Showing posts from March, 2017

Birth of Christ

Tomorrow I am teaching on the birth of Christ.  Here is the lesson. It seems out of place in the calendar but so it goes.
This is one of those theological words that doesn’t appear in the Bible but is used to cover a large, difficult to understand concept.“Carn” means flesh; The Eternal Son of God became man with flesh and blood in a specific time and place and was named Jesus, the Christ.He was/is Lord (not to be confused with LORD in Old Testament).This introduces the word trinity, another word that is almost impossible for us to grasp and we make human attempts to understand this, which is a mystery.A mystery is a Bible word for something not revealed until a specific time, but there is more to it than that.
“The biblical idea of mystery, then, reminds Christians that God holds the course of human events in his hands and has so shaped them that they work for the salvation of his people. It also demonstrates the graciousness of God in revealing his redemptive purposes to prophets …

Fresh Studies in Matthew, Matthew 12:46-48

Chapter divisions are really meaningless, so we have to overlook them most of the time, especially here.Twelve is a very long and intense chapter.We start with controversies over nothing made into something and end with an incident with Jesus’ family where they seem to think he’s crazy.It may be they just don’t know what to do with him.His mother should have known better, but they were, at the core, afraid for his life.His unbelieving siblings probably feared for their own, since in those days the family was often punished with the wrong-doer.At first I thought that this story, which is recorded three times in the gospels, did not have a reference to their thinking he is out of his mind, but I was wrong—it’s in Mark 3.There it says “his own people,” so it assumed that is the reason they are there, asking for him.

Jesus does not reject his family here really, only shows that blood ties have their place and there is a stronger tie, faith and following him, identity in him.That is very …

Tribal Leadership

Reading this book because it was recommended by a higher up at the college who wanted to lead a book group on it, and the book group is this week.I am slow to recommend books like this, but I found it helpful.It took me a while to get into it, and it’s pretty anecdotal and of course, like all these books presents its ideas as the salvation of the organizational world.Essentially, it posits five levels for organizations.Stage 1 – Members say, “Life sucks.”Stage 2 – Members say, “My life sucks.”Stage 3 – Some members say, “My life is great.”Here we have people performing well but only for themselves.Stage 4 – Members say, “We are great,” which is an us-them mentality but is preferable to Stage 3, where everyone is about themselves and their own success.At this stage the leaders have had epiphanies that show them the organization is bigger than individual members, etc.Sort of a Jack Mezirow transformative learning thing. Stage5 – We don’t have to worry about being great because we are no…

Fresh Studies in Matthew, Matthew 12:33-50

--> A difficult passage, because (1) this is not the pat, nice Jesus we like, (2) it is very black and white, and we moderns like the phrase “It depends,” connoting contingency, gray areas, unnecessary complexity to give us wiggle room, (3) we see ourselves in the condemnation of foolish talk, (4) we see our culture in those who have massive amounts of revelation and still rejects, and (5) the parable of the demons coming back after exorcism is odd and creepy.But this is coming after the unbelievable accusation that Jesus was demon possessed or even worse.

I don’t think the story of the unclean spirit is so much a parable as a hypothetical story.Or even a generically true story, because it is in present tense.If a demon spirit is exorcised (commentators imply this rather than that the demon leaves by choice, which they apparently don’t do), he will not find a place in the desert.The Jews of that time believed the desert was a place of demons (which gives another sense to …

On Baptists

--> About two years ago I was asked to be on a panel about religion .I had prepared a spiel about the global state of Christianity, but the moderator had one question for me, “How do you explain Westboro Baptist?”
I am still floored by this, and eventually, toward the end of the talk, was able to make the point that there are 2 billion people on the planet who call themselves Christians and there are 29 people in Westboro Baptist, so it’s not really a comparison.Needless to say, I don’t plan to be on a panel like that again.
The problem, of course, is that there are dozens of kinds of Baptists and it doesn’t take an act of Congress to put the name Baptist on a shingle.Also, people don’t know that the pastor of Westboro Baptist was a civil rights attorney and defended African Americans against Jim Crow laws.He was also allegedly a pretty nasty fellow at times.
Where would America be without Baptists?I ask this seriously. First, there would be a Rhode Island.Roger Williams fough…