Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Beyond “Without the Shedding of Blood …” Brad Jersak

Beyond “Without the Shedding of Blood …”

I must say, I am thoroughly enjoying Christian theology in the budding era of a post-retributive Gospel. With the Western rediscovery of the Beautiful News, I’m feeling—dare I say it—positively born again! I am in awe and worship of the Father of Love, the cruciform God enfleshed in Jesus of Nazareth. The symbol of the ‘old rugged cross’ has once again come to represent, for me, God’s essential nature: namely, his self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love. And that’s good news for everyone! On the cross, in the face of human cruelty and bloodlust, God-in-Christ revealed his bottom line character: a mercy that endures forever—the loving-kindness that is everlasting. We discover that ‘the blood of Jesus’—i.e. a metonym for God’s self-offering, sacrificial love—can wash anything. Anything. Anyone.

Still, there will be holdouts who believe real justice requires retribution, vengeance and satisfaction of wrath. It’s okay. Many of us did … for nearly five hundred years. Happily, I can say it’s a passé ‘thing’ and we are starting to get over it. Hang in there! The shelf-life of the vengeful punisher is coming due and should pass away in not too many generations.

Admittedly, that stubborn old retributive system is also rather dangerous. I write this during a weekend when a famous Christian politician declared to the NRA that if she were “in charge,” she’d let terrorists know that “waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.” Lord, have mercy! Such a departure from the Jesus Way! But don’t hate her for her moment of sacrilege; it is what it is and didn’t come from nowhere. Maybe you’d say it too in the right context for a sufficient honorarium … on the Colbert Report perhaps? We all have our x-amount pieces of silver … this is why Jesus died even for Judas.

Moreover, such betrayals are not merely founded on a secular Constitution; they have rich backstories in Christian theologies of retribution. If, in our theology, God needs to use torture to bring about freedom, why should we be surprised when we become like the One we worship? Just a week or two ago, a radio preacher again made it very clear that if Easter means anything, it “begins with Christ dying to satisfy the wrath of God.”

Some theologians I respect to the point of a borderline man-crush (with apologies to New Testament Wright) repeatedly insist that the Gospel of an angry God who can only be assuaged through a violent sacrifice is just a caricature -- that no one really believes that or preaches it seriously. If only it were true. Sad to say, the caricature defense is an unsubstantiated cliché exposed easily enough by the trick question, “Then how does atonement work?” 

Eternal Torture – Divine or Human Vengeance? by 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.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Knocking Down Our Idols - by Caleb Miller

It has been said that "In the beginning God made man in His image, and man has returned the favor ever since".
What does this mean? It means that in nearly every area our "theology" (thoughts and words we say about God) has been shaped by how we view ourselves. The opposite is also true, how we view our God is largely shaped by how we view ourselves. If we abhor something, we naturally assume that our God abhors the same thing. We can't stand people of a different sexual preference, so we assume that God cannot.
And so it goes. We continue shaping God, molding Him into our image. We do as Paul said in Romans 1:23 - "making the incorruptible God into the image of corruptible man". We cling to idols we have made in our minds, some shaped by preconceived notions of God found on the pages of our bibles, others shape by societal and parental pressure. We hold on to personal vendettas and carve a little more of the idol, until in the end we have a God that looks more and more like a mirror image of ourselves rather than the forever loving Abba of Jesus Christ. 
It's time we knock our idols down. It's time we look to these graven images and insist that they will no longer have any sway over the revelation Jesus has given to us about His Father - whom He called "your Father" to a massive group of unbelievers. The moment we begin using our bibles, doctrines, theological constructs, personal preferences and the like to defend a God that looks nothing like Jesus, we are caught in the midst of idolatry. Brennan Manning has this amazing statement in his book "Abba's Child" where he says: "Have you grappled with the core question of your faith, which is not ‘Is Jesus God-like?’ but ‘Is God Jesus-like”.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

PTM E-updates

Would you like to receive regular updates and news from PTM, plus the weekly "UN-devotional" CWR Bible Survey?  CLICK HERE

Water to Wine (some of my story) - Brian Zahnd

Ten years later it’s time to tell some of my story…
I was halfway to ninety, midway through life, and I’d reached a full-blown crisis. Call it a garden variety mid-life crisis if you want, but it was something more than that. You might say it was a theological crisis, though that makes it sound too cerebral. The unease I felt came from a deeper place than a mental file labeled “theology.” My life was like that U2 song stuck on repeat — I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. I was wrestling with an uneasy feeling that the kind of Christianity I had built my life around was somehow deficient. Not wrong, but lacking. It seemed watery and weak. In my most honest moments I couldn’t help but notice that the Christianity I knew seemed to lack the kind of robust authenticity that made Jesus so fascinating. And I’d always been utterly fascinated by Jesus. Jesus wasn’t in question, but Christianity American style was.
I became a committed Christian during the Jesus Movement. I was the high school “Jesus freak” and by the tender age of twenty-two I had founded a church — as ridiculous as that sounds now! After a prolonged slow start I eventually enjoyed what most would call a “successful ministry.” At one point during the 1990’s our church was dubbed “one of the twenty fastest growing churches in America.” I was a success. Ta-da!
But by 2003, now in my mid-forties, I had become, what shall I say?…bored, restless, discontent. From a certain perspective things couldn’t have been better. I had a large church with a large staff supported by a large budget worshiping in a large complex. I was large and in charge! I had made it to the big time. But I had become increasingly dissatisfied. I was weary of the tired clichés of bumper-sticker evangelicalism. I was disenchanted by a paper-thin Christianity propped up by cheap certitude. The politicized faith of the Religious Right was driving me crazy. I was yearning for something deeper, richer, fuller. Let me say it this way —I was in Cana and the wine had run out. I needed Jesus to perform a miracle.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Could your Evangelical Church be called a Cult? Alan Molineaux

If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, and looks like a duck then it is probably a duck: or so the saying goes.

I have been part of the evangelical culture since 1975 when as a teenager I attended a small church in the east side of Manchester, England. At the time I was impressed by the community and the clarity with which they presented their ideas.

Over the years, however, I have seen my fair share of dysfunctionality; some of which was my own. 

There does seem to be a pattern in some of these moments that I believe is worthy of consideration.

First of all let me say that I am committed to remaining within the evangelical community, even though some of my views have been met with the kinds of reaction that suggests others might not agree.

Having said that I am not of a mind to stay silent about important issues just to be seen to tow the party line; it never ceases to amaze me how often people call for silence in the name of unity without recognising how this can have a tendency to enable unhealthy cultures.

I Thought It Was Good News -- by Chris Falson

This is a demo recording but by popular demand I am making this available before the actual album is recorded later this year.  This song (hopefully) speaks for itself... and while many have felt rejected by Jesus or God... the rejection really comes from people who either should know better... or don't really know at all. 

Share the song around, listen or download it for free or if you want to help fund the revolution purchase the track at the price of your choosing. Cheers!

I Thought it was Good News
by Chris Falson
(c) Leather Chair Songs 2014

There'll be no end to the holy wars
while the one in the right is wielding the sword
in the name of the Lord

yeah a lot of blood has spilled over this living word
But it seems as if nobody ever heard
a word he say

I thought is was good news

When the ones in the pulpit are merely fans
Not friends nor lovers of the son of man
How can they understand his plans

The Kingdom gates no longer open wide
How many bruised and broken will be denied
And have to stay on the outside

I thought it was good news

Yeah sometimes I wonder if we're talking bout the same man
Turned water into wine and healed the deaf and blind
And stepped into the gutter to love this heart if mine

I can read it in Red it says anyone
Any woman and man born under the sun
come on run to me

I don't see any barrier or stipulation
about color or race or orientation
its an open invitation


released 23 April 2014
Drum loops from David Raven, Tambourine from Danny Ybarra, guitars, bass and very tired (on tour) voice from moi    


all rights reserved

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Faith Unraveled (Re-release of 'Evolving in Monkey Town') - Book by Rachel Held Evans

Eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial made a spectacle of Christian fundamentalism and brought national attention to her hometown, Rachel Held Evans faced a trial of her own when she began to have doubts about her faith. Growing up in a culture obsessed with apologetics, Evans asks questions she never thought she would ask. She learns that in order for her faith to survive in a postmodern context, it must adapt to change and evolve. Using as an illustration her own spiritual journey from certainty, through doubt, to faith, Evans adds a unique perspective to the ongoing dialogue about postmodernism and the church that has so captivated the Christian community in recent years. In a changing cultural environment where new ideas threaten the safety and security of the faith, Evolving in Monkey Town is a fearlessly honest story of survival.
Previously titled "Evolving in Monkey Town"   Click HERE to see the promo video

“This book is an argument—Rachel argues with herself, God, the Bible, and Southern fundamentalism. Somehow, though, we are the winners in this argument because we learn and watch as a young woman emerges into a maturing faith that lets the kingdom vision of Jesus reshape her life. I found myself cheering her on.-Scot McKnight, author of The Jesus Creed 
Click HERE to buy the book 

The Long Road Back - James Webster

Have you ever taken a wrong turn that left you many miles (the wrong way) from your intended

destination? Looking back on the wasted time and energy, you probably thought something

like “how could I have been so stupid?” Looking back you may remember how long it took

you to get turned around and find your way (maybe even getting lost a few more times in the

process) to your desired location. When you are totally lost, you don’t know which way to go

and sometimes wander aimlessly searching for any clue as to what path to take. If you had to

back track, you might have even thought “it didn’t seem this far when I was going, but it sure is

a long road back.”

       Many who have sustained serious bodily injuries find themselves in lengthy rehab and spend

painful hours, days and sometimes years on the long road back. The sports world (although

often there’s little good sportsmanship involved) is littered with examples of injured athletes

who’ve experienced “the long road back.”

       Sometimes we either take or pick up a lot of baggage (weight) along the way. Those who

struggle with losing weight find that it’s a whole lot harder to take off the pounds than it was to

put them on. They too find it’s “a long road back” to their original weight.

There are many examples of our human endeavors which take us down the wrong road, and

the road nearly always seems longer on the way back. Addicts of all types learn the hard way

that recovery is a long road back.

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.

Mary and Martha are going through the same pain that all humans go through, and have gone through—the shock, heartache and grief at the loss of a loved one. Mary and Martha's Bible, of course, was the Old Testament. The Bible as we know it today was not available to them, and they certainly didn't have individual copies in their homes. Scrolls of the Old Testament, copies of originals, were read in synagogue.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How Does “Dying For Our Sins” Work? - Brian Zahnd

How Does “Dying For Our Sins” Work?
Brian Zahnd

When we say “Jesus died for our sins,” what does that mean? It’s undeniably an essential confession of Christian faith, but how does it work? This much I’m sure of, it’s not reducible to just one thing. I’ve just finished preaching eight sermons on “The Crucified God” and I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of what the cross means. To try to reduce the death of Jesus to a single meaning is an impoverished approach to the mystery of the cross. I’m especially talking about those tidy explanations of the cross known as “atonement theories.” I find most of them inadequate; others I find repellent. Particularly abhorrent are those theories that portray the Father of Jesus as a pagan deity who can only be placated by the barbarism of child sacrifice. The god who is mollified by throwing a virgin into a volcano or by nailing his son to a tree is not the Abba of Jesus!

Neither is the death of Jesus a kind of quid pro quo by which God gains the necessary capital to forgive sinners. No! Jesus does not save us from God; Jesus reveals God! Jesus does not provide God with the capacity to forgive; Jesus reveals God as forgiving love. An “economic model” of the cross just won’t work. It’s not as if God is saying, “Look, I’d love to forgive you, but I’ve got to pay off Justice first, and, you know how she is, she’s a tough goddess, she requires due payment.” This understanding of the cross begs the question of who exactly is in charge — the Father of Jesus or some abstract ideal called “Justice”?

When we confess with Paul that “Christ died for our sins,” we don’t mean that God required the vicious murder of his Son in order to forgive. How would that work anyway? Did God have some scale of torture that once met would “satisfy his wrath?” Think it through and you’ll see the problem. Was death not enough to satisfy this god? Did it have to be death by crucifixion? Did torture have to be part of the equation? And how does that work? Was there a minimum number of lashes required in the scourging? Did the thorny crown have to have a certain number of thorns in order for this god to call the scales balanced?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Resistance is Fertile: Christ is Risen and Death has Died -- Brad Jersak

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling down death by death
And upon those in the tomb bestowing life
- Paschal Easter Hymn

"Resistance is Futile" - the Borg
Contrary to the boasting of most fictional alien invaders, resistance is not always futile. In truth, sometimes resistance is fertile.

Case in point, a new friend was resisting the idea—even the possibility—that at the point of death, there may still be hope. Is death a locked door beyond which there is no further opportunity to hear and respond to the good news? My friend is sure of this. He cited the two classic texts, long known as deal-killers for any hope of a ‘second-chance’ at salvation:

“… it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment [κρίσις]”
(Hebrews 9:27).

And of course from the mouth of our Lord himself,

25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime received thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence (Luke 16:25-26).

That should just about wrap up the conversation, right? But resistance is fertile!

I suggested that early Christians—in proclaimingthe harrowing of hades—believed and taught that on Holy Saturday, Christ descended into hell (or hades), preached to the dead, and conquering death, led a parade of captives out of the grave. This idea was originally drawn from Ephesian 4:8-10, 1 Peter 3:19-21 and 4:6, then affirmed in the Apostles Creed. Jesus too proclaimed that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and they who hear shall live” (John 1:25-26). This reality is written beautifully into the Eastern icon of the Harrowing of Hades, where Christ has descended to find Adam and Eve, his lost children, and to lead them out from the hades into paradise.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Christianity Without the Religion Smartphone App

Now available for your smart phone/tablet on Google Play, Apple and Windows.
To download the CWR (Christianity Without Religion App), click here:

Welcome to the official Christianity Without the Religion and Plain Truth Ministries application for iPhone and iPad. This FREE App proclaims authentic Christianity without the religion. 

Our work is Christ-centered, based on God's amazing grace,
giving hope to those burned out by legalistic religion.

When you download this app you will have access to the daily and weekly audio and video messages of Greg Albrecht. Plus access to Plain Truth magazine and our weekly "UnDevotional" Bible Survey and much more.

For more information about Christianity Without the Religion and Plain Truth Ministries, please visit

The CWR/PTM app was developed with the Subsplash App Platform

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What does God without retribution look like? Ask Jesus -- by Michael Hardin

Nothing irks some folks more than losing a God who is wrathful, angry, retributive and punishing. This is only because we want so much to believe that God takes sides, and that side is inevitably our side. 
So much of Jesus’s teaching subverts this sacrificial way of thinking.
One example is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector found in Luke 18:9-14, where what counts as righteousness is completely and totally turned on its head!
If, in fact, as I argued in my last post, that Jesus begins his ministry by asking what God without retribution looks like (Luke 4), and if he acts this way in his ministry, and if he interprets his Bible to say such things, the question arises:
  • Shouldn’t we also follow Jesus in interpreting our Bibles in the same way?
  • Is biblical interpretation also a part of discipleship?
  • Does following Jesus include more than just living a virtuous life?
  • Might it also have to do with helping folks change the way they envision God?
Such was the case for Jesus who called people constantly to “change your thinking.” This is what repentance is, changing the way you think about things (Greek metanoia). When we change the way we see and understand the character of God, everything else changes and we turn back (Hebrew shuv) to the living and true God.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cracked Jars and Golden Scars -- by Brad Jersak

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There's a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

The religious ego -- our 'inner Pharisee' -- demands perfection, is embarrassed by our failings and punishes us for them with self-loathing. Co-opting the God-given conscience, it ascends to the judgment seat reserved for Christ alone and points the accusing finger of condemnation. The fruit is anxiety, shame and an intense desire to shrink back, to burrow into the mud and hide out our years. It reminds us of our inadequacy and sets up this ordinance of hypocrisy: "Your failings disqualify you -- how dare you 'let your light so shine before men,' knowing that your life is unworthy of the message you carry." The religious ego would humiliate us into a shroud of perpetual silence. 

David knew the weight of his own desperate failures and the public crucifixion of his reputation as a man supposedly "after God's own heart." His confession in Psalm 51 would become part of the national public hymnal, repeated regularly not only by the Levitical worshipers, but also later in the weekly chants of Chrysostom's Divine Liturgy. The original lyrical process would no doubt have sounded much more guttural, when David groans,

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
         (Psalm 51:1-3)

I imagine Paul, too, preaching in his early years to congregations that included widows and orphans of his own persecution, would have found that his 'sin was ever before him,' staring him in the face through grieving eyes not yet ready to forgive or trust. 

Eventually, though, he comes to this: 

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. 
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 

Sympathy for the Devil…or Pilate by Brian Zahnd

Ecce Homo by Antonio Ciseri, 1871
Sympathy for the Devil…or Pilate
Brian Zahnd

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith
And I was ‘round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
–The Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil

In his fascinating novel, The Master and Margarita, Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov creates an imaginary conversation between the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and the Galilean prophet Yeshua. When asked about his views on government, Bulgakov’s Yeshua says, “All power is a form of violence over people.” The peasant preacher of Bulgakov’s novel goes on to contrast the governments of power and violence with the peaceable kingdom of truth and justice. In response Pontius Pilate rages, “There never has been, nor yet shall be a greater or more perfect government in this world than the rule of the emperor Tiberius!” When Pilate asks Yeshua if he believes this kingdom of truth will come, Yeshua answers with conviction, “It will.” Pilate cannot stand for this. In a memorable passage Bulgakov’s Pilate rails against the possibility of the kingdom of God ever coming and supplanting Caesar’s empire.
“It will never come!” Pilate suddenly shouted. Many years ago in the Valley of the Virgins Pilate had shouted in that same voice to his horsemen: “Cut them down! Cut them down!” And again he raised his parade-ground voice, “Criminal! Criminal! Criminal! Do you imagine, you miserable creature, that a Roman Procurator could release a man who has said what you have said to me? I don’t believe in your ideas!
In The Master and Margarita, Pontius Pilate seems to have little personal animosity toward the wandering Galilean preacher, but Pilate hates his ideas. In the end what forces the Procurator to condemn Yeshua to crucifixion is the preacher’s revolutionary ideas about power, truth, and violence. Like Pilate we too wrestle with the conflict we have between Jesus and his unsettling ideas. We often want to separate Jesus from his ideas.

This bifurcation between Jesus and his political ideas has a history — it can be traced back to the early fourth century when Christianity first attained favored status in the Roman Empire. In October of 312 the Roman general Constantine came to power after winning a decisive battle in which he used Christian symbols as a fetish, placing them as talismans upon the weapons of war. (The incongruence is absolutely stunning!) Having emerged victorious in a Roman civil war and securing his position as emperor, Constantine attributed his military victory to the Christian god. In short order the wheels were set in motion for Christianity to become the state religion of the Roman Empire. The kingdom of God had been eclipsed by Christian empire.

To read the rest of this article, CLICK HERE

Jesus: More Than a Man - by Greg Albrecht

       When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16:13-15).
       More than two thousand years ago, Jesus asked his closest disciples the same question that he has asked humans ever since. Who do you say that I am? The answer his disciples gave then, and that you and I give today, radically determines the direction of our lives.
       Even those who have been skeptical of the claims that people have made of Jesus have been overwhelmed when they stopped to carefully examine his life.
       One of the most famous Christian philosophers of the last century was C.S. Lewis, a professor of English at Oxford University in England. Schooled in the scholastic disciplines, he was an agnostic who denied that Jesus was anything more than a man.
       But as he studied the person and words of Jesus, he also gradually came to the conviction that Jesus was more than just a man. Over the years he became one of the greatest Christian thinkers, writing many books, including Mere Christianity.
       C.S. Lewis was not the only one who discovered that the evidence for determining the true identity of Jesus is found in looking at the uniqueness of Jesus. What made that one solitary life, lived so many years ago, so very different?

To read the rest of this article, CLICK HERE.

Monday, April 7, 2014

“God Lets His Children Tell the Story”: An Angle on God’s Violence in the Old Testament -- by Peter Enns

My seminary Hebrew professor, former colleague, and friend, Al Groves, who is of blessed memory, was a wonderful, honest, and pastoral man. When dealing with the theological difficulties that arise in the course of reading the Bible, Al would say, “God lets his children tell the story.”
That is a great way of putting it. The Bible is what happens when God allows his children to tell his story–which means the biblical writers told the story from their point of view, with their limitations, within the cultural context in which they wrote.
When children tell the story of their father or mother, parents are typically delighted by how much they get and the childlike way that they see the world. But they are also well aware that children miss a lot when they tell the story, and invariably refract the complexities of family life through their own youthful vision.
Dr. Peter Enns
It’s not a perfect analogy, I know, but roll with it: Think of how young boys talk in the schoolyard about how great their father is. They are ways of telling the story to make sure everyone knows they have the best dad around.
I remember telling my middle school mates that my father was an engineer who left a promising academic career before coming to America. He also knew a lot about guns, since he was in World War 2, and killed bad guys left and right.
That story was genuinely connected to my real father, but honor was at stake. How I told the story was dictated, unwittingly, by rules of the schoolyard.
To read the rest of this post, CLICK HERE

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bread, Circuses, and Violence - by Brian Zahnd

On Sunday the Gospel reading was the temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1–11). After church someone asked me if I thought the temptation of Jesus was literal. The questioner was struggling with what seemed to be a cartoonish contest between Jesus and the devil. This person was particularly perplexed by the idea that Jesus would actually be tempted to worship Satan.
So when asked if I thought the temptation account was “literal,” what did I say? I said, yes and no. I certainly believe Jesus encountered Satan in the wilderness and was tempted. But I don’t think the devil showed up in a red suit sporting a tail and a pitchfork saying, “Hello, I’m Lucifer, and I’m here to put you through your paces. Alright, shall we get started? First off, how about turning that rock into lunch? No? Okay. What about showing off with a leap from the temple? No again? Well, how about you just fall down and worship me and I make you king of the world and we’ll call it a day?”
No, I don’t think it was quite like that. It wasn’t cartoonish. It was far more subtle and insidious than that. I suspect the satan came to Jesus the same way he comes to you and me: disguised as our own thoughts. Just like the temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. I’ve never met a talking snake, but I’ve sure had some serpentine thoughts crawl through my head! So let’s treat the temptation of Jesus seriously.
What was Jesus doing in the wilderness? Fasting, praying, preparing to begin his ministry. What was on his mind? We might assume he was contemplating how to go about his work. That’s when subtle and satanic thoughts entered the mind of the Son of God.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Jesus Kind of Church -- by Greg Albrecht

No Country for Old Men
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." —Luke 4: 18-19
Out in the endless, desolate desert of west Texas, a hunter looking for antelope stumbles on a crime scene. Abandoned cars and trucks are pock marked with bullet holes, and a half dozen or so dead bodies are scattered around.

In that odd and somewhat glib euphemism used by the media, it's apparently a drug deal "gone wrong" (if indeed there was ever a "right" drug deal!). Examining this massacre, as flies hover around the bodies, the hunter finds a suitcase of money which provides the motive for all of the violence that follows in the 2007 movie, No Country for Old Men. The movie follows the trail of the money, in a telling and apt metaphor of the violence that often accompanies greed and lust in contemporary American life.

Tommy Lee Jones plays a Texas sheriff about ready to retire. He spends most of the movie trying, without much success, to stop the bloodshed the money causes. No Country for Old Men considers America's bloodlust for the fast and easy fix, the get-rich-quick schemes that enamor and trap so many.

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