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Still Learning to Be God's Child ...
Saturday, 9 February 2008
Some of my best friends were on that Death Star when it blew ...
Mood:  hungry
Topic: MyWords::RE::RandomStuff

... a friendly reminder that stormtroopers are people too.

(Well, actually, they're clones. But that's close enough.)


Posted by timothypauljones at 3:30 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, 9 February 2008 4:12 PM CST
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Saturday, 19 January 2008
The Gospel of Judas and the Democratization of Biblical Scholarship
Mood:  caffeinated
Topic: MyWords::RE::RandomStuff

The Gospel of Judas and the Democratization of Biblical Scholarship:
Or, What the Jesus Seminar Got Right

by

Timothy Paul Jones


            In the last decade of the twentieth century, a handful of scholars concluded that research into the life of Jesus had languished too long in the academy. “We are going to carry out our work in full public view,” Robert Funk declared in the initial public statement from the Jesus Seminar. “We will insist on the public disclosure of our work and, insofar as it lies within our power, we shall see to it that the public is informed of our judgments.”[i] To be sure, many of the Jesus Seminar’s tactics have been debatable. The primary participants in the seminar have been assembled almost exclusively from the most skeptical fringes of the scholarly spectrum. Their bead-based polling method is so convoluted that Jimmy Carter would be taking the final tally if such a practice were instituted in a Third World country. Perhaps most problematic of all, the seminar’s peculiar guidelines for determining the nature of the historical Jesus virtually predetermined the conclusions that they would reach before the fellows bagged their first beads.

            These internal workings are not, however, the most enduring legacy of the Jesus Seminar. The upshot of the Jesus Seminar that will last long after the seminar’s fellows are forgotten has been the democratization of biblical scholarship. Robert Funk and his fellows effectively shifted discussions about biblical history from high-flung ivory towers to the café at your local Barnes and Noble. An editor at HarperSanFrancisco attributed this shift to The Da Vinci Code, claiming that “Dan Brown didn’t invent it, but he made it sexy.”[ii] There may be some truth to this statement—but, years before Dan Brown made biblical conspiracies sexy with his codes, the Jesus Seminar got the Gospels on the nightly news with their beads. Without the Jesus Seminar, The Da Vinci Code would never have scurried up anyone’s bestseller list, The Colbert Report would never have dialed Bart Ehrman’s number to discuss his book about textual criticism, and only a few professional academics would ever have heard of the Gospel of Judas, the James ossuary, and the supposed Jesus family tomb.

 

The Gospel According to Bakers and Bath-Makers

            Some scholars may yearn for those halcyon years before the Jesus Seminar, for a time when discussions about the Council of Nicea never moved beyond college classrooms and scholars could seize exclusive access to archaeological discoveries for decades. As for me, I relish this wresting of theological discourse from the grip of the academic guild. Such a world is not new: It represents a return to the world that thrived in a few regions of the ancient world, that lost its way in the Middle Ages, and that was briefly restored in the Reformation before the Enlightenment fractured Western culture into castes of credentialed experts and ignorable laypeople.

            In the fourth century A.D., debates about the nature of Jesus spiraled to a fever pitch when followers of an elder named Arius stood on one side of the river and chorused, “There was a time when the Son was not!” while the orthodox chanted from the opposite bank, “Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.” It wasn’t a guild of professional theologians that sang these tunes; the songsters were slaves and moneychangers, bakers and bath-makers. “The city is full of workers and slaves who all consider themselves theologians,” it was said in the aftermath of this controversy. “If you ask someone to exchange currency, he will tell you how the Son differs from the Father. If you ask a baker how much his bread costs, he will argue that the Son is less than the Father. If you want to know if your bath is ready, you are told that the Son was made from nothing.”[iii]

            In the twenty-first century, this ancient world has emerged anew. Dan Brown and the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail conduct the chorus on one bank of the river—“There was a time when the Son married Mary Magdalene!”—while a cottage industry of The Da Vinci Code debunkers dances on the opposite verge. Downstream a few yards, you’ll glimpse a similar scene, with John Dominic Crossan, Elaine Pagels, and James Robinson on one shore and a huddle of evangelicals—some angry, some erudite—on the other. On both sides of the stream, you find the contemporary equivalents of bakers and bath-makers, ordinary people talking textual criticism over their caramel lattes.

            What are the results of this democratization of biblical and theological discussion? Ten years ago, as a young pastor and newly-minted Master of Divinity, I mentioned the Council of Nicea to a congregation of farmers and schoolteachers. No one had heard of such an event. For all they knew, it had something to do with the infamous 1997 resolution that called Southern Baptists to boycott the Disney Corporation. Even after I explained the ins and outs of the Council of Nicea, the study group still didn’t see this fourth-century gathering of church leaders as an event of any significance. Today, when I mention the Council of Nicea to a group of laypeople, the results are radically different: Folk may live under the delusion—a la Dan Brown—that the council culminated with a narrow vote on the deity of Jesus; but, at least they know that the council was ancient and that the identity of Jesus was a primary topic of discussion. Perhaps most important, there’s no need to convince them that the Council of Nicea was an event of supreme significance. As for me, I prefer the present propensity to the one that I encountered in the past. Deluded interest beats ignorant disinterest any day.

 

In the Plowboy’s Reach

            Around 1521, a priest seated at a table in a manor known as Little Sodbury suggested to William Tyndale that ordinary people didn’t need to know or to discuss the ordinances of God. To this, Tyndale retorted, “If God spare my life, … I will make a boy that driveth a plow know more of the Scriptures than you do.” Driven by this desire to place the Bible into the plowboy’s hands, Tyndale translated holy writ into ordinary English. Yet, what perhaps even such a forward-thinking soul as Tyndale never envisioned was the fact that, once every plowboy has access to the Bible, at least a few plowboys will find themselves doubting it. And some plowboy’s overactive imaginations may eventually concoct a conspiracy theory that conforms the text to his personal whims. Once the Bible is placed on a shelf that the plowboy can reach, the democratization of discussion is merely a matter of time.

            The only way to avoid such democratization is to safeguard knowledge within a guild of clerics or scholars. When such a club dominates the discussion, the fortunate few with their doctoral degrees in hand dictate the rules of ideological engagement and eliminate anyone who fails to comply. In earlier eras, elimination occurred by execution. In the modern world, it is known as “peer review.” The results of the two processes can be remarkably similar, except that death by peer review tends to leave less physical residue.

 

The Problem with Judas

            I say all of this simply to be forthright about the presuppositions that undergirded my thoughts as I read Dr. April DeConick’s recent critique of how the National Geographic Society dealt with the Gospel of Judas. In 2006, a bestselling book and popular documentary from National Geographic publicized a reconstruction of the Gospel of Judas, based on a fragmented fourth-century manuscript. According to National Geographic, this gospel portrayed Judas as a hero and as “Jesus’ closest intimate and friend.” In her book The Thirteenth Apostle, DeConick makes an alternative case, claiming that the Gospel of Judas does not depict the betrayer as a hero but as a demon. According to DeConick’s New York Times op-ed piece,

 

Several of the translation choices made by the society’s scholars fall well outside the commonly accepted practices in the field. … Perhaps the most egregious mistake I found was a single alteration made to the original Coptic. According to the National Geographic translation, Judas’s ascent to the holy generation would be cursed. But it’s clear from the transcription that the scholars altered the Coptic original, which eliminated a negative from the original sentence. In fact, the original states that Judas will “not ascend to the holy generation.”[iv]

 

In DeConick’s assessment, a mixed bag of flawed motivations prompted these misportrayals. “The big problem,” she surmises, “is that National Geographic wanted an exclusive.” The secondary difficulty stemmed from “an understandable desire to reform the relationship between Jews and Christians.” At several inexcusable junctures in church history, the character of Judas has functioned as a foil for anti-Semitism. So, with the noble goal of overcoming two thousand years of mutual misapprehension with a single documentary, the National Geographic Society set about “manufacturing a hero Judas”—or so DeConick suggests.

            To be sure, the National Geographic Society’s initial presentation of the Gospel of Judas was not without its problems. Primary among these problems was the society’s suggestion that this Gnostic text, penned at least a century after the time of Jesus, could provide “new insights into the disciple who betrayed Jesus” from “the first or second century.”[v] A different perspective on the function of Judas in second-century theological debates? Perhaps. But “new insights” into the historical personage known as Judas? Not a chance.

            It is also true that a few errors could be found in the first reconstruction of this poorly-preserved text. Still, DeConick’s allegation that “the society’s scholars … altered the Coptic original” represents a serious charge. In the first place, these were not “the society’s scholars,” as if National Geographic hired a handful of academic hacks to support some predetermined agenda. The members of this team represented premier researchers and experts in the Coptic language and early Christian history. Much to the credit of National Geographic Society, the team included not only religious skeptics such as Bart Ehrman and Marvin Meyer but also an evangelical Christian (Dr. Craig Evans) and a Roman Catholic (Father Donald Senior). None of these professors or researchers is infallible—I’ve written an entire book that respectfully takes Dr. Ehrman to task for the theological conclusions that he has extrapolated from early Christian texts. Nevertheless, of this I am quite certain: None of these scholars “altered” any original text, and none of them was concerned with “manufacturing” a heroic Judas.

            Could the team have erred in their reconstruction and transcriptions? On some points, it seems that they did. Yet such slip-ups fall far short of deliberate alterations or fabrications. Furthermore, while some of the team’s initial word-choices—“spirit” for daimon, for example, and “for that generation” instead of “from that generation” for etgenea—may be legitimately questioned, such renderings do not “fall well outside the commonly accepted practices in the field,” as DeConick suggests.

 

Breaking the Grip of the Guild

            So, how should the Gospel of Judas have been handled? According to DeConick, once the codex was restored, the National Geographic Society should have released “life-sized photos of each page … before [the] translation, allowing experts worldwide to share information as they independently [worked] through the text.” So—after spending a reported one million dollars to obtain rights to Codex Tchacos and financing reconstruction of the badly-damaged manuscript, radiocarbon dating, ink analysis, multispectral imaging, contextual investigation, and paleographic research—National Geographic should simply have made life-sized photographs available to scholars and then waited.

            Let’s suppose for a moment that National Geographic Society had pursued such a procedure. What would have been the results? Codex Tchacos was copied in Coptic; as such, only academicians with the requisite training to read this somewhat quirky language could have participated in the conversation. A handful of excellent doctoral dissertations would have explored this gospel’s historical and theological contexts. These dissertations would have excited their readers—all of three or four of them—and landed well-windowed corner offices in the ivory tower for the authors and their doktorvaters. Conspiracy theories would have emerged, speculating about how the established church might have partnered with National Geographic to suppress the dark secrets hidden in this codex. Long after any widespread desire to know about this document wisped away, some academic publisher would finally have produced a few hundred copies of the consummate critical translation of Codex Tchacos, complete with life-sized photographs. And, given the querulous nature of scholars, this long-awaited critical translation would likely have included just as many debated reconstructions as the rendering that Marvin Meyer and his partners provided to National Geographic.

            Perhaps National Geographic did desire an exclusive—but, in her own way, so does DeConick. The exclusivity that she has suggested would have limited the discussion to the scholarly oligarchy, safeguarded within the guild and removed from the public ear until the public’s interest in this gospel passed away.

            In today’s post-Jesus Seminar world of democratized biblical discussion, however, this simply isn’t how the process plays out—and I, for one, am glad. When discussions remain within the guild, research is driven by such trifling questions as, “How does this contribute to our field of study?”—or, in less altruistic instances, “How will this project build my case for tenure and promotion?” When the discussion is aimed at the average Joe, someone must ask the questions that really matter: “How does this publication affect the everyday faith of ordinary people? What discussions will this project provoke at the coffee shop and the pub? How will this change what people believe about their world, about themselves, about their God?” When these sorts of enduring questions frame the discussion, not only academic specialists but also pastors, youth workers, and teachers at the local community college must construct conclusions about the ancient texts.

            A fever for exclusives and some unintended errors may occasionally chafe the research in this old-new world. Yet I have no desire to limit the discussion about new discoveries to the few that know the right words and hold the right degrees. The plowboys of the twenty-first century may not possess Ph.D.’s, but they do possess a keen sense of how our discussions of these ancient documents affect the lives of ordinary people.

            In the early twentieth century, a journalist named G.K. Chesterton offered these thoughts about the British and American jury systems:

 

The trend of our epoch up to this time has been consistently towards specialism and professionalism. We tend to have trained soldiers because they fight better, trained singers because they sing better, trained dancers because they dance better, specially instructed laughers because they laugh better, and so on and so on. … [Yet] our civilization has decided, and very justly decided, that determining the guilt or innocence of men is a thing too important to be trusted to trained men. When it wishes for light upon that awful matter, it asks men who know no more law than I know, but who can feel the things that I felt in the jury box. When it wants a library catalogued, or the solar system discovered, or any trifle of that kind, it uses up specialists. But when it wishes anything done which is really serious, it collects twelve of the ordinary men standing round. The same thing was done, if I remember right, by the Founder of Christianity.[vi]

 

Maybe the democratization of biblical scholarship is a sign that, in the opening years of the twenty-first century, a new tendency has supplanted the modern trend towards specialism and professionalism. Perhaps the publicity surrounding the Jesus Seminar, The Da Vinci Code, the Gospel of Judas, and host of other discussions represents our culture’s admission that some questions are too crucial to remain the exclusive domain of specialists. To be sure, democratization should never become an excuse for shoddy scholarship—but, whenever the world of academic research intersects the plowboy’s discussions at the local bar, it makes professors and plowboys alike more aware of the issues that ultimately matter.



[i] R. Funk, “Opening Remarks”: http://www.westarinstitute.org/Jesus_Seminar/Remarks/remarks.html

[ii] M. Maudlin, as quoted in D. Van Biema, “Rewriting the Gospels,” in Time (March 2, 2007): http://www.time.com/

[iii] Gregory of Nyssa, “Oration on the Deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

[iv] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/01/opinion/01deconink.html

[v] http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/; http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/about_faq.html

[vi] G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles (Charleston, South Carolina: BiblioBazaar, 2006) 51-54.


Posted by timothypauljones at 8:13 AM CST
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Saturday, 15 December 2007
The 2007 Jones Christmas Letter
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: MyWords::RE::RandomStuff

DISCLAIMER: We love all of you and like most of you, but we have no intentions of spending postage money on you. That’s why we have devised a fail-proof plan for deducting the cost of this letter from income tax: So that the cost of this letter can be filed as a home-business expense related to Timothy’s writing, this letter will be filled with subliminal messages telling you to purchase his books—but these messages are so subliminal that you won’t even notice that the reason you’re weeping profusely is because you have realized that, unless everyone that receives this letter purchases at least two cases of Timothy’s book Hullabaloo: Discovering Glory in Everyday Life, our family will no longer be able to purchase toenail clippers and Hannah’s toenails will pierce her ballet slippers, thus inestimably damaging a dance floor at Louisville Ballet, so head for the telephone right now and order two cases of books. See? You didn’t even notice, did you?

 

The Jones Family: Episode 2007: Revenge of the Christmas Letter

Dear friends, family members to whom we feel morally obligated to send occasional updates letting them know we’re still alive, furry four-legged companions, and anyone else on whom we happen to inflict this letter:

 

The last time we wrote an epistle of this sort, Timothy had just transitioned from Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church of Rolling Hills to Senior Pastor, and we had just adopted Hannah Rachel Jones.

 

The next bit of excitement came in 2005, when we were at Pre-Teen Camp and several gargantuan aliens from the planet Pootywhinkle landed in the middle of a worship celebration. Timothy bravely ignited his lightsaber and destroyed most of the Pootywhinkleputians, but—before they fled into their giant asparagus spaceship and returned to their home planet—one of them fired death-ray into Timothy’s knee. After an MRI (which stands for “My Rump Itches,” because that’s how you feel after an MRI), it was discovered that the death-ray had destroyed Timothy’s ACL (that stands for “A Clumsy Leap,” because that’s what typically causes ACL injuries).[1] This unfortunate incident resulted in surgery, physical therapy, and the discovery that if one drinks an entire can of 7Up while still under the effects of anesthesia it is possible to throw up clear liquid and green stuff for several consecutive hours without stopping. We do not know why this is true, but we assure you that it is.

 

Anyhow—after four years of preaching and leading FBCRollingHills to build a youth center and new preschool area, which required Timothy to learn more about title deeds and flood plains than anyone ever needs to know—a major change occurred in our lives. And what was that major change? We are so glad that you asked, because it explains much of what you will read in this letter: In 2007, we began hanging toilet paper so that it rolls from the front instead of the back. (Speaking of paper, InterVarsity Press utilized extremely high-quality paper in Timothy’s book Misquoting Truth, which is now in its fifth printing and can be used as an environmentally-friendly toilet paper alternative.) About the same time as this major life-transition, a minor change also occurred: Timothy was appointed to the position of professor of leadership and church ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—the flagship seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical seminary in the world, and the seminary that’s way better than all other seminaries because we have Dr. Al Mohler as our president. (In case you didn’t know: Before the devil goes to sleep at night, he checks his closet for President Mohler. And Dr. Mohler has counted to infinity … twice. Okay, so maybe those are exaggerations, but I am---in all seriousness---greatly privileged to work under a president as skilled and esteemed as Dr. Mohler.)

 

All of this caused a bit of a problem, though: Southern Seminary is in Louisville, Kentucky, but we lived in Catoosa, Oklahoma at the time. These two locations are separated by a substantial space, consisting mostly of two flat states that both begin with the letter “I.” Rayann and Timothy sat for days, trying to figure out how Timothy could possibly teach in Kentucky, since we lived in Oklahoma. After weeks of perplexity, Rayann was reading one of Timothy’s books—which are filled with infinite wisdom and are available on Amazon.com, by the way. In the midst of her reading, Rayann saw a space in the book between a period and a capital letter. Drawing from the wisdom in that space, she had an epiphany—which you could experience too, if you order one of these books, even if you have no clue what an epiphany is—“Timothy!” she cried out. “We could move!” And so we did.

 

On June 18, 2007—our thirteenth wedding anniversary—we purchased a home in Louisville. It’s a brick Cape Cod house—though, despite searching arduously, we haven’t yet found those pesky capes or the cods, so we have no clue why they named it that. The original house was built in the late 1800s, but it was destroyed in the flood of 1937. Someone—probably from the planet Pootywhinkle—rebuilt it that same year, which makes it considerably more convenient to live in than it would have been if they had left it destroyed. 

 

The house has a large family room down below—a room which now has a video projector and surround-sound for certain anonymous residents who like to crank up Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and smack each other with plastic lightsabers until Darth Mommy sends them outside (this, by the way, is also mentioned in Timothy’s book Finding God in a Galaxy Far, Far Away). On the middle floor, the house has a red kitchen, sun room, bedrooms, dining room, parlor, and wooden floors—all of which Rayann likes a lot and uses extensively. There’s a bathroom on that floor too—which Rayann also likes a lot and uses extensively—plus another bathroom on the top floor (also used extensively by Rayann) with a bedroom where Rayann and Timothy sleep, but where, after that comment about Rayann and the bathroom, Timothy may not be sleeping for a while. It—the whole house, not just the bathroom—is in the St. Matthews Township of Louisville, which is like a little village in the middle of the city, complete with Farmer’s Market and quaint little restaurants, delis, and coffee shops all within walking distance from the house. Plus, the seminary is only a couple of miles away. After we moved, Timothy began teaching family ministry and lifespan development at Southern Seminary. He also continues to write books, including the upcoming books Conspiracies and the Cross and Family Ministry in the 21st Century, one of which may already be subliminally pre-ordered from Amazon.com.[2]           

 

Well, in all seriousness—and, goodness knows, seriousness is not easy for at least one of us when we write these letters—we’ve seen this year that our God is ever so faithful and good. God provided a position where Timothy can use his gifts of teaching and writing without feeling constrained by other duties. God granted us a home in precisely the place where we wanted it, when we needed it, at the end of our rental lease, at a time when we didn’t have to scramble to sell a home. God also has given us many good friends who have encouraged us in more ways than we can count … well, actually, we probably could count them up, but we frankly don’t feel like counting right now—though we probably would, if you ordered a few books. Our Oklahoma friends, we miss most of all and hope to see some of them in 2008. (By the way, before we completely lose our capacity to be serious, we’re not really deducting the postage from our taxes. The Pootywhinkleputians are delivering the letters for free.)

 

Well, that wraps up this year’s Christmas letter! Have a Happy Christmas, a Merry Hanukkah, and you already missed Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan, but hopefully you enjoyed them too. Since Timothy’s now a professor, we’ve included study questions (below) to assist you in absorbing these materials, using the same edifying teaching methods that Timothy employs in the classroom. (Speaking of absorbent materials, the paper in Timothy’s book Christian History Made Easy is especially absorbent, so purchase a copy today!)

 

Still learning to live as God’s children,

Timothy with two people that he loves more than words can express, Rayann and Hannah

… plus, three creatures that try to act like God’s children—

Remus Lupin the Siberian Husky, and Shadowfax and Cho Chang the housecats …

… and one cat who sold his soul to Old Scratch several lifetimes ago, Martin Luther.

 

Study Questions

1. Were you offended by anything in this letter? If so, recognize that you lack an appropriate sense of humor. Rebuild your self-esteem by writing a confession of your failures on a separate piece of paper—phrases like “I am such a worm” will be helpful in this assignment—and purchase books by Dave Barry, as well as Shrek 2 and the DVD of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

2. Read through the letter again, counting the references to Star Wars. What do these references suggest about certain persons in the Jones household, such as Hannah and Rayann?

3. Was there anything in the letter that you didn’t understand? Does this suggest that you are dim, dull, or dense? [Please circle all three options for full credit.]



[1] This is the official version of the story as reported on Discovery Channel. The unofficial version which was suppressed in a government conspiracy—INSERT SUBLIMINAL ADVERTISEMENT HERE: and, speaking of conspiracies! Timothy has a new book available for pre-order from Amazon.com, entitled Conspiracies and the Cross—was that Timothy initiated a moshing contest with someone larger than himself and lost this contest. We will not reveal that person’s name, but his initials were D (as in “David”) and N (as in  “Nottingham”).

[2] We have no idea what a “subliminal pre-order” might be; it simply sounded impressive, like something Pootywhinkleputians might say before blasting your knee with a death-ray.


Posted by timothypauljones at 1:19 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, 15 December 2007 8:07 PM CST
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Wednesday, 20 June 2007
A note from people who are now Looney Villains
Mood:  happy
Topic: MyWords::RE::RandomStuff

We are now Louisvillians—at least we think that's what we are, though it seems like a complicated way of referring to one's place of origin. (If you aren't certain how to pronounce “Louisvillians,” I don't know either. I think it's something like “Looney Villains,” which makes me think of the wily coyote that chased Roadrunner on the Looney Tunes cartoons.)

That became official when the moving truck showed up at 6:00 AM Oklahoma time on Tuesday morning. This would have been a good thing if I had been dressed ... but we all managed to survive with minimal emotional trauma.

There are many things that we have learned thus far in Louisville. Among them: (1) There is something called a “split queen boxed spring” that we have had to purchase, because queen-sized boxed springs and staircases from the 1930s relate to each other in a fashion similar to Windows and Macintosh, Sooners and Cowboys, Republicans and Democrats, personal intelligence and country music, and so on. (2) Mortgage companies don't always have everything together before the closing. When they don't, a closing that should last an hour can last an entire day. (3) Much-loved spouses can sometimes forget very important financial papers, in which case they are still much loved.

I have completed the most important task already, though: After much difficult and intense research, I have located my home coffee shop. (Note to the reader: “Difficult and intense research” is hereby defined as “spending two entire days moving from coffee shop to coffee shop, intentionally annoying the baristas to determine the precise depth of their patience with customers and drinking so much espresso in each location that the FDA is considering plans to redefine coffee as a prescription-only drug due to the recent discovery that it is actually possible to have caffeine jitters in one's eyebrows.) It will be Heine Brothers at the junction of highways 1447 and 60 in St. Matthews. And, yes, “Heine” is pronounced, well, like “hiney.” This opens the door for many immature cracks that one could make about obtaining coffee from someone's posterior, but I am more mature than that. This maturity began about three seconds ago and is scheduled to self-destruct in approximately two seconds.

All in all, Louisville is a wonderful and beautiful place. We like it a lot. Now, I need to go grab some Heine.

But I am not laughing about that, or even smiling, because I am mature for at least another half-second.


Posted by timothypauljones at 3:54 PM CDT
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Monday, 4 June 2007
Thoughts from beneath the bed of nails
Mood:  accident prone
Topic: MyWords::RE::RandomStuff

Last week, TimothyPaulJones took part in a Team Impact event. Team Impact is a group of massive athletes---former professional football players, wrestlers, mixed martial arts champions, and the like---who mostly smash things in spectacular ways and then tell people about Jesus. TimothyPaulJones spent his formative years trying to avoid football players and other large athletes, primarily because he did not like the taste of gym socks and because the interior of a locker is an awfully cramped place.*

But these athletes are different---really.

In the first place, they don't make people eat gym socks or confine them to lockers ... not that we know of, anyway. In the second place---which should probably be in first place---they actually are smart guys.

Seriously.

Jeff Neal, for example, is a former professional football player who seems to have misplaced his neck somewhere in his shoulders. But he is also currently working on his second master's degree, and TimothyPaulJones is trying to convince him to pursue a PhD in the School of Leadership and Church Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Anyhow, during the Team Impact crusade last week, TimothyPaulJones ended up on stage with these very large individuals. He felt pretty good about this at first, because there weren't any lockers on the stage and the only gym socks were the ones on people's feet. 

At this point, Jeff Neal placed a rack with more than one thousand nails on TimothyPaulJones' torso, while Guy Earle looked on. In most places, this sort of thing is widely considered to be a bad idea. 

Then the former football players piled concrete blocks on the rack of nails and got a sledge hammer. Spending the night in a locker was beginning to look very inviting at this point, if you want to know the truth.

At this point, Jeff Neal utilized the sledgehammer to smash the concrete blocks to bits. (Notice carefully the not-entirely-certain-that-this-was-the-best-idea look on the face of former Mr. Teenage Arkansas Trey Talley.)

There are times in life when the first thought that crosses one's mind is, "Hmmm, I am glad that I wore dark pants today, and I do wish that I would have stopped at the second Venti Caramel Macchiato instead of ordering a third one." There are also times when one simply thinks, "This is probably the stupidest thing I have ever allowed myself to be talked into."

Then, there are those moments when both of those thoughts occur at the same time.

The instant that the sledgehammer struck the rack of nails was one of those moments.

But, in the end, TimothyPaulJones survived. He is like a superhero that way, except that he does not possess any superpowers. This is probably why he plays role-playing games; he has many superpowers in those. TimothyPaulJones is now widely rumored to be hiding in a locker somewhere, rolling his twenty-sided dice. This makes him very happy. But he is glad to have been part of Team Impact too, if only to remind him of the importance of wearing dark pants.

 

 

* Yes, TimothyPaulJones was that kid---the one with the well-worn role-playing game instruction manual who randomly quoted obscure lines from fantasy and sci-fi movies but who couldn't keep track of where he was at any given moment ... well actually, to tell the truth, he's still pretty much like that.


Posted by timothypauljones at 9:04 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, 4 June 2007 9:31 AM CDT
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Saturday, 12 May 2007
Thoughts on Isaiah 1
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: MyWords::RE::God'sWords

Before reading this entry, read Isaiah 1.

God isn't being particularly kind to his people in this chapter.

He says to his people ...

"You're dumber than a donkey" (1:3).

"You stink!" (1:13).

"You act like a harlot" (1:21).

So, what is it that's put the deity in such a rotten mood? After all, his people are worshiping him, aren't they? (1:10-15). And that's precisely the problem: They worship God passionately, with great flair and style and pomp and circumstance, but they don't love the people that are closest to God's heart.


They don't love the widows and orphans ...
... which is to say, the people who live without protection ...
... the children that meander the streets of Rolling Hills?
... the incontinent seniors at the care center?
... all the vulnerable scraps of humanity that flutter around us
 for the briefest moments before being scattered to the wind?

They don't love the widows and orphans ...
... which is to say, those that struggle to wrap their fingers around
some semblance of justice and goodness in their world ...
... the people that, in seeking to wrap their fingers around justice,
wrap their fingers around bongs and bottles and one-armed bandits.

They don't demonstrate love to the people, in other words, that most of us would prefer to ignore.

I mean, if I consciously work to love the oppressed and the unprotected, I may have to provide someone with protection; I may be required to relieve someone's oppression; in short, I maybe inconvenienced---because God isn't suggesting another series ofsweet, sentimental words to solve the world's problems. In fact, Ithink that's precisely what causes a sickening scent in the nostrils ofthe divine (1:13).

"Let's pray that things will go better for them."

"Let's send them some help."

"Let's add them to our budget."

Don't get me wrong---none of those possibilities are necessarily bad. But they're not enough.

I must choose to risk my convenience for the sake of the people who have no one else to protect them. And I don't always. Some days, I don't even want to. But, unless I am willing to obey God in this, all that I do disgusts him. The very worship service that causes me to say, "Wow, that was wonderful!" may send God down the halls of heaven to hurl in the Celestial Toilet (Rev. 3:16).

Thatis my deepest fear each Sunday ... that all the singing and clapping and videographic razzmattazz of postmodern worship and preachingdoesn't impress God at all, because the only thing that impresses God is a heart that breaks in the same places that his heart breaks.

Until our hearts break along the same fault lines as the heart of God,
though our bodies may be whole, our hearts are sick (Isa. 1:5-6),
though our buildings may be full of well-groomed people, they are empty of God's Spirit (1:7-8),
and though our morals may seem impeccable, we are no better than Sodom (1:9-10).

But there is hope.

"Come now, let's argue this out," Yahweh says. "No matter how deep yourstain, I can remove it. Even if your stains are blood-red, I can turn them into freshly-fallen snow, into the purest wool---but only if youo bey me. Let me help you, then you will have more blessings than you can handle" (1:18-19).

God, break my heart where your heart breaks,
take from my soul what you must take,
change me, God, make me like you.


Posted by timothypauljones at 6:12 PM CDT
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Friday, 4 May 2007
Thoughts on House Bill HR1592
Mood:  irritated
Topic: MyWords::RE::RandomStuff

Before I leap headlong into this issue, there are three peripheral observations that I would like to make---disclaimers, if you will ...

1. I am not a fan of polarized politics, especially when political values and faith become muddled, regardless of whether that muddling occurs on the right or on the left. Though I do not always agree with the values and beliefs of the sixteenth-century Anabaptists, I do deeply admire them, and I dislike Emperor Constantine and Eusebius of Caesarea because of their contributions to the intersection of Christian faith with political coercion. I also dislike Yorkshire Terriers ... but that has nothing to do with politics or religion.

2. I am annoyed by the fact that the Hate Crimes Bill is repeatedly represented as a Republican versus Democrat issue. Twenty-five Republicans voted for the bill, and 14 Democrats voted against it. Why must everything be painted in terms of such polarities?

3. I am honestly undecided about the validity and viability of the bill. My initial thoughts are that it seems unnecessary and that such laws should occur at the state and municipal levels---not at the federal level. At this point, however, my personal verdict is still out.

Now, for my more substantive thoughts ...

House Bill HR1592 specifically legislates against "violence motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim." The primary reaction from politically-conservative evangelical Christians has been against the possibility that pastors or other religious leaders might have their freedom of speech limited by the fact that they might inadvertently incite or be accused of inciting potential or actual violence against homosexuals. That is, pastors may not have or may not feel as if they have the freedom to describe homosexual behavior as sinful.

Notice the content of these reactions carefully: Across the board, every negative reaction that I have read from evangelicals has to do with a fear of not being able to speak out against homosexual behavior.

(For the record, I do believe that homosexual behavior falls short of God's design for humanity and that, when addressing a text of Scripture that relates to homosexual activity, a pastor must describe such actions as sin. At the same time, without exception, homosexual persons should be treated with grace and mercy, as individuals created in the image of God.)

What I want to ask is this: Has no one noticed the full wording of this document? Allow me to cite the bill again---"violence motivated by the actual or perceived ... religion."

Religion ... that is, what someone believes and practices in relation to God. 

Here's what I don't understand: Evangelical spokespersons seem far more concerned with protecting their right to speak against homosexual behavior than with protecting their right to speak against other religions.

When I proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, excluding all other paths and labeling as "false" all other faiths, I am in some sense speaking against other religions. So, if indeed this bill had the power to limit what a proclaimant of Scripture is able to say---and, please let me be clear, I am still not convinced that this bill could ever actually limit such proclamation---isn't the inclusion of "religion" more significant and more dangerous than the inclusion of "sexual orientation"? Has the moral issue of homosexuality become more significant to us than the centrality and exclusivity of Jesus Christ?

If so, this troubles me deeply.

The wrongness of homosexual behavior is, as I understand Holy Scripture, rooted in God's self-revelation in Genesis 1:26-28---in the truth that our creation as male and female is somehow rooted in the hypostatic unity of the threefold God. The sinful nature of sexual relationships outside the marital union of a woman and a man is, therefore, rooted in the nature and identity of God. This identity has been particularly and consummately revealed to humanity in Jesus Christ. As such, the right to proclaim the exclusivity of God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ is far more significant than the right to recognize the sinfulness of homosexual behavior.

I do not deny the need to recognize homosexual behavior as sinful; I do question the choice to focus on this right above and beyond the need to recognize Jesus Christ as the exclusive redeemer of humanity.

Am I the only one bothered by this? 


Posted by timothypauljones at 6:15 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 7 May 2007 5:04 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 4 April 2007
Reflections on Faith video from James W. Fowler seminar
Mood:  bright
Topic: MyWords::RE::RandomStuff

I've used this video clip a couple of times to help students to reflect on various meanings and forms of faith, especially in classes that I've taught related to James W. Fowler's faith-development structure. Click here to see the video.

 


Posted by timothypauljones at 3:24 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 7 February 2007
Theology quiz
Mood:  a-ok

I usually despise online quizzes, but I really liked this one (though I don't think I have quite as many affinities with Tillich as the quiz suggested, the rest are right on) ...


You scored as Karl Barth. The daddy of 20th Century theology. You perceive liberal theology to be a disaster and so you insist that the revelation of Christ, not human experience, should be the starting point for all theology.

Karl Barth

73%

Paul Tillich

60%

John Calvin

53%

Anselm

53%

Martin Luther

47%

Jonathan Edwards

47%

Friedrich Schleiermacher

40%

Jürgen Moltmann

40%

Charles Finney

40%

Augustine

33%

Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Posted by timothypauljones at 2:39 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2007 2:41 PM CST
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Sunday, 28 January 2007
Oh man, I knew I was missing something
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: MyWords::RE::RandomStuff

Posted by timothypauljones at 3:02 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 13 March 2007 10:28 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 13 December 2006
Study materials for Luke 1:57ff
Mood:  energetic
Topic: MyWords::RE::God'sWords

1:22: No blessing, because of doubt. (Z'khar-Yah should have spoken the blessing, "May the LORD bless you"---but he can't.

1:39-42, 64-68: Belief leads to blessing! But, instead of asking God to bless his people, in every case, the people are blessing God! The blessing is not a word or sentence; the blessing is a baby, a person. Jesus is the blessing. "Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord"---cf., Numbers 6, "this is how I will place my Name on Israel." The last verse of the book, they're in the temple again, "blessing God." The blessing of God became flesh, engraved his Name upon his people in Jesus Christ. Wow! What's more: Final verses of Luke, Jesus lifts his hands and blesses them! This is the priestly blessing! It's finally given! The blessing that Zechariah could not give because of unbelief is finally given by Jesus himself! He has become the blessing of God.

1:57-58: So many parallels here to the language of Genesis---both Semitic and Septuagintal---regarding Isaac! In case of firstborn sons, it was common for family members to stay with family each night until the naming and circumcision.

1:59: He received his name, his identity, on the day of his circumcision. "Yah-Chanan" is "Yahweh has given grace."

1:63: Pinax is used here, wood and wax writing tablet often used by tax collectors.

1:68: "Visited" comes from Hebrew paqad, visitation for the purpose of deliverance.

1:69: "Horn," as in ox horn and in battle horn---the same for these people! An animal's horn was used for battle horn, so it came to symbolize strength and power.

1:71-72, 76: Again, renewal of Abrahamic covenant seems to be implied. "Mercy" may imply chesed.

1:78: "Morning star," cf. Numbers 24:17; Isaiah 11:1-10. 


Posted by timothypauljones at 12:06 PM CST
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Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Notes for December 10
Mood:  d'oh
Topic: MyWords::RE::God'sWords

Building Your Own Jesus 2

> Last week, “Tear down your idols—Yahweh never forgets.”

> Live in the joy of God’s ONE GIFT.

> To help us get in the mood of thinking about “gifts.” [GIFT GUIDE]

à There is ONE GIFT God most wants to give us; what stands in the way is idols.

à Idols: Joining the Name of God with my agenda instead of his … refer to selves as “Christian,” yet there are things that we would not give up if Jesus asked us to [habits/lack of forgiveness/activities] … claim that Jesus’ purpose is that, if only you do what he wants, you’ll always have wealth and convenience … join Jesus with political policies … consumed with our purchases instead of the one who gave his life to purchase us—compared to this ONE GIFT, all these others are about as worthwhile as flamingo poop.

àà These temptations aren’t only today: In first century … Essenes: Expected God to send someone to destroy the religious leadership in Temple, to purify … Zealots: Expected God to destroy the Romans … Sadducees: Expected God to reveal himself in and through the Temple … Pharisees: Expected God to reveal himself by keeping all the traditions that had been added to Torah.

àà Jesus refuses to fit into any of these categories … he is God enfleshed, and God has always refused to fit neatly into our categories: I AM WHO I AM.

> This God has ONE GIFT that he wants to give us.

DILEMMA

> How do I receive God’s one gift?

TEXT: LUKE 1:26-56

> Temple: We expect that/Few people expect Galilee, partly because seemed backwoods but it’s a place with a high population of non-Jews! [Only place where it’s hinted that Galilee: Isaiah 9:1-2: Point is that God’s light can reach to the darkest places.] … not top ten most likely places for God to show up.

> Nazareth: Fewer than 2,000 people, probably around 500: Strong Jewish community, two miles: Remains of a funeral cult, decorated skulls, worship dead.

> Gabriel: “Hero from God”: God sends a hero.

> “Virgin betrothed”: Marriage occurred in two phases … At 13, betrothed: Committed to one another, only broken by divorce/… didn’t live together until a year or so later, beneath canopy, wedding blessings, a week of feasting.

> She is in the time of waiting for the wedding … she stands as symbol for Israel at this time, waiting for Messiah/for us, waiting for return of Jesus. WAITING FOR GOD’S GIFT.

> “Joy to you, grace-filled one!”/“Blessed …”: God has given something of himself to you./“FEAR NOT … God’s grace has found you.”

à Then comes the shocking news: “You will conceive in your womb”: Only other place this phrase occurs is three times in writings of Hippocrates.

à Y’hoshu-Yah: “Yahweh saves.”: King: But Israel is larger than anyone expected and his kingdom runs deeper than any human realm.

à Mary’s first words: “How?”: No sexual relations with anyone … she had waited … God himself is her reward.

à “Holy Spirit … power of Highest overshadow”: [Ex40:34-35]: TABERNACLE: Tiny glimpse of God’s glory … word they used to describe was “bright cloud”: Later rabbis, SHEKHINAH, “dwelling.” God’s glory around us all the time, cannot see, once in while … rip in space-time continuum.

à “You will become tabernacle where Most High is revealed.” [“Highest” … Melchizedek … “nothing impossible with God.”]

> She knows what people will think, whisper … she has a child, months before her wedding.

> Yet she says: “I am the Lord’s slave-girl. May it be unto me according to your word.”

> Elisabeth: “Filled with …”=Equipped for specific, God-chosen purpose, to encourage Mary.

> 1:46: “My life makes God bigger.” How?

à 1:47: Rejoices regardless of pain/1:48: Sees beyond this moment: “all generations”/1:49-56: God shatters and scatters those that think they’re strong, he lifts up those that know God is strong.

> And what is the ONE GIFT that he gives?

CONSIDER AS WE SING A COUPLE OF SONGS

RESOLUTION

> The one gift God gives to Mary … wants to give to you … HIMSELF.

> Not in sense of bearing God incarnate … but Christopher. [REPROBUS: “How can I serve?” HERMIT: “Do what you can where you are, carrying across the river.” One day, a small child approached the river and asked to be carried across. The giant began to comply, only to learn that the small boy was far heavier than any other passenger he had taken. The child revealed that he was in fact Jesus Christ, and that his unusual weight was due to the fact that he bore the sins of the world. The boy then baptized the giant in the river, and he acquired his new name Christopher, Greek for "Christ-carrier" (christo-phoros)]

> God offers you the gift of himself, the gift of being a Christ-carrier.

APPLICATION

> God does this for those who know their own weakness and who live to make God bigger.

> ONE LEGO ALONE IS WEAK AND USELESS … LEGO ONLY BECOMES USEFUL WHEN IT BECOMES PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER. SAME WITH YOU.

> CANDLE OF HOPE [God never forgets], CANDLE OF COMFORT [God is strong].

> I AM WEAK, BUT I LIVE TO MAKE GOD BIGGER.


Posted by timothypauljones at 11:33 AM CST
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Tuesday, 5 December 2006
Research notes for Luke 1:26-56
Mood:  celebratory
Topic: MyWords::RE::God'sWords

Parallels Between Abraham and Luke's Presentation of Christ-Event

The more I read Luke's Gospel alongside the Septuagint rendering of Genesis, the more parallels I see---intentional ones, I'm quite certain---between Luke's presentation of Jesus and the Abraham epic in Genesis.

To wit ...

> Opens with a couple old, obedient---yet childless (Gn11:28-30)

> At a holy place, with altar, YHWH promises the impossible, a child (Gn12:6-7; 13:14-18). The man doubts (Gn15:2-3).

>  An exact parallel may be found between Lk1:32 and Gn14:19, 22, where the odd phrase "Most High" appears as a circumlocution for the Divine in Luke and as a description of God in Genesis.


> YHWH reaches to those presently outside his covenant (Gn16:10-15).

> God establishes covenant in blood both individually (Gn17; cf. Last Supper) and through "blood trail" (Gn15; cf. cross).

> Gn18:14 parallels Lk1:37 (but also cf. Jer32:17).

... there are others, but it seems that there is in Luke's Gospel a conscious desire to parallel the Abraham epic, suggesting that Luke understands Jesus to be renewing and fulfilling the covenant that God made with Abraham.

1:26-28: Galilee was not a respectable region; Nazareth was a small town, with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants. Jewish betrothal included two steps, the payment of bride-price (Dt22:23; cf. Jewish tradition in Mishnah Kethubim 4:4-5). Gavri-El shows up again ... one wonders, how many virgins did Gabri-El visit that night, waiting for one who would say, "Yes." Typically, betrothal began when a girl was 13, with the wedding when she was 14. "Lord is with you" echoes Septuagint of Jdg6:12, with "Fear not" paralleling Jdg6:17. "Son of David," of course, indicates eligibility to rule Israel. Since Mary was pre-married, she had no social status; yet, God's representative greets her as "favored one." Verse 28: "Joy to you, graced one" = "Rejoice, you are about to receive a gift." "Blessed" = God has knelt before you.

1:29-33: "Conceive in womb" is an odd phrasing that is paralleled three times in Corpus Hippocratorum, lending limited creedence to the thought that Luke was a physician. "Y'hoshuah," "Yah saves." He is ruler of Israel---but Israel is bigger than anyone imagined, and his rule runs deeper than any human kingdom.

1:34-38: "Know," of course, implies intimate love. "Holy Spirit will arrive, and Power of the Highest will overshadow": "Overshadow" hints at Shekhinah (cf. Ex40:35). An interesting text from Jewish tradition: "At that time, pains and birth-pangs will come upon the woman in childbirth, the Shekhinah. ... When her womb opens, she will bear two Messiahs, ... and the Serpent will pass from the world" (Ra'Aya Mechemna 3:67-68). Nothing is impossible for God---God has lost none of his power. "The Lord's slave-girl": Wow! What a phrase! She knows that this will ruin her life; yet, she says, "Let it be."

1:39-45: "Filled with Holy Spirit"=Equipped for a specific, God-chosen task; in this case, to encourage Mary. "Blessed is she who trusted."

1:46-56: "Slave" in v.48 echoes v.38. Verse 50 echoes Psalm 103:17.Verse 46, literally, "My life makes God bigger!" Verse 48: She sees beyond her immediate circumstances; future generations will bless her. Verses 51-52: He has scattered those who thought they were powerful and lifted up the ones who knew they weren't. The promise to Abraham of offspring filling the earth continues---it is being fulfilled in ways that Mary probably doesn't even imagine yet.


Posted by timothypauljones at 6:47 PM CST
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Saturday, 2 December 2006
Message schedule for December through April
Mood:  down
Topic: MyWords::RE::God'sWords

SUNDAY AND WEDNESDAY EVENINGS

Learning Resources
Holy Bible (New American Standard Bible or English Standard Version)
The End of Time (Nashville, TN: LifeWay/Serendipity House, 2005)

MAIN IDEA                WEDNESDAY    SUNDAY    PREPARE
01. When Jesus Finally Shows Up
Revelation 1:1-8            December 13    December 17    Pages 1-16

02. The Son of Man?
Revelation 1:9-20            December 20    December 17    Pages 17-22

January 13 PAINTBALL  eleven AM at
INCREDIBLE PAINTBALL 71st AND MEMORIAL

03. A Bunch of Old Letters I
Revelation 2:1-29            January 10    January 7    Pages 23-28

04. A Bunch of Old Letters I
Revelation 3:1-22            January 17    January 14    Pages 29-34

05. Who’s On Your Throne?
Revelation 4:1-11            January 24    January 21    Pages 35-40

06. Opening the Will
Revelation 5:1-14            January 31    January 21    Pages 41-46

                            January 28    Family Time
07. Opening the Seals
Revelation 6:1-17            February 7    February 4    Pages 47-52

08. Seeing the Crowds
Revelation 7:1-17            February 14    February 11    Pages 53-58

09. Heavenly Horns I
Revelation 8:1-13            February 21    February 18    Pages 59-64

10. Heavenly Horns II
Revelation 9:1-21            February 28    February 25    Pages 65-70

11. Book of Bitterness
Revelation 10:1-11            March 7        March 4    Pages 71-76

12. Trampling the Holy City
Revelation 11:1-19            March 14    March 11    Pages 77-82

13. Heaven’s View of Christmas
Revelation 12:1-17            March 21    March 18    Pages 83-88

                            March 25    Family Time

SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP CELEBRATIONS
DATE        TEXT        THEME                    
January 7    Luke 3:1-18    “This year, how will I prepare the Lord’s way in my life?”        

January 14    Luke 3:19—4:13    To be God’s beloved means you will be tempted.                

January 21    TimothyPaulJones at Wheaton College

January 28    Luke 4:14-31    To be God’s beloved means you will be rejected.                

February 4    Luke 4:31—5:11    To be God’s beloved means you will clearly see your own sin    

February 11    Luke 7:18-50    John the Baptist—Disappointed because of where God’s left him    

February 18    Luke 8:27-56    Innocent Pig-Farmer—Disappointed because of what God has taken    

February 25    Luke 9:1-36    Disciples—Disappointed because the Kingdom doesn’t show up when or how they expected            

March 4        Luke 10:1-42    Kingdom where you didn’t expect
Festival of Purim (Celebration of Jews’ rescue through Esther)                

March 11    Luke 13:31—14:35 Kingdom in a party            

March 18    Luke 15:11-32    Kingdom in a child come home

March 25    Luke 16:1-31    God’s kingdom has bad karma    

April 1        Luke 19:30-48; 22:1-23 Triumphal Entry and Death
Festival of Pesach (Passover), April 3                            

April 8     Luke 23—24     Risen Jesus in the ordinary


Posted by timothypauljones at 11:59 AM CST
Updated: Monday, 11 December 2006 8:31 AM CST
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Notes for December 3
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: MyWords::RE::God'sWords
BUILD YOUR OWN JESUS!—Part 1
MOTIF > The problem with Jesus is that he seems so distant.
> Everybody got your Lego® building block? Build your own Jesus! …
> Pathetic mess … What can we build that compares to God—more vast than universe—wrapping himself in a tiny embryo that blossoms beneath the heart of a peasant girl? Who grows … dies … rises?
> Yet we try to build our own Jesus all the time: (1) Misguided prophet? (2) Jesus Seminar, a brilliant teacher? (3) Jesus patron of whatever political side we prefer? Jesus lived in a world in which, if this had been God’s plan, he should have been. What many Jewish persons wanted was precisely a political-military Messiah—and Jesus refused: “Give your taxes to Caesar, give to God what is God’s.” (4) Cuddly Jesus who never quite makes it out of the manger? (5) So benevolent that my sin is okay?
> In every case … building Jesus we can get hold of, serve our needs … goes back to golden calf.
> We end up with pathetic mix, nothing worthy of worship.
> Next couple of months … Jesus for who he really was and is … shatter our expectations.
DILEMMA > Most times, we build own Jesus because we can’t see how or where God is working.
 … can’t see how God is alive, … Jesus is still in the grave.
 … can’t see how God is working in nation, … his purpose to making country what we think it ought to be.
 … can’t see how God is working against sin, … assume he’s okay with sin.
> How can I know what on earth God is doing, here and now? You can’t—at least how can I know he’s doing something?
> Go back before Jesus was born, when people were waiting/wondering, “What is God doing? Anything?”
TEXT
> Luke 1:1-25 > 1:1: “Taken in hand”: Several Gospels … Mark/two versions of Matthew/perhaps two or three others that report different incidents from Jesus’ life.
 How many of these end up in New Testament? Why these four? [Connected to eyewitnesses]
 1:2: “eyewitnesses [autoptai: “saw-it-myself”] … servants of the Word”: they were not masters of the Word.
> 1:3-5: Luke: Physician, traveled with Paul: “investigated”: Now … reporting to “Theophilus”: A type of person, “God’s friend.”: Gentile [TWO TYPES OF PEOPLE] who worshiped Israel’s God: “What does all this mean for me?”
 Locates it in the context of history … not “once upon a time,” but “in Herod’s days.”
ZECHARIAH’S done all he should—it seems God has forgotten, he’s weak, broken-down, seems abandoned: GOD ALWAYS APPEARS FIRST TO THE BROKEN: Get idea that those to whom God reveals himself … mighty, powerful: BROKEN [Who in your world is broken?]
> 1:5-10: “Zakhar-Yah”: “Yahweh never forgets.” He is about to find truth of his own name.
> Text parallels God’s call of Abraham and Sarah [righteous, no children]—God appeared and established a covenant, create people to glorify himself. This parallel: GOD IS ABOUT TO ESTABLISH COVENANT AGAIN, RECREATE PEOPLE FOR HIS GLORY.
 He’s priest: Abijah, eighth of 24 groups … all served during three great festivals … two weeks each year … probably Shavuot, “feast of tabernacles,” rejoicing because God has brought a great harvest.
 1:8-10: “Lot”: 18,000 priests, … offer incense once in lifetime … in, incense on altar, bow, pray—“May the merciful God enter this Holy Place and receive with pleasure his people’s offerings"— come back. [IMPORTANT! Video]
 Incense symbolized prayers of Israel going up, smoky-sweet scent ascending to heavens.
 Holy event … bells on hem [Ex28.33] … on Yom Kippur, rope … “heard priest tinkling, everything okay.”
> 1:11-17: Angel! Suddenly, tinkling a lot more. “Fear not” = “Stop tinkling.” Angels always say! Why? … Not Tinkerbell, fearsome … angelic beings: Six wings/ man, lion, ox, eagle/flaming swords … you’d tinkle too!
 “Prayer”: Not for child … seems to have given up … for Israel’s redeemer.
 Life is to be God-focused life, “wine or strong drink”: Times of joy with others … to be drunk on Spirit. “Filled with Spirit”: Empowered for a specific task.
 “Elijah”: Prophet! For decades … Israel has been “non-prophet” (2Ba85:1-3; 1Mac4:46; 9:27; 14:41)
 Where God is acting, homes are healed.
1:18-23: CRUCIAL QUESTION: “HOW SHALL I KNOW THIS?” GOD, YOU CAN’T DO IT THIS WAY! HE HAD CREATED HIS OWN IMAGE OF GOD! “How can I know God is acting here and now? I want a sign.”
> How many times do you and I say this, “How shall I know?”: Give God advice! God calls you to do something … “How shall I know! How can you pull this off, God?”  “God, you’ve forgotten me … how …?”: Forgets truth of own name, Zakhar-Yah.
> “I AM GABRIEL!” [GANDALF]: “Give you a sign”: … utterly silent as you wait for God to act. BE SILENT AND WATCH GOD WORK.
 Only supposed to take a minute … evening sacrifice … supposed to speak blessing: “May the Lord bless you ….”: CHARADES: “Five letters? You feel sick? Lips?”
> Returns home … waits in silence—with joy, gladness, pleasure … John is not virgin-born … as much as it may be traumatic to think of two 80-year-olds being intimate.
> Elisabeth: Hides five months, until no one can deny she’s having a baby … maybe Elisabeth doesn’t quite believe it. So waits in silence—Zechariah still cannot speak, yet this too is God’s grace, to cause him to consider—yet in joy: “The LORD has taken away that for which others ridiculed.”
RESOLUTION > How can I know? “God, I can’t see! I don’t know what you’re doing!” Be silent, wait with joy to see what God is already doing. Already, God was working in lives not only of Zechariah and Elisabeth, but a relative of Elisabeth’s named Mary, her fiancée Joseph.
> In what areas of your life:“God, how shall I know this?” (1) Keep worshiping … (2) silently watch … (3) with pleasure … within God’s standards for life, God wants you to rejoice. WAIT IN SILENCE, IN JOY, TOGETHER. CENTRAL PROBLEM: More concerned with WHAT GOD IS DOING than with WHO GOD IS: “God, I want to know you.”
> Why? Z’khar-Yah: “God has forgotten—so I’ll make my own Jesus”::So many idols, expectations for what we think God should do and be. What God did with golden calf? SMASH JESUS
[ CANDLE OF HOPE: Z’KHAR-YAH]
APPLICATION > Something you’ve prayed for … don’t feel God’s presence … this week, … times when you don’t see God working … worship/watch in silence/find joy … Z’khar-Yah!


Posted by timothypauljones at 11:58 AM CST
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Monday, 27 November 2006
December messages
Mood:  not sure
Topic: MyWords::RE::God'sWords

I haven't blogged sermon notes in a while. I've had to do some significant reevaluating of a lot of the way I do things. The visual-throwaway theme for December is Lego(r) blocks. The true theme is still holding on to God when God fails to fulfill our personal expectations.

December 3: What Happens When You Give God Advice (Luke 1:1-25)

Luke has based his account on eyewitness testimony, both written ("set their hands to," v. 1 ... Gospels According to Mark and Matthew, perhaps Gospel of Peter and Roman documentary records) and oral ("handed down to us," v. 2 ... teaching traditions and other accounts).  

"Theophilus" ("God's friend") is probably a type of person---a Gentile God-fearer, now also a believer in Y'hoshuah as Moshaikh. How does all of this fit? "Eyewitnesses, even the servants of the Word," should be the translation, not two different groups.

In verse 5, the style switches noticeably here, from a Roman history to a very Septuagintal style (egeneto, for example, as a connection between sections).

The name Zechariah means, "Yahweh never forgets." Jewish priesthood was organized into twenty-four groups. All 24 groups served during the three Great Festivals. The rest of the year, each group served for two separate weeks each year; Abijah was eighth, serving around the celebration of harvest inJune ( Shavuot or Pentecost).

Zechariah and Elisabeth done everything right; married within priestly families, "righteous" (v.6)---yet life hadn't turned out how they'd planned. In morning and evening, a burnt offering was offered, as well as incense.

Every priest (Exodus 28) had bells on his robe; when atonement was made on Yom Kippur, there was, tradition tells us, a rope attached to his leg, in case he had to be pulled out. There were 18,000 priests; each priest did this once in a lifetime (Mishnah Tamid 5.2-6.3). The large number of people waiting suggests the evening sacrifice. The incense was a symbol of prayer, smoky-sweet scent ascending into the heavens. As it was offered, people prayed, "May the merciful God enter this Holy Place and receive with favor the offering of his people"---with the "offering" being not only incense and meat but also prayers. The officiant dropped the incense on the altar, prayed, and withdrew himself; so, Zechariah's long time in the temple was odd.

John was to be specially dedicated to God, perhaps a Nazirite---a prophet like Elijah. For centuries, Israel had been a non-prophet organization (2 Baruch 85:1-3; 1 Maccabees 4:46; 9:27; 14:41). Luke 1:17 lets us know that, where God reveals himself, homes are healed.

"I want a sign!" Zechariah says. The angel says, "Be silent for a while and watch God work."  

When he emerged from the Temple, he was to say, "May Adonai bless you and keep you ... " (Numbers 6:24-26)---but he couldn't.

1:24-25: Elizabeth hides until no one can deny she's having a baby.

December 10: God Loves You and Wants to Mess Up Your Life

 

December 17: What Happens When God Comes to Visit

This is Hanukkah. I will likely light candles and talk about the story of the oil in the Temple, with the reminder that the light never stops shining. 

 

December 24: Shepherd-God

 

December 31: Dancing in the Silence

 


Posted by timothypauljones at 10:37 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007 3:47 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 23 August 2006
Notes for Sunday, August 27
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: MyWords::RE::God'sWords

Romans 4:1-5

> It was through Abraham that God called Israel to be his special possession. [Nomad with a wandering in his soul: "My father was a wandering Aramean": GOD RENOVATED ABRAHAM'S LIFE] 

Genesis 12:1-3

> [Retell story.]

JUST AS REASON FOR OUR RENOVATION ... REASON FOR ABRAHAM'S RENOVATION > Repetition [Five times, barakh]: Look closer at "blessing": ["Bless you": Middle Ages: Soul left ... "blessings"=better health, better job, better situation]: REAL MEANING: Knee, to give part of oneself

> Why does God bless Abraham? Enjoy life more? Go to heaven when he dies? Go to Promised Land? No!

> Both times he speaks of blessing Abraham, something else immediately follows: "All peoples of the earth ... blessed through you."

> Has God blessed you?

> Romans 4:6-8: If you're a believer God has blessed you; God has placed his Spirit within you. In fact, Spirit and blessing go together: Isaiah 44:3; Galatians 3:14; Ephesians 1:3

> Why has God blessed [given something of himself to] you?

> WRONG IDEA: God has saved me so that I can go to heaven; God has blessed me so that my life can be easier. [RESULT OF CONSUMER-DRIVEN SOCIETY: Dish-soap/Hemorrhoid medication/Magic Bullet ... "buy this product and people will think you're sexy" ... God becomes a product to get me what I want ... What if God isn't a product? What if what you want isn't what it's all about? What if God gives himself to us precisely so that we can give ourselves to others?]

> Are we known for blessing others in the Name of Jesus Christ?

> God did not save me so that I can go to heaven someday; God saved me so that I can be the evidence of heaven here and now. [Revelation 21:2]

> Ephesians 2:6-7: Wherever you are, there is a heavenly place, if you are a Christian.

> How heavenly are you? Your home? Your work?

> RANDOM ACTS OF GRACE [Someone you don't know, give something of yourself that they will perceive as a blessing {swift kick} Tip,pay for someone's gas, let someone in front of you, wash windshield ... this is nothing but a reminder for you to do what God calls us to do all the time ... email]

_____

STRUCTURE OF TEXT

Romans 1: Torah of Nature [all people, focus on Gentiles]

    Romans 2: Written Torah [Jews alone]

        Romans 3: All people are equally under power of sin

    Romans 4: Abraham shows that it is faith alone that can save [Jews alone]

Romans 5: Adam shows that it is faith alone that can save [all people, focus on Gentiles]

> Abraham: It was through him that God chose the Hebrew people as his special possession.

[[[MAY MOVE THIS SECTION TO NEXT WEEK > Sign of covenant: Circumcision: Jewish believers ... to show you're God's people, you must be circumcised [Torah]/Gentile believers ... Can't we just do a secret handshake?  God called Abraham when Abraham was 75 and made covenant with him about ten years later; he wasn't circumcised until he was 99. Yet Scripture says he was declared righteous when he believed God's covenant--Paul: "Aha! This shows it is faith alone!" More specifically, Jews claimed special privilege because Abraham was their father; Paul says Abraham is father of all believers.]]]

 


Posted by timothypauljones at 5:24 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, 26 August 2006 8:30 PM CDT
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Random Thoughts that Will Most Likely Make it Into the Romans Series
Mood:  irritated
Topic: MyWords::RE::God'sWords

Warning label for Bible

Attempts to make perfect environment: Lord of Flies, Summerfield, USA, Another brick in the wall

Me in doctor’s office

Romans 4: Must help people see the broad sweep of Israelite history. Here's how: SINNERS (ADAM, Noah), SHEPHERDS (ABRAHAM, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph), SLAVES OF EGYPT (PHARAOH), SERVANTS [SENT] OF YAHWEH (MOSES, Joshua), Dissatisfied with God as King (Judges), SUBJECTS OF THEIR OWN KING (Saul, DAVID, Solomon), Dissatisfied with God as God (Divided Kingdom), SLAVES OF BABYLON (NEBUCHADNEZZAR), SUBJECTS OF FOREIGN KINGS (NEHEMIAH through Bar-Kokhba rebellion in Second Century CE) 

Introduction to Romans 5, emphasizing the real nature of faith: Last time I went to McDonald's ... workers not working ... "Why aren't you ... ?" ... Sign: "Have fun, make friends, work when you want to." That's what they were doing. Another story: If someone gets on plane and tell them parachute will make their life more comfortable, they will become frustrated; if you tell them that--though it will cost them much--it will save their live, they will carry it with joy. Similarly: We don't tell the truth about faith.


Posted by timothypauljones at 9:03 AM CDT
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Wednesday, 16 August 2006
Notes on Romans 3 for August 20, 2006
Mood:  chatty
Topic: MyWords::RE::God'sWords

Last two weeks: Thanks/God's disguise

MOTIF
> How bad am I? How far do I fall short?
> "The Hitler Scale" [Hitler/Bin Laden/Simmons/Binks>> <<Warren/Teresa/Graham/Yoda]
> "Good Enough" video
> As long as we stay on "good side," we think we're okay.
-> Even Christians: "Well, yeah, this attitude is wrong, but y'know there are worse things I could be doing." Or end justifies means: Scream at kids/break speed limit to get to church on time

DILEMMA
> Problem: Two sorts of people: (1) Jesus has forgiven me! Everything's okay!>Fails to see God as holy, good/(2) Constant guilt>Fails to embrace God's grace.
> This was problem in Rome:
--> (1) Jewish believers: Saved by grace,  showed it by keeping Torah [WHAT IS TORAH?] ... if you didn't obey Torah, you were not in God's grace ... wanted Paul to say: "Gentiles [non-Jews], if you've really trusted Jesus, you must keep all the Torah." Didn't see fullness of God's grace.
--> (2) Gentile/Greek believers: Saved by grace, so nothing was necessary ... as long as Jesus is your God, nothing more is needed ... wanted Paul to say to Jews: "Ignore your ancient Torah!" Didn't see fullness of God's goodness/holiness.
> Paul refuses: Torah is important, shows separation between God and humanity/In fact, even Gentiles have Torah/Never tells Jewish believers to stop keeping Torah/At the same time, Torah is not standard by which God judges--Jesus Christ.
>  "Okay, we're all equally guilty. So, how bad are we?"

TEXT
Romans 3:9-31
> "What, then, does this amount to? That we Jews stand on a higher plane than the nations? No! For we have already established one verdict for Jews and Greeks."
> Paul uses legal terminology [2-3 witnesses]: Nature, human experience ... Scripture [Psalms, hymnal].
> Paul describes the darkness: You don't look for God, and everything you do is tainted--at some level--with sin. v.13: Rottenness, death, poison
> [Wad from magazine in Denver]: Even in doing right, my first motive was to preserve myself, my second motive was to glorify God ... sometimes, glorifying God doesn't even make Motive #2.
> If you were to dig to the depths of your soul, this is what you'd find.
> What would you do if no one would ever find out? What would you do if not even God would find out? What would you do if no one--not even God--would ever find the body? That's who you really are.
> There is darkness in my heart that no one around ever sees, that I do everything I can to deny, but that God sees clearly.
3:17-18: "Way of peace": It's this darkness that steals our peace/Problem: "No fear of God.">"To be more concerned with what God thinks and what God could do than what anyone else might think or do."
3:19-20: Our darkness runs so deep that outward keeping of laws--whether Torah or sense of right in hearts--cannot show that we are right with God.
> It is possible to keep Torah/rules and still to be filled with darkness and sin.
> "Silenced": Legal term that meant, "Objection overruled." Any objection you have is overruled by the fact that there is a darkness in human heart that runs deeper than any law can touch.
3:21-24: God's standard--"God's righteousness"--is not revealed to the world through the rules we keep but through Jesus Christ whom we trust.
> "Through trust in Jesus Christ": Trust, life-pledge [not intellectual belief, not simply repeating words of prayer, not joining church, not certain steps ABC]
> Not "Hitler Scale," but absolute standard of perfection of God in Jesus [3:23, Jesus is God's glory] ... merging our lives with life of Jesus, trust Jesus ... not perfect, but orientation [focus] of life becomes, "How can I be like Jesus?"
3:24-26: How can God do this? "Propitiation": God's wrath at sin poured out on Jesus [God the Son], God took his own punishment, for all who trust ... also, in Old Testament, the mercy seat [ark of covenant] ... place where God is most present.
> "Are you saved?" "From what?" We are saved by God from God.
> v. 25: "Demonstrate justice": endeixis: Legal charges brought against someone who has claimed to have rights that she or he doesn't actually possess. We have claimed right to run our own lives.
3:27-31: This is the ONE WAY to know God--not one for Jews, one for Gentiles.
> Appeals to Jewish Scriptures: v.30: Shema Yisrael YHVH elohenu YHVH echad. If there is one God, known to us in Jesus Christ, there must be one way to know this God.
> In this way, Torah is established. Whether Jews or Gentiles, we see truth about our sin, truth about why we feel guilty, truth about why we must do what is right--because we were created to be like Jesus.

RESOLUTION
> How bad are we? What matters most is not our worst but God's best.
> In cross, God takes his stand at darkest point of our darkness. God's best--Jesus Christ--descends to the point of hell itself.
> Why? [$100 bill] ["If I ... how much is it worth?" {Ps139:14}]

APPLICATION
> Your value doesn't depend on how clean you are; it depends on who created you. That's what cross is about.


Posted by timothypauljones at 4:30 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 17 August 2006 3:54 PM CDT
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Research notes on Romans 3
Mood:  accident prone
Topic: MyWords::RE::God'sWords

The logic of the book thus far flows something like this ...

1. I bring a message of victory [euangelion], and I'm not ashamed of this message.

2. The habits of the Gentiles begin with unthankfulness and violate nature-the Torah that's inscribed on the human heart.

3. The habits of the Jews-as found in Torah-are good, but Torah is not the standard by which God judges humanity. If God judged humanity by Torah, every human being would be condemned. After all, the Jewish people haven't carried God's name perfectly.

4. Circumcision-an outward demonstration of your inner allegiance to the God of Israel-isn't what identifies you as a follower of Jesus. What identifies you as a follower of Jesus is the presence of God's Spirit in your innermost self.

5. It's still a wonderful thing to live by the Jewish Torah-and just because breaking one law breaks all of them doesn't mean that, if you commit one sin, you might as well commit them all.

6. Being the recipient of God's Torah doesn't make Jews any less guilty than Gentiles.

 

The Jews want Paul to say, "The Gentiles must show their faith in Jesus by keeping Torah." Gentiles want Paul to say, "Torah doesn't matter at all-no one needs to keep it."

 

The intent of Romans 3:9-10 seems to be: "What, then, does this amount to? That we Jews stand on a higher plane than the nations? No! For we have already established one verdict for Jews and Greeks: They are all under the dominion of sin. This is not only the verdict of nature [Romans 1] and of human hypocrisy [Romans 2] but also the verdict of Scripture. As it stands in Scripture, 'There is no one righteous-not even one.'" At this point, Paul quotes from the Jewish Scriptures, demonstrating his allegiance to his Jewish heritage as well as the fact that his teaching is in keeping with the Jewish Scriptures.

 

3:19: "Silenced," when used in the context of Greco-Roman legal systems, is equivalent to our clause, "Objection overruled." Which is to say: "Whatever Torah says, it says to those in Torah [Jews], that your objection [that Gentiles are somehow worse, that you have kept the Torah so you're better] may be overruled."

 

3:20: Keeping Torah is good-but even the Jewish Scriptures tell us that Torah is not the standard God uses to judge us.

 

3:21: That's why God has established a way to become right with him that doesn't depend on Torah. By Torah-which shows us the separation between God and humanity-we see that, if we can't keep these outward rules, how can we possibly obey God's desire perfectly not only outwardly but inwardly. This is clear throughout the Jewish Scriptures.

 

3:22-26: God gives his own righteousness to every person who trusts into Jesus-"all, there is no distinction." Just as righteousness is available to all, so sin affects all, for all fall short of divine glory. Jesus was the propitiation (hilasmos)-the bloody, sacrificial satisfaction of God's wrath-for humanity's sin. (In the Septuagint, some form of hilasmos [propitiation] typically translates kippur, "covering over," "atonement." This term is typically used in conjunction with the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant, sometimes as a cognate form such as kapporeth.) Notice that "cross," being an offensive word, is avoided when possible. Humanity is saved by God, from God. God's wrath was poured out on Jesus to avenge God's righteousness. He had passed over-"without punishment or remission"-humanity's sin for so long, demonstrating that Jewish sacrifices were symbols of what humanity deserved, not actually leading to forgiveness. By trust-by setting one's heart on Jesus-a human being becomes right with God. Now, endeixis has occurred, a vindication of God's righteousness. Wow! Endeixis is rich in meaning. In Classical Greek, it's a legal term and refers to the prosecution of someone who has acted like she or he had rights that she or he did not actually possess. What's more, it was specifically used in Achaia (where Paul writes Romans from) to refer to people who visited a holy place after engaging in asebia (impiety); it is precisely asebia that-according to Paul-God's wrath is directed against in Romans 1:17-20! (See http://www.stoa.org/projects/demos/article_law_glossary?page=28&greekEncoding=UnicodeC and http://www.ancientlibrary.com/smith-dgra/0466.html .)

 

3:26: In Greco-Roman thought, "just" meant "fair" or "equitable." Thus, God can be both equitable to all people (because all people are equally condemned) and still justified in saving some (because not everyone trusts in Jesus Christ).

 

3:27-31: How then can either of you-Jews or Gentiles-brag about anything? Faith is what makes you right with God. This is "Torah rooted in faith": Now, we do what we believe to be right not in place of faith but precisely because of faith. "If indeed God is one"-if it is true that Shema Yisra'el YHVH elohenu YHVH echad, there must be one basis of salvation for Jews and Gentiles. Now, when you keep Torah, you keep it as an expression of faith in Jesus; in this, Torah expresses God's deepest desire for his Word to Israel.

 

Righteousness is both passive (God causes us to be righteous in Jesus Christ) and active (as a result, we do what is right).


Posted by timothypauljones at 11:33 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 16 August 2006 3:15 PM CDT
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