Tag Archives: scripture

The worst thing a father can be…

The greatest danger for a child, where religion is concerned, is not that his father or teacher should be an unbeliever, not even his being a hypocrite. No, the danger lies in their being pious and Godfearing, and in the child being convinced thereof, but that he should nevertheless notice that deep within there lies hidden a terrible unrest. The danger is that the child is provoked to draw a conclusion about God, that God is not infinite love.

– Søren Kierkegaard

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What 500 years and 5 Million books can tell us about culture and Christianity.

Behind the scenes and in dusty libraries everywhere Google has been scanning books into their every growing database of information. As of 2010 Google said it had scanned 15 Million books into their system. This is amazing!

However, to feel the WOW factor enter the Ngram Viewer. From the subset of 5 million books the Ngram, one of Google’s amazing free online tools, allows user create statistical data about the frequency of any particular word or phrase over the past 500 years. You can also limit the time frame (anywhere between 1500 and 2008) for a more detailed look at a particular subset in history.

If it sounds confusing, or geeky it’s because you haven’t tried it yet.

Below are just a few of the many samplings I ran in the Ngram Viewer:

Heaven & Hell

Jesus & Sin

Personal Relationship with God

Personal Fulfillment

Rapture of the Church

Freewill, Predestination, Arminianism, & Calvinism

*Admittedly the Ngram Viewer is not a perfect tool. It relies on the ability of the computer that is scanning the books to properly interpret the word. An “S” printed in calligraphy might be scanned as a “F” thus making it appear that the term “best” was in sparse usage in the 1700’s.

* Secondly the Ngram Viewer does not give us detailed look into any particular study or field, for example Christianity. However, it does give an interesting sweeping view of culture and how certain words or phrases fluctuated in frequency and usage.

My suggestion… try it for yourself and share you results.

http://books.google.com/ngrams

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Salvation: More than a ticket to Heaven?

God Saves

When someone says, “I’m Saved!” There is always the contextual question, “Saved from what?” Except if it’s said at Church. Within Christianity Salvation has become synonymous with Eternal Life. Salvation means that if I believe, one day I will go to Heaven. Yet, should Salvation always equate to being rescued to Heaven?

There are many places in the Scriptures that Salvation is past, present, and future to the author or reader. One tricky example is Romans 13:11 the Apostle Paul writes,  “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed?” Was Paul saying that he was not “saved” yet?

Or take for instance Luke 19:9. Jesus said Salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house that day. Does this mean Zacchaeus died and entered Heaven that day?

“In the Old Testament, God’s acts delivering the people from hunger, bondage, and other difficulties are usually called ‘saving’ acts, and Yahweh is repeatedly praised as the Savior of Israel.  In the New Testament, ‘salvation’ may mean either healing or deliverance from sin-and sometimes both.  Thus, salvation has to do, not only with one’s eternal destiny, but with everything that stands in the way of God’s purposes of communion with creation-and specifically with the human creature.  Thus salvation includes both justification and sanctification.

In the Greco-Roman world in which Christianity was born, there were many religions offering ‘salvation.’  Most of these understood salvation mainly or exclusively as life after death, and often combined these notions of salvation with the ideal of escaping from the material world. Given that context, it is not surprising that quite often Christians lost the fuller notion of salvation that appeared in their Scriptures, and came to think of salvation merely as admission into heaven-sometimes even seeing such admission as an escape from this physical world.  Perhaps the most notable development in soteriology [the Study of the Doctrine of Salvation] in recent decades has been the recovery of the wider notion of salvation as including, not only salvation from death and eternal damnation, but also freedom from all sorts of oppression and injustice.  Salvation, in its fuller sense, certainly includes eternal life in the presence of God; but it also includes the process of sanctification, whereby we are brought greater communion with God; and it includes also the destruction of all the powers of evil that stand between God’s purposes and present order of creation.”

-Justo L. Gonzalez, Essential Theological Terms. pg 162-163

Salvation cannot be understood in reference to one particular saving act of God. Jesus has rescued us from many things, and will one day rescue, redeem, and renew us and creation. The one unifying aspect of Salvation throughout the Scriptures is that God does the saving apart from the help or interference of man.

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What Part of the Gospel is Optional?

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Read the bible like you listen to a symphony.

Watch NT Wright talk about how to read the Bible. Great Video.

The Whole Sweep Of Scripture from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

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Communion Art

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What did Jesus’ death accomplish?

1. Propitiation: Jesus died and took God’s wrath stored up for us because of our sin.

2. Expiation: Jesus died to cleanse us.

3. Sacrifice: Jesus died as our sacrifice for sin before God.

4. Victor: Jesus died to crush our enemies.

5. Redemption: Jesus died for our freedom.

6. Justification: Jesus died to forgive us.

7. Ransom: Jesus died to pay our debt and free us the enslavement of sin.

8. Example: Jesus died as the example of God’s wondrous love.

9. Reconciliation: Jesus died to restore the relationship between God and man becoming our mediator.

10. Revelation: Jesus died to reveal God.

* This was all adapted from Mark Driscoll’s Sermon series,Christ and the Cross, and Doctrine: What Christians should believe.

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Is the love of God dwarfed by his ability to communicate?”

There is a question I’ve asked myself in a moment of contemplation that haunts me.


“Is the love of God dwarfed by his ability to communicate?”

As disciples of Jesus we have been set free by the love of God. We experienced this freedom when we heard, understood, and received the message of the Gospel. God sacrificed everything, humbled himself and took on the likeness of a man; he even humbled himself to the point of death on a cross… Why? Because he loved us!

God went through extraordinary lengths; exhibited divine patience and mercy, to ultimately offer grace through self-sacrifice. Yet, this message goes unheard for millions in with each passing generation.

How can we reconcile the grandeur and vastness of the love of God, when it stands in contrast to his impotent ability to communicate this message?

You, and I, we believe we have this innate right to know important things first hand. We see and act as people who are entitled to the things of God. When something fails in our lives we excuse ourselves and shift the fault to God, as if he already owes us something. We are people clouded by our sense of “rights.”

So when it comes to the message of the Gospel we detest the idea that all aren’t given equal knowledge or opportunity. We scream at the injustice of such a God. And no matter how much we inquire and search, the Bible is clear on the scandalous message of practicality.

The scandal of particularity is that God has not chosen all equally. He has equally given his blessing, nor his revelation. He has not called all nations or people to be his witnesses, nor has he ultimately given salvation to all.

As democratic people of the West we cannot understand a God who does not give equal opportunity. Yet, this is the tension we are faced with in the scripture.

God called the nation of Israel among all the nations of the World to be his witnesses. Why? Simply because.

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Deuteronomy 7:6-8

Transition with me to the New Testament and examine the life of Jesus. God chose to become a man, not many men in many generations on many different continents. No, Jesus came in the flesh just once. Then as a man he called 12 disciples, and of the twelve he had only 3 that he did everything with. Furthermore, as a man he began his public ministry at the age of 30 and only lasted approximately 3 years. And in those 3 years he taught, fed, and healed the crowds, but he also singled out individuals like the woman at the well and Zacchaeus, and chose to spend a few hours, or an evening with them alone. He did not allocate his time equality, as some would say “fairly.”

When a celebrity or author comes to town for a book signing we understand we may only stand before them for a moment, possible get to share words for a minuet, then be shuffled past. We also think nothing of the friends they choose or the people they invite over for dinner understanding that they are human.

Yet, if God was came to town, and after standing in line for hours, we saw him invite one man over for dinner, or talk with one woman for an extended period of time, meanwhile shuffling others past him, we would exclaim “How dare he?” We would question his justice, his love, or his power to speak with us all.

However, this is precisely the scandalous message of the Bible.

So let me return to my original question, “Is the love of God dwarfed by his ability to communicate?”

No, we must understand that God’s love is not dwarfed by his ability to communicate, but our ability to receive. In the end, it is our pride that hinders the receptivity of the Gospel. We think God should speak directly to us, not share his message through others, even creation. We cringe at the reality that God has called a few and chosen fewer to make disciples of the nations.

Entertain the idea the maybe God chose to share his Gospel second-hand because the first step in receiving the Gospel is humility; humility to see that we are sinners, humility to see that we are not the center of the universe, humility to surrender everything and worship him.

Don’t be turned off in reading this, nor let your pride get the best of you. Understand that God loves you, and that he just might have called me to share his love with you.

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Imitation of Christ

I’ve begun to read the classic devotional Imitation of Christ by 15 century author Thomas à Kempis. This book has cut me the core with the turn of every page. It is written with short 1-2 page chapters addressing different aspects of the Christian life. I can hardly put the book down, but in this momentary pause I wanted to share some of Kempis insights that have meant the most to me.

Chapter I

“What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but rather a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without the grace and love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.”

Chapter III

“What good is much discussion of involved and obscure matters when our ignorance of them will not be held against us on Judgment Day?”

“If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations. On the Day of Judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived.”

Thomas à Kempis constant call for humility and excessive of faith and love through action has become another voice reforming what I believe it is to be and live as a Christian.

If you haven’t read this book… Read it. If you haven’t read it recently… Read it again.

This book is public domain, so for those who don’t want to purchase a copy you should be able to find a free copy online somewhere.

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Inspiration does not equate with originality.

There is a common misconception that the dogma of inspiration is concurrent with the notion that all of the Scriptures were unique to their time period, location, and culture. This is simply incorrect.

The Scriptures are contextual documents that at times draw from, use, quote, and respond to other contemporary documents.

The idea that the Scriptures were completely original in content, shape, language, and concept complicates and stretches the logic of the dogma of Inspiration beyond reason, and without purpose.

The Scriptures are unashamedly written by the hands of men, yet, claim to be of the inspiration of God. To understand this concept we can liken it to the incarnation, where God chose to display himself to humanity by taking on the likeness of man. Likewise Scriptural inspiration is how God chose to display himself through the language, culture, and the individual expression of frail human authors. The message was inspired but the author framed the delivery.

Understanding the important distinction between inspiration and origination is critical to making sense of textual criticism and deescalating historical similarities.

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