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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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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty One Verses Four and Five

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty One Verses Four and Five

A Holy Week-appropriate reflection from Paul Zahl, via The Mockingbird Devotional.

This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.’” (RSV)

Palm Sunday is a day in the Christian Calendar, and a day in history, that could define the word “irony.”

It depicts the advance on Jerusalem of the city’s “King,” but in the form of a man seated on a donkey. It begins a week of ‘triumphal entry’ that only ends in…

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James, an “Epistle of Straw”? Not So Fast!

James, an “Epistle of Straw”? Not So Fast!

Whenever I read the letters of Paul and his great doctrine of justification by faith, there is always lurking in the background the problem posed by the Epistle of James and its not-so-apparent direct refutation of Paul. And in any discussion of justification by faith there always lurks the specter of James, always calling into question whether Paul was really correct in his understanding. Admittedly, for the longest time I never quite knew what to make of James 2, and its contradiction of Paul’s thesis that Abraham the ungodly was justified by faith, without works (Romans 4). It was Martin…

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Birthdays and Broken Cisterns: What Exercise, Adultery, and Suicide Have in Common

Birthdays and Broken Cisterns: What Exercise, Adultery, and Suicide Have in Common

This reflection on aging comes to us from Ryan Sanders:

A recent study conducted by two professors at New York University revealed that people are more likely to make big decisions or create big regrets just before milestone birthdays. The study divined that “people audit the meaningfulness of their lives as they approach a new decade in chronological age, further suggesting that people across dozens of countries and cultures are prone to making significant decisions as they approach each new decade.”

This study tells us what we already know: as people face milestone events, they often review their lives and make adjustments. And often,…

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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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