Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds. The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed.

via This Is Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore |

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drinkl without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 10:14–17, 11:27–32, NRSV)

Teaching Points

  • We have a share in the death of Christ. That’s good. And bad.
  • That is what makes us one.
  • Don’t make wild speculations about what it means to eat or drink in an unworthy manner. It probably doesn’t mean what you think it means.

To those who comment, ‘But you’re a bishop, so presumably you take a “Christian” view’, I reply: Yes; but the ‘Christian’ view I take, in my tradition at least, is to let the text to be the text, rather than make it say what we want. There is after all no one ‘Christian’ view on these matters. If it turns out that Paul says things I do not want to hear, I shall live with it. If it turns out that I say things which Paul doesn’t want to hear, perhaps he will one day put me straight. If it turns out that Paul says things the twenty-first century doesn’t want to hear, it’s better that we get that out into the open rather than sneakily falsifying the historical evidence to fit our predilections.

N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (vol. 4; Christian Origins and the Question of God; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 1133.

But I call on God as witness against me: it was to spare you that I did not come again to Corinth. I do not mean to imply that we lord it over your faith; rather, we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith. So I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came, I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice; for I am confident about all of you, that my joy would be the joy of all of you. For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent—not to exaggerate it—to all of you. This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ. And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11, NRSV)

Teaching Points

  • Church leadership is not lordship.
  • It’s together, not over.
  • Love, love, love conquers all.
  • Togetherness is important.
  • The enemy would love to tear us apart.

The argument here is that the “image of God” is carried through the line of Seth.

So the problem in Genesis 6 is that these “sons of God”–the descendants of Seth–”fall” when they begin to intermarry with the descendants of Cain (“the daughters of men”).

In Noah we don’t see this intermarrying, but in the movie we do see the worry emerge in Noah’s resistance to find wives for his sons from among the daughters of Cain.

via Experimental Theology: Noah, the Nephilim and the Descendants of Seth

Paul would have understood the old maxim about giving someone a fish and feeding them for a day as opposed to teaching them to fish and feeding them for life. He did from time to time give people blunt and direct instructions, to keep them on the rails for the immediate future. But he was far more concerned to teach them to think through, with a mind renewed by the spirit, what it meant to live in the New Age when the two Ages were still overlapping. Indeed, he was concerned to teach them to think, reflexively as it were, about the mind itself, and about its role within the total self-sacrificial obedience of the whole person. This, he would have said, is what it means to have the mind of the Messiah.

N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (vol. 4; Christian Origins and the Question of God; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 1124–1125.

Paul, as a pastor, knew that conscience was a sensitive instrument, and if roughly handled might suffer lasting damage. This, too, is part of the ‘not yet’ of the gospel. Presumably Paul thinks that in the new creation such problems will disappear. Learning how to live wisely within a world, and a church, in which such issues loom large is for him a further impetus towards a Messiah-shaped love in which no party insists on ‘rights’ and all concentrate on mutual responsibility and service.

N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (vol. 4; Christian Origins and the Question of God; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 1120.

Logos has written up a little introduction to the feature I mentioned the other day. In this little piece, Jonathan Watson has explained the sense of senses:

A sense is a meaning that can be attached to multiple words. For instance, the sense “deliverance” could be explained as recovery or preservation from loss or danger, whether physical or spiritual. This sense is employed in myriad passages, including Luke 1:69, Hebrews 11:17, and Psalm 82:4, using words like salvation, deliver, and rescue. They are different words, but they share the same sense.

via Introducing: Sense of the Day

You can learn a lot a little at a time this way. I highly recommend subscribing the the RSS feed.

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again, as you also join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Indeed, this is our boast, the testimony of our conscience: we have behaved in the world with frankness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God—and all the more toward you. For we write you nothing other than what you can read and also understand; I hope you will understand until the end— as you have already understood us in part—that on the day of the Lord Jesus we are your boast even as you are our boast.

Since I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a double favor; I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been “Yes and No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not “Yes and No”; but in him it is always “Yes.” For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God. But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment. (2 Corinthians 1:8-22, NRSV)

Teaching Points

  • Do you feel like being a Christian is hard in today’s culture? You ain’t seen nothin’. Yet, anyway.
  • Frankness and sincerity will go a long way. That is godly wisdom.
  • Don’t equivocate.
  • The Spirit is the first installment of the kingdom. He is the already part. Can’t wait for the not yet part.
  • Yes. And amen.

Paul believes in some sense in a present ‘kingdom of the Messiah’, and also ‘kingdom of God’, but normally when he speaks of the latter he is referring to the ultimate future. When he does so, it is sometimes in order to warn that there are certain present lifestyles which are simply incompatible with being part of that future. This is much more than simply providing a kind of ‘negative warrant’, a stick as opposed to a carrot. It is reminding people of an analytic truth: when the creator finishes his kingdom-project, those who are included within it will be those who have already learned to embody the kind of human life which reflects his own character.

N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (vol. 4; Christian Origins and the Question of God; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 1113. [emphasis added]

I’m feeling pretty good. Yesterday I taught our Sunday School class in the absence of our teacher. (I had been supposed to teach two weeks earlier, but I got sick and had to miss it. That turned out ok because only one other couple would have been there anyway, due to spring break.)

I enjoyed the preparation and the teaching itself. The class responded well to my very different style of teaching. It felt good to get back in the saddle after a few years off. I really miss the regular interaction that comes with teaching a Bible study.

I also have accepted an offer to lead a small group that meets a couple of Sunday nights every month. I warned the PTB that I don’t like to do the book club approach; I want to do straight Bible studies. I haven’t heard any objections. So that will start pretty soon, maybe in a month or so. I need to start thinking about what we will study.

Regular readers will know that we floated in the evangelical wasteland for three years or so. I swore I would never again attend a church of our denomination.

One shouldn’t swear.

Our new church is of the same denomination that I have been part of since the day I was born. It is the church of my parents and all my grandparents and even of all of my great-grandparents.

I am home.

And it feels good.

We are actually transferring our membership to our new church. I expected to never again be a voting member of a local church. So there you go.

Thank you very much, all you guys and gals out there that have loved me through this ordeal. Your prayers were efficacious.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation. (2 Corinthians 1:1-7, NRSV)

Teaching Points

  • Something about consolation or something like that.
  • Like, x10.
  • Our consolation is in the Messiah.
  • Whenever you see “Christ” in Paul’s letters, replace it with “Messiah”.
  • There is consolation, even in suffering.
  • Hope stands firm even in trouble.

Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:12-16, NRSV)

Teaching Points

  • Keep going. Don’t go down without a fight.
  • Jesus didn’t give up. Don’t you give up either.
  • The time is coming. Don’t give up.
  • Eternity with Jesus is an unimaginable reward.
  • So be it.

But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:13-18, NRSV)

Teaching Points

  • Speak what you believe.
  • Grace is extended to more and more people. We are the dispensers.
  • Don’t give up. Inner stamina is more important than physical strength or ability.
  • Hope is eternal.

Sense of the Day: Compassion

One of the newish features of Logos is the sense lexicon. This week Logos Academic started publishing a Sense of the Day to promote this great feature. Even if you haven’t studied Greek much you may enjoy following along with this series.

I’m not at all interested in the “goddess of novelty,” but I do keep an eye out for new solutions to the old problems theology has faced: God’s and creatures’ agencies and how they interact, God’s transcendence and immanence (how they can be held together), the nature of the Bible as God’s written Word, the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the roles of grace and human decision and action in salvation, etc., etc. It seems to me that all the avenues have been explored and “new” ones are simply old ones recycled. What makes them seem new is simply the new clothes they wear—their contemporary expressions.

via What’s New in Theology? (Some Musings about Novelty–Or Not)

Big point: young adults have been less affiliated for a long time; when they get married and have children they return to their faith. Part of the life cycle is reflected in this.

via Are Millennials Leaving the Church? What do the numbers really say?

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Corinthians 4:1-12, NRSV)

Teaching Points

  • Be honest and straightforward, as becomes the gospel.
  • Hold to the truth.
  • Don’t focus on yourself; focus on Jesus.
  • Don’t focus on the jar; focus on the treasure.
  • Don’t focus on us; focus on God.
  • Don’t focus on the trials and tribulations; focus on the victory and the purpose of it all.
  • Don’t focus on death; focus on life.
  • Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Food for thought. Next time you and I who are Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper, what will be thinking about? Will we be thinking of happy meals? Will we be thinking of our best life now, or will we remember Christ’s death until he comes, as Paul exhorts us? ”For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” 1 Corinthians 11:26; ESV. Will we be thinking of others—especially the least among us, or only ourselves? There sure is a whole lot of super sized thought to digest as we remember the Lord over the wafer, wine, and bread, isn’t there?

via The Lord’s Supper—A Heavenly Happy Meal?

Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!

Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:7-18, NRSV)

Teaching Points

  • Justification is much more fun than condemnation.
  • We have a bold hope.
  • The Messiah has set aside the veiledness of God’s glory.
  • Freedom!!!

Craig Evans and Matt Hauge are half done with a fantastic series on Noah. Whether the timing of the podcast was consciously timed to coincide with the movie, I don’t know. But it certainly is timely.

I have learned a lot from these two young scholars.

The series starts with Noah-01: The Ancestors of Noah (Genesis 5:1-32) – Bible Study and the Christian Life – Biblical Scholarship Made Accessible

Biblical Scholarship Made Accessible <— True

And while I was listening to Enns, thousands of miles away Rob was posting this piece. Rob and I are in an almost unbelievable connection.

I’m increasingly of the opinion that a faulty view of the Bible is the number one theological problem facing much of the church today.

Yes, Rob. I estimate that the simple measure of recognizing genre would fix most of it.

via Setting scripture free | Faith Meets World

Audio – Peter Enns on Inerrancy and the Bible

“None of us has certainty like that. We have trust. We have faith. We keep moving.”

We don’t live in a post-racialized world. The more we think we live in a post-racialized world the more we reinforce it and intensify others’ racial fatigue who live it.

Even so, many white people experience racial fatigue. One white Christian friend of mine who struggled greatly with such reflections as this post reacted strongly, in part because he has experienced reverse racism. He has not healed over it. Until he begins to experience God’s sustaining and healing grace for his reverse racism encounters, he will not empathize with what I am writing about here. So, how do we proceed?

via Racial Fatigue and Energized Suffering

  • Spring break season: I’ve had some opportunities to teach small groups due to people taking a break. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
  • Baseball season: My team is off to a poor start, but it’s early. I love being able to listen to the game while continuing with whatever I’m doing. Especially when there is an afternoon game and I’m at work.
  • Headache season: I have headaches all the time, but spring seems to be the worst for them. The pressure is changing a lot and I think that is the factor that causes my head to implode and explode at the same time. Think Scanners.
  • Lenten season: The death and resurrection of Jesus mean more to me every year. My journey with Wright for the last few months has enhanced the season for me.
  • War season: In my company, this is the time when young men go to war. Organizations are re-organizing. Groups are re-grouping. Roles are re-roleing. My own job is changing, which has an entailing stress.

To everything there is a season.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6, NRSV)

Teaching Points

  • Paul smelled like Jesus.
  • We are the smell of the Messiah to the world. How do we smell? Dead or alive?
  • Paul was a letter from Jesus.
  • We are the letter from the Messiah to the world. What do we say?
  • If we allow it, our smell and the contents of our little piece of paper come from God himself. We are not competent for the task ourselves.
  • The Spirit gives life. Dead or alive?

Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults. In the law it is written,

“By people of strange tongues
and by the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people;
yet even then they will not listen to me,”

says the Lord. Tongues, then, are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers. If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if all prophesy, an unbeliever or outsider who enters is reproved by all and called to account by all. After the secrets of the unbeliever’s heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, “God is really among you.”

What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let them be silent in church and speak to themselves and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to someone else sitting nearby, let the first person be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged. And the spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets, 33 for God is a God not of disorder but of peace.

So, my friends, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues; but all things should be done decently and in order. (1 Corinthians 14:20-33a, 39-40, NRSV)

Teaching Points

  • Childish thinking is more common than childlike innocence. Let’s reverse the trend.
  • We are to build one another when we come together.
  • We need one another for building.
  • Catch that? Decently. And in order.

Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church. Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I speak to you in some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? It is the same way with lifeless instruments that produce sound, such as the flute or the harp. If they do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is being played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves; if in a tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is being said? For you will be speaking into the air. There are doubtless many different kinds of sounds in the world, and nothing is without sound. If then I do not know the meaning of a sound, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church.

Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unproductive. What should I do then? I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the mind also; I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will sing praise with the mind also. Otherwise, if you say a blessing with the spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say the “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since the outsider does not know what you are saying? For you may give thanks well enough, but the other person is not built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you; nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. (1 Corinthians 14:1-19, NRSV)

Teaching Points

  • Keep all your mystical mumbo jumbo to yourself. It doesn’t help the church.
  • Practical is as important as spiritual.
  • Logical is as important as emotional.
  • The care of the church is paramount. Much more important than your own needs.

With a correct understanding of the purpose of worship it becomes clear that all of the idols Kauflin mentions:  musical excellence, musical preference, preaching skill, creativity, experiences and liturgy, are a result of a bad theology of worship.

via Idolatry in Modern Worship – Ian Columba

For the circles I am part of, musical preference seems to be the biggest idol.

I tell people that they are only in the service an hour a week. The other 167 hours they can listen to any kind of music they prefer. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

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