on jesus being alive redux

[I’ve written about this topic before…]

“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”

Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. So he went and preached to the spirits in prison— those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority.” –1 Peter 3:8-22 (NLT)

This passage seems a bit disjointed: the first half is a list of commands to do this and that. Then the second half talks about high theology, who Jesus is, and where he is. How do we make sense of that? Continue reading “on jesus being alive redux”

on subliminal gospel preaching

So I’ve been reading W.B. Barcley’s The Secret of Contentment recently and thinking about Philippians 4:11-13.

It’s one of my favourite parts of the Bible to feel smug and sanctimonious about – you know how it is, verse 13 is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible; people use it to give every one of their actions divine backing and therefore diving legitimacy, because they can do all things in Christ. But in fact all the ‘things’ of verse 13 are precisely the unglamorous things Paul had listed just a sentence ago: being in want, having almost nothing, being hungry. So every time I read that verse I like to smugly give myself a self-five. Nice one, you’re not like the muggles. Continue reading “on subliminal gospel preaching”

Epilogue: love

[this is the final section of this collection of stories, a single-story epilogue titled Love]

I remember sitting at the Hill of Ares in the great city of Athens. The wisemen of the city were there too, famed for their love of learning. So how surprising for us to hear a commotion one day coming from a Jew! He seemed to be peddling some god or another. Here and there you could see the furrowed brows and the puzzled looks as the greybeards humoured him and heard him out, this strange man. Continue reading “Epilogue: love”

on a boat (with Jesus)

‘As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”’ – Mark 4:35-41 (NLT)

When it comes to telling people about Jesus, one overarching idea is this: don’t focus on what’s wrong, focus on what’s right. Or in more specialised terms: the truth is not anti-heresy, the truth is the truth. Continue reading “on a boat (with Jesus)”

on doing what must be done

‘The same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles [non-Jews] against Paul and Barnabas. But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. But the people of the town were divided in their opinion about them. Some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. Then a mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them. When the apostles learned of it, they fled to the region of Lycaonia — to the towns of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area. And there they preached the Good News.’ – Acts 14:1-7

The first time I studied this passage, my conclusion was that Paul had a really hard time, but he had a lot of faith, look what he accomplished. Be like Paul, have faith.

But honestly I think that’s the wrong way to look at this passage. A better approach might be to think: what’s the story that’s going on here? Continue reading “on doing what must be done”

on buying things

Money has to be one of the strangest human inventions ever. Back in the dim and distant past our ancestors operated on a barter economy, exchanging certain goods for others – I chop trees, you herd sheep, I want meat and cheese and you want to build a house, there we go – but over time money evolved. Continue reading “on buying things”

on space jesus

I recently watched Man of Steel, and holy moly what a silly film, but fun. It was basically The Adventures of Space Jesus. The thing is I went into the cinema knowing that it had overt Christian themes, and I was looking out for them. And actually in the end I kind of liked seeing them there. A lot of the Jesus references were a bit ham-fisted, but it was fun, and there are plenty of explosions and fistfights. Plus it’s refreshing to see a big budget Hollywood film play around with Christian imagery and ideas.

Now apparently there are quite a few churches that are not happy at all about the Jesus imagery. Some of them have even labelled the Superman character anti-Christian, because the real Jesus would never fight back against the bad guys, punching and heat-raying them. The most Christ-like figure in the whole film, one critic says, is Kevin Costner’s self-sacrificial character, not Superman. Continue reading “on space jesus”

on jesus being alive

Christ is risen – he is risen indeed.

Jesus is alive!

We’ll never need to fear falling out of God’s favour, because we are a part of the living Jesus, and God will always delight in Jesus and those in him.

Our faith is about relating to a living person, not about performance, rules or regulations.

We remember Jesus not out of sentiment, but because he is alive. Our faith and our lives are accountable to one who has the authority and the power.

We do not need to be pitied, because Jesus is alive. If he were dead our faith would be a lie, and Christians would be the most pitiful people on earth.

We follow the commands of Jesus because we love him, because he saved us, because he is alive. We are not following the commands of a concept, or an idea, or a long-dead preacher.

Our faith has direction, because Jesus is alive. He is alive, and he will come back one day and judge all people. And that shapes the way we relate to him and what we do with our time on earth.

Jesus is alive!

[More on this here]

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