Saturday, April 29, 2017

But Did They Find the WMDs? Scripture Faithfully Questions Scripture - Brad Jersak

Back in February of 2010, while reading Eric Siebert's book entitled Disturbing Divine Behavior, I engaged in a stimulating e-exchange with two friends (Brian Zahnd and Brian Schmidt) about the implications of a Christocentric reading of the conquest / genocide narratives in the Book of Joshua (I now prefer the terms "Christotelic" a la Peter Enns or "Cruciform" which I first heard through Zahnd). We were challenged to pursue a high view of Scripture that takes seriously the Bible's invitation to and modeling of what Derek Flood would later describe as "faithful questioning" of the text (in his excellent book, Disarming Scripture). 

During that discussion, I claimed such faithful questioning did not begin with Christ and the New Testament authors who question Old Testament reports of divinely-sanctioned violence. In truth, we see the practice already at work in the Old Testament ... and not only when the Prophets question the Law (Jeremiah 7:21-23) or when the Chronicler contradicts earlier interpretations of David's life (compare 2 Samuel 24 with1 Chron. 21). Such faithful questioning of the Joshua conquest already occurs right within the book of Joshua. 

OT scholar, Matthew Lynch, would confirm this for us in a video interview with CWR here: followed that up with a fine series of articles that begins HERE.

At the time, I identified two competing voices at work within Joshua that I labelled state-sponsored spin texts versus investigative journalist texts.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Finding Life in Losing Control - Justin Stumvoll

"Control, as you may know, is an illusion."

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m here sitting quietly in my house. Abi, my wife, is away for the week speaking at events and I’m enjoying some leisure time reading a book.

With Abi gone, the house is clutter free. Mind you, she’s a self-proclaimed hurricane. And to give her credit she’s light years beyond where she was when we got married.

I used to joke that if you wanted to find where Abi was, after she got home from being away, you could simply follow the trail of clothes and items that she would slowly shed as she made her way through the door to her destination. I, on the other hand, am like a silent ninja. As I enter the home I put away everything from the day in its rightful place, leaving the home looking like no one was there.

On this Sunday, as I sit here in my clutter-free space, I’m in a zen-like state, lacking only the companionship of the one I love. Abi jokingly, with a hint of seriousness, always asks,

“Does it feel good to have me out of the space and to have everything in order?”

I jokingly, with a hint of seriousness, always answer,

“Boy does it!”

In relationship with Abi, I am always out of control with the house. Like all relationships we always find ourselves, in one aspect or another, being out of control. In some instances, we fight aggressively to gain control. We’ll go to all kinds of lengths to get it, even if it means breaking the spirit of those we love.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Eternal Torture: Divine or Human Vengeance? Greg Albrecht

Hell is a subject many religious people get all hot and bothered about. It’s one of the most disputed and controversial teachings within Christendom. The squabbling is not about the surety of judgment for depravity and wickedness. Most Christians agree that there is and will be divine judgment for evil. The battle for hell is all about specifications, temperature and longevity. The debate involves comprehending and communicating divine justice—and in the process humans export definitions of time and space into eternity.
But the Bible does not suggest that God needs to import our flawed perspectives into the perfection of his eternity. While the Bible is remarkably silent about hell’s specifications, cool heads seldom prevail when precise speculations about hell are on the table. When theories such as the degree of suffering that exists in hell, how hot hell is and how long it lasts are under discussion, blood pressures rise and tension fills the room.
Some Christians take the view that hell is the battleground of true faith. Some draw a line in the sand in defense of the hottest kind of hell possible. Any other view of hell is discounted as a liberal, progressive, faith-denying, slippery-slope perspective that owes its existence to soft-headed humans rather than a theology that insists on sinners in the hands of an angry God. In some religious circles, belief in the most excruciating hell that humans can imagine and describe has come to be seen as one of the acid tests of true Christianity.
There are Christians who believe in judgment, but they are not as dogmatic about all of the details. I am one of those Christians. I believe in the judgment of hell, as defined as eternal separation from God, but I am far from dogmatic about specifics. I believe that the presumed necessity of eternal torture as a vindication and satisfaction of God’s wrath is a violent contradiction of God’s love and character as revealed in the Bible.

The Prince of Peace - Brian Zahnd

Brian Zahnd - The Prince of Peace from Plain Truth Ministries on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rim of the Visible World - Earth Day Reflection - Jason Upton

Isaiah's prophecy, cited by St Stephen:

"... the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says,
‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?’ (Acts 7:48-50 NIV) 

Jesus Christ's prophecy:

"But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship." (John 4:22-24 The Message Bible)

Or this excerpt from The Wisdom of Native Americans, by Kent Newborn:

There are no temples or shrines among us save those of nature. Being children of nature, we are intensely poetical. We would deem it sacrilege to build a house for the One who may be met face to face in the mysterious, shadowy aisles of the primeval forest, or on the sunlit bosom of virgin prairies, upon dizzy spires and pinnacles of naked rock, and in the vast jeweled vault of the night sky! 

A God who is enrobed in filmy veils of cloud, there on the rim of the visible world where our Great-Grandfather Sun kindles his evening camp-fire; who rides upon the rigorous wind of the north, or breathes forth spirit upon fragrant southern airs, whose war canoe is launched upon majestic rivers and island seas--such a God needs no lesser cathedral.

And this reflection by Jason Upton:

On the rim of the visible world 🌎 we go! Our God need no lesser cathedral. I wrote a Praise record on this -- it's called "On the rim of the visible world." This statement was made by Native American leaders who received Jesus, but just couldn't buy in to the "White Man's" idea that they needed to build houses for God! They thought it was ridiculous! 🔥 

I love churches, especially really large and old Cathedrals. But, I also love this statement. Sometimes we just have to live with tension when following Jesus. Happy belated earth day.

The Exchange - John Popovic

"Jesus Christ, Victor"
"Humanity sentenced God to death; by his Resurrection, God sentenced humanity to immortality. 
In return for a beating, he gives an embrace; for abuse, a blessing; for death, immortality. 
Humans never showed so much hate for God as when we crucified him; and God never showed more love for humanity than when he arose. 
Humanity even wanted to reduce God to a mortal, but God by his Resurrection made man immortal. 
The crucified God is risen and has killed death. 
Death is no more. 
Immortality has surrounded humanity and all the world."
—Justin Popovich

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Take Away the Religious Rocks - Greg Albrecht

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
—John 11:38-39
Religious rocks create barriers in our relationship with God. Notice the “red letter” words in our passage in John 11:39, the four words in this verse that Jesus actually spoke. Take away the stone….
The background for our passage begins in the first verse of chapter 11 of the book of John. Lazarus was sick. As the chapter unfolds we discover that Lazarus eventually died. His sisters Mary and Martha were overcome with shock and grief.
Our message begins at the house of mourning, in a place where we all have found ourselves. If you have not yet visited the house of mourning, it’s a place where you will eventually find yourself.
To be human is to be frustrated and confounded with our human limitations. It’s our human dilemma. We cannot continue our humanity, our life in this flesh, forever. So here in John 11 God is meeting us in a place of loss and despair.