Sunday, July 21, 2013

Weekly Talk: Nietzsche VS Jesus

I really enjoyed this talk by Dallas Willard titled "Nietzsche VS Jesus: Who Holds the True Path". Dallas's talk is only for about 50 minutes and then students ask questions after it is not as long as it looks. He talks for the majority of time about Nietzsche and other modern philosophers, and then spends the last 10 or 15 minutes contrasting Jesus and the Judeo-Christian worldview with that of the current view of modernism. It is a great introduction into modern thought and how Jesus relates to it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Reflections on Genesis

Just got done with teaching Genesis in our SBS here in Taiwan.
After several months of study, reading through about 6 different books and over 100 pages of notes (thanks Mccall for the hook-up!) are a few of the major things I personally have taken away from this amazing book, in no particular order....

1. God's desire to bless those who follow him
The noun and verb for "bless" shows up 88 times throughout Genesis. And it is safe to say that one of the things that connects every story, genealogy and section of Genesis is the theme of God sovereignly bringing about his promise to bless a nation that blesses all nations. Embedded into his covenant with Abraham is a desire to restore the "goodness" he saw in creation and in man. What God commanded Adam to do he now promises to do himself through Abraham's nation. Fruitfulness, blessing, abundance, goodness...delight...these are things God longs to restore to this fallen creation. The lesson of Abraham waiting 20 some years to have Isaac is proof that God's blessing often comes in different ways then we imagine...and the lesson of Sodom and Gomorrah gives a balance to God's desire for goodness enter the world, showing that sometimes the means of doing that is judging total corruption.

2. God's Providence
Genesis offers up many stories of God sovereignly intervening in history to bring about his promise. Whether it is through judging the earth but saving noah, saving Abraham's wife from foreign kings, protecting Hagar and Ishmael or bringing about the promise he gave to Jacob in unusual circumstances (through the trickery and deceitfulness of Jacob). The story of Joseph captures God's providential actions perfectly. In one part of Genesis it is very clear that Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery (37:27-28), however when Joseph looks back on this story he makes a crazy statement: "I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivers. So it was not you who sent me here, but God" (45:4-8). Joseph summarizes this in the last chapter of the book and states to his brothers "you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive" (50:20). This amazes me...God is sovereignly working, even through the malicious wills of Joseph's brothers, to bring about a plan that will save many. This summarizes the story of Joseph but it also summarizes all the stories of the Bible. The Bible is the history of God's plan to bring life to many; and he sovereignly does this through both the wicked and the righteous.

A simple example of what the bible teaches about God's providence is found in the Lord's prayer, when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray "Give us our daily bread". Jesus is not ignorant that patterns of nature (rain, seed, harvest..) and plans of man (the farmer, the baker and the person who buys the bread) are involved in the simple action of "getting daily bread"...but the reality is God is behind and over both the patterns of nature and the plans of man. That God sovereignly uses the rain, seed, harvest, farmer, baker and buyer to bring bread. God is providentially involved in the affairs of everyday life! His sovereignty and providence ranges from the redemptive plan to bring life to many and to the daily task of putting bread on the table.

3. God's sovereignty and resolve to bring blessing to the nations should create bold believers
Looking at the above truths from the book of Genesis, God's promises/blessings and God's sovereignty, the natural reaction to me is to want to live boldly for God. If I really believe that the God of all the universe has promised blessing to all the nations and is sovereignly working to bring about a plan that will create life for many...then I should be boldly walking in participation with God to bring about this plan. I want to be a part of God's plan to bring life to many, and if God can uses Joseph's greedy and murderous brothers to accomplish this plan...this surely he is able to use a disciple of Christ! Knowing God's sovereignty does not excuse Man's responsibility, it should ignite us to join our wills to God's will. To give our life, time, money, dreams, family, ministries... to be consumed and wrapped up in God's will and plan to bring life to many.

Another part of Genesis which enforces this challenge to live as bold believers is the creation story of Man. God creates man in his image to be fruitful and to have dominion over the earth. God created man to have influence, a good influence. The truth of the Gospel is not just about "learning to do a few good things"- it is about learning to be human. The image of the invisible God, Jesus, teaches us cracked images how to live as we are meant to live. And now we who are in christ, the new humanity-the new adam-the new creations- should be living as Adam was meant to live...people who are bearing fruit and bringing good to the places they live in. Whether this is through preaching the gospel and seeing salvations of souls and regeneration of life or its through spending time with an old widow and clothing the naked....I really believe we would be missing out on life as it was meant to be live if we did not boldly walk with God in his plan to bring life to many!

Friday, July 12, 2013

James. K.A. Smith on Debates

James K.A. Smith: Process as Important as Product from The Colossian Forum on Vimeo.

I really enjoyed these short clips by J.K. Smith from the Collossian Forum on how to have a good discussion about issues of science and faith. It is especially relevant as I am in the midst of teaching Genesis. I hope I can exhibit this same love and patience he talks about to both sides of the discussion.

"To disagree and not hate each other!"

Genesis 3:15- Jesus?!

Read this blog article today, on Genesis 3:15, and it just so happened to be the day of my first Genesis lecture. I went through chapter 3 in class today, but i did not feel like bringing up the discussion of is this verse messianic prophecy or not. However this is my personal conclusion that I came to as studying:

" Though this has traditionally and often been looked at as Messianic prophecy. The language is describing to a "plural" seed and not a singular seed- in it’s initial context it describes a constant battle or opposition between the offspring of Eve and the offspring of the Serpent. This is played out in the contrast between cain and able, cain and seth, noah and wicked generation. The theme of offspring and chosen and promised offspring is constant throughout the whole book. It is very clear that Jesus does come and offer relief to this long spread tension of the two offsprings, however to say that this is what Moses was predicting is a stretch "

In conclusion, I think it would be better to refer to Gen.3:15 not as prophecy but as the beginning of an Old Testament theme that is resolved and fulfilled in Christ. 

7 Things We Know About Jesus from 'non-biblical' sources

Saw this blog article referenced on Scot mcknight's blog today and liked it. It is is a nice and too the point recording of what "non-christian" sources around the time of Jesus are recorded to have said about Jesus:

These 7 points are nicely summarized by Paul Barnett in his volume Is the New Testament Reliable?(IVP Academic, 2003 [second ed.], p. 34).  Notably, each fact corroborates the record of the New Testament.
1. Jesus Christ was executed (by crucifixion?) in Judea during the period when Tiberius was emperor (A.D. 14-37) and Pontius Pilate was governor (A.D. 26-36).  Tacitus [Annals 15.44.2-5]
2. The movement spread from Judea to Rome. Tacitus [Ibid.]
3. His followers worshipped him as (a) god. Pliny [Letters from Bithynia, c. A.D. 110]
4. He was called “the Christ.” Josephus [Antiquities 20.197-203—an undisputed passage]
5. His followers were called “Christians.” TacitusPliny [see above]
6. They were numerous in Bithynia and Rome. Tacitus, Pliny [see above]
7. His brother was James. Josephus [see above]

Monday, July 8, 2013

An Evening of Eschatology

We have been going through revelation this week in our bible school, and I have enjoyed refreshing myself in this extremely confusing as well as encouraging book! As we went through the final chapters of the book today and talked about the millennium and the major views on the millennium I was reminded of a clip I watched a while back on John Piper's website entitled "An Evening of Eschatalogy". John Piper acts as the moderator and talks with prominent pastors who all hold differing views of the end times. It is a great example of respectful dialogue among different opinions, and it is a great resource to help one think through this whole topic. (warning: it is two hours long, but even Piper's writeup on the different views is worth the read)

Friday, July 5, 2013

J.K Smith on "Naturalizing Shalom"

Read this article by J.K smith, recommended by my friend Jay Werner and written by a scholar I have appreciated for a long time. I like this so much, because i feel like his theological story and background parallels my own that I am going through right now. And a story shared by many others of this generation. He warns of how growing up in a "dualistic" fundamentalist conservative church background that is heavy on "getting saved and going to heaven" and light on "praying for the kingdom to come now" can lead people to go to the other extreme of working for heaven on earth so much that they forget about heaven and the spiritual. I really appreciate his wisdom and thoughts in this area as well as this final quote:

"The holistic affirmation of the goodness of creation and the importance of "this worldly" justice is not a substitute for heaven, as if the holistic gospel was a sanctified way to learn to be a naturalist. To the contrary, it is the very transcendence of God—in the ascension of the Son who now reigns from heaven, and in the futurity of the coming kingdom for which we pray—that disciplines and disrupts and haunts our tendency to settle for "this world." It is the call of the Son from heaven, and the vision of the New Jerusalem descending from heaven, that pushes back on our illusions that we could figure this all out, that we could bring this about. Shalom is not biblical language for progressivist social amelioration. Shalom is a Christ-haunted call to long for kingdom come."
J.K Smith

Jesus through the Lens of Revelation

Jesus through the Lens of Revelation:

The very first sentence of revelation is "The revelation of Jesus Christ". I don't know exactly if this is referring to the revelation of Christ himself...or the revelation Christ gives John...but either way it is a great way to open a book which really has the boldest and most dramatic "revelations or unveiling" of what our resurrected LORD looks like. I was comforted reading through some of these and hope you will be too...they are not all extensive...just the ones from the first 5 chapters (so you could keep going on and looking for yourself). It reminded me of Rom. 15:21: "Those who have been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand". I pray that me, my friends and all the nations will come to see and understand Jesus more and more as he is pictured in the revelation given to John! 

“Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings on earth...him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to God and Father” (1:5-7)

“One like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. HIs eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.” (1:13-16)

“I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (1:17-18)

“him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lamp stands” (2:1)

“the first and the last, who died and came to life” (2:8)

“him who has the sharp two-edged sword” (2:12)

“the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze” (2:18)

“him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars” (3:1)

“the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (3:7)

“the Amen, the faithful and true witness the beginning of God’s creation” (3:14)

“the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (5:5)

“the lamb who was slain” (5:12)