Thursday, December 16, 2010

Young Jean Cauvin-Umber Stage 4

I've finally got paint covering the entire canvas! Primarily worked on background on this stage. Detail work to follow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Young Jean Cauvin-Stage 3

Was able to get a little bit accomplished on this tonight. This will be a monochromatic painting in the style of my self-portrait from last year. The background is much for difficult for me than the face, that's why I've left it to do later... I'll need to paint that upside-down. More to come.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Box-Cutter Toothpicks on Airlines

In our politically-correct environment, the most successful way to discredit your opponent is to label him with an irrational fear or "phobia," when he disagrees with you on any given topic. For instance, if you believe God teaches in the Bible that homosexual behavior is a sin, the one who disagrees with this position will say you suffer from "homo-phobia."

Do people who don "Islamic attire" and use box cutters to pick their teeth with on airlines freak you out a little? If so, you might be a "Islama-phobe." All you gotta' do is take the name of the thing your opponent disagrees with you on, add the word "phobia" to the end and you are ready for him to be committed to an insane asylum- never to be heard from again! See how it works? Nifty, huh?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

in which I Interact with a Jewish Rabbi

In a recent article in First Things, Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik has written an essay discussing the bridging of the gap between man and God as it relates to the Torah and the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Soloveichik misses some very important things with regards to his understanding of the Christian Faith; particularly his view of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Soloveichik says, "The Torah is infinite and inexhaustible," By this, Soloveichik means one can interpret the Torah until the cows come home and never get to the bottom of it. Of course, if one does come across "a bottom" the suggestion would be to keep looking up because if you find it, it's really not there! I am sure one could come up with an infinite amount of interpretations of the Torah if they tried hard enough but at the end of the day the Old Testament is an incomplete book without the New Testament. After all, where is the promised Messiah? Jesus said they never find Him, because they refuse to see what is there! Is Jesus in the Old Testament? Yes, but every time He shows up, men like Soloveichick shut their eyes and say, "I don't see him..." Is it no wonder he never gets to the heart of what it is all about and the direction the Torah is moving? i.e. worldwide redemption? The promise God gave to Abraham was that the nations would be blessed through him. "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me," John 5:29

Soloveichik goes on to say, "Judaism...stands in contrast to the Christian Faith and its turn toward what the Gospel of John calls, "Word made flesh." And that is does! It is kind of sticky point isn't it, that we Christians worship "a man?" However, Jesus is not just any man, He is the God Man! The New Adam. He is Immanuel, who "tabernacled" amongst us. The veil has been ripped in two and God Himself has stepped out from behind the veil. He inaugurated the Kingdom of God on earth and made Himself known to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. If Jesus does not have two natures, then the Jews have got it right: The New Testament would contradict the Old. That is why it is so very important we understand that Christ has two distinct but not divided natures. Yes, He is 100% man but He is also 100% God, not 50% man and 50% God.

Soloveichik said, "God warns us that "man cannot see Me and live." True! No man can see God and live, that's why we must die first. This is where many Evangelicals get confused. Jesus did not come so we could just live forever, He came to die and rise from the grave so that we might die and be raised again with Him and then live forever. (HT: Doug Wilson). We have eternal life because we've died and been raised with Jesus. Jesus died on the cross. And what about our death? Our death is passing through the waters of baptism and regeneration by the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit must kill us so that we might live forever. Jesus said, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God. One must first die before he can be raised to new life and one cannot see God unless goes through that death, burial and resurrection.

Soloveichik said, "That Christians believe the gap between God and man is bridged by the incarnation." Again, this is where the two natures of Christ is essential. Christ is the only Mediator between God and man because He is the eternal Son of God. Those who cling to Judaism fail to acknowledge that God has made Himself known. The light of the new day has come but men love to dwell in darkness rather than come into the light lest their deeds be exposed. Both Judaism, Islam and Gnosticism want a God that's far off but with the incarnation, God has come near. Of course this scares the pants off of people so they run and hide from it!

Soloveichik said "Christians are in danger of violated the second command by worshiping man by seeking to bridge the gap between God and man." He acknowledges the gap between these two religions is radically wide and he is right. If Jesus were not infinite He would not be able to bridge that gap but because He is infinite, He is able to do it. Soloveichik goes on to say that "Jews reject the notion that God might take bodily form..." What? That is not consistent with the Torah (OT)! How about the men who visited with Abraham, wrestling with Jacob and other instances of what Christians call "Christophanies?" This supports Peter Leithart's suspicion that gnosticism grew out of a form of Judaism which rejected Christ. It makes sense too when you think about the physical place where Jews once worshiped; The Temple, has now been destroyed. Where do Jews go now to worship God? Nowhere, He becomes mystical in that sense and ultimately unknowable.

Soloveichik says, "the Jews may have been bound hand and foot but their intellects were never enslaved." This remark reminds me of the conversation Jesus had with the Pharisees, "we're slaves to no one!"

Soloveichik concludes by saying, "God has not forsaken us." In one sense, it is true that ethic Jews can still come back into the covenant through faith in Jesus as the Messiah, but presently, as a nation they are cut off, and they are laying at the foot of the Olive Tree as dead branches. They can be grafted back into the true Israel but there is no other covenant other than the one that has been established by Christ in his life, death, burial, resurrection, and exaltation to the right hand of the Father.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mother Kirk by Douglas Wilson

Subtitled; "Essays and Forays into Practical Ecclessiology." And Mother Kirk by Douglas Wilson pastor of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho is just that. Within these pages are many, many useful ideas and help for Church leaders.

With 30+ years of serving as a pastor Wilson sets out to define who the Church is and then spends the rest of the book explaining what She ought to be doing. I particularly enjoyed reading his thoughts about Parish Churches and also the idea of a church having a publishing ministry. A few of his ideas about publishing seems to be a little dated in that he doesn't mention blogs, etc. but the practices he suggests could be easily be put into those contexts as well. Wilson says the modern Church ought to be ashamed at doing so little with publishing when compared with the shear volume of wrtings of the Puritans and what they did with such little technology. There were several times I had to stop reading and say to myself, "Duh! Why are we not doing that?"

A great read for anyone remotely interested in studying the life of the Church! This is the kind of book which needs to be read multiple times because forgetting who we are and what we ought to be doing is more of a moral problem than anything else. The bibliography found in the footnotes throughout is worth the price of the book!

I would encourage anyone who might be interested in reading this book to do so in conjunction with David Wells' The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World. The former being what we ought to be doing and the latter being what we ought not be doing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Smoking "Gonja" in the Capital Bathroom

There are the way things are and the way they ought to be. According to our Constitution, this is the way they ought to be:

  • Legislative Branch: Make laws.
  • Executive Branch: Enforce law
  • Judicial Branch: Interpret law using Constitution as the standard.
But something else is happening; we've got the judicial branch making laws, executive branch failing to enforce laws already established, i.e. border control, and congressional aides smoking "gonja" in the bathroom of the capital building. This is troubling. The reason we have experienced such great freedom here in the U.S. is because our founding fathers were wise enough to separate those powers into three different branches. The more we move away from those principles, the less freedom our children will have.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Super Mario Brothers-Pinball Machine

After several weeks, I have finally completed my wife's, cousin's Super Mario Brothers-Pinball Machine. This was no easy task. The painting was fun, but getting an accurate drawing onto the cabinet was incredibly hard! Trust me, I was seeing Mario and his minions in my sleep! In essence, this was like painting five paintings in one: Two bottom sides, two top sides and the front of the cabinet. I basically painted one color at a time, working my way around, and around, and around. I had a jolly good time painting it and it provided me with challenges I solved which will help me in future projects. Usually, I'm focused on smaller pictures and the nature alone of the painting of this machine helped me think in terms of "big."

It was painted in oil, so it will take at least few weeks to dry. My wife wants it out of the family room before Christmas. heh heh!

The Bible and the Qu'ran: Let's Compare

The Bible and the Qu'ran are in essence very different books. The Bible was written over the course of hundreds of years, in different genres (parables, advice, dreams, etc), by a wide variety of authors, (nomads, leaders, scholars, fishermen, etc). Thoughtful Christians do not take every word of the Bible literally but they should believe it absolutely. The Qu'ran was written by one man over the course of his own lifetime and is meant to be taken as literal commands. Whereas the entire Bible is an unfolding of drama of redemptive history and claims to be and is un-contradictory, (there are however mysteries which appear contradictory but are not). The Qu'ran provides an easy way out for it's contradictions (and they are there); very simply, the later, more violent writings supersede the earlier more peaceful writings. Those more gentle and tolerant passages in the Qu'ran were written very early in Mohammad's prophetic career. If you put the Bible and the Qu'ran side by side and read them closely you will find they teach radically different concepts. At the very heart of the Christian Faith is the concept of grace; Jesus gave His life and rose from the grave. That great redemptive act in history was the THE act whereby Jesus established his people. Mohammad built his religion by conquering with the sword. Although that approach may be effective in the short term, the essence of what the Qu'ran teaches is not a message of grace. Peace.

The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway is a short novel about one man's perilous struggle with the natural world. The "old man" fights with a glorious fish as he longs for companionship out on the open water. Written with an eye for detail and passion I could feel my hands burn from the friction of the fishing line. In my mind, I saw the colors of the grand fish change from purple to silver as it met it's fate. The salty sea air drifted from the pages as I read this tale, or maybe that was only because I bought this worn out copy from a used bookstore. The story also confirmed by suspicions that sharks are not our friends! There's a metaphor laying around here in my tackle box, I just need to find it. A great, quick , classic read!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

One Minute Review of Inception

Thomas McKenzie has recently become one of my favorite film reviewers. Here is his review of one of my favorite movies of the summer; Inception.

One Minute Review: Inception from Thomas McKenzie on Vimeo.

The Skin Map: Part 1 of Bright Empires by Stephen Lawhead

Ancient, alternate realities collide in Stephen Lawhead's new tale,The Skin Map (Bright Empires). Filled with intrigue, humor and suspense the first in a series of the Bright Empires trilogy is a combination of Back to the Future, and Sherlocke Holmes, with a bit of Indiana Jones thrown in on the side.

We first encounter young Londoner, Kip, who meets his great-grandfather Cosimo, (gotta love that name!), who instructs him in the way of traveling across "ley lines," which enable a person to not only leap spontaneously from one place to another but also lets one to travel through time, (and you thought Stone Henge had something to do with ancient paganism, heh..!) So, early on the characters are split not only across geographical boundaries but chronologically as well. A very important ancient map is sought which was originally tattooed on the back of a man; a "skin map," hence the title. That map is full of interestingly important symbols which help plot a course across the Aeons.

Lawhead has written a twisty-turney plot, sprinkled with laugh-out-loud dialogue. The Skin Map had me engrossed from beginning to end with it's story of the first kaffeehaus known to mankind . Warning; this first of a trilogy ends in somewhat of a cliffhanger. I only regret I didn't wait until the entire thing was written before starting it. Now, I've got to wait until September of 2011 before The Bone House is released! Big-time of a bummer but I am delighted nonetheless to be able to get to read a really good book and now, I have something to look forward too next year!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

My 7-year old daughter and I were glued to Lemony Snicket's The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1) from beginning to end. Her friend from across the street even stopped in and caught the last chapter as I read aloud. This neighbor girl will hardly sit still for anything but was riveted to her seat as we approached the climax of the story. I confess to being as curious as to what was going to happen to the Baudelaire children as they were!

The story follows three wealthy orphans who are forced to live with a distant relative after their parents die in a fire. There are several delightful twists of plot throughout. Count Olaf is a deliciously dastardly fellow. It was written with a classy style and I particularly enjoyed the way Snicket approaches children. Tolkien once said, "Never mind about the young! I am not interested in the 'child' as such, modern or otherwise, and certainly have no intention of meeting him/her half way, or a quarter of the way. It is a mistaken thing to do anyway, either useless (when applied to the stupid) or pernicious (when inflicted on the gifted)." Snicket must have taken Tolkien's wise advice, because the book doesn't talk down to children at all but speaks to them on a even keel. We're looking forward to the next one with much anticipation--"anticipation" here meaning, "waiting with much eagerness."

Covenant Children and Church Discipline

THE promises made in the Old Testament concerning the new covenant with regards to children of believers are plentiful. For example:

“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”-Isaiah 59:21

A verse like this is entirely consistent with passages in the New Testament:, i.e. Peter's sermon on Pentecost in Acts 2, Lydia's household being baptized, and Philippian jailer's household being baptized.

It's very important we understand the Bible as it was written within an historical context where people understood the concept of federal/covenant headship as it relates to head of households. An example of this kind of error happening would be someone in our day reading the passage about Abraham being called out from Ur in the book of Genesis and assume it was just he and Sarah who made that long journey. Not so. We're told Abraham brought along an entourage of over 300! They were all, in one sense (objectively) a part of Abraham's family of which he was the head, (so much for an ethically pure bloodline of Hebrews!). So, all the men, including the servants, would have been circumcised.

Just as there are two ways to be a part of Israel, (Rom. 9:6) there are two ways to be a "Christian," i.e. outward/visible member of a local church, and inwardly/invisibly regenerated by the Holy Spirit. In a perfect world we would know who all the regenerate are. Sadly, we do not. Jesus told us there are tares amongst the wheat. The church, generally speaking is a wheat field, not a tare field. Therefore, we ought to treat those within the church, including the children the Lord gives us as if they are wheat. This is why church discipline is so very important.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Creeds, Cults, and the Bible

Did you know the Table of Contents in your Bible is a creed? Where do you think our Bible came from? It didn't fall out of the sky! It was given to us within an historic context, written over thousands of years. Douglas Wilson has said, "Before we come to the Word of God in Genesis 1:1, we come to the word of the church in the table of contents." In other words, what Wilson means is you won't find anywhere in the Bible itself where it says, "These 66 books are the ones we need to use." The table of contents is a creed (or a statement of belief) because we, as Christians are trusting somewhere along the line that somebody with some kind of authority, recognized those 66 books as the inspired Word of God..and got it right. Keith Mathison has a great book on this; The Shape of Sola Scriptura

Interestingly enough, the Bible must be read, and it must be interpreted. If the final appeal to authority is to the mind of the individual, we've got a serious problem. This is where cults come from; i.e. Jehovah's Witnesses (Arians) and Mormons (Gnostics). Those cults hold to ancient heresies which have already been dealt with in the church. Why do these "newer" cults advocate the same doctrine taught by ancient heretics? Because somewhere along the line, their leaders encouraged their followers to abandon the historic creeds and confessions of the faith.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World by Douglas Kelly

Growing up under the tutelage of the secularist state-controlled government educational institution, I was taught very little about the origins of our government here in this great country called The United States of America. But there was one small tidbit of information which has stuck in my mind; Every year around Thanksgiving, amongst the making of paper turkeys, pilgrims, and Indians to hang on the wall, we were told our ancestors came to this country because they were trying to escape"religious" persecution of some sort or another. "Really," I remember thinking, almost out loud, "weren't those countries, i.e. England, Scotland, Ireland, etc, also Christian?" Of course they were, but if I ever did ask that question, I never remember getting a very good answer to it!

Enter Douglas Kelley's excellent little book on,The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World: The Influence of Calvin on Five Governments from the 16th Through 18th Centuries. This is the book everyone should have read in high school in order to understand the origins of our free country. Kelly traces the history of Calvinistic influenced government from the time of Reformer John Calvin in Geneva Switzerland, through the Huguenots in France, (who suffered tremendous persecution), up through John Knox in Scotland and his dealings with Queen Mary, on to the Protestant Reformation in England and the fight between the balance of power there between church and state; which is the point where our "Calvinistic" ancestors fled to these wondrous shores of America, in order to establish religious freedom. In other words to escape the tyrannical rule of the British crown.

Kelly gets the heart of the theological convictions of our forefathers. He focuses a lot on the Puritans and their influence and struggle with the British monarchy and the goal of resisting tyrany; the depravity of man as it relates to men being in power over others being a crucial point. The overarching theme of Kelly's wonderful little book is Calvin's view of the outworking of the two-pronged view of the separation of the powers of church and state. This is extremely important as we try to understand the reason for the separation of the three branches or powers of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. The power of the church does not derive it's authority from the state but from Christ alone who is Lord over both the church and state.
A great little book! I highly recommend it for anyone at least remotely interested in how our government here in America came into being.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Worshipers and Women

We're all religious in one sense: What I mean is we're all "worshipers." We are human beings who have the capacity to delight in, and enjoy things. The thing we delight in and and enjoy the most is what the Bible and Christians define as"worship." Some delight in money, fame, fortune, family, new car, dog, or cat, or whatever, they're enjoying something above all else and that's worship. Negatively put, John Calvin said our hearts are "idol factories." In a nutshell he means this, God created us all to be worshipers and yet as fallen human beings we attempt to find our satisfaction in any and everything else other than the one who can satisfy our greatest desire. Saint Augustine said, "our hearts are restless until they find their delight ultimately in the God who made us." (my paraphrase).

Secondly, any religion that delights and enjoys the practice of abusing and dishonoring women is despicable. Period.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bed Bugs- Still Sucking Blood

A couple years ago some friends of mine brought bed bugs into their home from an overnight stay at a hotel room. It took them months to get rid of them! I saw my friend on a daily basis and I can attest to observing the red splotchy marks on his neck. I would ask him, "Still got 'em, huh?" His answer? "Yep.." Their family was horrified by it!

Now, I hear in New York City, 1 in 5 people have them in their apartments, houses, etc. This is scary stuff!

Take a look at the photo at the upper left. This is place where you will want to examine on a mattress if you check into a hotel room. They like to hide out in the crevices of mattresses. I know, it's gross but it's worth a check before you sleep in a strange room. During dailylight hours they crawl behind the walls and under the floor.

As you can see from the photo on the right those red markings are not attractive naturally red features but blood showing through the body of a bed bug. Why? Because they are blood suckers, which is grotesque but worse of all, they are one of the absolutely hardest pests to ever get rid of. I wish you well my friends! (And don't let them critters bite you when you're trying to sleep!)
If you plan to vacation in NYC, you ought to consider taking a "bed bug proof" mattress covers with you. See below.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ghostwriter by Travis Thrasher

Ghostwriter: A Novel The protagonist, a writer of horror fiction with a bad case of writer's block, struggles with the recent death of his wife and a ghost who won't leave him alone. He's also haunted by flashbacks of his stories which seem real, but are they? One never knows... Many loose ends and thoroughly unsatisfying. Thrasher shows potential to be the next "Christian" Stephen King but he needs to work on the rough edges of his plot and try not so hard to be the next King or Koontz.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Deep Comedy by Peter Leithart

With a big emphasis on the word "deep," Leithart paddles into the pool of punditry in his book Deep Comedy: Trinity, Tragedy, & Hope In Western Literature with a very serious look at comedy and the Christian Faith with regards to literature. But seriously folks, this book ain't funny. If you're looking for light, fluffy humor stick with the Sunday funny papers because this book is as serious as a heart attack!

Leithart defines "deep comedy" as a story that ends with a better ending than the way it began, with a good dose of tragedy in the middle.

The book is basically split into three parts: Firstly he examines ancient literature, i.e. The Iliad, The Odyssey, etc. According to Leithart, there is very little if any "deep" comedy in ancient literature. In the second part, he looks at "deep comedy" as it relates to theology. And finally, in the third and last part, Leithart focuses on Shakespeare, particularly the plays, King Lear, and Twelfth Night (which I have never read but I'm afraid they might "kill" me if I were to do so!); showing how these stories are very much examples of "deep comedy." In other words they are profoundly "Christian" in their scope.

It would behoove me to go back and read this book again sometime in the future. It was a short, albeit hard, difficult, and deep book. And that's no laughing matter!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"9" starring Elijah Wood

9 [Blu-ray] is fantabulistic visually stunning, post-apocalyptic thriller with a lot of heart and soul but kinda' lame on story character development. I loved the look and personality of the characters, (an interesting thing since they were all robots with the exception of one). The special effects were particularly thrilling and believable. It had just the right amount of Tim Burtonish visuals to make it freaky and fun! The bad guy (robot) was really bad. I'm always a sucker for "machines taking over the world" films. The atmosphere created by the computer animators was dirty, grimey, and gritty enough to seem like I was watching reality rather CGI. The sound effects were sensational and caused me to almost jump out of my seat a few times! The running time was short, 1 hour 12 minutes and hardly enough to even develop an introduction to what the story had the potential to be. Aesthetically and superficially wonderful with very little depth of story and character development. Check out the preview below!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Poisonwood Bible

Barbara Kingsolver in her book,The Poisonwood Bible has told a rich, detailed, yet flawed story of a family torn between religions, cultures, and relationships.

A fiery Baptist preacher, his wife and four daughters head into the ruthless and vengeful jungle of the Congo in 1960 to do missionary work. This historic narrative is told through the eyes of the sisters and mother. It alternates viewpoints from one chapter to another and traces approximately 40 years of history. Their voices seemed authentic and sad. I felt as though I was reading a biography of real people going through real turmoil. The father figure is ruthless, (more about him in a moment).The family meets not only with the dangers of nature and the Congo natives but their worse enemy may have be their ownselves!

Although, I found her style of writing to be thrilling and very imaginative her negative outlook towards Christians and America is apparent on almost every page. The father is hard-headed, oppressive, and exhibits no love toward those to whom he's preaching the gospel and no love towards his own family. He's a hypocrite of the worse fashion and yet he's the only "real believer" in the story. The entire family rejects the faith of their father and the author presents this as a positive thing. I kept gettting the feeling that if Kingsolver would have put as much research into real Christians as she did African culture the book would have been 100 times better! She's very sympathetic towards paganism.

Overall it was is both funny, thrilling and sad in parts but I found her bias against Christian missionaries to be diappointing. A pageturner but a turn-off ultimately.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Justification by N.T. Wright

Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision is N.T. Wright's well written answer to John Piper's book,The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright. His tone toward Piper is gracious yet firm. He believes a paradigm shift must takes place in how most theologians have understood "imputed righteousness," over the last 400 years, which he believes was a knee jerk reaction of the Reformers against Roman Catholicism. According the Wright the issue was never about "merit" but about God's faithfulness to keep his promise to Abraham. That faithfulness of God to keep covenant, according to Wright is what Paul means by God's "righteousness."

The first half of the book is theological and the second half is exegetical. Wright's emphasis and constant reminder to his readers is God's promise to Abraham to bless the nations and remedy the curse of sin by sending the faithful Israelite; Jesus the Messiah to live and die for His people in order to redeem them. This, according to Wright is Paul's message and the overarching theme of the Bible. According to Wright, it must not be ignored when trying to understand how the world is being redeemed for God's glory and how a person becomes a child of God.

A must read for anyone interested in the subjects of Soteriology, Ecclessiology, or Eschatology; in other words anyone wanting to know how and why they fit into this community called, "The People of God" ought to read it!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sleep, Snooze, & Sloth

According to Psalm 127:2, sleep is a gracious gift. "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,eating the bread of anxious toil;for he gives to his beloved sleep." However, like other gracious gifts from God, i.e. "wine, women, and song," sleep can be abused. Consider this verse from Proverbs 19:15, "Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger." The important thing to know about wisdom literature, is it speaks in generalities and cannot be applied the exact same way in every situation. Case in point, one could take the two verses quoted above and say, "see, the Bible contradicts itself." Well, no...duh! It does not. Both statements, "Look before you leap," and "He who hesitates is lost," may appear to be contradictory but must be understood in a proper context with an appropriate application.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Which Shoe First, God?

"But if a man stops to get the will of God in tying in shoe, or on making a lane change, he will soon be experiencing what might be called piety paralysis. God governs the world; we are not competent. Our lives are a mist. This does not mean we are to throw up our hands and abdicated all responsibility in decision-making. It simply means that God is God and we are not, and He wants us to make responsible decisions (according to our best light), not because He needs our help running the world, but because He is shaping us into the kind of creatures He has called us to be. We think we are making the world, when actually God is using the world to make us"- Douglas Wilson, Mother Kirk

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

Told through the eyes of a seven-year old Jesus, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel traces the life of His family as they travel from Egypt back to Nazareth. When they reach Jerusalem there is war going on and much bloodshed. The young Jesus witnesses a man brutally killed with a spear by a Roman soldier. This event will impact his thoughts the rest of the story. Jesus sees much death and suffering on his trip back to Nazareth, such as bodies hung on crosses which line the roads as far as the eye can see. However these brutal things are counterbalanced with love and respect of his family for one another. This family compassion is a very real presence throughout the story.

Anne Rice has written from the viewpoint of a Jesus who does not know He is God in the flesh. Throughout the story he is very inquisitive about himself, without turning into morbid introspection, as there seems to be much ambiguity about his birth and his family going down to Egypt. He learns of the angels who visited his mother and father from his uncle Cleopas.

The book ends just after Jesus is found by his parents in the Temple after He has gone missing for several days. While there he learns from Temple priests of the murder by Herod of the male children at his birth. This event also troubles him, as he sees himself as the cause of it.

The book is well written and told with reverence. Rice tries to be historically accurate. Her acknowledgments at the end of the book are well worth reading as she recounts her own personal and spiritual journey, along with her interaction with history and biblical texts while researching the book. Her conclusion? There is much error and biased opinions out there concerning the "historical" Jesus. She herself was biased for many years. I was a little troubled by her use of such resources as the Gospel of Thomas, i.e. Jesus turning clay pigeons into real birds, etc. But, her use of those are very, very limited. All in all, I thought Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel by Anne Rice was very good and I look forward to reading the sequel,Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana sometime in the near future.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Being the Church

The Greek word for church, "Ekklesia" means "called-out people," as in "called-out" from the old way of being human. There is a difference in "going to church" vs. "being the church." "Being" the church means being a part of God's family; in other words, being a part of the new way to be human, which worships and lives life together as brothers and sisters with God as Father, Jesus as Lord, bound together by the Spirit of love. So, in that sense, "He who has not the church as his MOTHER, has not God as his FATHER."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

When Nations Get Saved

Paul preached before a variety of kings and rulers; the gospel eventually going all the way to Rome. And the message was, as it still is, Christ is Lord! But suppose, like Constantine, Caesar says, "Okay, yes, I concede, Christ is Lord." What does he, (Caesar), do now? What happens if Obama says, "Christ is Lord?" How does that manifest itself? In other words, we kinda'/sorta' know what it looks like when individuals get saved but what happens when nations repent and believe gospel? What then? Well-meaning "Christians" might even rail against that sort of thing when it happens. Can't you hear them? "Sure Jesus is Lord over the church, but He ain't Lord over the U.S. Supreme Court....we do have "freedom of religion" after all...I mean, haven't you heard of the separation of church and state?"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Surprised by Hope Thoughts

I finished N.T. Wright's fascinating Surprised by Hope. A very good book, I highly recommend it. There were only a few parts I found a bit troubling but all in all good, sound, historic biblical teaching from a "fresh" perspective. Below are some gleanings I took from his thoughts about the resurrection, heaven and the future.

Primarily a rebuttal to gnostic tendencies so prevalent in modern evangelicalism concerning heaven and the resurrection; be it the liberal or conservative variety. Wright is not traditional in that sense. He talks scarcely little about the second coming or judgment day, although he does have some things to say about those topics. He has much to say about rethinking heaven, the resurrection and practical implications for here and now. He stays away from speculation about what the future will look like other than bringing attention to "signposts" that point us into the "mist," i.e. "seedtime and harvest." In that sense he's very optimistic and focuses on the victory of Christ over the grave and how that has implications for those who believe. Let me give you a for instance: He says when you read in the Bible about Jesus going to prepare a place for us, he compares that to a friend who tells you he's got beer in the fridge. That doesn't mean you've got to go into the fridge (heaven) to drink it. What your friend will do (hopefully), is break it out in the open to enjoy.

According to Wright heaven and earth is/will converge into one and even now heaven is overlapping or poking into this world, but more about that in a moment, (he says this a lot too!!!) His focus is how eternal life has already begun and ways the church ought to be about the business of putting that into practice now instead of waiting to float around as a disembodied spirit on a cloud somewhere strumming a golden harp. In that spirit he attacks head on, Dispensatinoalism put forth in such popular books as the Left Behind series. Yuck! Away with such gnostic drivel!

Wright talks a lot about 1 Cor. 15 and believes it to be the heart of what the New Testament teaches concerning the resurrection. Almost every time he mentions it he brings up the last verse, 58 and says this is Paul's conclusion of the matter:"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."

His encouragement to those who would read his book is that what is done in the here and now has ramifications for the future. As for John 14, he would say Christ is here, yet in another dimension, i.e. heaven.

His description on Hell was confusing, however he does a good job at explaining how purgatory, as defined historically, is a ridiculous idea, unless you consider the world we are in now as a type of purgatory, as in the stage on which our sanctification is played out. I found this to be a very intriguing idea.

He defines Jesus' parousia as an appearing rather than a coming, which he thinks is misleading. Again, the heavenly realm is very much present, yet we cannot see it. Christ is Lord over all and is transforming this world into something that looks more and more like heaven. And he says the dimensions of heaven and earth are interwoven, with heaven spilling over into this world. Two two are converging until one day they will be one. You see it happening when the hungry and poor are fed and clothed in the name of the risen Jesus Christ. So Christ's appearing is the manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth and yet there is a future aspect to his appearing, but it's more like a curtain being pulled back and this world being allowed to see what's actually going on. Christ has been here all along. But as for now we're not sure exactly what that will look like. But what we ought to be doing in the meantime, as God's people, is painting, planting gardens, writing books, building homes, teaching Sunday School, feeding the hungry, etc. all because this is the new way to be human and is living proof of the resurrection.

All in all, a thought provoking and challenging book.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

N.T. Wright and the Meaning of the Gospels

I listened to a couple lectures from N.T. Wright yesterday and this morning which he recently delivered at Wheaton College's 2010 theology conference.

In the talk, Wright poses a question: What are the Gospels all about? What's the primary thrust of their message about Jesus? This is not a trick question. He thinks many in the church have gotten it wrong for a number of years. He thinks many believe the Gospels are the written record which supports the deity of Christ, verified by His resurrection from the dead. Although, most emphatically true, Christ is God in the flesh, Wright believes the writers of the four Gospels had an even larger thing in mind.

Wright believes the Gospels are primarily about the inauguration of the Kingdom through the Cross. This is my paraphrase but he said, historically the church pendulum has swung in error from one extreme to another.
1. Kingdom---where the gospel becomes altogether "social" and misses the point of the cross, or
2. Cross--Where the kingdom becomes pietistic and "other-worldly,' and ignores the earthly ministry of Jesus, or at best, presents Jesus' earthly ministry as a prelude only to the cross. Most folks in my circle of Christianity seems to fall into the latter trap.
Wright says in order to understand the Gospels one must understand they are primarily about Jesus being Israel's Messiah inaugurating His Kingdom through the Cross. These points may seem ultra-nuanced but they have great and practical ramifications.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Prophets, Priests, Kings, and the Trivium

Priests (Grammar)
Priests are those who hold the office of household servants. They learn and serve through rote repetition. They are given detailed instructions and ordered to perform a task but told very little about why they must do it. This is true of young children in a household. Memorization is key in the early years. This is the grammar stage of learning.
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing;”—John 15:15a

Kings (Logic)
A king is one who has matured and is now able to exercise and incorporate wisdom into the way he makes important decisions. As children grow in their knowledge of facts, they grow in maturity and they begin to connect the dots and understand how facts fit together into a larger picture. This is the logic or dialectical phase of learning.
“And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king, (Solomon) had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.”—1 Kings: 3:28

Prophets (Rhetoric )
A prophet is one who speaks for God to the nations. He speaks and the world changes. When one has learned the basics and sees how the pieces fit into the bigger puzzle, he becomes able to speak as one who has wisdom. This the rhetorical stage in which the important truth of God is communicated to others.
“and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. “—Genesis 41:54

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Bible is Hugely Typological

I've been reading Mike Bull's book Bible Matrix and it's got me thinking about Bible interpretation and symbols. Maybe because I'm a visual artist I tend to be attracted to biblical typology. Yes, there is a continuity of essence in biblical theology but the Bible does not come to us as a systematic theology. It's history; a history of full of symbols. And yes, many of those symbols have come to end because Christ has come. But understanding them in their historical-redemptive context, helps us better to understand what they have fulfilled. We shouldn't ignore what they were pointing too.

The Bible is hugely typological, i.e,. 7-day creation week, tabernacle and all the symbols therein, the temple, dietary laws, man himself is created as a symbol: "imago Dei." Indeed, all of creation is symbolic, "the heavens declare the glory of God." Paul calls the church the "body of Christ." The sun and moon are symbols that rule: "And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars."

Symbols that are repeated time and time again are like a musical refrain. If you watch The Empire Strikes Back and you hear that deep, dark, brooding, powerful tune: Dum Da Da Dum, Dum Da Dum, Dum Da Dum, you don't have to be a genius to know who's coming up in the next scene: Darth Vader'! The Bible has very similar patterns and to ignore them is to miss something. Why does Acts 15:29 say they were to stay away from things that were strangled? "I don't know....let's just skip over that part!" No, we can't do that. The writer had a reason for including that and our task is to understand why he said it.

Sure, typology can be overdone and has been abused, but typological patterns are there and they have something to teach us about covenant theology. Chiasms are there too and ought not to be ignored when doing biblical exegesis. Sorry, but if we ignore them we are not seeing the forest for the trees.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Splintered Body

HOW is Jesus in the world by the power of the Spirit? He's in the world by Spirit-empowered New Humanity, aka, the "Bride of Christ." The church is the visible, or physical body of Christ on this earth. We not invited to participate...we are that Body. And we're either telling the truth about who Jesus is by the way we love one another or we're telling a lie, in which case we need to repent. If I were an unbeliever and I saw the way the church was splintered over so many factions, i.e. denominations, age, race, etc. I would find it disgusting. A whole "body" is a beautiful thing. A splintered "body" is repulsive and gross. Who wants to be a part of that??? People are not flocking to the American evangelical church from outside because, quite frankly they find our lack of love for one another and lack of unity to be quite grotesque. Until the church in America, and other parts of the Western church recovers, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, she's going to continue to have a "revolving door" type church membership.

The church is not the destination, the Kingdom of God is. But the church is the heart of that Kingdom, and in principle, she is already there. The world is groaning and longing to be changed and it is looking to us to see what that change looks like. The church alone has been given the message of the Gospel and it is that Spirit-empowered message which has the power to transform, (and is transforming) this world and making all things new.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Young Jean Cauvin-Umber Stage 2

I've continued to work on shadows. There is a bit of "personality" showing through now. The eyes are the windows to the soul.