Monday, March 31, 2008

More on Irresistible Revolution

This will be the last negative post about the book, Irresistible Revolution. I will write about the many positive things I gleaned from the challenging and convicting book. This is just another aspect that I think Shane overstates (to the point that he is wrong).

This entire story of Jesus identifying with the homeless and the poor is extremely overstated when Shane starts to tell us why Jesus was crucified. Shane states, “Jesus was crucified not for helping the poor people but for joining them. That is the Jesus we follow” (page 144). Earlier he explained the difference between charity and joining the poor. He writes, “Charity wins awards and applause, but joining the poor gets you killed. People do not get crucified for charity. People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order, that calls forth a new world. People are not crucified for helping poor people. People are crucified for joining them” (page 129). It may just be me but it seems to be that Shane is saying that Jesus was crucified because he joined the poor and identified with them. I can’t imagine the Romans (who he almost completely blames for the crucifixion) would crucify a peasant who called for his people to take a new look at the poor and take care of them. The Jewish people of the day had a strong ethic of taking care of the poor. In fact, a statement by one of the emperors which has been applied to Christians originally was pointed at the Jewish people of the Greco-Roman world.
Emperor Julian stated:
“For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans (Christians) support not only their poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.”
By Shane implying (if not explicitly stating) that Jesus was crucified for identifying with the poor, he ignores two aspects of the intention of the crucifixion. From a purely secular-historical perspective, Jesus was crucified by the Romans because he was seen as a revolutionary who stirred up the crowds and threatened the peace (which the Romans maintained at all costs). Jesus claimed to be a king and that does not sit well with Roman authorities who are not particularly interested in the nuances of spiritual kingdoms versus literal, earthly, present kingdoms.
The Jewish religious leaders also had a motive of preserving the peace as well. Jesus did not only threaten their existence and their authority, but his preaching and teaching was provoking the people and the religious leaders saw this as potentially threatening the peace and ruining their way of life, specifically threatening their temple (see John 11.47-50).
From a theological perspective, Jesus was crucified to redeem humanity as a sacrifice of “atonement” (Rom. 3.24-25; 1 John 2.2). There was much more going on upon the cross than a revolutionary, wandering prophet who identified with the poor and called his Jewish brothers and sisters to take care of the less fortunate.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Some Thoughts on Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution

I’ve been reading Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution and have been really challenged by it. His descriptions of community and identifying with the poor have convicted me tremendously. I will be writing more about my positive impressions in the future, for there are many. I did want to point out a few things I think he overstates and one I think he just gets wrong.

Shane on several occasions refers to Jesus as “homeless.” He was a “baby refugee” who “wandered the world a homeless rabbi…” I think the refugee language he uses is purposely politically charged. There was something to this in that Jesus was born away from his parents’ home; he also fled to Egypt to escape persecution (extermination) from the political leader of the day. Both his birth in Bethlehem and his flight to Egypt were also to fulfill messianic understandings of the Scriptures. Early on in Jesus’ life, he did live in a home in Nazareth. Herod’s death took place around 4 BC, thus his return to Palestine and his settling in Nazareth would place Jesus in a home in Nazareth for almost 30 years. We get another glimpse of this in John 1.37-39, where two disciples are curious about this “Lamb of God” and want to know where he is staying. Jesus takes them there and they spend the day with him. Jesus’ was not homeless in during his public ministry by chance or by financial hardship, but it allowed supporters to show him hospitality and it allowed Jesus’ disciples to see what living by faith and depending on people of peace looked like. In this spirit, I think Shane is right on. Jesus’ models living by faith and let’s the church see what it looks like to support itinerant ministers. People really get to fellowship properly and participate in the blessings that sharing and hospitality offer to brothers and sisters in Christ. I am being nit-picky because I do think Shane overplays the “Jesus was homeless” card to show how Jesus did this to identify with the poor and I don’t think that tells the entire story.

This nit-picky observation (followed by another) only shows part of the picture. I plan on providing some of my thoughts on his book that I thought were very thoughtful and very challenging in a good way.

Friday, March 28, 2008

See the City...

I have had to spend some time in St. Louis the last two days visiting people for my job doing collegiate ministry for the Missouri Baptist Convention.
I had lunch in O'Fallon on the far western part of the metro area (called the West Plex) that has developed significantly since I lived in STL in the early 90s.
Spent time at UMSL/Ferguson (North County).
Had dinner in Hazelwood (also North County).
Spent the night in Soulard (in the city, not too far from Downtown, down the street from Busch Stadium).
Visited my alma mater, Saint Louis University in the midtown area. (Notice how I spelled out Saint Louis, that is the proper way to do it). My college has changed alot since I graduated (1988). It is very nice. I would venture that it is one of the coolest urban college campuses in the midwest.
Had lunch in Clayton, this was after a drive through my old neighborhood Dogtown. It is funny about Dogtown. It is becoming a chic neighborhood, a lot of "hipsters" are moving in and building lofts and townhouses. My old block is comprised of old dilapidated houses and $300,000 townhomes. Dogtown used to be a rough, lower middle class neighborhood. It had and still has a lot of character. Fun place to be from. Everybody knows where it is now, but they didn't 25 years ago.
Drove past some old stomping grounds in southtown (Dutchtown).
I now type this from a coffee house on The Hill, and old Italian neighborhood that has more Italian restaurants per capita than anyplace in the world except Italy.
I am heading to South County later and will end up back in Hazelwood. St. Louis is a very diverse town that is spread out all over the place.
And again, it is not in Missour-ah, it is in Missour-ee.
And please, natives, quit calling it "the Loo." To the British that means the toilet (although there are parts of town...)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gimme a Ho If You Got Your Funky Bus Fare!

There's a new movie with Martin Lawrence and Raven Symone called College Road Trip. On the soundtrack, Raven sings an updated version of the song, Double Dutch Bus. To show you how goofy I am, I used to love the original version of that song by Frankie Smith. Do you remember?

This clip is him singing along to his own track somewhere on the streets in Atlanta for some kind of promotion. It makes me giggle.

Nobody cares, but...

I fill out an NCAA tourney bracket every year (rarely do I get involved in any pools or contests, but I do it anyway). Here is how my bracket goes so far this year...
First round, I went 24-8. Not horrible, but consider this, on Thursday I went 15-1. (That means I went 9-7 on Friday, ouch).
Second round I went 11-5. Once again, not horrible, but not great. But of those 11, I still had 7 of the Elite 8 alive (editor's note: not true after all, I had Duke in the Elite Eight, so only 6 of the Elite 8). Now that's not bad. Here's the tragic part...I have Georgetown going to the Final Four, yikes! My other three are still alive (NC, TX, UCLA). I hate it, but I had Georgetown knocking off Kansas. Now they're going to have to find another way to underachieve.
Now, let's move on to something of a little more significance (if there really is such a thing...)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Thought - James the Brother of Jesus

I delivered a brief Easter message yesterday. I had already covered the Resurrection story from John 20 a few months ago at this church, so I wanted to do something different. I started to think about the reality of the resurrection and what it means to us. I thought of someone who encountered the resurrected Jesus and how it impacted his life. How about James, the brother of Jesus?

James 1.1 – James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Church tradition believes that this James, who wrote this letter to Jewish Christians spread throughout the Greco-Roman world, was James the (half) brother of Jesus. We see this in Matthew 13.55 where Jesus’ natural relations are revealed, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?” This man was a leader in the early church and wrote an authoritative letter to believers everywhere. Notice, how he refers to himself. Not as the relative of Jesus, but as the servant (or slave) of Jesus. This is a man who understands his true relationship with Jesus, Lord to servant, not brother to brother.

When we dig a little in to the gospels, we see that this brother of Jesus was not a believer in Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Mark 3.20 – When his family heard about this (where Jesus was teaching and what he was doing), they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

They probably thought that Jesus had gone a little too far with this “god” business. It is good to be religious and devoted to God, but Jesus had gone too far. There was a fine line between being devoted and being a fanatic. Jesus was on the verge of being a fanatic and needed his family to rein him in a little. In fact, his brothers even mocked him.

John 7.2-5 – But when the Jewish Feast of tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

It was like they were saying, “Hey messiah boy! Why don’t you take your show on the road? If you really want to be famous, you need to go to the big city, then everybody will see how great you really are. Why are you hanging around this small town? If you want to be a big time prophet, you have to go to Jerusalem.” Not only did they not believe in him, but they mocked him.

We don’t read much of James in the gospel story, but all of the sudden he appears in Acts. And we see that he is not just an inconsequential little follower, but he is a leader of the early church.

Acts 15 contains the account of the early church leaders gathering together to discuss how the Gentiles should be treated as they enter the church. Do they need to become Jews in order to be saved (Jewish Christian Pharisees) or can they remain Gentiles without converting to Judaism to be saved (Paul, Barnabas, Peter)? After the information is laid out, look at who steps up and addresses the council.

Acts 15.13 – “When they finished, James spoke up…”

James serves as the last word of the council and reveals his prominence before these church leaders. We have seen also in Paul’s letters where James is mentioned in a place of prominence.

Galatians 1.18-19 – “Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter…I saw none of the other apostles – only James, the Lord’s brother.”

Paul thought it noteworthy that he mention meeting James. Later he points out,

Galatians 2.9 – “James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.” James, the former non-believer and scoffer, is now mentioned as a pillar and listed with two of Jesus’ most prominent apostles, Peter and John.

What happened to James that moved him from being an unbeliever and mocker of Jesus to being a “pillar” of the early church? That question is answered in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul recounts the resurrection appearances of Jesus and mentions:

1 Cor. 15.5-8 - …he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time…Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also…

I think it is important that Paul mentions this appearance to James. I believe that James was not a believer in Jesus until he encountered the resurrected Jesus. This is what changed James. The scoffer becomes the devoted. The relative becomes the servant. James not only encountered the resurrected Lord but he experienced the power that that resurrection offers. Listen to Paul:

Philippians 3.10 – I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead.

James encountered the resurrected Lord Jesus and it changed his life. Like Paul, James did not only long to share in the promise of life after death, which the resurrection does promise. But both Paul and James wanted to share in the sufferings of Jesus. Both Paul and James did indeed share in Jesus’ sufferings as they both were killed for their faith. But both of these men, scoffers, haters, unbelievers were dramatically transformed into the image of Jesus by sharing in the power of the resurrection.

That power is available to all of us today. We can access this power through a relationship with Jesus today. Romans 8.11 says that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in those who have received that Spirit through faith in Jesus. I believe in Jesus and his resurrection, not because someone outlined the historicity of the resurrection and proved its truth to me (even though I do hold to that truth). I believe because I have encountered the resurrected Jesus Christ and I know that his spirit and power lives in me. I seek to allow that power to change me and allow me to participate in the kingdom of God. Easter Sunday is about encountering a person who suffered the penalty for my sin to the point of death, yet conquered death, is alive and empowers me to live a changed, victorious life.

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday Thought: Jesus Forsaken

As Jesus was being crucified, he cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why would Jesus feel forsaken by God? Many have put forth an explanation along the lines that on the cross, Jesus became the embodiment of sin and God cannot look upon sin. So it was at that moment that God turned his back on his son (thus “fracturing” the godhead for the only time in history). I don’t know if I completely buy into this explanation.

For one, as many of you might have noticed, the line that Jesus cries is an Aramaic translation of the opening line of Psalm 22. As you turn to Psalm 22, you can see in this Psalm images that bring do mind what Jesus might have experienced during his crucifixion:

Verses 7-8 – All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads; He trusts in the Lord; let the lord rescue him… (Mark 15.20, 29-32)

Verse 15b – my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth (John 19.28)

Verse 16-18 – Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all of my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. (Mark 15.24)

Yet if we keep reading this Psalm we notice that it does not continue this theme of abandonment, but a hope of rescue. It does not end in a theme of defeat but of triumph.

Verse 24 – For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

Verse 25 – From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly…

Verse 31 – They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – for he has done it (that is delivered the suffering one).

As one reads this Psalm, one cannot but recall the scene at the Cross. I do believe that the crafting of the scene of the crucifixion was done purposely alluding to Psalm 22, prompted by the words from Jesus’ mouth. Jesus, I believe, is identifying with the righteous sufferer in Psalm 22 (which is a theme in several of the psalms). He calls out to God wondering why he is suffering unjustly, asking God why he doesn’t vindicate him. But he realizes, in spite of his unjust circumstances, that God will hear his cry and will rescue him and in the end the righteous sufferer will praise God. To me, the important line in Psalm 22, is verse 24 where the righteous sufferer believes that God has not hidden his face from him but heard his cry for help. Therefore, in spite of the fact that Jesus was experiencing anguish that no human being will ever be able to fathom, God did not turn his back on his son, but heard his cry and delivered him from the wrath that he faced.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Who Was Jesus? Part 1

I was recently invited to speak at Encounter:Worship, a campus ministry at UMKC. They asked me to come and discuss some issues surrounding who Jesus was.

We opened with talking about how we know of Jesus and what are the sources of evidence about who he was. I asked, “Does it matter whether the NT documents are reliable or not? Those who say no will say that the fundamental principles of Christianity are laid down in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere in the NT; their validity is not affected by the truth or falsehood of the narrative framework in which they are set. The teaching ascribed to this figure has a value all of its own, and a man who accepts and follows that teaching can be a true Christian even if he believes that Christ never lived at all. But there is something different about the very essence of Christianity. The Christian gospel is not primarily a code of ethics or a metaphysical system; it is first and foremost good news. Christianity, as a way of life, depends upon the acceptance of Christianity as good news. And this good news is intimately bound up with the historical order, for it tells how for the world’s redemption God entered into history, the eternal came into time, the kingdom of heaven invaded the realm of earth, in the great events of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus.

I then began to look at the Apostle’s Creed, a statement of the orthodox beliefs of the early church. I looked specifically at the statement on Jesus:
I believe in…Jesus Christ, his (the Father’s) only Son, our Lord. who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit born of the Virgin Mary. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence he shall come again to judge the living and the dead.

Jesus as God’s Son – The Son of God was a term reserved for the anointed kings of Israel in the Old Testament. It signified the adoption by God of the king who represented his people as their head. Some Old Testament references to the king being God’s son are: 2 Samuel 7:12-4, the Lord speaking to David through the prophet Nathan concerning the construction of the Temple: “…I will raise up your offspring to succeed you…He is the one who will build a house for my Name…I will be his Father and he will be my son.” Psalm 2 is referred to as a Royal Psalm that was recited at the coronation of the new king, verse 7: “I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: he said to me, “you are my Son; today I have become your Father (or I have begotten you).” Thus the term Son of God was a messianic term referring to Jesus role as the king in the line of David who would rule his people.

Another aspect of Jesus’ sonship is seen in the term Son of Man. This is a term that Jesus applies to himself in many places in the gospels. Jesus tells the High Priest at his trial before the Sanhedrin “In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26.64). Jesus here is referring to the human figure that Daniel sees in a vision in Daniel 7. This figure like a “son of man” who approached the Ancient of Days and who was given “authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him” (Daniel 7.13-4). This is a figure that receives some of the aspects of the divinity (ability to be worshipped, authority and sovereign power). Thus this is a title that refers to Jesus’ equality with God. Notice that it is at this point that the high priest tears his clothes and denounces Jesus as guilty of blasphemy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Green Message at the Baptist Building

The following is an edited version of the message I shared at the weekly chapel service at the Missouri Baptist Convention building this morning in Jefferson City.

Baptists and the environment recently became a hot topic when a seminary named Jonathan Merritt began to call out leaders of the SBC claiming that we have been too timid on environmental issues. He started a movement called the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative. The goal is to prompt Southern Baptists to be more active in creation care. This young man’s work has gotten attention in the AP, MSNBC, and Time Magazine. It has been signed by the present SBC president, several past SBC presidents, some college presidents (SBU’s Pat Taylor) and the Missouri Baptist Convention president Gerald Davidson.

We have to acknowledge that conservative evangelicals have come to this awareness late. We have been put off by too many of the pagan, mother earth, hippie types to join in the ecological movement. This is shameful because they have moved to the forefront of this issue because evangelicals have abandoned the leadership role God gave them to take care of his creation.

I am going to provide a biblical perspective to taking care of the environment:

As we look at the creation story, we hear the same refrain over and over, as God looks at an aspect of creation, he declares that it is good, it is good, it is good, the whole thing is very good.

1. This creation declares the glory of God.

Ps. 96.1, 11-12 – Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth…
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.

Ps. 104 – [God] stretches out the heavens like a tent…makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind…He makes the winds his messengers…He makes springs pour water into the ravines…They give water to all the beasts of the field…He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate – bringing forth food from the earth (I’ll skip the part about wine that gladdens the heart of man)…How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small…These all look to you to give them food at the proper time.

You can see how intimately related the Lord is to his creation, the elements and the creatures.

2. From the beginning, God has allowed man to be a caretaker of the creation as well.

Gen. 1.25-6 – God made the wild animals, each according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground…

If we see the example God sets for us as he cares for creation, and he gives us the responsibility of “ruling” over the creation, how could we not take good care of God’s creation.

3. Creation also experienced the affects of the Fall

Gen. 3.17 – Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”

We see how the sin of the first couple damaged God’s perfect creation. “Cursed is the ground because of you…”

Isaiah 24.5-6 – The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt…

Hosea 4.3 – discusses the sinfulness of rebellious humanity and then says, “because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.

Romans 8.19-For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

4. God showed care for creation through the Law – in case humans did not feel responsible for taking care of the creation on its own, God put several provisions in the Law to make sure it happened.

In Exodus 23.12, we see that the Sabbath pertained not only humans, but to their animals as well. In Leviticus 25 we see that the Lord gives provision for the land to rest as the land is given a sabbatical year after six years of planting. Thus God is telling the highest point of his creation to take care of his animals and his land.

5. Christ’s work is also related to redeeming his creation.

1 Cor. 8.6 - …for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Col. 1.15-20 – verse 16 states that for by him all things were created (thus Jesus was involved in creation, he was the creator…verse 20 God was pleased that Jesus is to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Here me, I am not saying the Christ’s reconciliation of the earth is more important than Christ reconciling humanity. Humanity is the crown of creation. And yet, as we have already seen, the earth longs for redemption. Christ is bringing reconciliation not only to humanity but to the earth as well. We are called to be agents of reconciliation, bringing people into the kingdom of God. We should also keep an eye on the creation that God, through Christ not only created but also sustains.

I closed with some practical "baby steps" we all could take to provide better care of the creation God has entrusted to us. I may share those later.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Great Quote

This is from Abigail Adams to her husband John:

"Mask your impatience with those less intelligent than yourself. You don't need to quote great men to show you are one."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

From Augustine

I found this quote from Scot McKnight's blog The Jesus Creed. He was discussing the Christian response to scientific evidence. He closed with this quote from Augustine:

“If they (any expert) find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? (Ch. 19, par. 39, The Literal Interpretation of Genesis).

How do you read this? What do you think it means?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Why I Wish I Had HBO

I could not believe HBO was doing a miniseries on the life of John Adams based on the book by David McCullough. I read the entire book (about 1100 pages). It was fantastic. John Adams was one of the most underrated figures in American history. He remains on the short list of one of the most important. I guess I will have to wait until it comes out on DVD later because I am not going to get HBO just for this.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Political Quick Hit

Haven't been too bloggy lately, don't know why. Look for music posts in the near future.

I don't really try to push my political views on anyone for the most part and this blog doesn't really get too political, but I recently thought of a quote of one of the candidates that I thought was interesting.
Hillary Clinton was trying to separate herself from Barack Obama. She was pointing to her experience and to her past leadership. She stated something to the effect, "When a crisis arises overseas in the middle of the night, who is the person you want in the White House answering the phone?"
According to that reasoning, the answer to me is John McCain.
I'm just saying...