Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mark: "Do You Come to Me?"

The Gospel. No matter what else we are studying, we always need to come back to this: the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And for Christians, the main thing is that we are sinners and that Jesus has suffered on the cross to bring us absolution. The central message is that God, in His Son, gives us something that is the opposite of what we deserve: we get grace instead of disgrace; mercy instead of wrath; redemption instead of rejection; peace instead of punishment; relationship instead of retribution. Basically, we are saying that through Jesus God treats us better than we deserve.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Ok, just kidding. Not to digress, but I love those bumper stickers that say "Jesus is Coming" because I always want to retort with "Look Busy!". Haha, I know, real comedian over here. But in the same thought that Sean had the other day when he put up several links to other resources, I found an amazing talk today about eschatology (the study of last things) while I was on Monergism's website. If you scroll down on the link to June 1st, the eschatology session is the last one. Feel free to download it if not all of the other 6 sessions. I found it very Biblical and Christ glorifying. Enjoy.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Shack, HCSB Study Bible, Sermons on Mark

When you're writing for a blog that aims to make faith practical, sometimes the best thing to do is to just direct readers elsewhere. Tim Challies does it. Justin Taylor does it almost exclusively. And starting today, I'm doing it. Articles will still be written here, and the Gospel of Mark series will still be a weekly thing, but I hope that linking beyond the borders of this site will serve to benefit the readers of The Voice in their walk with Jesus Christ (yes, I'm talking to all three of you). Today's bunch of links is mostly focused around the Bible and doctrine: I've got a sneak peak at the HCSB Study Bible for you, as well as a sermon series -done by A29 pastor Tyler Jones- on the Gospel of Mark, but sandwiched in the middle is a look at a book called "Burning Down the Shack", written by a friend of Paul Young's who has some pretty strong warnings about the content of the popular Christian novel and the views of its author.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lights, Camera, Action!

If John Mark were a movie director, every film would be like The Bourne Identity or The Dark Knight: action-packed, fast paced, and brimming with hidden significance in every single scene. Matthew and Luke would delve into Jesus' childhood with all the enthusiasm of a Freudian psychological purist, and John the Apostle would introduce his volume with a stirring theological narrative, but Mark is different. To open his biography, Mark dropped his readers directly into the preaching ministry of the legendary John the Baptist. And from that point on Mark puts it into gear, hits the gas, and never looks back as he takes his readers through a stirring insider look (via his mentor, St. Simon Peter) at the life and ministry of Jesus the Messiah. Not bad for a 1st century Jewish kid from Roman-occupied Jerusalem. In the end, Mark doesn't disappoint as he presents us with the news of Jesus' resurrection and leaves it as a cliff hanger--letting it fall to us to sort out the implications. He tells the story of Jesus and makes it interesting.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Blogging Through a Gospel

Lately, I have been making an effort to study the Gospels; specifically, to piece together the different accounts and to reconstruct (1) an authentic portrait of Jesus as the disciples would have seen Him, and (2) a socio-historical picture of the first community of Jewish disciples as they found themselves irresistably drawn to their Divine Rabbi. It's an awesome study that means I have to read each Gospel twice in different ways: the first time I have to ignore the writers' voices and just piece together the facts; the second time I am almost exclusively focusing on the perspective and mindset of the Gospel penmen. I love it. The problem with this is that most of the things I want to write require a huge amount of research and should probably be reserved (at first) for an academic paper instead of a blog post.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Parables and Work Ethic

I remember my first post on The Voice, when I talked about God's sovereignty and how that doctrine gives me peace. I remember when, taking position in front of the laptop in my living room, I presented a veritable litany of uncertainties that were relieved because of my trust in a sovereign God: I listed concerns about my apartment, my car, my roommate, my girlfriend, my job, and my last paycheck. Finally, and most convicting of all, I wrote about how concerned I was that "the other contributors to this blog could lose their vision and end up abandoning the project, especially since it can usually take 4-5 months before something like this even starts to draw attention." I confess now that it was I, not they, who initially gave in. During this, my month of silence, Nic and Seth have both posted and I have contributed nothing. I apologize for that, and I'm here to share what my conviction, brought about by the Gospel of Matthew has taught me.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Anna Karenina and Conflicting Desires

Beginning my summer reading, I chose to select Leo Tolstoy's class Anna Karenina. This is my first attempt at Russian literature, a challenge which I had long desired to pursue. As I have read through the first 300 pages (out of 800 something...) the impressions of mankind's brokenness emerges. Anna is a proud, confident, strong, and beautiful woman; yet inwardly decaying from a deprivation of love and respect.

Like all sins, Anna's transgression is a perverted holy desire. Anna's need is legitimate and righteous. Alexei, the protagonist's husband, is a cold, cynical, and legalistic man. I have not yet learned why the two married; more than likely an arranged marriage. Alexei uses sarcasm and religion as his means of relating to his wife. Love is only a social construction that means nothing for Alexei. Anna is unaware of how love can feel. Her heart is touched by a youthful and wild admirer, Vronsky. An affair rapidly unfolds, leaving Anna's structured and Siberian winter world into a chaotic, burning mess. Anna is stuck in two worlds, straddling the fence of what is right and what is desired.

As Christians we all have conflicting struggles that define part of our life journey through the process of sanctification. Often what is righteous is not always the natural choice. Sometimes the struggle has arisen from outside factors that were not of our doing. For instance, there are many to be blamed for Anna's predicament. A society that forces women to marry men because they have not the luxury to wait until the preferred man proposes is partly to be blamed. Husbands who will not love their wives as Christ loved the church, and worst yet, egregiously distort scripture to justify their actions, is also to be condemned. These examples are not stated to insinuate that one can elect to sin because circumstances were not in one's favor. Yet, Christians are too quick to judge others without empathizing and understanding why individuals make decisions that violate God's principles.

Even when events are out of our hands, desires must be scrutinized through the lens of scripture. Jeremiah 17:9 states that our hearts (minds) are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Perhaps rhetorically, Jeremiah questions who is capable of knowing the true intentions of one's feelings, thoughts, and will. Following the path of infatuation led Anna into 800 pages of one of literature's most tragic tales. Sin may be the most desirable or reasonable choice for the present, but God has set prohibitions not to tease and crush our pleasure, but to spare us from the heartache of what inevitably follows. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday.

Truth be told, when situations are difficult and agonizing, the only thing we can do is rely on God's strength to sustain us and make the best of a wretched situation. God never promised that timely, worldly life would be a Garden of Eden. God never guaranteed that all His children would be endowed with life-long health, wealth, beauty, prestige, and power. God has promised to never forsake us and to always love us unconditionally. Anna's situation is tragic. There is no denying that her fictitious life was unfair. There are no easy answers. There is a lot of suffering in living. But God weeps with us in our pain and helps use our pain for a greater purpose. When I am conflicted, my hope is that I will naturally desire what is good above what I think I want. This process is like developing an acquired taste. It takes time--maybe an entire life. The end of the righteous life is one with less regret and hope that one has made a minor impact on the history of time and the increase of God's kingdom. Think ahead in the struggle; it offers a different framework to view the battle of desires.