Monthly Archives: March 2012

Heaven/Earth F.A.Q.’s

  So at Highland right now, we are going through a series called Heaven/Earth, where we look at what the classical Christian doctrine of the resurrection really means for us, Creation and the age to come. I’ve loved getting to do this series, I’ve loved the questions (and there have been some good ones), and the discussion, and to that end, for all you Highlanders, and those of you who listen online, here are the FAQ of the Heaven/Earth. What ones did we miss? Any other questions you’d like to ask?

1. Is this about Pre-Millennialism?

Actually, this series has nothing to do with any kind of millennialism. Churches of Christ in particular have been very divisive in the past by talking about this particular issue. Will Jesus return and reign for 1000 years? Is he reigning for 1000 years right now? These questions are more about how God is going to return and we’re exploring what Heaven and Earth will look like when he returns.

2. Where are the people I love who have already died?

The Apostle Paul believed that for him to die would be better for him, because he would be with Jesus right now. The story Jesus tells about the rich man and Lazarus gives us a clue that people who die are in some way with God, or not with God, right after death. This, however, is not the final resting place. There are 2 stages to life after death. One is the immediate bodiless state, where we are in some way with God without a body. The other is after the bodily resurrection, when we are joined again with our bodies, and our bodies are joined with God. Continue reading Heaven/Earth F.A.Q.’s

The Wounds of Triumph

So in the first chapter of the book of Job, the main character of the book (Job) loses everything. His family is killed, his crops and resources and houses are destroyed, it’s the worst chapter of loss in the whole Bible. And then along comes Job’s friends. They have a certain view of God that may sound familiar to some of us. God blesses those who are good, and curses those who are bad. Everyone knows that…so Job ‘s friend want him to fess up. What exactly have you been doing to deserve this?

But God will have none of it. He let’s the so called friends talk trash for a while, but in the end He has the final word and it is nothing like those who pretended to speak on his behalf.

So we’ve been talking about Revelation for a few blog posts, and last week Revelation was talking about the surprising Lamb of God bringing victory. But that’s only half the surprise. The other side of it is how the Lamb does it.

In Revelation 11, there is a series of bizarre symbols that John sees. He’s told to go measure the Temple in Heaven, as if John in the Bob Vila of the Apocalypse. And while John is busy working on renovations he sees the outer courts of the Temple, and 2 witnesses. They are protected by Heaven, and no one can mess with them while they are preaching about God’s power. God will send plagues and fire from heaven on their behalf. He will turn waters into blood at their commands.

And then God doesn’t protect them anymore.

They are attacked by the beast (in a time when beast meant something to Christians…think Roman Coliseum) They are killed gruesomely and their bodies lay in the public square for everyone to see. They will be a spectacle for everyone to see and to mock. These fools thought that God could protect them, but they turned about do dead wrong. But then…

God gives new life to their very dead bodes. It says, “The breath of life from God entered them and they stood on their feet and terror struck those who saw them.”

I love that image. Here are the bullies standing over their victims. This is what happens when you mess with Rome, or try to change the status quo. You pick on someone with a bigger stick and their bound to use it on you. That’s the way that the world works. Or at least the way it used to. Because now it seems the tables have turned. Because they are struck with terror and the martyrs are struck with resurrection.

And then the very next thing Revelation talks about is this:  Continue reading The Wounds of Triumph

The Victory of the Lamb

One of the surprising things about the book of Revelation is what doesn’t surprise us. Maybe it’s because we have been too busy paying attention the cryptic numbers, or the dragons and the locusts, but one of the things that is central to the book of Revelation is the thing that should actually shock us the most. And we just read over it like it doesn’t matter.

This is what I’m talking about.

All through Revelation, John talks about victory. Now the word victory for the little churches that he’s writing would have been a loaded term. It was after all more than just a result or an idea. It was a god. Literally, they god’s name was the Roman god Nike. The Romans worshipped victory. She was portrayed as a winged goddess, and her image was on the shield of Roman soldiers. There were statues of Nike with her foot on the globe (a symbol of total world domination). Her image was often on coins reminding people in the marketplace that Rome was victorious.

On the arch of Titus, from 81 A.D., gives us a look into how they used Nike to tell their story. It was right after the Romans had crushed the Jewish people and for their propaganda they set up an Arch (which makes us rethink St. Louis). On one side, it showed the battle that they won, and on the other side of the arch, it showed the goddess Nike putting a triumphal wreath around Titus’ head. They had a theology of military victory (that everyone would have known about), that was reinforced with every victory parade, every time you bought or sold with Roman money, or whenever you went into town. You would see Nike.

Nike was a winged symbol that showed everyone who saw her that Romans always win.

Take that Michael Jordan.  Continue reading The Victory of the Lamb

How (Not) to do an Interview with TMZ

So Leslie and I are out of town for the next few days (I’ve actually written the last two blogs on Tuesday) and have pre-scheduled their publishing. So it will be a few days before I can respond. But, I doubt I ever get the chance to talk about something like this again. So….

I never dreamed that TMZ would ever ask me to do an interview for anything…ever. When I first got the email asking me, I was pretty sure it was a joke. I still have no idea how the celebrity gossip hub of the world heard about me doing this, or why they thought it might matter. In fact, I wasn’t going to do it. Remember I don’t have any aspirations to be an actor, and this is not the story I’d like to be known for. I just want to be a preacher and I just want the church to be a supportive place for Christians who are trying to be faithful in some grey areas (the areas we have typically have withdrawn from). That’s when a very good ministry friend reminded me that if you offend some religious people, but help some non-religions people get a better glimpse of God, you might be on the right track…so seize the moment.

As you read this interview, please keep in mind, if you are a Jesus follower, this wasn’t really written for you. I wanted to help people who might have little to no exposure to the Jesus movement have a bit better view on who we follow. I didn’t want to be critical of culture, because they’ve heard that line before and it’s not helping anybody by pretending like we are above them. (if the 75% of Christians in America didn’t actually watch the stuff Hollywood produces they’d all be out of job anyway). So with that said, here’s how I answered the reporters questions. What would you have said or done differently in this position?

Explain to me a little bit more about how you were an extra for the show…what was it like on set regarding the storyline of the show. Were you actually featured on the first episode last night?

I was actually doing a sermon series on minor characters in the Bible, and so I decided to go to California to try and be an extra on a TV Show. I registered at Central Casting, you know the usual stuff you do to get in to background work. CC had several opportunities to play background for shows like Californication but I didn’t want to shock the church I work at.

On one of the casting calls, the casting agent Marianne was filling in for her agent friend Annie, and (remember this is my first and only time to do this) I thought she was booking for Annie, and that it would star Christian Bale. In hindsight, I realize that was very dumb.

No, I wasn’t on the show last night, but I think they were filming for the first and second episodes on the day we were shooting. If not, than my scene just got wound up being cut.

I am from Dallas, born and raised so this is something that hits home to me as well. I know there is a petition that was started to get ABC to pull the rest of the episodes from air. I am very interested in hearing the opinions of the church…if they are going to do anything to stop people from watching the show…sign the petition… Continue reading How (Not) to do an Interview with TMZ

Making the Cut

So this past week has been entirely crazy. I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to write about my experience on Good Christian Belles any more, but after this past week allow me to say a couple of more things about it.

I started this whole thing to make the exact opposite point that it seems to be making. I was doing a series on minor characters in the Bible called “Extras’ and the entire point of the series was that each of us have this incredible impulse to be famous. We live under this burden, given to us by popular culture, that what it means to live a significant life is for our ministries and service to be well-known. But the majority of people in the Bible don’t have the spotlight for long, and sometimes not at all.

Many of the characters in the Bible had no idea that there small acts of service would be told for thousands of years, they were just faithful to what God had put before them. In fact, behind every character that was in the Bible, hundreds of faithful men and women were behind them making them the kind of people they were.

So this past Sunday, the pilot of Good Christian Belles aired. It was the episode that I thought I would be on, and it did not have me anywhere in it. (However, I do think my scene will actually be in this coming week’s episode).

One of my shepherds told me that if John 20:30 is to be believed, than many other Extras have been edited out to. And I think he was more profound than he knew. Think about being around when the Bible came out…your flipping through the pages to find out if that one conversation you had with Jesus, or Jesus healing your grandmother’s leprosy made the cut…and it didn’t.  Continue reading Making the Cut

What Plagues Us All

When I was in college, I got the chance to go to the Cairo Musuem in Egypt for a few days. In the back, of the museum, for a few extra dollars, I was able to go back and see the mummified remains of Pharaoh Ramsees II. The same Pharaoh who many scholars think was in charge in the days of Moses. He’s the guy who met Moses, and Moses met God. Another way of scything this is that I’m two handshakes away from God.

At the time of Ramses II, The Egyptian world was being told that Pharaoh was a god. He was said to maintain Ma’at, or balance. You can imagine how important balance would be if all of life was centered around the Nile river. If the river goes up people die, if it goes down people die. So what was needed was Ma’at, and Pharaoh was said to be able to give it to them. Now there is some more fascinating stuff here (like how Pharaoh was said to have 9 bows of power to keep Ma’at and God’s plagues on Pharaoh were a direct war on these 9 bows), but the point I want to make today is that when God sent the plagues to Egypt they had a very specific purpose:

God was undoing creation on Pharaoh.

Pharaoh is telling everyone that he is God, and so God is saying to Pharaoh, “If you’re me, than just try holding all this together.” And one by one, God systemically dismantles Creation on the guy who was telling people he was in charge of it.

Which brings us to the book of Revelation. Because eventually John sees God doing something on the earth that most of his readers would have thought sounded familiar. In Revelation 9, the Angels start blowing trumpets, and eventually God responds to the trumpets by sending plagues. Remember this book is written to a group of churches in the first century. These churches are filled with Christians being persecuted for their faith in God. They are asking God questions like Why? and How Long? Why won’t you do something, and it seems there were no answers they could understand. But plagues, now that’s something they get.

And not just any plagues either. The first one released was the plague of locusts. Remember Revelation is deeply symbolic. The plague of Locusts is what happens when one part of creation oversteps it’s bounds and destroys entire other parts of creation. That’s exactly what Caesar was doing and about to do to this little band of Christians. So the plagues were a mirror, on a cosmic level, of what was happening in their day to day lives. Now most of the time I hear this passage talked about, it’s by people who immediately try to talk about Apache helicopters in Iraq. But that is to try and domesticate this whole story. This is a story of subversive resistance (to the point of death) for this little band of Jesus followers. They are about to be required to bow a knee to Caesar and they are going to have say yes, or say goodbye to their heads. This isn’t about  21st century problems in the Middle East.

At least not in the way we think. Continue reading What Plagues Us All