Postmodern Prophet -

Uneasy about Easy Grace

We have made “salvation” too easy.

We want people to admit they are sinners. (That’s not hard.) Then we want them to “repent”, which means they say some words that include words about repentance. Then we want them to pray a prayer accepting Jesus as their personal Savior.

And they are in.

But are they really? Do they go on and serve God after that? Do they show signs of following Jesus? Do they show any real commitment to God?

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”

Heard but didn’t act.

Jesus also said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ "

We’d better amend our cheap grace, our easy believism. I know too many people who think they are “going to heaven” because they said some words, but most of them have nothing to show for it. We had better make some discipleship demands of people. We need to make it harder, not easier.

Waiting

We spend a lot of time waiting.

We wait in lines to check out of the grocery store. We wait in lines to get into the ballgame.

We’ve been waiting 2000 years for Jesus to come back, and we are waiting still.

We wait for our spouses to get ready and we wait for them to get ready to go back home.

In the Army it was always, “Hurry up and wait.”

We are in a waiting time now. A month ago I had a treatment that we hope will help me recover from my disease, or at least reach some kind of reasonable relief. Turns out that it will take months before we know the score.

Waiting can be hard.

My approach is the try to ignore it. I try to get on with life. Sometimes my approach is successful and sometimes it isn’t.

I’m trying to learn to be a patient waiter.

God in the OT

I have been reading tons in the Old Testament (the First Testament, the Hebrew Bible) in the last several months. I’ve always been a New Testament guy down through the years. I’ve led dozens of Bible study groups in various circumstances and they have always been about New Testament books. (Studying a book that isn’t a book of the Bible is not a Bible study; I’ve taught several of those kinds of classes, too, I guess.) Maybe once I led a short study in the Psalms of Ascent, but I’m not sure about that.

Anyway, I’ve been reading tons in the Old Testament lately and I’ve developed quite an appreciation for what I had never paid much attention to before. And I’ve learned a lot about God:

  • The God of the OT is the same God as the God of the NT. Of course, I have known this before, but we can easily think of God as somehow bifurcated between the testaments. He is not. I see absolute consistency.
  • God did not change character between the testaments. He was not the God of Law, then suddenly the God of Love. He was always both.
  • There is a ton of God’s grace to be seen in the OT. He chose Noah, Abram, Israel, not because there was anything special about them. He chose them in gracious acts of choosing them to have a special arrangement with, to be his people.
  • Furthermore, everyone he chose should have been unchosen because they were disobedient. He didn’t ask for much. He asked for loyalty, really. Just allegiance to him. None of his chosen people remained loyal. Yet he still chose them and did not throw them away. Not because they prayed the Sinner’s Prayer, but because he couldn’t bring himself to throw them away.
  • He thought about throwing them away sometimes. But Moses (usually) talked him out of it. Think about that when you are praying for people.
  • Jesus did not so much bring a new plan as he continued the plan God had been on since creation. God is still on that plan. In the end, creation will be like it was meant to be in the first place — like it actually was in the first place.

I suppose this list could be longer. I’m just shooting from the top of my brain and I just woke from a nap so my brain is barely working.

The OT is a barrel of fun and loads of good. If you have been ignoring it like I have for many years, I’d recommend a reverse course.

Read your Bible.

Stories with Intent

Here’s a little resource recommendation for you. If you teach the parables of Jesus or preach on them, this one book will be the best place to start.

Snodgrass, Klyne. Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008.

Dad and Baseball

Dad died four years ago today.

He died peacefully in hospice with a beloved grandson guarding his bedside through the night and a beloved daughter with him as he passed from this world. He died like the good man he was. I miss him.

Dad loved baseball. We loved to talk baseball and to watch baseball, and when we were both younger, we loved to play.

One of our favorite family outings was to go see our Indianapolis Indians play in old Bush Stadium. I knew Dad had pitched in that stadium some in his younger years. During my years of going there, the Indians were the AAA farm team for the Reds and the White Sox, so we got to see some good players regularly.

I remember seeing Herb Score pitch in a rehab assignment. Dad was really excited about that game. But even more exciting to him was the no-hitter spun by Milt Wilcox on July 4, 1970. The stadium was full of people wanting an offensive contest followed by fireworks. Dad was in the zone watching Wilcox avoid the bats. Dad was a pitchers fan. And he always kept a full scorecard.

Mom and Dad ended up living in Bradenton, the spring home of the Pirates, in their retirement years. Being able to go to many spring training games was great for him and I’m sure he hated giving that up as his physical limits caught up with him

Dad had apparently been a pretty good pitcher. I used to catch his stuff when I was a squirt. Too much for me. He had an excellent high school and college career.

His brother recently told me that he had been invited to workout out for the Pirates, but that his folks wouldn’t let him do it because being a pro ballplayer requires working on Sunday. I never heard Dad mention that; he was good at burying unpleasant stuff.

I wonder if Dad had many what-if thoughts at those spring games in LECOM park?

We’re not Irish, but Dad’s death kind of ruined St Patricks day for our family. But I am glad to we have the connection between the start of a new baseball season and the remembrance of his death. Dad and baseball go together for us.

Online Bible Study?

I am a Bible teacher deep down in my bones. I don’t know if I have gifts in the area of teaching, but I think I do. And I certainly have a thirst to extend my knowledge base and to share with others.

As you know, I’m pretty well laid up for a while. While my body is in poor condition right now, my mind seems to be working decently well, for me anyway.

I’m toying with the idea of trying some kind of experimental Bible study group that would totally meet online. I haven’t worked out any of the details yet, but the thought is intriguing me.

If you would be interested in such a project, let me know by email. I’ll set up some kind of a social group — maybe through Faithlife — and we can work it out together.

Monday Morning

This is Monday morning. For the first time in a long, long time it feels like Monday morning. For many months, every day felt the same: tired, sick, mundane, wearying, dreary.

This weekend I felt alive. I am actually able to get stuff done. A year’s accumulation of office maintenance matters have been completed in just a few evenings and the weekend.

I can’t help but think of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus, yes, but also the resurrection of believers to new life in him. Won’t that feel wonderful? To get up and stretch and look for our Lord?

Life is a journey. Trite, yes. True, yes. Wake up.

Unanswered Prayer

This prayer is being answered less and less as time goes on. And it is a prayer of Jesus.

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (New Revised Standard Version, Jn 17:20–23)

This is our fault, you know?

Coming Home

I spent a week in the Cancer Center for a series of treatments last week into this week. They treated me very well at the hospital. All the nurses and doctors and techs were as pleasant as can be. Except for being wakened so often at night, there was really nothing to complain about. I mean, when you’re in the hospital, that’s the way it is.

When it was time to leave the hospital, I didn’t want to head to a tropical island or a luxury hotel. I wanted to go home.

There is nothing else like coming home. Your own bed, your own chair, your own food.

Of course, this made me think a lot about home and the joys of home.

Many Christians are looking for some kind of escape from earth when they die. I think that is wrong-headed.

God made the world good. He has been on a multi-millennia plan to restore it to what it was and what it should be. I’m not looking to go to heaven, although a little vacation is nice once in awhile. I’m looking to be raised from the dead just like Jesus was. I’m looking to wake up in a completely renewed creation with Jesus on the scene.

That sounds pretty good to me. Home.