Archive for June, 2008

Day 9, Colossians 1:10: A Life that Pleases God!

“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.”

“Christian living is that which, through the knowledge of God, is constantly bearing fruit and increasing in good deeds. Here, the emphasis is on the essential link between right beliefs and righteous conduct. In the end, false teaching is known by its fruits, or rather lack of them, for observation does not discover a clear link between claims to possess gnosis and actual goodness: whereas an awareness of God’s gracious acts towards us should lead to many gracious acts from us towards others.”—RC Lucas, Colossians, 39

Prayers have a point. We are not merely whispering into the wind and hoping that our prayers land somewhere or near someone. Nor, for that matter, was the apostle content to pray prayers that were the mindless ramblings and incoherent mutterings of someone who has no knowledge of the true God. Everything Paul did was to an end; prayer was no different.

I take the two phrases, ‘live a life worthy of the Lord’ and ‘please him in every way’ to be parallel ways of saying the same thing. I might also say this: How does one please the Lord? How does one live a life worthy of the Lord? Then he goes on: Bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. Let me take each one at a time.

First, live a life worthy of the Lord. I don’t think this is terribly complicated, but I think we make it terribly complicated. We seem to forget, for some reason, that we are not being asked to do something we have not been empowered to do. In other words: We can live a life worthy of the Lord! We are expected to continue living, but now the manner in which we are living is different. It used to not matter if we lived a life that was worthy of the Lord; we used to have no power to do so. But now things are different: Now we should because we can. We don’t quit living once we find ourselves in Christ. There’s a lot living to be done and those in Christ must do so in a way that is worthy of the Lord. I’ll leave it at that. ‘Worthy’ is a loaded word. Doing something now that was once simply beyond our imagination, capability or desire still strikes fear in many. Nevertheless, as we shall see, the longer we walk with the Lord, the more we know Him, the more we will understand what ‘worthy’ means.

Second, we are to please him in every way. Pleasing. Not only are we living, but we are to be pleasing him also. Here is what Jesus said concerning this: “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me” (John 5:30). Jesus’ ambition, his goal, was to please the Father who sent Him. I think what this means is that Jesus would never do any such thing that might notplease the Father. This means he was perfectly fair, just, and reasonable. It meant that it pleased the Father for Jesus to die; Jesus died. It meant that Jesus did not seek to go about satisfying his own ambition or desire, but only that of God. It means that Jesus was the first to ‘take up his cross and deny himself.’ Well, I won’t argue with you if you say that it is not always easy to ‘please God in every way.’ On the contrary, we wage war against the flesh because there are pockets of resistance. We still, even after we find ourselves in Christ, want to please ourselves. So he expects us, too, to reflect God’s character too in all that we do. It means the often difficult and terrible work of self-denial. It means that disturbing work of not pleasing the self. It means the complicated work of learning when it is appropriate to do so.

Third, we are to be bearing fruit. The New and Old Testaments are filled with this idea that a good tree will bear good fruit and a bad tree bad fruit. It is also consistent that fruit will be born in some way, and that by our fruit we will be identifiable. The Fruit we bear is a strong indication of our identity and to whom we belong. Jesus expressed it this way in Matthew 7:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

I wonder if Paul is making this statement, ‘bearing fruit in every good work’ because it is possible that some Christians might just get lazy and forget that we are called to living, that once we have been raised up from the grave, we are not to find ourselves slumbering therein any longer. If false prophets then are recognized by their fruit, how much more will the Christian be recognized by hers?

Finally, and here is where everything comes together, Paul writes that we are to be growing in the knowledge of God. This growing seems to be the catalyst by which all of our living, pleasing and bearing get their start and get their energy to continue on day after day. Growing in the knowledge of God. Here’s what else Paul wrote about this:

33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34″Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35″Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?”
36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

What better way to live our lives? Living, pleasing, bearing and growing. It sounds like quite a remarkable manifesto for living the Resurrection life, doesn’t it? As we grow in our knowledge of God, won’t our living a life worthy of him become much less complicated? As we grow in our knowledge of God, won’t our pleasing him in every way become far more important? As we grow in our knowledge of Him, won’t our bearing of fruit become far more productive? Yet also, as we do these things—living, pleasing, and bearing—won’t these things lead us to a greater understanding of God?

And these are the things that Paul never stops praying about for the Colossian Christians. It sort of puts a new perspective on the nature of prayer and on what our priorities ought to be during prayer. These things give meaning to our prayer that is far greater than the mere stringing together of words that some prayers are. Here’s what he prayed:

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Does this, in any way, resemble our prayers? Is this, in any way, the content of our own conversations with the Lord? Perhaps if we find ourselves struggling with living a worthy live, pleasing the Lord, bearing fruit, and growing in knowledge of God—perhaps, it has something to do with the content of our prayers, the intent of our prayers, and the purpose of our prayers. Perhaps the apostle ought to be our guide in these matters.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Friends,

This needs zero commentary.

HT: The Ferry Blog 

jerry

Friends,

I will state at the very beginning that this post is in no way, shape, form or otherwise an explicit or implicit endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for president. Regardless of how wonderful people think he is, regardless of how many think he is the new Messiah, regardless of how many people think his ‘The Rock’ like voice commands attention, he will not make a good president and I have serious concerns about his use of the Scripture in his political campaign.

Second, I will state that this post is in no way a condemnation of everything that Dr James Dobson says or does. I think Dobson has many good and true things to say about any number of issues regarding the family, and other issues. However, and I have said this before, Dr Dobson is not THE voice of the evangelical church and much of what he says politically opposes much of what other people believe about their faith; this is necessarily divisive. That is to say, Many of us wish that Dr Dobson would stick to family matters and stay out of political matters or at least keep his political matters to himself and stop pretending to speak for the rest of us. There are times when Dr Dobson seems to equate the agenda of the Kingdom of God with the agenda of the kingdom of America. God’s kingdom advance does not need America to do well or to be on some version of a moral code in order for it to move forward. It is a silly thing to beg sinners to act like saints or to expect sinners to do the things that saints aren’t doing or to expect sinners to line up their agenda with that of the Church just because Christians think they should.

If we want sinners to do the things of saints, then we should pray for sinners to become saints, but it seems almost fruitless to expect Christian morality out of people who explicitly reject Christ. This is like getting upset when Kathy Griffen makes rude comments about Jesus: What do we Christians expect her to do?

That said, an online friend, Odgie, posted a link to this website: James Dobson Doesn’t Speak for Me. The website is an unabashed Obama for president gimmick run by a pastor named Kirbyjon Caldwell whom I do not know (although, to be sure, there is nothing at the website suggesting that it is officially endorsed by the Obama Campaign or any particular congregation or denomination). Nevertheless, aside from his ridiculous support for the uber-ridiculous Obama, I like the statement as it reads. Here’s some of it:

James Dobson doesn’t speak for me.

He doesn’t speak for me when he uses religion as a wedge to divide;

He doesn’t speak for me when he speaks as the final arbiter on the meaning of the Bible;

James Dobson doesn’t speak for me when he uses the beliefs of others as a line of attack;

He doesn’t speak for me when he denigrates his neighbor’s views when they don’t line up with his;

He doesn’t speak for me when he seeks to confine the values of my faith to two or three issues alone;

What does speak for me is David’s psalm celebrating how good and pleasant it is when we come together in unity;

Micah speaks for me in reminding us that the Lord requires us to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him;

The prophet Isaiah speaks for me in his call for all to come and reason together and also to seek justice, encourage the oppressed and to defend the cause of the vulnerable;

The book of Nehemiah speaks for me in its example to work with our neighbors, not against them, to restore what was broken in our communities;

The book of Matthew speaks for me in saying to bless those that curse you and pray for those who persecute you;

The words of the apostle Paul speak for me in saying that words spoken and deeds done without love amount to nothing.

The apostle John speaks for me in reminding us of Jesus’ command to love one another. The world will know His disciples by that love.

These words speak for me. But when James Dobson attacks Barack Obama, James Dobson doesn’t speak for me.

Well again, aside from the uncritical support of Senator Obama, I think Pastor Caldwell has written well concerning the testimony of Scripture. I think what he says about the prophets and the apostles is well written and right on the mark. To be sure, I DO NOT believe Dr Dobson would disagree which is what makes all of this so much fun. They probably both believe every word that Caldwell has written aside from the part about Obama.

I am glad that Pastor Caldwell has written this even if I am particularly dismayed at his support for such a divisive and liberal figure as Senator Obama–not that McCain is any better! Seriously, maybe we could just go the next eight years without a president. That might be fun.

The only thing that kind of bugs me about the site, aside from the pathetic support for the senator from Illinois, is that there is no way to know how many people have actually signed the petition and the ‘testimonials’ page is not deep enough to get a good feel. There are some naive responses on the testimonials page too.

We might debate what role such public figures have when it comes to Christianity, the kingdom of God, and politicians. I have been wondering if it is right for Christians to call out politicians and hold them accountable. Others have suggested yes, we should. Strangely enough, those politicians that I might call out would be defended by Christians who in turn would call out politicians that I would defend. There seems to be no real solution to this yet. Maybe quiet, peaceful lives would be helpful. Thanks for stopping by.

jerry

HT: Odgie

PS–Just so I am clear, I am not endorsing the website, the petition drive, Senator Obama; I am not condemning James Dobson. I like what Caldwell says about Scripture and think it is well written. That’s all this is about, so please do not misinterpret what I said or wrote.

Friends,

Today the author of Slice of Laodicea is lamenting things that are now, in her words, ‘optional’ in the church. She wrote:

This is an apt description of evangelicals as well who now increasingly view cardinal doctrines like the deity of Christ, a literal hell, the substitutionary atonement and the Second Coming as optional.

I agree with her assessment, but I’d like to add a few things into that:

  1. Civility (in the sense that we treat one another with respect)
  2. Charity (in the sense of treating one another with respect)
  3. Grace
  4. Mercy
  5. Grace
  6. Love (in the sense of loving even those with whom we disagree)
  7. Joy (in the sense that some bloggers have no sense of it at all)
  8. Grace (in the sense that it not only justifies us by also sanctifies us)
  9. Latitude (in the sense that most of us are not yet perfect)
  10. Grace (in the sense that it is sufficient also for people not named ‘Ingrid’ or ‘Ken’ or ‘Pastorboy’)
  11. Humility (in the sense that ‘I’ might be wrong about a great many things)
  12. Laughter (self explanatory)
  13. Grace
  14. Love
  15. Patience (in the sense that we give people time to ‘grow up’ or ‘mature’ in their faith)
  16. Kindness
  17. Gentless
  18. Self-control (in the sense that we don’t assume we are the judge, jury, and executioner)
  19. Peace (in the sense that there are far too many ‘wars’ being fought on the internet world of blogdom over who is right, who is and is not going to hell, and who ‘is head of the church’)
  20. Goodness
  21. Faithfulness (in the sense that we understand who is the real enemy of the church; hint: it’s not other believers in and followers of Jesus)
  22. Justice (in the sense of Micah, Isaiah, etc.)

Well, this is just off the top of my head. Surely I have missed something. God and learn what it means, “I desire mercy.”

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:20)

And:

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I agree. Some bloggers, many Christians, need to learn this. As per my promise, I prayed for the author of Slice of Laodicea this morning.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

What is strange about this post is NOT the content per se, but the seriousness of the quotations attributed to certain people, the seriousness with which people are approaching this issue, the pride people are taking in the decision of the Spanish parliament.

Spanish parliament to extend rights to apes

I can only hope that this is a joke, but it appears not so. Evidently, there really is a Great Apes Project! This is from their home page:

The idea is founded upon undeniable scientific proof that non-human great apes share more than genetically similar DNA with their human counterparts. They enjoy a rich emotional and cultural existence in which they experience emotions such as fear, anxiety and happiness. They share the intellectual capacity to create and use tools, learn and teach other languages. They remember their past and plan for their future. It is in recognition of these and other morally significant qualities that the Great Ape Project was founded. The Great Ape Project seeks to end the unconscionable treatment of our nearest living relatives by obtaining for non-human great apes the fundamental moral and legal protections of the right to life, the freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and protection from torture.

Also, there’s this:

The organization is an international group founded to work for the global removal of non-human great apes from the category of mere property, and for their immediate protection through the implementation of basic legal principles designed to provide these amazing creatures with the right to life, the freedom of liberty and protection from torture.

Well, this is all fine and good. It is important that apes are afforded rights that many, many humans on the face of the earth are not afforded. But they are apes; so, why not? Evidently, their motto is ‘Equality Beyond Humanity.’

So, this article by Reuters. Here’s the first bit:

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s parliament voiced its support on Wednesday for the rights of great apes to life and freedom in what will apparently be the first time any national legislature has called for such rights for non-humans.

Parliament’s environmental committee approved resolutions urging Spain to comply with the Great Apes Project, devised by scientists and philosophers who say our closest genetic relatives deserve rights hitherto limited to humans.

“This is a historic day in the struggle for animal rights and in defense of our evolutionary comrades, which will doubtless go down in the history of humanity,” said Pedro Pozas, Spanish director of the Great Apes Project.

Here’s the last bit:

Philosophers Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri founded the Great Ape Project in 1993, arguing that “non-human hominids” like chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans and bonobos should enjoy the right to life, freedom and not to be tortured.

The irony is that animals should enjoy ‘the right to life.’ Animals will not argue with such a sentiment. Animals do not ask to be put in the zoo, or the circus, or in films; animals do not even ask to be studied by humans. In fact, animals ask for nothing but to be left quite alone to hunt, eat, sleep, and reproduce at their leisure. Humans should be stewards, not tyrants. But that fact (animal ‘rights’) has nothing to do whatsoever with evolution; nothing to do whatsoever with genetic stuff; nothing to do whatsoever with science; nothing to do whatsoever with ‘scientific proof’ (since there is none whatsoever). But because a scientist says it, a philosopher ‘confirms’ it, and a politician makes it happen, it is something that should be done.

If this story were not so laughable I might actually think that apes were on the verge of constructing a great city or developing a microchip or planting crops instead of hunting and gathering. I was almost persuaded that the great apes were on the verge of writing novels to share with one another.

You know, there is a great irony in all this. Here’s what I think. I don’t recall reading anywhere, in the vast annals of scientific literature, that the Great Ape ‘societies’ and ‘cultures’ have developed medical facilities where female apes can go to get clean, sometimes free, discreet, safe abortions on demand, up to and including partial-birth abortions as late as 5 months into the pregnancy. I have read nowhere in any of these books about the Great Apes debating before a supreme court over whether or not it should be legal to kill another ape just because it is unborn. I haven’t read anywhere, in any scientific journal, that the great apes had developed a systematic, legal, mechanized manner by which they might efficiently and effectively destroy the lives of other apes just because they were unborn. And yet the same humans who have developed and done such things are now going to extend the courtesy of the ‘right to life’ to apes?!? Forgive me if I don’t put too much stock in the survival of the great apes. 

If the great apes populations are in decline and need saving it is because humans have killed them too. Now we must protect them via legislation. I suppose before long the great apes will be asking us for freaking welfare too! Then they will want food-stamps. Then they will want tax-breaks. Then they will want free medical care. Then they will want social security. Damn, what has Spain gotten themselves into? If these apes ever figure out the way government really works, then we are up the proverbial creek without a paddle!

I know another endangered species that needs protection: Unborn human beings. Yes, that’s right. I believe that human beings, especially helpless, defenseless, voiceless, unborn human beings should have a Right to Life. This right to life should be as protected as that of the Great Apes–after all, we are much more closely related to unborn humans than we are to great apes.

You can learn more about the plight of humans by clicking the National Right to Life link I am providing. If you really, truly care about species survival, then write to your congressman and let him or her know that you think the United States should follow Spain’s lead and give unborn humans the same right to life as the Great Apes. I think this would be a good thing for evolution’s progress.

God have mercy on us! Lord we are so far from reality it is beyond imagination. Lord God, save us from ourselves and our own stupidity. Lord, don’t wait. And yet, give us the moral courage, fortitude, strength of conviction, and devotion to prayer to see an end to abortion and the destruction of unborn, innocent human life. And, have mercy on the great apes. Seriously. Because if the government is getting involved in their lives, the apes would be better off in zoos, circuses, and films.

jerry

PS–Good Job Spain!!

Friends,

Farewell to those who want an entirely pure church and purified church. This is plainly wanting no church at all.”–Martin Luther as quoted by Art Lindsley in Love the Ultimate Apologetic, 119

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

This is an excellent post at John Stackhouse’s blog. It concerns envy and ‘being ourselves.’ He writes:

Well, there are two differences. First, the people in the second list are all contemporaries who do something similar to what I do for a living, namely, academic work in the humanities. (That’s why you may not recognize all, or even any, of the names. Philosophers, historians, sociologists, and theologians are rarely household words!) The second point is that they all have enjoyed much greater success at some aspect or another of our common profession.

Ouch. It hurts to admit it, but it hurts more to live under it. How can I possibly publish as much as Marty? Or read as much as Noll? Or think as deeply as Wolterstorff? Or think as widely as Martin? And so on, and so on.

This is a great post. Pop over and read the rest. You will be glad you did. One last quote:

Life is short, distractions and demands are many, and we can misspend ‘way too much of our time and effort on matters that don’t matter, or in work to which we are neither inclined nor suited. Buckingham’s book is, like all wisdom, deceptively simple and clear, and I’ve found it to be effective. It has helped me move away from activities that I am not good at, or even some that I am, but don’t have much heart for, toward those through which I can do the most good for others and enjoy myself best while doing them.

jerry

Friends,

Just a couple of quick-hits tonight.

First, I have a short post at Advance Signs tonight concerning the Church in China.

Second, thank you, today is my birthday. I am now officially 38.

Third, please boycott Slice of Laodicea as now John Tesh is the latest heretic to fall victim to the Sword of Laodicea.

Fourth, why is Barack Obama so afraid of associating with American Muslims? Last week he asked some Muslim women wearing their head-coverings not to appear in a photo. Now, he is distancing himself from another:

As Senator Barack Obama courted voters in Iowa last December, Representative Keith Ellison, the country’s first Muslim congressman, stepped forward eagerly to help.

and…

“This is the ‘hope campaign,’ this is the ‘change campaign,’ ” said Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota. Muslims are frustrated, he added, that “they have not been fully engaged in it.”

and…

“The community feels betrayed,” said Safiya Ghori, the government relations director in the Washington office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

And you know what happened? The good senator, presidential candidate, rejected his help. I just don’t get that at all. I am confused. According to the article, the Senator has visited churches and synagogues, but he has not visited a mosque. I think this should change. The Senator will (if elected) represent ALL Americans, not just the Christians ones or Jewish ones. He will also represent the Hindu ones, the Atheist ones, the Buddhist ones, etc. I think the Senator should visit a Mosque and deliver a sermon speech.

Fifth, and finally, James Dobson is apparently involved in a war of words with Senator Obama:

As Barack Obama broadens his outreach to evangelical voters, one of the movement’s biggest names, James Dobson, accuses the likely Democratic presidential nominee of distorting the Bible and pushing a “fruitcake interpretation” of the Constitution.

Well, that seems about right. I have reviewed some of the Senator’s citations of Scripture and I agree that he has a tendency to distort absolutely obliterate the Scripture with his usage. I don’t know too much about his interpretation of the Constitution; although, I have heard that he is quite liberal. I don’t know if liberals can interpret the Constitution properly or not.

However…

“Folks haven’t been reading their Bibles,” Obama said.

Well, this is the first thing the Senator has said since the joke of a presidential race (on both sides) started the day after George W Bush’s second term began.

However…

Dobson and Minnery accused Obama of wrongly equating Old Testament texts and dietary codes that no longer apply to Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament.

“I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology,” Dobson said.

“… He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter.”

Dragging he may be, but I’ll say this: He is evidently reading it. Ironically, there are many preachers who stand up on Sunday mornings and do little else but ‘drag biblical understanding through the gutter.’ The Senator is a politician so we cannot expect him to be fully verse in all such matters of theology. But at least he, or at least a speech writer, is reading it.

However…

“Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?” Obama said. “Would we go with James Dobson’s or Al Sharpton’s?” referring to the civil rights leader.

I vote for neither. I think we should go with the Christianity of Jesus.

It amazes me that in this culture, so in tune with unrighteousness and and ungodliness as it is, presidential candidates are still judged by Christians by the amount of Scripture they quote in stump speeches, and by how well they do or do not understand it.

I love irony.

Oh, one last thing. I read this today: “Charles Darwin even said that any truly other-directed trait would negate the theory of evolution. Natural selection cannot produce it.” If you happen to be one of my Atheist, Darwinist, Evolutionary, God of the gaps, or Theistic Evolution friends, could you please tell me if this is true or not? I do not have time to peruse Mr Darwin’s work and I am curious. Is this why some Darwinists are always so quick to jump on the altruism bandwagon? I am asking a serious question here; I’m not being sarcastic or mocking at all.

Thanks.

jerry

Friends,

I published the manuscript for this sermon last night. This sermon is about 28 minutes long. I am preaching from Mark 5:1-43. You can see from the manuscript version of this sermon that I am trying to work out what it means to be involved in the re-creation of the heavens and the earth now. What does it mean to live the resurrection life now? What is the church doing now to promote the advance of the Kingdom of God, God’s rule, God’s reign begun in the Resurrection of Jesus? I am here not providing concrete answers as much as I am looking in a direction, trying to understand how the church is involved in what Jesus says in Revelation 21: “Behold, I am making all things news.” That is, I don’t have all the answers and probably conclude with more questions than answers. Nevertheless, I am learning and thinking in that direction. Perhaps you might listen and help me understand a little more of what God is doing in your life and in the world. –jerrry

Listen here: The Advancing Kingdom of God.

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Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

This is the manuscript of my sermon for tomorrow (June 22, 2008). It is based on Mark 5:1-42. Obvsiously, I have not dealt with every single issue in this chapter. Instead, I have highlighted a single aspect, namely, that Jesus did what others could not: Restored a mind, healed a woman’s suffering, raised a dead child to life. –jerry

The Kingdom Advances
Mark 5:1-43

1They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. 4For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

6When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” 8For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”

9Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

14Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

18As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

21When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet 23and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31″You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

35While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”

36Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” ).

42Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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 It should come as no surprise to you that this past week I finished reading another book. This book, Surprised by Hope, by Tom Wright is a fascinating examination of the biblical evidence for what it means to live the Resurrection life. I really wasn’t prepared for what I read, the conclusions he drew, and how they would affect my understanding of the Gospel life. Thus, I read:

But what we can and must do in the present, if we are obedient to the Gospel, if we are following Jesus, and if we are indwelt, energized, and directed by the Spirit is to build for the Kingdom. This brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15:58 once more: what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly to be thrown into the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are—strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself—accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. ( 208 )

And when I did I suddenly thought to myself: what I do in the Lord is not in vain. But I further thought: There is a lot more to this ‘go and make disciples’ than merely going and getting people to check off a checklist or recite a creed. Then I also thought: Everything that I do can be approached from the point of the Resurrection of Jesus; the firstfruits of the new heavens and the new earth. Then I thought, if all this is true—and I believe it is—then I have missed the boat in a lot of areas of my faith. God’s Kingdom is breaking in and breaking out. Jesus said in Revelation 21, “Behold I am making all things new.”

This means Jesus is currently about the business of fixing all the stuff that is currently broken, stuff that we have invariable had a sincere part in breaking. And yet, as Wright properly points out time and time again, our prayer, the one Jesus taught us is this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth…” If we have had a significant, almost exclusive role in the breaking of what God created, then through Jesus and because of His resurrection, we have a significant role in the fixing of it too. So our author continues:

Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world—all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God. God’s re-creation of his wonderful world, which began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God’s people live in the risen Christ and in the power of his Spirit, means that what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last all the way into God’s new world. In fact, it will be enhanced there.” (208-209)

I have to say, this is mind-boggling, revolutionary stuff.

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 There are three inter-connected stories in Mark chapter 5. We have first the story of a man possessed by Legion, a horde of demons. We have second the story of a woman who had a issue with bleeding for 12 years. And we have third the story of a man whose daughter was dying and by the time we reach the end—she is dead. These are very real people, with very real problems.

The first thing I noticed about these stories is that there is an element of mystery in all three. In other words, these are three hopeless cases. The man possessed by demons was bound hand and foot in chains and shackles and what does it say: “no one could bind him any more…” and also “No one was strong enough to subdue him.” This man was out of control. He was in a hopeless situation, a hopeless condition. He didn’t just have one problem, he had a legion of problems. He was confined to the tombs which suggests to me that he was, for all intents and purposes, dead already. No one can help him; there’s nothing we can do.

The bleeding woman was not much different. She had a condition for 12 years—a bleeding issue. It obviously caused her a great deal of pain, perhaps it also caused her a certain social stigma as well. Such things were not so freely discussed in that culture as they are in ours. But again, what does it say about her situation: “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” No one could do anything for her.

The story of the man, Jairus, is, again, not different. Here is a man who is in a hopeless situation. We don’t know why his daughter was dying or from what. We just know that she was. Presumably this man too had spent some time with doctors as I don’t think he wouldn’t provide care for this girl. And when Jesus gets to the house, and the girl is dead, then no one could do anything for her. What does it say, “”Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?” Translation: There is nothing anyone can do.

Three stories; hopeless all. There was nothing anyone could do. To alleviate living hell. Hellish living. Or death. Nothing. Human power had exhausted itself. It was pointless.

It seems at times that all our efforts are in vain, but maybe not.

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 We probably do the same, don’t we? I mean there are ill people all over the place. There are demon-possessed people all around. There are dying people everywhere. What do we humans do: More jails. More pills. More therapy. More doctors. More cemeteries. More asylums. These things are touted as solutions to problems that have causes much deeper than the mere physical manifestations of pain, erratic behavior and death. But these aren’t solutions. They are merely ways of ignoring the problem, they are ways of not treating symptoms not diseases, they are ways of silencing the demons but not driving them out.

These ideas don’t dig deep enough.

Does the church have anything to say about these situations? I think we do.

Jesus comes along and at the end of the story: “When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.”

Jesus comes along and at the end of the story: “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.”

Jesus comes along and at the end of the story: “He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” ). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.”

Here what we see is the advance of the kingdom: Jesus accomplishes what we cannot. Jesus will accomplish all that we hope for.

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 You see these were not just healings in and of themselves. The miracles were not ends in themselves. They were signs that pointed in the direction of something different. They were signs that pointed to a cure, a solution. They were signs that demonstrated the breaking in of the Kingdom of God a place where and a time when there will be no more people possessed by demons, there will be no more issues with blood, there will be no more death. But perhaps even more significant than that is this: It will also be a time when there is no more need for chains to bind people. It will be a time when there will be no more need for doctors. It will be a time when there will be no more need for resurrection.

Still, I don’t think that is enough. If these things are signs of the advancing Kingdom of God, and if we pray, ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ then what are we doing to advance the kingdom on earth? Are we waiting for God to move mountains? Are we waiting on God to return? Are we shapers and formers and advancers of the kingdom or are we, as I heard so eloquently put yesterday, polishing the brass while the ship sinks? You see, if God means to re-create the heavens and the earth, and all our work is not in vain, then what are we doing now to advance the kingdom, to promote justice, to drive out demons, to heal the sick, to raise the dead?

And I do not mean in any mean metaphorical way. What are we doing now, as resurrected people who will not go to heaven, but will inhabit the new earth, in new bodies? What are we doing now?

To put it another way, we live somewhere between the end of Acts and the closing scene of Revelation. If we want to understand Scripture and to find it doing its proper work in and through us, we must learn to read and understand it in the light of that overall story…As we do this—as groups, churches, and individuals—we must allow the power of God’s promised future to have its way with us. As we read the Gospels, we must remind ourselves again and again—because the pull of prevailing Western culture is so strong that if we don’t it will suck us back down into dualism—that this is the story of how God’s kingdom was established on earth as in heaven in and through the work of Jesus, fulfilling Israel’s great story, defeating the power of evil, and launching God’s new world. (281)

Friends,

I have published a post on this subject of doing justice. I am starting to learn what it means. You can access the essay here: Advance Signs. I’d appreciate any feedback you wish to offer.

jerry

Friends,

I will be doing a longer post at my other blog Advance Signs later. For now, please watch the video below. Friends, here’s how lame this is: I did not even know this mission existed.

I am ashamed of myself.

Visit: International Justice Mission.

jerry

Friends,

When I was a kid, I remember spending Sunday evenings (I think it was Sunday evenings) watching Hee-Haw with my family. I hated that show. I also remember that my mom and dad liked music by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers and Johnny Cash and other musicians like Ann Murray. Sounds silly, I know. Part of me hated that music and so I rebelled against it and opted for music with more of an edge. But there is something simple about that music, something that now, for some reason, I love. Hear this simple, beautiful song sung by Dolly Parton with Chet Atkins on guitar. There is something profoundly beautiful about this song.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

Last night I finished reading Surprised By Hope by NT Wright. I have to say that after reading this book, things like what you will see below suddenly have much, much more meaning. I offer these videos below with no comment or explanation. They are what they are.

Friends,

I have been pondering something deeply for a long time and I think perhaps some clarity is beginning to come through. I will be documenting this journey of mine on a new blog: Advance Signs.

I have taken these two words from a paragraph written by NT Wright: “If we are engaging in the work of new creation, in seeking to bring advance signs of God’s eventual new world into being in the present, in justice and beauty and a million other ways, then at the center of the picture stands the personal call of the gospel of Jesus to every child, woman, and man.” (Surprised by Hope, 225)

I am only beginning to understand what this means, but I will be chronicling the journey on my new blog. I invite you to participate and respond as I learn, grow, and share. There is much to be shared; much to be learned; and much to be done.

I have already made two brief posts.

1. Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done on earth…

2. All Things New

I hope you will have the time to stop by and participate in this journey, lend me your insights, grow with me in understanding God’s Kingdom and his will. I have a lot to learn and whatever help you can lend, whatever stories you can share about how Jesus is making all things new, would be much appreciated.

Soli Deo Gloria!