No Dual Citizenship

I’m reading Philippians, my favorite text in the Bible. As I read it this time, I am focusing on reading theologically more than historically and linguistically. I am quite in sync with the theological interpretation of scripture, because it treats the scripture as scripture, not as simply another ancient text. The historical and language facets of interpreting the text are not ignored, but they are enhanced by this style of interpretation.

As I read Philippians I am referring to the commentary of Stephen Fowl (Fowl, Stephen E. Philippians. The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005.) The Two Horizons series has the stated goal of doing theological interpretation, so I’m not only reading the text; I’m also learning how to do theological interpretation.

Concerning Philippians 1:27, “Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel …” (NRSV), Fowl said a couple things that made a lot of sense to me.

Clearly, Paul is not advocating violent opposition to the empire here. Nevertheless, he makes it very clear that the interests and aims of the church are different from and largely at variance to the interests and aims of the empire. (p. 61)


While Christians will need to discuss and discern together the concrete shape of a common life worthy of the gospel in the light of the particular secular orders they find themselves under, they must avoid thinking of themselves as holding dual citizenship. They have one Lord and serve only one master. (p. 62)

Fowl is putting his finger on the false hope many evangelical Christians place in politics. I know many Christians who are more interested in the political process and trying to elect conservatives than they are in living an authentic Christian life. Paul would not allow it.

We don’t have dual citizenship in the USA (mutatis mutandis) and the Kingdom. If we follow Christ, we follow Christ and anything else is at most secondary. We do our Lord a disservice if we put our hope elsewhere.

In essence, we must renounce our citizenship in our nation to follow Jesus.

I will follow Jesus.


Faith does not mean just believing stuff to be true.

Faith requires obedience. Faith = faithfulness.

Believing that Jesus died for your sins does not do you one bit of good unless to follow up that belief with a commitment — one that you stick to — to spend the rest of your life obeying Jesus. That commitment amounts to an oath of fealty, of loyalty for the rest of your life. You have become enrolled in the ranks of the king. No other king can claim any part of you because you gave it all to Jesus. Forever.

No turning back. No turning back.


Mark 8:31–38 (NLT)

Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.

Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Jesus predicts his death and his mode of death. Also, his resurrection. This is all couched in terms of necessity. In other words, Jesus is doing what he means to do.

This is followed by one of the clearest calls to discipleship you will ever see. “Give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” Walk the way I am walking. Live the way I am living. Move toward death.

These are hard words for our soft generation.

We are often taught, “Admit you are a sinner. Say this little prayer. You are now a Christian. You are saved from hell. It would be good if you continued coming to church, but whatever. Here’s a class about how to handle your money. And another about how to be a good parent.” Then we move on to the next victim.

That doesn’t sound much like the mode of discipleship described by Jesus. There’s no cross in it, so it can’t be right. Jesus says his followers much truly follow him. With a cross.

I have a feeling that if we followed Jesus’s plan of discipleship the church would thrive more than it does on the model we are using. Rather than big, empty shells we would be small, vital cells — living for Jesus, living like Jesus. Passing it on.

We are Family

Hebrews 2:10–11 (NLT)

God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.

So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.

Jesus is our perfect leader, indeed. Without him there would be no hope of entering into whatever the glory is referred to in verse 10. Jesus is the only one who can do it, the only one fit to do it. He is saving us. Or perhaps we should say that God is saving us through him as he leads us.

But whenever I read that Jesus is OK with calling me his brother, it does something inside me. I know I’m not worthy of that, but there it is in black and white. Jesus is not ashamed.

My parents were probably ashamed of me many times. My wife might be ashamed of me sometimes. I’m certain that I have made my son ashamed of me. But Jesus unashamedly calls me his brother.

I’ll take that.

Beginning Hebrews

Today I began a close reading of The Letter to the Hebrews. In recent months I’ve read Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastes, and Ezekiel. I think my time and effort in the Old Testament will help me read Hebrews as if for the first time.

The author of Hebrews (AH) says that God spoke previously in many ways and in splintered ways to reveal himself. Now there is Jesus, and he will pull it all together for us.

That’s pretty exciting. I’m certain I will have comments along the way. I’d invite you to read along with me, if you want. I would even be open to some kind of online study, if we can figure out how to make it work.

Since I don’t have the physical strength anymore to teach classes at church, I would love to find another way.

Recently on Postmodern Prophet:

Recently on Postmodern Prophet:

Health Update

It appears that the doctors have run out of ideas and options for fixing whatever is wrong with my bone marrow. Short of having a very risky bone marrow transplant, the only play now is to let it play out.

I have been through an extensive set of chemotherapy treatments and I’ve been through a grueling regimen of immunotherapy-type treatments. And my situation is the same as it was last fall when I started them.

My bone marrow has almost shut down as a factory for red blood cells. With a shortage of red blood cells (known as anemia) it is hard for the body to get enough oxygen around to the various systems. My anemia is quite severe, so any exertion at all leaves me gasping for air. And I seem to need about twelve hours of sleep every day, though I still wake up tired.

The news that we are out of options is causing us to reconfigure a lot of our thinking. However long I may live with this, it will be a very inactive life. We have some places we want to go and some things we want to see, but my life will be without many of the things I have enjoyed, like golf, biking, and hiking.

Outside of these necessary restrictions, we are going to try to live as normally as we can. We’ll be going back to church and doing things with our friends as we always have, just not the active things. I feel pretty normal except for the weariness. I hope you all will understand that I am doing the best I can, but things have significantly changed inside me.

Through all this, God has been faithful and true. He doesn’t always heal, but he is present. Very few times have I felt fearful about the future. Very few times have I wondered why. Mostly I’ve been able to stay in the present and to accept reality. I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God.

And of course, there is Carol. If you want to understand God’s faithfulness, hang around with Carol for a while. She daily lives out a great parable of God’s love. I am very blessed.


We don’t go to heaven.

Heaven comes to earth.

If you don’t believe me, read your Bible.

Two Compulsions

Concerning my calling and desire to be a Bible teacher, I have two goals, two passions.

  1. I want to teach people how to read the Bible properly. My experience with church people is that most of them hardly read the Bible at all, much less read it seriously and deeply. Most Bible reading stops at the devotional level. I firmly believe that a deeper reading will bring with it deeper devotion. If I weren’t sick, I would already have started a podcast with this aim. I’m hoping for enough remission in my disease to begin it soon. If that sounds good to you, maybe you could pray for me that I could get this going.
  2. I want to blow up shallow and incorrect interpretations of scriptural texts. For many people, their knowledge of the Bible is limited to outlines of the major stories and a set of prooftext that guide their lives (in theory). This shallow approach to the Bible leads to disaffection and disappointment because of an incomplete picture of who God is. I want to dispel the incorrect and dispense the truth. This is where my blog should come in. If I had enough energy, I would have a weekly post that takes on a passage for deeper interpretation.

This is my heart. I have a deep desire to accomplish it. The flesh is weak. God help me.

Tyre, the Proud

To the church at Tyre —

You were once humble but you have grown proud. Not satisfied with being a little duck in a big pond, you have moved to a dinky pond so you can be the king duck. You are obsessed with cool. You are committed to attractiveness. You have lost your mission. You would rather be acceptable and politcally correct.

Your pastors have not been allowed to be prophetic because they are on the payroll. Your members refuse to be called account. Because you will not be judged now, you will be judged when kingdom comes.

You have grown fat. Your landholdings are great. You have plenty. You have not sold all that you have to give to the poor. Your help for the poor has been but a secondary token effort. You have not gone away sorrowfully because of your failure; indeed, you revel in it.

A great fall is coming. You have been warned, but you do not have ears to hear or eyes to see because you have paid them to not hear and not see. It is too late for you. There is no relief from the coming fall.

Your enemies will exult over your fall and you will still fail to see your own foolishness.

May God have mercy.