Monthly Archives: February 2012
PRAYER—O Lord, govern my life by your wisdom, so that my soul may always be serving you as you desire, not as I may choose. Do not grant what I ask if it offends your love, which must always be living in me. Let me die to myself, that I may serve you; let me live to you, for you are the true life. Amen. (John Wesley)*
*Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 467-469). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.
Ok, this is one of those things you don’t see too often. An atheist pointing out the usefulness of religion. Now don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t want society merely deciding we religionists might be useful so they’ll keep us around a little longer… I think is about more than utility. It doesn’t just work, it’s true! It’s good. But I have to say it’s quite refreshing to hear an atheist being so congenial to communities of faith. And I also have to say that Christians should consider being a little less defensive when encountering atheists or engaging them in debate.
Atheism can be a healthy challenge and an opportunity to strengthen our faith. I had a seminary professor who pretended to be an atheist for 6 weeks in my philosophy of religion class. He challenged our belief and wouldn’t let it go until he believed we were taking the other side seriously; until he thought we could treat them with humanity. A few guys left seminary over it. It gave me a deeper heart for those who don’t believe and why. I wanted to love them, listen to them, and most of all, be credible for them. I wish I could say I’ve been perfect over the years, but I haven’t.
I also think these comments are powerful insights for Christian leaders. Understanding the power of community can help us encourage the faithful and reach the seeking. What do you think? Interesting, no?
Well, it’s not really a secret. I’ve known about it since I was a teenager and did some research on the faith of the founding fathers. But it’s interesting that Jefferson may have created it without sharing it with many others. What was it? A Bible created by cutting and pasting (literally) lines from the New Testament which he considered authentically from Jesus. He put them together into a sort of moral philosophy guide which he read many nights before retiring for bed. He was downright devotional about it.
It’s comforting to know that a founding father was a spiritual man. Better still, one interested in the bright side of moral philosophy. Even better that Jesus was a guide? Well, yes and no. A Jesus completely remastered. A Jesus pulled from the inspired pages which had delivered him to Jefferson. A Jesus diluted of full context. A Jesus in his own image.
But don’t get me wrong we all do this a lot. And like Jefferson we probably don’t tell anyone about it. Our own private Jesus to bring our burdens to and to confirm our own freshly-minted moral convictions. Our own private savior to comfort and affirm. Not quite the risen Savior who blows the lid off our comfortable reality yet offers us his raw self.
Ashes to Fire is a great time to get in the habit of spending personal moments with Jesus. Just make sure your heart is wide open. One day we will end our journey just like Jefferson did and our family and friends will pick up the Jesus we left behind. Will it be a Jesus in our own image? Will it be a cut and pasted and domesticated life chaplain? Or will it be Jesus: the One and only savior of the world? It’s so easy to let our faith slide into this. But let’s not do it. No secret bibles.
PRAYER—Lord, I ask that I may look for nothing, claim nothing, and expect nothing but you, and that I may go through all the scenes of life, not seeking my own glory, but looking wholly unto you, and acting wholly for you. Amen. JW*
*Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 461-463). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.
Eric Meyers seems right on the mark as a legit scholar pointing out likely identity of this latest “find”. Short version: move along, move along, nothing to see here…
It’s interesting to discover a tomb belonging to 1st century people but that’s about it. No real connection to Jesus of Nazareth or Joseph of Arimathea. If you read the very earliest Christian traditions, 1 Corinthians 15:1–11 (NRSV) you’ll see tradition already in writing within 2-3yrs of the resurrection. The very earliest Christians absolutely believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and paid for it with their lives. Eyewitnesses to the event are cited as still living at the time of Paul’s writing of this letter to the Corinthians. There were over 10,000 believers in this world-changing event within a few weeks of it occurring. There is nothing that could ever be discovered archaeologically that could overturn this reality. And no scientific methods exist to precisely identify 2,000 year old remains, if any were found. And without a sample, it would be impossible to compare it to the actual living Jesus. But in the meantime he can sell some books and get a TV show made. Below is the Bible passage, which absolutely proves there were not multiple interpretations of his death nor later theological traditions added onto the story of Jesus. The full Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Gospels were written a bit later, but this letter by Paul is decades sooner and is referring to written tradition he received right after his conversion, which was right after the resurrection. They didn’t just believe it based on what they saw, they believed it based on the promises found in the Old Testament. So it was a very deeply rooted belief in the Scriptures as well as the testimonies. So there’s just no room for this Book/TV show’s understanding of early Christian faith. The history is just too documented. Instead, I think they’ve found a jewish tomb from the time with similar names… Greek inscriptions were very common for the time… Many/most Jews believed in the bodily resurrection that would follow the judgment so it’s not surprising for the hope to appear. Belief in resurrection in general is different than believing Jesus rose from the dead. That’s what was and remains the specific Christian belief since day one:
The Resurrection of Christ
(Cp Mk 16:9–20)
15 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
Here comes the Matrix! For better or for worse major corporations and tech companies want to be the first to break through into quantum computing. To possess this technology will change our world. But who will control it and what will it be used for? As I’ve reflected on the Matrix movie it seems like simulation is both heaven and hell for human beings. Sanctified imagination can unleash potential and help us overcome. But at one point God said humanity’s thoughts were “evil and that continually…” So how successful will we be in riding this light for good? And what of the machines? Will they be servant or master in this realized world?
In the meantime close doesn’t count, but really close does. (watch the videos at the link). What are your thoughts about IBM taking a Quantum Leap? Will we get there? Will it be a dream or nightmare?
1 Corinthians 1:4, 8-9 says “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus…He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
When I think of grace I think of olympic champions, nice ladies, and forgiveness. One thing all three have in common is a very great power held gently underneath. Grace is not just the unmerited favor of God. It is the power of a risen Savior pulsing through every fully-surrendered follower of Christ. In this Lenten season it’s not all about weeping over our weakness in the flesh. This Lenten season is about overcoming the world, the flesh, and the devil by the grace of God! The power of the Holy Spirit becomes active in every believer from the moment we receive Jesus. That power keeps working in us until we surrender all and a deep transformation takes place. Then that power keeps molding us into the image of Jesus for the rest of our days. Nobody is perfect, before or after encountering this grace. But perfect love is poured out in our lives. And that love can do more than we often think it can. Believe your life can change. The Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent and believe the Good News! John Wesley said it so well:
As soon as the grace of God in the sense of his pardoning love is manifested to our souls, the grace of God as the power of his Spirit is at work within us. And now we can perform, through God, … all things in the light and power of that love. (John Wesley, Sermon 11)
Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 431-433). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.
I’ve been reflecting throughout the day that Ashes to Fire is about 2 things. It begins with truly opening ourselves toward God. Even Jesus, as a human being, was defined by the Father’s love for him. Not by attributes, abilities, human relationships, titles, roles, accomplishments, or even losses. God’s love. What if I could let that love completely define me? Wow. Plenty to sort through there. Of course the issue is living that way, not agreeing.
The second thing is about being truly open to others. Others are a blessed opportunity. Others are a chance to serve, love, grow, give, and be with. Others are also a challenge.
One flows out if the other. In that order.
God’s love fills me and defines me. Now I can be open to freely loving others. Wow. Plenty to sort through there as well. For me, anyway. How about you?
This Ashes to Fire journey won’t be easy. But if we’ll give ourselves to it, there’s a whole other kind of life that could be ours. It could be like waking up and remembering who we are. It could be living in that wisdom by the grace of God for the rest of our days.
Repent and believe the Good News! The Kingdom is arriving at Gate Now…