Monday, September 28, 2009

Advent Conspiracy

Since it's now almost October, that means I'm almost two months late in getting ready know it...CHRISTMAS! Now you may be thinking "whoa, Christmas isn't till December!" If so, you obviously haven't realized that America considers the last 4-5 months of the year "the Christmas season." Because that's approximately how long it takes for the average American to earn the amount of money they will spend on Christmas gifts. Heck, one business I worked for that was really on the ball put the Christmas trees up in July, and began selling ornaments in August(that's five and six months ahead of time for those of you keeping track)!

So even though we're a little late in starting the Christmas season here at The Jesus Paradigm, it's still my duty is to make the holiday season as full of Christmas cheer as I can for everyone. This video by Advent Conspiracy has some bright ideas:

Monday, September 14, 2009

How Jesus Talks About the Bible (part 2)

**Read the first installment one post below this one, if you haven't yet.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:44-49

The disciples on the Emmaus road have just had their minds blown. There is a clear purpose for this new awe-inspiring knowledge of Scripture the disciples have been given, which is in fact now a living knowledge of him who they've been walking and talking with for some time: proclamation. “I'm telling you this so you can announce it everywhere. Tell everyone. Sing it, pray it, shout it. Do dangerous things to make it known. Preach it in the synagogues and the temple. But not yet....wait.

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:50-53

Luke's finale shows us the response of the newly illuminated followers of Jesus. Now I may be stretching things a bit, having no training in Greek nuance, but I'm not sure Luke isn't referring to the same redefinition of worship Jesus gives us in John 4:21: The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. Are they “continually” in the brick-and-mortar temple, or the dwelling place God has prepared in each of them(John 14:23), having received the abiding Word, Jesus Christ? I'm inclined to think that when Jesus illuminates the logos for these two, it brings to life in them something that was merely "information" before. And this new "indwelling" provoked a state of worship, which had previously been an activity centered on the temple. He relocated worship from temple to the human spirit, made alive by his own. A brief word on "spirit": the spiritual shift that took place and caused worship was, or at least was accompanied by, a conscious shift in thinking and knowing. It was not some fuzzy, formless, esoteric thing. It was caused by information which was centered on a person.

The in-Spiriting of the logos provokes worship, and compels proclamation.

So Cleopas has had a paradigm shift concerning worship. It seems that worship is a response to the Word(Law and Prophets) in-Spirited by the Living Word(Jesus' person and work.) Cleopas saw what Jesus did in 33 AD(and prior), allowed it to interpret his cultural history(the OT) and was paradigmatically reshaped in such a way that would eventually compel him to take the News of the Event far and wide.

In other words, worship is generated by Word (not affect) and compels as its primary overflow proclamation (not emotion/experience). Worship necessarily involves a “seeing” of what happened here at this climax of history. And worship goes out, not in.

And then Luke reiterates this in his next book:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8

Twice now we have this pattern stated: wait for the Holy Spirit(you'll know when) and then proclaim. Jesus opens the Scriptures, tells them to wait for the Spirit, and then tells them to speak this Gospel to the end of the earth. Word (opened) + Spirit (sent) = proclamation of the Gospel. No doubt many other things take place on the righthand side of this equation. But the one Jesus talked about -- TWICE -- was the proclamation of the Gospel. And this will be what disciples do now that he has ascended. His work finished, theirs begun. Their work a declaration of his work.

Power. Flame. Tongues. The sound of wind. It's impressive. It lends itself to all kinds of fanciful ideas about what the Holy Spirit came for. But if we stick to the pattern, we should be able to get it straight. As they are beginning to realize, the story is about him, not them. So confirms the newly poured out Holy Spirit. As the Nazarene rabbi told them, the Spirit brings to their remembrance all that he told them. He bears witness about Jesus. Far from being some divine blank check to own all sorts of powers and miracles, a resurrection takes place. The resurrection of their spirits, in light of the News that has come to them concerning the crucified and risen one. The nature of this resurrection is spiritual-- meaning that the physical fallenness of their state does not disappear. It empowers them to do that which Jesus commanded(dwell in and proclaim the Word) without fear of death or suffering. If I may insert my personal commentary here: That is a more powerful resurrection than one that insists on improved physical or emotional circumstances, but which relaxes on the lifting up of the Gospel.

I'm going to go out on a limb here. The Spirit at Pentecost, the great moment of empowerment, was speaking words like “forgiveness of sin,” “reconciliation with God,” and maybe “fulfillment,” and “substitute.” Perhaps “wrath diverted.” No doubt many images and words concerning Resurrection, eternal life, and the new irrelevance of death. Their adoption into the family of the Father. In other words, the full impact of Jesus' death and resurrection, all the ways that it redefined life for God's people, along with the full significance of the Jesus' teachings about the Kingdom, fell into technicolor. Let me quote Graeme Goldworthy here: They "recognize[d] in Jesus Christ the goal of all things including the goal of the history of redemption."

Have you ever in a flurry finished a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle that you've been working on for weeks? The picture finally coming clear, the sense of rest and the need to just look at it. It might have been something like that. There was a completion about it- their knowledge was filled up. John the beloved suddenly knew that in this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Peter saw the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. They knew God in Jesus now. They knew themselves and their recreated condition in his death, burial, and resurrection. They saw with utmost clarity the significance of Genesis-Malachi. They understood the reason for Israel. Their mission came clear. Guilt faded away. Death lost its sting.

My friends, these are what we need to expect the Holy Spirit to do.

We ought to know by now what happens next. According to the pattern, they preach the Gospel. They've had the Word opened, the Spirit clothes them, now they proclaim the truth about “this Jesus you crucified.”

And just as Jesus did for them, being among Jews, they go straight to the Old Covenant. to be continued...

Friday, September 11, 2009

How Jesus Talks About the Bible (part 1)

I think a key to many doors may be in Luke 24. Here is where Jesus himself does for his disciples what they must have done to them before they can effectively join his mission. To understand the people and the mission properly we need to look at where the guys in Luke 24 are coming from, story-wise.

They came from Jesus' ministry. This ministry could be summed up as teaching. Certainly there were healings and signs, compassion and power, but all of this would serve the greater goal of teaching the men, “ordinary untrained men,” blue-collar folk, of no particular intellectual skill or status. Training them in the ministry of the kingdom of God, and all that that means.

Because of their lack of rabbinic training, which is I'm assuming an intentional choice on Jesus' part, the disciples were relatively “clean slates.” Like all good Jews, they probably attended synagogue, read the Scriptures, worshiped in the temple, etc. But we do not have here a group of great swelling OT exegetes.

Instead, setting off with him for three years, we have a group that is strikingly shape-able. They are wonderstruck at times. They are slow to catch on. But they want to see-- they are beset by a love for their teacher, one that produces a genuine desire to learn. One wonders if perhaps these were the criteria Jesus looked for in his choosing them: men who were able to be overcome with love for him. Men who would want to be around him. This would make great minds unnecessary. It would even marginalize any particular religious piety. Here were people who could come home after a day's work and enjoy eating dinner with you. They could enjoy conversation, and they would want to know a man like Jesus, no matter how peculiar or blasphemous he seemed.

they watch him as he heals, teaches, extends compassion. Tells cryptic allegorical stories. And above all it seems, as he constantly circles back to this “kingdom of God” theme. They are puzzled. Sometimes they “catch” a thing or two. Gradually the light goes on, bit by bit, concerning his Messianic identity. What “Messiah” may during and directly after Jesus' life is still a formative (perhaps misinformed) seed in the minds of the disciples, just as “kingdom” is a rather fuzzy notion as well. “God” seems to be a clear enough word, although some days Jesus almost seems to be making some sleight-of-hand references suggesting that he somehow is God. Perhaps their very definition of “God” is being challenged at its root. Whatever the case, there is a haze, though perhaps clearing little by little, concerning what it is exactly that they have got themselves involved in.

Then the end comes. Tragedy strikes and all their expectations about Jesus' work seems to unravel in a few hours as he is arrested, tried, crucified, and buried like so many pretenders to Messiah-ship. This one seemed so different. Notwithstanding a strange report days afterward of his tomb being found empty, the disciples on the Emmaus road are crushed. And you would know it by looking at them.

Into this situation the risen Christ steps, at first keeping his identity veiled. The “stranger” on the road, hearing their story, seems to preach:

O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27

And he goes on. And on. And what he does is what Jesus did-- teaches them and fills them and illuminates meaning. He educates them, meaning he "educes", or draws out of them, that which dwells latently within them already via their Hebrew identity. His subject matter is something they've heard before, but probably not this holistically. Page by page, he takes them, as a learned expert in the Scriptures, through the canon of Law and Prophets, Psalms and Wisdom. And in reference to the horrific death of their best friend and teacher, he shows them exactly how this death was foretold, making clear the fulfillment of Messianic promise in Yehshua. From (this is crucial) the Bible. He spoke of the serpent in the wilderness. He recalls David's mysterious handling of Lordship in Psalm 110. He cites Joseph's mistreatment at the hands of his brothers. Of the Law and the Temple. Of the Exodus.

On and on he teaches. Gradually, the Word became “flesh” and dwelt among them. Jesus, it seems, is the real point of this whole enterprise; his death not only necessary, but intended. It is not the end of the story but the basis from which the new chapter will now proceed. Remember, we are not yet at Pentecost. We are not at the point at which tongues of fire descend and power is given from on high. We are at a teaching moment. We are still in the classroom. We are in the Hebrew Bible. Remember that these disciples don't have a theology of the cross, they're simply grieving it. Again at the inn in which Cleopas and his friend find themselves, bewildered and captured by his words

The he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Luke 24:44-49

“I already told you this,” he says. “But you didn't believe me. Everything God spoke to your fathers concerned me. My coming. My dying. My rising. This story is about me, not you.” This illumination is one of the foundations for the book of Acts. The Apostles must have this happen if they are to take the Gospel of the Kingdom to all nations. They must see Jesus as the centerpiece of the Story of God, of God's ongoing conversation with his people. They must associate the previous Friday with Messianic prophecy and identity. Pentecost cannot happen until they are seeded with the Word. (Mind you, this is a Word that they have “known” from their youth. It's part of synagogue life. It's embedded in the Jewish cultural consciousness. It's just not alive yet.) Because this will be the Spirit's tool for awakening them, and clothing them with power.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Continually In the Temple

Dan Edelen, who got called a "religious totalitarian"(by a Christian) for his commitment to the teaching of the Bible, writes a piece in his Equipping the Saints series on knowing Scripture, or rather, knowing God through Scripture.

Also, Michael Spencer's latest in the "Evangelical Liturgy" series entitled The Public Reading of Scripture. In an age of trying to make church cool enough for the skaters and easy enough for jello-minded media addicts, he makes a very needed point.

In fact, I think what you will see around here at the Jesus Paradigm is a more concerted commitment on my part to eat the Bible.

A la Eugene Peterson.

And in a public sort of way, here on the blog. I'm certainly not a Bible teacher, but then again I've been losing my confidence in the practice of using trained professionals to mediate God and his Word for us for quite some time now. Setting out in this direction on the blog, I am convinced of several things:

1. God is Jesus, and what we need to know of God, we find in Jesus alone.

2. Knowledge of Jesus is found in Scripture alone. We connect with him personally in a "now" sort of way through relational conversation, but the knowledge "about" him comes from Scripture alone.

3. We don't need professionals to tell us what Scripture means. In fact, the cult of the "professionally spiritual" in church culture stinks of gnosticism and belittles God's revelation by concealing a person's ability to know God for themselves with the Biblically revealed Christ as the only mediator. While tools are necessary for interpretation, and individuals may possess tools of knowledge that are useful, there is no "spiritual oligarchy" that anyone needs to submit to in order to really get it.

4. There is no growth in the knowledge of Christ, and thus no transformation, without the consistent "eating" of Scripture. In church, by the church, and as a church, as well as by individuals. To eat Scripture is different than to study it, to read it, or to know what it means. Satan knows what it means.

5. There is no possibility of being "on mission" with God in his creation without the Word being made alive in us by the Spirit. As in Luke 24, and at and following Pentecost.(This will be the subject of the next blogpost.) This means involving Scriptural text and principles in public life, where people can see it. It means comforting and reconciling with it. It also means offending people with it. And at some point we should expect to be abused for it.

Let me end with the last bit of the book of Luke:

And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

How much do you wanna bet that "continually in the temple" has little or nothing to do with "The Temple?" to be continued...