This is my King. He doesn’t wear a suit of shining armour. He doesn’t wear a fine business suit. He doesn’t have nice hair, or a secretary. He doesn’t have a PhD, or a career in politics. He is the Son of God, but that doesn’t stop him from coming to find people who are lost. He is the Commander of all the armies of Heaven, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to talk to people who hate him.Continue reading “this is my King”
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ’Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”Mark 1:1-8
There’s an old meme floating around the internet, poking fun at Christianity. It goes something like this:
Jesus promised to get rid of sin. How many bad people do you see running around now?
Thor promised to get rid of all frost giants. How many frost giants do you see running around now?
Thor – 1, Jesus – 0.
It’s a silly old joke, but it does give voice to the idea that, well, sometimes it seems like God isn’t very good at doing his job. Or that even when he does something, he does it in a really bizarre way.Continue reading “on God doing his job”
The story of the Bible begins with chaos. In the beginning God creates the sky and the earth, but the earth is covered with water and nothing else. It’s shapeless and terrifying. And then God decides to speak — with his word he speaks things into being. He speaks and the sun and moon shine; he speaks and time exists; he speaks and the mountains rise up; he speaks and vines, apple trees, and rainforests spring from the ground; he speaks and whales and eels swim, seagulls and sparrows soar, and lizards, ants, mice, dogs, and elephants wander around. God is now King of all creation. But he’s not done yet — he wants to share all this with people. And so he makes a man and a woman to be just like him, to think like him, speak like him, and be together with him for all time. The King now has his people to love and to take care of what he created — everything is good, everything is at peace.
[This part of the Bible story covers Genesis chapters 1 and 2. It’s one of the most famous parts of the Bible. In recent years it’s been used to try to argue for or against scientific ideas such as evolution or the age of the earth. There’s a lot to unpack there, more than we have space to talk about here, but at least we can say that Genesis chapters 1 and 2 focus on God’s role as King of creation, rather than how exactly he created everything. And in fact that role is one of the first and most important building blocks of the Bible story — very little in the Bible will make sense if we don’t accept this as truth.]Continue reading “the whole story of the Bible in 5 parts”
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”John 13:1-14
There’s an old running joke about Christianity, that heaven is probably filled with really awful people. If all it takes for you to go to heaven is to say sorry to Jesus, then that’s basically like a Get Out of Jail Free card. Lots of bad people must’ve noticed this loophole, and said the magic words. Which might mean that Christians might have to spend eternity with people who used to be crooks, or murderers. Anyway that’s how the joke goes.Continue reading “on too good to be true”
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.“James 3:13-18
When you think of a Bible teacher, what do you see? How does he or she dress? How does he or she carry themselves? How do they talk? What goes on inside their heads?Continue reading “on dependence on Jesus”
“Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.”
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?”
And I said, “I see an almond branch.”
Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”
The word of the LORD came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?”
And I said, “I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.” Then the LORD said to me, “Out of the north disaster shall be let loose upon all the inhabitants of the land. For behold, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the LORD, and they shall come, and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.””Jeremiah 1:4-19
How would you act if you were to go meet a king? I’d probably put on my nicest clothes; I’d practice my bow beforehand; I’d act as respectfully as I could. When I was a little kid, anytime my classmates and I saw our headmistress we’d greet her very politely, but I noticed our voices always went up several octaves every time we did so. So if I were to greet a king my voice would probably sound like I was trying to sing the chorus to Let it Go.Continue reading “on turning people away from sin”
In Hong Kong we classify schools as local or international. The former follow a state-set, local curriculum, and most of them conduct lessons in Chinese. The latter are a more mixed bag, following a dizzying array of international curricula, and many of them catering to particular expat groups: Singapore International School, Japanese International School, Chinese International School, and French International School just to name a few. International schools tend to enjoy a higher reputation, not least because they are status symbols, but also because of the general high quality of the education and teachers.
But for a while I had leaned toward sending my children (if I ever have any) to a local school.Continue reading “on living in tension”
What is the most glorious thing you have seen?
I, raised on a diet of war stories and mighty deeds of the Greeks and Romans, had nothing to say. The pastor gave a few sample answers he’d heard: the Milky Way on a night sky, dawn rays over a canyon, the megalithic might of a world-class airport after a long-haul flight, the taste of the perfect wagyu stew. Glory, he explained, in the Judeo-Christian tradition is related to weight. Something that matters so much, that demands such attention, respect, and awe, stuns us as glorious.Continue reading “on glorious things”
I’ve been feeling aggrieved lately.
Years serving under the colours as it were and now that I’ve left abruptly, I have little to show for it: depleted finances, a dragging degree I’ve long since lost interest in, a handful of wistful photos, and a winding, misty path ahead.
I feel like I’m owed something for all I’ve done. Why haven’t You rewarded me commensurately? Aren’t You the great provider?
And all of a sudden I’m a victim of injustice. Society, church, school, and God have not delivered as I have delivered. Where is my reward? Continue reading “on feeling aggrieved”
How do you act when the world is ending?
I imagine that when the flood comes, we all, one way or another, like to see ourselves as Noah. We stand tall, we have the answers.We have the bigass boat. We’re Kipling’s man in the storm, we’ll weather it while everyone else loses their minds. Continue reading “flood”