27 September 2006

Wisdom Yields, Reaps Peace

The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.
- James 3:17-18

I'm going to try and add a few more words to this without getting struck by lightning.
Wisdom isn't polluted, first of all. Second of all, it's peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. What is the result? Answer: A harvest of righteousness/justice is sown in peace. Who is this for? Answer: It's for those who make peace.

Personal reflection: I struggle with having wisdom even though really there's nothing that would prevent me from being gentle or full of mercy, for example, except yielding to temptations. I may have many dark sides of which I am unaware, but one item on this list--"willing to yield"--I've noticed is extremely difficult. Well, that's not the right way to put it. It is tempting for me not to yield.

Let me give an example. Dale and Luke wanted to buy my lunch. We were standing in line ordering our sandwiches and, though I agreed to let Dale take the lead . . . after I went through the line and got my sandwich, I just went ahead and paid for it. Then, it was like judgment when Dale realized that I didn't let him lead, that I didn't "yield". It was sort of like I heard God saying, "Submit to one another, Jason." I took a seat and started thinking about how I don't like for other people to take the lead unless I want them to take the lead. That's the thing with wisdom . . . is to know, for example, what is right in a given situation. Then again, if I have this wisdom from above, if it just *is* that way in my inner being, then I wouldn't even have to *choose* what to do. My purity in that case would have boiled the situation down to one choice. I pray that next time I will submit to being boiled down to one choice. At some point I look forward to reaping peace that is not merely inward, but entirely whole with respect to all creation.

25 September 2006

Yung Luv

On Sunday mornings for about four weeks now I've been teaching three or four non-native English speakers during the bible class time. George, the facilitator of another class on the Gospel of John, has been picking these four visitors up and bringing them to "church". "My" students are all from Vietnam. One of them probably can't learn English though he is about 13 years old--he has had some kind of brain damage from seizures, I think. His name (I learned from a translator about a month ago) is Dung, pronounced, Yüng, thankfully. :-)

I didn't know about the seizures or the brain damage for the first two weeks I taught them. I kept trying to make him try to speak English (he seemed like he was listening intently; he ought to be able to say something by now). Since he would refuse to speak, I thought he must just be a belligerent teenager who begrudged coming to our country. When I found out that I was wrong I decided to give him a ball last week as a gift. Then, yesterday, when he saw me, he smiled really big. That was a first! Apparently he loves "church" even though he understands not a single word.

Words have meaning, don't they . . . when I say "ball" you almost know what I mean without any context. But I've noticed that "love" has meaning, too, maybe even more meaning. Isn't that true?

I remember a scene in the Forest Gump movie. Forest says to Jenny, something like, "I may not be a smart man, Jenny, but I know what love is."

I have to think that maybe knowledge, just like it doesn't necessarily make us wise, doesn't make us more loving either. I try to communicate love by exhausting my teaching abilities; Yüng just smiles really big. . . . I won on knowledge, but I think he won the love game.

18 September 2006

Kingdom of God

I am so looking forward to Nicole getting back home from Florida in the morning. This is the last trip she'll take for Carlson Wagonlit Travel. I'll let her write about that on our other blog. Meanwhile, I'm posting more on the Kingdom of God, but more broadly than just from the book of Acts. It's more from Jesus' perspective as witnessed in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

My premise is that: To understand what Jesus meant by “Kingdom of God” we need to understand to at least some extent the audience that Jesus addressed.

Different Jewish people interpreted their scriptures differently with regard to what it meant for God to be Sovereign/King. They tended to see differently how Israel would be God's Elect people for the sake of the world (“light to the nations”). For Jews there were three clear faith-based “Kingdom” options in Jesus’ day:

Option 1, “Quietists”: Separate yourselves from the wicked world and wait for God to do whatever it is he is going to do. Say your prayers and keep holy. Write letters to people still serving in the contaminated religious body in Jerusalem trying to persuade them to come out to the desert. (e.g., Qumran, where the “Dead Sea Scroll community” lived)

Option 2, “Compromisers”: Play the world’s games in the world’s own way. Go with the flow; compromise so that things will work out best for you. Build fortresses for your rulers. You scratch their back and they’ll scratch yours. Hope that God will work something out as you practice friendship with the Empire. Build a military fort, Masada, for the Roman army, your peacekeepers. (The Herods, the chief priests, etc.)

Option 3, “Zealots, Freedom Fighters”: Say your prayers; keep holy; but also sharpen your swords. Make yourselves holy to fight a holy war. Then God will give you the military victory, which will also be the theological victory of good over evil. Take over Masada from the Romans in the Roman-Jewish War A.D. 66-70. (Maccabees brothers; maybe Simon Peter?)


What happens when you put Jesus into the midst of those three “Kingdom” options?


He was not a quietist.

He was not a compromiser.

He was not a freedom fighter.

Rather, out of his deep awareness through loving faith and prayer to whom he called “Abba, Father” . . . Jesus went back to Israel’s scriptures and found there a different “Kingdom” model. “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” he said. Essentially, he said, “God is unveiling his age-old plan. He is bringing his sovereignty to bear on Israel and the world as he had always intended. He is bringing justice and mercy to Israel and the world. And he’s doing it, apparently, through me. But it doesn’t look like what people have been expecting.”

I got most of the above phrasing from a recorded lecture by "Tom Wright". I personally have seen evidence from primary sources (including the Bible, inscriptions, and Qumran writings) that support what Wright says about “Kingdom” expectations in Jesus’ day. But he knows this stuff a lot better than me. You should listen to this lecture and put your comments on here. Or just comment without listening. It's your option. ;-)

Soccer things

Gave blood today about noon.

"Don't play soccer today!"

"I think I'm going to play anyway."

"Well, if you do play, drink a lot of gatorade before, while and after you play. Make sure your friends keep an eye on you and if you feel faint just sit down right there on the field so you don't pass out."

Ate meatball and salad sandwich from scraps after the fellowship lunch.

Drank plenty of water.

20-minute nap.

Soccer by myself in the pouring rain. It was getting fun. Where was everyone else?

Justin eventually came out (fifteen minutes later). We kicked around in the pouring rain for about 20 minutes more. Saw two bolts of lightning and heard lots of thunder so we quit. Danny was about to join us.

I dried off, then got a call from Phuong. He was here with two of his brothers. "There's a bunch of Mexicans on the field playing."

I went outside and there were about eight Latinos and two Spanish-speaking Gringos scrimmaging under a partly cloudy sky, which sprinkled slightly. Phuong and his brothers joined them. I stayed in my dry clothes.

I think God created soccer for humankind. So I ask, Who was faithful? The ones who waited in the rain, but then gave up or the ones who waited until the right time and then played the game? I don't know who was faithful, but I sure missed out on playing soccer with those guys. I missed out on them playing with Justin and I, too. I'm starting to see that the soccer universe revolves around me.

Man that's deep. I just wanted to justify my preoccupation with soccer. I hope you realize that I'm laughing at myself. By the way, I never passed out or even came close during those thirty minutes of playing. I thought about drinking the gatorade that was left on the side of the field from yesterday, but there were a lot of floaties in it.

15 September 2006

Give-Receive Law

I got this in an email from someone:



It's a universal law: You have to give before you get.
You must plant your seeds before you reap the harvest.
The more you sow, the more you will reap.
In giving to others, you will find yourself blessed.

The law works to give you back more than you have sown.
The giver's harvest is always full.
Those that obtain have little.
Those who scatter have much.

Nature does not give to those who will not spend.


What do you think? It makes sense to me, but it's an easier law to comprehend than to trust. Maybe it's not true, or maybe it needs a balance.

"In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35

"For you know the generous act [grace] of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich." 2 Cor 8:9

"The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed." Exod 16:17-18

13 September 2006

The Homeless Guy

Subjects Kevin will be writing about in the near future:

The Definition Of "Homeless"

The Types Of Homeless People


Gift Bags For The Homeless

Volunteering To Help The Homeless

How A Homeless Person Gets A Home

The Homeless And God


Click on the title to this post to see Kevin's blog. I can't wait to read these and I'm sure many elementary students can't either.

Kingdom of God in Acts

Proclaiming the Kingdom of God and Teaching about the Messiah’s Enthronement according to the Book of Acts

What did the early church preach according to Acts? In particular, what did the apostles preach, whether of the Twelve or of other witnesses (e.g., Peter, Phillip, Paul, Barnabas)?

In my research paper I want to focus on the messages proclaimed by the various witnesses in Acts. The text seems to emphasize the kingdom of God and the Messiah’s enthronement, so I will seek to understand what the message is, not necessarily being concerned with how the witnesses adapt their message to various audiences (e.g., Jerusalem, Lystra, or Athens).

I believe research in this area will benefit the people of God today who want to understand what message we should proclaim.

I intend to read various essays in Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts in addition to appropriate sections of major commentaries including F. F. Bruce’s. I will browse the footnotes in these sources for other material in which scholars have examined the preaching in Acts, especially where they have focused on the content of the message (not that the method of delivery is less important or separate). Also, I will read the text of Acts, especially the sermons delivered and the summaries of what the witnesses were proclaiming.

I'm excited about working on this paper (though overwhelmed), because I want to be able to empower other people to be proclaimers of the Kingdom and of Jesus Christ. I want them to be able to use Scripture responsibly so that even when I'm gone they will continue to proclaim the Kingdom of God and teach about the testimony regarding Jesus whom God has raised from the dead.

10 September 2006

Tagged for Book Survey

The following was difficult because I haven't read very many books in my life until recently.

Seven books that changed my life besides the Bible:
_The Last Battle_ by C. S. Lewis. Reading it right after I graduated from University affected my faith positively and still does.

_A Grief Observed_ and _The Case for Christianity_ (both also by Lewis) right before I graduated from High School affected my thinking and faith a great deal as well.

I read at least one of Tolstoy's books while in first year of Uni. It was based on Matt 25 and what it means to give Jesus a cup of water.

_Competency-Based Counseling_ by Thomas and Cockburn

_The Dead Sea Scrolls Today_ by Vanderkam

_Backgrounds of Early Christianity_ by Everett Ferguson

A book I’ve read more than once:
_The Last Battle_. As soon as I finished it the first time, I started reading it again.

A book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island:
_The New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV w/ Apocrypha_ (leatherbound of course in order to last and I would probably start calling it "Wilson" at some point)

A book that made me laugh:
_Sex Begins in the Kitchen_ I guess . . . I can't remember who wrote it. It's the same guy who wrote _The Birth Order Book_ and _Sheet Music_. _Jonah_ has good humor in it, too.

A book that I wish I had written:
_Ecclesiastes_ or _Gospel according to Mark_

A book that I wish had never been written:
I would say most books should never have been written, but my opinion doesn't count for much.

A book I’ve been *dying* to read:
_Paul: In Fresh Perspective_ by N. T. (Tom) Wright. If you don't like to read, you should listen to some of his stuff. See Wright's unofficial website: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/

I’m currently reading (in school):
_New Testament Theology_ by I. Howard Marshall
_Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership_ by McIntosh and Rima
_The Drama of Doctrine_ by Vanhoozer
_Come to the Table_ by J. M. Hicks
_Shaping of Things to Come_ by Frost and Hirsch

Outside school:
The Book of Daniel

Next on the list:
I don't know, but hopefully something light or from the Bible!

I'd love to know what my Dad and brother are reading!

06 September 2006

Origins and Proclamations of Israel Restored

People like myself commonly understand that the "christian" church as we know it today originated back in the first century when the Jews rejected Christ. We act as if the church began from scratch by a bunch of pork eaters like us. But what really happened was that Christ restored the kingdom of God to Israel. Thankfully, it was done in a way that opened a wide door to both the related, but hated, Samaritans and the unrelated and hated Gentiles. Praise God for his faithfulness to Israel and his mission to us Gentiles! The church didn't originate as something new, but a people restored and expanded. It was expanded from East to West.

The book of Acts is also commonly read with the assumption that Christianity ought to have a place in the empire, kingdom, or nation. We also assume that any good Roman official or American politician would support such a harmless religion as the way of Christ. We assume the message of Christians wouldn't offend well-meaning people in power.

Well, I'm here today to tell you that I believe these assumptions are false. I'll admit, though, that I might be taking Luke's letter too personally, especially in chapter 17. Acts 17:5b-9, "While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason's house. When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some brothers before the city authorities (politarchs), shouting, "THESE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN HAVE COME HERE ALSO, AND JASON HAS ENTERTAINED THEM AS GUESTS. THEY ARE ALL ACTING CONTRARY TO THE DECREES OF THE EMPEROR, SAYING THAT THERE IS ANOTHER KING NAMED JESUS." The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this, and after they had taken bail from Jason and the others, they let them go."

I don't think the way of Christ is supposed to sound favorable to people in power, whether religious or political leaders. But, ironically, it is a way revealed first to the religious/political nation of Israel through the law and prophets and the psalms (Luke 24:44), and then, in the last days, fulfilled in Jesus (Luke 24:45ff), who is the heir to David's throne. My new assumption is that Acts should remind us of at least four things:

1) This is no "new" religion; it is continuous from the faith of Abraham and David, but the promises from the Hebrew Scriptures are now being fulfilled in Christ and in the people who have, just like always, the Holy Spirit.

2) This "way" doesn't fit easily into even the best of human empires. The Way disturbs people who love their empire and its emperor, their religion and its controllers.

3) The apostles' purpose was to proclaim and testify to the Kingdom of God and

4) to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of impending persecution.

I haven't gotten these four things from any particular list. It's just from a memory of the book of Acts and a recent observation of how kingdoms collide--God's kingdom with the kingdoms of men.

I'm planning to write a paper on what the early witnesses of Christ proclaimed according to Acts: 1) the Kingdom of God and 2) Jesus Christ, the davidic king raised from the dead.

I'm excited about working on this paper (though overwhelmed), because I want to be able to empower other people to be proclaimers of the Kingdom and of Jesus Christ. I want them to be able to use Scripture responsibly so that even when I'm gone they will continue to proclaim the Kingdom of God and teach about the testimony regarding Jesus whom God has raised from the dead. If this message is true (and I believe it is) then I am convinced that those who proclaim and teach it are in danger of persecution from religious authorities and imprisonment from well-meaning governments.

05 September 2006

Melissa's Recovery

Several people have been asking me about my sister, Melissa, because you heard that she was in the hospital. So I thought I would give a brief report on here and hope you'll give thanks for her continued recovery.

Melissa felt a sharp pain in her abdomen and couldn't digest food. Eventually, she got a CAT scan and experts realized that there was something very wrong. Surgeons sewed up the hole in her colon, took out some destroyed intestinal tissue, and got to work on ridding her body of infection. The first three days were critical. We didn't know what would happen.

We were in Brisbane, Australia at the time. We were very concerned about Melissa and wanted to be with her in the difficult time. She got lots of visitors, though. Men and women came and prayed over her, sang for her, and talked to her. Dad, Mom, and Stephen sat with her. She got gifts.

Eventually, this past weekend, I flew down to visit the family. They had kept in touch with me over the phone during the tough times as well as during Melissa's recovery (more rapid than expected). She has another surgery to anticipate within a couple of months, but she is able to walk around and to be sociable. She introduced me to a record number of people on Sunday after a public worship ceremony. No one has as many friends and loves them as much as she. She is a gift to a shy person like me. ;-)

We are so thankful that Melissa is recovering well in her body. And we are so thankful that we are able to participate in my loving family and meet the people whose lives Melissa has touched. . . . the Lord gives and he takes away . . . I'm thankful we got my sister back this time! Blessed be his name!

03 September 2006

Abilene family

I leave in the morning to go back to Memphis. I've been playing around with my parents and sister and brother in Abilene, Texas since last Thursday afternoon.

I met Shaitaisha W. who is mom's colleage and the family's friend. She made me feel welcome--like I was her long lost brother! I studied and read in mom's office during part of Friday and met other colleages as well. It is interesting that their just renovated building has brand new false thermostats on the walls. If they are real thermostats, then why does 85 degrees feel like a meat locker?

I conversed with my good friend, Damien. Man, that was refreshing. He and his wife, Miranda, came over here this afternoon. It's remarkable how similar Miranda is to my sawsome wife, Nicole, but they've never met. Hopefully, the time will come.

Excursus--I was reminded of the time Nicole was finally going to watch "The Matrix" with me before we were married. SHE FELL ASLEEP BEFORE TRINITY EVEN STARTED KICKING! --

Damien introduced me to Noam Chomsky. I'm going to have to start reading Chomsky when I finish my ministry of study responsiblities. ;-) Miranda is rushing a club this semester. I am looking forward to hearing how it goes and I'm sure Nicole is as well.

I had a great time talking with my parents Friday night. And in the car on Saturday, they conversed with me for several hours. Melissa listened. I felt like I preached three sermons that have been burning on my heart. I'm so lucky to have people like this in my life who think for themselves but still respect my thoughts. My parents have passed on some valuable things to me. They challenge me, but at the same time listen to my challenges. Mom read Scripture in the car for part of the time while I was driving. Dad helped drive and was navigator on getting out of Round Rock.

We were in Round Rock (Austin area) for a few hours visiting extended relatives. My cousin, Brian, and his wife, Heather, have a boy, Cade, who is walking around now and babbling on in baby talk quite fluently. I presented pictures from our survey trip to Wollongong in July. We shared lots of hugs--Grandma S., Aunt Regina, Jerry and Cindy, Allie, Brian and Heather and Cade. We missed Chris because some van was burning on the highway blocking traffic from Waco.

I worked out with my brother, Stephen, Saturday night. That is always fun. I learn a lot from him about exercise and fitness and draw a lot of motivation in that important area of my life. We went to a bible class with our parents this morning. Now the image of Frodo standing up in the council of Elrond will remind me of Ephesians 4:1ff and vice versa. And you know you're in a decent group of believers when someone says in a prayer to God, "You give and take away." We had lunch at Copper Creek. I had my salmon rare (which I now realize is the only way to have it unless they offer it raw). Tonight, we watched an old video of Stephen playing basketball in 1995 and played WHOONU. (Don't tell Nicole I had apple pie and ice cream twice today.) I forgot to mention Rusty the dusty dingo. He's still a good friend, but he is having trouble facing his fears of storms. Yes, it actually rained while I was in Abilene, Texas!

We had some really good times together this weekend. Now I am looking forward to hugging and kissing my sawsome wife when I fly back to Memphis tomorrow!