higher chance there is that we will be better a this thing called life.
Now that last sentence is almost ridiculous, but you get the point. The most important thing in all this is that math can't relate to you, but only you to it. It has no emotions, feelings, sentiments, or relational capacities.
But what if there was an external from us, eternally incomprehensible, and relational "thing" with which we could be involved? That would sure change how I went about life. It would even make all this numbers talk make more sense.
- All I want to do now that the sun goes down later is take a drive somewhere in between 7:30 and 8:15 pm. I'm guessing my average speed is about 39 mph. Windows down, of course.
- How unusually flustered I get at my students' flagrant immaturity. This is just a handful of them, but why is the handful always the loudest?
- In the past year Sara and I have bought a house, bought a car, and made a baby. What in the heck am I doing?
- At all times, I try to use as little electricity in the house as possible [lights, fans, heat, AC, etc], thinking that it will drastically decrease my power bill.
- Whenever I ponder a new tattoo [a few times a month], I always talk myself out of it for financial reasons.
- My prayer journal includes thanks to God for stuff like rain, grass, mornings, and friends.
- I really really care about grass growing in my backyard.
- I really really complain about mowing the grass that I previously wanted to grow in my backyard.
- I actually forgot how old I was when a student asked me in class a couple months ago.
- More than several engaged couples have asked me to do their pre-marital counseling. This is just as hilariously scary as it is an esteemed honor.