Category: Biblical Studies

Season After Pentecost (Proper 7[12]) – The Gospel Passage: Seeing the might of Jesus in hindsight

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.” (Mark 4:35 – 36)
That sounds very nice, an evening sail on the lake. And since Jesus’ disciples (or at least some of them) were able fishermen and seamen, I am sure it was a very safe thing to do. Keeping that fact in mind, what follows is very significant.
“A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Verses 37 – 38)
It must have been a terrible storm to upset the disciples, or at least those who were sailing the boat. And it must have come up suddenly because when they set out the lake was calm, or they would not have set out in the first place.
“He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Verses 39 – 40)
“Have you no faith?” he asked them. That question seems to be a surface question that does not hint to the deeper understanding that the disciples did not seem to understand. When one is with Jesus, there is no need to fear any situation. Jesus was (and is) in command of all situations. And if the Divine is sitting (or sleeping) in your boat, you need not fear anything. It makes me wonder if the the boat would have capsized if they had just tried to manage on their own. I mean, really, do you think Jesus was going to end up drowning?
“And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”” (Verse 41)
Of course, my thinking also tends to be from a human perspective, thinking of the physical danger rather than trusting in the plan of the Divine. Consider, if Jesus was mighty enough to command “the wind and the sea”, why did he not just hold off the storm in the first place. No, I think Jesus was going to let this teachable moment happen, and had that plan from the moment he said “Let’s go across to the other side.”
That is something to remember, beloved reader, as we set out and continue on the path and journey that the Divine called us to. Nothing will ever take the Lord or Jesus Christ by surprise. We can rest, and sleep, in that assurance. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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Season After Pentecost (Proper 7[12]) – The Epistle Passage: The gospel not in vain

“As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (II Corinthians 6:1 – 2)
I did a double-take in reading the first part of verse one – “not accept the grace of God”! However the “in vain” ending put a whole new meaning to the verse. And I think this admonition is just appropriate now as then. If I can understand and paraphrase the mind of Paul . . . do not halfheartedly follow God or only follow God when it is easy and convenient. If you are going to commit yourself to the Divine, do so with authenticity and devotion.
“We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see–we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (Verses 3 – 10)
Paul then goes on to give example after example, and incident after incident of how the road and ministry has been rough for him, but he has stayed the course. The key to reading this without losing one’s patience with Paul or feeling like he is bragging is to understand that “commend” does not mean self-congratulations but have acted in a way that is consistent with devotion to a cause. Now if one is judiciously slow, as I am, in commending Paul’s actions and intent, verses three to ten are read carefully and proof is sought in other writings to see if Paul is genuine. Paul was very outspoken and did not “test the waters” before he spoke up. I suspect at times it was as much his style of presentation of the gospel as it was the content of him message that got him into trouble.
“We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return–I speak as to children–open wide your hearts also.” (Verses 11 – 13)
Have you known people like Paul, beloved reader? People who speak truth but bluntly and outright? Who dive into a situation without fully exploring what might be involved? Paul at times reminds me of a missionary who strides forth with the gospel and does not first investigate the best way to explain the gospel. Legions of missionaries have done that in the past, and the results were very mixed. There is a time and place for Paul’s type of ministry. But, enough said; and I digress.
Paul makes a good point – do not hear the message of salvation and then not take it to heart and action. While Paul may be “commending” himself a little bit much, he did live out the gospel as it was given to him. And did not hesitate to act on it, at the risk of his own life. May hold to that example. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Notes and Musings After Reading ‘Desiring the Kingdom’

Desiring The Kingdom: notes and musings
Overall Score: 3/5 (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/43877739-jon-beadle)
Italics = my thoughts
Introduction:
The life of the mind is a study that is very concerned with Christian higher education – a decidedly modern approach to education.  – 17
Thesis: ” [Desiring the Kingdom is] an invitation to re-vision Christian education as a formative rather than just an informative project.” – 18 “philosophical anthropology”
“What if the church unwittingly adopts the same liturgical practices as the market and the mall? Will it then really be a sight of counter-formation?” – 25
“These quasi-liturgies effect an education of desire, a pedagogy of the heart. But if the church is complicit with this sort of formation, where could we look for an alternative education of desire?” – 25
Core Claim: “…liturgies – whether “sacred” or “secular” – shape and constitute our identities by forming our most fundamental desires and our most basic attunement to the world. In short, liturgies make us certain kinds of people, and what defines us is what we love.” – 25
Defining Education: “An education, then, is a constellation of practices, rituals, and routines that inculcates a particular vision of the good life by inscribing or infusing that vision into the heart (the gut) by means of material, embodied practices…Behind the veneer of a “value-free” education concerned with providing skills, knowledge, and information is an educational vision that remains formative. There is no neutral, nonformative education; in short, there is no such things as a “secular” education.
I’m learning that the “Secular” is a myth, a game that millions participate in on a daily basis. It feigns the common space as a neutral space. War, it seems to communicate, the opposite of neutrality. The path to peace in this case is the path to a static utopia of live and let live. As we have seen with the new activists, the public space is longing to be filled with values. Whereas the liberals (I include conservatives within this designation of lower case “l”) pretended the public space was neutral – although it was certainly not neutral, cultivating a generation of Christian consumers and “know-nothings” – radical progressives now demand that the public space be populated by a liturgy of inclusivity, equity, and diversity. For our purposes, I will here on out refer to the big three as the “unholy trinity.” We believed that secular education was nonformative, when it reality it was all formative.
If Christians are to retain any level of continuity with the global church, as well as the historic church, she is then to shed the dead weight of liberal secularism and adopt a post-liberal strategy. One facet of the solution must be to reclaim a form of Christian education that does more than teach Christian ideas and form students with apologetics, the “life of the mind.” The Christian school must first and foremost be a place, as Jamie Smith articulates, that cultivates what students should love; in short, virtue. We begin with that which is below the neck and move onto the mind. And what we love is that which is what we desire as a way of life (Smith 2009, 27). Our love is shaped by practices and refined by the mind[1]. A Christian education is not primarily to do with “Christian” ideas; rather, it has to do with Christian formation. It is formation over, but not against, worldview. If both are held in proper perspective then all of the classics may be engaged because there is no fear that a pagan idea will dominate a Christian idea. All truth is God’s truth, and the same goes for formation. If it forms you to love God, and magnify his Son, Jesus Christ, it is “Christian.” The center of gravity for your mind is your body.
Therefore, the primary Question beneath all questions that we should be asking is this: Is Christian education one in which all ideas that are passed from instructor to students being countered by the very environment (Smith 2009, 31)?
“Let me suggest an axiom: behind every pedagogy is a philosophical anthropology.” – 27
Part 1: We Are What We Love
Overall goal: “…to scketch a formal account of education as the formation of the imagination by affective practices.” – 37
Ch. 1: Homo Liturgics: the human person as a lover
Rationalist-Based Anthropology: For us to be “Educated” we are “formed.” You are not educated if you know things; rather, you are properly educated if you have the virtue and the skill to navigate the chaotic world with your identity, emotions, and reason intact (Smith 2009, 40). Unfortunately, we have often taught students that their actions flow directly from their mind. Perhaps it is the leftovers of the Certasian way of thinking (I think; therefore, I am”), or perhaps we were so desperate to short circuit the work it took to develop students in a way that strengthened against the bonds of secularism; but we are not first thinking creatures. We are first lovers. We do what we want to do, period. The mind is primarily a lawyer, trying to help our desire justify its actions.
Faith-based Anthropology: “What defines us is not what we think – not the set of ideas we assent to – but rather what we believe, the commitments and trusts that orient our being-in-the-world. – p. 43
Objection #1: Beliefs are often ideas set beneath other ideas. Thus, it keeps the person swimming in rationality, and makes the Christian obsessed with apologetics on the same footing as the rationalist she is trying to critique.
Objection #2: Person-as-believer is still the Cartesian individualist model. – 44
If our way of life can be accomplished without any mediation from the church, it is a Christian heresy. Who of us can live as a body without a head? Perhaps like a chicken we end up running around the yard, but not for very long (Smith 2009, 45).
“While the Reformed tradition of worldview-thinking generates a radical critique of rationalism and its attendant claims to objectivity and secularity, the critique still feels reductionistic insofar as it fails to accord a central role to embodiment and practice. Because of this blind spot, it continues to yield a quasi-rationalist pedagogy.” – 45
The Augustinian claim is that human are primarily oriented towards the world through love. The person-as-thinker and person-as-believer claims are anthropological reductions. – 46
Person-as-lover Anthropology: We are “embodied agents of desire or love.” – 47
“So as we inhabit the world primarily in a noncognitive, affective mode of intentionality, implicit in that love is an end, or telos. In other words, what we love is a specific vision of the good life, an implicit picture of what we think human flourishing looks like.” – 52
“Augustine would say that the effect of sin on our love is not that we stop loving but that our love becomes disordered. It gets aimed at the wrong ends and finds ‘enjoyment’ in what it should merely be ‘using.’ Or, in other words, instead of being caritas, our love becomes cupiditas. See Augustine, Teaching Christianity 1.26.27-1.27.28.” – 52 (footnote 25)
Social Imaginary Versus Worldviewism – 65
“The ‘social imaginary’ is an affective, noncognitive understanding of the world. It is described as an imaginary (rather than theory) because it is fueled by the stuff of the imagination rather than the intellect: it is made up of, and embedded in, stories, narratives, myths, and icons. These visions capture our hearts and imaginations by ‘lining’ our imagination, as it were – providing us with frameworks of ‘meaning’ by which we make sense of our world and our calling in it. An irreducible understanding of the world resides in our intuitive, precognitive grasp of these stories.” – 68
In order to grow in one’s desire for God one must grow in virtue (noncognitive “dispositions”), acquired through practice. Christian truth is such that you only “know” it is true when you have first begun to live as if they are true. – 71
(Reminder: Read George Linbeck)
Ch. 2: Love Takes Practice: Liturgy, Formation, And Counter-Formation
This is an incredibly boring chapter. It connects many cultural dots for the groundwork laid in the first chapter but has no profundity whatsoever. Seriously.
Ch. 3: Lovers in a Dangerous Time: Cultural Exegesis of “Secular” Liturgies
“We also need to keep in mind just how this process works. Because we are embodied, affective, liturgical animals, our love and desire are shaped and directed by rituals and practices that work on our imaginary; this can often be a sort of automation that inscribes in us habits formed without our recognition because they are operative at the level of the adaptive unconscious – particularly if we fail to recognize the practices as formative rituals.” – 94
We begin with liturgics – the practices, stories, myths that shape our unconscious, thus our lives – move on into the imaginative, where our conscious mind interacts with the unconscious, and rituals are then enacted. Thus, it is wise for the church to have an intense interest in the stories, films, and imaginative formative influences that are out there in the world because their influence is more powerful than even the lecturing that secularism engages within. In fact, in America, most people are not consciously secular. They go to church, believe in God, the divine plan that mystically governs their lives, and purpose. And yet, secularism is the unconscious religion because these same people live in such a way that is anti-thetical to the Christian tradition. Meaning: Christians in America today have more in common with Epicurus than St. Benedict, or St. Augustine. When we accept the cultural liturgy as normative for the water we swim in, our churches will be parallel with the mall-as-polis.
There are no limits to the impact of consumerism on Christian church. And this view of capital is not neutral. Just attend a heavily populated youth group.
Are the kids reciting the Apostles Creed?
Are they taking communion?
No.
The likelihood of ancient forms in the youth space is slim to none. Rather, it is a rush to mimic the culture. A concession in order to “get them in the door to hear the gospel.” The problem is clear: we make believers who are still thoroughly persuaded by the forms of consumerism than that of Christianity. I’m not saying Youth Groups should not have hip hop or games; rather, they should be given to discipleship for the whole person. The role of consumerism is of a non-stop revolution. And yes, that may make me sound like a Marxist (I am not!) but the criticism must be taken seriously. Our children seek stability, and the constant barrage of activities will only hollow out their faith before they are able to get started. The primary issue, unfortunately for the average, and passionate, youth pastor, is that the primary agent in the kid’s conversion to secularism is not the media, but their parents. When I was a youth pastor, parents would come to me in tears. Why isn’t my child a Christian? Perhaps their entire experience was in the externalities, completely devoid of mystical encounters – whether the gifts of the Spirit or the simplest of experiences in “listening prayer.” So when the student is told every week that they can’t do anything, it’s all grace, they hear a slice of truth, but none of the power, narrative, coherence of the Gospel that has the power to keep them. And if they were to put their trust in that power, parents would also realize that the Holy Spirit can keep them in that love more than their inherent ability to be deceived. Parents who want their children to be disciples should first become disciples themselves, get more excited about worship that the Bachelorette, and perhaps their children will follow suit. I say this as a parent.
Every parent should read “Demons” by Dostoevsky. It paints a portrait of a handful of smart young people.  
God does not go to church. We go to Him. The Magi were seeking not a country, but a King; a Kingdom. In this sense, the dominion of our King is our King Himself. This is why discussions of the dialectic between the individual and the collective fall flat in the church because the “community” of faith is a synthesis of the two.
Part 2: Desiring the Kingdom – The Practiced Shape of the Christian Life
A more practical approach. Also, meh.
Ch. 4: From Worship to Worldview – Christian Worship and the formation of Desire
“The point here is that just as worship precedes the formation of the biblical canon (“The Bible”), so too does participation in Christian worship precede the formulation of doctrine and the articulation of worldview. Lived worship is the fount from which a worldview springs, rather than being the expression or application of some cognitive set of beliefs already in place.” – 136
Those who constantly emphasize that their service is not meant to be a “show” and yet, constantly dim the lights and turn up the sound to the level of a deafening effect are lying. The sacramental space is the “social imaginary.” It is the place where we reimagine “place” in the world. So when the worship space is merely a nest for the spoken truth, it is already subverting its potential by refusing to nest the space in the imagination of the unconscious, which celebrates love, purpose, hope, and, well, the story within the story, the Gospel. We must be vigilant in asking the following kinds of questions: does our heart scream at the level of a Handel’s Messiah when we see the break broken over the communion table, or when we get an unexpected discount at Target?
When Jesus lifts up the bread and says “This is my body,” He claims the universal within the particular. The transcendent fully collides with the immanent, within that brokenness. It is, as one songwriter has said, a collision more akin to a sloppy wet kiss than a proper ballroom dance. (Smith 2009, 149).
“First, it is not only high-church or liturgical contexts that are liturgical and formative. All Christian worship – whether Anglican or Anabaptist, Pentecostal or Presbyterian – is liturgical in the sense that it is governed by norms, draws on tradition, includes bodily rituals or routines, and involves formative practices. For instance, though Pentecostal worship is often considered to be the antithesis of liturgy, it actually includes many of the same elements: charismatic worship is very embodied (hands raised in praise, kneeling at the altar in prayer, laying on hands in hope, etc.); it has a common unwritten routine (“praise” music, followed by quieter “worship” music, followed by the sermon and then often “altar time”); and these practices of Pentecostal worship are deeply formative, shaping our imagination to relate to the world in a unique way. In this sense, even Pentecostal worship is liturgical; indeed, as we’ve emphasized above, Christian worship can’t help but be embodied and material.” – 152
Ch. 5: Practicing (for) the Kingdom: An Exegesis of the Social Imaginary Embedded in Christian Worship:
“ [the eucharist is] the school of active love for neighbor.” – John Paul II
Ch. 6: A Christian University Is for Lovers – The Education of Desire
Students should not be handed a “Christian” perspective. They should in fact, let go of perspective and seize Reality. Perception is not Reality, only to those who are willing to live with their eyes on the three feet of ground in front of them. (Smith 2009, 218).
Corruption of the Youth = New Monastic Vision for Christian life
Final Takeaways:
Rod Dreher did it better with _The Benedict Option_.
I really want to read _For The Life of the World_ now!
The use of pop culture and movies are helpful, but beneath the scope of his engagement. If you distinguish between thick and thin practices, why pander? I don’t think he often chooses the most interesting examples, which was also a problem  with his book on Charles Taylor and Relativism.
My favorite part of the chapters were always the footnotes. Sassy. Tasty. 
Now I want to read Graham Greene.
The first chapter is worth the entire book. Or just read the first chapter, and pick up rod Dreher’s book. 
I can’t drop Douglas Wilson’s criticism of this book — that Smith actually argues for a slimmed down version of Modernity with the use of Post-Modernity as a lens for his critique of Modernity. This is unavoidable for most po-mo types because their very critique is contingent upon modernity having the cultural power, making po-mo “parasitic,” dependent and weak. Thus, Smith’s post-liberal ideas are much stronger. But he simply tells us to go read his other book…boo! 
Smith really, really, absolutely, really, adores Heidegger. I was almost moved to pick up my copy of _Being and Time_ but then decided to take a Tylenol instead.
[1] In Jonathan Haidts book “The Righteous Mind,” he makes a solid case for the human being as an animal of desire, first, and of the mind, second.
 

Syndicated from Jon Beadle

Craig Keener on Acts, Paul, and Miracles | S1 E9 (EP-67)

Subscribe via iTunes or Google Season 1, Episode 9 (Spring Season, 2018) In this episode, Kurt chats with biblical scholar and classicist Craig Keener. He has done extensive research on the book of Acts including producing a massive four volume commentary, which some have said may be the largest commentary ever produced on the book! Listen in as Kurt asks him questions about how Acts relates to the study of Paul.   GIVE THE SHOW SOME LOVE 1) If you would be so kind to hop on iTunes (or your feed of choice) and leave The Paulcast a review there, that would be amazing. The more reviews we can get will lead to greater visibility in iTunes. And I (Kurt) LOVE reading your comments! 2) Also, please consider hitting up The Paulcast Patreon online tip-jar (think Kickstarter for ongoing content creators). For $3 per month, or more, you can make a direct impact on this show. Financial partners like you really do make this all possible! Through Patreon, you make a tangible difference in this show’s sustainability and quality! http://patreon.com/kurtwillems
Syndicated from The Paulcast

Season After Pentecost (Proper 7[12]) – The Old Testament Passage: David Succeeds

This week’s two options for the Old Testament passage are stories part one and part two of David killing Goliath and the honor that was given David afterwards. Part one – I Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 – details David’s preparation and killing of Goliath. Part two – I Samuel 17:57-18:5, 18:10-16 – tells of David becoming part of Saul’s court and his champion on the battlefield, and Saul’s increasing jealousy. I am not sure which passage to highlight. The two Old Testament passages have differing psalm passages, so that might also influence my final decision. I prefer the psalm passage that is connected to David’s battle and victory over Goliath. But of the two Old Testament passages, it is the Old Testament passage of David’s becoming part of Saul’s court that I like better. BUT I cannot mix the two. That is, my respect for the pairing done in the Revised Common Lectionary will not allow me to re-match the two passages I like. But perhaps there is something I can do to resolve this dilemma. I can present to you the portions of the two passages that resonate with me. I encourage you to read both passages and consider what parts resonate with you.
We know the story of David and Goliath well. It has become a matter for conquering something that at first inspection is larger and mighty than we are.
“And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” (I Samuel 17:4-11)
While Saul and all the warriors of Israel who heard this were disheartened and afraid, David felt differently and spoke up.
“David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine. . . . this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them [the wild beasts that David killed defending his father’s sheep], since he has defied the armies of the living God.” (Verse 32, 36b)
Have there been insurmountable things in your life, beloved reader? Have you been maligned and insulted, but have been to cowed and afraid to defend yourself? Now it is interesting that Jesus would tell us to “turn the other cheek”. But David’s hackles were raised and he was determined to fit. But, he fought in his own way.
“Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. . . . . But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand. ” (Verses 38 – 40, 45 – 47)
David did not come armed and ready with mail and armor. He came to face down Goliath clothed only in the might of the Lord. [And if I do say so, a lot of luck! It is said that the Divine, the Godself, might have guided the stone to the precise spot. Or, David knew a thing or two about what helmets do and do not protect.]
David was brought into Saul’s court and won favor there. We have to assume that David spent years in Saul’s court learning how to battle in more conventional ways, and becoming more accustomed to mail and armor. We read in the second Old Testament passage,
“David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved. . . . So Saul removed him from his presence [because of Saul’s jealousy] , and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. David had success in all his undertakings; for the LORD was with him. ” (Chapter 18, verse 5, 13 – 14)
I have to admire Saul for seeing that David could succeed where he, Saul, had failed to gain victory through the Lord. The Lord may have “departed” from Saul, but Saul still knew the aura that indicated the Lord was on one’s side and guiding one’s life. And I think that is the major lesson I would want to take from this passage. At this time in David’s life he depended greatly on the Lord, and sought the Lord’s will at every turn. He was, as it is often said, a man after the Lord’s own heart. May we face the giants in our lives with as much courage depending not on the might of the world but the might of the Lord. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 6 [11]) – The Psalm Passage: Preacher & Seeker “preach” it!

Preacher: “The LORD answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you!”
Seeker: I was troubled and the Lord came to me. I lifted up prayers and petitions and the Lord remembered me – because I had prayed to the Lord so many times before! My world was shattered and the Lord helped me to rebuild what I had lost.
Preacher: “May he send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion.”
Seeker: The Lord promised me I would not be alone. And the Angel of Lord has been my constant companion. Believers who have gone before me have shown me the way to live, and have passed to me the faith that sustained them.
Preacher: “May he remember all your offerings, and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah”
Seeker: I have nothing to offer but my contrite heart, and the strength of my bones and spirit. But I offer them willingly to the Divine and place them in service to minister to all of creation and humanity.
Preacher: “May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.”
Seeker: The Lord God has looked into my heart, and seen the wishes and dreams I hold deep inside. The Divine invites me to test them against the law of love, and instructs me as to how I might live. The Lord’s plans have become my plans, and with the Lord every dream is possible.
Preacher: “May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
Seeker: I prayed to the Lord on my own behalf, but I have been shown a better way. I asked for victory and have been shown the Lord’s victory. Apart from the Lord I achieve nothing. With the Lord all of my petitions have been answered.
Preacher: “Now I know that the LORD will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand.”
Seeker: Seek out the Lord and the Lord’s will. The Divine is ever ready to come to your aid. A cause taken up for the sake of the Lord will be a cause that seek completion.
Preacher: “Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the LORD our God.”
Seeker: Boast in the Lord, and in the Lord God’s might. Think not of yourself, but others. When the Lord leads the way, good things follow. Instruct those who think they can succeed apart from the Lord.
Preacher: “They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.”
Seeker & Preacher: “Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call.” (Psalm 20)

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 6 [11]) – The Psalm Passage: Preacher & Seeker “preach” it!

Preacher: “The LORD answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you!”
Seeker: I was troubled and the Lord came to me. I lifted up prayers and petitions and the Lord remembered me – because I had prayed to the Lord so many times before! My world was shattered and the Lord helped me to rebuild what I had lost.
Preacher: “May he send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion.”
Seeker: The Lord promised me I would not be alone. And the Angel of Lord has been my constant companion. Believers who have gone before me have shown me the way to live, and have passed to me the faith that sustained them.
Preacher: “May he remember all your offerings, and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah”
Seeker: I have nothing to offer but my contrite heart, and the strength of my bones and spirit. But I offer them willingly to the Divine and place them in service to minister to all of creation and humanity.
Preacher: “May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.”
Seeker: The Lord God has looked into my heart, and seen the wishes and dreams I hold deep inside. The Divine invites me to test them against the law of love, and instructs me as to how I might live. The Lord’s plans have become my plans, and with the Lord every dream is possible.
Preacher: “May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
Seeker: I prayed to the Lord on my own behalf, but I have been shown a better way. I asked for victory and have been shown the Lord’s victory. Apart from the Lord I achieve nothing. With the Lord all of my petitions have been answered.
Preacher: “Now I know that the LORD will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand.”
Seeker: Seek out the Lord and the Lord’s will. The Divine is ever ready to come to your aid. A cause taken up for the sake of the Lord will be a cause that seek completion.
Preacher: “Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the LORD our God.”
Seeker: Boast in the Lord, and in the Lord God’s might. Think not of yourself, but others. When the Lord leads the way, good things follow. Instruct those who think they can succeed apart from the Lord.
Preacher: “They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.”
Seeker & Preacher: “Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call.” (Psalm 20)

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Podcast: Should We Trust the Bible When it Fails on Page 1?

Greg talks about science and the Bible. 
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The post Podcast: Should We Trust the Bible When it Fails on Page 1? appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Season After Pentecost (Proper 6 [11]) – The Gospel Passage: Kingdom of God . . . here and now, or to come?

“He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26 – 29)
There are some theological terms that almost defy explanation, but still we try. One such term is the “Kingdom of God.” It has several possible meanings, and a host of metaphors/parables that can be applied to it. In some instances it seems as if the “Kingdom of God” is already here, by virtue of the fact that at the present time there are believers populating it. Other times it seems as if the “Kingdom of God” is yet to come, ushered in by the Day of Judgment.
“He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Verses 30 – 32)
Is the Kingdom of God the believers that inhabit the earth and are renewed by each successive generation. Or is the Kingdom of God that which will be ushered in at a future time? It is, according to these parables, larger than anyone might anticipate. And at the time of its existence – whenever that might be – capable of growth. If the metaphors given are to be interpreted correctly, it almost seems as if the Kingdom of God is here and now on the earth. But how can that be if the earth and humanity seem to be so broken and suffering?
“With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” (Verses 33 – 34)
It is helpful, I believe, to remember that when the gospels were written with these parables included the disciples did not know what the span of time would be before Christ’s return. And that Christianity as they were taught and understood it (and taught it to others) was basic and straightforward.
While there are some who believe the Kingdom of God is here and now, made evident in the lives and community of faithful believers – I would almost prefer to believe that it is yet to come. Believing it is here and now, set against the world as we know it, makes me feel that the Kingdom of God is small (yet mighty) in the larger scale of the world. Yet the disciples were a minority in their world, and even smaller minority compared to the global world that they did not realize was so large. So I think of the bible verse that is for this month on the calendar that hangs on my bedroom wall – “These things I have spoken to you, so tht in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. “ (John 16:33)
May the Kingdom of God be your home, beloved reader, now and in all the days to come. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 6 [11]) – The Epistle Passage: Being confident in our faith

“So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Corinthians 5:6-7)
I had a bit of a technological dilemma earlier this evening. I was able to find a solution; but as I always seem to do, I asked advice of other family member(s). Who, as it turns out, had no better idea than I did as to how to solve it. I did find the solution, on my own. I seem to distrust my own ability to figure out technology, and assume that others are better able to do it than I. That is not always the case.
Can you see, beloved reader, how this might relate to these first two verses? (Admittedly it might be a tenuous relating.) I could not see the solution to my technological mystery, but I had faith there was a solution. And that I could discern it. Now, we do not have the solution within ourselves to salvation. But we have the faith within to reach out to the Divine.
“Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.” (Verses 8 – 10)
Now Paul puts the greater emphasis on shunning the physical body and clinging more to the spirit and the soul. But we know that the body and soul/spirit have an intimate connection. And our bodies do not keep us from the Divine, but give us the ability to live out the commission and practice the law of love. It is our confidence that we can supplant our own the will and direction for the Spirit’s. So for the purposes of this reflection, I am emphasizing our confidence in our faith.
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” (Verses 11 – 13)
Paul had confidence in himself as an emissary and minister of the Lord God. He could not have traveled and preached as he did if he had not that confidence. It was confidence he received as a result of his calling and faith, but it was confidence nonetheless.
“For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (Verses 14 – 17)
Let me ask you this beloved reader – would you give up worldly possessions and agenda if you were not confident that the Lord Jesus Christ lived and died, and then arose taking his place heaven beside the Lord God Creator? It takes confidence and faith to give up what the world has to offer, and instead live an authentic Christian life. More confidence and faith than it takes to master technology! And may your confidence and faith in the Divine Lord God be rewarded in this life and the life to come! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Rachel Held Evans on the Inspired Book | S1 E8 (EP-66)

Subscribe via iTunes or Google Season 1, Episode 8 (Spring Season, 2018) In this episode, Kurt chats with Rachel Held Evans. She has written numerous books on faith and her latest is called: Inspired - Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. It is a fun conversation full of great insights from Rachel. This episode zooms out a bit to look at major themes in the Bible that Rachel focused on in her book. We talk a little bit about Paul too. :-)   GIVE THE SHOW SOME LOVE 1) If you would be so kind to hop on iTunes (or your feed of choice) and leave The Paulcast a review there, that would be amazing. The more reviews we can get will lead to greater visibility in iTunes. And I (Kurt) LOVE reading your comments! 2) Also, please consider hitting up The Paulcast Patreon online tip-jar (think Kickstarter for ongoing content creators). For $3 per month, or more, you can make a direct impact on this show. Financial partners like you really do make this all possible! Through Patreon, you make a tangible difference in this show’s sustainability and quality! http://patreon.com/kurtwillems
Syndicated from The Paulcast

Season After Pentecost (Proper 6 [11]) – The Old Testament Passage: Being true to the call of the Lord

“Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:34 – 35)
Saul had fallen from grace and favor under the Lord and under Samuel. The Lord had known Saul’s heart – we presume – and therefore knew that Saul would not be a king after the Lord’s heart. But it did not make the Lord love Saul any less. Just as the Lord did not love the Israelites any less because the elder of Israel wanted a king. I am not sure though how the writer knew that the Lord was sorry the Divine had made Saul king of Israel. It is sort of in contrary juxtaposition to the first verse of chapter 16.
“The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” (chapter 16, verse 1)
Maybe, and this is just a thought, maybe time needed to pass until David was ready for kingship. If we believe that the Lord answers prayer but on a timeline that the Divine only knows, maybe there needed to be a space of time for David to arrive at the age where his ascent to kingship would start. Or maybe the Israelites needed to see a poor king so they would know a good king.
“Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” (Verses 2 – 3)
Or, maybe Samuel needed to be nurtured along to know what a good king looked like. There are so many possibilities, that I could speculate for some time.
“Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.” (Verses 4 – 5)
Now we come to the pivotal event. Now we approach the beginning of what will be the odyssey and legacy that is the line from the kings of Israel & Judah to the Christ. Now we see that the outer appearance need not indicate the inner life.
“When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the LORD.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” (Verses 6 – 11)
Would that I could have been there to hear the “small talk” as Samuel, Jesse, and the other elders waited until David arrived. I do not know how fair away they were from where the sheep were kept. But even more than a few minutes would have been awkward. For surely it had become apparent what the purpose of this visit was. Samuel fearful that Saul would find out what was going on. Jesse wondering and then suspecting what was going on. And the elders of Bethlehem wondering what Samuel wanted of them. Yes, it would have been tense times.
“He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.” (Verses 12 – 13)
There are two things that stand out to me in this passage of scripture. The first is that the Lord had told Samuel, “I have provided for myself a king . . .” Now I looked back over several previous chapters of I Samuel, and at first Saul seemed unlikely a king. He looked good, but was shy and unsure of himself. Over time he became more sure of himself and his abilities, until he became proud, too proud, and took it upon himself to determine the best course of action instead of seeking direction from the Lord or listening to Samuel’s advice. The people of Israel came to like Saul because he was everything they wanted from a king. But, and this is the puzzling part, the Lord pointed out Saul to Samuel. I would have thought that would be an instance of the Divine providing the Godself with a king. Does that mean that David was different from Saul?
The second is that the writer of I Samuel said, “. . . the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David . . . “ Does that mean that Saul did not have the Spirit of the Lord? And is that how the Divine provided the Godself with a king?
I ask myself these things because while none of us are kings (or queens), we are called and chosen by the Lord. And we can go terribly astray, as Saul did, and find ourselves outside of God’s grace and blessing as Saul did when he was stripped of his appointment as king. Or we can make mistakes and missteps, as David did, and yet still be a person after the Lord’s heart. Who will you be like, beloved reader? Saul or David? Shalom.

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 5 [10]) – The Psalm Passage: Faith to give thanks

One of the Facebook groups I am a part of posted the question of what we are thankful for. Of course there were a variety of answers posted from then mild and humorous to the serious and touching. What one is thankful for various from day to day, and situation to situation. It is fine and good to be thankful for the large and overarching things – family and loved ones – and the small and minor things – getting a parking spot and having a good meal. As believers and followers of the Divine, we can be thankful for the Divine’s presence in our lives and in the lives of others. The psalmist excels at giving things for that.
“I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.” (Psalms 138:1 – 2)
Because it was and is obvious to give thanks for the large things, in response to the question posted I gave thanks for a small thing. The reason, for me, in giving thanks for a small thing was because the large things – that is the most important things in my life – are things that I know will be there and I can count on them. Of course I am thankful for them. But I have assurance that they will be there. The small things, on the other hand, may ebb and flow with time and circumstance so I gave thanks for them as they happen.
“On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.” (Verse 3)
When a believer calls on the Lord God, the assumption is that the Lord God will answer. The answer may not be immediate nor what one expects. But we can have faith that Lord God will answer. So it may not be the answer to prayer and petition that we are thankful for as much as that we are heard by our Lord God.
“All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.” (Verses 4 – 6)
When I first read through Psalm 138, it was verse 3 that resonated within me most. And I guess for me, it is the verse that this psalm hinges on. It is why I can have faith that the large important things in my life – which really aren’t “things” – will be there for me. It is why I give thanks for small things, because they help me along my way. The granting of the small blessings helps me keep my courage up to face difficult issues in my life. And I give thanks for that as well.
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” (Verses 7 – 8)
“ Do not forsake the work of your hands” . . . what I take that to mean is “Do not forsake creation and your called and chosen people . . . Do not forsake those who call on the Lord God.” I do not think the Lord God does, beloved reader. And that is why we can have the faith to give thanks for all things, because the Divine is with us. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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