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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Over the past few weeks, our adult class at church has been discussing the 7 miracles of Jesus detailed in the book of John. A primary characteristic of all of Jesus’ miracles is that they are not done for the sake of showing off power, but carry meaning about his relationship with God and us. There is a way in which Jesus not only tells parables, but lives them conspicuously in these wonders.

What struck me as we made our way through the entire set this time was the progression through which we are carried from beginning to end. Jesus is deliberate with every step: he knows where he is coming from and where he is going to. His purpose is clear as he draws us into the greater story.

Water to Wine–John 2:1-11

During a wedding at Cana, Jesus’ mother Mary approaches him after it becomes known to her that the banquet is running out of wine. Jesus says to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary, ignoring the response, tells the servants to do as Jesus says. Six large stone jars typically used for purification rituals were filled with water which immediately is turned to wine. (more…)

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It can be a challenging task to connect faith and culture in a way which respects both. By no means do I wish to hide from the rich experiences of culture, but I become uneasy when faith is swept away with the current. In recent years, Hollywood has become profoundly aware that Evangelicals are a huge market. While it may be affirming to see movies produced in consultation with people of faith such as The Prince of Egypt complete with discussion notes, a definite line was crossed when the same was done for Man of Steel.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Superman. No, I haven’t seen the movie yet, though I will. However, the specific content of this particular movie is irrelevant.

Marketing “God in a Box”

We, as Christians, are sometimes our own worst enemies when we forget who we are. In our zeal to witness to others about God, we often serve the gods of culture–in this case marketing. I am mindful of a friend who once became so frustrated with this phenomenon that he wrote out four full verses under the title “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Fish” using the tune from a similarly named hymn.

My biggest concern here is that every attempt was made to create analogies between Superman and Jesus. While this is not a new idea, the effort reached a crescendo as language in the trailer and the film itself were crafted carefully to appeal to Evangelical ears. Images are powerful and, even in the face of reasoned contrasts, confuse our view of God greatly. Following are some key problems with making any comparison at all. (more…)

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Have you ever thought about what surprises God? Perhaps we take it for granted that God’s omniscience undercuts any possibility of catching God off guard. Still the Bible describes two instances where Jesus (fully God and fully man) is “surprised” or “amazed”. In Mark 6:5-7, it says:

[Jesus] was not able to perform any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was greatly surprised, because the people did not have faith. (Good News version)

Then in both Matthew 8:9-11 and Luke 7:8-10, a Roman centurion tells Jesus not to come to his house to heal his servant, but appeals to Jesus’ authority and only “say the word”:

When Jesus heard this, he was surprised and said to the people following him, “I tell you, I have never found anyone in Israel with faith like this.” (Good News version)

The obvious thing to note is that both instances are in regards to faith–either the great lack of it or the great exercise of it. Jesus seems to expect that he can heal at least some people wherever he goes, but that some active show of power is needed to help people along. (more…)

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Section 28 begins a new chapter for Barth on “The Reality of God”. The discussion shifts from the knowledge of God (noetic or epistemological) to the being of God (ontic or ontological). Core to the nature of God’s being is His action in love and freedom. Love will point us to freedom and freedom will in turn direct us back to love.

“God is who He is in the act of His revelation. God seeks and creates fellowship between Himself and us, and therefore He loves us. But He is this loving God without us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in the freedom of the Lord, who has His life from Himself.” –Karl Barth (CD II.1, p. 257)

Barth does not surprise us by starting the discussion with love and freedom. Nor is it surprising that he will end by saying that this revelation finds its focus in the person of Jesus Christ. In between, however, he will wreak havoc on some commonly held views, not only by people outside the faith, but by mainstream Christians throughout history. (more…)

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This article was first published on November 16, 2011 in the award-winning Comment Magazine. Check out their site!

I get it. I know what it’s like to live in the shadow of New York City. When I was growing up in New Jersey, we resented the fact that a certain football team playing at the Meadowlands was called the “New York” Giants. Even now, I work in Albany, New York (a.k.a. Smallbany). Though the area boasts many good colleges in the area, the brightest graduates often seek the better-paying jobs down in “the City.”

And don’t even get me started on how hard it is to draw talent into the non-profit world. We’re the “third sector”—as in, after public and private. How can a small nonprofit possibly compete with the benefits of a state job or the salary of a multi-national corporation?

So this week I picked up some reminders for struggling ministries, nonprofits, and businesses who are seeking to put together dynamic teams as I watched the movie Moneyball, based on journalist Michael Lewis’s book about Billy Beane, the general manager for baseball’s Oakland A’s. He finds himself defeated as he manages a small-budget team in the big world of Major League (read “New York Yankees”) Baseball. Brad Pitt brilliantly portrays the emotionally conflicted and often socially detached Billy. After losing the American League Championship to the Yankees, his team is “gutted” of all its best players. He is left to rebuild with less than one-fifth of the payroll of the large market teams. (more…)

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In my third year of InterVarsity staff, the New York / New Jersey region required all new staff to finish their three-year training by developing a thesis of sorts. This study would then be the basis of a specialty for speaking to students on campus. Most picked typical themes for a general college audience such as multi-ethnicity, social justice, and gender roles. The work of my colleagues represented everything that made me proud to be part of InterVarsity.

Given my background in science, I thought it important to use my experience to further discussion of these issues. Dr. Sagan’s basic premise for critical thinking and how we learn was outlined in Demon Haunted World as being “wonder” and “skepticism”. This epistemolgy (how we know what is true) was deliberately meant to image “chance” and “necessity” as basic to his evolutionary understanding of science and the nature of the “Cosmos”.

Previously, I had read dozens of books across the spectrum of Christian understanding. It was a tortuous process in which I rejected view after view for various reasons. Finally, through this project, I would find a theologian who made sense of the science and faith chaos for me. But more on that in a moment… (more…)

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An “apologetic” is not an attempt to say “I’m sorry”. It actually means to “give reasons why” you believe something is true. I guess that would make this post an “apologetic on why I don’t rely on apologetics”.

It’s not that I don’t think Christians should think deeply about their faith. Quite the opposite. Sometimes, apologetic thinking masks the deeper issues and prevents us from getting to what truth in theology is all about: faith thinking and faith acting.

The Comprehensive Nature of Truth
I’ve been involved in a number of online chats about faith, skepticism and other issues. Each time I find myself frustrated because no one issue or discussion can capture the breadth of why I believe as I do.

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “I believe in God like I believe in the sun, not because I can see it, but because of it all things are seen.” It’s not that I believe one thing, but many things in every area of life which point to God. There isn’t a single focus or even a particular set of arguments that lead me to believe as I do. I see the fingerprints of God everywhere. It all fits together because it originates in God and finds its purpose in Him.

At Best a Starting Point
At their worst, an apologetic just creates a circular argument. While we may frown on people who use simplistic circular arguments, the most intelligent among us simply use bigger and more well-constructed circular arguments. (more…)

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