Philip’s Conversation with the Ethiopian Goes Horribly Wrong

"So lemme get this straight, Phil. I get dunked, then I just hang on till the rapture?"

And then the Ethiopian said to Philip, “Look, here is a porcelain tub filled with tepid water and some clean white robes beside.  Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”

“Because,” replied Philip, “I only sprinkle infants.  And besides, you haven’t gone through catechism.”

What Does Your Life Say about Your God?

On Monday, I began asking about the ways in which our beliefs about God have a trickle down effect on our words, actions, and behaviors.  Yesterday, I was delighted to share a happy little story on the subject.  Today, I want to ask a question in the other direction.

If it is indeed true that we come to resemble what we worship (Ps 115), and if, as Christians, we are called to represent our Creator (I believe we are), then what do our actions and words show others about our God?  Make it more personal, if you are created in the very image of God, what might someone conclude about your God by watching you?

Just this morning I was watching a brief talk from NT Wright on Christian apologetics (see below), in which he suggests that the best argument one can make for the validity of Christianity, of the death and resurrection of a Messiah named Jesus, is to live life in a completely new way, unheard of in the rest of the world.  The Right Reverend Doctor tells an interesting tale of the very earliest Christians living in such a way that no one else in the Roman world would dream, or ever thought possible.  They were compelling in their love for worst off and simply the worst of people.  This was the best proof that indeed something had changed in the world.  An event had taken place that had made a true life of love possible.  The earliest Christians (and so many others throughout the centuries) represented a different sort of God.

So when your coworkers observe you, what do they conclude about your God?  Would they say your God is joyful or furious?  Confident or ashamed?  Compassionate or distant?

Can You Know the Living God and Be Unhappy?

Yesterday I was thinking about what it might mean for our lives if we genuinely believed in a God who looks and acts like Jesus.

Following up, I just want to take a second to share something I found just now in Philip Yancey‘s coffee table book Grace, which I suppose is a collect of excerpts taken from his What’s So Amazing about Grace?, reformatted to look hip.

Anyway, this:

In church the other Sunday I was intent upon a small child who was turning around smiling at everyone.  He wasn’t gurgling, spitting, humming, kicking, tearing the hymnals, or rummaging through his mother’s handbag.  He was just smiling.  Finally, his mother jerked him about and in a stage whisper that could be heard in a little theatre off Broadway said, “Stop that grinning!  You’re in church!”  With that, she gave him a belt and as the tears rolled down his cheeks added, “That’s better,” and returned to her prayers. … Suddenly I was angry.  It occurred to me that the entire world is in tears, and if you’re not, then you’d better get with it.  I wanted to grab this child with the tear-stained face close to me and tell him about my God.  The happy God.  The smiling God.  The God who had to have a sense of humor to have created the likes of us…  By tradition, one wears faith with the solemnity of a mourner, the gravity of a mask of tragedy, and the dedication of a Rotary badge.  What a fool, I thought.  Here was a woman sitting next to the only light left in our civilization – the only hope, our only miracle – our only promise of infinity.  If he couldn’t smile in church, where was there left to go? – Erma Bombeck (41)

What Does Your God Look Like?

They say you become what you worship.  Psalm 115 offers something to this effect:

Their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands.  They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see.  They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell.  They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk.  They cannot make a sound with their throats.  Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them. (vv. 4-8, HCSB)

This has been the hope of Christians for generations, that over the course of our lives, we might become more and more like our Father, more and more like Jesus, His Son, who most accurately represented Him.  Certainly the depiction of Christ in the gospels is a model worth aspiring.  And countless Christians could tell you stories of how they once were and how they’ve progressed towards this goal of the years.

But what if our perception of God, or Jesus, even, were askew?  What effect might that have on us?  What might become of us if we believed our God to be eternally angry, perpetually seeking whom He might smite?  What would we look like if we believed our God to be distracted, unconcerned, or simply too busy for us?

Or, more positively, what might it mean for us if we believed the Father to be eternally joyful, actually happy?  How might it affect us to have a God who doesn’t get ruffled by circumstance, who exudes extreme confidence?  What might we do with an infinitely creative God?

Is Anyone Attracted to You?

Dallas Willard was telling me this morning how few Christians actually allow (or possibly want) Jesus to teach them how to do life.  We’ve got all these well-meaning Christians turning to Oprah or Dr. Phil  or Foucault or Sartre (if you can believe it) for a way to guide their lives.  We tend to ignore, when it comes down to it, the very person our faith tells us lived life to the fullest.

We like to say, in Evangelical circles, that the Gospel will change our lives and people will be attracted to that change.  We believe that people will see that we are somehow different and want whatever it is that makes us so.  But then we go out and start talking to people about how sinful and terrible they are, how they’ve got to change or else, turn or burn, and whatnot.  Then we wonder, how come no one listens to me?

Our system is perfectly designed to to yield these results.

Jesus, on the other hand, had, one at least two occasions, thousands of people chase him down around the Sea of Galilee, sit and listen to him for so long they couldn’t be sent home for food for fear they may faint along the way (Mk 6:30-44; 8:1-13).  I don’t know about you, but I start to get a little grumpy and unsettled when I miss lunch.  So what was it about Jesus that people simply forgot about their need for dinner?  They weren’t taking Jesus’ class for credit; there would be no penalty for getting up and walking home before he finished talking; these weren’t mandatory meetings.  Rather, something about Jesus naturally compelled them to stay.

So the question is this: Is that your Jesus?  Is that the kind of person you’re becoming?  Get a little less personal, perhaps: Have you ever met anyone like this?  Have you ever encountered anyone about whom you thought, “I simply cannot leave this person; I must have this?”

My encouragement is just this: Read the gospels.  Allow yourself to dream that this is real.  Allow your heart to leap after the possibility that this could be you, too.

Luke’s Jesus: King of the World

My apologies, up front, for my absence the last couple days.  I was busy doing awesome things.  So, I guess I’m not that sorry.  Although, I did think of you.

… Awkward …

Now, I just want to call your attention to a little morsel at the beginning of Luke’s gospel.

In Luke 1, the birth of Jesus is first foretold by an angel appearing to Mary.  The angel says to her,

Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. (vv. 30b-33, NIV)

This, of course, is found at the very outset of Luke’s tale.  He’s setting the stage.  And like any good story teller, he’s dropping clues as to the story that’s about to unfold.  On the surface, this speech from the angel seems fairly straightforward in its prophetic content.  We’re about to read a story about a man named Jesus who will become king over a never ending kingdom.

This is true, but it’s richer than that.

Take a look, now, at the following from Daniel 7.  Within a vision of Daniel’s, in which God is seated on His throne, a figure enters the Lord’s presence and receives authority to rule over the earth.  (I’ll help direct your attention with some helpful italics.)

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. … But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever – yes, for ever and ever. … Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High.  His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. (Dan 7:13-14, 18, 27, NIV)

Daniel had seen a vision of the Creator God eventually handing over dominion over the earth to this “one like a son of man,” following the defeat of all other crooked empires.  Then, somehow, that kingdom ends up in the hands of the people of God, the “saints of the Most High.”

Does Luke have Daniel’s vision in mind as he writes his gospel?  It’s certainly possible.  Consider, first, the parallels between Daniel 7 and the prophecy regarding Jesus’ birth.  Consider also, the trajectory of Luke’s story, which carries straight through Luke to the end of Acts (He wrote them both, remember).  The good news of this victorious king is carried all the way to the heart of the dominant empire of the day.

Of course, there’s much more that could be said about this, but it’s enough to get the wheels turning.

The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like a Blog

"Now where was I? Ah yes. Now when you blog, do not write on politics or religion, as the Pharisees do. No one wants to hear what you think..."

I’m in a strange mood today.  Thus the paragraph below.  How would you flesh this out or improve upon it?

And Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a blog in which the Son of Man writes his own theological musings.  Many ignore the blog entirely, saying, ‘It’s nice he has a place to voice his thoughts.  But who cares?’  Others are incensed at the ‘heresy’ posted on the blog and loudly defame its author.  Still others, some few, find the content enlightening and liberating.  These the Father calls ‘friends’ on Facebook.”