Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Revelation (summary)

Below is a concept paper I am thinking of doing for a class:

The most complex book in the Bible is the book of Revelation. It has been said that there are as many interpretations of it as there are interpreters. This is true, as a trip to any Christian bookstore will have dozens of different books with dozens of different interpretations. What are we to believe about the message of Revelation?

The book begins with seven letters to seven different churches, and then moves to speak about a vision of a throne room. Our author, John is given from this throne room the amazing privilege of being taken on a long series of visions. The first vision, the vision that the rest of the book flows out of, is a vision of a lamb that is standing on a throne in heaven. Whatever we are to believe about the meaning of this book, we must first begin with this vision of the Lamb standing on the throne of heaven.

To find an answer this question, we must first ask what it would it have meant for the first readers of the book when they first read it. Reality to the first readers is that the Roman Empire ruled the world at this time. It was this government who persecuting the early Christians. They had rulers, who claimed to be gods and demanded that all their citizens worship them. Since they were the most powerful persons in the world, they were able to demand that people worship them or they would have them killed.

Revelation says something completely different. In this book Caesar isn’t the one sitting on the throne of heaven; the Lamb who was slain is sitting on the throne. What does this say to how reality is really oriented? What does this say to the way we should live our lives? Should we be more worried about what Caesar or this Lamb wants? Well who is standing on the throne of heaven?

What do we allow ourselves to be more influenced by the political power players of our day or the Lamb on the throne? Do we believe that the world is going to hell in a hand basket simply because the wrong politician is in office or that the world will be made right because a Republican is president? Whose voice should be stronger influence for our lives, the voices on the news of the voice of the one who sits on the throne when he says “Behold, I am making all things new!” (read Rev 21.5).

Revelation is not necessarily making predictions about the future; it is talking about the way we live our lives. It is calling its readers to remember who is really on the throne in heaven. When we allow ourselves to pay too much attention to the beasts and the dragons and the chaos that seems to be filling the world, we forget that this Lamb is on the throne, and he says, “I’m making all things new!”

In our lives, as we see economic hard times, pandemics like the swine flu, corruption all around us, culture in a hurry to jettison any type of moral compass remember that we serve a God who is sitting on the throne and none of this is about to drive him off the throne (Actually, if you read Revelation, you’ll notice that God never moves, he remains stationary in his seat, he is in control without moving!). So don’t allow yourself to get mired down in hopelessness, remember it is the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ the Messiah, who is standing on the throne in heaven, and he is in control!

What do you think?

Friday, April 24, 2009

No more to guns...

I grew up a big fan of guns, and to some level I still enjoy guns. When I had a truck, I put an NRA sticker on it; Charlton Heston was my president. When I turned 18, I bought a gun - in fact in high school I bought two. At my parents house are 5 guns that I claim to be mine, 3 that I have definite claim to (the others are my dad's that he never uses). So when I say, I guns are a part of my past, I'm not just saying that.

Recently, I read a stat that says in one year over 3,000 children are killed by guns. This is compared to 0 in Japan, 19 in Great Britain, 57 in France, 109 in Germany, and 103 in Canada. These other countries have much tougher gun laws. Actually, I heard that in Japan the only people allowed to own and use guns are members of the National Olympic shooting team (not even cops). Yes, I know the US's population is larger than these countries, but if the numbers were averaged out, we'd still be way higher than the other (between 1979 and 2001, gunfire killed 90,000 children). The reason is that we have more guns than they do.

I really didn't think about this issue - even though I'm a believer in non-violence - until I was having lunch with some friends (one from Arkansas and one from Brazil). When learning that people don't own guns in Brazil like we do in the US, my friend from Arkansas asked if people are afraid because they don't have guns. He said something to the effect that there are some crazy people out there. My Brazilian friend replied something like exactly, there are some crazy people out there. He said he was afraid in the US because he never knew who had a gun, or what crazy thing somebody would do if they got angry enough.

This conversation got me thinking, sure its not the gun that is ultimately responsible for murder, it is the person shooting it. Sure, if somebody is responsible with a gun, it can be a perfectly safe tool to keep in ones house. Sure, I have the right to own a gun* but can my gun keep me safe?** could I actually use my gun to kill someone? I understand sport, but am I willing to say that sport is more important than safety. I guess unless I'm in grizzly country, I really don't think I need a gun.

As I have thought through my feelings about guns over the past few months, I've realized that I do not have an internal drive to own guns let alone shoot them anymore. Also, if I am going to take a stance against violence and the lifestyle that violence creates, I must have integrity in my position. Gun violence is a very real reality, one that I stand against. I think the only way for me to live with integrity is to say that I think I've shot a gun for the last time.***

*I think that the 2nd Amendment is a very useless law. Honestly, if a group of people were to rebel against the government, do we actually think, with all the technology, they'd stand a chance. In Iraq (twice) we've been using tanks and ship based missile, shooting targets from over the horizon (meaning we launch missiles at people who can't see us), do we actually think a militia would stand a chance to defend ourselves against the gov't? I mean Iraq had a standing army with tanks and they only lasted a couple of weeks.

**Another conversation point always talked about is self-defense. Most people don't talk about the statistic of people shot by their own guns, being used against them.

***First this is a personal issue, I am not attempting to change any person's position on this stance. FYI: I allow myself the space to change my position, but as of right now, I just do not see a reason I would need to have to shoot a gun again.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Recently we had a conversation in a Chapel interns meeting about pastors and originality. The brunt of the issue discussed was whether it is appropriate for a pastor to use material in a sermon without citing where the information was coming from. For instance, is if appropriate for me to read a book by NT Wright, and then teaching his ideas to a congregation without letting them know where I got it from (implying that I was the original thinker).

Con: The argument for the side that says it is wrong says its dishonest for a pastor to speak something that is not theirs as if it is theirs; this is stealing. This argument is much like the argument against plagiarism in academic, published, and professional writing. For a pastor to get up front and say something and not let the congregation know where they got it from, leads towards a false sense of the pastor's knowledge. There is a responsibility to be people of integrity and let people know when you're 'borrowing' somebody's material.

Pro: The argument for the side that says its not a big deal, comes from the fact that everybody is doing it and we all realize that pastors are reading and studying. If they are studying we should expect them to We realize that what they preach is not original. Its not important they they originally though it. Its important that they are proclaiming it to us. We expect that they got it from some research they found, a book they read or something like that in the hours they spend hiding in their office.

*I personally think both sides are right. I have never assumed when I heard my pastors make comments in church were making stuff up. I guess my understanding has always been they read that somewhere. What I guess I have always questioned is when pastor just straight-up preach somone else's sermons; that's a bit too much. In response to this, it was pointed out by a mentor that the early Methodist ministers simply preached Wesley's sermons...nobody had a problem with that.

What do you think?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Passive resurrection

It is proper to believe that Jesus did not raise himself from the grave, but that he was raised by God the Father. While it may appear to be a minor detail in the grand scheme of life, it is a rather important one if you are to get the idea of what is happening here.

It is important because it speaks to Jesus' nature. As Christians we believe that while He was God, He gave up the independent use of his innate God abilities. Thus, we believe that when He healed people, it was the Holy Spirit doing the healing... etc. etc. You get my point, the conversation can be confusing very quickly, but you get the basic idea. 

We believe that Jesus was killed because he was being faithful to His Father's will. Or he was being himself. Jesus was teaching a new way, and then while living this new way, he was killed in the most shameful way possible. This death is the utter rejection of Jesus by the Jews. They wanted to make a statement about what they thought about Jesus...and they picked the cross.

As Christians we believe that God has the final say in our lives. Thus we believe that when God raised Jesus from the grave he was vindicating the life that Jesus lived, "This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased." This means that the way God has ordained for us to live is the life that Jesus lived. That the way the world finds detestable, is really the way that we are to live. We are to subvert the ways of the world around us, because we find our honor in ways the world finds shame.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

First Day of a NEW week!

John 20.1 says that on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb. Look at John's clever writing he's putting this little hint in his text for us all to read...Easter Sunday was the first day of a NEW week ... well duh its Sunday. Yes this is obvious, but there is something just a little deeper going on...its the first day of a NEW week.

Think about it this way, God created the world in 6 days, and on the 7th he rested; this was our reality, the 7th day. God's work was finished on earth. Then Jesus comes, lives, dies, and is resurrected. Christians believe that through his acts a
NEW reality was fashioned; a new week was started. No longer are we living in the OLD week, but a NEW one. A NEW reality that dawned on that Easter Sunday all those years ago!! A reality that has been defined by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. 

He has Risen!!! Welcome to the NEW week!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Great Quote:

God was executed by people painfully like us, in a society very similar to our own ... by a corrupt church, a timid politician, and a fickle proletariat led by professional agitators.

- Dorothy L. Sayers,
The Man Born to Be King (1943)

HT -

Monday, April 06, 2009

Why Monday, April 6th will be a really, really long day.

It was common sense that Connecticut would lose in ’99. Nobody thought Arizona had a chance in ’97. Duke was going to get crushed in ’91. Everybody thought that Villanova was dead in the water in ’85. NC State had no chance in ’83 or ‘74. People would have considered you stupid if you would have suggested that Texas Western was going to win in ’66. But in every case, the underdog produced a huge upset.

At the same time nobody gave Duke in ’90, Michigan in ’76, or Memphis State in ’73 a chance either, and for good cause, they all were soundly defeated. Duke by 30, Michigan by double digits, and Memphis State allowed Bill Walton to shoot 21 out of 22.

It is for these two separate paragraphs that I am anxious, nervous, excited, incredibly moody, and increasingly unable to focus.

Oh yeah…I've got State: 75-64.

Go Green, Go White, Go State!!

(my prediction is in honor of the 1979 National Championship, where MSU won 75-64)