Bible


Hopelessly Devoted: Second Samuel Chapter Nine Verse Thirteen

Happy Monday! Here’s your daily supplement of Gospel juju, coming at you piping hot. This one comes from DZ.

And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table, and he was crippled in both feet. (2 Samuel 9:13, NIV)

Try saying “Mephibosheth” five times in row—it’s a mouthful! But it’s also a name that should conjure up only the most positive associations. To set the scene: After David becomes king of Israel (following Saul’s defeat and suicide), his first order of business is to find any surviving relations of his late, beloved friend Jonathan, Saul’s son, so that he might show them kindness.

r15David soon finds out that Jonathan’s sole living heir, Mephibosheth, is “crippled in both feet” and not exactly regal material. Mephibosheth seems to have internalized his disabilities, referring to himself in front of David as “a dead dog” (9:8). Yet without any hesitation, David restores to him all of his family land and issues the command that Mephibosheth is to dine at the king’s table at every meal, henceforth.

This is a touching example of grace in the Old Testament. An unworthy person receives love and favor on account of something that someone else has done. Even more, there is a deep security to the new situation—Mephibosheth will always eat at David’s table, like one of his sons. What is the result of this radical decree? We are told that Mephibosheth himself has a son. That is, hope springs where there was once desperation and life where there once was death. (Of course, the feet remain crippled…)

Sometimes we get to witness grace like this, and occasionally we even get to experience it. Even though acts of grace astound us, it is only a shadow of the real thing: the grace given by God on account of the death of Jesus.

Have you ever felt like a dead dog? Or perhaps there is something in your life that feels (or looks) like a dead dog? That’s where the voice of the King is to be heard, the voice of unconditional love that makes dead things alive and brings hope to the hopeless. The voice that says, “Because of My beloved son, you will always eat at my table.”

Muted Lights of the World: The Problem of Christian Assurance

Muted Lights of the World: The Problem of Christian Assurance

I recently got an invitation via email for a new social network for businesspeople, GoBuyside.com. While I know far too little about the finance world to receive an invitation, let alone reflect on it, I think buy side means the people who buy securities for investment, which seems like the more prestigious/lucrative: you can make a windfall if you do it right. The network’s title is clear, expressing a movement toward higher positions, bigger money, more potential for advancement.

Why in the world would you name a business networking site that? Well, it’s an identity marker in a way that LinkedIn…

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Darn You ESPN!….and Get Thee Behind Me Disney!

Darn You ESPN!….and Get Thee Behind Me Disney!

I’m struggling a lot with these two true, inspiring, triumph of the human spirit distance runner stories that Disney and her sports arm (ESPN) have perpetrated upon us this week as paradoxical bookends to the low anthropology/high Christology that I have come to love about Ash Wednesday. This past weekend, ESPN master human interest storyteller, Tom Rinaldi, narrated one of his best sports mini-docs with the story of Kayla Montgomery, who won three North Carolina high school distance running state championships in 2014, despite running without being able to feel her legs! (Yeah, the story is as good as it…

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The 21 Beheaded Egyptians Make Me Proud to Be a Christian

The 21 Beheaded Egyptians Make Me Proud to Be a Christian

From Cairo to Rome and beyond, the reaction to the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS has been swift and profound: anger and condemnation, sadness and solidarity. Yet, as I have thought over this horrific event, another emotion has swelled within in me: pride. For while the Islamic State considers itself to be following in the footsteps of its religious founder and leader (see here,  here and here), the 21 Egyptians were undoubtedly following in the footsteps of theirs.

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Joshua Chapter Six Verses One Through Five

Hopelessly Devoted: Joshua Chapter Six Verses One Through Five

This morning’s devotion comes to us from Sean Norris.

Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out and none came in. And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Genesis Twenty One Fourteen Through Twenty One

Hopelessly Devoted: Genesis Twenty One Fourteen Through Twenty One

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes.  Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she…

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A Long-Winded Thursday Devotional: Too Religious Not to Be Ashamed

A Long-Winded Thursday Devotional: Too Religious Not to Be Ashamed

From today’s lectionary reading, Mark 8.27-9.1:

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief…

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Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (Pt 41)

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“I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will express my riddle on the harp.”
(Psalms 49:4)

Hopelessly Devoted: Exodus Chapter Fourteen Verses Twenty One and Twenty Two

This morning’s devotion comes from the one and only Justin Holcomb.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (Exodus 14:21-22, NIV)

This passage is about God showing up in the middle of insecurity and confusion. The Exodus and subsequent journey to the Promised Land are the great moments of deliverance in Jewish history. bible-archeology-red-sea-crossingAs it is written in the Psalms, “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf! He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot—come, let us rejoice in him” (66:5-6). For thousands of years now, Jews remember and celebrate that God took them from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. At the last minute, on their way out of Egypt and to the Promised Land, God divided the Red Sea—had God not provided, they would have died.

To Christians, the Exodus foreshadows the ultimate story of deliverance. It points to the cross—the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as “the work of God on our behalf.” The Exodus and the ministry of Jesus both tell us that God provides for those in need, and that God causes life and flourishing where death and destruction try to reign. The Exodus and the cross tell us that God’s operative principle is rescue. God comes near to us—down here in the thick of it—to rescue us.

There is no work we can do in exchange for this rescue: it is undeserved and unearned. As the psalmist highlights the mighty works of God on our behalf, so we see this fulfilled in Christ. Jesus, who came to “fulfill the law,” did the work we couldn’t do, on our behalf. We could never be good enough. We could never fulfill the righteousness required by the Law. God, in the person of Jesus, did the work we couldn’t do for ourselves, and so God attributes Jesus’ work as our work. God exchanges our sin for Jesus’ righteousness. The work of God on our behalf is the best news possible to those in need of rescue.

Rick Moody on the Parable of the Hidden Treasure

From the fascinating little volume Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited, in which a wide array of American writers offer decidedly non-academic, gut-level interpretations of NT passages. It was edited by Rick Moody (author of The Ice Storm, Right Livelihoods, and most recently my personal fave, On Celestial Music) and Darcy Steinke (Jesus Saves, Suicide Blonde, Easter Everywhere), and published in 1997. This passage from Rick’s introduction stuck out:

51GvNP+0GZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_My own interpretation of the parable of the hidden treasure (Mark 13:44) is, somewhat ironically, rigidly allegorical…: the treasure at the heart of this story is the message of the kingdom itself, and the fact of grace offered therein — grace in spite of the way you have lived your life, grace in spite of your crimes or your peccadilloes, grace in spite of your religion, grace in spite of mean birth of lofty one, grace in spite of your sexuality or the color of your skin or your creed or anything else, grace simply because grace is what God gives. That’s the message buried in the New Testament, as treasure is buried in a field, the message often overpowered by the fire and brimstone of evangelists going all the way back to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, through two long millenia of Swaggarts and Robertsons. The Kingdom of Heaven, as opposed to the kingdom of PACs, multinationals, gun lobbyists, tax-exempt charitable organizations, et al., is a place of grace, and this is born out, moreover by the fact that the protagonist of the parable of the hidden treasure is a reprobate. The treasure, after all, is in somebody else’s field when he finds it. The treasure belongs to somebody else. So what kind of guy is this, who has hidden the veritable kingdom of heaven so that he can come back later and swipe it?

He’s like all of us… This hit-and-run, morally dubious miscreant is myself.

The Risk of Grace Pt 2 – Tullian Tchividjian

Herr Tchividjian’s second talk from Houston, in which he comes clean about the Christian life in no uncertain terms:

The Risk of Grace, part 2 – Tullian Tchividjian from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Speaking of our man Tullian, just found out that he’ll be with us in NYC in April to lead an on-stage conversation with his good friend Nadia Bolz Weber (on Saturday morning). Should be incredible. And don’t forget: the LIBERATE conference is only a month away!

The Impossibility of Knowing I’m Good

Hannah Arendt, a non-Christian thinker with a strangely more accurate perception of Christianity than almost anyone, offers some thoughts on the problems with being good:

The one activity taught by Jesus in word and deed is the action of goodness, and goodness obviously harbors a tendency to hide from being seen or heard. Christian hostility toward the public realm, the tendency of at least the early Christians to lead a life as far removed from the public realm as possible, can also be understood as a self-evident consequence of devotion to good works independent of all beliefs and expectations. For it is manifest that the moment a good work becomes known and public, it loses its specific character of goodness, being done for nothing but goodness’ sake. When goodness appears openly, it is no longer goodness, though it may still be useful as organized charity or an act of solidarity. Therefore: ‘Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them.’ Goodness can exist only when it is not perceived, not even by its author; whoever sees himself performing a good work is no longer good, but at best a useful member of society or a dutiful member of a church. Therefore: ‘Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.’

It may be this curious negative quality of goodness, the lack of outward phenomenal manifestation, that makes Jesus of Nazareth’s appearance in history such a profoundly paradoxical event; and it certainly seems to be the reason that he thought and taught that no man could be good: ‘Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.’ The same conviction finds its expression in the talmudic story of the thirty-six righteous men, for the sake of whom God saves the world and who also are known to nobody, least of all to themselves. We are reminded of Socrates’ great insight that no man can be wise, out of which love for wisdom, or philo-sophy, was born; the whole life story of Jesus seems to testify how love for goodness arises out of the insight that no man can be good.

(The Human Condition, pp 74-75)