Jan 17 2015

The Cost of the Gospel

I’d like to go back this week to 1 Corinthians 9.  Bruce led an excellent and highly charged discussion of this chapter where we focused on Paul’s refusal to take money for preaching in Corinth.  It’s natural that we would focus on that aspect of the chapter.  What is appropriate for those who work in what we moderns call “full time vocational ministry” to be paid, and just how much of the wealth of this world should be held by the church (however that is defined) and its leaders has always been a hot topic.

It even manages to make it into modern fiction (albeit set in a 14th Century monastery).  If you read Umberto Ecco’s excellent book The Name of the Rose , the main character, William of Baskerville (played by Sean Connery in the movie of the same name), travels to a remote Monastery in the Italian Alps to witness a theological trial on the topic, “did Jesus own His own clothes.”  This was big stuff in the Medieval world because if He did not, then the Holy Church had no claim on its vast estates and the secular powers and prerogatives it took for itself.  The arguments end badly in the book and people burn at the stake.  There is a lot of that going on today in a metaphorical sense.

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Dec 07 2014



No other’s need apply, this means you TCU.  61-58.


Nov 22 2014

Toward Reconciling Christian Belief and Immigration Policy

This post is more on the order of a provocation than a study outline and I do not propose to do what the title might suggest I intend, i.e. reconciling belief and policy.  Instead my intent here is to spur genuine conversation about what is happening in our country, what it portends for us as Americans and how we should act as Christians.

First of all some background.  The current wave of immigration being experienced in the US is, like most things in life, not a first.  While we are in a peak right now, there was a similar peak during the early 1900’s.  Most of those immigrants were from southern and eastern Europe and Ireland, and were different from the mostly Western European residents of the US at that time.  This wave also included a significant but much smaller group of Japanese and Chinese immigrants. It is only in the last 2 years the the current influx of immigrants has exceeded that of the previous as a percentage of population.
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Sep 05 2014

Why Are We Christians?

Most of you in this group grew up in church or have been in and around church for a long time.  But at one point in your life you were not a Christian, had not been saved and then decided, made a choice, to follow Christ, to become a Christian.  How long has it been since you thought about why you did that?

Recently a quote from Victoria Osteen, the wife of Joel Osteen, has caused a stir in Evangelical circles.  Below is a video of her statement. Watch it and see what you think.  (I apologize for the quality and any ads,  it was all I could find)

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Jul 26 2014

Patience and Prayer

James (Ole Camel Knees) concludes his epistle with a discussion of patience and prayer in the face of adversity.  Patience is not a well regarded virtue these days.  Just about the only time you’ll see it lauded is during a football game (that’s real football not some ersatz game with grown men in short pants playing kickball).  You’ve heard the announcer on TV talking about the quarterback being patient waiting for the receiver to open up or the running back being patient waiting for his blockers.  Its ironic that this patience takes so little time that its occurrence may be easily overlooked by the casual observer.

Mostly, as Americans, we don’t want to be patient.  It is certainly in short supply in my life.  I’m looking for the shortest line in the grocery store.  I don’t want to wait for anything (not even for football season, I’m seriously Jonesin’ for some football right now).  Service is always too slow.  The internet is too slow.  Traffic is too slow. I want what I want and I want it right now.  It took a month and a half for the bank to approve and close my fast track mortgage refinance and I spent at least a month of that time yelling at them to go faster.

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Jul 05 2014


Have you ever presumed things and in doing that been embarrassed or worse?  Jesus had plenty to say about presumptuousness, most famous was his advice regarding seating at banquets.  In Luke 14:7-11 Jesus says:

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

In 4:6 James says the thrust of scripture is that “God opposes the proud but He gives grace to the humble.”  Now he continues to further inveigh against presumption and hubris on our part.  If you don’t know the word hubris Webster defines it as “a great or foolish amount of pride or confidence.”  It comes from a Greek word and Greek tragedy, hubris lead to nemesis or destruction by the Gods or by some other invincible force.  Its the pride that comes before the fall.

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Jun 28 2014

Passion and Pride

The title sounds like a soap opera, and correctly so.  Have you ever watched a soap opera?  I must confess that during my senior year in college I (and many others) were so hooked on General Hospital we scheduled our classes around it so we could catch the latest in the trials of Luke and Laura.



Remember that?  Hall and Oates playing on the radio, Luke and Laura on TV, I had hair, those were the days.

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May 23 2014

More Troublesome Thoughts from James

With whom do you wish to be seen?  In what contexts are you comfortable and with whom?  That’s pretty easy generally, we like to be with people with the same outlook on life we have and who are generally of our same our higher socioeconomic status.  Especially the part about socioeconomic status.  Here is one of my favorite movie scenes, its not Monty Python per se because its from the movie Time Bandits, but it does feature John Cleese as Robin Hood.

The video accuses the charitable (that would be us in case you’re missing the point) of giving to the poor outside of our own cozy community while laughing at them and punching them in the face (all in the politest possible terms of course).  Now James is being a little more oblique than John Cleese’s slapstick (litterally) broadside, but he makes the same sorts of accusations none the less.

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May 17 2014

James Begins to Cause Trouble

Not content with the notion that we should welcome trials, (not because they make us happy or we enjoy them, but because they represent opportunities to be tested, and tested faith leads to completness) James lays into us about how we speak.  As Americans we like to say things, a lot.  We almost worship our 1st amendment right to free speech and say things like,”I disagree with what you say, but I would fight for your right to say it.”  We have whole shows on radio and TV about nothing but speaking, Talk Shows.  We like to talk and we like to hear ourselves talk and the more we talk the more we like to hear ourselves.  Its an endless circle.  I feel certain that this propensity to speak, even with nothing to say, is part of the human condition, as applicable to the 1st century Christians as to 21st Century Americans.

As usual he presents his thoughts in pairs,  quick hearing/slow speaking, anger of man/righteousness of God, wickedness/meekness, hearing/doing, looking at your self and forgetting/looking at the law of liberty and forgetting.

He starts this strand by urging Christians to shut up and listen.  To listen quickly, listen first and speak slow, speak last.  Why?  Well one commentary suggests its related to the trials he talks about in the first part of the chapter.  That these trials may cause friction among Christians or families that are undergoing them and that, as a result, they may lash out at those around them.  As James says “…the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God”. He urges us, instead, to put away “filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive meekness”.  The meekness is commended to us because of its ability to save our souls.

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Apr 19 2014

James, A Start

Since Bruce was brave enough to lead us through Ecclesiastes, with serendipitous results, I though I would try something challenging as well.  I have told you before that James is my least favorite book of the Bible, mainly because it steps on my toes, and does so badly.  I fear that I may be one of those who tries to show his faith without works, or at least with woefully insufficient works.  Where do you stand on the Book of James?  Have you ever considered that question?

NOTA BENE:  I have lifted a lot of the following information about James from a very nice study by Bob Utley from East Texas Baptist University which can be found in its entirety here: http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/pdf/VOL11.pd

It’s an important question, and one asked early and often by the church as a whole.  Traditionally, authorship of this book has been ascribed to James the half brother of Jesus, called “James the Just”.  According to one of the patristic writers, Esuebius, who quotes another writer named Hegesippus, James was also nicknamed “camel knees” because he prayed so much on his knees (we’ll be referring to “Ole Camel Knees” or OCK through this study because I like the idea of a Biblical author with a nickname).  Jerome says that James was Jesus’
Cousin and Catholic tradition has James as a half-brother by a prior wife of Joseph.  Most protestant theologians believe James was the son of Mary and Joseph and that the Catholic Tradition was developed so that Catholics could continue to assert the perpetual virginity of Mary.

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