The Ultimate Fix: A Big Lesson in Little Things

broken cupsA couple of days ago, I woke up slightly agitated. I had contacted my mechanic the previous day to arrange an emergency drop off because all of sudden my car had been making a really loud noise in the front. Having a 17 year old car with over 200,000 miles on it, I’ve accepted that repairs here and there are a necessary evil. But so far, this evil has been far better than a monthly car note. Aside from the inconvenience of arranging rides, my bigger concern was the cost of repair. Being without steady employment, made me a bit anxious since I have to be really cautious about my money and had little room for the extra cost of a repair bill.

My agitation grew throughout the day as I waited to hear back from my mechanic. Normally, they are pretty good about assessing the problem and getting back to me with the estimate. I called them around 1:00 only to find that they hadn’t even looked at it yet. What? Immediately, my mind went to the arranging rides for the morning to get my son to school and me to school to take a final. Normally, they call before working on anything to let me know what needs to be done. The fact that they hadn’t even called by then made the possibility of not getting my car back a greater reality. But I still held out hope.

The drip from the toilet tanks and periodic rushing of water increased the agitation. I had put a work order in at least 3 times and stopped in the management office that morning to remind them of the job. It seemed like they were in cahoots with the mechanic! I tried to focus on the school work I needed to complete but could not stop being annoyed. No call from the mechanic. No one yet to fix my toilet. Just waiting and waiting and being annoyed.

Now you may be thinking how trivial and I agree. In the grand scheme of things, these are pretty inconsequential matters. And considering the bigger issues I’ve been dealing with in my life, I was getting annoyed with myself for being annoyed at such small things. And yet, as I strove to accomplish school work, I could not get rid of the restless waiting and growing annoyance. Stuff needed to get fixed and it was hanging in limbo. Continue reading

Does the Bible Clearly Say…?

Ask Christians about end times – how will God wrap up this earthly program – and you will get a variety of answers. One answer that I think needs examining is when any response is prefaced with “the Bible clearly says”. I’m going to suggest that such a response ignores the complexities involved in covenant fulfillment, how Old Testament prophecies are related to Christ, Israel and the church, whether Israel and the church are distinct entities, whether there is a literal millennium, how we understand use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, how apocalyptic language is interpreted in relation to covenant fulfillment (however THAT gets interpreted).

We also don’t want to isolate passages and make stringent conclusions without examining how it fits in with the overall fulfillment program. Scott over at Prodigal Thought wrote this piece on the rapture and why he does not believe 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:7 and Matt. 24 speak to a pre-tribulational event. He makes some valid points. But, this passage may get interpreted as a pre-trib rapture depending on how Revelation is interpreted in relation to Old Testament prophecies, depending on how hermeneutics are employed in reading the OT in the NT, depending on how this relates to covenant fulfillment. Craig Blaising has written much on this topic from his progressive dispensationalist perspective and makes good points as well.

I recently took an Old Testament elective, A Theology of Biblical Covenants. Aside from meeting elective requirements for my degree, I was motivated to take the class to assist with the wrestling I’ve been doing related to covenant fulfillment and how Old Testament promises related to Christ and his body. By the time we got to the new covenant this is what the board looked like.

Covenants class_board

Simple, right? Class discussion and reading, professor’s statements regarding humility in learning and my own wrestling with the text, reinforced the reality that the Bible does not clearly say how all this works together though we can come to some reasonable convictions. I am grateful for good and godly people who have spent years in study and production of literature to help understand this better both from a dispensational and covenantal perspective. They help bring understanding to these complex issues and will spit us out somewhere in either the dispensational or covenant camp.

Although as one stuck in the middle I am warm to progressive covenantalism as an alternate option. I’ve moved towards a more Christo-centric fulfillment in the present and seeing no distinction between Israel and the church in agreement with the Covenant folks but disagree with them related to new covenant continuity and eschatalogical fulfillment (i.e. amillennialsim). That puts me somewhere in historic pre-mill camp but away from dispensationalism.

So I continue to investigate and wrestle. I’m taking the stand expressed by one of my classmates who’s kind of in the same wrestling boat – “I’m a free agent”. I like that because it frees me from being forced to identify with a particular system. I’ve discovered that the more I study and investigate the more complex these relationships are. The one thing we shouldn’t do is to consider these matters superficially or align with camps simply because of identification. That is when we might err in making the statement “the Bible clearly says”. I have found too that hard lines are drawn too hard and too fast, typically because of alignment with one camp or the other and lack of consideration for alternate perspectives. Reading broadly helps.

Sex and the New Jerusalem City

Multicultural gatheringMy friend Damian and I had a recent email exchange regarding preaching tendencies related to the contemporary evangelical culture. This comes with a philosophy that we need to be so relatable that it ends up obscuring God’s overall redemptive program. He talked about this one class in his seminary program in which discussions of Song of Solomon which resulted in placing a good dose of emphasis on human sexuality. With his permission, I’m posting his full response:

 I am firmly convinced of the allegorical interpretation of the text as God’s love, expressed in anthropomorphic terms, for His people. Karl Barth’s idea, echoed by John Paul II – that sexual differentiation is the defining feature of our humanness, the key that unlocks the door to human identity – seems to have conquered the day in modern evangelicalism . But I would challenge this thesis: If Christ is truly the fullness and definition of authentic humanity, we must say that marriage, sex, and parenthood tell us nothing whatsoever of ultimate significance about humanness since Christ did not participate in any of these.

There appears to be an obsession in modernity, swallowed hook, line, and sinker, by the evangelical church, that by analyzing our own sexuality, we believe we will finally discover the deep secret truth of our humanness. To borrow from Foucault, he claims that we are obsessed not with sex itself (as a physical act), but with “the truth of sex” – with the idea that sex is a revelation of truth. Thus we form sexual sub-cultures; we worry about the ever-more-precise definition of all our sexual habits and preferences; we constantly think about our sexuality; we write about it incessantly; we “confess” our sexual secrets and peculiarities; we have never been fully honest about ourselves until we have given utterance to our sexuality. (A fascinating example of this is the way biographers assume that the sexual life of their subjects will disclose the deep secret truth about who they “really” are.) Continue reading

Why I Can’t Only Imagine

Since my CD player has been busted in my car for awhile, I’m reliant on the radio or my own voice for listening pleasure. Every so often Where the Streets Have No Name by U2 will come on. Without fail, it sends me to another place…the future, the new heaven and earth where God will dwell with his people and the Son has returned and set everything right (Revelation 21:1-5).

Interestingly, I Can Only Imagine by MercyMe doesn’t quite have the same impact. I’ve been contemplating why this is the case. One reason is that it sets a sedate tone. Now when I read Revelation 21, I get the picture of a celebration. Think about it, no more death or mourning or pain. God dwelling among his people. I’m sorry but I don’t here a soft piano and violins.

Music is a powerful medium. The composition of the arrangement of notes and instruments can set a tone without using words. It is a reflection of our creator God in whom his creatures and their creations reflect. The music of Where the Streets Have No Name creates a celebratory tone of enthusiasm with just the music alone. The words only emphasize what the music is conveying, a song about the celebration in eternity. Continue reading