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 us and them

When I was about 12 an older relative of mine said something to me I’ll never forget. We were watching the news, and the story switched to a high-profile couple undergoing a divorce, because the husband had cheated.

My relative said: ‘Don’t judge people who do that. The only thing that separates us from them is grace.’

In other words, self righteousness makes us forget who we are. Continue reading “on us and them”

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”

on Messiah the son of David

“Later, as Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple, he asked, “Why do the teachers of religious law claim that the Messiah is the son of David? For David himself, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’ Since David himself called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with great delight.

Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.” -Mark 12:35-40, NLT

Why should the Messiah be the Son of David? On the surface of it this seems like a very uniquely Jewish question, more or less unrelatable to many Christians. And in many ways it is a uniquely Jewish yearning, but it does have more to do with us as Christians than might seem. Continue reading “on Messiah the son of David”

fate pt 1: the happiest of men

[This is a project I’ve been working on and off for several years now, a collection of ancient short stories (mostly adapted from Herodotus and Livy), under the working title The Happiest of Men. These are grouped into four chapters: Fate, Law, Sacrifice, and Love. Every week for the next few months I will be posting a new story until the epilogue and then the afterword. Without further ado, enjoy!]

 King Croesus ruled the land of the Lydians, and he was the richest king of all. His city of Sardis gleamed with shining gold and white marble, and his palaces and temples were the envy of the world. Even the wisemen of Athens, who loved wisdom more than gold, came to see his city.

One day the greatest wiseman of them all, Solon, came to visit King Croesus. Croesus was very flattered, and now he wanted to be praised. So he showed Solon the wonders of his kingdom, and then asked him, “My friend, who do you think is the happiest man you have ever seen?” He was expecting to hear, “You, o King.” Continue reading “fate pt 1: the happiest of men”

on Lieutenant Dan

I share a name with Lieutenant Dan, a character from the film Forrest Gump. My mother has always teased me that we share a few more things than that: a soldier’s spirit, a love of glory, and a dangerous stubbornness. Lieutenant Dan is a soldier from a long line of soldiers. It makes him do his job well, but as events in the film unfold, you see that it haunts and crushes him. Now I’ve always thought that one of the best qualities of Forrest Gump is the way you see something new each time you watch; when I was younger I never quite saw anything of myself in Lieutenant Dan; he was a tragic but comical man who ain’t got no legs, but in the end makes his peace with God and moves on.

But watching the film again recently, I was haunted too by something he said after confronting Forrest Gump about his new disability: “What am I gonna do now?” Continue reading “on Lieutenant Dan”

on grace

The story of Mephibosheth recently came up in a morning talk. King David was given supernatural grace to love his rival, the speaker pointed out, and this is something we should pray for too.

Now when I heard this I flew into a self-righteous rage (more on this later) over the seemingly man-centric conclusion, because I reckoned there’s a better way to look at it: we are Mephibosheth, standing before the King. By all rights we are dead men, not (it seems to us) by any virtue of what we’ve done, but simply because of who we are, the blood that runs in our veins. But someone before us has earned the King’s favour on or behalf, and because the King honours promises, he not only calls us friend, but brings us into his family, gives us a home, a future, and his own riches (2 Sam 9:6-7). Continue reading “on grace”

on the place of the ten commandments

What place would you say the Ten Commandments still has for us today?

It has always struck me that for many non-Christians, and not a few self-professed Christians as well, the heart of Christianity is the Ten Commandments: whether or not you adhere to them, the similarity of your life in comparison to the standards and ideas laid out on those stone tablets. The measure of how good a Christian you are seems to hinge on your ability to mold yourself based on the Ten Commandments, your ability to transcend your own nature and force yourself to become godly and Ten Commandments-y. Continue reading “on the place of the ten commandments”

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”

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