The Chair and the Desk, 11/30/15

From the chair:

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”

-2 Peter 2:1

Second Peter 2 is the kind of chapter I would honestly rather read over. It’s the kind of passage I’m afraid to quote on my blog. “How exclusive. How judgmental.” Nonetheless, the commitment that gives me hope also obligates me to heed this warning: This is God’s Word. I don’t have an exhortation in light of it this afternoon, just a prayer.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Lord, protect us from ourselves. Please do not let me deny you or teach falsehood. Please keep me from the swift destruction I would bring upon myself without your Holy Spirit. I would rather not preach, not teach, not write, not graduate than deny you, my Master. Lord, have mercy.  


From the desk:

“Moderation in all things is good advice for drink, but not necessarily for doctrine. Moderation plays better to mass audiences, but martyrdom—bearing suffering witness to doctrinal truth—is the better part of our Christian inheritance.”

-Kevin Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine, pp.451-452

Not everything comes down to “balance.” Or, to put it another way, “balance” is not always a 50/50 mix. A hammer does not balance at a midway point between it’s two ends.

Theology, of all things, does not benefit from a primary commitment to balance or moderation–God is not a balance of good and evil, strong and weak, or real and false. God is often a combination of two things humans struggle to combine: just and gracious, everlasting and timely. That does not change the fact that our best hope for understanding and ethical living is not balance but throwing all our weight toward that which is God, of God, and for God, away from all that is not.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

On This Timeline, In This World

Well, I’m signing off for Thanksgiving. I take the time to say it because the blog isn’t some outlet to the world; it’s a way of reporting back to the family and friends I love (I typically refer to my other family and friends as simply “family and friends,” because they don’t read these).

We’re headed down to North Carolina to spend the week with our friends Nick and Brenna–since this is a blog, I’ll mention that you can read Nick’s blog here. Nick’s the best writer/blogger I personally know (mom: please note that I say “writer/blogger,” so I’m considering your textbooks a different category all together).

I go with Jonah 3:1-5 in mind:

“Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 5.44.18 PM

You’ve probably seen this map a lot lately. These days, we typically see ISIS territory laid over the top of it, but as I read Jonah 3 this morning, I was reminded that the same map could show us where God Almighty has done miraculous things. Yes, ISIS occupies Mosul, but God has done the unimaginable just 30 minutes away in Nineveh. Yes, a plane was brought down over Egypt, but God’s people were also brought out in that very place. Yes, Lebanon suffered a terrible tragedy two weeks ago, but God also promises:

17  Is it not yet a very little while 
until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, 
and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest? 
18  In that day the deaf shall hear 
the words of a book, 
and out of their gloom and darkness 
the eyes of the blind shall see. 
19  The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, 
and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. 
20  For the ruthless shall come to nothing

-Isaiah 29:17-20a

Yes, God sees the Middle East. Though they’re not named in the Bible, God sees Paris too, and Myanmar, and Indianapolis and Minneapolis. I don’t see the way forward right now, but I know who does. We believe lofty promises, but God has exceeded our expectations, even exceeded his own promises before, on this timeline, in this world. “Be patient, establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

The Chair and the Desk, 11/23/15

From the chair:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

-James 5:7-8

This verse encouraged me before breakfast morning, again after lunch, again as I walked across campus, and again as I met with some outstanding members of our Church. This is our great hope: The coming of the Lord is at hand!


From the desk:

“Being known for faith, hope or love might be safer than a reputation for theological erudition. Still, all things considered, I’ll take ‘theology church’ over the ‘church that recycles batteries,’ the ‘church with the Xboxes in the youth wing,’ or the ‘church with the gnarly fog machine.'”

-Kevin DeYoung, “A Place for Truth” in The Pastor as Public Theologian by Strachan and Vanhoozer, p.98

I hope it’s ethical to quote a book this much this many days in a row. My intention is to say, “Here’s a bunch of writers who have way better thoughts than I do; I’m quoting them because they put these ideas in ways I never could” and also, if you’re a pastor or theologian, “buy the book!”


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

The Chair and the Desk, 11/20/15

From the chair:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place 
in all generations. 
Before the mountains were brought forth, 
or ever you had formed the earth and the world, 
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 

-Psalm 90:1-2

Though life and the world may change, God does not. As Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”


From the desk:

“The solution is not to abstain from technology. This is not only impractical but also wrong. God used the technology of the cross to accomplish the greatest possible good, and he continues to use human technology to alleviate some of the consequences of the fall and to advance his kingdom. Technology can be a blessing from God and an integral aspect of serving him. Yet the dangers inherent in technology require the same solutions that James gives us regarding the things of this world in general: humility, submitting to God’s law (the second and the fourth commandments are especially relevant to technology), and drawing near to God in prayer, because prayer is in many ways the opposite of technology.”

-Jim Samra, “A Practical Theology of Technology,” in The Pastor as Public Theologian (Strachan and Vanhoozer, 2015), p.68


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

The Chair and the Desk, 11/19/15

From the chair:

“19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

-James 1:19-21

Schools–seminaries in particular–would probably benefit from painting this on the wall of every classroom over Thanksgiving break–the #1 benefit would probably be getting Alex Kato to talk less and listen more.


From the desk:

“We can refuse to relegate ourselves into hate as a result of what happened this week. We can refuse. We can refuse to be the ones that transmit fear around this country; we can say ‘No, we’re going to transmit faith around this country.'”

-Rev. Nick Korir, “Price Tag, One Sacrifice.”

I couldn’t listen to sermons from France, Lebanon, or Syria this week (because I don’t speak French or Arabic), but I can go back and listen to what Kenyan pastors preached last Easter, just three days after the Garissa University College attack. I was encouraged by this sermon from Rev. Nick Korir of Nairobi Chapel.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

The Chair and the Desk, 11/18/15

From the chair:

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

-Hebrews 13:3

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how little attention the Church pays to those who are locked away from society. I know there’s something unique about Christians who are incarcerated for their faith within the broader category of Christians who are incarcerated, but I’m actually not sure that the distinction is central to this verse.

I’ve been wondering about ways to better serve incarcerated persons in our community, and I ran across this program that PTS runs. It’s one of the things I most respect about our seminary: http://coned.ptsem.edu/certificates/certificate-theology-ministry/insideoutside-cohort/.


From the desk:

“One morning I met a man in the train, and made acquaintance with him at once. I had often heard of him as a very learned man, but an atheist; and I was very glad of the opportunity of conversing with so eminent and clever a person. He doesn’t believe in God, and he talked a good deal about it, but all the while it appeared to me that he was speaking outside the subject. And it has always struck me, both in speaking to such men and in reading their books, that they do not seem really to be touching on that at all, though on the surface they may appear to do so. I told him this, but I dare say I did not clearly express what I meant, for he could not understand me.”

-Prince Lyov Nikolaevich Myshkin in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot

Dostoevsky’s “idiot” is the simple man who cuts through all our pretension, much like a certain man from Nazareth who always seemed to be traveling perpendicular to the world’s purposes. This anecdote from the character caught my attention, because it’s so true of so much of what we say. On the surface, we appear to be saying things about reality, but we wrap our statements in so much jargon and name-dropping that we’re often not considering or addressing anything real at all.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

The Chair and the Desk 11/17/15

From the chair:

4 It shall come to pass in the latter days 
that the mountain of the house of the Lord 
shall be established as the highest of the mountains, 
and it shall be lifted up above the hills; 
and peoples shall flow to it, 
and many nations shall come, and say: 
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, 
to the house of the God of Jacob, 
that he may teach us his ways 
and that we may walk in his paths.” 
For out of Zion shall go forth the law, 
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 
He shall judge between many peoples, 
and shall decide for strong nations far away; 
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, 
and their spears into pruning hooks; 
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, 
neither shall they learn war anymore; 
but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, 
and no one shall make them afraid, 
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. 
For all the peoples walk 
each in the name of its god, 
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God 
forever and ever. 

-Micah 4:1-5

I went searching for this passage today, and, because I don’t know Micah well, it took me a while to find it. As I read Scripture, it does not seem that the Bible pushes us toward the view that “all faiths are the same.” The more philosophers and sociologists I encounter, the more I find that they do not push us that way either. Yet, somehow, it has become a prevailing notion in our society, and we must decide whether we will tune our ears to the word of the majority or “the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

That being said, a commitment to “walk in the name of the Lord our God” is in no way a commitment to violence or exclusion. I do testify that not all gods are God, but the Lord our God is calling not only people but peoples, many nations, to the Mountain of the Lord, where tanks become tractors, soldiers become chefs, preachers become poets, and no one shall make us afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. Because I follow this God and this God only, I have great hope for any person and all peoples.


From the desk:

“…seminaries should do more to encourage their brightest students to consider working in the church rather than the academy, precisely because cultivating the wisdom of Jesus Christ on the ground requires more intelligence and creativity than writing scholarly articles does.”

-Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, The Pastor As Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision, p.2

I’m only half a chapter into this book, but when the table of contents gets you excited, you know it’s going to be good. I applaud pastors–I hope and pray I can serve the Church as one, and if this PhD leads to other work as well, I hope every word of it is in service to these servants.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

The Chair and the Desk, 11/16/15

From the chair:

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. 

-Hebrews 11:13-16

I have a heavy heart today. I’m sad for the victims of terrorism around the world. I’m sad about the discourse about terrorism around the world: The constant clamoring to be the most informed, most bold, most pluralistic, most sure, most stoic, most sad, most right, most left, most confused. I confess, I am failing at being the most anything, even the most whatever-this-sentence-is-trying-to-be. If there’s a “who can best respond to terrorism” game being played, I confess that I’m not winning it.

I still trust in the promises of God; I am still waiting for something so much better than this.


From the desk nightstand:

“You know I know there are all sorts in all religions; good men in bad ones and bad men in good ones.”

-Father Brown, “The Dagger with Wings” by G.K. Chesterton in The Complete Father Brown Stories

Despite all the talk to the contrary, it is not hateful to believe that there are such things as good and bad people, good and bad religions, nor is it relativistic to suggest that they’re oddly intertwined.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

The Chair and the Desk, 11/12/15

From the chair:

35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

-Luke 18:35-43

In one of my favorite poems, Tennyson suggests that our lives look like royal Odysseus on the high seas. Ever the romantic, he envisions us as intrepid individuals, who “follow knowledge like a sinking star // beyond the utmost bound of human thought.” Each of us probably have dreams of a whole crew of sailors following us, with “heroic hearts // made weak by time in fate, but strong in will // to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” I like the poem because it taps into something deep in me, the dream that I can muster up greatness and go find fame.

However, in this passage, Luke suggests that our lives look more like this blind man begging by the road. This is a true story, yet it still serves as a fit analogy of what it is like to follow Jesus. The blind man could muster up sight within himself. Instead, he cried out for mercy. He needed others to lead him through the darkness to Jesus. Jesus opened his eyes, and the new man follows Jesus, glorifying God.

Today, I do not follow a sinking star. Rather, I follow Jesus Christ, who has opened my eyes. He has already drawn me beyond the utmost bound of human thought, and wherever he’s taking us, I’m a rejoicing tagalong.


From the desk:

“What time is it? It is the time after the apocalypse of the faith of Christ, the time, therefore, of God’s making things right by Christ’s faith, the time of the presence of the Spirit of Christ, and thus the time in which the invading Spirit has decisively commenced the war of liberation from the powers of the present evil age.” 

-J. Louis Martyn,”The Apocalyptic Gospel in Galatians,” Interpretation (July 2000), p.258

I think there are opinions–even opinions in this article–that I disagree with Martyn on, but I agree with this declaration, and this great truth is central to why I too follow Jesus Christ, glorifying God.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

The Chair and the Desk, 11/11/15

From the chair:

16  The Lord roars from Zion, 
and utters his voice from Jerusalem, 
and the heavens and the earth quake. 
But the Lord is a refuge to his people, 
a stronghold to the people of Israel. 

-Joel 3:16

As I read and tried to envision this this morning, I was reminded that God’s rescue is inherently tied to his might and that his roaring is inseparable from his refuge. It reminds me of what Mr. Beaver says in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe: “Who ever said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” We can find our safety in God, but only because he has the absolute power to be who he wants to be and the everlasting wisdom to day after day after day be who he is.


From the desk:

Over the last several years, I’ve heard a lot of disgust toward postmodernism and seen a lot of hook-line-and-sinker adherence. I think that David Lose offers a good, nuanced critique of both the event of postmodernity and the ideology of postmodernism:

“On the one hand, postmodernism presents itself as a much needed corrective to the modernist penchant of totalization. Through its relentless exposure of the weaknesses of modernist foundationalism, postmodernism nurtures diversity, cultivates dissensus, and privileges free play over imposed order so as to keep modernist schemes of totalization at bay. On the other hand, postmodernism’s antifoundational rejection of speech about truth and its conception of the artificial nature of reality fail to provide the means by which to engage in meaningful cross-cultural critique and risks trivializing the pain and suffering of those it purports to protect.”

Having read a number of postmodernists while also reading and preaching the Bible as transcendent truth, I agree with Lose’s conclusions at the end of the chapter:

“Ultimately, therefore, what we surrender is not truth, but the ability to prove truth; not speech, but the right to have the last word; not faith, but unambiguous certainty; not hope, but a future secured by modernist foundationalism.”

-David Lose, Confessing Jesus Christ, pp.31,62


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.