Monday, July 28, 2008

One Last Class...

Just finished my first lecture for my last class at TEDS.
Sniffle, Sniffle. Not really...

It's fun to be back in class, though the homework load is pretty I'm a bit nervous.

We're doing a detailed overview of the Pentateuch and Historical Books. Really fascinating stuff. Details make a difference.

This particular professor, Dr. Lawson Younger, also happens to be my advisor. It was an interesting relationships: I was supposed to be in his small group this past five years, but I only made it to about two gatherings - my schedule just didn't allow for my participation. Neat guy, passionate lecturer, knows his stuff. I'm glad it worked out that I get at least one class with him.

It's also neat that Rick and Jamie Schwartz are letting me stay in their apartment. They move in after I move out, so it's worked out nice. Except they have no A/C, and the temp in Chicago is supposed to be mid/upper 80's with high humidity. Oh well, I'll either be working in the library or Starbucks, and by the time I get to bed at midnight, it should be cooled down...some.

Off to a late lunch and then lots of studying.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Apocalypse of Christ - Part Two

The other day I was listening to a podcast of Phyllis Tickle - she made a comment about how a prologue reveals most of what the story is going to include. It made me think of the prologue to Revelation - what does it tell us about the story/vision we are about to encounter? Here are some bullet points from the prologue, greetings and doxology to give us some direction.

* show his servants what must soon take place
* blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy
* blessed are those who hear it and take it to heart
* the time is near

* to the seven churches of Asia
* grace and peace to you
* from Him Who Is, and Who Was, and Who is to come
* from the Seven Spirit before his throne
* from Jesus Christ - Faithful Witness, Firstborn form the Dead, Ruler of the Kings of the Earth

* to Him who loves us
* and has freed us from our sins by his blood
* and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father
* to Him be glory and power for ever and ever.

Some things to take from these accounts: the apocalyptic prophecy has to do with current situations/events - and the purpose of the vision/writings is to bless, to increase grace and peace. This means that those who read/heard/envisioned this document would be encouraged, their faith bolstered, their hearts comforted. What was going on that this was important to them?

Note the Trinitarian descriptions - they are clues to what we are about to experience in this letter. The titles for God, Spirit and Jesus will be fleshed out, stories and visions will unpack what John means behind these words.

For example:
God is coming - no matter how difficult or dark are the days, do not forget that God has been and is at work such that all things will come to a culmination when heaven and earth join, when God himself dwells with Humanity.
Seven Spirits that are before the Throne are also the Ones infused within us to lead us into all truth and conviction of sin; the Holy Spirits are our link from the Holy Glory of God's Presence in the Heavens to the holes in our hearts.
Jesus Christ is a reliable revealer of God's character and work; he is the embodiment of God's promise to resurrect the dead, and despite our cynicism - Jesus Christ is the ultimate ruler to whom all kings and queens will have to give an account.

These are the main themes of the letter - whatever fantastic, weird, baffling visions/accounts you read - it all points to these ideas/actions of God, Spirit and Jesus. The book is less about details for the end of the world, and much more about the kind of God, Spirit, Jesus that will complete the work they began at Creation.

What kind of work? An unending work of love that results in our freedom from enslavement to darkness, sin, evil, rebellion; by the blood of Christ we are forgiven and made righteous such that we can form a new Way of Living, join a New Kingdom where grace and peace prevail. Where now we only see glimpses of God's Glory and Power - there is a day coming when it will be the only light by which we see everything for what it really is.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Responsibility in Life and Ministry

This note came from my friend Patti, who received it from her sister Cheri. I think it's pretty good: let me know what you think.

The difference of feeling responsible for people
And feeling responsible to people.

When I feel responsible for people...
I risk being a Bible-thumping, code-enforcing, brow-beating person of people.
I risk adopting a callous cynical view of people and God at times.

When I feel responsible to people...I realize they have a choice.
When I feel responsible for people...I want to make decisions for them.

When I feel responsible to people...They have to figure out their next step.
When I feel responsible for people...I want to tell them what that next step is.

When I feel responsible to people...I allow them to bear the brunt of consequences for their own chosen actions.
When I feel responsible for people...I tend to assume guilt, even shame, for the decisions they make.

When I feel responsible to people...I engage their journey, offering encouragement, instruction, support.
When I feel responsible for people...I try to control their journey.

When I feel responsible to people...I talk to God a lot on their behalf.
When I feel responsible for people...I talk to people a lot on God's behalf.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Love, Doubt, Neighbor

Our Lord asks but two things of us; Love for [God] and for our neighbor.
We cannot know whether we love God...but there can be no doubt about whether we love our neighbor or no.

- Teresa of Avila Interior Castle
(found: God's Politics 7.7.08)

The Apocalypse of Christ - Part One

What to do with the last "book" of the Bible? It lists as number 66 in the collection of sacred wonder so many people avoid it! Or could it be that Revelation is just too hard to understand? Or there is too much baggage from what you heard as a kid? Or you've got better things to do than read about dreams of beasts and dragons and harlots.

My friend Donnie challenged me a couple of months ago to rethink my view of heaven. More pointedly, that I would let the promise of heaven provide some hope and energy to the difficult times I face. Kind of like what Paul writes about in 1Corinthians 15 - the promise of Resurrection propels him to endure his bouts with beasts in the Ephesian coliseum. But what propels me? Certainly not any promise about future events. I took up my friends challenge and started reading/studying what the Bible says about heaven, the future promise, and salvation. Interesting stuff.

I don't think much about heaven, to be honest. Even though my brother Matt and Ben are dead and I believe they are in heaven, and I think about them often, I don't think about heaven. I believe I am going there when I die, but I don't think about dying or going to heaven very much. I'm not sure how mature or wise that is, I'm just being honest. So I've started reading/studying the Revelation of Jesus (otherwise known by it's very obscure title: the Apocalypse of Christ).

I grew up with a view of Revelation that obsessed with how we were living in the End Times and that modern people/events were fulfillments of prophecy. How many people told me that the Rapture was going to happen in our life time. First Gorbachev was the Anti-Christ of Revelation because of his rule in Russia and the red spot on his forehead (the mark of the beast!). Then Bill Clinton was the Anti-Christ! Now it might be Barak Obama! Ugh.

Is there another way to view Revelation? Fortunately there is. A lot of my reading is focusing on the historical context and literary genre of the book. What was going on in Ephesus that prompted the letter? What were characteristics of the Roman Empire that fueled the need for Revelation? What was the status of Christians in the Western provinces of Asia that necessitated this letter? The more that one digs, the more gems one finds.

An interesting theory is that Revelation is primarily a political letter; it is challenging the authority of Emperor Domitian and the propaganda of the Imperial Cult. John crafts a brilliant letter that pulls in the best of apocalyptic literature while drawing deep on the brilliance of Jewish Prophets. He draws it all together to inspire his fellow believers to Worship the One True God and live out his Way of Love. Resist the Empire! Resist the Corruption of Roman Deception. Go the Way of Christ, not Caesar.

This approach sidesteps the need to put a chronological order to the events of Revelation, it avoids the need to find modern day people/places to fit in with the characters/descriptions found in the book. It tells us a lot more about God and Jesus and the Spirit then it does about when the world will end or who is the AntiChrist.

Did you know that the word AntiChrist doesn't even appear in Revelation? Neither does the word Rapture.

What do you think about Revelation?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

First Times and Other Fun Stuff

Emma's first graduation - from preschool at Sonrise!
Our first somemore's at the lake!
The first trip to the Allen County Public Library.
Look! Emma is reading all by herself!
Emma's first ride on a pony at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo!
Isaac liked the docile pony named Candy - she went verrrrrrry slow.
Levi made a beeline for the biggest horse in the stall...and smiled all the way around the corral!
Eli enjoyed his first carousal ride - he smiled most of the time...

Emma, Hannah and Alia had fun trying to sit still for this Cleo and Dot shot.
Hanging out with more cousins is fun too - Katie and Megan are from North Carolina.
When it's hot its fun to have a picnic after getting wet in the pool.
And it's always fun to get together for a birthday party!
Emma's soccer games are lots of fun for the cousins - all lined up with lunches and snacks!

It's been so long since I posted family pics, I have to go all the way back to early May! For Mom's Day we had to go to Starbucks!
Emma celebrates our gift to Tara: an external harddrive to backup her thousands of digital pictures.
Also in May we went to the lake for Memorial Day weekendd. The Isaac and Levi liked wearing their goggles on sand.
Emma made sure her goggles matched her pink swimsuit!
The water was a bit cool yet in May, so Eli just walked on the water's edge. Very relaxing.
Levi and Isaac end the May-day by enjoying a lovely sunset on Lake Pleasant.
Also in May Emma continued her soccer-ventures. In this game her coached congratulated her for being the most-improved player!
Lastly in May, Eli started falling asleep at lunchtime. He plays and eats till he drops!

June was a fun month - it started off with hanging out at the zoo! The boys were actually able to get up real close to the alligators. This was real special for Levi - he has a three foot long hard/sharp plastic alligator at home he sleeps with! Nothing like the real thing (well, except that this one lives in captivity in a non-native region...but other than that...)
Good thing we had a map! Emma kept us on track and we never got lost!
It was a beautiful, sunny, soft-breeze day - such that Eli fell asleep in the shade while praying for his ice cream!
We always enjoy the Indonesian Rainforest - especially dressing up like botanists...I think that hat's a little big on you Levi!
We always try to take a nice family photo of the kids with Tara...we try...

June was also Father's Day...we got to go to Starbucks (of course) and then to hang out at the fountain!
Here we are opening my gift...looking at pictures of the kids; Tara has a scrapbook going of pictures she takes of the kids for Father's Day. This year's pics are very cute! The garb was Emma's creative vision...