White trash

Here recently on June 26th of 2020, I posted a status that said ‪I am from “white trash” and I’m proud of it, but now this trash can proclaim God’s glory. Now I am not bashing any culture or where I am from. Before we continue, I want to share my heart and it is simple, I just finished a book listening to the book called “White Trash the 400-year Untold History of class in America.” Then I started to listen to Thomas Sowell’s book called “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” for both authors that seemed to be saying the same thing. Growing up in Kentucky I was like this was my culture and I was part of their culture. I posted this is saying the class system is where I came from and I am proud of it. Instead, I wanted to share my thoughts on the issue of “white trash.” One Americans are not individuals that are made up of their ideas, we are shaped by our history (national), family history, cultural history, and the communities in which we live. We can think we have outrun history, but history is the shadow behind us. First, I will define the term class system and what I mean by it, and my own cultural experience. So, what I want to do is walk through some critiques of the book from one author that did not like the book “White trash the 400-year Untold history of class in America,” in the next blog.

First, I want to address where I am coming from, I see an issue from history and then I apply it today. This means I look at the historical-cultural and I also deal with the written culture, from the best that I can do, and then apply it to today’s standard. Scott Moreau describes the word contextualization as “the process whereby Christians adapt the forms, content, and praxis of the Christian faith to communicate it to the minds and hearts of the people with other cultural backgrounds. The goal is to make the Christian faith as a whole not only the message but the means of living out our faith in the local setting understandable.”[1] What is Dr. Moreau getting in this definition? First, he sees it as a process, it is something we must be willing to do and work through the forms, content, and practice of our faith to other cultures. For instance, at the Korean Church, I was once a minister at, there use to Argentina every couple of years. But before they went to Argentina each of the people wanting to go had “homework” to do. They would research the area and try to learn some language skills; the classes would be for like six weeks. In my personal experience while at this church I had to communicate the gospel to a whole new “culture” and “class” that I was not prepared for. In this church four different cultures were going on, you had the Korean side first generation, those that came from South Korea to America, then they would have kids, and this would be called the second generation, then those that just came over from Korea. I fell in love with Korean food and Korean culture. I had to “adapt” to the culture, and I did lose some of myself in the matter.

So, what do I mean when I say, class? Class according to Webster’s dictionary is “a group sharing the same economic or social status.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/class

In other words, class is the place we are in society and I do not like it. Some are looked down upon and as in Nancey book’s that will discuss soon addresses how “America was founded.” Growing up I remember being told by my family that was “middle-class people.” According to pew research about 29% in the lower, 52% of Americans live in the middle-class category, and 19% in the upper. In their research, they found the upper class made about $187,872 per year, the middle class $78,442, and lower $25,624. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/06/the-american-middle-class-is-stable-in-size-but-losing-ground-financially-to-upper-income-families/

In my own family, we never talked about the finical issues at all, but I remember each month each of my family members struggled to pay bills. I am going to use my mamaw’s income (this would be my grandmother) she works at Hardee’s restaurant. I am going to assume that she makes the maximal amount that one can make at that restaurant $11.43 per hour and works about 32 hours weekly. So, if we multiply that we get 365.76 and multiply that by two because she gets paid biweekly $731.52 and we would times that by 24 we would get 17,556.48 give or take. Then she might get a little check from the government from my papaw (grandpa) while he was alive. I do not think his checks brought in $8,000 annually to make up the annual income according to pew for the lower class of $25,624 that pew is referring to. On average in my hometown according to one website that annual income for that community is $26,412 with a 29% rate of poverty in that area. [2]

See my grandmother could not be in the average income criteria. This is what I would call the lower, lower-class system, or “white trash.” I do not see it as a bad term I wear it like I am proud, I realize that is where I have come from. But I will dive into the book in the next blog, and deal with what we are talking about. We are the downtrodden the savages in other words I would honestly say that if we had a Boston tea party today the founding fathers would dress up as some of these people and throw the tea over. We see it in movies look at the movie Deliverance, Hills have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, etc. each of these we see the poorer hard workers that are made fun of.

To show how I used the badge of white trash, is I remember one of my best friends in high school was named Blake Fudge. Fudge at one point was on Jerry Springer or Maury tv show, and I remember growing up my mom would watch that daily, or later on, my grandma would watch Dr. Phil. I thought it was cool that those people got on the big spring. When I went to college and I joked with some new friends and said, “yeah one of my friends was Maury or Jerry Springer and proposed,” I thought that was the coolest thing ever. The friends looked at me like I was stupid and laughed. I was like is that not awesome? They slowly walked away, and finally, I had the “tough” conversation, I learned that that is the people that they make fun of. They thought that was the minority people.

This is where I am from, and I am glad to be from there. In the world that I am living now, man I struggle I want that old “white trash” part of me back. But now I have friends around the world, professors around the world, I have met “celebrities” (In the Christian world view), I thought this was like living in Hollywood. But the world is small and the more I learn the more I realize that in my field of study in missions and biblical studies our world is even smaller. Being “White trash” is not bad we are just those that society has forgotten, on the next blog we will look at a critique of the book that I mentioned above.

[1] Contextualization in world missions

[2] https://datausa.io/profile/geo/16000US2112160

White Knight comic book series: part one

I want to tell you a story, a story that has been “told” since 2017. It is a story that emerged through a comic book story line called White Knight. Throughout each day this week I am going to blog because I can not protest in what is going on when the world seems dark, but we need accountability. The first day I am going to tell you the summary of the comic book story, I hope you will read it if I am honest. I do not own the rights of the comics, but a good artist looks at the culture and tries to tell you that story without explicating telling you the “whole narrative.” You look at it and have to sit back and think hard, it may be simple at the time, but as you start to ponder and mediate you realize how amazing that story is. Then the second day I am going to look at scripture and apply a certain passage to its context of the story of the comic book we just read. Not because I see the comics as authoritative or anything, I see scripture as the true authority.  The only authority I want to hold in my life, but also, I want to hold to orthodoxy, which is the true teaching of the church. So, these blogs are going to be orthopraxy so to speak. Like always, I am always open for more conversations, which means I am available through messages if you want to continue the conversation.

What I will do is write a blog and then the next day I will explain it on Facebook live, I will start to do this more daily. Then the next day I will write a blog researching a certain text of scripture. Then the next day, I will do a Facebook live in walking through the scripture, each live will always end up in prayer. This will not be improv but scripted of course. I am appealing to the comics first because stories to us a music term, is the drum beat of the culture we live. Stories shape the tempo in which we live our lives. In other words, the drums are like the heartbeat of the band. But you can not just have drums to make music you need other things as well. The world is not set up for just one “instrument” doing something it takes the whole sympathy to make a masterpiece. Just so you know from here on out there will be spoilers for this comic book series White Knight.

Context:

In 2017 Sean Murphy wrote the story of this comic and drew it. Murphy wrote a comic book series called Batman White Knight. In their endorsement of the comic book series in the DC Universe to tell you the story states, “Superstar writer and artist Sean Murphy presents an eight-issue miniseries of a twisted Gotham City with a massive cast of heroes and villains that, at its heart, is a tragic story of a hero and a villain: Batman and the Joker. But which is the hero, and which is the villain?[1] This is a tale that I think speaks to our culture now when one says, “Look at this chaos in these people in the streets causing riots.” While on the other hand, other people are saying, “Look at this injustice that has plagued a whole group of people.” No one in their right mind, if they critically think can say at the end of the day, that both truths can not be opposite the truth sometimes is in the middle so to speak. It has been said that Karl Barth a theologian once said, “A good minister will have a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.” I would agree with the statement, but I am going to say that Sean Dotson does not like the media or the newspaper; I love social media and geeky pop culture things. So instead of picking up a newspaper, I am going to pick up a comic book in one hand and the Bible in the other.

Story:

In the first couple of pages of the comic you see the batmobile entering Arkham Asylum. For those that do not know the history of Arkham Asylum or understand batman, it is the place where all the criminals go if they been declared insane, and in hope of rehabilitation. We see shadow figure enter the facility, and guards start to unlock the cage for us to see the person in which we are about to see. You read the shadow figure say, “Jack Napier asks, “How is he?”[2] If you are like me you are probably thinking this is Batman talking, but as you turn the page or in my circumstance as you slide to the next page, you see our hero Batman is the one in the cage not the Joker. The police then say, “IT’S BEEN QUIET. HASN’T SAID A WORD, Mr. Joke—Mr. Napier.” Napier appeals to Batman asking for his help for some reason.[3]

Then the comic switches to one year ago in the streets of Gotham. You see the Joker running through the streets and Batman chasing him in his batmobile, recklessly driving after him. The Joker seems like he is just running and laughing as he goes along. In the story you see that there are innocent bystanders, are now got in the chaos. Knightwing comes in and tries to save a pedestrian that batman almost ran over.[4] Batman’s mind is set on the mission to stop the Joker and his mind is on stopping this chaotic person and his mission is clear, because the Joker always seems like he is up to something, that will eventually lead to disaster.

Eventually they end up in a factory that is making pills, but the reader is unaware of the building in which the two ends up our hero Batman and our villain Joker. Joker states, “HA HA HA! “CONGRAT ON ANOTHER GREAT PERFOMRANCE, PARTNER! GREAT LEAP OVER GOTHAM FERRY.”[5] It seems like the Joker has set up some kind of play as the reader continues to read on.  Eventually Batman says, “This ISN’T A PERFMRANCE JOKER.”[6] The two continue to talk and Joker in his weird mind sees this soon to be fight like a couple fighting with each other and that Batman and the Joker are actually in a relationship.

In the next pages is when we realize that the police are outside and the other heroes Batgirl and Knightwing are outside talking to the police this is when we realize that this factory is full of pills but nobody knows what these pills are. Joker and Batman do the epic dance of hero and villain fighting. Joker states, “I’M THE ONLY ONE REALLY KNOWS YOU, Batman! YOUR VIGLANTISM ISNT ABOUT JUSTICE—IT’S ABOUT CONTROL: FIXING THE CITY IS YOUR PATHEITC WAY OF SALVAGING BITS OF YOUR ANIMA. BUT YOU’RE TO STUPID TO SEE THAT IT HASN’T WORKED—CRIME HAS BECOME YOUR THEARPY, AND GOTHAM YOU VICTIM. YOU’VE DRAGGED US ALL IN YOUR PERPETUAL HALLOWEEN.” Joker says this as attempts to punch Batman but the Bat blocks the punch and states, “ENOUGH.”[7] In the next scene you see that Commissioner Gordon, Batgirl, and Knightwing have entered in, and all they say is that Batman is putting up the Joker. The Joker tries to show him that everyone is fed up with the Bat’s war on crime, and all the victims are caught in the cross hair. Joker declares, “IT’S ALL FALLING APART AND YOUR’RE INCAPABLE OF STOPPING IT! ADMIT IT![8] The two continue to fight on and eventually Joker grabs a bottle of pills. He states to explain his “masterplan” to the Bat in why he is there. He holds up the pills and states, “IF CAN GET BETTER, I CAN GET THIS CITY BACK ON TRACK…”[9]

Batman takes the pills and someone with a phone starts recording, and he shoves all the pills of the bottle inside of Joker’s mouth. The Joker tells us himself as he drifts off into unconscious, “BREATHE…”[10] Then the scene jumps to the media with a two people talking about who was in the wrong Batman or the Joker and the news anchor declares, “I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE THE DAY WHEN PEOPLE WOULD BE OUT ON THE STREETS DEFENDING SOMEONE LIKE THE JOKER.”[11] Eventually you see all the commissioner talking with some of his police officers and they are debating on how bad this has gotten, outside of the hospital bedroom, with Joker looks like he is in a comma. People start to question that they are not afraid of the Joker waking up they are more afraid of his weird love interest Harley Quinn. Eventually back in the Batcave Dick and Barbara in other scene at a random secret entrance with Bruce and Bruce takes them downstairs and we do see Alfred the butler laying down, in a hospital bed dying. Dick and Barbra have realized that, Bruce has been hiding this from them over a month.

Eventually the scene changes once again and a doctor explains that she thinks the Joker has really changed, and through medical science it seems like he has really changed. Which then what happens you realize that the Joker or now actually Jack Napier, has been at the library researching for three days. The doctor tells what he has been doing, “HIS LEGAL CASE, IT LOOK LIKE HE’S GOING TO FILE CHARGES AGAINST THE GCPD, BATMAN, AND GOTHAM CITY. AND GIVEN HIS NEW FOUD MENTAL CAPACITY I THINK YOU NEED TO BE WORRIED.[12]

Eventually the police finally have the conversation with Jack Napier and as they start to talk, he lays out his claims, and shows that actually Joker did not do any harm in the incident above. He went to secluded place and fought the Bat and the Bat was the one that did all the harm. Napier shows that he knows that Batman does not work for the GCPD but they do have a Bat signal on top of the police headquarters. While he may not work with them, they attribute to the Batman’s vigilante behavior that hurts others. The comic ends with Napier getting up and saying, “I LOVE GOTHAM, AND ITS TME I PAID HER BACK FOR THE DEBT OWNED BY THE JOKER. THE CITY DESERVES BETTER THAN YOU, BETTER THAN THE JOKER AND BETTER THAN THE DARK KNIGT. SO, I’M GOING TO BE HER WHITE KNIGHT.[13] This concludes the first issue of the comic book series White Knight.

Tune in Wednesday to hear more of the story, in the second issue. But like I said, this blog series will continue, and I will continue to do it for fun. Because I see this as a fun activity, but also, I want to share with others everything that I do. If you feel like you want more of these stories, pick a comic book series for me to follow in the DC Universe. The only reason I am not doing Marvel is because I do not have Marvel Unlimited due to financial needs. But if you want to help in any way, you can reach out to me and attribute some money if you want me to do Marvel. It does not matter how much you give, one dollar, five dollars, or any amount. If people are interested in this as a continue along, I can make more great content. But unfortunately, we live in a world where we all need money to do anything. This does take time, for me to sit aside time, research the comic. I am wanting to give you guys this content so that we can work together not against each other in a polarized world. Tomorrow, we will dive into scripture and look at what the scripture teaches in a blog, and then I will Facebook live some of this. So, with that we go back into the polarized world, and will you be a light in the darkness and try not to keep dividing but build each other up.

[1] DC Universe comic book White knight accesed 6/1/2020.

[2] Batman White Knight page six panel 1.

[3] Ibid page seven panel one through three.

[4] Ibid page nine panel through six.

[5] Ibid page eleven panel 1

[6] Ibid page 11 panel three.

[7][7] Ibid page thirteen panel 3

[8] Ibid page 13 panel 6

[9] Ibid page 15 panel 2- 3

[10] Ibid page16 panel 6

[11] Ibid page 17 panel five

[12] Ibid Page 25 panel five

[13] Ibid page 28

Constipated Christianity

When it comes to reading, many of us jump from the first part and then literally go to the end. Some, of course, will jump around or try to skim the book. But what would happen if we started to read the Bible from backward to frontwards in our minds? I will admit, this sounds crazy to think about this idea. But when I first started to do this, I was at a youth camp when I heard a pastor preach a message on Matthew 7:24-28 talking about how we must put on our faith in Jesus. But after the sermon, I went to my wife and a church volunteer named Donna Crick and asked them, “Wait, that is the end of the Sermon on the Mount, so is Jesus expecting to do what he says in the following two chapters?” So now every time I read the Sermon on the Mount I start from the back of the Parable of the wise man and foolish man. Because in Matthew’s eyes, he sees the impact of doing what Jesus said, and because these consequences are eternal. When talking about the ending of the “Sermon on the Mount” David Platt declares, “And Jesus reminds us that it doesn’t matter how we’ve propped up our house or how we’ve fixed up r what other people think of it. Unless that house is founded upon the Rock, its fall will be stunning.” (Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition Exalting Jesus In Matthew, 100).

None of us can be perfect in the literal sense, we have all fallen and are all sinners according to scripture (look up the verse). But Jesus states in 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (NRSV). See our faith is nothing that we do in accepting, but what matters comes afterward. This changed my whole idea of the Sermon on the Mount reading the last part first and looking back asking am I being the wise man who built his house on the rock in these teachings (Matt 7:24-25).

Here recently during the COVID-19 pandemic, some situations arise about how we are meant to gather as believers in Christ. Some of us are struggling and are forced to live with people that we have not actually spent time together all the time. As the joke on social media was shared, “There is this strange man around my house all the time now. I am not for sure if I know who he is. I think it is my husband.” Some churches have closed their doors, while some have kept their doors opened during this crisis. But then I started to think about Scot McKnight’s idea of, Reading Romans Backwards. I have not read the book, but it is on my list to read, like numerous other books. I have listened to his podcast about the book though. McKnight suggests in his blog, “Romans in our day needs to be read from the back, to get the full message.” Mcknight blog https://www.christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2020/february/reading-and-teaching-romans-backwards.html accessed 4/11/20

I started to think about Dallas Willard and his comments about the neglected omission in the Great Commission, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, behold I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20 ESV emphasis mine). See in church history we learn of the father of modern-day missions is William Carey when he addressed the idea of the Great Commission is meant to be taken literally and through that our modern-day missions project started. William Carey is found to be the father of modern-day missions; I would like to call Dallas Willard the father of modern-day discipleship. So through these short blogs, I am going to try to write daily on each of them engaging the text of Matthew backwards in reading it through the lens of that thinking, what if Jesus was serious when he stated we must be teaching others while also telling them the good news of the gospel.

In reading Matthew’s gospel backwards, we will come to conclusions that have been neglected in our reading of Matthew’s gospel. Many of us can tell you about the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, the parable of the sheep and the goat, and the Great Commission. But what else can we say about Matthew’s gospel? See in reading Matthew’s gospel completely as one full story we see the way Jesus interacts with those in power, see how he treated others, and finally how we are meant to proclaim. To be a disciple of Jesus is not about hoarding all the information for one’s self and hope that others will be saved. It is like when we eat, our body refuses to hold everything in if we do to use some vulgar language it becomes constipated. We live in a time in American Christianity that I like to call “constipated Christianity.” It is time we start to drink our prune juice and allow ourselves to be fulfilled in the true vine, which is Jesus, and let the world know more about his teachings and his ways. I honestly stand with the apostle Paul, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (justice), that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). In other words, in my view inerrancy can be important but it can not be as important as authoritative. Looking at scripture as authoritative can hold both to the view of inerrancy, but do we take scripture seriously?

The challenge in reading this blog is not for my sake, but the sake of others (Eph 4:11-12), but to “equip” us to bring the body of Christ up. So, when reading this blog there are four hopeful challenges you will do. The first is I hope you will share your news with someone as you engage the text during these blogs and call me out when you think I am wrong. The second is implied in the last one that you will read Matthew’s gospel starting from the back. The third is to have a journal or technology around you that will make you take notes on what you are reading. The fourth and final challenge would be for you to try to live out the text during these dark times.

Questions to consider:

  1. Why do you think we have neglected the “teaching” part of the Great Commission?”
  2. What is a disciple in your own words?
  3. What do you want to learn through these blogs?
  4. Who can you share your knowledge with as you are growing?
  5. Why do Christians think that it is okay to keep their knowledge to their selves?

Loving Jesus. But, Living In Sin.

No matter what you are loved, thank you Melissa.

mysweetjesus

My sweet sister.

I get it.

It’s hard. It’s enticing. It’s strong.

It’s a part of your lifestyle.

Deep down, you feel the guilt.

Deep down, you know your shame.

You want to stop, but you wouldn’t even know where to start.

Hear me.

You are so loved.

Every single part of you. Even down to the deepest cracks in your heart.

You are loved.

You are prayed for. You are sung over.

You are prized.

So, my friend, let’s talk.

Let’s talk about sin.

It’s a three letter word that I don’t like hearing, but don’t hear enough.

Sometimes, I hate living in America because our culture has normalized and embraced and even praised sin.

Having sex with strangers. Getting drunk. Cheating the system. Stealing. Rebelling against parents. Using the name of “Jesus Christ” as a cuss word. Habitually watching porn. Cheating in relationships.

And sometimes I hate how…

View original post 1,036 more words

One of the Biggest lies we tell people

In my Facebook and Twitter feed a recent article has shown up a couple of times by Shane Pruitt. If you are not following him on twitter than you are missing out. The most recent of his articles for Relevant was https://relevantmagazine.com/article/the-5-most-misused-and-abused-bible verses/?utm_campaign=coschedule&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=RELEVANT&utm_content=The%205%20Most%20Misused%20and%20Abused%20Bible%20Verses, talking about five misused Bible verses that many Christians misuse today. But when reading this after he tweeted this and Relevant released it he is missing a big bible passage that we also take out of context as well. Or should I say it the correct way a Bible story that many do ignore and it is a myth that must be broken. I would be lying if I said I have not created this fallacy as well. It was not until here recently when talking with atheists on the Unbelievable page (a podcast that is from the UK that has Christians and atheists in dialogue with each other). That I came to figure this out. So I repent and hope you will as well when teaching others. Here we go, the Apostle Paul’s name was not changed from Saul to Paul because of his conversion, we will discuss below what happened!

            Now I admit growing up in church and going to youth for a little bit, I heard the story that God blinded Saul and then converted him to Paul. Even in the atheist movie Zeitgeist if I remember correctly states the same thing. Now the reasoning for this matter is probably from Acts 9. It is the story of Saul becoming blind on the Road to Damascus and Jesus’ asks him, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4b). As the story goes, Saul ends up converting to Christ and spoiler alert he becomes one of the best well known Christian missionaries to the church. Never once in this passage is the word Paul mentioned and Doctor Luke if you take the traditional view that he is the author switches back to Peter in chapter 10.

            But how did one of the first terrorists against Christianity get such a radical story that God called him to change his name?  Honestly unless someone else can find the research I could not find anything for an hour and half that assumed that God changed his name to Paul. Maybe it is the Christian tradition of wanting to show another Abram that God changed his name to Abraham. But one can only speculate at this moment in time, but if we are to be true to the text the conversion story of Saul does not mention God changing his name to Paul. The only thing chapter nine is clear on is the people were not following Jesus’ command “agape your enemies” (Matt 5:44), but would you not also be afraid of a known terrorist that is coming into your midst saying he now believes (Acts 9:29)? It is clear from Jesus’ statement to Ananias, “I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16 NRSV). If one continues to read the Bible and just look at Paul’s life you see nonstop, he is meet with persecution and must suffer to follow Jesus.

            For three chapters, Paul is not mentioned in the text, until Luke brings him up again in chapter 13 where Barnabas and Saul are sent off (13:1-3). But still Luke is referring to Paul as Saul. In this chapter, Luke states, “Σαῦλος δέ, ὁ καὶ Παῦλος” (Acts 13:9a). The literal translation Saul but also Paul. Do not take my word for it here it is the ESV, “But Saul, who was also called Paul.” Here it is in the NRSV “But Saul, also known as Paul.” The HCSB states it as, “Then Saul also called Paul.”  King James Version bible states, “Then Saul, (who is also called Paul).” Finally, the CSB bible the new updated edition of the HCSB states, “But Saul, also called Paul.” So where do we get the idea that Paul had to change his name to Saul?

            Saul is his Jewish name while Paul is actually his Greek name. Throughout his letters, Paul is writing to Gentiles and those outside of Israel, so he uses the word Paul. Paul is showing his Greek credentials as the man named Paul. No, Jesus did not demand him to change his name. Throughout the rest of Acts, he will be known as Paul with a few exceptions. But the myth that God changed Saul the Christian terrorist’s name to Paul is not biblical and is false.

            This is a myth that many Christians have been taught, but we must be willing to suggest that no this is not right. This is a traditional idea that is not found in scripture, it is a myth that we have created to make Paul seem like the unlikely villain turn hero, and because of that he changes his mind. He is called to repentance and is a new identity, and he does have a new identity and purpose in Christ Jesus. Yes, all of this is true when one becomes a Christian but Paul did not change his name. It was a means by which he ascribed to his Roman name Paul. Paul had dual citizenship which he will use later to his advantage (Acts 22:25-29 Acts 25). Let us say goodbye to this myth and tell the story of how Paul from the very start found a way to do missions with other nations by using his Roman name to reach them. God had a plan and that plan worked out because now Paul is one of the most well-known theologian/missionary the world has ever known.

Book Review Sinners in the hands of a loving God

Brian Zahnd. Sinners in the Hands of a love God, The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News (Colorado Springs, CO, 2017). 210 pp. 10. 39.

Have you ever read a book that you could agree with at one point; and then at others completely disagree with? This was my honest reaction to Brian Zahnd’s new book. I loved how he traced the good news of Jesus Christ is good news, not a news that scares one into not going into hell. In this book, Brian Zahnd shows personal readings of looking at some of the Fire and Brimstone preachers and seeing how now he cannot just agree with them. Throughout this short review, I will lay out two negative critiques I had and then lay out why this book needs to be read.

Throughout the book, Zahnd is trying to show that Johnathon Edwards in his sermon, Sinners in the Hands of the Angry God, got it wrong. Zahnd accomplishes it throughout his book by ending it with the climatic version of the Bible by looking at Revelation; or as I personally like to call the gospel of the anti-empire.

The first critique I had of this book is quite simple and might sound tedious, but it is an important factor that must be addressed. In the first chapter when the author address Edwards’ sinners in the hands of the angry God, never once does he quote the original passage that Edwards was preaching from. Johnathan Edwards was preaching from the passage Deuteronomy 32:35. Where it states, “Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly (Deut 32:35 ESV). Edwards is preaching from a text in the Old Testament. Zahnd later on in the book claims, “The Bible is not perfect revelation of God; Jesus is. Jesus is the only perfect theology” (Zahnd 31). While I agree with this statement, but if we are honest we could not see why Jesus had to come if it was not for the law in which Edwards is preaching from. The Bible is a means in which God is showing how his plan is going to work out.

The second critique I have of this book makes me second guess why I became a Christian. Want to read a little bit about my journey check out my blog at https://seandots.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/to-those-who-despise-the-cross/, word of caution I do not agree with everything I have posted on there now. I am more of a traditionalist that believes there is a physical hell, but my views are not what is being addressed. Brian Zahnd states, “The Justice of God is not retributive; the justice of God is restorative. Justice that purely retributive changes nothing. The cross is not where God finds a whipping boy to vent his rage upon; the cross is where God saves the world through self-sacrificing love” (Zahnd 86). The author here is attacking the stance of penal substitution theory of the atonement.

NT Wright argues in his new book that we need this, but not just one view of the atonement is right. Brian is not truly understanding the concept. Honestly God’s justice should be retributive and restorative, if we ignore that God has a sense of justice that leans towards retributive then we must get rid of the whole Old Testament. Francis Chan states in his book, Erasing Hell, that he co-wrote with Preston Spinkle, “Paul had some frightening things to say about the eternal destiny of those who reject Jesus in this life, but he loved those people like crazy. His life was devoted to seeing them reconciled to God. He even begged people to pursue the healing and salvation that only Jesus offers (2 Cor. 5:20) (Chan 147). Or as Paul shows in Romans 9:1-5 he wishes himself accursed if that means others can know Christ.

This book needs to be read by a lot of Christians because Zahnd is showing the overarching story of the bible. Not just one aspect of the Bible, he shows that Jesus is calling us to look different. Once we say that Jesus is God our lives should change but that does not mean that we can understand everything about after this life.

Although I have some disagreements with this book, Brian Zahnd did an excellent job looking at what it means to follow Jesus. There were times in the book I would cringe and there were times I was yelling preach. I will not write about it in this review but I might address in a blog later but something does need to be addressed. Some of the authors take on atheistic beliefs seems to suggest that he does not understand where they are coming from (Zahnd 92). As multiple atheists, have put it to me, “I am an atheist because I find no compelling reasons to believe that such a deity exists.”

This book is a good way of addressing that God is not just full of wrath, but the one question that I took away, how does one become a Christian? The book is not addressing this needs but the book seems to suggest following Jesus is that one day the world will be better, but there is no reason in living in him here. Because of the rise of humanism and other set beliefs that preach we will make the world better. If we take his argument to the ultimate extreme, then many of these humanist groups are actually the church and they ignore Jesus.

Peter Parker and Psalm 1

IMG_0350It has been quite awhile that I wrote a blog and I apologize for not writing as much. My wife and I felt as if God was calling us to a new school and so we transferred to another seminary. I would be lying if I said everything was easy; there were some objections, but when God calls we must answer that call. But here is something a little bit different I have never done before on this blog and hope many of the readers will enjoy. Throughout this blog we will look at Psalm 1 and compare the creation of Peter Parker becoming Spiderman in Amazing Fantasy number 15. I do not own the rights of Peter Parker or any of the marvel characters mentioned.

Psalm 1 in the NRSV states, “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like tress planted (transplanted) by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish (PS 1:1-6).” The Psalter starts off with the Psalm of wisdom (Mitchell Dahood Anchor Bible pg. 1). From the canonized scripture according to Christians Job is the last book before the Psalms.  The book of Job is classified as wisdom literature. According to wisdom tradition, the wicked will not prosper while the righteous will prosper in this life.  The author or authors of Job show that is not always the case. But Job’s friends throughout the book make it clear that is the theology they ascribe too. To sum this up in today’s theology this seems to suggest some of the charismatic movement and the prosperity gospel. But just for information the Hebrew cannon right before Psalms is introduced “The book of Malachi” is placed right before the Psalter.  Which we are not here here to argue which cannon is right, but in defense of  Christianity we end with Malachi to suggest that there is a coming king that is coming.

C.S. Lewis states, “The dominant impression I get from reading the Psalms is one of antiquity. I seem to be looking into a deep pit of time, but looking through a lens which brings the figures who inhabit that depth up close to my eye” (NRSV C.S. Lewis Bible 565). The Psalms is an ancient book that allows us to see the ancient times of how those worshiped God and places these past figures in our eyes. Psalms is one the books of the Bible that almost is one of the most honest books of the Bible.

In the Spiderman origin story, Peter Parker is made fun of as trying to be a smart teenager. The only people that actually care about him is his teachers and his amazing aunt Mary Jane and Uncle Ben. During an Atomic science demonstration Peter is bitten by a radioactive Spider and has to leave because his head “is feeling strange” (Amazing Fantasy #15, pg. 4).  Of course when this happens the other scientists make fun of Peter and think that the atomic science demonstration has made Peter feel queasy. Oh, but they are so wrong.

What in the world does all of this have to do with Psalms 1 you might be asking? The Psalmist whoever he or she is states, “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers” (Ps 1:1) The HCSB states the last part of this verse as “or join a group of mockers.” In the story arc you see that Peter is surrounded by people always making fun of him. He still goes on his merry way and finds ways to do good in his life. Augustine Pagolu states, “Mockers are proud and self-sufficient who refuse to take instruction or correction from God or anyone else (South Asian Bible commentary 618). Those that mock God are actually believing in their own morality that they think they know better and they know better which in reality they do not.

Soon after getting his powers, Peter ends up showing up at a wrestling match where a criminal steals something; where a cop is chasing after the thief gets away.  The cop questions the now Peter Parker dressed up as Spiderman, “What’s with you Mister?? All you Hadda do was trip him, or hold him just for a minute.” Peter replies, “Sorry Pal! That’s your job! I’m thru being pushed around by anyone! From now on I just out for number one that means ME” (Amazing fantasy #15 pg 9)! Peter has joined the crowds of the mockers and found a way to only care about himself.

But talking about the man that is blessed in verse the Psalmist goes on to continue to say, “They are like tress planted by streams of water which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all they do, they prosper” (Ps 1:3). Mitchhell Dahood is correct when he states, “Commentators are correct in insisting that satal properly means “to transplant,” rather than “to plant” (Mitchell Dahood Anchor Bible commentary Psalms 1-50, pg 3). The Hebrew word is not how the NRSV states it as plant. but means to transplant oneself into the commands of God. According to google the definition of transplant is “move or transfer (something) to another place or situation, typically with some effort or upheaval.” While the word plant means, “place or fix in a specified position.” As one can see transplant shows that the Psalmists shows that those that follow God go against those that are mocking and are placed inside of God’s flowing nature.

Soon after Spiderman allows the thief to escape he heads home to find his Uncle Ben killed by someone. The cops easily give up to the location of where the criminal is located at; when Peter arrives he sees that it was the man that he let escaped. Eaten up by guilt he realizes if he would have done the right thing his uncle would be alive. From the start of Spiderman to his normal day appearances this is a common thread with the Spiderman story arc. Peter struggles making the right choices, do we not all do this?

But if we place ourselves in the “delight of the Lord” (PS 1:2) we see that we care about others. In the Western culture today it is so easily to see conservatives and liberals fight and declare hatred to each other so easily. As Christians something we must not do is being intrigued into this conversation that lean to one side. Our conversations should be focused on the Lord. Once again C.S. Lewis states, “Lead us not into temptation” often means, among other things, “Deny me those gratifying invitations, those highly interesting contacts, that participation in the brilliant movements of our age, which I so often, at such risk, desire” (C.S. Lewis Reflection of the Psalms 74). It is so easy for us to get wrapped into one mindset, but instead our mindset should to be flee through this. Lewis goes on in this section of his books to show that he is amazed that the Psalms contain more about calming the tongue then talking about swords or knives. If one takes Christianity to be serious we realize that words do matter and we will proclaim it to others.

Will we learn from Peter Parker and see that it is better to be transplanted towards God? Or will we just plant ourselves into our own culture and ignore what the Psalmist is trying to tell us? When it comes to following God he never shows that it is easy. Instead he shows the opposite not because He wants it to be that way; but because our desire is not to follow his ways. My prayer is that while you read this I hope you place your faith upon the one true God. But also that you will continue to grow towards him and care more about him daily. Also, I would love to hear some of your feedback if you enjoyed this or if you did not.

A short yearly reflection

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head nonstop? Has it been Taylor’s Swift’s song two to three years ago, Shake it Off, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate. Baby, I am going to shake it off.” Yes, I know I did not finish the whole lyrics because you now remember that nice beat in your head. Your welcome! Well there is a song that has been embedded in my head for the past month by the band The Brilliance called “Brother” it does not matter which version it is. They have one with the rapper, Propaganda, in it and another one with just them singing. No matter what, the chorus has been stuck in my head all the time, “When I look into the face of my enemy I see my brother.” Such a powerful statement and so true with this crazy election climate that came to pass.

Everywhere I looked on my Facebook, the year 2016 has been my least favorite year to be alive and that is the truth. I struggled throughout this year every day I kept praying, “Please Lord Jesus come back!” Which should be our prayer daily anyways but so many of us have forgotten that. But one thing I have learned this semester, is the power of looking into an enemy’s eyes. This song makes me picture a really good friend of mine that I communicate once a week with now through skype he lives in Iran and he is a Muslim.

My feelings on September 11, 2001 was, “Okay why are these grownups crying? Or why is this man actually crying about a little explosion?” I was in the fourth grade when the world trade centers were hit. But what I can tell you from that day all I could hear is Muslims are the enemies they attacked us. Iran, Iraq, and the rest of the Middle East are evil Muslims except for Israel they are good.

I say all this because this semester I am taking a class on the Parables and shew this class like all of my other intensive study courses on certain parts of the Bible has challenged me. Matthew’s gospel and the Sermon on the Mount has been running through my head the past two years. The one line states, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt 5:43-44 NIV). But when thinking of that I am seeing the Great Obligation found at the end of Matthew’s gospel not the Great Commission, I no longer like that term but the Great Obligation that means all disciples of Jesus are meant to do this (Matt. 28:18-20).

If we look at the Sermon on the Mount and the Great Obligation, we see that others will recognize us by our love. Like I said, weekly I am looking at the face of someone I was told to hate by just having a conversation with them. I look at my friend straight in the eyes and we just talk. We both love philosophy and love to chat about world politics, but he is my brother. I have grown such a love for an enemy just by reaching out and talking to him.

Here recently, we were talking about him helping with me with a presentation that I was going to present on a certain Parable. I totally forgot to send him information and his remark was, “You forgot to send me that information. I want to hear the way you presented but I want to learn more about that Parable and what it means.” After the conversation I ran to my wife and just started crying and saying, “Chas, I am being a missionary right now which my dream. We are doing ESL with refugees through our church building, doing an internship with Richmond Justice Initiative, an organization that helps against human trafficking, and also talking to my Muslim friend weekly in Iran. Why me, the ex-atheist who hated God? Why me!?”

Nothing is better than reaching out and showing God’s love to others. What I can tell you right now is that this has been a journey for me and a busy one. I have never been this busy in my life. I am currently working on presentation and exegetical paper on the parable of the Friend at Midnight. Jesus in his explanation my paraphrase, says keep pushing, keep asking, and eventually God will give what you asked for. But through the Holy Spirit God will give you more” (Matt 11:5-14). This is so true in my life right now because I am looking at the eyes of someone I am supposed to hate, but it is one of the highlights of my week to be able to talk to him. All I can see is now my brother.  Are you willing to reach out and embrace an enemy and look at them in their eyes?

Oh Brother I am Sorry Please Repent

Tonight for some reason all I could keep hearing, is one of my undergraduate professors Dr. Jarivs Williams yelling in class about taking care of the poor. I could not remember what class this was about and what we were talking about. But all I could hear is Dr. Williams passionate voice and seeing how the gospel has transformed this man. The same gospel that literally eradicated me over night that has transformed my mind. I looked up some of my old notes and the passage that we were talking about was James 2:1-13.

James states, “My brothers show no partiality,” and then he goes on to condemn some Jewish Christians for showing partiality (James 2:1-7). What this passage entails to us today is we have sinned against our brothers and sisters in Christ. Definently people of color during this election. Those that follow Evangelical theology in America, took advantage of our brothers and sisters in Christ that are minorities. I am just one person, but I am telling you guys right now our battle is not against flesh, but powers of the air. Evangelicals that are white we must repent and look at our brothers and answer Cain’s rhetoric question. To saying, YES I am my brother’s keeper. If we continue on in James you see the importance of loving your neighbor (2:8).

For the first time in five years since Christ revealed the gospel to me, I am ashamed to be a Christian. I want to keep reading Romans 1:16 and say I am not ashamed, but I would be lying. When we have a president elect that spilled hate for a full year, that actually told some people of color that they should be killed for trying to rape a woman in New York. But then he makes very disgusting things about women. I have a wife and I keep really defensive of her when people just text her the wrong way. But this has nothing to do with the anger many of friends are dealing with right now and how they have lost their identity.

What I can tell you right now is I am repenting and hoping many of my white brothers and sisters will do also. This election brought out a lot of hate that is not the gospel. Is Abortion wrong? Yes! Is the death penalty wrong? Yes! When I say I am pro-life I am pro-lif, which also means I stand up against injustices against other people. “Do not resist the one who is evil” (Matt 5:33). Oh, let the government walk over top of you is what some our Evangelical brothers said this past Sunday when ignoring the election! People are hurting and are scared. We need to be talking about this and letting our brothers and sisters truly speak out.

I am a Baptist, which means one important separation between church and state. But when James tells us to take care of the poor means we take care of the poor! We are in the richest nation in the world, but we have neglected Christ and neglected His people. I look forward to the day that Jesus is King and all will worship before him. But that does not give me pacifist tendencies to sit idle by when many our brothers and sisters are hurting. James is just one example of this, but all throughout the Bible where giving to the rich and not the poor is seen wrong. Why?! Do we give thousands to certain churches and then we still have poor areas in the world! The gospel is a gospel that cares about socail problems but also spirutal needs and if the two are not meet; we are not proclaiming the gospel. We must truly show others the love of Christ.

As our Brother James shows us the church has not changed. The church instead has made it even worse. “Forgive us Father for we do not know what we do.” I am scared for some of my brothers and sisters in Christ, but what I am more scared of is this nationalistic idenity American culture is embeded into. Repent from our power hungry ways and give our power to others this is the stand for the gosepl. I am sorry and so should be the white church. Part of me wants to walk away from the church because of the hurt I have seen. But I know the gospel is the power to change all and we must be willing to show others this message. Come America tell me who you are! Will you repent of your wicked ways? Will we as White Evanglicals repent of our own ways? Will we relook at our image and figure out how our true identiy is? That idenity is in Christ, and we must get rid of every mention of our own idenities and look towards our true idenity and that is Christ. We are first and foremost Christians.

 

In honor of Soren Kierkegaard

Today is Veteran’s day in America, it is the day that we remember all the fallen people who have died to protect our rights but also celebrate those rights. As a Christian, I despise war and violence but I am thankful for these leaders because the world is not yet Christ’s Kingdom. But that does not mean I stop working on telling others about the gospel and caring for others. Today besides Veteran’s day I think it is important to remember the death of a great Christian leader, Soren Kierkegaard, today marks the day he died. As Christians we stand on a whole cloud of witness and with the way the election turned out Kierkegaard can teach us a lot. He was the influence of two great theologians that we as protestants love, Karl Barth who then influenced Dietrich Bonheoffer. These two men’s views for Christianity are influential to us today; but before them was the great Kierkegaard. I am not for sure if they will admit it but Evangelicals have to remember Kierkegaard is an influence on their own theology. Contemporary theologians that express this influence more than others are Stanley Hauerwas, John Piper, Jurgen Moltmann, and Tom Wright, David Platt, I would even say Pope Francis, and these are just a few.

This blog post is for us to reflect just on one line from a book Kierkegaard wrote. As protestants we have neglected Apostolic succession but we must reclaim it and realize that there are people before us that proclaimed this message. Our message is not individualistic like some of our brothers and sisters want to say. It is not about “I” it is about a community that stands before us, after us, and with us now always. Christ is with us “always to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20). But not only Christ but all who follow Him. We must stand strong, and remember our successors of our faith the good and the bad, our future leaders. and our current leaders in the church.

The book, “Attack on Christendom,” is about Kierkegaard responding to a professor who said a priest was a witness to the truth. Kierkegaard hated this and was like no this priest was not a witness to the truth of the gospel. Kierkegaard struggled when people ignored the New Testament outlook on suffering. We have made it too easy to follow Jesus since the rise of Constantine. If you know me personally I am the same exact way and I feel as if we have neglected the New Testament all together in our Christian world view.

This is a paraphrase and not for sure his exact words but, “Can one claim to be a Christian in a Christian nation? Heck, even animals in our Christian state are Christians.” We have emerged and forced our own beliefs on others and changed the government to “Christian.” Kierkegaard wanted Christendom to be destroyed in his life time but now it is collapsing and it is the GREATEST thing for the Christian church.

The reason for this is that now everyone can see that Christians are different and these crazy people are willing take up their crosses, they are willing to die for their enemies, and they are willing to give up their own salvation if that means others can be free. When we step back and think Richard Dawkins and the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” are actually functionally Atheistic-Christians and do not even realize it. Our culture is so embedded into the Christian faith that as a society we do not even realize that we are “Christian” but we ignore the core issue and that is the part of Christ’s suffering and he tells us that we will suffer. Suffering is a part of the Christian nature.

Can we as Christians actually thrive in a nation that is slowly drifting away from Christendom? Can we actually take our witness or we have bound ourselves up here in America as Democrats and Republicans? Or the real words “conservative/the religious right, moral majority,right leaning, or ruralites” or the “liberal, progressive, left leaning people, or urbanites.” Whichever title/label you want to call yourself it does not matter as a Christian. We participate in Christ and look to him for our answers not worldly powers. Stand strong and welcome the era of without Christ that means we must proclaim Him even more.

We should take Christ seriously and actually realize we follow a God that took the book of Isaiah to the core of his message. Isaiah was instrumental to Jesus’ ministry and the Christians that came after him. Which means as Christians the most important book of the Old Testament we need to take serious is Isaiah. Besides just reading the three gospels my liberal friends and ignoring John gospel’s read Isaiah along with it. My conservative friends quit reading Paul’s epistles more and reading only John’s gospel read alongside these with Isaiah.

Today we celebrate our Veterans who sacrificed themselves for our nation. But will you also join me in celebrating the life of Soren Kierkegaard, he is part of our cloud of witness and a lot of our theology is owe to him. He was a man of God that collapsed on a street while walking and three to five weeks later died on today’s date. God is the same yesterday as He is today, but we take upon the suffering and we drink of his cup because we are like Christ (Matt. 5:11, 10:22,16:24, 20:22, Mark 10:38, Mark 13:13, Luke 9:23, Luke 21:17, John 15:21 2 Timothy 3:12). Will you join me in the joyous community of Christ? Will you join the movement that welcomes death because we are not scared. Because we realize in Nik Ripken’s language “we have a hope in the resurrection!” Which this resurrection is not a onetime sealed deal it is an ongoing process that you murder yourself daily! Embrace the need that as Christians we have neglected the New Testament theme. Embrace the truth that we need to reclaim this truth. Why have we neglected this great document of ours!