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2015 Kanuga Renewal Conference: Rest

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An enormous thanks to all those who make last week’s Renewal Conference at Kanuga happen. It was such a joy and privilege to be asked to provide the content, and spend a week with such a wonderful group of people (in such a beautiful place). Best of all, the time itself proved genuinely restful for all involved. The recordings of the main sessions are now up on The Mockingpulpit as well as the Recordings page, but for those who would rather stream or download directly from here, you’re in luck.

1. Rest for the Restless – David Zahl

2. Christian Obstacles to Rest – Jacob Smith

3. Rest in the Bible, part 1 – Jady Koch

4. Rest in the Bible, part 2 – Jady Koch

5. How Rest Is Applied – Jacob Smith

6. The Life of Rest – David Zahl

7. Closing Question and Answer Session – DZ, JS & JDK

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Seven Verses Sixteen through Nineteen

This morning’s devotion comes from the main character in this video

You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 7:16-19, NASB)

3039842-slide-s-5-hipstory-leadersI grew up in the South, where this was an often-quoted verse. And people said things like, “We’re not judging, we’re just being fruit inspectors.” I’m not kidding. I’ve actually heard people say that, and they believed it. Conversely, I recently came across this quote from good ol’ Honest Abe: “A man watches his pear tree day after day, impatient for the ripening of the fruit. Let him attempt to force the process, and he may spoil both fruit and tree. But let him patiently wait, and the ripe pear falls at length into his lap.”

Quaint as it may be, I feel like this relates much more to what Jesus is really talking about. If the standard is perfection, and we all fail equally, then how can anyone be a “fruit inspector”?

I once listened to a preacher talk about how profoundly passive a metaphor the fruit tree was. Think about it: a tree has no input on where it’s planted, where it grows, or even what kind of fruit it produces. It’s completely at the mercy of external forces as to whether it even produces fruit to begin with. A tree has no say in the matter. It simply must be what it is.

This is oddly comforting. God is working out His plan in, through, and all around us. It’s often difficult, but I know I can trust that. Passivity is the key to activity. Seems counterintuitive, but if we take Abe for his word, it actually works.

Parables and the Difficulty of Direct Communication

Parables and the Difficulty of Direct Communication

When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

“they may indeed look, but not perceive,

and may indeed listen, but not understand;

so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.” ’

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter One Verse Twenty One

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter One Verse Twenty One

June 8’s reading begins the New Testament section of the Devotional. It comes from DZ.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21, NIV)

The poet W.H. Auden once wrote, “Nothing that is possible can save us / We who must die demand a miracle.” This is a bold statement, and one whose truth might not be self-evident in everyday life. Many of the daily problems we face can be fixed, or at least addressed: if our car breaks down, we can take…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Nahum Chapter One Verse Thirteen

Hopelessly Devoted: Nahum Chapter One Verse Thirteen

Good morning! Our June 1 devotion comes to us from Gil Kracke. 

Now I will break their yoke from your neck and tear your shackles away. (Nahum 1:13, NIV)

At first glance, a linguistic barrier seems to cloud this passage. More than just the cultural inexperience we have with yokes and shackles, it seems our modern sensibility affirms our personal and bodily freedom. The seeds of autonomy are sown deeply into our nature, and those seeds are nurtured carefully by our surroundings. We are oriented to narratives that make us the “master and commander” of our soul, of our decisions, and of…

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Disembodied Truth: Memory Verses and Anxiety

Disembodied Truth: Memory Verses and Anxiety

Check out the mostly-related part II here, or start fresh here.

The memory verse is not always a good idea. Often it can be a shortcut toward getting a crisp, clear, self-contained biblical truth – but the search for a certain type of clarity often reflects more on our time and place as moderns than on the way the Bible means to present itself. To memorize a Proverb makes sense, but to memorize a Gospel verse often doesn’t. The former is meant to be taken as a one-sentence aphorism which doesn’t need context, but the latter is written as part of…

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Modern Marcionitism and the Epistle of James (Part II)

Modern Marcionitism and the Epistle of James (Part II)

In my previous post on the Epistle of James and the origins of its place in the New Testament Canon I noted (following David Nienhuis’s excellent work on the subject) that James found its canonical home within the New Testament as a corrective to the persistent threat of Marcionitism. While Marcion, reading Paul, divorced the God of gospel from the demigod of the Old Testament, the Epistle of James was written to ensure that this God and his commandments are not be discarded as obsolete. Rather than Marcion’s supposed antinomianism, the Epistle of James ensures that genuine faith is a…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Exodus Chapter Thirty Two

Hopelessly Devoted: Exodus Chapter Thirty Two

Following the lectionary appendix of the Devotional, this morning’s devotion comes from DZ.

“…as for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” (Exodus 32:1b, NIV)

No sooner has Moses has been called away to Mount Sinai by God than his people begin to “move on.” This happens despite a number of explicit warnings to the contrary, direct from the mouth of God, backed by thunder and lightning and smoking mountains (21:18).

Perhaps the Israelites have grown impatient, perhaps they are dissatisfied, or perhaps they’ve just given up. Whatever the case, they decide…

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Disembodied Truth Part I: Biblical Science, Creationism, Truth in Love, and Dover Beach

Disembodied Truth Part I: Biblical Science, Creationism, Truth in Love, and Dover Beach

I want to think for a second about the ways we tend to process language in different places. At our conference last weekend, Nadia Bolz-Weber spoke eloquently about how a sermon is a local event, preached to a specific people at a specific time in the contexts of the larger worship service, the community’s makeup, the identity of the pastor, and so on.

To use just one of these vectors, community makeup, a sermon on the prodigal son parable could differ by audience. To an audience of religious burnouts who have committed the obvious sins over and over, a focus on…

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Jesus as the Ultimate Mr. Clean: A Conference Breakout Preview

Jesus as the Ultimate Mr. Clean: A Conference Breakout Preview

Life’s a mess. This is incontrovertibly true, no matter who you are. Some of us are better at hiding it (hedge fund managers, Dalai Lamas, me) than others (Kardashians, hacky-sack players, you), but we’re all a mess. We all want to be able to put our mess behind us; to start over. We all want a clean slate; to be washed. That’s why we’re coming to New York (a place that is truly a mess…I’m looking at you, trash night…er, rat night)…David Zahl (a mess) has promised us a conference that will tell us about this mythical creature: the cleaned…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Proverbs Chapter Twenty Seven Verse Six

Hopelessly Devoted: Proverbs Chapter Twenty Seven Verse Six

This morning’s devotion comes from Peter Moore. 

Faithful are the wounds of a friend. (Proverbs 27:6, KJV)

We, of course, expect wounds from our enemies. And the person without enemies is the person without convictions, without conscience, without passion. “Beware when all men speak well of you,” said Jesus, a man who, as we know from the Gospels, knew an enemy when he saw one.

But it is wounds from those who are our friends that surprise us and hurt us the most. We expect our friends to be trustworthy, kind, understanding, and forgiving. When they are not, we are often undone. The…

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The Traitor King: A Palm Sunday Reflection

The Traitor King: A Palm Sunday Reflection

We encounter the world, perhaps more explicitly now than ever, as a field of useful objects. We don’t even think twice about the most everyday of them: the remote control for the TV, the doorframe of the door we walk through each morning, the stove or refrigerator. Gestures, too, are often unthinking, whether it be brushing back a stray piece of hair, pulling on a shirt, or brushing one’s teeth. The strange thing is, though, that tons of things in the (natural) world are use-less: flowers and, indeed, most kinds of plants and animals, the ocean, most rocks or mountains,…

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