Monthly Archives: October 2021

9 things (Oct.16)

All of scripture points to Christ. Even “getting wisdom”, which is the theme of Proverbs, is about coming to Christ, the wisdom of God. The major problem with the church today is that they view Scripture as a “how to” manual, rather than the revelation of Jesus Christ.

If you view the book of Proverbs as an owners manual on successful living, you will miss everything there.

Alexa misheard me and said, “Now playing – music by Britney Spears”. My wife shouted NO!! Then she muttered, “I’m glad she’s free and all, but I still don’t want to hear her.”

The Bible isn’t about sex, kids, marriage, successful finances, health, prosperity, eating, drinking, working, economics, art, how you smell, what you wear – it is about Jesus. Find him, and you will live. Trust in your own ability to “do this, and live” and you will die. When you find Jesus, everything else flows from there.

Paul Washer said that when you become a believer you no longer dress or smell like the world. I have no idea what that means.

Modesty, in the scripture, means not dressing to show off your status or to shame those who are different than you. Not everyone can afford to stay home and homeschool; not everyone can afford a Sunday dress; not everyone can afford a suit and tie. Not everyone has a spouse or kids or votes republican or has money in the bank. Not everyone can live without ever getting public assistance. Not everyone has 10 dollars to spend on the secret Christmas gift exchange. But everyone can find freedom from shame in Christ and should be able to find it in the church. This is what “modesty” means. Don’t dress or act in such a way that would bring shame on your neighbors.

I spent the week nursing my wife back to health. She had surgery on Monday. Because of her Ehlers Danlos, everything take a lot longer to heal than it would on someone else. I starting thinking that everyone’s growth rate, healing rate, grieving rate, learning rate, “getting over things” rate is different and also comes from the Lord. I’m so thankful that he remembers our frailty and never shames us for being slow. Only the hirelings beat the sheep when they lag behind.

If you ever get a chance to hear Anna Netrebko sing, you should take it.

Sometimes progress in sanctification is spending an hour trying to get your printer to work after an update without once calling for fire and brimstone on the head of Bill Gates, or Hewlett and Packard. Success sometimes means measuring in baby steps.

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Nine Things (October 9)

I read recently that almost all canned pumpkin is actually butternut squash. They are so genetically similar that the FDA considers them the same. But the squash generally has more flavor and better texture.

About ten years ago, my wife and I were sitting outside in a shopping center and drinking coffee. Two teenaged boys walked by. One said, “I’m not going to keep my money in the freezer anymore. I just end up stabbing it.” I still don’t have a context to put that in.

Pumpkin spice contains no pumpkin. Or butternut squash.

Diane Langberg’s teaching on power and vulnerability is tremendous. Her statement “power, if it is to be Christlike, must be used to bless others” is one to meditate on for a long time.

Tomorrow’s sermon is on Zechariah 6. While I was thinking on it, it struck me: They put the crown on Joshua’s head. And then they took it off, because it belongs to another – the Branch. The crown isn’t yours. But you partake in that anointing to the extent that you are being conformed to Christ…You’ll need to hear the sermon.

The crown was put in the temple as a memorial – to point forward to the Branch. If we are the temple of the Lord, our task is always to point to Another.

Years ago, I played the piano at an event of some sort. A woman came up to me and said, “I could listen to you play all day.” Mostpeople would say “Thank you.” That, of course, isn’t me. What I said was “But I can’t play all day.”

Rachmaninoff wanted to meet Stravinsky, but didn’t know how to go about it. Having heard that Stravinsky liked honey, Rach showed up at his house late at night with a jar of honey and no explanation. This is a kind of awkward that resonates deeply with me.

Fried chicken came first. Then someone decided to fry steak the same way that one fried chicken, and the Chicken Fried Steak was born. Then someone decided to fry chicken the way that steak fried like chicken is fried and they called it “Chicken fried chicken.” At some point it should probably stop. It’s just getting silly.

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Victim and victor

Because there are certain types who like to argue over everything, there is a current debate in the Twitterverse over the concept of Christ as a victim.

One celebrity preacher tweets, “Christ was not a victim” and then digs in his heels.

I generally don’t involve myself in the current stupidity on Twitter, but this one strikes close to home.

There is, first of all, a rather unfathomable disdain for “victims”. I have heard “victim mentality” thrown around and I still have no idea what people mean by that.

Are they talking about someone who continues to struggle with trauma after abuse or other criminal activity?

Are they talking about those without power finally getting a voice and speaking out against the wealthy and powerful who have plowed their backs for decades?

I really don’t know. But I know that when they talk about “victim mentality” they spit the word with contempt. This is unfathomable to me.

If anyone could explain to me the “victim mentality” and why it is deserving of contempt, I would be grateful. Is it the desire for justice that is so bothersome? Is it the need for help at times? Is it the lingering affects?

If someone was robbing my home and shot me in the foot, would walking with a limp the rest of my life be a “victim mentality”? Or would it just be my desire to see the one who shot me receive justice? If the one who shot me didn’t receive justice and that made me angry, would that be a “victim mentality?”

If loud bangs after that event cause my adrenaline to spike and me to instinctively seek cover, would that be a “victim mentality”?

If someone asks me where I got my limp and I answer, “Some jackass shot me in the foot” – would that be a “victim mentality”?

Seriously, I don’t get it. What causes such contempt for victims of crimes?

The problem, of course, with contempt for a victim of injustice is that you then have to explain Jesus Christ. Hence, “Jesus was not a victim.”

The justification for this rather inane statement is that Jesus was at no time out of control of the situation. No one took his life from him, he laid it down himself willingly as a sacrifice for sin.

You have no argument from me. That is orthodox theology. But that isn’t what “victim” means.

Victim simply means one who is on the receiving end of a crime or another injustice. It seems to me that in the rush to justify contempt for victims, the celebrity pastor has entered into the territory of gibberish.

Does he really mean to say that Jesus was not a victim of injustice, or a victim of a crime? Victim doesn’t actually mean “Powerless to stop it”.

Jesus is also true God and true man, which I am not. I do not have the ability to remain in control of every situation at all times. I, as a frail human being, am often the victim of crimes or injustices that I am powerless to stop. But the scripture also teaches that Jesus took the form of a servant and is therefore able to empathize with every trial that frail humans endure, except for sin (Heb. 4:15). Being powerless to prevent injustice is not a sin. As true man, it seems to me that he also took upon himself the powerlessness of frailty, in a way we cannot fathom. He was at once victim and victor, and we can’t fathom that any more than we can fathom how he who is life could suffer death.

If they mean by this that Jesus did not sin while he was suffering injustice and being murdered, I have no argument there either. But “victim” doesn’t mean “someone who sins while being victimized”. It simply means one who has suffered from injustice or other crimes.

This is pretty basic Christology. One of my concerns is how quickly evangelicalism jettisons the basics of the Christian faith in order to justify their world view. If the Trinity can become a social playground to battle feminism, then I suppose Christology is also fair game to these people. But they should at least know what is at stake.

If Jesus was not a victim, then we have no salvation.

“Why did he suffer under Pontius Pilate?

“That he, being innocent, might be condemned by the temporal judge, thereby delivering me from the just judgment of God, to which I was exposed.” Heidelberg Catechism #38

But it seems to me that this contempt for “victimhood” has a deeper cause.

There is a certain person who refuses to view themselves as a victim, even if they have suffered tremendous injustice. So it seems to me that defining terms might be more helpful than simply spouting sound bites.

So I would offer this:

Jesus is true God and true man. He was the victim of the greatest injustice ever perpetrated upon a human being. As true God he could have stopped it at any time. But instead, as our Mediator, he prayed, “Not my will, but thine be done.” His willingness to obey even on the cross does not change the fact that they took him with wicked hands and nailed him to a cross.

11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
  12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
  13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
  14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
  15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
  16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
  17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
  18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
  19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
  (Ps. 22:11-19)

There are many times when men and women are powerless to stop crimes against themselves. Those crimes strike at the heart of our personhood and cause tremendous damage in the soul.

Being powerless against crime does not make you a contemptable, filthy, damaged person. It makes you human in a cursed world. The blood of Abel’s victimhood cried out from the earth, and God heard it.

The severity of the crime against you will determine the level of damage against you. Sometimes you need help climbing out of the pit. Needing help does not make you a contemptable, filthy, damaged person. It makes you a human being.

Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. Our resurrection has not happened yet. Until then, we mourn. Until then, we cry out. We will be afraid, sad, discouraged, anxious, downhearted, fearful and longing for the marriage supper of the lamb. This is what it means to be human.

One more admonition, for those who have read thus far. The gospel is this: “While we were yet without strength, Christ died for the ungodly.”

Modern evangelicalism, on the contrary, is about power and strength. Those with political power and wealth are admired. The only way to “take the country back for Jesus” is through power, money and strength. this is always what makes “Christendom” so contrary to Christianity. Every time the “city on the hill” has been tried, it has failed in an avalanche of oppression, power, money, prestige and politics. There have been no exception, because the kingdom of God is not of this earth.

Christ came for those without strength. He said, “Blessed are the poor.”

Therefore, Paul learned to count all of his earthly advantages as dung that he might know Christ and the power of his resurrection.

For this reason, the apostles endured persecution and injustice. They stopped it when they were able to, but most of the time they were not.

When Paul was beheaded, he was a victim. When Peter was crucified, he was a victim. When Bartholomew was roasted alive, he was a victim.

They were not contemptable and worthless because they did not have the power to stop it, and neither are you.

Evangelicalism today is a movement of strength and self-help. One who is needy is not welcome.

But needing help is not a moral failure. In fact, needing help is the only way that we can come to Christ at all.

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