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  • THE KINGDOM OF THIS WORLD AND THE KINGDOM OF THE MESSIAH

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

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    13910255369_4f5a963e6e

    “and He shall reign for ever and ever…King of Kings…and Lord of Lords…Hallelujah!”

    It wouldn’t be quite the Christmas season if we didn’t hear a rendition of Handel’s famous “Hallelujah” chorus.  Perhaps you heard it on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation recently or from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, this tune is pretty familiar within the Western world (and rightly so!).

    But do you know where these lyrics come from?  They don’t come from Handel’s mind. They actually come from the Book of Revelation.

    Wait, that book?  Yes, that one.

    It comes in the middle of the judgments associated with the Trumpets in Revelation 11.  We read that the 7th Angel blows his trumpet at the beginning of the 3rd woe and the loud of voice of heaven exclaims,

    “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.”

    Why, you may wonder, would this glorious exclamation be categorized under a woe?  After all, this is the same tune that helps Clark Griswold christen his home!

    This can be considered a woe because the kingdom of this world (read: all our corporate and personal kingdoms of power, prestige, reputation, and wealth) is overshadowed by the kingdom of the Messiah.  Those who want to be kings and queens of their own “castle” will one day have their false reign overthrown, as the rightful reign of the King of Kings is made fully known.

    Yes, my friends, the kingdom of this world and all the injustice therein will be removed and the Kingdom of our Lord will be completely known.  And he shall reign forever and ever.  Hallelujah!

     

    (This post was originally seen on December 23, 2014)

    Photo Credit: spbpda via Compfight cc

  • THE KINGDOM OF THIS WORLD AND THE KINGDOM OF THE MESSIAH

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

    1 Comment

    13910255369_4f5a963e6e

    “and He shall reign for ever and ever…King of Kings…and Lord of Lords…Hallelujah!”

    It wouldn’t be quite the Christmas season if we didn’t hear a rendition of Handel’s famous “Hallelujah” chorus.  Perhaps you heard it on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation recently or from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, this tune is pretty familiar within the Western world (and rightly so!).

    But do you know where these lyrics come from?  They don’t come from Handel’s mind. They actually come from the Book of Revelation.

    Wait, that book?  Yes, that one.

    It comes in the middle of the judgments associated with the Trumpets in Revelation 11.  We read that the 7th Angel blows his trumpet at the beginning of the 3rd woe and the loud of voice of heaven exclaims,

    “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.”

    Why, you may wonder, would this glorious exclamation be categorized under a woe?  After all, this is the same tune that helps Clark Griswold christen his home!

    This can be considered a woe because the kingdom of this world (read: all our corporate and personal kingdoms of power, prestige, reputation, and wealth) is overshadowed by the kingdom of the Messiah.  Those who want to be kings and queens of their own “castle” will one day have their false reign overthrown, as the rightful reign of the King of Kings is made fully known.

    Yes, my friends, the kingdom of this world and all the injustice therein will be removed and the Kingdom of our Lord will be completely known.  And he shall reign forever and ever.  Hallelujah!

    Photo Credit: spbpda via Compfight cc

  • WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER KNOWING WHAT YOU BELIEVE AND WHY YOU BELIEVE IT

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Bible Talk, Culture

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    2/365 Days - Pen and Paper

    I am in the middle of preparing a brief message on the crucifixion scene in the Gospel of Mark and it reminded about the author’s style in the composition of this account.  During my preparation, I was reading in a commentary about the questions surrounding when to date this particular gospel.  It ultimately comes down to the rebellion of the Jewish people against the Roman forces and the resulting destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.  Due to the lack of comments about the destruction of the temple and other clues, scholars place the composition of this book during the Jewish rebellion or before.  50s-60s A.D. is a safe bet for the earliest gospel account (Paul gets the earliest writer of the New Testament award).

    Placing the context of the gospel is important for the preacher and leaders within the church (lay-leaders, not necessarily those on staff at a church) because questions will come up.  There will be questions concerning the Gospel of Thomas or Judas.  There are fragments that seem to imply that Jesus had a wife and there will undoubtedly be many more compromising documents surfacing.  I am convinced by the likes of NT Wright that we need to know not only God’s Word, but the context surrounding it.

    Why context?

    We need to understand the context and dig into that first century so that we can enrich our own faith and defend the faith when National Geographic runs stories on the Gospel of Judas.  Knowing what we believe and why we believe it is not just our pastor’s job or the job of a seminary professor.  No, it is our job as the Church.  It is your job as the faithful member of your local church and as a leader within the community.  There are so many tools at our disposal now, I beg you to consider to dig into the depths of the Christian faith.

    What has helped you explore the depths of the faith?

    Photo: athena. via Compfight

  • THE IMPORTANCE OF AN OPPOSING VIEWPOINT

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Beliefs, Growth, Theology

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    The world is moving into ghettos.  No, not those types of ghettos.  The ghettos that place a border around people with differing opinions, and differing beliefs.  I certainly know that throughout history we have had enclaves where only certain types of people lived together.  Catholics on this side of the street, and this ethnicity near the docks.  But that is not the type of ghetto I’m referring to now.  I’m referring to the intellectual one, where only like minded authors find their way onto our bookshelves and Kindles.

    Let me ask a question.  When was the last time you have read something by someone you may disagree with?

    As a Christian, I am confident in the validity of the faith.  I am confident that it can stand against claims that are brought against it.  In my political views, I feel secure in them as well.  So with those strong feelings, why on earth wouldn’t I read a differing opinion?

    That’s why I subscribe to a couple of periodicals that I read regularly and why I look into claims of New Atheists and old Atheists.  I certainly still read people I agree with, of course.  But I have found that it is in being stretched by these opposing viewpoints that I have grown more as a thinker.  I will read the claims of a Harris or Dawkins while also reading the defenders of the faith like Keller or Craig.

    I understand that this is not always a popular view nowadays, but in my view, apologetics are still very important.  Yes, apologetics can be abused as a powerplay to shut questioning people up (See my post on the good, the bad, and the ugly of apologetics)  As a follower of Christ, I need to be able to give an answer to people who might bring questions about the hope that lives within me.  Indeed, some of the questions that are raised are legitimate inquiries.  And it is for these cases that I will read differing viewpoints.  It’s not necessarily the ones that just want to play philosophical ‘gotcha’ but the ones that have a true question.  And hopefully if I can answer that question, then that is one less objection to Christ.  And I’ll leave the fate of that individual’s questioning mind to the salvific work of the Holy Spirit.

    I read challenging books to help sharpen myself to give a defense for the hope that lies within me, and I hope you do too.

    What has challenged you lately?

  • WHY TRINITY MATTERS (AND IT’S NOT JUST A BUNCH OF IVORY TOWER, THEOLOGICAL NONSENSE)

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Theology

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    Loving God is important.  I think most Christians will come to this conclusion.

    But wouldn’t we say grasping a picture of who he is is pretty darned important as well?  While both you and I will never fully grasp his nature this side of eternity, we can know him a little more clearly than when we initially first believed.  And just like a couple who have been married for 50 years will know each other in profound ways decades down the road of marriage, so too will the individual who places their hope in God and has a relationship with him.  That is why I am advocating for clearer language about the infinite God who so clearly loves us and has revealed himself to us both in Christ and through the Bible.

    Let me frame it this way.  I love my wife (true story).  Yet, if I compose a poem about how beautiful she is, how I adore her personality, marvel at her breathtaking charm, and think her long, brown hair is incredible I would just be flat out wrong.  Not because of the three initial points, but because she has short, blonde hair.  My description of her is inaccurate and not complete.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t love her any less, it just means I am wrong in my descriptions of her and of her essence.  I get a bit of her, but not the entire picture.  Same thing goes with the Trinitarian God.  We need to know who he is, and the true God is Trinity.  As Jesus prayed, “this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (Jn 17.3).

    Trinity matters because that is how God has revealed himself to us.  God is not some idea, he is real.  The living God is Trinity– he is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He is one what and three who’s, or one who and three what’s.  God is not just one dude hanging out in heaven navel-gazing.  If he was, then he would have been alone for eternity.  He would not have known fellowship.  That is why the Jehovah’s Witnesses are flat out wrong (beside the fact that they misread the Greek and are a reincarnation of Arianism that was rejected in 325 AD, but I digress).  He is one God in three persons, enjoying communion and knowing what it means to have fellowship.  I highly doubt this fictional, non-Trinity would have love at the core of his being, since he would have been alone for eternity and not have learned how to love!  But this God, the true God, knows love because he is relational and he is love.

    So I invite you to enjoy and seek out the Trinitarian God of the Bible.  For he is a Father who lovingly gave life to his Son in the fellowship of the Spirit.  He is an other-centered God and he is inviting you into the party.  I pray that you will join the Trinitarian dance and revel in it.

    ————–

    For more see,

    Three is the Loveliest Number” by Michael Reeves in Christianity Today
    Athanasius
    by Christian History Magazine

  • A SONG AND THE ANGELS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Bible Talk

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    On Christmas Day, I want to leave us with two pieces.  Chew on these two pieces and I wish you a Merry Christmas.

    46 And Mary said,

    “My soul magnifies the Lord,
    47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
    48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
        For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
    49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
        and holy is his name.
    50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
        from generation to generation.
    51 He has shown strength with his arm;
        he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
    52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
        and exalted those of humble estate;
    53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
        and the rich he has sent away empty.
    54 He has helped his servant Israel,
        in remembrance of his mercy,
    55 as he spoke to our fathers,
        to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

    56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

    Luke 1:46-56

     —————————————

    And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Forunto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

    14 “Glory to God in the highest,
        and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[c]

    15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 ButMary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

    Luke 2:8-20

  • ADVENT REFLECTIONS FROM FULLER SEMINARY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story, Theology

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    I wanted to post my first teaser piece in this blog’s illustrious history (cue fanfare).  My seminary, Fuller Seminary, posted a piece I wrote for Advent last week.  Below is a brief excerpt from the post and I hope you visit the site for the provocative conclusion.

    ‘Last Christmas I was listening to my Christmas station on Pandora while working on a paper for a class when I heard the beautiful music from Handel’s Messiah. Naturally, the Hallelujah chorus snapped me out of my focus and I paused to soak in the brilliance of this work. I distinctly recall the lyrics ringing in my ears, “The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.” For some reason, I never really heard that line in the piece before. For some reason, the power of that lyric escaped me until that moment. So like any good Millennial, I immediately googled the lyrics to the piece.  I wanted to find out what Handel wrote as lyrics for the piece, and little did I know that this was lifted more or less from Revelation. It was not penned by Handel; rather it was taken from the Word of God.’

    To read more about my own Advent epiphany and how I miss the Kingdom of Our God and his Christ when it was there all along right in front of me, visit the post at Fuller Seminary’s website.

  • WHEN IT’S EASIER TO STOP THINKING

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth

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    'The Thinker' photo (c) 2007, Stephen Carlile - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/Seminary is tough. I don’t mean just the assignments, tests, papers, and other work.  I mean the work of actually digging into Scripture and the faith, taking an honest look into it, and wrestling with tough issues.  Looking over the breadth of Biblical Studies and Church History as disciplines can cause discomfort. Big words like redaction criticism, source criticism and inerrancy/infallibility can be admittedly distressing. As mentioned previously in my other posts about seminary, it can even rattle or (God forbid!) destroy your faith. But you know what? Sometimes we need to be challenged in our faith and be prompted to dig deeper than before and develop a more complete understanding of the faith.

    Sometime it is easier to stop thinking and turn on the cruise control button.  Sometimes it is easier to just become a full-fledged fundamentalist and develop a bunker mentality.

    Yes, it is easier to stop thinking.  But it is just not worth it.

    As I have said before, Christianity is an incredibly deep religion and the annals of its history provides comfort for those who are in despair. Other people have faced similar doubts and encountered troubling questions (including this writer!). If that is you, I beg you to not just stop at the questions you might have and never look for an answer. Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, and Mother Theresa (among others) will help you through problems.  I am so thankful for contemporary people like Rachel Held Evans who is incredibly honest about Christianity. She helps remind me frequently in her blog that it is OK to wrestle with the Bible and the passages that might disturb you.

    I am so grateful for the giants of the faith who have helped me to overcome issues and wrestle with tough questions.  I am also very grateful for the faithful servants who might never have their names in a Church History book or blog, but still impacted my life. While I am still haunted by many issues posed in the pages of Scripture, I know and trust that I will not fully grasp everything this side of the River Jordan.  Nevertheless, I will still walk the path of being a disciple of Jesus, even when it gets a little uncomfortable.

    Sometimes it pays to be uncomfortable.

  • WHAT TO MAKE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT FROM A NEW TESTAMENT PERSPECTIVE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Bible Talk

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    People have asked me from time to time how I interpret the Old Testament as a Christian.  There are a lot of commands to keep and festivals to partake in, making it incredibly confusing for a Christian to discern what the point of the Old Testament is.  I like to respond to them with a more in-depth challenge:

    • Go see how the New Testament writers used the Old Testament in their context and that should help you with the problem.

    After Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead, he was walking on the road to Emmaus with a couple of men (Luke 24:13-35).  Jesus hid his identity from them somehow and spoke with them about what happened in Jerusalem just a few days prior.  After they told them about this messianic character who they believed in as a mighty prophet and that he was executed, Jesus decided to broaden their understanding.  Jesus told them, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (v 26).  After that he expounded on how Moses and all of the Prophets pointed towards this person who was crucified.  According to Jesus, all of the Jewish Scriptures it seemed to point to this crucified Christ.  So the task for us centuries later is to see how a passage might anticipate Christ.

    Looking at the sermon of Peter at Pentecost you can also see how their Scripture was being used to point to these “last days” before the return of Christ (Acts 2:14-41).  When Peter preached these words and that Christ has reconciled them back to God (despite the unjust execution) they were all cut to the heart (v37).  The good news of reconciliation prompted them to repent and receive forgiveness, being baptized in Christ.*

    I will affirm that Christians ought to look at how NT writers used OT sources and look to their interpretations as a type of guide for our study.  So tread carefully in the OT, see what the passage says in context and then try to make faithful connections to Christ in humility, understanding that you may make a poor interpretation.

    Happy hunting!

    *(Free:  Interesting to see that even the chosen people of God needed Christ!)

  • FURTHER THOUGHTS ON SEMINARY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth

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    To continue on my recent musings about being in seminary, I suppose that it is possible to lose one’s faith in seminary.  However, I also suggest that it is possible to lose my faith in the course of being a carpenter, salesman or nurse.  Living in a blue-collar, white-collar or any other career can also cause a person to lose their joy in Christ.  They can become consumed with greed, lust, power, and the pressures of life instead of the redemptive power of the gospel.  Instead of orienting our lives around the Kingdom of God and being consumed with a passion that is directed toward the glorifying of our God, we can become consumed with our own lives.

    Even good things can take the place of pursuing God’s will with singleness of mind.  Henri Nouwen would suggest that the greatest danger to the love of Christ is service to Christ.  We can become so busy in serving Him that we forget that we even love Him!  Our ultimate goal should be to conform into the image of Christ and bring glory to Him.  Quite frankly, everything else should be a means to that end.  It is only when we bring a means and make it an end that it becomes trouble for us.  Even something good (like marriage, patriotism, family, and social justice) can be twisted and consume our passion.

    Everything must be in alignment with the will of God, this is our ultimate aim.  God ought to be our polestar and the one we desire.  Just don’t lose that passion, whether in seminary or in the workforce.