Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thoughts on Tim Keller’s book, “King’s Cross”

These days I’ve been reading “King’s Cross,” a book written by Tim Keller. King’s Cross goes through the book of Mark, the Gospel that focuses most intently on the words and actions of Jesus.

I am enjoying Keller’s approach to understanding this Gospel. Keller doesn’t comment on every single passage, he instead focuses on the texts he believes expand on who Jesus is.. What I really like about these is that they aren’t necessarily the most well-known, preached-on passages. And in those texts that are well-known, Keller always brings some insight from the historical context that gives the passage a new layer of meaning and history (You know how I love history).

Last night, I read about Jesus clearing the temple, and I really love Keller’s insight on this story found in Mark 11:15-17:

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves,

16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.

17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’]

Keller says the fact that Mark notes that Jesus entered the temple courts – or in the version Keller uses, the temple “area” – is very significant because when you entered the temple, the first area you came to “was the court of the Gentiles – the ethne or ‘nations’”. This was the only area where non-Jews were allowed. The Jews had allowed all the temple’s business operations to be set up there – buying and selling thousands of animals and exchanging foreign currencies with money changers. Thousands of people flooded into Jerusalem to buy animals and sacrifice them.

Josephus, an ancient Jewish historian, tells us that in Passover week one year, 255,000 lambs were bought, sold, and sacrificed in the temple courts. Think of how loud and confusing it would be in there with all that livestock…and this was the place where the Gentiles were supposed to find God through quiet reflection and prayer.

I am sure the temple leaders panicked and asked Jesus what he was doing. So, Jesus quotes from Isaiah, saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” – for the ethne, the Gentiles.

So Jesus’ reaction, then – to drive the businessmen out and throw the tables over – was not just a display of righteous anger toward the disrespect people were showing to God’s house, but also an act of advocacy for the Gentiles, who were still being treated as the “least” of God’s people by the Jews. The Jews believed that when the Messiah came, he would “purge the temple of foreigners,” meaning he would get rid of the Gentiles! “Instead, here is Jesus clearing the temple for the Gentiles”

Given the current discussion on whether women in ministry ought to be treated equally to men and be ordained, I found Jesus’ actions significant. What might we learn from Jesus today?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Special Constituency Meeting, Sunday August 19

I am just want to say thanks to the Pacific Union Recorder for its comprehensive and informative coverage of the Pacific Union’s Special Constituency Session on August 19, AFFIRMING WOMEN IN MINISTRY. The Recorder does a great job explaining the issues involved in its July issue. It also published many readers’ responses in the current magazine.

What I really like was that both the explanation and readers’ response sections were published in English and Spanish.  I also apprecaite the courage to address a difficult issue that has been ignored for more than 40 years, after it was voted at the General Conference Session in 1970.

If you are interested in this issue, check out the link above.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Reading God's Word

This week, this is the burden on my mind...

Too many Christ followers don't read God's Word, the Bible, as often or as thoroughly as they should. Because of my job, I spend a lot of time reading Scripture, so I love the Scriptures. And, the older I get, the more I am awed by it.

So, why isn't every Christ follower similarlyintrigued by the Bible to make it a priority to read and study?

Maybe one of the reasons is that we have been taught to read it wrongly. When I was in college a bible teacher started this discussion in class about whether the authors of scripture were God's penmen or his pen. It didn't seem important to me at the time and it actually took me a few years to comprehend what this teacher was trying to het across.

If the authors of scripture were the 'pen' of God, then the words would be exactly His words. But, if they were His 'penmen' then they wrote in their own words about the experiences they had with God.
In academic circles, this argument of "verbal inspiration" or not is still alive and well. But, here's my point...if they were a pen this leaves little room for interpretation. But, if they were his penmen this allows for personal flavoring and invites interpretation, even 'wrestling' with God over the various ideas expressed. The first becomes a checklist of do's and don'ts. The second, permission to engage in a unique walk with the very personal God. The first requires the readers to see in black and white and to remain within the lines. The second is a Spirit engaged exercise open to coloring even outside the lines.

How do you read scripture? Does your understanding of the nature of inspiration draw you into a closer and increasingly exciting relationship with the Divine One? I invite you to read God's Word each day. You will find it will refresh your soul.