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Jesus: Not Quite Your All-American Hero

Jesus: Not Quite Your All-American Hero

Babe Ruth taught me one thing: “Remember, kid,” he said, “there’s heroes, and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart, kid, and you’ll never go wrong.” All right, sure… maybe that was the not-so-historical Great Bambino from The Sandlot talking, but still, his advice has stuck with me since I was a wee lad. I believe it was my freshman year of high school that I heard Chad Kroeger of Nickelback opine, “They say that a hero can save us, I’m not gonna stand here and wait.” And I’ll never be able to expunge from…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Ten Verses Thirty Five to Forty Five

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Ten Verses Thirty Five to Forty Five

This morning’s devotion comes from the Reverend Doctor Dave Johnson.

…And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able”… (Mark 10:35-45, ESV)

A couple of years ago I read a book by John Maxwell called Failing Forward, which is about moving forward when things in our lives do not go…

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Introducing Eden and Afterward – Will McDavid

Another gem from our conference from Will McDavid, discussing his new book, Eden and Afterward.

Eden and Afterward: Introducing a Mockingbird Guide to Genesis ~ Will McDavid from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (pt 36)

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“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty Five Verses Fourteen through Thirty

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty Five Verses Fourteen through Thirty

July 7′s devotion comes, ironically enough, from our returning honeymooner himself, Ethan Richardson. To order The Mockingbird Devotional, look no further than here.

…He who had received the one talent came forward, saying, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”But his master answered him, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?…” (Matthew 25:14-30, ESV)

A common reading…

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Introducing Mockingbird’s Guide to Genesis

Introducing Mockingbird’s Guide to Genesis

This piece originally appears as the Introduction chapter of Eden and Afterward, Mbird’s latest publication, which looks at Genesis through the lenses of literary commentary, theology, and everyday life. Contents include Adam, Abel, Noah, Babel, Abram, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob, Leah, Tamar, and Joseph.

There’s an old story of a Jewish rabbi who once attempted to heal a blind man. After rubbing saliva in the man’s eyes and laying hands on him, the rabbi asked if the cure had worked. “I can see people,” the man ventured, “but they look like trees, walking.” Then, as the account of this healing in the book of…

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Iraq: Into the Fire and into the Water

Iraq: Into the Fire and into the Water

It’s going down in Iraq. As ISIS (the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) presses towards Baghdad, the amount of blood on their hands grows thicker and the number of knee-jerk reactions grows greater, and the storm of indescribable pain rises higher, especially for the individuals on the ground. For what it’s worth, ISIS’s organized structure suggests it shouldn’t be written off as a haphazard group of militant extremists; they move with steady precision, employing highly-trained armies and sophisticated social media. (A quick Google search returns systematic Tweeting and refined yet chilling video footage…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Sixteen Verses Twenty Four Through Twenty Five

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Sixteen Verses Twenty Four Through Twenty Five

This entry from The Mockingbird Devotional comes to us from Paul Walker:

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25, ESV)

Jesus describes the two realities of human existence (and ultimately there are only two): trust in yourself and suffer eternal loss, or trust in God and gain eternal life. In these potent, descriptive verses, Jesus calls a thing what it is. “For whoever would save his life will lose it.” Trusting in yourself, worshipping yourself, saving and securing your own life may very well gain you…

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A Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to American Christians

A Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to American Christians

Excerpted from Martin Luther King Jr.’s book, Strength to Love:

“I would like to share with you an imaginary letter from the pen of the Apostle Paul. The postmark reveals that it comes from the port city of Troas. On opening the letter I discovered that it was written in Greek rather than in English. After working assiduously with the translation for several weeks, I think I have now deciphered its true meaning. If the content of this epistle sounds strangely Kingian instead of Paulinian, attribute it to my lack of complete objectivity rather than Paul’s lack of clarity. Here is…

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Gerhard Forde on What Matters

From the brilliant Gerhard Forde’s sermon on Galatians 6, found in his work on the Captivation of the Will:

For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God.

-Galatians 6:15-16

Captivation-of-the-Will-Forde-Gerhard-O-9780802829061“The God of all grace and mercy whose intention it is to relate to us through faith and trust has (you might say) two big problems with us – both of which destroy the relationship God purposes.

One is quite obvious. It is the problem designated by ‘uncircumcision,’ or the problem of our lawlessness, our existence among the lesser breeds without the law, our immorality and waywardness and heedlessness, even our temptation to boast in it. We are all aware enough of such things to acknowledge the problem and to recognize that it destroys faith and trust.

But the other problem is more subtle, and mostly hidden from us, especially at this place. It is really the main one that Paul wrestles with in his letters. It is the problem of the ‘circumcision,’ the problem of our lawfulness, our morality, our holiness, our so-called sanctification, our do-it-yourself religions, and all of that. What we don’t see is that the ‘circumcision’ destroys the relationship of faith and trust as surely as the ‘uncircumcision.’

So now God has acted finally in this very proclamation by his apostles to have his way with us. God has taken the whole business out of our hands. Neither your lawlessness nor your lawfulness, you immorality nor your morality, your unholiness nor your holiness – none of it matters a bit now, but a new creation. Indeed, in most radical fashion, Paul announces not only that it no longer matters but that it is now exposed as sin! ‘The scripture consigned all things – good and bad! – to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.’ ‘Whatever is not of faith is sin’ (Gal 3:22; Rom 14:23). All escape routes shut down. There is nothing to be done now but just listen. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision count for anything, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule.”

Mary Gaitskill Reads Revelation (Again, For the First Time)

A stirring second excerpt from Mary Gaitskill’s essay “Revelation”, this part comes toward the end, where she talks about how her approach to the last book of the Bible has evolved since her initial conversion:

dragon-sun-womanWhen I look at Revelation now, it still seems frightening and impenetrable, and it still suggests a fearful, inexorable order that is unknowable by us, in which our earthly concerns matter very little. However, it no longer reads to me like a chronicle of arbitrarily inflicted cruelty. It reads like a terrible abstract of how we violate ourselves and others and thus bring down endless suffering on earth. When I read “And they blasphemed God of heaven because of their pain and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds,” I think of myself and dozens of other people I’ve known or know who blaspheme life itself by failing to have the courage to be honest and kind. And how we then rage around and lash out because we hurt. When I read “fornication,” I no longer read it as a description of sex outside marriage: I read it as sex done in a state of psychic disintegration, with no awareness of one’s self or one’s partner, let along any sense of honor or even real playfulness. I still don’t know what to make of the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, among other things, but I’m now inclined to read it as a writer’s primitive attempt to give form to his moral urgency, to create a structure that could contain and give ballast to the most desperate human confusion.

In the past, my compassion felt inadequate in the face of Revelation because my compassion was small–perhaps immature is a better word–and conditional. I could not accept what I read there because it did not fit my idea of how life should be, even though I could feel the truth of it in my psyche. Now I recognize, with pain, a genuine description of how hellish life can be, and how even God can’t help us because we won’t allow it. Paradoxically, I find that the more you accept the pain and fear inherent in human experience, the greater your compassion can become, until finally it is no longer merely your compassion but a small part of the greater love epitomized in the Bible as Jesus.

5 x P = Human Identity – John Zahl

Alrighty, time for the video of DJ JAZ’s five disco-tastic devotions from the conference. Since they were conceived as a whole, we took the liberty of editing them together in the order in which they were presented, namely: “Presentation”, “Profession”, “Pedigree”, “Predisposition” and “Passion”. Boogie down!

Devotion Series ~ John Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Those interested in the (amazing) music he plays can find more info here.

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Three Verses Sixteen and Seventeen

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Three Verses Sixteen and Seventeen

June 9 in the Mockingbird Devotional comes from David Zahl.

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17, ESV)

There’s a classic New Yorker cartoon of a woman sitting in a therapist’s office, and the caption reads, “First, I did things for my parents’ approval, then I did things for my parents’ disapproval, and now…

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Christian Battle Lines and the Narcissism of Small Differences

Christian Battle Lines and the Narcissism of Small Differences

I became a Christian during summer camp at age eleven, and few experiences since then can compare to the bliss of that first night and the month or so following it. I still remember, though distantly, the thrill of morning devotionals and a general sense of wonder at the strange, unmapped new territory of Christianity.

Walker Percy wrote that every explorer names his island Formosa, “beautiful”, and such Christianity was to me. After a time, however, I started hearing an internal voice, one that said, roughly, why do morning devotionals for ten minutes – you could do them for thirty. So…

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A Place on the Ladder: Notes from Sibling Rivalry

A Place on the Ladder: Notes from Sibling Rivalry

It was a Ken Griffey, Jr. baseball card, blue and shiny and highly-coveted by Little Leaguers everywhere. Packed in with four other no-names, it was a diamond in the rough. And it was mine. My brother, a year older, couldn’t believe I was so lucky—I mean, Ken Griffey, Jr.—so he proceeded to, quite sneakily, remove it from my collection and place it in his own. I can’t remember exactly what happened next but, after many tears and a flurry of hand-to-hand combat, the card lay discarded on the ground with river-like creases running over Ken’s regal face. My Ken Griffey…

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