Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Nations (Genesis 10)

Just a quick few notes about the structure of Genesis as it pertains to chapter 10. As we have already seen, Genesis alternates between story sections and genealogy sections. Each of these sections begin with a formulaic, introductory sentence. Thus we have, following the preamble of chapter 1 through 2:4, ten clear sections:

The story of Adam
The descendants of Adam
The story of Noah
The descendants of Noah
The descendants of Shem
The story of Abraham
The descendants of Ishmael
The story of Jacob
The descendants of Esau
The story of Joseph

The only place where we seemingly break the pattern is here in chapter 10. We seem to get two genealogical interludes back-to-back. What does divide them is uncharacteristically short, and doesn’t start with the formulaic statement.

However, the story of the tower of Babel is hugely important to the “primordial” history in Genesis. More on that next week.

For now, it is important to see that the genealogy of chapter 10 is different from those that proceed and follow it. It does not give ages nor does it always seem to refer to individuals. This is a look past Babel to the resulting nations—the various and diverse cultures that emerge following the flood. Once again, we will see the importance of this more when we look at the narrative of Babel…

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Star Trek Enterprise (Season 2b)

Season 2a -- 2c

Looking back on this bit of “Enterprise” a common theme is that not a lot actually happens. Hopefully, this is the low-point for the series.

Episode 33 “The Seventh” 

T’Pol takes Archer with her on a mission to capture a criminal she was hunting down before she joined the Enterprise crew. She has a lot of angst about the mission (especially considering she is a Vulcan!) and begins to have doubts about her mission once they catch up to the fugitive. Archer’s role in the mission is to deliver a nugget of wisdom at the climax: “You were sent to apprehend him, not to judge him.” In this case that ends up being a good bit of advice, but is diverting responsibility for one’s actions really all that noble?

Episode 34: “The Communicator” 

Reed misplaces his “future-tech” on a planet that is backwards (read present-day Earth). They must return to retrieve it lest it contaminate the culture, and they manage to snafu things up even more. (Unsurprisingly)

Episode 35: “Singularity” 

Venturing too close to a black hole renders everybody save T’Pol an anal-retentive mess—to death, if she can’t get them out of there. I always knew being persnickety could be hazardous.

Episode 36: “Vanishing Point” 

The show delves into the most uncomfortable aspect of the Trek universe: the fact that our characters are regularly killed at a molecular level with new versions being treated as continuations. Even more improbable, we are asked to believe that the majority of this story is a mere hallucination going on in the mind of Hoshi while she is millions of disassembled molecules vaporized on a planet surface (or another set being prepared for assembly on the ship.)

Episode 37: “Precious Cargo”

Some of the creators of the show consider this to be the worst piece of Trek ever aired. It is basically “Spaceballs” without the humor.

Episode 38: “The Catwalk” 

The idea of sticking the whole crew into a small space seemed like a good idea until they tried it. Then it ended up being so boring they had to throw in an action plot point at the last minute.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Cross: Death and Burial of Christ (John 19:17-42)

John gets through the events of the cross fairly quickly. In just a handful of verses or sentences each, he details the events of Jesus’ death and burial often using the perspective of other people around the event.

Pilate and the Jewish Leaders: (17-22)

Pilate and the leaders bicker over the nature of Jesus’ crime. Pilate has a sign made declaring Jesus to be the King of the Jews, but the leaders want it to state that He only claimed to be such. Pilate isn’t interested in “defending the truth” or anything so insightful. He is just tweaking the Jewish leaders for forcing his hand in a case where he saw no crime. However, this is just the first of many circumstances where John sees the hand of God. Jesus is indeed the King, and the Jewish leaders’ efforts to get Him killed inadvertently declared that fact.

The Soldiers who crucified Christ: (23-25a)

The soldiers who carried out the crucifixion also play into God’s plan. They divide Jesus’ things in a way that fulfill a passage in Psalms that reads as a precise prophecy of what Jesus experienced.

His mother and disciples: (25b-27)

The women among His followers were there at the cross, mourning and likely in shock at this unexpected (for them) turn of events. Jesus shows His love for His mother by entrusting her care to the disciple whom He loved. In this way, John also reveals that he was an eye witness to all of these events.

Christ’s Death: (28-30)

Jesus fulfills another prophetic Psalm by requesting a drink. After being given some vinegar, He surrenders to death. This was unusual for a crucifixion, as most people persisted for hours or days suffering on a cross.

Proof of death: (31-37)

John gives us proofs of Jesus’ death. First he recounts how he saw the soldiers pierce Jesus with a spear when they found Him dead sooner than expected. If there were any doubts that Jesus had died (as we will soon see could have been claimed) this event would silence them. John points out more fulfilled prophecy here as well.

His secret followers make good: (38-42)

Finally, John tells us about Joseph and Nicodemus. They were followers of Jesus, but in secret out of fear of the religious leaders (a group to which they belonged). In a curious decision, they choose to reveal their sympathies with Jesus and His Gospel now that He has been killed. It would seem that that would be the worst possible time to align oneself with a cause, right as it had apparently been squashed. What had they learned from Jesus? Had their deeper insight into Scripture given them some reason for hope? In any case, they take His body and prepare it for burial, wrapping it in 75 pounds of oil-soaked cloths. This can be seen as further proof of Jesus’ death. If he had survived the beating, crucifixion, and stabbing, he likely would not live through multiple days wrapped in a complete-body-cast.

Jesus has been killed, but thankfully the story does not end here. Were it so we would not be reading His story today.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Y Counts

One
     Two
          Three
               Four
I don’t need to think no more.

Five
     Six
          Seven
               Eight
My phone spells and calculates!

Nine
     Ten
          Eleven
               Twelve
What’s a double negative?

Thirteen
     Fourteen
          All the
               Teens
We communicate in meme.

Twenty
     Thirty
          Forty
               Fifty
Wanna talk? Learn to text me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Noah's Coda (Genesis 9:20-29)

It is a bit of a shock that the only recorded words of Noah are a curse. Add to that the highly confusing and difficult nature of this text, and we are again reminded that we need to take care in our interpretation of Genesis. Especially this early portion, pre-Abraham.

However, while Genesis 1-11 are a clear block of the very early, distant and distinct past, here we have a shift. Everything before the flood was a story of creation seen in a universal perspective. There was a mere ten generations of what was largely a single family of humanity—filling the earth with violence. There was a single culture of sin.

After the flood we see that there is a closer look at families and individuals. Going forward we will see a multiplicity of families and cultures. This is seen right away as the focus is not on Noah, but on his three sons. And we quickly see that the three sons will give rise to distinct lines of humanity, as Noah’s prophetic curse makes evident. Evident, but not clear. Why is Canaan cursed and not Ham? No one really knows.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Star Trek Enterprise (Season 2a)

Season 1d -- 2b

Season one ends by reminding us that there is an overarching time war storyline that looks a lot more interesting than most of the episodes they have been giving us. It keeps hope alive.

Episodes 26, 27 “Shockwave” 

This is a time travel story. So we know a lot of things are not going to make sense. That is helpful to remember when they end the first season in an impossible to resolve cliff-hanger. Because we know a lot of the resolutions in the second half will not make sense at all. All of that is forgivable because it is a truly enjoyable story. One of the better time travel yarns Trek has done. I look forward to more.

Episode 28 “Carbon Creek” 

Trek has done this before, so we have a strong sense of deja vu throughout. These episodes always feel like they were written by some wide-eyed, college student aspiring to do scifi the way it was done in the fifties. That said it isn’t bad.

Episode 29 “Minefield” 

The Enterprise stumbles upon a mine field around a planet, and the Romulans. However, this is a character piece delving into who Reed is. He and Archer spend most of the episode having a heart to heart about duty, the right way to behave in service on a ship, and the nature of leadership.

Episode 30 “Dead Stop” 

After the damage last week, the Enterprise finds a repair station that seems too good to be true. So, we all know it will be. This is a good, original idea in Trek.

Episode 31 “A Night in Sickbay” 

Archer has another run-in with the species that he so offended last season by eating in front of them. This time, he thought it would be a good idea to take his dog to visit them and the dog promptly pees on a sacred tree. The dog is adorable and Dr. Phlox is very entertaining. So a less than excellent episode becomes quite enjoyable.

Episode 32 “Marauders” 

If you last long enough, every series eventually gets around to doing “The Seven Samurai.” Here, Trek manages a close “Bug’s Life” or possible “The Three Amigos” without intentionally trying to be funny.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Jesus and Pilate (John 18:28-19:16)

In Pilate and the Jewish leaders we see the dangers of worldly power. Both the fear of that sort of power and the ways we seek to obtain and maintain it. They are all simply playing a part in God’s salvation plan, but it is their political calculations and compromises that lead them into unwittingly accomplishing His goals.

Take a look at the sequence of events:

1. The Opening Move:

The Jews bring Jesus to Pilate. They had already been given Roman soldiers to arrest Him, so it can be assumed that Pilate was aware of the situation and had agreed to the arrest. They are therefore surprised when he does not “rubber stamp” their judgement, but begins a proceeding, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” That is why they answer in such a curt manner. They want Him dead, but aren’t allowed to enforce capital punishment. They are building a political case over a theological issue. Jesus claims to be the Messiah, even God Himself, but they need Pilate to see Him as a threat to the empire.

2. The First Interview:

Pilate questions Jesus. Jesus is careful to learn where Pilate stands before formulating His response. If Pilate is open to spiritual matters, Jesus will try to open his eyes. If, on the other hand, Pilate is merely acting politically, Jesus will want to make sure he has the facts straight. In either case His goal is not to escape God’s plan.

“Are you the King of the Jews?”
“Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”
“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
“So you are a king?”
“You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
“What is truth?”

Jesus makes it clear to Pilate that He is no threat to Rome. His Kingdom, the reason for which He was born, is more than a political, earthly kingdom. He brings Truth. Pilate is not interested in Jesus’ Truth. Pilate is not open to faith, but he is also not open to being played by a mob.

3. Let’s see your true colors:

Pilate sees no crime in Jesus’ case, and mocks the Jews as he backs them into a corner. Would they rather he release to them their “king” or a murderer and true “terrorist” against the empire? The Jews, who have been laying a case for Pilate that Jesus is a political threat, call for Pilate to release someone who is demonstrably just that.

4. Appeasement?

Pilate then has Jesus beaten and presented to the crowd again. Perhaps that will be enough to appease them? He is clearly no threat. However, the Jewish leaders insist; they want Him dead. When Pilate still refuses, they break with pretense. Jesus is no mere political criminal—He claims divinity. This makes Pilate afraid. His whole role is one of balancing threats. He must keep Caesar happy, but he also has to keep his charges in line. Now, there is a possibility that he is dealing with something supernatural?

5. The Second Interview:

Jesus has already seen that Pilate is not open to the truth, so He does not continue to reason with him when pressed on His origins. He simply informs Pilate that he plays a tiny role in a much bigger drama. Pilate will be held responsible for that role and how he responds, but other powers are in control.

“Where are you from?”

“You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”
“You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

6. Forcing Pilate’s hand; bowing to worldly power:

Pilate is now determined to set Jesus free. He sees no grounds for punishment and he wants no more part in this drama. However, the Jews question his loyalty to Rome. He sits in the seat of and asks them if he should put their King to death. They—the leaders accusing Jesus of blasphemy; the leaders who are to see God as their only true authority—declare that they have no King but Caesar. They embrace worldly political power to protect their religious power amongst the people.

7. Expediency:

Pilate does the expedient thing. Rather than stand on principle and judge Jesus justly, he bows to the political pressure and sends Him to His death.

This is a momentous point in the history of creation. Things were going to go a certain way no matter what. However, we need to see this moment for what it also is: a warning. Never surrender integrity, faith, or truth in the interest of worldly safety, comfort, or protection. We followers of Jesus belong to a Kingdom that is not of this world.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Communication Comedones

Sometimes you need to express
Ideas like so much infection
     A slit and a squeeze
     Some pain and it bleeds
But it so does relieve all the tension

It is then that you see
What you feared was indeed
     Not a tumor
     More a blemish
Nothing fatal

So go on get it out on the table!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bad Moon

“I see a bad moon rising.
I see trouble on the way.”

This past week we witnessed the closest pass of the full moon since 1948; the closest we will see again until 2034.

Did you see it? It was amazing, wasn’t it?

Well. In person anyway.

In an age where everyone carries a camera around in their pocket and things don’t “count” unless documented, we also saw a grunt-load of moon pictures the next day. Terrible, out of focus ones. Really good, well-framed ones. And they were all just pictures of the moon. Pictures we’ve seen before. The moon that close—most of us never had.

Sometimes—most of the time—life on social media just doesn’t measure up to the real thing. To be sure, it can enhance life. It can help us stay connected to the people in our real life. But it can’t replace the real thing. And, when we let it, bad things result.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

(Sorta Like) Starting Over (Genesis 8:20-19:17)

"Landscape with Noah" Joseph Anton Koch



Emerging from the arc into the freshly washed creation, God speaks to Noah and his family. His speech intentionally reminds us of the blessing way back in 1;28-. It is nearly a fresh start for creation, albeit with some very important differences:


Noah emerges and immediately offers a sacrifice. (This is the first time we explicitly see a sacrifice. Cain and Abel’s offerings are not so graphically described.) This is an enormous difference between Noah and Adam. Adam began in a relationship with the Creator and turned his back. Noah also has a relationship, but hindered by sin. God has approached and saved Noah, and in gratitude Noah offers a sacrifice. However, there is more here than mere gratitude. Humanity is separated from God by sin and the only way we can catch a glimpse of the relationship we should have with God is through sacrifice. We see here that the “aroma” of the burnt offering helps God accept mankind and decide to never destroy creation like He had in the flood.

Noah is commanded (like Adam and Eve) to be fruitful and fill the earth. Before humanity had filled the earth with violence. Before we started with a couple who had just decided that they could do better than God. There is an unspoken hope in the text that this time things might be better. Noah was born and named, after all, with the hope that he might bring humanity rest from the curse. We know that that is not the way things will go. That said, we are now starting with a family that wants to please God. All those good intentions are not enough to overcome the curse humanity has brought upon itself. But God has stepped in and shown grace in the midst of judgement.

This time around, God adds some additional information into the multiplication command. Before man was to manage creation and rule over the animals. Now the animals will fear man and he can eat them. Before man’s sin led to murder and violent revenge. The whole earth became overrun with violence. Now God commands that murder will carry an appropriate judgement. But it will not be revenge. Society will judge one the issue of guilt and carry out the punishment.

The pinnacle of this moment in history is the promise from God to creation that He will never again issue this sort of destruction. He takes as a symbol and reminder of this promise the rainbow. This is not the creation of the rainbow. God tends to use existing things and practices as reminders for us. (See later how He applies special, covenantal meaning to circumcision and baptism.) But it is a reminder that we should see in rainbows a reminder of God’s grace in our lives. Not on an “ordinance” level, perhaps, but it is something that should trigger a thought every time we see one.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My President

In my adult life I have experienced the end of the world seven times now. Every presidential election is an apocalyptic event in our own mythos; and every single time half the country is convinced that we are doomed. It is almost comical. This time around it was guaranteed to be particularly good because we had—to borrow a German idiom—a choice between cholera and the plague. The most amusing part is seeing everybody squirm in their hypocrisy. Many of the people mocking the “not my president” crowd were voicing the same sentiment eight years ago. (Albeit without the “protests.” But many were talking of open, armed revolution had Hillary won.) And, worse, most of these “not my president” people were up in arms when Trump threatened to not acknowledge a Hillary win.

Well, Come January he WILL be my president. And he may or may not be a good one. Just because he won does not necessarily change him overnight. Action will prove more powerful than rhetoric. For now he is demonstrably a racist, misogynist, thin-skinned, power seeker. And while most of that has been talk, he has begun to make appointments of people who are genuinely, disturbingly, promoting those viewpoints.

On the other hand, candidates tend to look very different from the presidents they become. Already, Trump has talked back a lot of what he ran on: the promise of the wall, abortion, reestablishing traditional marriage, as well as repealing Obamacare. How many more of his campaign pillars will crumble? Time will tell.

To be honest I am anticipating the Trump presidency. Even though I liked neither candidate, I went into Tuesday night rooting for him. With Clinton I knew we were in for a rough four years, but with Trump either we will either get some good changes OR I get to say “see I told you so.”

With Republicans in charge of the presidency, AND the House, And the Senate, AND the majority of governorships, AND potentially the Supreme Court we should have a period of Repealing. But, as already stated, we aren’t even a week into things and they’re already hedging their promises on a lot of issues.

Trump will be my president just as Obama is currently my president even though I voted for neither. I have found plenty of things to like and dislike about all of the presidents I have experienced. I’m confident there will be things I like and dislike about President Trump. I am rooting hard for my country, and that means I am hopeful that Trump will be good for the U.S. and for the world. But I am also not good with blind trust. If anything, I think we will need as much vigilance with Trump in office as we have shown with Obama.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Jesus and Peter (John 18:1-27)

In Peter’s reactions in John 18, we see the picture of a religious man operating in his own strength and understanding. He has believed in Jesus, He has spent years at His feet learning, and yet he is still clueless and weak. On our own, we are all that man. There is no amount of understanding, no amount of commitment we can wield on our own that will cut it.

Place yourself in Peter’s shoes. You have been with Jesus, heard His incredibly powerful teaching, witnessed His incredibly powerful wonders, and now the thing you have feared is happening. You have been betrayed. An entire cohort of soldiers have come to arrest Jesus. But when Jesus declares who He is, they all fall to their knees! You know He can’t lose! You have begun to understand that He is indeed the Messiah; He is God.

So Peter jumps in to begin the revolution.

Peter’s problem is that he is clueless about God’s plan. God’s ways—the Bible repeatedly tells us—are not our own. If we live our faith according to our understanding, our ideas, our abilities; we are fooling ourselves. We are religious people much like any other religious person following false ideas and false gods. Because we are following our own ideas of a god we have created.

Jesus stops Peter and surrenders to the soldiers. God’s plan hinges on Jesus offering Himself as a sacrifice for the world. The only path to victory lies through the cross; through death. Jesus has told His disciples this on multiple occasions, but they were incapable of understanding this. So, when Jesus follows God’s plan, it destroys Peter’s faith. Not his faith in Christ, but rather his faith in his own idea of who Christ should be. That is why Peter denies Christ that night.

At that point Peter can either abandon his faith altogether or he can stay open to the hope that his understanding was lacking. The denial of Christ demonstrates a loss of faith, but the fact that Peter stays close and follows Jesus into the courts where he is then compelled to deny Him demonstrates Peter’s desperation. He has lost his own idea of who Christ is, but he has no alternative. He can’t completely give up hope.

And that is where we would rather be. When we think we understand God completely, we deny ourselves growth. We become incapable of learning more of who God is. We build our own ideas of God upon our own incomplete understanding of who God is. We fail to see His plans due to all our own ideas and plans cluttering our view.

True faith is less about our understanding of what God is going to do and more about a complete trust in what He has done and that He will see us through things that make no sense to our ignorance.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Devastating Reminder

Rosaria Butterfield wrote a powerful piece in response to Jen Hatmaker’s declaration that homosexuality can be “holy.” One part in particular jumped out at me. She begins by pointing out what Hatmaker’s statement would have done to her had it been made back when she first became a follower of Jesus.

“Maybe I wouldn’t need to lose everything to have Jesus. Maybe the gospel wouldn’t ruin me while I waited, waited, waited for the Lord to build me back up after he convicted me of my sin, and I suffered the consequences. Maybe it would go differently for me than it did for Paul, Daniel, David, and Jeremiah. Maybe Jesus could save me without afflicting me…

She went on to say that false teaching such as Hatmaker’s “would have put a millstone around my neck.”

Of course many people probably simply saw this as a good argument against homosexuality. What it really is is a powerful reminder of the Gospel. The Gospel is a devastating solution to a terrible tragedy. Humanity rebelled against our loving Creator, and the only solution was for that Creator to sacrifice His only Son to rescue us. It cost God everything, and—even though we do not earn it—it costs us no less.

However, I wonder how much of what Butterfield says condemns all of us as believers in Western Culture. We have cheapened grace so much it is no wonder people like Hatmaker are recasting Scripture in a reading that better fits our sinful culture. We have ceased to ask ourselves, “What does the Creator want from us?” and instead are interpreting His word in a way that sounds reasonable to us.

We justify every sin imaginable. Or, perhaps less drastically, we are quick to forgive all our favorite sins without any need for a change, no real repentance necessary. We save all of our justifiable anger for the sins that we don’t struggle with.

Where is the life transforming grace of this Gospel where it comes to gluttony, materialism, infidelity, racism, or any of the other sins that American Christianity embraces?

It is easy to point the finger at celebrity “Christians” that are immersed in the moralistic, therapeutic, deism that pervades the American Church because they are wrong, but we need to be careful that we aren’t just busy condemning their errors all the while overlooking the same sort of things in our own thinking.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Devastation and Salvation (Genesis 8:1-19)

(Thomas Cole: The Subsiding Waters of the Deluge 1829) 



“And God remembered Noah…”


When we last left off, the world was as it was in Genesis 1:2. You can see in the destruction of the flood, where people got the idea for the “gap” theory. (The Gap theory proposes that in between Genesis 1:1—where God created everything—and Genesis 1:2—where only water covered the earth—something may have happened to render creation to be flooded and in chaos.) That theory, though, doesn’t really float. For one thing, the way Genesis 1 is written doesn’t indicate a gap. You have to read such a theory into the text.

Another problem is that Genesis 1:2 and Genesis 8 are very different. In Genesis 1, God created and ordered everything from scratch. Here in Genesis 8, we will see him restore a purged creation from living beings He preserved through the flood. The waters recede and the rescued humanity and beasts emerge from the arc into a world that has recovered. God is not starting over, He has reset.

However, even though we don’t here see grounds for the Gap theory in Genesis 1, the scene here is clearly harkening back to the way things were in Genesis 1:2. The reset is real. Things had gotten so out of hand with humanity’s sin that creation had to be purged. In Genesis 3 we saw humanity rebel against God and sent out to multiply in that sin and rebellion. Everyone was born of a couple who had actively rebelled against God. They are born into and participate in that rebellion.

Here in Genesis 8, we see a subtle difference. Humanity’s sin problem has not been solved. People will still be born in sin and rebellion. However, we are starting out with a family that is seeking God. They believe in God. They offer sacrifices. They want a restored relationship. The problem is that humanity can’t fix things.

God can, however. It is He who is orchestrating everything according to His redemptive plan. He chose Noah. HE gave Noah the ability to believe. Back in Genesis 6:9 we saw that Noah was a righteous man. In Hebrews 11we see what that means. It wasn’t that Noah alone in all of humanity was good, blameless, or worthy. He had faith. God spoke to Noah and Noah believed God.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sixty Six Words

Best laid plans of mice and rats
Are scoffed at by those who rear them
Men exposed as ridiculous
 To believe they wield control
Man of God, consider this
Is democracy any better
Than monarch or base communist
Ensuring God's sovereign role?
"Know this: if you don't vote rightly
God's will on earth is thwarted"
Whoever sings you such a lie
He finds you gullible, droll

Monday, November 7, 2016

Jesus' Prayer (John 17)

Jesus ends His last-minute teaching with a prayer. In the flow of the Gospel it is a climactic moment. We have witnessed Jesus ministry, and heard His message. He has taught and prepared His followers for what is to come, and now He looks to heaven and signals the end. Up until now, Jesus has repeatedly said that His hour had not come. Now it is here.

Jesus begins by asking the Father to glorify Him. Far from a selfish or personal request, this is Jesus acknowledging that the time has come. The plan is ready. Jesus had surrendered His divine nature in the incarnation, but now—headed to the cross—He is about to be lifted up above all creation. He is going to regain His divinity and authority. He is going to glorify the Father in His own victory over sin and death.

In the event that we need to hear it again, Jesus clarifies His message. “This is eternal life, that they may know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Unlike other religious systems, following Jesus is not about divine information. We come to know God. He has brought us back into the relationship with Him for which we were created.

And just as Jesus is all about bringing glory to God the Father, and receiving the glory that He is due as God, we exist to bring glory to God as well.

Jesus goes on to pray for His disciples. He prays that they will be kept in Christ, even as they will remain in the world once He is gone. Not that they will be kept from the world, but that they will exist in the world but saved from evil. Jesus seems to be clearly indicating here that His people are a continuation of His incarnation. They are to truly be His body in the world.

In verse 20, we get to one of the most moving passages of scripture for us today. Jesus does not only pray for His disciples, but “for those also who believe in Me through their word.” Jesus prayed then for us now. And the clear missional intent of Christ is seen in this prayer. He was sent to save His people. He sent His people to carry on the mission of getting the message out. Down through history that message has survived and been preserved in the testimony of all who hear, believe and are sent.

And the pinnacle of this pinnacle prayer—what Jesus prays for His people above all else—is unity. Despite all the cultural, historical, and experiential differences of the people of God with all of our various understandings and callings in Christ, there is an ultimate unity in the Gospel. Up until this point in John’s account, we have seen the message of reconciliation through belief. What comes next makes the story of the Gospel so real, so effective, so powerful…

Friday, November 4, 2016

"The Hateful Eight" (2015)

Maybe this film should have been called “The Hate-able Eight.” In typical Tarantino fashion, we get a well-crafted, amazingly written, despicable story.

Fill a room in post-Civil War America with criminals, lawmen, black-hating-southerners, and a white-hating black man and you have the makings of a bad, bad situation. You also have an America remarkably close to the way things are today. One can imagine this movie playing out today. Except in real life Americans are no longer capable of communicating so colorfully and intelligently anymore.

And, much like today’s environment with tribalism, populism, hatred, and people all yelling at each other without hearing each other; it is all like watching a train wreck. You just want it all to go away, but you can’t help watching. Thankfully this story has an end, although it is a predictably tragic one in which no one wins.

One has the feeling that our current national drama will also limp to its end next week. That one too looks to have no shortage of losers.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Zenithal

way up
on high the
world down below
looks like a perfect

sphere.

From my vantage point at
the strike of midnight it is a ring

of light.

Right in the center of that sphere
asleep in the dark lies my world,

my life.

And as I observe
I try not to
control, to
worry,
to

fear.
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