The Sacrifice of Isaac . . . Or Provincial Much?*

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ~ Micah 6:7-8

In the pantheon of weird stories in the bible, the Sacrifice (or Binding) of Abraham is often treated as the most inexplicable or as the clearest evidence of how capricious the God of the Old Testament is. However, it seems to me that these conclusions simply demonstrate our poor understanding of history, God’s ways and human nature.  In context and with a decent concept of human nature as well as a proper understanding of what God is about, the story and it’s moral aren’t so hard to understand.

The reality is that infanticide has always been part of human behavior. It’s been practiced everywhere and through all time periods. Including during the time of Abraham. In fact, there is evidence from both ancient writings and from archaeology of wide-spread infanticide and ritual child sacrifice in the Ancient Near East continuing into Greco-Roman times. Continue reading “The Sacrifice of Isaac . . . Or Provincial Much?*”

Power and Love On the Cross

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man … Continue reading Power and Love On the Cross

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“Whoever Is Not Against Us Is For Us”

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.”  ~ Mark 9:38-40 I have long thought that … Continue reading “Whoever Is Not Against Us Is For Us”

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Jesus’ Gift to a Young Rich Man

As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. “You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, … Continue reading Jesus’ Gift to a Young Rich Man

When Bible Study Steals Your Voice

you-cant-do-that-550x550I’ve been thinking lately my voice. And I don’t mean my odd grammar, the random gibberish, swearing, slightly off colored jokes or any other matter of style. I mean my ability to simply say what I think. Can I do that? It is even allowed? Do they still burn heretics at the stake? Can I get some big name person to call me out as a heretic and use it for publicity?

It seems like such a simple thing, just saying what you think. Yet we are indoctrinated practically from the first time we dare to say “no” that saying what we think is wrong. I have heard parents come right out and say to their kids, “you are not allowed to disagree with me.” When you tell someone that simply having an opinion which does not agree with your own is forbidden and subject to punishment, that’s a pretty powerful way to stop them from owning their own voice.

When you are part of a community which demonizes people for simply sharing their own thoughts, ideas and opinions, it really does work like a form of brainwashing. You may not even realize that you’ve been silenced. You may not realize that you have a right to speak that extends beyond the boundaries that others have imposed on you. And you probably don’t realize how important it is for everyone to hear what the world looks like from where you’re sitting.

This silencing of people goes on in families where everyone knows just what the rules are about what can and cannot be said and relationships are put on the line should you break those rules. But it’s even worse in the church. And what’s particularly evil about the way this happens in the church is that the bible is the tool by which it is done and your relationship with God is what is on the line, should you resist.

Now, the particulars of how this works vary wildly, but when it comes to how the bible gets used to steal our voice, it’s pretty simple. First, you are told what the bible says. Then you read the bible. And it doesn’t say what you’ve been told it says. If you go looking for an explanation, you are usually given a “what it really means” explanation. If you accept it, then life goes on. If you don’t, this could mean the beginning of the end of your faith.

There’s actually a word for this: gaslighting. Gaslighting is when you convince someone that they are crazy. And the most common tool used by people who gaslight is to cause you to continually doubt your own perceptions. It’s a nasty thing to do to people. Continue reading “When Bible Study Steals Your Voice”

Compromise, Convictions and the Good Samaritan

Yesterday, a Christian friend put a quote from a famous pastor up on facebook which ended with this little gem: You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate. Which is what we like to tell ourselves, but it’s not true. Jesus even told us a story to show that it’s not true. You know, the story of the good Samaritan. That story is Jesus … Continue reading Compromise, Convictions and the Good Samaritan

Let’s Talk Prophecy and End Times

The parts of the bible which deal with “end times” prophecies are something I’ve always shied away from dealing with directly. Studying and researching those parts of scripture can be very entertaining, but it’s a dangerous past time. Nearly everyone who gives it a go winds up lost and led astray. And sadly, some of these people have managed to warp many people’s entire understanding of Christianity.

Part of the problem is a pervasive, fundamental misunderstanding of what prophecy is and what it does. In the bible, a prophet doesn’t predict the far-off future. Instead, their gift is an ability to see and explain the reality of what they see happening all around them. These are the people who have heard the voices of those who are being silenced. They see through the agreed upon lies and narratives for why things are the way they are. They are able to look at their present with spiritual eyes and recognize what others are blind to. Further, they understand God and his ways well enough to easily see where it’s all heading.

Which is not to say that they have nothing at all to say about the future. The ancient Hebrews viewed time as circular. What has happened before, will happened again. When a prophet shares a vision, it is a symbolic description of what they see happening in the spiritual realm. It’s purpose is to illuminate of the archetypal patterns at work in their world. That way, when a time cycles back and a time such as the prophet’s comes around again, we might better understand the spiritual reality of what we are seeing.

This is why, bible prophecies which clearly refer to a specific person or set of events in the past continue to inform us about what we see going on around us today. For example, the whore of Babylon in Revelation obviously refers to the Roman Empire. And also bears a striking resemblance to the corrupt Roman Catholic Church of the late middle ages. And is arguably a good illustration of a certain super power at work in the world today. It’s an archetype of empire at work in the world. So long as empires which rely on violence, greed, fear, idolatry and control continue to arise, the whore of Babylon will also continue to arise. Continue reading “Let’s Talk Prophecy and End Times”

What Jesus and Paul Left Out

Let’s do some bible study, shall we? I look to do that sort of thing around here, donchano. Today I want to show you something kind of amazing about how both Jesus and Paul used scripture. And if we’re honest, it doesn’t fit with either liberal or conservative preferences for how to use scripture.

First, let’s look at these quotes from the Old Testament:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God.

~ Isaiah 61:1-2

Rejoice, you nations, with his people,
    for he will avenge the blood of his servants;
he will take vengeance on his enemies
    and make atonement for his land and people.

~Deuteronomy 32:43

Continue reading “What Jesus and Paul Left Out”

On Poverty and Doing All Things

Today Ben Irwin gives us a closer look at two frequently quoted bible verses: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, New Revised Standard Version) . . . For some, “I can do all things” means scoring touchdowns and clearing the bases. But that’s not exactly what Paul had in mind. Paul was sharing that he’d learned to be content … Continue reading On Poverty and Doing All Things

Driving Out Demons

I don’t think I’ve mentioned recently how awesome (pastor, teacher, author) John Ortberg is. Or that I got to hear him teach fairly often during my brief stint at Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago. He was my favorite and I learned so much from him. Unfortunately, I have since forgotten the joke he used to tell about Norwegian girls and chest hair. But it was really funny. If I ever meet him, I’ll ask about it so I can share it with you, k?

Anyhow, today’s exegesis is by John Ortbrg from his book Who Is This Man? It’s on Mark 5 where Jesus casts the legion of demons out of a wild man:

“One day Jesus drops a bomb. It’s early in his ministry, things are going well, and he has drawn a crowd so large that he must teach from a boat in a lake so all can hear. That evening he says to his disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side.”

That’s the bomb. The “other side” is something of a technical term. Jesus is not talking just about geography. The other side of the lake was the region of Decapolis, the “ten cities.” This was largely enemy territory. Its inhabitants were pagan people. . .

The Jews regarded the other side as the place where Satan lived. It was dark, evil, oppressive, and demonic. No one would go to the other side—especially no rabbi. . .

Decapolis was also a center of Roman power in Jesus’ time. It housed a legion of six thousand Roman soldiers. The symbol of a Roman legion was a boar’s head. Jesus casually suggested one day, “Let’s go over to the other side.”

What was he doing? Didn’t he know that the kingdom is for our side? It’s almost as if he didn’t know that this is the other side. It’s almost as if he thought it’s his side. It’s almost as if he thought every side belonged to him, or that he belonged to every side. It’s almost as if he thought that all the peoples of the earth were now going to be blessed through him —even the seven nations of Canaan.

Continue reading “Driving Out Demons”