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The Mission of God

The Mission of God

The story of God’s mission is to save humanity and restore human beings from their own self-destructive mission. We create missionary agendas that have nothing to do with God’s agenda. Sometimes we see our places in the world like alien tourists taking a little same of dirt here and there to take home with us. Rather, we are resident aliens actually taking the dirt, playing with it and building great things with it. Because everything you see: dirt, trees, birds, food will most certainly be a part of your reality in the new creation. You are here to stay whether you like it or not. When you die, your body will be buried on earth only to be raised again in a new earth, just like this one, except with no pain, sorrow, or sin. On that day we will acknowledge that God’s mission has never failed in history, no, not even once.

Call Me Mara!

Call Me Mara!

There is an interesting observation in the book of Ruth that I didn’t catch until recently. When Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem, the women immediately recognized Naomi. But Naomi refused to be recognized as Naomi. In that famous text in Ruth 1, she says, “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara for the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” Don’t call me ‘Pleasant’ which is what the name Naomi means, but call me “bitter” which is what “Mara” means. She is asking to be identified as someone different from the way God identified her.

But as you read through the rest of Ruth, no one calls her Mara. The author of the book whom I believe to be Samuel continues to call her Naomi. And even the others in the narrative don’t refer to her as Mara, but Naomi, which is pleasant. Moral of the story: how you view yourself does not change how God views you. How you interpret God’s actions towards you does not change God’s good purpose for you as the text will indicate. God’s mark on you is much more permanent than any identity crisis you undergo. In the end, you may be bitter, but God marked you with his pleasantness and no circumstance can change that.

Leftism

Leftism

Remember that leftist ideology uses death as a hermeneutical principle. It is the interpretive grid for decision making. For leftism, the end result must always be the result that keeps me at the forefront of my self-interests. And if anyone dares interfere with the agenda, let them be anathema whether he be inside or outside the womb. Leftist ideology cares nothing about self-sacrifice but promulgates the institution of sacrificial systems where the weak are sacrificed for the sake of the strong.

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Outraging Ourselves to Death

Outraging Ourselves to Death

Outrage can be a useful prophetic gift when used rightly and timely. Elijah, for instance, reserved his anger for the Ahabs and Jezebels of his world while bringing consolation to a widow and child. Jesus reserved his outrage to the false religious leaders while providing comfort to the weak and hungry in Israel. Outrage can be useful, but if everyone and every issue are worthy of outrage, we discern poorly.

H.L. Mencken was right when he noted that “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”  There is plenty in the world, the flesh, and the devil to demand our sacred violence. But Twitterdom has turned outrage into a gimmick; a cheap ticket to the best seats at the Superbowl. Outrage is the greatest rage out there. The problem with unremitting outrage is that while bringing out the crazies to your defense–after all, crazies love’m some outrage–it limits the Gospel to self-righteous angry outbursts.

But the Gospel is so outrageous on the topic of outrage that it outrageously limits our outrage. “Be gentle as doves and wise as serpents,” Jesus said as he sends us out to the wolves. I suspect wolves quickly devour doves, but gentle doves are subtle. They reserve their bows and coos for the right occasions. Their gentleness wins over the enemies. They disarm the wolves’ expectations.

Similarly, the serpent is cautious in its approach. The snake doesn’t attack without carefully studying the opponent. Calvin writes that serpents know that they are hated, so they do not rush heedlessly to danger. You may think your outrage is the noblest form of Gospel expression; you are bold enough to head on towards danger, but all the enemy sees is your “God Hates Fags” t-shirt.

Overused outrage diminishes our ministry. It shuts the doors of the enemies. It ends the conversation before it starts. It hinders our Gospel message. It’s unwise and unkind. The Gospel message is bold not because of its bullying, but because of its balance. Loud does not mean more effective. Just the opposite may be true.

The reason Fundamentalism lost their soul in the process of their proclamation is that they demanded speedy moral and cultural results without the careful, deliberate method of engaging, persuading, praying, hosting, and loving others. Most modern outrage is a form of addiction accentuated by social media which needs to be carefully analyzed in our day. We chastise evangelical groups who made their mission appealing to the masses through sexy ads and strategies fit for businesses, but now we are amusing ourselves to death one outrage at a time treating our sins as more dignified than “theirs.”

This is even more pronounced within Christian communities. We outrage first and ask questions later. A harsh word stirs up anger, Solomon says. The alternative to harsh words is not outrageous words, but a gentle answer. The Bible extols gentleness, careful pronouncements to those in the household of faith. The failure of our Christian conversations is that we throw mud at our own expecting our white shirts to be untouched by dirt. But outrage is vicious because it is addictive. And before we know it, our entire environment is composed of statutes of outrage. “Look, isn’t his outrage something worthy of admiration!” ‘Doesn’t he outrage with preciseness!” Thus, we create divisions on the basis of our indignation. Group A is not as holy as we are. Their outrage is a 1 in the Richter scale. How outrageously pitiful his holiness must be!

Lest one thinks I am in the contra outrage party, I actually like to walk across the aisle to speak with my friends. I like to think they hear me in the midst of their cacophony of outrage. But sometimes they are just too loud, and their points are clouded by their rage. I like a good dose of outrage. Like a fine single malt Scotch, it needs to be sampled slowly. Too much of it, and it no longer becomes a gift, but a vice. It can be a great prophetic gift as long as we don’t confuse Ahab with faithful brother George.

Episode 2, Today’s Top Three

Episode 2, Today’s Top Three

Jesus is the Resolution to our Paradoxes

Jesus is the Resolution to our Paradoxes

In his book “All things Considered”, G.K. Chesterton writes that “some people laugh through their tears while others boast that they only weep through their laughter.” There are moments in life when laughter and tear flow paradoxically side by side. And I think this is a metaphor for life. Life is not divided easily into moments of laughter and moments of tears.

And without Someone who puts those tears and laughter into perspective, we are of all people most to be pitied. Life is incomprehensible without the Person of Jesus Christ. A world apart from Jesus, the Messiah, is a world where paradox reigns; but in a cross-shaped world, our dilemmas and enigmas find resolution in Jesus. We may not know why things happen the way they do, but Jesus invites us to taste the answer with one another in worship and life together.

Episode 1, China, John Frame, and Guilting Church Women

Episode 1, China, John Frame, and Guilting Church Women

Here’s to my new project:

The Call to Ordinary Justice

The Call to Ordinary Justice

We live in a sad world. We turn on our TVs or read the paper, and we are bombarded by images that confront us emotionally and devastate our moods. So, we take action. We opine about the injustices around the world: orphans, widows, separated families, abuse, etc. We opine to draw attention to a cause, perhaps to our social warrior spirit, or even to a particular brand of politics.

Christians are justice seekers (Micah 6:8), but to what end does our justice-seeking apologetic hinder us from doing the basic and ordinary Christian thing? Just this morning I counted six items for discussion that would be considered heavy by any standard (and I am not counting the day-to-day horrors of abortion and martyrdom all over the world). Is it possible that we are justice fatigued to the point that the daily duties of praying, catechizing, singing, worshiping, dish-washing, diaper-changing, hugging, disciplining, reading, and everything else are relegated to a lesser domain? Are we creating a hierarchy of piety and justice?

“My cause is more righteous, and you should be ashamed of yourself for not caring or investing your time and keyboard to it.”

Before we apply justice, mercy, and humility to the major headlines of our day, we ought to begin right at our local kingdoms. Some will reply, “But we can do both. We can care about our homes and families and churches and also care about the national and international justice issues.” I submit that if you are an ordinary individual with an ordinary family with an ordinary job in an ordinary church, you will realize that the cause of justice most pressing is not starvation in Haiti, but your spouse in need, your fellow congregant who needs your call, or your close friend who just lost a child. Pursue justice by all means; carefully, wisely and prudently. But don’t let the “great” injustices blind you to those precious vessels nearest to you desperate to receive your mercy.

Answering Questions on the New Ruth Commentary

Answering Questions on the New Ruth Commentary

What is the point of the Book of Ruth?

I think there are two central points: a political and Christological dimension:

What we argue is that Ruth is actually a political tract making the case for the Davidic Kingdom…in other words, why Israel needs a faithful King who will be strong like Boaz, loyal like Ruth, and whose fortunes will turn like Naomi’s.

It’s Christological because it sets the stage for a kinsman redeemer who woos his bride through his generosity and strength, who covers his bride under his wings, who becomes this new land where God’s people can glean freely until the end of history. Jesus is this unending source of blessing to the foreigner and to the citizens of the land.

How do you preach through the book?

It’s such a compelling story that if I were a pastor who had not preached through Ruth, I’d go to Amazon and buy this commentary right now and start a series through it. I kid. But seriously, what are you waiting for? CLICK HERE!

I think the beauty of preaching through it is that you are preaching through a familiar story, which means the contextual dimensions are fairly known, but it also means that people have expectations for what you are going to say, but our goal in the commentary was to show just how nuanced the commentary is and just how the language of Ruth is filled with redemptive meanings from the names of Mahlon and Chilion and to the genealogy in chapter 4 which is generally overlooked.

The pastor can take his time working through each character and bringing out their significance in the larger story.

What is it like to write a commentary?

Well, I think we both have to preach through it first as pastors…we need to read and re-read the text. Lusk, who is the genius behind this, taught a Sunday school class on it and I both preached and taught through numerous times here in the US and in Brazil.

The process can be really slow because we both have full-time jobs, children and other concerns, but we have to find time whenever it is available.

So, the benefit of the Through New Eyes Series commentaries is that much of our theology is already developed. It’s based on the genius of James B. Jordan whose imprint is in every page. With that starting point, we are looking at two elements: first, what does the text say? We are operating on a section or verse by verse analysis of the text

Confession and Restoring our Humanity

Confession and Restoring our Humanity

We confess our sins because we need God’s forgiveness. There is a transaction that occurs: We confess, God forgives (I Jn. 1:9). This is of primary importance. But there is a second dimension to our confession that is not often stressed, namely, that we need to be restored to communion with our God-given humanity (Rom. 12:1-2). When we sin—and we do with frightening frequency—we are losing/weakening–qualitatively–who we are called to be. The goal of confession is to renew us in our earthly walk and realign our internal map. Confession of sins puts us in step with the Spirit of God. Confession is God’s way to call us back to the race. Confession is God’s gift to humanity in the path to maturity. Therefore, confess boldly.