Sunday, November 26, 2017

Delighting in the Biblical Narrative (5): Biblical Cosmology

To witness more clearly to Jesus Christ today, we need his help in discerning how the little story of our life fits into the biblical narrative centered on his life.
The biblical narrative circumscribes time. It gives history a beginning: the moment of creation in 4004 BC. It gives it an end: Judgment Day—on a date yet unknown—and the beginning of the New Creation. It gives it a remarkably limited duration: so far just over 6,000 years of Yahweh’s history with us and of our history with Yahweh.
This narrative also circumscribes space. Like time, the biblical narrative divides space into a handful of parts with remarkably limited range. At its simplest, it divides space into Heaven, Earth, and Hell.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Delighting in the Biblical Narrative (4): Satan, the Devil, and Demons

Today Jesus invites us, Christians and churches, to find the place of our little stories inside the comprehensive narrative he continues to share with us in and through the Bible.
Part of this comprehensive narrative concerns the malicious role played by Satan and demons in our civilization, society, culture, and personality. Satan would have us deny his existence. That way he can sow destruction and death much more easily. Satan would also have us deny the existence of Jesus. That way Jesus can’t bless us with creativity and life so easily. Sadly, even Christians and churches follow Satan’s lead in both these ways. Today, Jesus invites us to do better. We will do so by reflecting briefly on what Jesus tells us about Satan and his demonic minions through the Gospel according to Matthew.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ussher: Jesus Christ (5 BC-AD 33)

     6 BC: The angel Gabriel announces to the priest Zechariah in Jerusalem that his wife Elizabeth will give birth to a son. He is to be named John and he will serve Yahweh in the spirit and power of Elijah (6025).
     5 BC: The angel Gabriel announces to Mary in Nazareth of Galilee that she will conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. She is to name him Jesus (6039).
     Mary hurries to the home of her cousin Elizabeth in the city of Hebron (6040).
     John is born (6043).
     Caesar Augustus orders a census to be taken of the whole Roman world (6049).
     December [25]: Joseph takes Mary his wife to register in Bethlehem. While there, Mary gives birth to Jesus (6057).

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ussher: The Life and Times of the Apostle Paul

     Notes on Annals of the World (1658) by James Ussher. Numbers refer to paragraphs in Ussher’s text.
     5 BC: Saul, later known as the apostle Paul, is born in Tarsus (Anatolia) perhaps around the same time that Jesus is born in Bethlehem.
     33 AD, May 24: Day of Pentecost, birthday of the Church (6510).
     The death of Stephen—the first martyr. Those stoning him laid their cloaks at the feet of Saul. Saul was a Pharisee from Tarsus in Cilicia. He was in Jerusalem to study theology at the Synagogue of Cilicia and to learn from Gamaliel (6520).
     34: A great persecution of the church in Jerusalem begins. Saul participates enthusiastically in it (6524).

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Delighting in the Biblical Narrative (3): Angels

We may gain some insight into the existence and ministry of angels by reflecting on their activities as revealed to us by Jesus Christ through the Gospel according to Matthew.

Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus. Then, as soon as events in the immediate life of Jesus begin, we find angels involved.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ussher: Alexander 3rd of Macedon (356-323 BC)

     Notes on James Ussher, Annals of the World (1658).
     401 BC: Xenophon, along with 10,000 Greek mercenary companions, finds himself abandoned in the middle of hostile Persian territory. He later writes of how they worked together to survive a harsh weather and enemies to return home safely (P1451).
     370 BC: Spartan power, growing since its defeat of Athens in 404 BC, is broken by Thebes at the Battle of Leuctra (P1591).
     356 BC: Alexander, son of Philip, king of Macedonia, is born in Pella (P1632).
     348 BC: Plato dies (P1672).

Monday, November 13, 2017

Ussher: Second Temple to Last Prophet (515-416 BC)

     Notes on James Ussher, Annals of the World (1658).
     515 BC: The second Temple in Jerusalem is finished (P1032).
     514 BC: Darius (Ahasuerus) chooses Esther to be his new queen (Est. 2:16-17). The story of Esther unfolds during the course of this year (P1035).
     502 BC: Ionian cities along the western coast of Anatolia rebel against Darius (P1055). The Athenians support the rebellion by providing 20 ships under an able commander (P1058).
     500 BC: Athenians join the Ionians in attacking, overwhelming, and burning down the Persian provincial capital of Sardis. The Persian army pursues the Athenians and punishes them. Surviving Athenians abandon the Ionians and return home despite ongoing appeals for further assistance (P1060). When Darius hears of Athenian complicity in the burning of Sardis, he orders an assistant to say to him three times at every meal, “‘Sir, remember the Athenians’” (P1061).

Delighting in the Biblical Narrative and Finding Our Place in It (Part 2)

In the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, we find a densely interconnected narrative which finds its source, center, and goal in Jesus. It speaks normatively about Yahweh—the one and only true god—and about our relationship with Yahweh from the beginning of our history together to its fulfillment in Christ’s glorious return. Our unimaginable privilege is to discern where, in this most meaningful of all narratives, our own little stories find their rightful place.
But this irreplaceable biblical narrative is not the only existing narrative. It isn’t even today’s dominant one in what’s left of Christendom. Today’s universally dominant narrative belongs to the six malicious yet conventional Olympian gods and their overwhelming yet fragile Global Technological System (GTS). Through the corporate media of the GTS, these parasitic gods daily seek to impose their Olympian worldview on every one of us and, at the same time, to weaken any affirmation of the biblical worldview. Most distressing is the fact that the gods, through their minions, have largely succeeded in getting even us Christians and our churches thinking their way. Now, rather than understanding the media and our world in biblical terms, we deconstruct the biblical narrative in Olympian terms.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Delighting in the Biblical Narrative and Finding Our Place in It (Part 1)

In the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, we find a densely interconnected narrative which finds its source, goal, and definitive center in Jesus Christ. It speaks normatively about Yahweh—the one and only true god—and about our relationship with Yahweh from the beginning of our history together to its fulfillment in Christ’s glorious return. Our unimaginable privilege is to discern where, in this most meaningful of all narratives, our own little stories find their rightful place.
This is harder than one might think—even painfully difficult. Yahweh graciously provided us with creation as the perfect context for us to participate in a relationship of freedom with him, one another, and the rest of creation. In bitter contrast, the six false, malicious, yet conventional gods of Olympianity have harried us into constructing for them a Global Technological System. This GTS is the best embodiment yet of their lust for power and of the meanest sorts of relationships with them, one another, and God’s good creation based on power.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Ussher: Destruction of First Temple to Construction of Second (588-515 BC)

     Notes on James Ussher, Annals of the World (1658).
     588 BC: The departing Babylonian army puts Gedeliah of Judah in charge of the other marginal people of Judah being left there (2 Kgs. 25:1, 22-23; Jer. 39:10, 42:16) (P851). Baalis, kind of the Ammonites, pays Ishmael, a surviving member of the extended royal family of Judah, to murder Gedeliah. In the seventh month, he does (2 Kgs. 25:25, Jer. 41:1-3) (856).
     587 BC: Jeremiah and Baruch are taken to Egypt by fearful people of Judah whom Jeremiah had told to remain and live (Jer. 42:1-43:13) (P858).

Ussher: Kings 3 (Fall of Israel to Fall of Judah, 721-588 BC)

     Notes on James Ussher, The Annals of the World (1658):
     721 BC: The Assyrian army under their king Shalmaneser captured Samaria and destroyed the northern Kingdom of Israel (P633).
     710 BC: Yahweh destroyed the Assyrian army under Sennacherib as it prepared to besiege Jerusalem (Isa. 31:8-9, 37:36-38, 38:1-22; 2 Kgs. 19:35-37; 2 Chr. 32:21) (P668).
     698 BC: Hezekiah died (2 Chr. 32:33) and his son Manasseh ruled for 55 years (2 Kgs. 21:1). He was as wicked as his father was good—devoting himself more thoroughly to the Olympian gods than even the nations whom the Israelites had dispossessed (2 Kgs. 21:2, 11; 2 Chr. 33:2, 9). He also killed many innocent people (2 Kgs. 21:16, 24:4) including the prophet Isaiah (see Heb. 11:37) (P682).

Friday, November 10, 2017

Ussher: Kings 2 (Death of Ahab to Destruction of Israel, 897-721 BC)

    Notes on James Ussher, The Annals of the World (1658):
     897 BC: Ahab dies in battle against Ramoth-gilead and his son Ahaziah becomes king. Jehoshaphat (king of Judah), who was with him, barely escapes (1 Kgs. 22, 2 Chr. 18) (P518).
     896 BC: Ahaziah dies and his brother Jehoram (Joram) becomes king of Israel and rules for 12 years (2 Kgs. 3:1) (P522).
     That same year, Elijah is taken to Heaven (2 Kgs. 2) (P523).

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ussher: Kings 1 (Solomon to Ahab, 1015-897 BC)

     Notes on James Ussher, The Annals of the World (1658):

     Ussher’s fifth age of the world begins when Solomon starts construction of the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem in 1012 BC. It ends with the Temple’s destruction in 588 BC.
     1015 BC: David dies and Solomon reigns alone as king of Israel after reigning during the last 6 months of his father’s life (1 Kgs. 2:1-10) (P459).
     1012 BC: Solomon starts construction of the Temple in the 480th year after the Exodus (1 Kgs. 6:1, 37; 2 Chr. 3:2) (P465).
     1005 BC: Construction of the Temple concludes 7 years 6 months after it began (1 Kgs. 6:38). Its dedication takes place the following year which is a Year of Jubilee (P467).
     1004 BC: the world begins its 4th millennium during the 9th Jubilee celebrated by Israel in the Promised Land. The Ark is moved from Zion into the Temple’s Holy of Holies. The Tent of Meeting and the artifacts used in it are moved from Gibeon into Temple storerooms (1 Kgs. 8:1-2, 65-66; 2 Chr. 5:3-5, 6:1, 8:1-11) (P468).

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Crisis of Olympian Leadership In the World and Our Churches

Olympian leadership is leadership consistent with Olympianity: the world’s oldest, most popular, yet least recognized religion. Olympianity is the religion of power. Olympians devote themselves to the six conventional yet false and destructive gods of power: (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, goddess of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption. Olympianity’s greatest achievement is the Global Technological System (GTS): the powerful parasite that dominates the world’s societies, cultures, individuals, and ecosystems even as it parasitically drains them all of meaning and vitality. The GTS also dominates us inwardly, structuring the Olympian personality of every one of us so that we promptly and cheerfully serve its purposes and attack its most deadly rivals: Jesus Christ, Christians, and the Church.
Jesus Christ is the truth who sets us free to love and leads us into fullness of life. It is Jesus alone, the one unconventional yet true and creative god/man, who calls us to join him daily on the way of freedom. By so joining him, he enables us to participate in his truth, love, and vitality and to freely share them with others. He alone is the one who structures the Christian personality of every one of us so that we promptly and cheerfully serve his heavenly father and ours by witnessing to his already decisive victory over the Olympian gods and their minions.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Ussher: Dates of Events in the Books of 1 and 2 Samuel (1117-1015 BC)

     Notes on James Ussher, The Annals of the World (1658):

     1116 BC: Philistines capture the Ark of the Covenant and kill Eli’s two sons. He dies when he receives the news (1 Sam. 4:1-22) (Paragraph [P]386).
     1096 BC: 20 years after the Philistines return the Ark to Israel, Yahweh saves Israel from Philistine oppression under the leadership of Samuel (1 Sam. 7:10-14) (P390).
     1095 BC: Saul becomes the first king of Israel and rules for 40 years. It had been 21 years since the death of Eli (1 Sam. 7:2) (P391).

Friday, November 3, 2017

Ussher: Dates from the Book of Judges (1405-1095 BC)

     Notes on James Ussher, The Annals of the World (1658):
     1443 BC: Joshua dies aged 110 just as Joseph did (Gen. 50:26; Josh 23:1, 24:29-30) (P340).
     1413 BC marks the beginning of the calamitous period of the Judges (Jud. 17:1-21:25). First, Cushan, king of Mesopotamia, seizes control of Israel for 8 years (Jud. 2:7, 3:6-8) (P341).
     1405 BC: Yahweh raises up Othniel, son-in-law of Joshua (Josh. 15:17, Jud. 1:31), as Israel’s first judge. He liberates Israel from Cushan’s control and the land then rests for 40 years ((Jud. 3:9-11) (P342).

The Mysterious Intertwining of Our Lives with Jesus

David hit what was perhaps the worst moment in his life. His own son Absalom led a coup d’├ętat against him. David and those still close and loyal to him had to flee Jerusalem to even have a chance to survive. And David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went, and his head was covered and he walked barefoot (2 Samuel 15:30). A thousand years later, Jesus would also be in agony on that same hill (Luke 22:39, 44).
Years before, Nathan the prophet had forewarned David of these looming disasters. They were all willed by Yahweh as a direct consequence David’s acts of adultery and murder. Even so, Yahweh continued to love David more than he could even imagine. Yahweh also fled Jerusalem with David even as he stayed behind in Jerusalem to aid those still loyal to David in the city.

Jesus Puts No One above the Law

David had a special relationship with Yahweh. His strong devotion to Yahweh set a standard against which subsequent kings of Israel and Judah failed to measure up. It was said of David’s son Solomon, for example, that when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to [Yahweh] his God, as the heart of David his father had been (1 Kings 11:4, New American Standard Version, here and following). Through the prophet Ahijah, Yahweh told another king of Israel, you have not been like My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only that which was right in My sight” (1 Kings 14:8). No, David loved Yahweh with all his heart, soul, and mind, just as both Moses and Jesus tell us to do (Deuteronomy 6:4, Matthew 22:37).
At the same time, Yahweh demonstrated his steadfast love to David. Once David had thoroughly subdued all of the traditional enemies of Israel, and found himself living in a palatial house of cedar, he decided he would build a house for Yahweh as well. From the Exodus until that time, the focal point of the presence of Yahweh on Earth had been the Ark of the Covenant kept in a tent.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Why Did David Not Kill Murderous Saul When He Had the Chance?

Around 1095 BC, Yahweh commanded the prophet Samuel to pour olive oil on the head of Saul and thereby anoint him the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 10:1). Later, however, Yahweh himself regretted that he had made Saul king (15:35). He then sent Samuel to Bethlehem where he anointed David and immediately the Spirit of [Yahweh] came mightily upon David from that day forward (16:13, New American Standard Version, here and following). At the same time, the Spirit of [Yahweh] departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from [Yahweh] terrorized him (16:14).
On Yahweh’s own initiative, then, a complicated transfer of kingship took place. In truth David was now king while in reality Saul remained so. David had been given the bright future while Yahweh had doomed Saul to destruction. This complicated transfer was bound to make Saul’s relationship to David, and David’s to Saul, ambiguous.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Four Religions of Olympia: One Growing in Domination, Three Shriveling

If you look at the map of Olympia above, three civilizations—each based on their own distinct religion—are identified. These are Christendom, Caliphate, and Judaicum (my apologies for the new word), based on Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, respectively.
The fourth religion of Olympia is Olympianity. It is the oldest, largest, yet least recognized religion in Olympia and the world. The whole map of Olympia, in fact, marks merely one small area of an entire world where Olympianity rules through the Global Technological System (GTS). The colorful boundaries of Christendom, Caliphate, and Judaicum locate the enduring past of traditional religions but not their dynamic present. That belongs to the GTS.

A Short Reflection on Luther's Spark

As we noted yesterday (“Reformation Day 500”), Jesus called and enabled Martin Luther to speak words that sparked changes of world-historical significance. Let us reflect briefly on what that may mean for us today.
Luther’s father and mother were Christians, at least nominally (“in name”), as inhabitants of Catholic Christendom. Without hesitation or reflection, they raised their son Martin as one.
Luther’s father had provided Martin with all the education he would need to pursue a prosperous career as a lawyer. Neither Luther nor his father saw any contradiction between being a successful lawyer and a faithful witness to Jesus Christ. Luther walked this broad road to success all the way to law school.