Sunday, January 28, 2018

Think Differently

Toni and I are part of a small group that we've connected with through the church we've been part of for the last year and a half or so. (I'm sure I've mentioned this before.) Right now, with the group, we've been looking at a book, actually a "Bible Study" guide, with the title "Think Differently."

I've read through the pages of the book assigned for "week 1" but haven't done the study in the way the author intended. The topic for the week is "Why Is It So Hard to Think Differently?", and, frankly, the reason I haven't worked hard on the book is that I don't think, for me, it's hard to think differently. I'm challenging my own thinking all the time, and there have been several big changes. Right now God is working on me about one particular area, but even though there are big challenges with the process of change, it's not "hard" in the way the book seems to say. I believe in change and "think" it's very much a positive thing.

More about this later. Time to get ready to walk to church.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Thoughts of the Day

Just a quick note as I go about my day today. (1) I put links to both of my recent posts, one on abortion, one about non-violence, on social media. The abortion post generated lots of discussion. The one on non-violence garnered no comments. (2) I was thinking, as I drove to and from my morning shift today, that one more thing that's a blessing about my current job, with its split shift, is that I don't need to deal with rush hour traffic except when I'm getting paid for driving in it. Both morning and afternoon commutes happen outside the peak hours.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Way of the Cross

Last night I finished reading Richard Hays' chapter on "Violence in Defense of Justice" in his book The Moral Vision of the New Testament.

After a convincing look at Jesus' renunciation of violence and his call for all believers to follow him in every way, he reminds us:
 "The long history of Christian 'just wars' has wrought suffering past all telling, and there is no end in sight..." (Hays, p. 342).
Here are a few more lines (from pages 343-344).
"One reason that the world finds the New Testament's message of peacemaking and love of enemies incredible is that the church is so massively faithless. ... The church is deeply compromised and committed to nationalism, violence, and idolatry. ... Only when the church renounces the way of violence will people see what the Gospel means, because then they will see the way of Jesus reenacted in the church. ... Their common denominator will be conformity to the example of Jesus, whose own imaginative performance of enemy-love led him to the cross." (Hays, p. 343f)
One more section to share, my paraphrase of another paragraph from page 343:
Let it be said clearly, however, that the reasons for choosing Jesus' way of peacemaking are not wise, at least not in the way sinful human beings normally think. Not wise, and, in fact, the way of Jesus in the world is "sheer folly." Why then would we choose that way? We act in simple obedience to the God who came to live with us in our weakness, and who gave intentionally gave his own life for us on a cross. We make this choice believing that God's love will finally win through the way of the cross, because we know Jesus is risen from the dead, foretelling the final victory of peace. When and where the church is faithful to that calling, it shows in advance the "peaceable kingdom of God in a world wracked by violence."
Hays concludes the paragraph by saying that the church needs to work out just what non-violence means in each situation but always in conformity, as I quoted above, with the seemingly foolish way of our Lord Jesus.

Sadly, there's more interest in the church about other moral issues than there is conversation or conformity with Jesus' clear message and example on this topic.

Friday, January 19, 2018


Today is the 2018 March for Life. I'm reading through the chapter on abortion in Richard B. Hays 1995 book The Moral Vision of the New Testament.

Since the NT doesn't deal with abortion, he has to approach the subject from the way the scriptures portray reality, and then connect that "world view" with the issue of abortion.

Hays says:
"To terminate a pregnancy is not only to commit an act of violence, but also to assume responsibility for destroying a work of God, 'from whom are all things and for whom we exist' (1 Cor. 8:6). ... to understand ourselves and God in terms of the Bible's story is to know that we are God's creatures. We neither create ourselves nor belong to ourselves. Within this worldview. abortion--whether it be murder or not--is wrong for the same reason that murder and suicide are wrong: it presumptuously assumes authority to dispose of life that does not belong to us."
He also says that Christians who hold this view cannot, and I would add, should not try to "coerce moral consensus" on this issue. Hays continues:
"We should recognize the futility of seeking to compel the state to enforce Christian teaching against abortion... because we recognize that the convictions that cause us to reject abortion within the church are intelligible only within the [worldview] of Scripture. The church's rejection of abortion is perspective only in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ; in this respect we stand in relation to our culture just as the early church stood in relation to the culture of the Roman Empire."
What matters more than anything is the way we live, the way we love, the way we form a "countercommunity of witness, summoning the world to see the gospel in action," establishing viable alternatives to abortion, providing long-range care for victimized women and unexpected children and families struggling with poverty, mental illness and domestic violence.

Comments welcome.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Not Impossible

If it's true that the "apostolically founded community"* is "the place where the glory of God resides,"* then it's a horrible insult to God when that community, i.e., the church, and its members, live(s) in a selfish way.

Why would the church and its members live selfishly? One reason is that many Christian teachers and leaders have rejected the idea that some of the more challenging parts of the New Testament should be applied to Christian life today. They have said, for example, that Jesus' teachings in Matthew 5-7, teachings known as "The Sermon on the Mount," are an "impossible ideal."

That is really sad. Tragic. Faithless. Apostate.

The truth this this: With God, all things are possible. We do, however, need one another to live the Jesus' life. We shouldn't do this alone.


* From a paragraph in Richard Hay's The Moral Vision of the New Testament. See yesterday's post for a longer quote.