In my hotel room in Columbus this weekend, I caught a glimpse of the televised trial for the murder of George Tiller, the abortion doctor from Kansas City. At the moment I was watching, Scott Roeder (the defendant who admittedly shot Tiller) was on the witness stand.
Roeder attempted to justify his pulling of the trigger by claiming that he was protecting the lives of the unborn, saying that life starts at conception and that God the Creator was the only one in charge of the beginning and ending of life (not Tiller). He quoted the familiar phrase that “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away” (which is found in the Book of Job, chapter 1, verse 21).
This is a great example of my previous post in how the Bible can be used for evil as it can also be used for good. I believe that Mr. Roeder used a Biblical passage and twisted it to fit his unjust actions. He used the Bible for evil.
The double-standard in Mr. Roeder’s logic cannot be more blatant. He is defending his act of murder by saying that only the Lord is allowed to take life away from someone. Think about that for a second. “I’m going to kill you because you’re a child-killer and I believe that only God can end someone’s life, not you.”
For the record, I happen to believe that life begins at conception and that abortion is taking the life of a child. But there is a right way and a wrong way to respond to those with whom we disagree. I believe that Mr. Roeder chose the un-Christlike way to respond to someone with whom he disagreed. Some right ways to respond include patient prayer, loving compassion for struggling mothers, peaceful engagement and dialogue with people of opposing viewpoints, and voting for legislators who seek to protect the lives of the unborn.
If Mr. Roeder knows his entire Bible, he would come across the sayings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, verses given):
21″You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother[b]will be subject to judgment.
38″You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
43″You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you,
Thankfully, justice was served and Mr. Roeder was convicted of murder. Looks like he’ll be in prison for life, with a possibility for parole after 25 years.
Heavenly Father, please protect the lives of the unborn, grant support and wisdom to young mothers who are struggling with tough decisions, and please help us to respond lovingly to those with whom we disagree.
“The majesty of God is too high to be scaled up to by mortals, who creep like worms on the earth.” – John Calvin, 16th Century
You are the great Juggler.
From the celestial bodies to our human bodies, you toss and weave every planet and molecule in a pattern of indescribable beauty.
We can manage only a handful of objects in the air at once.
We can manage only a limited amount of schedules, relationships, and responsibilities on this earth.
But you are the eternal, everlasting, all-powerful God, with no limit to your juggling prowess.
May we look to you for all our juggling strength, seeking to emulate the beauty of your patterns in the patterns we make.
We praise you, great Juggler, who is Father, Spirit, and Son – the One True God.
Image: “The Burial of Christ” by Gustave Dore, woodcut (19th Century)
This is the season of Lent, where Christians remember the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ during the 40 days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. This morning, I read the first recorded Christian creed of the resurrection, which was written by Paul of Tarsus in the middle of the first century in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth: “…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Cor 15:3b-4).
This begs a question: Which “Scriptures” attested to this death, burial, and resurrection? Paul grew up as a very devout Jew, and knew his Jewish Scriptures very well, so he is certainly speaking of those sacred texts, which is what Christians today regard as the Old Testament. The New Testament was far from its final form (indeed, some texts were not yet written) as of Paul writing this creed. So Paul is not referring to the death, burial, and resurrection accounts found in the first century biographies of Jesus written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
While the “suffering servant” songs of Isaiah (i.e. Isaiah 53) and Psalm 22 foreshadow the death and suffering of Christ, there is still the question as to which Jewish texts point to the resurrection of Christ. There are few particular passages to which Paul could be referring:
1. Psalm 16:10-11: “because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (this is especially interesting when you read Peter’s sermon in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:22-36).
2. Isaiah 53:11: “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied” (interestingly enough, the phrase “of life” is not found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the phrase “light of life” is not found in the Masoretic Text).
3. Hosea 6:2: “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence” (remarkably, early Jewish rabbinical teachings from the 2nd Century view this passage as referring to resurrection; see also 2 Kings 20:5 for another “third day” restoration).
4. Jonah 1:17: “But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights” (this should be seen as prophetic only as it relates to what Jesus says in Matthew 12:40: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”).
According to Gordon Fee, the most plausible explanation for Paul claiming that the Jewish Scriptures foreshadow the resurrection of Christ is that “‘on the third day’ was probably seen in terms of the variety of OT texts in which salvation or vindication took place on the third day” (Fee, NICNT: 1 Corinthians, 727f.).
I would like to reference two commentaries that helped in compiling this information: John N. Oswalt’s The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah (2003, p. 587) and Gordon D. Fee’s The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (1987, pp. 727f.).
If we really read the stories of the New Testament and look around today…does anybody else see a completely different world, even a vastly different form of Christianity? Jesus and his followers administered physical healings, demon exorcisms, prophetic utterances, prayers in unknown languages, etc, etc. They lived communally – sharing their resources among themselves (at least the community described in Acts 2 did so). I wonder how much of the New Testament we should expect to live out as Christians today and how much of it is “cultural” and “only pertinent to that time.” This is a discussion that has already split churches into denominations, but it is still a relevant topic on which I wish to ponder (and seek the Lord’s guidance on). There’s gotta be more to Christianity than what appears to be “Christianity” today. On the journey, humbly…Jesse.
I just finished Financial Peace, Revisited by Dave Ramsey with thoughts by Sharon Ramsey (Viking, 2003). I blasted through this book, both because of its readability and since the subject matter is very practical. I have been listening to this guy’s podcasts recently and his conservative Puritan view towards money (hard work ethic, no borrowing, giving/tithing, saving) resonates with what I feel is the right way to view finances. He has quite the following on his radio show and in his live events. He has also taken the American church by storm, offering his “Financial Peace University” curriculum at a church or school near you.
In his book, Dave shares how he lost BIG in real estate in his twenties – nearing bankruptcy, only to gain it all back again using the money principles about which he now teaches. Has what he calls the “Baby Steps” to financial freedom – starting with things like saving up an emergency fund and getting out of consumer debt. Then he encourages people to save for retirement and college – and then pay off the house. He teaches that ideally, nobody should take out a mortgage but should buy a house with cash. But if people area already in a mortgage, then they should “get mad” until it is completely paid off. We work harder at something, he says, if we get mad and let our emotional desire for peace and security kick in. Once the house is paid off, then they can live prosperously and philanthropically. None of this comes overnight. Financial peace is the result of hard work at our jobs and disciplined saving over the long-haul. It also means that we as consumers must curb our selfish desires to “have it all” and “have it now.” We must live well beneath our means and use the excess income to save and give.
I love this kind of teaching because it is the opposite of the “get rich quick” myths out there. We have all seen those infomercials and seen the ads: “Earn ten times the income for one-fourth of the work!” Maybe some people have achieved that. But most people cannot – because that is not reality. Work hard, give, save, spend. And make sure every penny – and no more – is allocated to one of those three categories (giving, saving, spending).
I recommend this book. We all need to deal with money in this world. This book helps up to better deal with it so that we are no longer enslaved by the money, but rather we have control over it.
After graduating from seminary, I all of a sudden have time to read non-required reading. I started with No Compromise by Melody Green, the wife of the late Keith Green. Keith was one of the most passionate, sincere, poetic, and Spirit-inspired Christian musicians of the past century.
I devoured this book during my free time at camp in Florida last week. I could not put the book down, partly because his life story is so captivating and partly because the book is written in such a readable storytelling format. Melody co-wrote the book with a guy named David Hazard, who I guess is an experienced editor/author.
Keith Green is probably best known for some of the songs he put out, such as “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful” and “The Easter Song.” He tragically died in a plane crash with two of his young children in 1982. He was only 28 years old.
The book chronicles the life of Keith from the cradle to the grave. He grew up as a child music prodigy, coming close to making it big in the secular music world. When it was evident that his “big break” was not coming, he slid into the hippie-drug movement of the 70’s. His spiritual search led him through every type of Eastern religion, cult, and new age philosophy. He found nothing except psychedelic drug experiences.
Then he came across the words and teachings of Jesus Christ (not organized Christianity, to which he was antagonistic). Over time, the life of Jesus and the message of full forgiveness through the love and sacrifice of Jesus appealed to him as the true way of life. That began a journey of struggling to follow Jesus and make music. He took the non-traditional route of musicians by refusing to charge for concerts or albums. He also took the non-traditional route of Christians by taking people into his home – hitchhikers, pregnant teens, and others who were “down-and-out” with no place to go. As his ministry grew, he and his wife had taken in some 70 people into their “commune” (they had to keep buying and renting more houses in their suburban neighborhood in order to keep providing space for all these people).
His concerts and music were very “in your face.” His talent was good enough to let him rub shoulders with people like Bob Dylan. Fame was at his doorstep. But his heart was to bring the message of God’s love to the world. He would challenge Christians with lyrics such as “How can you be so dead, when you’ve been so well fed? Jesus rose from the dead and you can’t even get out of bed!”
It was a warm Texas evening when Keith went on a joy ride in a plane with some friends. He took two of his children with him, leaving his pregnant wife and an infant child behind. Keith’s plane went down shortly after taking off, killing all 12 people on board. His death was a loss to the world. But Melody shares in the book that after Keith died, the Lord put a verse on her heart: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, then it produces many seeds.” Keith’s life and legacy spoke to the urgency of God’s good news to the world – that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. And salvation is God’s desire for every human on this earth – so those in the fold need to go out and tell the world about God’s love for them. He wanted to please God, help the needy, and be Christ to the world. Though he wasn’t perfect (he didn’t claim to be), God used him in mighty ways.
The book itself is a mixture of narrative, song lyrics, and journal entries from Keith’s personal journal. Many characters show up in the story, but Melody keeps the reader on track when plotting through his life story. In many ways, the book is about Melody and her own personal spiritual struggles and journey. She lost a husband and two children, so the telling of this story is just as much hers as it is Keith’s. She ends the book with an epilogue that updates the reader on how things are going in her life currently (the edition I read updated the reader up to 1987). I believe there is an edition out for the year 2000 or 2001. She may have another update in that one.
Please read this book. Brace yourself for quite a ride. You will not want to live life the same after reading this book. One of my favorite parts is when Melody shares about Keith’s “ahah” moment when reading the sermons of Charles Finney. He had a midnight encounter with the Holy Spirit while reading these sermons. He was so excited that he ran through his commune at 5 or 6 in the morning to wake everybody up and tell them about the wonderful love of God and the powerful move of the Holy Spirit that he experienced. That began a commune-wide revival that included prayer, sharing, communal confessions, worship and teaching. Hey, sounds like the church in Acts 2 if you ask me.
I wish there were more pictures in the book. I also wish Melody would have shared the “song story” (which she tells many) of “Song for Josiah.” But that is my personal preference since I love that song (it is written to his son shortly after Josiah was born). There’s more I could ramble about, but as they would say in Reading Rainbow back in the 80’s, “why don’t you see for yourself…”
By the way, I looked around on google and youtube and there are some great videos of Keith Green. Here are the best ones I could find:
Here is the official website for Last Days Ministries, the ministry started by Keith and Melody:
The book can be found and purchased for less than $11 at Amazon.com by clicking here