Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"When the Time Had Fully Come" - Greg Albrecht

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
    What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But When the Time Had Fully Come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.—Galatians 3:26-4:7
Think back to the times of your youth, perhaps to a time when your mother and father promised to take you to the park, or on a picnic or to the circus. You couldn't wait for that time to come, could you? That's the way we were when we were kids—we drove our parents batty by continuously asking them, "Is it time yet, is it time yet?"

Then, when we were in grade school and high school, we asked a similar question every year, as the end of the school year approached. "Is school just about over? Is it time for summer vacation yet?" 

Most of the time, when we were young, we were waiting for time to pass so that something else could happen. Have you ever asked a three or four-year-old their age? Be prepared for the most exacting math they are capable of. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Who WAS and IS and IS TO COME - Greg Albrecht

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
  To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father —to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
  Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.
  "I am the Alpha and Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."—Revelation 1:1-8 (my emphasis)
"Who IS, and Who WAS, and Who IS TO COME." This phrase begins with the word "who"—a reference to Jesus Christ—and ends with the word "come"—which is also a reference to Jesus Christ, and his comings. 

When people think of Jesus, they think of either one, or at the most, two of his comings. They often think first of what is popularly called his "first" coming—the coming of God, to this earth, in the person of Jesus. The first coming is the Who was in the title of this article and in the first chapter of Revelation. 

Next, they think of what is popularly called his "second" coming—the future coming of Jesus to this earth. The second coming is referenced by Who is to come. 

There is a third coming mentioned —Who is. Jesus is here now, in the present, he is risen, he is alive and he lives in the hearts and minds of those who love him and have surrendered their lives to him. 
Who IS, and Who WAS, and Who IS TO COME.

Aw! Baby Jesus takes on Satan - David Hayward

Some people view the coming of Jesus as the launching of some kind of purity culture where we should become obsessed with personal sins.
But what if the story is more interested in the usurping of power, the annihilation of controlling people, and the end of deceit to achieve noble ends?
Like this cartoon attempts to illustrate, Jesus is pointing forward to the greatest display of apparent powerlessness. The Jesus story is clear that it isn’t a show of strength, but the display of what appears to be weakness that defeats the principalities and powers that dehumanize people.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Quote of the week - Religion as Ideology is a WMD

"Religion as ideology is one of the most evil and destructive forces on earth. If ever Satan created a weapon of mass destruction, his greatest success was in leading people do degrade faith into religion and religion into ideology. Binding religion to politics is to secularise the Church. It is a re-crucifixion of Christ and an utter betrayal of His Gospel." 
(Vladika Lazar Puhalo)

Friday, December 12, 2014

How Far Would God Go? - Greg Albrecht

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!—Philippians 2:1-8

This passage has been one of my favorites for well over 40 years. What a beautiful and profound expression of God’s love! There seem to be many layers and many degrees of God’s grace expressed here. For that reason, I keep coming back to this second chapter of Philippians and studying it again and again—it continually yields fresh and deeper appreciation of the nature of God.

This article poses the question, How Far Will God Go? Boundaries are one of the defining characteristics of what it means to be human. As children, we probe and push until we can discover just how far our parents will go before they lower the boom on us. When we marry, we normally do a similar thing with the person we have promised to love and protect and cherish.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pardon Me, Your Holes Are Showing - Caleb Miller

The process we all go through as we grow would be comical if it weren't so sad. We all hit these points where "we've arrived" whether they be theological, political, social or otherwise. We feel as though we have the "right" take on things. 
We might.
Or, we might not.
Every theology (what we'll focus on) has its holes - and I don't mean areas where a proof text here or there "debunks" something. That's just foolish, no singular passage of scripture really "proves" anything one way or the other, it simply provides us with the information we think we need to interpret that individual piece of text. And even that is sometimes a long shot. None of them are without areas that can be easily dissected by someone with a good education. Sadly though, we too often get locked into our particular theology and rarely see the holes in it, or ignore them because we may lose our pastorate or have to let go of some hate if we really saw the holes... 
I mean, if everyone is included and I believe that, then what right do I have to treat ANYONE as though they are anything but a child of God? When I don't, I've just poked another hole in my theology - at least for those watching. I poke holes in my own theology all the time. Any time I walk by someone begging and don't offer a hand or a dollar. Any time I judge someone by the color of their skin, the box they check on election day, or the decisions they've made in this life (i.e. regarding someone according to the flesh) I'm poking holes all over my theology. 
Listen closely, because I think I know why people don't want what we (Christendom) has to offer. 

Calvary: Crucifixion as Torture, Cross as Hope - Brad Jersak

Trite or true, we're each and all on a journey, not quite sure whether any given year, week or moment is really ascent or descent -- the calm before a storm or the dark before dawn.

I see this tension in the biblical story of Calvary, at once a crucifixion and a Cross, the intersection of goodness and affliction, of torture and hope. At Calvary, we see the violence of religious fanaticism married to national security ... and we see the humility, forgiveness and self-giving love of God.

I hear this tension in Augustine, who is quoted in the movie, Calvary, as saying, "Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned." Calvary the movie is a profound and powerful tale of an Irish priest (played by Brendan Gleeson) who receives a death threat during confession and is warned to get his house in order over the course of a week. During that week, we see two themes intensify towards the climax.

First, we see how Gleeson represents goodness and sincerity. Even his would-be killer, the victim of long-term childhood sexual abuse by a priest, says, "There's no point in killing a bad priest ... but killing a good one. That'd be a shock." In that sense, Gleeson's character (Father James) serves as a Christ figure--and each character in the drama defines his or her own spiritual condition by their response to him. The truth of their lives become transparent through their attitudes and actions towards the priest.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Real Beginning - Greg Albrecht

It's here! The end of another year. What a year this has been! The grumps, the curmudgeons, the gloom and doom prognosticators, the fear mongers and the Jeremiad prophecy buffs have been selling their wares. 

Thankfully, the vast majority of the party poopers who scream and shout within Christendom agree on one thing—only Jesus Christ can clean up this mess! 

It does take Jesus, doesn't it? As we end a year of endless varieties of Christ-less promotion and hype in his name, it might be helpful to compare and contrast the understated way the good news first came into our world. Jesus' birth passed with little fanfare. Books about his first coming did not dominate the Christian best-seller lists in first-century Judea. The vast majority of humanity had no idea that God had entered time and space. Did it happen that way because God didn't have the phone number of a good public relations firm? Or did God, in the person of Jesus, prefer a low-key arrival? 

God has a way of bringing good news into our corrupted world, when it seems like all is lost. I have always been fond of the way cartoonist H.T. Webster celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. In 1909, Webster depicted this anniversary by re-creating events surrounding Lincoln's birth. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Is Religion Breathing It's Last Breath? - Michael Hardin

I have been reading the work of Rene Girard now for a quarter century and have been applying the insights of the mimetic theory to the Bible and Christian theology for all that time. Girard is not a theologian but he has provided us with an anthropology, a way of understanding the human and human culture that explains so much of the data from so many sciences that its insights have become conclusive for me (or at least as conclusive as one can admit to in our postmodern world).
In mimetic theory, both religion and culture originate from the same place: the generative mimetic scapegoating mechanism (as Robert Hamerton-Kelly so aptly named it). As humans evolved and became more and more violent, in order to stop groups from total collapse, humans learned to turn their collective hostilities onto a single victim, thus temporarily securing ‘peace’ through cannibalistic cooperation. This cooperation is the ground for culture and the ritualizing of this mechanism is the ground of religion.
Religion is widely criticized, vilified and condemned in the world today. It is easy to see why. The interface between religion and war, politics, money and power (in other words, human culture), leaves us feeling uneasy or angry, frightened or dystopian. From ISIS in the Mid-East to the flag waving rallies of American Christianity, all around the world we see the ever present specter of a god who devours humanity, of a god who hates the other. We start and fight wars for this god, we behead others for this god, we send others to concentration and labor camps in the name of this god and we have secularized this god in the form of the modern nation-state. There is only one god in this world and its name is Violence and Death.