Tuesday, June 27, 2017

To the Point (1 John 5:13)

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

This is why this book exists. John has been writing to give his readers assurance. What he has been describing are the qualities of the people who belong to the Kingdom of God. You can know if you are in or out.

This is the verse (and by extension, the book) that I turn to when I meet people living in fear of God. They tend to be people from church backgrounds like Catholicism or Church of Christ. Those whose faith is built on a legalistic system where people must work to please the Creator.

Because that is exactly what John is addressing. The qualities John lists here are not a list of things that we do in order to earn God’s favor. They are also not even qualities that a believer possesses or perfects in their lifetime. They appear and grow as qualities in the lives of those who trust in Jesus for their security.

Do you see them in your own life? Not in perfection, and certainly not as qualities that you are achieving in any way. But a growing renunciation of sin, obedience towards Christ, rejection of worldliness, grounding in faith, and lead of love, let you know the quality of trust you are exercising.

We are not faithful to Christ to deserve His favor.
Christ favors us and thus deserves our faithfulness.

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Book Find (of Sorts)

It was twenty years ago today that “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was published for the first time. Six sequels in a series, eight films, a couple charity efforts, and a film spin-off series in the works later, it is an undisputed classic of English literature. That is due to the quality of the writing, but also to the messages, morals, and meaning interwoven into the highly engaging story.

It may seem like a moot point, recommending that people read this book with all the time that has passed and the success that it has had. But, there are surely a lot of people—especially those of a religious persuasion—who have not yet experienced this story of good vs. evil, of love and sacrifice overcoming fear and selfishness. And that is unfortunate, especially considering the Christian influence behind the plot.

Here are some other thoughts on the subject: General, Stone, Chamber, Prisoner, Cup, Order, Prince, Hallows, film 1, +, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7&8, 7, 8Snape, Hermione, Themes, Passivity, Malfoys

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Non Tacet Consentire

This year has been a bad one for my disciplined writing habit. It could simply be a case of burn-out after ten years, but that is not a good excuse. The whole point of maintaining a discipline is to do something despite feelings, despite inspiration.

There is also the fact that I have been incredibly busy with work the past six months. Also, not a good excuse. In the past ten years, I have noticed that the discipline of posting has had the effect of improving my discipline, organization, and productivity in all other areas of life. Now, to be fair, the sort of activity I have dealt with this year is not what comes most easily to me. When dealing with strictly organizational, logistical challenges I use up a lot more energy than when working strategically.

But the most compelling excuse I can think of is the cultural climate. I tend to think about and write about what I see in the culture. Quite often that ends up being about things that are off, or wrong, or need to be changed. Not just in the culture at large, but also within the church culture.

I was once told by wiser, older, missional figure that those who are sent out serve a secondary function to their sending church culture. They look back with a prophetic, convicting gaze. From the outside, they more easily see the inconsistencies, the errors, and the danger zones that those within often overlook. In the proverbial frog-in-the-boiling-water illustration, they are a frog outside the pot shouting out warnings.

However, today’s cultural climate is a dangerous place to be that sort of voice. One likes to think that followers of Jesus are most interested in truth and most aware of their own fallibility. Christianity is all about heeding wisdom and not being the fool who never hears correction. We don’t hold up examples of Christianity where the culture was guarded above all else. Pharisees, inquisitors, and witch-hunters are not who we want to be. But from time to time that is who dominates the church. The voices who value power and influence above integrity and humility. I hope that is not who we are deciding to become.

But it feels enough like it that one hesitates to say anything critical.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Faith-Testimony-Life (John 5:4-12)

Here John arrives (again) at the last of his qualities of the Children of God. Just as those who walk in the light, the children of God keep the faith. They stick to the truth that they received.

And the truth is that it is simple. John has just said that the commands of Christ are not burdensome. The truth of His story isn’t either. Instead of a long list of philosophical ideas and rules of behavior, “the Faith” here is the simple truth the Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The core of orthodox Christianity is the truth that Jesus is the Messiah. He is fully man and fully God. He is the only way to a restored relationship with God.

There is a bit here that is hard for us to fully explain in our context. Whatever John precisely meant with the water and the blood talk was apparently clear enough to his readers that he didn’t feel the need to expand on this shorthand. But what is clear is that the Gospel of John is a testimony about Jesus that serves as prove to his claims. And, if that is not enough, John reminds us that his story is corroborated and affirmed by the Spirit of God Himself in his ministry of inspiration.

So there is a nice flow here as John describes the fidelity to “the faith” of the Children of God. The faith is attested to by the testimony. The Children of God, in staying true to the teaching they have received, share in that testimony. To trust in the witness is to participate in that witness. We carry the testimony in our own stories with the Gospel. And that testimony is what leads us—as well as those who hear and believe—to life.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

"10 Cloverfield Lane" (2016)

The thing about “10 Cloverfield Lane” that makes it noteworthy is the twist. Not because it is unforeseen; and especially not because it is an otherwise unworthy story. On the contrary… you suspect the twist from early on. And, there is a lot more going on here than a twist ending. But, the twist offers us the most thought-provoking aspect of this movie.

So, before you read on, you might need to familiarize yourself with the story.

What is so fascinating about the story of Michelle being [abducted? saved? spared?] by Howard and being held captive or perhaps being allowed to live in his shelter is that it is both/and story. Yes, Howard is some sort of sadistic kidnapper with evil and selfish intentions. But just because he is bad does not make him a liar. He is right about what is happening in the outside world.

It exposes a flaw in our thinking. We assume people are either bad or good. Howard has to be one or the other. If he is saving Michelle from the end of the world, he must be good. On the other hand, if he is abducting her he must be lying about why he is keeping her prisoner. The truth is that life is messier. It is possible for mostly good people to do bad things. We all of us have something broken in our core. And, unfortunately, it is also usually true that bad, even evil people can be right about a lot of things. Evil does not imply a fundamentally wrong worldview. In fact, the truly evil understand reality and chose to proceed down a wrong path.

So, beware oversimplified judgements!

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