Saturday, February 10, 2018

Friday Five (late again)

The Super Bowl was great, wasn't it? And then all the celebrating in Philadelphia! The amusing thing about all the tsk-tsking of Philadelphians (you know, for climbing light poles, eating horse poop, etc.) is that their behavior is essentially no different than it would have been in any other city (except Boston, I suppose, where winning is no surprise). I'll tell you a little secret: football fans everywhere, well, they're kind like Philadelphians. In other words, this was merely football fan behavior, not Philadelphia behavior. 

Meanwhile, the SB commercials confirmed for me that we really do live in an excitement culture. Notice this? Everything has to be amped up, everybody has to be dancing, or conquering a mountain, or dreaming big big dreams, or running marathons at age 90 or something. Fireworks have to be going off all the time, and often people are leaping for joy. These tropes are so commonplace, it seems the advertisers have hit on something: the promise of stimulation sells everything from burgers to cars to insurance to prescription medicine.

Half-time show: I usually avoid these (like I'd avoid rats, used needles found in the trash, and, well, the plague), but sat through this one quietly. I don't know who this Timberlake guy is, in any case. There were some routine dance moves at the start, and then the guy just kind of strode from stage to stage amidst great displays of (you guessed it) excitement. The excitement, of course, was entirely staged. This just seems strange to me: a guy on stage "performing" for a faux crowd of super-excited "fans" (who are themselves "performing") who follow him (excitedly) as he strides from here to there to there, singing songs you can't really make anything out of: that is, you recognize the presence of rhythm, and you can tell there's lyrics of some sort, but mainly it's all just very exciting! The entire show was an encouragement to worship the "star." This is the entertainer-as-hero trope.

Getting away from all the pop culture nonsense, I'm reading this book (one chapter to go). It's really good,

And finally, to complete the once again tardy Friday Five: 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

5 for Friday (Super Bowl edition)

Why Tom Brady is not my favorite QB: he's spiritually goofy.

Whereas Nick Foles isn't trying to be a self-made superman.

I grew up in Pennsylvania, but have lived all my adult life in New England. I enjoy watching Pats games but do not love them. In the meantime, the Eagles are usually somewhere on the periphery of my football awareness. When they have a good season, I pay attention. Yeah, yeah, I guess I'm a fair-weather fan. Anyway, I've gotten myself pretty excited about these boys this year. They're a likable team and I'm rooting for the city as much as I am the team. Plus, they've got a lot of players with admirable faith:

The last time I watched an Eagles-Pats Super Bowl was with my church family at the time, a couple of hundred of them and all Pats fans. I can tell you this, some of them Christian brothers lost some significant ground in their sanctification that night! 

Eagles 37, Pats 34.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Wondering about the Prince of Peace

To be saved, to be born again is to be transferred from a domain of conflict to a kingdom of peace. This statement is, of course, a slight alteration (or perhaps expansion) of what Paul says at Colossians 1:13 (you can look it up!).

The "kingdom of conflict" is, of course, this world now. The world, as it has pretty much always been. This present darkness. The "kingdom of peace," on the other hand, is anywhere the Prince of Peace reigns. The Christ follower, every one of them, is called to be a representative example of the citizens of that kingdom. That might be why Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

High calling, that. We are representatives of a kingdom of peace. We aspire to be peacemakers, reconcilers. As children of God we bear the Spirit's fruit, one of which is peace. Peace is what Jesus came for, abiding and ultimately creation-encompassing peace. Angels sing about that in wonder.

Hard to follow in that high calling when we're always diving into conflicts, choosing sides, taking issue, grinding polemical axes. We do this over politics, we do it over theology, sports, or even styles of music, etc. It seems to be a natural inclination.

I'm as guilty as the next one when it comes to ax-grinding, but that inclination is always problematic. It's something that can darken the light that is in me. It can compromise the very mission that God has called me to.

So it's my goal to investigate the way of peace in the coming year. I must admit I hardly know what this means. For example, who are these peacemakers that Jesus speks of? How are they engaged in peacemaking? Is this always and only a spiritual matter, having to do with the reconciling of men with God? Or does the mission of the peacemaker encompass much more than that? I think the answer to that question is, yes, much more.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

"Ain't gonna study war no more"

The Olivetree Bible app, which I highly recommend, includes a lot of different daily reading plans. One of them is a 14-day "teachings of Jesus" plan, which I started yesterday. The first entry is chapter 1 of Luke.

Luke 1 ends with Zechariah's song. He sings about his newborn son, John, and about the one who will follow John, the one for whom John "prepares the way." It is John who will bring to his people an understanding that salvation is available through the coming on. That coming one, called the "Dayspring from on high" in the KJV, will "give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death." (v.78a)

This is pretty great, is it not? This is a promise of relief from the ultimate curse.
The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away. (Ps. 90:10)
This wonderful promise of God is not the end, though. The promise comes with a purpose. There is a reason God wants to save his children from "the shadow of death." It comes at the last, and it is a momentary vision of the restored kingdom of God, given to Zechariah at that moment when his tongue was loosed after months of enforced muteness.
. . . to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78b)
I repeat:
. . . to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78b)
I take this to mean a comprehensive kind of peace: peace with God and peace with one another (both of which were broken and lost at the Fall). So then, the word "peace" is nutshell summation of the restored creation. The peace of the Garden was lost, but will be restored. In this nutshell insight into the nature of the restored kingdom, it is the concept of peace that Zechariah chooses to highlight.

In chapter 2 of Luke the angels who come to the shepherds in their fields sing a blessing of peace as they announce the birth of a savior. And what does Simeon say when Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the Temple?
. . . he took [the baby] up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word." (Luke 2:29)
And let us not forget Isaiah 9, which lies behind much of this that we read in Luke. Isaiah's prophetic song in that chapter begins, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." This sounds familiar, does it not? And a little bit later, speaking the coming savior (the same that Zechariah would later prophesy in song:
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Is. 9:6)
The pattern is pretty clear. Jesus, the Christ, is going to be all about the restoration of peace. This simple idea is always among the first thing said about him, whether it is angels speaking, or prophets, or simple Christians testifying about their own salvation.

I'll make a bold statement here: we don't talk enough about peace. Peace is a kingdom attribute. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Peace is the promise of the Father. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God," but we live in a world that does not know "the way of peace (see Romans 3:17)." Interpersonal conflict began with Adam and Eve at the Fall (see Gen. 3:16 in particular), and the first generation to be born outside the Garden was marked by interpersonal bloodshed. Click over to any reputable news site, check out the local news from any city or state or nation you like, and you will see that what started between Cain and Abel continues apace.

My point: I pledge to be a seeker of peace. I pledge to dig into the Word for all that God has to teach me about peace, and I will try to be an ambassador for Jesus' coming kingdom of peace.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Friday Five

Russell Moore's been "killin' it" lately (where does that euphemism come from, anyway?)
I really enjoy the writing of Stephen Altrogge (have I mentioned that before?). This young man is tremendously insightful. Try this one, for example. Or this one.

Not only that, but we sing some songs in church that he had a hand in writing. Like this one:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Notes on the work of God in and among his children

The God who formed the universe from nothing is out to form you.

God's kingdom people, his Sermon on the Mount people, are subject to this shaping and forming, through the work of the Holy Spirit, as individuals and as a people.

In the end, child of God, you will be more like Jesus than you ever thought possible. You are the object of God's creative genius.

As this shaping process goes on, you will find yourself becoming more meek, more gentle, less decisive in your judgments, less confident in your own abilities and more dependent on God's.

Consequently, you will be praying more. You will often feel helpless if not for prayer.

You will find yourself becoming more merciful. Words of condemnation will not come so readily to your lips.

And more quickly repentant, more ready to confess your weaknesses, failings, selfishness, and pride (for God will show you these things in yourself).

You will find yourself loving the truth more, even if at your own expense.

You will grow in courage for the sake of Jesus. You will be more and more inclined to Give God glory, to extoll the virtues and power of Jesus.

You will be increasingly prone, like Jesus, to cry "Enough!" to violence.

You will be less and less enamored of the systems and power-structures of this world. It's ideologies will begin to pale, to seem shallow and pointless.

You will be more and more the one who looks forward, less and less the one looking back.

It will become very easy to let go of slights, insults, old-scores, rumor-mongering, passive-aggressive gamesmanship, and the need to manage the lives of other people.

In fact, by the end of this process, you will resemble the most loving, self-sacrificing man who ever lived: Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. That is God's plan for every Christian.