Showing posts from 2014

counting my blessings - perseverance of the podcasters

In 2014 I embraced podcasts.

Some of them give me hope theologically, usually the anabaptistic chaps, orthodox protestants who are not evangelicals.
The peace Christians.
Brian Zahnd at Word of Life Church
Greg Boyd at Woodland Hills Church
Bruxy Cavey at The Meeting House

The liturgical Christians. 
Nadia Bolz Weber at House for All Sinners and Saints.
The Daily Office

Some preachers are no longer at their churches and I miss their podcasts.
Jonathan Martin at Renovatus Church
Ken Wilson at the Ann Arbor Vineyard, I still listen to his associate pastor though, Donnell Wyche.

Some Christians do not speak for a church but podcast about grace, life, and hardships. They talk with each other, scrap with each other, and talk gracefully to those they disagree with and then learn there is very little to disagree about. They also use language not normal in church, but plenty normal outside of church.
Drunk Ex-Pastors
Bad Christian (Great Savior)

I also like stories.
This American Life
The Moth

I li…

counting my blessings - perseverance of family movie night

I'm thankful that our family has a tradition of going out to the movie theater together once a month. The theater we go to has $6 tickets on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Sometimes the movies are great, sometimes they don't live up to the hype. Either way, I really like still going out together as a family like we used to when the kids were younger.

We did it tonight. It was opening night for this highly anticipated movie, and our theater does not get crowded, ever.

Great theater. Great family. I am blessed.

counting my blessings - perseverance of public parks

I really like hiking. But there aren't much in the way of mountains here on Connecticut's southeast coast. But we do have great parks. Today, I walked the dog around the big loop of Bluff Point State Park. It was beautiful. I love the coastal forest. I am blessed to have so many great places to take long walks.

counting my blessings - perseverance of the annual get together

For years, before the kids were all adolescents, we had our first Advent gathering with a couple other families. We ate well, the kids played, we sang carols, and went home happy.

We do this almost every year. We talk about getting old. We talk about our kids getting old. We still eat well, the kids don't "play" anymore though, they hang out, and we sing carols (or not).

I'm blessed to know these friends. I'm blessed that our kids are friends. I'm blessed we do this almost every December.

counting my blessings - all my cubs are home

I like my kids. I brought the oldest one home from school tonight. Now I get to be with all of them at dinner for a few weeks. I am grateful for my nuclear family.

counting my blessings - the perseverance of the saints at my job

I have worked at the same location for over 20 years now. I have been part of the weekly Bible study there for nearly half that time. As layoffs come and go, as companies are bought and divisions are sold off, the body of Christ has gathered every week to pray together, learn together, and share our spiritual lives together.

Some have a high school diploma and some have Ph.D.s. Some of us are administrative assistants and some are department managers. I am one of the few white males who usually attends; we are Asians and Africans. Many of us learned English as a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th language. We are Protestant and Catholic. We are male and female. We are new Christians and seasoned disciples. Some of us quit the job to go to seminary. Some took seminary classes in the evenings and kept our day jobs. Some of us are heavily involved in our churches, and for some of us this is our only church. Sometimes one of the local pastors comes to help our study. Sometimes we do it on our own.

We read …

counting my blessings - Christmas carols

I play in a church band. We play once a month and practice once a week. It is fun for me. This month we are working on Christmas carols.

They are older music.
The melodies are more complex.
The timing is different.
The lyrics are often profound.
They take me our of this decade.
They place me in a bigger context.
They enlarge my world.

They focus me on Jesus.

counting my blessings - perseverance of friends

Today, I met with an old friend and told him I was sorry.

He is a wonderful person and accepted my apology. He had never held that offense against me. He recalls the incident more charitably than I do.

I was apologizing for something I did two decades ago. It had been bugging me for at least a year. I finally overcame my shame of apologizing for something twenty years ago that should have been acknowledged back then.

But this guy is a stand up guy. He forgave quickly and easily.

I know a lot of stand up guys and gals.

I have many, many generous friends. They are generous in love for and tolerance of me.

I am grateful for my friends.

Peace officers

After Mike Brown's murder in Ferguson, I wrote here about the possibility of a different response to critical situations by police. Since other countries have far fewer fatal police - perpetrator engagements, there must be another way for the United States to do it. De-escalation is possible. Today, I came across an article discussing this very topic, it's implementation in the US, and its impact so far.

Can Different Training Make Police Officers Guardians, Not Warriors?
Here are a couple highlights.

By January 2014, more than 8,000 Police Academy graduates had been schooled in the new curriculum — which teaches officers to be responsive, impartial, respectful and fair....

“The most common corresponding emotion to fear is anger, and anger does not facilitate ongoing compliance,” he adds. “We teach recruits that when they mistreat people they actually may make that person more dangerous.”.........

In the wake of the Mike Brown shooting, one city, Richmond, California, emerged a…

counting my blessings - perseverance of the bicycle commute

I bought myself this bike around my birthday in 2009. Wintertime is a great season in New England to find bicycles on sale. I wrote a review on it back then.

I bought another bike a few years afterwards, but this one is my favorite.

I ride in all seasons, as long as the path is not icy, or unplowed, or wet. Wet is no fun, but cold can be dealt with by more layers.

My ride to work is only 6 and a half miles. But it can take me 30-45 minutes, depending on how my legs are feeling. It's all hills. I'm riding in comfort, not speed. Also, I am less about the destination and more about the journey. This journey is my blessing.

I listen to a podcast, or the news, or some music. I get to hear the critters on the parts of the path that are off the road. I see the same faces over the years. Some have nicer bikes than me. Some are older than me. Some are walking. Some sleep in the woods off the path. In the winter, I see fewer people out, mostly those who do not have options. A couple ar…

my blessings - Perseverance of the Lord's Prayer

When I'm left speechless, I have this gift from Jesus that keeps on giving.

Our Father who are in heaven......I need someone bigger than the most powerful country in the world, who is above all, knows all, and can bring justice to all.

Hallowed be your name........all other names are corrupt, the United States of America, the justice system.

Let your kingdom come, let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven......bring to earth the ethos of love of neighbor, of justice, of mercy.

Give us this day our daily bread....because in weeks like this, our food is tears, where justice is denied to minorities, where men of color are presumed guilty until proven innocent, if they survive to be proven innocent. Without hope in you our souls will starve.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.....Forgive us of cynicism, despair, nihilism, self-righteous anger, selfishness, and forgive those who murder out of fear and selfishness, cynicism and nihilism. Becaus…

my blessings - perseverance of the gay saints

Keeping with my commitment to count my blessings this Advent season of 2014 I raise my glass to the gay saints in America. This group knows how to persevere despite the buffeting from the wider culture as well as the smaller church culture they don't quit on. When I want to quit, I think of their struggle to see Jesus when his people, their brothers and sisters, represent him as hateful and bigoted, as I have in the past.

This blessing stood out to me yesterday as I listened to an interview with Jennifer Knapp, a Christian singer/songwriter who lost her very large church fan base when she came out of the closet. Her interview appeared on the BadChristian Podcast # 48. Two things in this interview lodged in my memory. The three guys interviewing her asked her how she felt about them believing homosexual activity is a sin. (To be fair to them, they think elevating sexual sin over any other is wrong of the church, and they all admit to their own sins.) She responded with so much grac…

my blessings - perseverance of the black saints

My personal challenge for the Advent 2014 season is to count my blessings.

I saw on Richard Beck's blog today a post on counting our blessings as the cheapest form of therapy. I tend to see the shadows instead of the light that makes them possible. Thus, I miss the light and the ensuing joy.

Today's blessing is the perseverance of the black saints. I am not speaking in Calvinistic terms though. I'm speaking of the black american saints, who persevere despite the social opposition they endure daily. The opposition that has come to the forefront of a national conversation sparked by Ferguson. Many of their white brothers and sisters in the church, and some of their non-white brothers and sisters, are not interested in their painful stories. But they persevere.

Jesus talks about them. They are the proof to Jesus' sermon on the mount in Matthew 5.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be…

Repressed dignity and the "Liberation Complex"

I took vacation days before the Thanksgiving break to enjoy an entire week of vacation. Enjoyment for me includes reading big and difficult books. This week I read the final installment of Rick Atkinson's World War 2 trilogy, The Guns at Last Light. In light of this week's riots in Ferguson, Missouri after the grand jury conclusion, this observation of Atkinson's struck me.

Liberated prisoners from German work/prison/extermination camps were asked to "'Keep disclipline ...Let your behavior be a credit to your national honor.'"
Instead, starvation, revenge, indiscipline, and chaos often created what Allied officers called a "liberation complex." SHAEF had presumed refugees "would be tractable, grateful, and powerless after their domination from two to five years as the objects of German slave policies." As an Army assessment concluded, "They were none of these things...newly liberated persons looted, robbed, murdered, and in some c…

Not everything Biblical is Christian. Part 10 - women as spoils of war

Dear Johnboy
The extremist Islamic partisan group ISIS, has made headlines for their wholesale slaughter of infidels, defined by them as anyone who does not share their strain of religion. The headline above those headlines is their treatment of captive women and children who are enslaved either for labor or for sex.

Here is a first person account in the Washington Post of a 14 year old Yazidi girl who was captured, enslaved, and rescued.
Here is a video and story in the Daily Mail of ISIS fighters discussing the purchase of captured girls and their prices.
Here is a CNN story with ISIS's theological justification for the treatment of captured women.

Nauseating, isn't it?

As you know from your history reading, ISIS's behavior is not unique to conquering armies. Unfortunately, their behavior is biblical. But then, not everything biblical is Christian.

Here is the biblical case for the capture and enslavement of human beings. When Israel is not attacking cities genocidally, …

book response: The Bible Tells Me So... by Peter Enns (2014)

Every book that I have read about critical Biblical scholarship and Biblical theology has been a difficult read until the new book by Enns, The Bible Tells Me So...why defending scripture has made us unable to read it. At points, it is laugh out loud funny. Dr. Enns, a professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University practices the Sound of Music maxim, "a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down."

I'd say most American evangelicals like C.S. Lewis so much that he gets a free pass on his non-fundamentalist ways. But that means some of his books are not as popular among us evangelicals, like his Reflections on the Psalms. But Enns wants us to know he is not writing anything crazier than what Lewis wrote, and if we aren't keeping Lewis out of heaven, we shouldn't immediately write Enns off either. Enns opens with a quote from said book of Lewis's.
The human qualities of the raw materials show through. Naivety, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursi…

on me not getting the Romans 1 clobber verses

Let me say it for any critics. I'm stupid. I'm blind. I am an ally of minorities, including sexual minorities. I do that poorly as well. This is one stupid, blind guy's attempt at re-reading Romans 1.

I am trying to continually learn.

Today, my reading plan took me into the beginning of Romans, St. Paul's magnum opus on grace and faith. Romans 1 is called a clobber passage because it seems to categorize all homosexuality as bad. Here is the second half of the first chapter.
Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.   24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25…

Not everything Biblical is Christian. Part 9 - Who would Jesus hate? WWJH

Dear Johnboy,

Forget WWJD, you need to figure out WWJH, Who Would Jesus Hate. Because there are some verses in the Bible, Old and New Testaments, that declare God's hatred for some people. In fact Jesus even commands us to hate some people.

Wait a second. God can't tell us he loves the world in one place then tell us to hate those he in fact loves, can he? Is he self-contradictory? Is one of these paths the Christian way and one not?

Some Christians, really intelligent ones even, refuse to resolve this tension and hold these opposite commands in tension. They refuse to prioritize "God is love" and believe that the God who is love hates. Here is a link to one example. Here are a couple videos (1, 2) of pastors preaching about God hating people. We all agree the Westboro Baptist Family Cult focuses on the hate verses and tries to share the bad news as often as they can.

The thing is, does hate mean what we think it means in the Bible? There is little help from the orig…

When Jesus was unclean

This topic is an addendum to my last post in the series, Not everything Biblical is Christian, Part 8 - Jesus and nocturnal emission laws. I concluded that post by saying, "I still don't know where Jesus is in this passage, Deuteronomy 23:10"
If there be among you any man, that is not clean by reason of uncleanness that chanceth him by night, then shall he go abroad out of the camp, he shall not come within the camp: 11 But it shall be, when evening cometh on, he shall wash himself with water: and when the sun is down, he shall come into the camp again.  The King James version is more of the Hebrew to English word for word translation. The modern versions are more explicit about what the Hebrew alludes to "in happenings of the night."
10 "If any man among you becomes unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he shall go outside the camp. He shall not come inside the camp, 11 but when evening comes, he shall bathe himself in water, and as the sun sets…

(Not) everything Biblical is Christian. Part 8 - Jesus and nocturnal emission laws

Not everything Biblical is Christian, part 8. See part onetwothreefourfivesix and seven to catch up. See the briefest of reviews at the bottom.

Dear Johnboy

I know if you read this ten years ago, you would write me off, because I am not dealing with one of those verses you memorized repeatedly through your AWANA childhood.
2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. I want to clarify how I can agree with verse 16 and write a series called, Not everything Biblical is Christian.

As I tried to remind you of those topics and issues in the Bible that bothered …

Not everything Biblical is Christian. Part 7 - Slavery

Not everything Biblical is Christian, part 7. See part onetwothreefourfive and six to catch up. See the briefest of reviews at the bottom.

Dear Johnboy

Here is a short summary of the reasons American Christians before the Civil War believed slavery was biblical. They used Bible verses. They used Old Testament and New Testament verses.

Recall the previous letter, part 6. In Acts we see the church retaining a few Old Testament rules but shortly thereafter, dropping even those. Paul says to the church in Corinth, "look, if you want to eat food sacrificed to idols, fine, just don't flaunt it." As far as Paul is concerned, the loving your neighbor law is the one that matters. Otherwise, food is food. We see this principle in action - the church continues to figure out what loving our neighbors looks like.

After the apostles died, some people in the church realized that owning a slave is not the way one would love oneself, thus not fulfilling Christ's Golden Rule. …

Not everything Biblical is Christian. Part 6 - Ripping down the scaffolding

Not everything Biblical is Christian, part 6. See part onetwothreefour, and five to catch up.

Part one points out that the words of Satan recorded in the Bible are not Christian doctrine. Part two shows the Sermon on the Mount overruling the cursing of enemies exhibited in Psalm 137. Parts three and four show Moses getting overruled by Ezekiel and Jesus. Part five merely brushes the concept of source criticism.  Since the last post was technical, I will try to keep this simple if not short, Old Testament application in the early church: a brief summary of the book of Acts.

Dear Johnboy

It certainly is a good thing that the apostles agreed that baptism would be the initiation rite into the church instead of circumcision. This story is developed in the church history crafted by St. Luke. But let's back up a little.

In the gospels Jesus says the law is summed up in two verses from Deuteronomy, Love God with your all and love your neighbor as yourself. The other 600+ laws that …

Not everything Biblical is Christian. Part 5 - not all texts are equal

Not everything Biblical is Christian, part 5. See part one, two, three, and four to catch up.

Part one points out that the words of Satan recorded in the Bible are not Christian doctrine. Part two shows the Sermon on the Mount overruling the cursing of enemies exhibited in Psalm 137. Parts three and four show Moses getting overruled by Ezekiel and Jesus. Part 5 will look at another angle of this theme, that not everything Christian is in the Bible you have today.

Dear Johnboy (that is my younger self)

I am going to write you a short summary of this post then put all the technical stuff afterwards to see what I am talking about.

The way the author of Hebrews uses the Greek translation of the Old Testament, especially where it disagrees with the Hebrew version is an example of New Testament authors using a different OT text source than you do. Most Protestant translations today use the Masoretic Text as the basis of the OT translations. You learned that the OT we have today is so reliab…

Not everything Biblical is Christian. Part 4 - Turn the other cheek Moses

This is part four of the series Not everything Biblical is Christian. See part one, two and three to catch up.

Dear Johnboy (that is my younger self)

The previous letter shows God's position on punishment changes from the Ten Commandments era to Ezekiel's era yet in the New Testament Jesus is presented as unchanging. In the first letter, I pointed to the New Testament's assertions that Jesus is the full revelation of God and what was obscure in the Old Testament is clarified in, with, by and through Jesus.

Jesus interacted with the Old Testament in surprising ways. It shocked his original audience and still shocks today. One of the most shocking things he does is disagree with Moses, even when the teachings presented in the five books of Moses are presented as coming directly from God. Here is what Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 5:38 "You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But I say to you, Do not resi…