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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Hebrews 2 – The Human in Charge

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…

Some time shortly after that God said to the humans he created, “Fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  God has always intended for humans to rule over and have authority over the creation.  We were to be God’s representatives, caring for this creation in a way that was pleasing to the Creator.  However, when things fell apart it became clear that humans weren’t ruling the way God intended.  When humanity rebelled, the creation also rebelled against humanity (man must now work the soil and the flood are both examples).

And yet, Psalm 8 boldly proclaims, “You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.”  It’s a song remembering the way God intended things and also a song to remind us of how God intends them to be yet again.  And yet we know from our own life’s experience that things aren’t how they are supposed to be.

But Hebrews 2 shows us that the putting of things to rights has begun.  Jesus is the perfect human representative for God in the creation.  He has been placed just below the angels (echoes of Psalm 8) but is now crowned in glory and honor.  It goes on to say that he will call those of his family brothers and sisters.  It further emphasizes Jesus’ shared humanity with our own and how he can relate to each of us in our struggles and weaknesses.  

It also means that we are now called to join Jesus as the human rulers over this creation.  We step up to answer the call given to Adam and Eve.  We sing the song of Psalm 8.  We recognize the prayer that Jesus gave to his followers, the when God’s Kingdom comes that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  We are those who are called to be God’s representatives, bringing his peace, love, justice, and rightness to the world in every way we are able until Jesus returns and completes what he started and what we continue to do today.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Hebrews

 

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Hebrews 1 – Quit Playing with the Paper

I often observe my friends who have kids and take parenting notes. Someday those notes might come in handy. One observation I’ve made is that for the first few years of my children’s lives I won’t actually buy them anything. They find more joy out of unwrapping the present than the present itself. It isn’t uncommon for them to spend more time playing with the boxes rather than the toys themselves!

Hebrews is a long argument focused on Jesus being the climax of history and of creation. He is the focal point. He is the gift of God to the world. The argument throughout Hebrews is that once you have received the gift from God, you cannot go back to the earlier stages of God’s purposes. You must go forward. You must press on. You must put the boxes and wrapping paper aside and accept Jesus as the gift God intended for the world.

Hebrews presents the Law and the prophets as the wrapping paper and boxes that contained Christ. Now that we have Christ, the wrapping paper and the boxes have served their purpose. If we’re going to give up the wrapping paper, we need to understand the gift that it contained and Hebrews 1 sets the stage for that knowledge.

“He is the shining reflection of God’s own glory, the precise expression of his own very being.” – 1:3

Jesus is more than a “spitting image” or a “chip off the old block” of his father. Looking at him is like looking at God himself. His character is exactly reproduced, plain to see.

The opening sentence clearly shows us how the argument of the whole letter os going to run. “In many ways and by many means God spoke in ancient times to our ancestors through the prophets; but at the end of these days he spoke to us in a son.” Throughout history God sent sketches which showed glimpses of him but in Christ he has revealed the exact portrait.

In order to not settle for wrapping and boxes we must get to know Christ so that we can better comprehend the glory of the gift we have been given. To know God, you must know Christ. This is one of the things I’ve loved about being on this journey together. We continues to learn more about Christ and therefore better understand the God who loves us and wants to give us such a great gift. Know Christ and quit playing with paper.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Bible Blog, Hebrews

 

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Matthew 28 – Appearances and Disappearances

You have to admire the courage of the women who went to look at the tomb.  Mark’s Gospel includes the detail that they went to anoint Jesus’ body, but Matthew simply says they went to look at the tomb.  You have to remember that when Jesus was arrested by a contingent of Temple guards, the Apostles scattered into the night.  When Jesus was testifying before the Sanhedrin, Peter is denying him left and right for fear of being associated with Jesus.  After the crucifixion, they are all huddle together in a room trying to decide what to do and hoping they don’t end up on crosses too.  Meanwhile, the women head right down to the guards who were guarding Jesus’ tomb.  They don’t shy away.  They won’t run from these Roman guards.  They aren’t worried about a stone in the way of the seal placed upon the tomb.  They simply know that what they intend to do is right and that it must be done. It’s no surprise that this kind of courageous faith is rewarded with the first appearance of Jesus after his Resurrection.  Truly this is a great example of faith that we see in these women in this story.

The text then tells us about the guards reporting what had happened to the chief priests.  This is pretty remarkable.  Keep in mind that in about 80 days, Peter and John are going to be standing before this same group of men, testifying that they killed the Messiah and that Jesus then rose from the grave three days later.  This testimony matches that of the Roman guards who saw the angel and the empty tomb.  Not only do the Jewish leaders know that an angel brought Jesus out of the tomb and initiate a cover-up of this fact, but when the Apostles start telling the story they begin to persecute the Apostles.  They even go so far as to pay off the Roman guards and assure them that they can take care of the governor if he hears of their failure.  These are some pretty serious allegations.  This kind of conspiracy makes Watergate look like child’s play.

Finally, Matthew ends his Gospel with the Great Commission, “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  Surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”  This passage is especially important to me as a minister and also as Northwest gets ready to gear up for our March for Missions effort to raise money to do exactly what Jesus challenges us with right before his Ascension.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Matthew

 

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Matthew 27 – The Servant King Gives His Life

There is so much in this chapter to take in that I think I’m going to do my best to just hit some key things that I haven’t really focused on before. If you have questions that aren’t addressed, I’d love to have some dialogue.

The question of Judas’ repentance is an interesting one. What was the real motivation behind what Judas did? He had followed Jesus for 2-3 years at this point. Was 30 pieces of silver really worth having him killed? At the point that Judas saw that Jesus was condemned to die he was filled with remorse. I tend to lean in the direction that Judas really did see Jesus as the Messiah but his understanding of Jesus as the Messiah was way off. He wanted the warrior king who would rise up against Rome instead of the servant king. By turning Jesus over, Judas thinks (in how I see it) that Jesus will have to come to action and rise up. Judas is trying to get the ball rolling for Jesus to take power by forcing his hand. The implications of his actions were unexpected by him. Was Judas saved by his repentance? What he did is not beyond the forgiveness enacted on the cross. The question we need to ask ourselves is in what ways do we try to force Jesus’ hand in being the Messiah he didn’t come to be? Do we pray or do certain things so that we will then be bless monetarily? Continue to read the Gospels and get to know Jesus so you don’t make the same mistake Judas makes.

Pilate’s name is important here. He is a real person who connects the real Jesus to the real world. Pilate’s role is to keep some kind of control over an ever troublesome group, the Jews. He is a state official and he wants to know if Jesus is a rival to Herod. What he doesn’t even think to question is whether or not Jesus is a rival to Caesar. When Christians profess that Jesus is Lord they are emphatically saying that Caesar is not.

Pilate does everything he can to set Jesus free but ultimately he has to appease the crowed to keep peace. Rome doesn’t care too much about the things Jesus has claimed about himself or even what others have claimed about him. Rome simply wants order.

Jesus is silent before his accusers because he is the new order of peace standing in the face of the old order of lies and injustice. He is willing to be wronged when he could use power to be right. He is the model for how we should approach a world of evil.

If Pilate saw Jesus as an innocent man, why did he have him flogged? In order to execute someone in the horrible way of crucifixion they must be dehumanized. They beat him and then mock him. The soldiers were doing what they do. They were going about business as usual. They had no idea they had God in the flesh before them.

With Jesus on the cross, he is faced with the same temptations that were before him in the wilderness. This time the desire to give into those temptations are much greater. “If you are the Son of God…” prove it. Not only did they mock Jesus but they also mocked God, calling God out to save Jesus if he really is his father.

The question has come up throughout history as to who actually killed Jesus. Matthew’s gospel has often been used to justify calling Jews “Christ Killers” bringing about (or justifying) persecution of the Jews. Did the Romans kill Jesus? Pilate? Me? Humanity? Matthew’s gospel emphasizes that Jesus gave up his spirit. He willingly died for the creation.

Matthew points out who of Jesus’ disciples were actually there by his side. The disciples had fled but the women stayed. Joseph of Arimathea plays a significant role in the passion story. With Jesus’ comments in the Gospel of Matthew about the rich, it is interesting that Matthew points out that Joseph was a rich man. He made a bold move in asking for Jesus’ body. This could have gotten him thrown in prison or even killed but Pilate ordered that Jesus’ body be given to him. Using his own tomb, Joseph gives Jesus a proper burial because he was fully human and fully died.

Mary and the other Mary seem to be the only followers of Jesus who listened to Jesus that he was going to resurrect from the dead…though they seemed to miss the three days part. They sat faithfully across from Jesus’ tomb being the examples of what it looks like to fully follow Jesus.

Not only did Mary (x2) remember that Jesus said he was going to resurrect from the dead but the chief priests and the Pharisees remembered as well and asked for a guard to be posted. Sixteen men post guard anticipating the disciples and build our anticipating for what will happen tomorrow.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Bible Blog, Matthew

 

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A Prayer for Prisoners in Pelican Bay

A few weeks ago I came across an op ed article by Shane Bauer in Mother Jones.  You can read the article here.  You might remember that Shane was one of three Americans held prisoner by Iran for over two years prior to his release in early 2012.  Last month he wrote this article for Mother Jones about his visit to Pelican Bay State Prison in California.  He writes of the thousands (11,000 in California and over 80,000 nationwide) who are kept in isolation, away from any other human.  They sit alone in small cells without contact with other inmates or the outside world.  Journalists are not allowed to contact them.  Many of their cells do not have proper facilities.  Shane describes how the conditions these Americans live in while imprisoned in American prisons is worse than what he experienced in Iran.  

I don’t necessarily intend for this to be a political piece.  I am sure that there are violent and dangerous criminals who are best kept away from other people for reasons of safety, security, and crowd management.  What struck me as I read this though was how this group of criminals have no voice.  And I don’t mean they have nobody to talk with.  I mean they can’t speak for themselves, have little or no advocates, and cannot appeal for justice.  It’s a dangerous thing when any, even the dangerous in society, have no voice, and no few number of the writings of the Old Testament Prophets would agree with the need for God’s people to stand up with the broken, give voice to the voiceless, and to seek justice for all.

I do hope that you will take a few moments to do what Christians are instructed to do in Hebrews 13:3 and “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourself were suffering.”

Please take some time to pray for all of those in prison.  I would ask you to remember two friends of mine, Daniel and Kris (Kris is Ryan’s brother) who are currently incarcerated, and also that you would pray for all of those who suffer in isolation throughout our country.  Even if just for a day, that our voices could be lifted up on their behalf.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2013 in Hot Topics

 

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Matthew 26 – Why Did Judas Do It?

The seventy-five verses in Matthew 26 are some of the most important in all of Scripture.  They recount Jesus’ final conversations with his Apostles before his death, the implementation of the Lord’s Supper, his prayers in the garden, his arrest, and his betrayal by Judas, and to some extent Peter.  It’s a very heavy chapter.

There are many scenes in movies and literature where a character has received a death sentence or a fatal blow, but they still have some time to say something to the people they care about the most.  Every work is gripping and filled with importance.  Moments remain to say what matters most.  It is in this moment that the events of Matthew 26 take place.  As the readers of the story, we know what’s coming and the text draws us in.  If you read any of this chapter outside of that seriousness, then you are missing much of what’s going on.

In light of the vast content of the chapter, I want to focus on a single element, and one we often overlook.  I want to explore Judas’ betrayal.  Judas is one of the most infamous villains in history, often known simply as “the betrayer.”  He is hated and despised throughout art and history.  Perhaps what bothers us the most is the question, “How can you see what he saw, hear what he heard, know what he knew, and then sell Jesus into the hands of his enemies?”  We don’t know.  Complicating the matter further is that the only real descriptions we have of Judas come from a group of men who were best friends with the man Judas betrayed.  (When I read about Judas in John’s Gospel, I can almost imagine John spitting every time he says Judas’ name.)

But what could possibly motivate somebody to do what Judas did?  This is clearly an exercise in imaginative reading, but I think it’s important that we are always willing to try to see beyond the text and so I want to make several suggestions for what might have led Judas to betray Jesus.

  1. Money.  The standard idea is that Judas was greedy (an idea reinforced by John who says Judas stole from the money bag intended for the poor).  It’s certainly a plausible argument, but there are some holes in the story.  For example, certainly Judas could have negotiated for a higher price if money was his primary interest.  And why throw the money away later?  And he couldn’t have been stealing too much money or somebody would have noticed earlier, right?
  2. A caveat in the money theory is that perhaps he thought he had an ace up his sleeve.  After all, he could turn Jesus over to the Pharisees and if Jesus didn’t want to get crucified he could simply walk through an angry crowd, call ten-thousand angels, or escape in a whirlwind.  And, Judas turns a profit in the process.
  3. The Devil made him do it.  Luke seems to suggest this in 22:3.  This is a troubling idea for many reasons, but would explain how Judas was with Jesus for years, then betrayed him, then was racked with such guilt and remorse that he killed himself.
  4. Judas wanted to “force Jesus’ hand.”  Earlier in Matthew, Satan tempted Jesus to throw himself off of the Temple and let the angels catch him.  Surely this would have caused all of those present at the Temple to declare Jesus Messiah at that very moment, King of Israel.  Perhaps Judas is trying to create a similar dynamic where Jesus would have to start a revolution to save his own life and finally become the Messiah that Judas wanted him to be.  This feels like a stretch  to me, but is historically/culturally plausible.
  5. Jesus told him to.  After all, how many times did Jesus tell the Apostles he was going to Jerusalem to be handed over to the Jewish leaders?  And then Jesus tells Judas at the Lord’s Supper, “It’s you.”  Could Judas have thought he was being instructed?

Ultimately, we don’t know.  And the reality is, that Judas was a real person with real thoughts and real emotions.  It could very easily have been some combination of these motivations or something else entirely.  What we do know is that the guilt consumed him and he tried to give back the money, but even that wasn’t enough and he killed himself.  It’s a dark story and a difficult one.  We cannot imagine how he did it.  I cannot imagine how he felt when Jesus looked at him that night in the garden as the soldiers led Jesus away and the other Apostles, his former friends, scattered into the night.  Did he watch the crucifixion?  Did he live long enough to know of the resurrection?  Would it have mattered?

It’s not a happy story, but it is a real story and it’s part of Jesus’ story.  The Bible is not naive to the pain and darkness of this world.  The Bible never tries to hide that things aren’t the way they should be.  Christians shouldn’t either.  People today often ask how the world can be so bad if God is good and God is in control. The Bible acknowledges all of those things to be true but doesn’t have a problem with it.  But it does put forth an answer to all of the darkness and pain, an antidote to all that is wrong and broken…

…and we will cover that next week when we get to Matthew 27-28.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Matthew

 

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Matthew 25 – The World is Going to End! How Should You Live?

The question of the end of time is not answered in any way really. As usual, Jesus answers the question that needs to be asked and isn’t being asked. The question was how to interpret the end times but Jesus gives us a cue that this question isn’t as important as we think it is. People have spent way too much time trying to predict the end of time. A major war breaks out and they think Jesus is about to return. The real focus of Jesus’ comments is that after he leaves we will not know when he will return but we should be ready. What do we do in the meantime? That is the question Jesus really answers.

In chapter 24 there is the parable of the two slaves and Jesus doesn’t explain it. Instead, Jesus tells two more parables in order to explain what the first parable was talking about: the ten virgins and the talents. These two parables together emphasize the necessity to be both watchful and the work necessary those who watch. Jesus uses the familiar formula of “The kingdom of heaven will be like this,” but this time he uses “Then” signifying to the disciples how they must learn to live in light of his death and resurrection. While Jesus is away, he calls us to live as he did in this world.

Jesus connects the parable of the ten virgins with the phrase, “for it as if.” The preparation of the five is associated with the money that has been entrusted to the three slaves. The parable of the talents is possibly one of the most misused parables. Jesus is not using this parable to recommend that we should work hard (not that working hard is  a bad thing). Stanley Hauerwas says that, “The parable of the talents is a clear judgment against those who think they deserve what they have earned, as well as those who do not know how precious is the gift they have been given.”

The servant who received only one talent feared losing what he had been given and turned it into a possession. The contrast is the other two recognized that to try to secure the gifts they had been given would mean they would certainly lose it. They understood the joy of the banquet, the joy that comes from learning to receive a gift without regret.

These two parables are commentaries on the slave who continued to work, to feed his fellow slaves, until the master returns. The climax of Jesus’ response to his disciple’s question is the Son of Man coming in his glory. Jesus will come as king but like the triumphal entry, Jesus isn’t the king like everyone expected. He is the servant king and in this case, he is the shepherd-king. He will separate the sheep and the goats. The question here is while the king was away; did you continue to do what he was doing? Were you a proper representative of him in this world? Did you continue to do what he started as the Kingdom of God?

It is significant that the righteous have not known that when they ministered in these ways that they did all of this for Jesus. It was simply in the fabric of who they had become. They were so in tune with Jesus that they naturally continued to do what he did. The second group also had no idea that these people they ignored were Jesus. Had they known, they would have served them. The difference between those who follow Jesus and those who do not know Jesus is that those who have seen Jesus no longer have any excuse to avoid the “least of these” because this is exactly what Jesus was about. As Christians, we should naturally continue Jesus’ ministry in everything we do. Who are the “least of these” in our society? We tend to look to the list that Jesus gave and just minister to them because he has told us that when we minister to them we are actually taking care of him. Jesus died for all people. He died for the least of these. He died for those who are despicable in our society. Who are these people? How can we serve them?

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Bible Blog, Matthew

 

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Matthew 24 – Already or Not Yet?

Jesus and the Apostles were walking by the Temple when they said, “Jesus, look at all these beautiful buildings and structures.”  Jesus responds, “They will all be torn down. Completely torn down.”  Can you imagine if the Apostles had been American?  “Jesus, look at our founding documents and their inclusion of faith.  Look at our courts with the 10 Commandments above the doors.  Look at our confession of faith on our money.”  If Jesus simply said, “It’s all going to be destroyed.”  Can you imagine that shock.  That surprise exists in ways we can’t even imagine in between verse two and three.  Then the Apostles want all the gaps filled in…”What are you talking about?”

What was Jesus talking about?  He tells us some things directly and gives us clues to the rest.  He is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem, which we know from history happens around 70 AD at the hands of Rome.  The Temple was utterly destroyed and the siege of Jerusalem fits the horrific description contained in Matthew 24.  Jesus uses the Apocalyptic language of Daniel (verse 15 tells us that this is what’s going on) to paint a graphic picture of what is coming.  Verse 35 says, “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

It’s generally accepted that this first part of Matthew 24 is referring to the Fall of Jerusalem.  However, starting with verse 35 or 36 there either is or isn’t a transition into a number of prophecies and parables that continue through the next chapter even.  It’s difficult to tell whether Jesus is continuing to talk about the Fall of Jerusalem or the Final Judgment Day return of Jesus.  Let’s examine this a bit further.  Here are the opening phrases from each section:

  • But about that day…
  • At that time…
  • Again, it will be like…
  • When the Son of Man comes…

All of these introductions would seem to indicate that Jesus is continuing on the same topic and that he is connecting each story to the preceding stories.

Finally, chapter 26 begins with “When Jesus had finished saying all these things…”  This phrase is the first one that definitively ends that discourse and begins something new.  Although, common understandings of many of these passages assume that Jesus has already transitioned to talking about end times as early as verse 35 and almost universally by the beginning of chapter 25.  Adding further confusion to this is the ending to the parable of the Sheep and the Goats which says, “Then they will go into eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  This very much sounds like the end times judgment day.

This is how I felt writing this blog…hopefully it’s not how you feel reading it.

So what’s the answer?  Well it can certainly mean both.  If Jesus is describing to his Apostles the need to be constantly prepared and living with an awareness that Jesus will come in judgment of Israel and Jerusalem and that they must live like every day might be the last…isn’t that also true for us since we also know Jesus can come back in a big end-of-the-world kind of judgment at any time.  One of the advantages of speaking in parables is that it provides room to apply to many people in many situations and many times.

Is it possible that Jesus transitions earlier in the text to speaking of end times?  Yes.  Is it possible he never does transition to end times?  I can’t make myself believe that based on 25:46.  Can all of it be about the end times?  The time constraints that Jesus places on 24:1-34 make me think that it’s not all about end times.

So what?  So Jesus may come back tonight, tomorrow, next Thursday or in 1,343 years.  This should prevent apathy.  This should eliminate procrastination among God’s people.  This should affect how we prioritize and plan.  You and I should live every day as if tomorrow is Jesus’ (and our) homecoming.

 

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Matthew

 

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Matthew 23 – Blinded By Hypocrisy

For the most part, Jesus allows those who are questioning him to set the agenda. He is now making it clear that he is not there for discussion. His unrelenting concern for holiness is made clear in his severe attacks on the scribes and Pharisees. He calls them to task and doesn’t hold back many punches. Jesus is making it clear that the scribes and Pharisees cannot acknowledge that he is the Messiah because the do not live by the very law they advocate. Their hypocrisy blinds them from seeing Jesus for who he really is.

I’ve grown up hearing that we are not to call anyone “father” because we only have one Father. This almost was always in reference to the catholic use of “father.” I’ve always scratched my head about this because Paul implies that he is Timothy’s “father in the faith” and even refers to himself as the father in Christ to the Christians in Corinth (1 Cor 4:15). How literally should we take this command? Should we call anyone teacher or instructor? Jesus seems to be addressing the power structure that was in place at the time. When these titles (rabbi, father, instructor) are used in order to justify power over others they should not be used. When these titles are being abused in order to make them do things that are not of God they are to remember who their true rabbi, father, and instructors are.

The passion of the scribes and Pharisees for saving the lost is impressive. They would cross see and land just to make a convert. But their hypocrisy and the weight they place on others makes their converts “twice as much a child of hell” as themselves. This might be one of the harsher things that have been said.

The woes Jesus gives here are not unique in Israel’s life. I’m going to lean on my friend Stanley Hauerwas’ comments on this section. “Rather, they are a continuation of the prophets’ condemnation of the misuse of Israel’s gifts. Isaiah 5 is one long harangue against those who have misused the vineyard given by the Lord. Those who make iniquitous decrees, write oppressive statutes, and turn aside the needy from justice are condemned in Isa. 10. Jeremiah 13:27 condemns the abominations and adulteries of Jerusalem, and Amos 5:18-24 famously mocks those who desire the day of the Lord. Jesus stands in a long line of God’s prophets who in the name of God’s gift of the law to Israel pronounced judgment on those who have betrayed Israel. Jesus is not standing outside Israel when he pronounces the woes on the Pharisees and scribes, but rather his judgments are the judgments of Israel against herself.”

After pronouncing the same judgments of the Prophets’ before him, he laments for Jerusalem because he knows his fate, and their fate, is the same as before. He will be rejected and killed just like the prophets before him. We see Jesus’ passion in the end of this chapter. His motherly instinct to cover those he loves with his protection. The image of the hen gathering her brood is a powerful one. If fire were to come, the hen would gather them under her wings to provide protection, sacrificing her own life in order to save theirs. Jesus is the only way to salvation but they are not willing to gather under his protection. We too often live in a way where we look to ourselves to provide our own protection when Jesus calls us to simply gather under him. Set aside your arrogance, your pride, and gather under his wings.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Bible Blog, Matthew

 

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The Blessings of Atheism

There was an op ed written several weeks ago by Susan Jacoby in the New York Times about how Christianity does not have the only message of comfort for those going through tough times. In other words, “There are atheists in foxholes.” Read it here.

The argument put forth here is that atheists don’t lack a comforting view of what happens after death.  They can proclaim that death is the perfect sleep, free from all suffering.  The article even goes so far as to recommend that atheists need community leaders that function as clergy and can even conduct funerals and other memorial services.  Often Christians ask, “I don’t know how people can get through something like this without faith.”  This article seeks to answer that question.

In fact, Jacoby even believes that times of great trials and struggle are more problematic for people of faith.  They must attempt to answer how things like that can happen if there is an all powerful God who is good.  The two atheists mentioned in the article (Jacoby and a college student) both began moving towards atheism when dealing with that exact problem in their own lives.  However, not believing in God does not remove those questions from crisis.  If you believe humanity is the highest form in the universe then you find yourself asking, “How can people do things like this to each other and what does that mean about us?”  Even if you’re worldview is rooted in science you must deal with questions of ethics, psychology, and philosophy.

What concerns me the most about this article is Jacoby’s assertion that since Christians are so tied up thinking about the afterlife and the world to come that they have nothing to offer those living in this world.  This is a frightening claim, especially when it’s true.  In Jesus’ prayer he begins by asking that “God’s Kingdom come, God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”  Any focus and hope Christians direct towards the afterlife should have direct and significant implications on how they live in this life and treat people around them today.

Certainly there is much more than can be said about atheism and Christianity today, especially regarding Jacoby’s assertion that atheism is more than a negation of other beliefs, but I won’t make much attempt towards that today other than to share a personal observation that Jacoby and many other atheists can trace their faith origins in a falling away from God and not a movement towards something greater.  Personally, a prefer a faith I can run towards than one where I am running away.  As to her questions of theodicy, a good God in a bad world, they are valid questions that faithful and doubt-filled people must continue pursuing together.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Hot Topics

 

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