Category: bible things


immanuel-god-with-us

There is something about that story.

Whether sitting watching a Veggie Tales ‘Drummer Boy’ Christmas with two of our nieces, or heading out at 11pm last night for a ‘midnight’ service at St John’s Parish in Wynberg, the heart of the story itself is just so loud and completely powerful that it gets me every time.

i know that many of my friends don’t believe. Continue reading

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Continuing with a read through of this chapter from Ron Sider’s ‘Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger’ starting where we left off:

Possessions are highly dangerous. They lead to a multitude of sins, including idolatry. Western Christians today desperately need to turn away from their covetous civilisation’s grasping materialism.

rich

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THE RING AND THE BELOVED

Possessions are dangerous. But they are not innately evil. Biblical revelation begins with creation. And created things, God said, are very very good (Genesis 1). Continue reading

As we continue to seek out A Carefree Attitude Towards Possessions through the lens of Ron Sider’s challenging book, ‘Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger’ let me go back a paragraph to remind us where we are and then continue with words i hope you will wrestle with and share with your friends:

rich

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Matthew, Mark and Luke all recall the terrible warning: “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”(Luke 18.24, Mark 10.23, Matthew 19.23). The context of this saying shows why possessions are dangerous. Jesus spoke these words to His disciples immediately after the rich young man had decided to cling to his wealth rather than follow Jesus (Luke 18.18-23). Riches are dangerous because their seductive power very frequently persuades us to reject Jesus and His kingdom. Continue reading

rich

Continuing the passage i am sharing from the Ron Sider book, ‘Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger’, i’ll back up one paragraph just to remind us where we were:

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If there are poor people who need assistance, Jesus’ carefree disciple will help – even if that means selling possessions. People are vastly more important than property. “Laying up treasure in heaven” means exactly the same thing. “In Jewish literature, the good deeds of a religious person are often described as treasures stored up in heaven.” Continue reading

My good friend Steve Graybill from Americaland, who has written for my blog before both on his strength weakness [which he identified, ironically enough, as a thirst for knowledge] and also on Sex in Marriage recently bought a copy of my book, ‘i, church’ on Amazon. He had some questions and thoughts which he shared with me via email and i asked him if he would write them into a post so that we could get more people engaging. Here is some of our back and forth conversation and some thoughts Steve had.

Steve and Helene

So, me and my wife, The Beautiful Helene (TbH) – when you can’t be original borrow – have had the privilege of hanging out with “FISH” a couple of times the past couple of years after meeting him at the Simple Way on a trip to “Come and See.” My wife being the awesome gift giver that she is bought a half dozen copies of ‘i, Church’ – two for us and some for us to give away.

I recently started reading the book and so far am really enjoying it. However, it is a bit weird to read a book of someone I would consider a good friend—a good friend despite not spending tons of time together, but some of the best quality time when we do hook up! I had a rather verbose FB message session with Brett regarding some questions with his book, which resulted in a brief dialogue, and Brett asking me to put the dialogue on his author page for further comment. So what follows is mostly what transpired, with some additions and editing from me on our conversation on ‘i, Church’.

[Steve’s First Message to Bret]t: Hey Bro, Enjoying the book–I am underlining the normal amount which is good. I have a number of questions which is also good. Perhaps one of us will get on a plane to get to the other or we can do a skype at some point but I have one question that I did want to present here more for food for thought than anything. You reference the parable of the Talents and it is obvious that you take the normal exegetical stance and see Christ’s referring to master in it as God. I will be frank, and say that I have never much liked this parable with that exegetical stance. In the past several years I have seen that passage exegeted with the Master representing the world not God, several times, this exegesis also aligns better with the other parable of the sheep and the goats in the same chapter in Matthew. Anyway, I was wondering if you had heard of this and your thoughts on it. Peace, Steve

[Brett’s Response]: hey Steve – i have heard the parable done from the other point of view [i think it was Pete Rollins] and i can see that – am researching Mark for a lecture i am giving today actually [5am here now so much later today] and came upon a piece yesterday [no idea where] where Jesus independently of that parable says the words ‘he who has will be given more and he who doesn’t will lose what little he has’ and so the meaning taken from that parable i feel is still a biblical principle even if that particular exegesis is not accurate [also with passages like branches not bearing fruit, salt losing its saltiness – that seems to be a clear principle throughout Jesus’ teaching?]

Not sure what you’re saying with regards to sheep and goats – is that master also not God? have not heard that before and need to go give it a read with different eyes and see but i have never had issue with that one because it does seem to back up God’s heart for the poor and marginalized – so give me more of what you mean with that one?

[My Response]:

-Brett, I am really struck with this saying of Jesus! So here is what came up in a google search for: “Jesus, whoever has more will be given.”

Matthew 13:12: Hearing the Word (Jesus)

Matthew 25:29: Talents (Money)

Mark 4:25: Hearing the Word (Jesus)

Luke 8:18: Hearing the Word (Jesus)

Luke 19:26: Minas (Money)

In Luke 19: The master owns up to him being severe (unforgiving) “You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.” In Matthew 25’s account we have: “…you knew that I reap where I do not sow and gather where I scattered no seed…”

The other three times where this phrase is mentioned in the Gospels is regarding hearing the words of Jesus.

What about Jesus Claim that you cannot serve both God and Money?

Matthew 6:24 has Jesus discussing laying up treasure in heaven and Luke 16 Jesus tells the parable of the dishonest manager—the master of the manager in this story is diametrical to the master we find in Luke 19 and in Matthew 25—he actually commends his manager for his shrewdness in reducing debts and making friends with people knowing that he is about to be fired and the parable ends with, “You cannot serve God and money.” In other words, the manager has given up worldly gain for heavenly gain (human relationships) and is commended by his Master for this decision.

What if Jesus’ use of this phrase, “to him who has more will be given,” is purposely given in two contexts to show, much like Jesus lays out in Matthew 6:24, that we have a choice. Do we want to push into God and have more of Christ’s presence in our life? Or do we want to operate in the paradigm of the world and have material objects be more present in our life?

Brett: I think we more or less agree on the sheep and goat parable. My point was that in the Parable of the Talents we have this money-hungry master that in essence adds to the homeless population, while in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats we see a God who is found in the homeless, the widow, the incarcerated—a God who opposes the cruel masters represented in the Parable of the Talents.

[One more post from me on Matthew 25 that was at the end of the FB message just to create tension]:

Several months ago I heard a message on the Matthew 25 passage in question (Talents) that kept Master as God and honed in our the faithfulness aspect of it that I really appreciated. I see where positives and teaching points from both exegetical stances–how crazy it would be if Christ meant it as a “both and” scenario and not an “either or.” Late here and heading to bed–maybe I can copy and paste a big chunk of this convo onto your author page with some editing?

[A small addition to that post]:

The one thing from the message that stuck out to me besides the faithfulness aspect was what was not emphasized. I don’t necessarily agree that Jesus presents these parables as a both and scenario, but I am not a theologian and even if I were one, a good one anyway, I would have to admit that I do not have a monopoly on exegesis and hermeneutics. Anyway, during that message it was emphasized that it does not say: “Well done, good and hard-working servant,” or “Well done, good and incredibly driven servant,” but “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Having faithfulness being the teaching point of the message made that interpretation of the passage relevant and useful for me.

[My next message to Brett]: OK, Damn, another one: From ‘i, Church’: “The pattern in so many local church congregations is the paid staff and the minority of the people in the church doing the majority of the work which is mostly aimed at the church building/members. The majority of the people who frequent the building on a Sunday are quite happy to spectate. Come and watch a show if you like and then leave largely unchanged.” This made me think of Dave Schmidgall’s quote of NCC is a place where we want you to be a part of what God is doing through NCC and NCC is a church that wants to be a part of what God is doing through you.

Dave is my Campus Pastor and he has followed through with Helene and me more than once on that part about the church being a part of what God is doing through us. Another quote of his is “criticize through creation.” If you have a beef and complaint with the church and want to complain for the sake of complaining I am not going to give you much of an ear, but if you want to criticize and have plan for action then let me hear it and let’s get moving!

[Brett’s Response]: “NCC is a place where we want you to be a part of what God is doing through NCC and NCC is a church that wants to be a part of what God is doing through you.” sounds like a great [but long] car sticker but not fully sure what it means – are you talking specifically as a building in terms of using their premises for ministry vibes? i do love the “criticize through creation” concept although not 100% – it has merit and most of the time should be applied but sometimes not having an alternative answer yourself doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be muted on pointing out the fact that something is wrong… cos otherwise your motto is “Let’s continue doing it wrong til we figure out a way to do it better.” and sometimes things done wrong just need to be stopped altogether and then you can figure out a batter way of doing things – but i do get it and agree with it largely in principle… thanks for the questions.

[My Response]:

-Well, Dave’s wife happens to be a darn good business woman with ethics—not sure if you remember the Bittersweet Mag I gave you, but that is Dave’s wife’s use of her business for justice in the city. Anyway, she has a rented space for her business that use to double as their home until recently—anyway they have more than once allowed us to use that space during the evening for Kingdom purposes. That is

being a part of what God is working through us—they were even able to allow a couple to use it for their wedding—God is all about weddings!

-Helene and I volunteer at a hospice house in DC called Joseph’s House. While volunteering there we met a resident at the house who had another house in DC that was not habitable at the time and we asked our church if they might support us in renovating the house. They followed through with this giving us a small budget to work with. While the outcome of that experiment is still yet to be determined, that is being a part of what God is working through us.

-Helene and I are trying to make our spare bedroom a place for transitional housing for trafficked women in DC—currently this does not exist at all in DC. We approached NCC with this and they are partnering with an NGO in DC to create a pilot program for this. That is being a part of what God is working through us.

So, criticize through creation: several people have approached NCC with statements such as you are not doing enough to advocate for the homeless, what are we doing to end trafficking in our city?, HIV/AIDS is at epidemic proportions in DC, NCC needs to be doing more! We are not advocating for Children the way that we need to be what is NCC doing to address these issues. These are the criticisms that get thrown back at us—you are part of NCC head this up if you are passionate about it and NCC has your back. Those are our 4 key issues with our church right now and there are considerably more folks not on staff then on staff taking up the banner for those issues—Criticize through creation.

What about your thoughts? What have you liked or disliked with Brett’s book? What actions items are you taking away from it?

What are your thoughts about the church being a place that has you participating in the things that church is passionate about and having that church support you with Kingdom causes that you are passionate about? How is that playing out in your life? How are you criticizing through creating?

[To find out more about ‘i, church’, click here]

easter

When Jesus walked the earth, He called many people to follow Him. And the crowds showed up.

He spoke Truth and Life. He reached out to those at the margins, which in His day included women and children, Samaritans [the foreigner], the diseased and more… He performed miracles… He saved lives people were wanting to kill and He even raised some people from the dead. And the crowds cheered and pushed to get closer to hear His words and touch Him to receive some of that power.

He said, “I have come to show you how it is possible to live a God-following life in its entirety in a way that loves God, loves people and takes care of the earth we live on.” The crowd nodded.

Jesus said, “Follow Me, do what I do, and you will know life to the absolute fullest.” The crowd chanted their approval, waving palm branches and singing songs of worship to the One they had chosen to follow.

Then He died…

[and the crowd silently snuck off into the shadows]

LET HIM WHO IS WITHOUT DOUBT… NOT REALLY REQUIRE FAITH AT ALL…

Today we celebrate one of the biggest days of doubt. Jesus hanging on a cross. This wasn’t how it was meant to be. We were expecting Him to overthrow the Roman government and begin His new kingdom of life and love and peace. And yet for the most part, people looks defeated and watched as His blood and life slowly dripped away…

On the biggest day of doubt, it seemed as if the enemy had won and even Jesus Himself seemed to agree as He gasped out those words, “It. Is. Finished.”

He had also said, “Destroy the temple and in three days I will rebuild it.”

And something about “Your body is the temple of God.”

And on the third day, Easter Sunday to come, we will witness the big miracle, the victory over death and the hope of a better life to come.

Better life for all.

But today, as we look on the cross, we can be okay with our doubt.

James 1 is a hard one for the doubters among us:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Although one wonders [and hopes] if the bit about “When you ask” is relevant in that piece.

After all, why would anyone need faith, if there was no doubt?

Faith surely indicates the presence of doubt, of questioning, of wrestling, of wondering if we have believed in the right one…

Otherwise it surely would not be needed, right? Then it would simply be belief…

Because Hebrews 1:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

Confidence and assurance. But also ‘what we hope for’ and ‘what we do not see’.

Do i believe in the Jesus story? Absolutely. With everything in me.

Do i have doubt? In the face of all the critics and the church’s chequered history and some of the messed-up-ness in the world and feeling far away from God experientially? Absolutely. A lot.

But i am comforted by Jesus’ interaction with this father who had a demon-possessed son that Jesus was about to set free.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

And while Friday is the day to look on the cross and see the hopes and dreams and ideas of what the world could like fading away into nothingness and despair and question and chaos and brokenness and pain…

Sunday is coming…

eastersunday

One day, Jesus was walking alongside the Jordan river, when He came upon a man who was so drunk, he was almost incoherent. The man looked up at Jesus and asked Him for some money to buy food. Jesus looked at him and loved him. “Are you willing to give up your drinking to follow Me?” Jesus asked the man.

But the man ignored Jesus’ question and once more begged him for some money. “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you,” Jesus answered, and with a final compassionate smile at the man, He continued on His way.

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i imagine this made-up parable [yes, you won’t find this one in the original scriptures] will initiate strong reaction in a lot of people. ‘

How did it make you feel? Angry? Confused? Ready to jump in to the comments section in full attack mode?

Well, give me a few more minutes and let’s look at this story and try understand it a little more.

drunk5

The idea came to me after tbV and i stopped to chat to and help a man lying on the side of the road the other day. We chatted and i really did struggle to understand him as he had been drinking quite a bit and was not making a lot of sense. Also he was Afrikaans which puts me completely on the back foot, or maybe him when i started attempting to speak it back to him.

It was not a big deal at all – we bought him a meal and got to pray with him and said goodbye. We did not give him money for the train ticket he said he needed.

And as we drove home, it got me thinking, ‘What would Jesus do in that situation?’ Like really, what would He actually do? Engaging with drunk and homeless people would have been so much easier if we just had the parable to turn to. Oh, there we go. Sorted.

So i decided to write it. You know, to help everyone else who was wondering the same thing.

And the gut feel is that of course Jesus would have helped the man and possibly healed him of his alcoholism [if that is what he was suffering with] and maybe conjured a meal out of the air and led him to a transformed and God-praising life. But is that really what Jesus would do

WHAT DID JESUS DO?

However [and this is a wrestle piece, so please jump in and give your thoughts] there are a few things that i think we can see in the Bible that might help inform our decision on this. [Be warned: some of these may seem to contradict each other]

# Jesus gave invitations or responded to requests – Typically throughout the Bible, we see this as a trend of how God works with people. A call or a dream or a messenger and the opportunity to respond. In Matthew 19 we see the story of Jesus and the rich young man where Jesus tells him what he needs to do to be right with God and the young man walks away disappointed, because Jesus has targeted his money which had a greater hold on him than the desire to follow God. Jesus doesn’t chase the young man or try to convince him or compromise on the ask. Jesus allows him to walk away.  Even at times when it seemed obvious, for example, when Jesus asks the blind man, “What do you want me to do?”

So if it came to an encounter with Jesus and a drunk person, i have to imagine there would be an invitation to change, to receive healing, to change but also the opportunity to refuse that invitation and continue to live in the same way.

The parable of the prodigal son [an actual parable!] shows a father who allows his son to pretty much spit in his face and leave without arguing or coercing or reasoning or threatening. It also shows a father who is committed to keeping an eye out for his son and who is seen running down the path to greet him the moment he is heading home.

On another occasion we see Jesus [ironically in John 6.66] lose a lot of His followers, except for the 12, because some of His teaching is too hard for them to hear: 66 After this, many of His disciples drew back (returned to their old associations) and no longer accompanied Him.

Again, he allows them to leave.

# Jesus didn’t make it easy – Jesus tells the rich young ruler to give up everything. Then in Matthew 15 we see an interesting interaction with Jesus and a Canaanite woman where He tells her He has come to the last sheep of Israel. “Sorry, I can’t help you. You’re not one of us.” And yet when she persists, He rewards her faith and heals her daughter. With the woman caught in sin in John 8 Jesus lets her know that He refuses to condemn her, but He also sends her away with the command to, “Go and sin no more.”

# Jesus does call us to meet the needs of those considered to be the least of these – In Matthew 25 we see the story of the sheep and the goats where it seems to be saying that our actions are what prove significant to God [feed the hungry, clothe the naked, vist those in prison] and while drunk people are not mentioned specifically, are they not considered ‘the least of these’ by so much of society?

# The letter of James, in chapter 2, says this: 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

i’m not sure about you, but this one seems a little complicated.

What would Jesus do if He came across a drunk man, on the side of the street. One thing is for certain, He would love him. But what would that look like and how does it play out?

What do you think? 

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