Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas III

This is the final installment in a series of three. Please read the previous two before this...

And then, when it seems like dusk has set out irrevocably for night. When despair is palpable, something changes.

Off the beaten path, in a forgotten town, in a stable, there is a young pregnant girl, nervous, eyes squinting as she fights off the beginning pains of labor. People have judged her for being pregnant before marriage. Rumors had spread. Even with an angel’s assurance their was challenge and heart-ache. Now, on the ground of a stable the pain continues...

Next to her is a young man. His eyes dart around, nervous. He holds the girl, as if protecting her. He gets up. He walks back and forth, around the donkeys and other animals in the stable. A few days ago he had a vision of an angel, it was bright startling and reassuring. Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:20-21).

But that was a few days ago; all the reassurance that gave, it faded in the face of the pressure and pain of the coming birth. It was almost as if both the young man and the girl were aching with the question “Where are you now God? Sure there was a vision of an angel. Sure. But how about now, in this manger. On this cold night. Where are you?” The cry in the very heart of humanity since the garden: “Where are you God?”

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”
(Matthew 1:23)

The answer to not only Mary and Joseph’s cry, but humanity’s cry of where are you is answered in the manger amidst animals and a nervous and scared young married couple. Immanuel: God with us. In Jesus God tells all of creation: ‘I am with you.’

11 May all kings bow down to him
and all nations serve him.
12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.
Psalm 72:11-14

2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:2-6

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Unless a person is acquainted with trembling awe, reaching down to the very ground of his being, at the thought of God's nature, he will not be ready for the contemplation of Jesus Christ. At the least, he will need to prepare himself in the school of the Old Covenant. Otherwise he will be in danger of coming to Christ like someone blind and dumb, finding nothing more in him than an example of perfect humanity; such a person would not be contemplating God, but man, i.e., himself. Anyone contemplating the life of Jesus needs to be newly and more deeply aware every day that something impossible, something scandalous has occurred: that God, in His Absolute Being, has resolved to be made manifest himself in a human life [...]. [The believer] must be scandalized by this, he must feel his mind reeling, the very ground giving way beneath his feet; he must at least experience that ecstasy of non-comprehension which transported Jesus' contemporaries.

-Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sermon Manuscripts Courtesy of Gospel Coalition

Justin Taylor at the Gospel Coalition has rightly awarded Tim Keller the most unique sermon manuscript. For Keller's and others (including Driscoll's) check this link out.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eyes to See, Ears to Hear

Here is something I (Matt) wrote for our school newsletter.

Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth...

Last week, a group of choirs got together at the Nordstrom flagship store in downtown Seattle, and at the cue of the store pianist, proceeded to perform the closing song of Handel’s Messiah, the “Hallelujah Chorus” taking shoppers by surprise on what was just a normal December shopping day for them. This type of “random act of culture” has been somewhat of a phenomenon lately. Choirs and opera companies have been doing this in different cities across America, and its technical name is a “flash mob”. (A ‘flash mob’ is a is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual act for a brief time, then disperse.)

Hallelujah! The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ...

An internet video of one of these Hallelujah Chorus flash mobs has been circulating around our school. (You can find the video by searching “Hallelujah Chorus food court” on the internet) Originally passed from one teacher to another and used in our teacher devotion time, it has now been seen by most classes at school. The video portrays a normal mall food court at a meal time. A girl with a cell phone stands up and starts to sing, then a man joins her, standing on his chair on the opposite side of the room, then others join, and all at once there is a company of over 100 professional singers singing the Hallelujah Chorus to normal people in a mall food court. By the end of the song, many people are standing, as is the tradition of the Hallelujah Chorus, and people are visibly impressed. It brings tears to your eyes, to see this beautiful piece of music performed in such an ordinary place.

And He shall reign for ever and ever...

Why do the tears come? Why the emotion when watching a video on the internet? It could be nostalgia for those wonderful things that surround the Christmas season. I hope that it is because we have the ears to hear the words. But do we really hear and do we really see? There are people in the video that are more concerned with their burger and fries than with the beauty happening around them. Is that true of us? A few others are trying to get back to their shopping, and don’t have the time to stop and listen– its as if they don’t even hear or see what is going on. What can we really say to them though? Do the words make more of a difference to us because we have tears in our eyes? It seems that the King of Kings has come, and I’m hungry for a milkshake. The Lord of Lords has arrived, and we’re checking our watches. This King’s reign will never end, and we’re worried about everything from Christmastime expenses to what someone said to us yesterday!

King of kings, and Lord of lords, and He shall reign forever and ever...

The King of kings has come– what better news could I hope to hear? What better sight could I hope to see? Does my celebration of this King’s coming show up in my ordinary everyday words, thoughts, and actions, or just around Christmastime? This world has been visited by its true King. He came to our world– to this real ordinary world, even as a baby in a forgotten corner of the Middle East. And even then , His coming invoked worship- real worship. The angel armies stood and shouted- “Glory to God in the highest!” and the shepherds trembled- and then went to Jesus and worshiped. Right in the middle of there ordinary lives came the omnipotent King of all the universe. They heard, they saw, they went, and they worshiped. This King coming to us is like the Hallelujah Chorus being performed in a food court. What is our response? Will we go and worship this king like the shepherds did? It is my prayer for the Everett Christian School family that the good news of this King would cause us to worship and to follow Jesus in every ordinary detail of our lives.


Christmas II

Christmas doesn’t begin in a manger, it’s roots go to the beginning of time, to the depth of God’s persistently loving heart, to the depths of humanity’s great and expansive need.

As God’s ‘where are you?-searching-love’ echoes throughout time, through prophets, in covenants and promises. Humanity cries a similar cry. Abraham and Sarah cry ‘where are you God?’ as they hope for a child--when it looks like hope is gone and the promise trampled and forgotten. Jacob cries ‘where are you God?’ on a road by himself, away from his family, on the run from his older and angry brother. Leah cries ‘where are you God?’ when her husband Jacob looks at her with disgust. Joseph cries ‘where are you God?’ when his brothers nearly leave him for dead, then sell him into slavery. ‘Where are you God?’ Moses’ mother cries as she sends her oldest son away, hoping that Pharaoh won’t find him. ‘Where are you God?’ Israel cries out in slavery. ‘Where are you God?’ Israel cries out in the desert, as it wanders seeking a land of promise. In exile, away from their homes, Israel cries ‘where are you?’

‘Where are you God?’ is a question that echoes in hearts from Abraham to Nehemiah, in places from Egypt to Babylon. like a son that longs for his father’s provision, like a daughter that wants her mother’s arms creation cries out “Where are you God?”

God cries out: “Where are you?” with a deep longing love.

Humanity cries out: “Where are you?” with a great expansive need.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas I

The scene is not Bethlehem, but a Garden. There are no wise-men, no mangers. There is a man and his wife. She has taken a bite of a fruit, she has passed it on to her husband. Suddenly shame fills them both. Some call this “the Fall”--look closely you can almost see a spike driving apart creation from it’s Creator.

It was evening when “the man and his wife heard the sound [... of] God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”’

If you listen closely you can hear the pain in God’s voice, where are you? “Where are you?” He asks as the man and woman hide among the leaves. A question that is not, of course, fully a question, because God knows the answer; He asks where are you? The way a loving father looks into his disobedient son’s eyes. Where are you? The way a patient mother looks into her reckless daughter’s life.

The story of Christmas that begins not in a manger, but a garden, not with the smell of frankincense, but the tasting of a fruit, as God paces around the garden. This “Where are you”-love resounds in covenants, promises and prophets. It spans centuries and generations. Throughout time God’s love echoes. This love, His fastidious-searching-where-are-you-love knows that reconciliation--sure, fixed and definite--will eventually come like a spike in His heart.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Calvin on Who Our Neighbor is

I just finished reading an essay of Marilynne Robinson's called "Puritans and Prigs;" it is really fantastic. Do your self a favor and read it. Towards the end of the essay she quoted Cavin, in an effort to provide a way beyond secular priggishness. Calvin describes the neighbor as follows:

It is a common habit of mankind that the more closely men are bound together by the ties of kinship, of acquaintanceship, or of neighborhood, the more responsibilities for one another they share. This does not offend God; for his providence, as it were leads us to it. But I say: we ought to embrace the whole of human race without exception in a single feeling of love; here there is not distinction between barbarian and Greek, worthy and unworthy, friend and enemy, since all should be contemplated in God, not in themselves. When we turn aside from such contemplation, it is no wonder we become entangled in many errors. Therefore, if we rightly direct our love, we must first turn our eyes not to man, the sight of who would more often engender hate than love, but to God, who bids us extend to all men the love we bear to him, that this may be an unchanging principle: Whatever the character of the man, we must yet love him because we love God.

Like Jesus, Calvin describes the neighbor as not merely near in proximity but near in the ontological sense.

Lord, help us to love others in light of you, not to love others in light of their merits or issues.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Theology Pointed at Doxology

Dietrich Bonehoeffer once wrote: "The child poses a problem to theology." What he meant, or what I think he meant, is that 'if one enters the Kingdom by becoming like a child, what about systematic theology and the rigorous intellect that is required?' As Bonehoeffer rightly asserts, this is a problem for theology, not a devastating blow. But a problem nevertheless, too often our elegant theological structures exist only ideas. The child knows nothing of the idea's elegance, but instead of trust, experience, and love.

J.I. Packer talks about how theology must lead to doxology. That the knowledge of God should lead to the praise of God; child-like enamored soft-hearted and wild-eyed praise.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Phenonemon of the Kingdom

Mark 10:15 “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

We have to re-learn how to see things. Our hearts our often hard (Mark 10:5). Our hands are often doing things they ought not (Mark 10:43). We have trained ourselves according to the patterns of this world. We need the Spirit to be our pedagogue to train us in all holiness so that we might grasp the Kingdom with new eyes. Or, we always enter into a posture of disection--critical analysis--thus keeping our eyes from witnessing the glory of in-breaking Kingdom. We need eyes that for the first time grasp the beauty of color, the phenomenon of the Kingdom.

All this, it would seem, is what Jesus is referring to--and certainly more.

This reference to receiving the Kingdom like a child is another way of explaining the new birth and the conversation Jesus has with Nicodemus. We must have our minds renewed so that we can grasp the Kingdom anew—the world has been, too much, our teacher.

Monday, July 05, 2010

A Very Partial Biblical Theology of Creation Care

I'm presenting a seminar on Creation Care with a lot of High School students in Kentucky. Below is a brief part of my presentation. I'd love your thoughts...


Biblical Notes on Creation Care

"Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all creatures that move along the ground." Genesis 1:26

"I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for good. And to all the creatures that move on the ground--everything that has the breath of life in it--I give every green plant for good And it was so." Genesis 1:29

Both the former and the latter verses are often referred to as dominion verses. They refer to humans ruling over creation. Some say that these verses show that creation has no value apart from what it can give to us. Creation exists as a bag of resources for human consumption. Some people that do not have a faith in Christ point to scriptures like this and say, 'See the Bible is one of the main reasons why we're in the mess we're in. The Bible tells people that they can do whatever they want to creation, because they "rule" over it.' While it's clear that God intends for us to "rule over" creation what exactly does that "rule" look like?

In v. 26 humanity's creation in God's "image [... and] likeness" is connected to humanity's ability to "rule". We can rule over creation because we were created in God's image, God being the supreme ruler. "Rule" or dominion is only possible because we are image-bearers. So the right question is: "How does God rule?" God rules graciously, lovingly, carefully. Therefore, we should--if we are to live out our calling as image-bearers--also "rule" over creation: graciously, lovingly, carefully. A medieval rabbi named Rashi spoke of how if humans embodied God's image and dealt with creation "with wisdom and compassion, we will rise above the animals and preside over, them, insuring a life of harmony on earth. However if we are oblivious to our power and deny our responsibility to creation, we will sink below the level of the animals and bring ruin to our selves and the world" (Splendor of Creation, Ellen Bernstein 113). This is an interesting perspective as the Old Testament often depicts bad rulers as sub-human beasts (e.g. Daniel 4).

So humans are called to "rule over" creation but to rule as God rules: graciously, lovingly, responsibly.

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work (serve) it and take care (keep, protect, watch-over it) of it." Genesis 2:15

While the first two verses (1:26, 29) speak about the human responsibility to rule over creation, this verse describes the human responsibility in a different yet complimentary way. The two main verbs that have to do with with Adam ("work" and "take care of") have interesting meanings in the original Hebrew. The word that is often translated "work" in the Hebrew means: "to serve, to till, to dress." The following verb, often translated, "take care of" in the Hebrew means: to guard, protect, or keep. Elsewhere this same verb is used to describe how God guards men during difficult times (Genesis 28:15, 20; Ps. 12:8; 16:1, 25:20).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Another post on an Increasingly Outdated Topic

If anyone is interested in continuing to think through the Waltke deal with RTS then here's an article you might check out.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bruce Waltke... asked to resign over Genesis

I'm sure many of you have been following Bruce Waltke, well known for his beautiful and thorough Genesis commentary, as he was asked to resign from RTS Orlando for holding to 'Theistic Evolution'. Here's the USA Today article

Here's a follow up piece on Gospel Coalition where Bruce explains a bit.

Funny, there were many at Regent who held views similar to Waltke's. Waltke was perhaps to used to Regent, where he still serves as Emeritus Prof.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Want: A Confession

And desire is quiet for a season, being run down before them; but when the hurry is over and the inquest past, the thief appears again alive, and is as busy as ever at his work.
-John Owen, 17th century spiritual writer

What can be said of want
but that it claws conversations
through—holding tight
with fiend fingers to its cloak.

It burrows in thin smiles
and slides down the slick
of a glutton’s tongue.

Want zips past mazes to my gut;
claiming sovereign, as if
it were necessity itself,
the most demanding muse.
And once its fingers
reach through me and grasp
the flesh, or slim
crisp dollars,
it quickly winds back
through veins
until it reaches the heart
curling up—
it is a seed in reverse—
ignorance of itself
in me, as I choose
to not know of it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Words too Big to Read

I'm reminded of a seminary professor I had referring to things in our cultural that are written with words too big to read. Cultural blind-spots which trick us into thinking we've reached some apex some utopia--or that we're at least headed there. The following quote should provoke thoughts to the contrary.

"Another age may learn to look upon our use of activities much as we look upon the use of the sword by an earlier age. Because in them money takes so prominent a place, ours may one day be known as the age of financial Christianity, just as we look upon that earlier age as the age of military Christianity. As we regard the sword so a later age may regard money. It may learn the wisdom of the Apostle and decline to use such an ambiguous weapon. If the sword was an ambiguous weapon which might easily confuse the issue, money and activities which depend upon money, are not less ambiguous and may as easily confuse the issue. The time is not yet full. We have yet to learn the consequences of our use of money."
... Roland Allen (1869-1947), Mission Activities [1927], included in The Ministry of the Spirit, David M. Paton, ed., London: World Dominion Press, 1960, p. 109 (see the book)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Piper Hearts Hauerwas

Piper hearts this Hauerwas preaching article. If that doesn't prompt you or fuel some interest... then I don't know what will. Here's the link.

Friday, February 26, 2010

happy lent (smirk)

So the title is a bit tongue in cheek. The following will either further enable your Lenten reflection or jolt you into a 40-46 day period of self-examination. Happy Lent!

As a man is nailed to the cross he first struggles and strives and cries out with great strength and might, but, as his blood and spirits waste, his strivings are faint and seldom, his cries low and hoarse, scarce to be heard; when a man first sets on a lust or distemper, to deal with it, it struggles with great violence to break loose; it cries with earnestness and impatience to be satisfied and relieved; but when by mortification the blood and spirits of it are let out, it moves seldom and faintly, cries sparingly, and is scarce heard in the heart; it may have sometimes a dying pang, that makes an appearance of great vigor and strength, but it is quickly over, especially if it be kept from considerable success.

"Sin," says [Paul], "is crucified; it is fastened to the cross."

- The Puritan Spiritual Writer and Theologian John Owen

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah... a poem

So I know what you're thinking: 'I come to this blog for the primary authors brilliance and ability to hold to the Word in the midst of so many words. But what's this? A poem?! Boring!'

Exactly what you were thinking right?

Well... yes it is a poem. The Latin translates to, "Man is naturally curved in upon himself."

Becoming Human

Homo curvatus en se es

-Martin Luther

We are not yet humans.

We are the whales that breach

our oceans with beautiful gestures,

only to soon sink into our own

vast recesses.

We await our evolution--

the hope thrown off between crashing

waves--when we are found

on the shore,

walking upright,

proclaiming mercy

to Ninevah.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Harvard Students Want Religion

The article linked to the above title isn't, to be honest, worth reading. Rather, it's interesting because it further documents the desire of 'the people' (always vague and compelling) to see religion become more of a public phenomenon.

One thing that the author points out is that while race and class are recurring topics of discussion religion is still, taboo. Even the other dare-never-say 'politics' doesn't have anything close to the public taboo religion does. Nevertheless, day in and day out we see that religion is anything but a 'private' phenomenon. From the public execution of Christ, to Wilberforce, to the civil-rights movement, to the religious-right, we continually learn religion cannot be neatly lopped into a 'private' category. Religion always trespasses into the public, why can't we be honest about it?

'Religion,' the Duke philosopher Stanley Fish has said, 'is the new thing.' If he's correct let's let it be discussed publicly. Intelligently, compassionately, but publicly.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Let's admit it: renewalquest was dumb.


The act of someone screaming is at best startling, at worst completely and totally unnerving. That said, I've been interested in how many screams Jesus provokes in the Gospels. There is the Syrophoenician women who screams after Jesus. There is Blind Bartimaeus who screams after Jesus. There is the women who comes into Simon the Pharisee's dinner weeping and crying out.

In all of these stories there are a group of annoyed observers. They are the disciples, the surrounding crowd, and the Pharisees; people that have it all together. People that have decent jobs, people that look healthy. In all three of these stories Jesus, in his God-ish irony, silences the critical bystanders and offers care and acceptance to the one who screams.

There is no doubt in my mind that it is the screamers that the authors of the Gospels seek to show as the true model of faith. No, it's not those who have it together. It's not those with mortgages and kids at good universities. God reveals the screamer as the model of faith because the screamer knows herself; she knows the certain and great depth of her need. She also knows the great provision that is in Christ. These two elements fuse together to reveal an obvious boldness in the screams of the needy one. They know that their needs will only be satisfied in Christ.

I think we, like the by-standers, are uncomfortable with 'screamers' in our midst. They're unnerving. The problem is that they, rather than the bystanders, are God's model of faith. They, know the depth of their need and that the answer is only found in Christ. Rather than anxiously distance ourselves from these 'screamers' perhaps we need to evaluate our own life. What dulls us from truly understanding our need? What do we find apart from Christ do we find our answer in?