Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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December 14, 2012

Some simple thoughts on the sounds of the season.

The Urban Witness

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This season is incredibly rich, both in beauty and in joy.  Go out one evening and enjoy the silence; cold winter nights are as peaceful as they come.  We recall the joy of the first quiet Christmas when, aside from the angels singing, the cold hills around Bethlehem were silent.  As the final king of all Israel, the Christ Savior of mankind entered the world, not with pomp and dancing but with labor, crying, and stillness.  While His life and call to mission should be our focus this and every season, we should always bear in mind that the King will return. 

Though we know not when He will return, we should live our lives in anticipation with our ears inclined to hear the trumpet peel, for the second coming will be anything but quiet.  The kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and Christ…

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November 26, 2012

Oh how God cares for us, in times of difficulty it is essential that we cast our anxiety upon Him.

The Urban Witness

1 Peter is one of my favorite books in the Bible, so rich and so full of powerful applicable theology.

One of the most powerful verses or sets of verses in the book come as Peter is concluding his letter to the elect exiles in Pontus, Galatia, Capadoccia and Bythinia, Chapter 5:6-7.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.”

Believers must humble themselves under God’s might hand, regardless of how that hand is made manifest.  They might experience that hand in judgment through persecution, or deliverance through protection.  Regardless of how His hand is experienced, the believers response is one of humility.  They accomplish this act of humility by casting their anxieties on God.  Peter has provided the reader with the “what” (humility), and the “how” (casting)…

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October 29, 2012

The Urban Witness

America is unique in that it is one of the only nations in the world where one can become ‘an American’ regardless of where you’re from or who you are. Everyone here is from somewhere else. We define being American not simply in terms of legal status, but also as a way of life, a set of ideals, principles and habits. Americans have a walk, a talk, and an appearance, which is recognized, throughout the world. Sometimes it is mimicked and sometimes it is mocked. These are the marks of citizenship.

Being a citizen is not simply a recognition of some sovereign power, but the lawful submission to that sovereignty in deeds as well as thought. When submission is absent, anarchy breeds and soon one could rightfully begin to question citizenship altogether.

Jesus calls us to be part of a new sovereign state, and He gives us the path to…

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C.S. Lewis on Love is…

October 25, 2012

C.S. Lewis and the Pain of Love

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Below is a poem by our great friend Jack, Love is tears, fire, spring, and nails…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love’s as warm as tears,
Love is tears:
Pressure within the brain,
Tension at the throat,
Deluge, weeks of rain,
Haystacks afloat,
Featureless seas between
Hedges, where once was green

Love’s as fierce as fire,
Love is fire:
All sorts–Infernal heat
Clinkered with greed and pride,
Lyric desire, sharp-sweet,
Laughing, even when denied,
And that empyreal flame
Whence all loves came.

Love’s as fresh as spring,
Love is spring:
Bird-song in the air,
Cool smells in a wood,
Whispering “Dare! Dare!”
To sap, to blood,
Telling “Ease, safety, rest,
Are good; not best.”

Love’s as hard as nails,
Love is nails:
Blunt, thick, hammered through
The medial nerves of One
Who, having made us, knew
The thing He had done,
Seeing (what all that is)
Our cross, and His.

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Tim Keller on Fear and Anxiety

October 11, 2012

What is the difference between “fear” and “anxiety”?

Tim Keller talks about both kinds of fear – fear of an immediate threat, and persistent anxiety – in his talk Praying our Fears on Psalm 3. Here’s what he taught about fear.

There are 2 steps into fear.

1. Fear: a healthy response to danger, which drives us to fight or flight, and then is gone.

2. Anxiety: a lingering, generalised, undefined sense of fear which paralyses us.

If fear is a thunderstorm, anxiety is a constant, cold drizzle: the first produces green growth, the second mildew. Fear can be good for us – it gets us out of danger! – but anxiety makes us agitated, nervous and upset. Constant anxiety can permanently turn on our autonomic nervous system, which is only meant to respond to crises, and so lead to all kinds of health issues.

What causes this second, debilitating kind of fear is not a threat to life or safety, but a threat to our identity: when something that makes us feel in control is threatened or taken away. In Psalm 3 David faces both kinds of fear: the physical threat from Absalom’s armies, and the threat to his identity as the beloved, honoured, upright king of his people.

But how do we escape from this second, debilitating kind of fear?

There are 4 steps out of fear.

1. Follow God into Danger

David describes God as a “shield around me” (Ps 3:1): a full-body shield which curves around the body, meant not for hand-to-hand combat but for following your commander into situations of extreme danger. If you turn and run, the shield won’t protect you. It’s only useful when you’re heading into danger. Obedience takes us not away from fear, but through and beyond our fear.

2. Relocate your glory.

David says, literally, “but you are my glory” (Ps 3:3). He says “but…” because something else has become his glory: he has built his emotional and psychological identity on something other than God. When we put our worth and security in something finite, out there in time and space, we are always vulnerable. So we need to relocate our glory: not in our talents or our role, or others’ opinion of us, but in God’s approval.

3. See the substitute.

But how do we know we have God’s approval? David says that God hears him because of his “holy hill”, the temple (Ps 3:4), the symbol of our Saviour Jesus. Our significance doesn’t come from what we have achieved or what we have, but from Jesus, the one who was cut off from God so we don’t have to be.

4. Remember the people.

The opposite of fear is not an absence of fear, but love (1 Jn 4:18 cf Ps 3:8). Fear is self-centred, love is other-centred. You can’t deal with fear by yourself: you have to get your mind off yourself by serving others in love.

So here’s the solution to fear:

• go forward in obedience, whatever the cost

• seek my identity in God, instead of the thing I’m scared to lose

• look to the cross, where my significance comes from

• forget myself in love for others.

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The King Opposed Again…

June 1, 2012

Part 5: The King Opposed… Again

When we reach the gospels we are no longer dealing with a mere type of the messiah, we are dealing with the messiah realized in Jesus the Christ.  Jesus’ appearance on the scene of history results in an abundance of opposition from a number of sources.  He is opposed by Satan, self-exalting Pharisees, deceitful disciples, and murderous demoniacs.  It is hard to explain the rise in evil opposition except to say that the coming of the kingdom of God was the in-breaking of a great light into a dark world.  This powerful light cast many shadows and when the true light of Christ came into the world shadows appeared and were vanquished.  The darkness did not overcome the light, rather the light overcame the darkness.[1]  The darkness deepens and the opposition reaches a head with Christ’s betrayal at the hands of Judas Iscariot.  As we examine this narrative, it will be helpful to set the scene.

The King (Jesus) has entered the city of Jerusalem in triumph. (Luke 19:28)  He is hosting a Passover feast.  At the feast he subtly identifies the one who will betray him. (John 13:21)  Judas has been deceitfully looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus into the hands of the chief priests. (Matthew 26:16)  Judas obtains leave from Jesus to depart, at which point, he is entered into by Satan. (John 13:27)  The King departs Jerusalem, crosses the Kidron valley, and goes up to the Mount of Olives to pray and weep. (John 18:1; Luke 22:39-46)  Judas arms himself with a cohort of Roman soldiers and officers from the Pharisees and pursues Jesus to the Mount of Olives. (John 18:3)  Here the King does not flee, for His hour has come. (John 12:23)  Jesus is taken, tried and killed.  Judas flees the city, hangs himself in a tree, his body is pierced, his entrails pour out, and he is buried without glory in an anonymous field.[2]  Then the King (Jesus) returns to the city,  having been made alive by the power of God, and His people gathered near to Him. (John 20:19-29)

One can hardly recount this narrative without being struck by the picture presented in light of scripture.  The similarities should be apparent.  King Jesus, from the line of David, reigns in this narrative confronted with the opposition of one close to Him.  One who is proud, seeking to exalt himself, deceiving others, with murder his goal.  Judas share the source of evil, the means of evil and the end of evil in opposition to God’s anointed.  One can observe in this narrative a multi-layering of nuance.  Is Jesus being opposed by Judas as David was opposed by Absalom? Yes.  Is Jesus being opposed by Satan as Satan opposed Yahweh in Isaiah? Yes.  The glorious difference between the texts is the immediacy of Jesus’ reversal of the opposition, rendering it mute by his timely resurrection.  Now that these three texts have been laid out, we shall compare them and attempt to gain insight and hope in observing the futility of those who oppose God.


[1]  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

[2] Matt 27:5; Acts 1:18, Matt 27:8-10; Acts 1:19.

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The Mighty Have Fallen: Evil Opposition in Isaiah 14…

May 29, 2012

Part 4 Evil Opposition in Isaiah 14…

In the past three posts we have introduced the concept that there is a textual and thematic connection in scripture which serve to give us a picture of the means and method of Evil’s opposition to God and His chosen Messiah.  We have looked at the characteristics of Evil opposition in Genesis and throughout the Old Testament, and we have examined a heightened type of this opposition in the Absalom Narrative in 2 Samuel 15.  Now we turn our attention to the presence of this opposition in Isaiah 14.

Isaiah 14:12-20 is often used as a text to describe the character and even origins of Satan.[1]  For our purposes we will assume the majority position that this passage in Isaiah, while directed at the king of Babylon, is also alluding to the fallen one, Satan.[2]

The passage comes in the middle of a taunt that Israel is to direct, by order of Yahweh, at the king of Babylon.  Here Babylon is the force in opposition to God’s anointed.  Many of the elements needed for evil opposition are present.  Pride, self-exaltation (14:13), murder (14:17) and a certain demise. (14:19)  Verse 19 shall be our primary focus.  I maintain that Isaiah has Absalom prefigured in this passage and especially in verse 19.  While one could certainly argue that the pride and self-exaltation on display would be common to any number of opposition narratives within the Bible; verse 19 serves to narrow our focus and tie this text to Absalom’s narrative.

Verse 19 is as follows:

       “But you have been cast out of your tomb

Like a rejected branch,

Clothed with the slain who are pierced with a sword,

Who go down to the stones of the pit,

Like a trampled corpse.

(Isaiah 14:19 NASB)

While the Hebrew text does not support many lexical links between this passage and 2 Samuel 18, we will explore the conceptual similarities at work.  In Isaiah, we have one who is cast out; who is like a “loathed branch, clothed with the slain;”  who is “pierced with a sword;” and is thrown down, buried in a pit, with stones.  Within this verse we see a four elements that the two texts share in common.  First we can see that the figure is cast out. Absalom was cast out as he fled from the scene of battle. (2 Sam 18:9)  Second, Samuel describes Absalom as being caught in the branch of a tree, figuratively clothing the branch of a tree with his slain body.  Third, He is pierced with a sword by Joab.  Fourth Absalom is buried in a pit covered with stones. (2 Sam 18:15,17)  Ultimately he is denied the right to be buried like a king, failing to be united with his royal heritage in burial. (Isa. 14:20)

These similarities are striking and serve to add meaning to both the text in 2 Samuel and this text in Isaiah, which allows the careful reader to see a greater nuance in the reproach against the King of Babylon.  Though he is like Satan in his pride and Absalom in his actions, he shares the fate of both.  He will be cast down, and meet his end like those who are a “loathed branch, clothed with the slain,” “pierced with the sword”, “buried in the pit.”  A certain end for one who opposes Yahweh.

Is Isaiah 14 speaking of Satan when it describes one “fallen from heaven… cut down to the earth…”? Most likely yes.  Is Isaiah 14 recording a taunt from Israel meant for the king of Babylon? Yes.  Is it also giving us a picture of evil opposition as seen in the Absalom narrative?  I believe that it is.  But it is also giving the reader a picture of another opposition scene.  I believe that both the Absalom narrative and the Isaiah passage, in addition to reflecting meaning on each other, serve to craft an image of a greater opposition yet to come.  We will now look how both of these passages serve to reflect and inform the narrative of Christ’s betrayal at the hand of Judas.


[1] “It is possible that there is a reference to the fall of Satan… Isaiah uses language that seems too strong to be referring to any merely human king.” Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2000. 413.

[2] It is true that some commentators disagree with this assessment and view the exalted language as mere poetic imagery, (See John D.W. Watts Word Biblical Commentary on Isaiah 1-33, Waco: Word Pub. 1985. 212.)  Watts argues that there is little linking the account of the fall of Satan in Rev 12 with the description here in Isa 14.  It seems more plausible that this passage as pointing to Satan, “not directly but indirectly, much like the way the kings of the line of David point to Christ.” (See Geoffrey W. Grogan. Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol 6, Isaiah. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1986. 105)