United Pastoral Statement on Racism

I read the following "United Pastoral Statement on Racism" at our worship gathering last Sunday. At the time, it had been affirmed by over sixty pastors in the city of Lincoln NE—a list that grows still today.

As Pastors in the city of Lincoln, Nebraska we believe that all people are created in God's image. However, not all ideologies are godly. Any ideology, such as White Supremacy or Neo-Nazism, which states that one person is superior to another is blatantly sinful. We call upon the leaders of our city, state, and country to take a stand against the numerous groups in Charlottesville and throughout our country who claim these evil ideologies. We will be united as Christian brothers and sisters and will be preaching that there is no room for racism at any of our churches. We pray for healing, for accountability, and that racism will be condemned by all people in our city and in this country. Lastly, we pray that Jesus' message of loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) would echo through our churches.

As I pointed out Sunday evening, this is only one small step. But, for the church in Lincoln, it seems to be a step in the right direction.

How Fast Can a Fast Reader Read?

Timothy Noah, writing for Slate back in 2000:

When you factor out the amount of time spent thinking through complex and unfamiliar concepts—a rarity when people read for pleasure—reading is an appallingly mechanical process. You look at a word or several words. This is called a "fixation," and it takes about .25 seconds on average. You move your eye to the next word or group of words. This is called a "saccade," and it takes up to about .1 seconds on average. After this is repeated once or twice, you pause to comprehend the phrase you just looked at. That takes roughly 0.3 to 0.5 seconds on average. Add all these fixations and saccades and comprehension pauses together and you end up with about 95 percent of all college-level readers reading between 200 and 400 words per minute, according to Keith Rayner, a psycholinguist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The majority of these college-level readers reads about 300 words per minute.

I've always thought of myself as a slow reader. This article puts reading speed into perspective. 

 

A Prayer for Good Friday

"Precious Blood" from The Valley of Vision:

Blessed Lord Jesus,

Before thy cross I kneel and see
the heinousness of my sin,
my iniquity that caused thee to be
‘made a curse’,
the evil that excites the severity
of divine wrath.

Show me the enormity of my guilt by
the crown of thorns,
the pierced hands and feet,
the bruised body,
the dying cries.

Thy blood is the blood of incarnate God,
its worth infinite, its value beyond all thought.

Infinite must be the evil and guilt
that demands such a price.

Sin is my malady, my monster, my foe, my viper,
born in my birth,
alive in my life,
strong in my character,
dominating my faculties,
following me as a shadow,
intermingling with my every thought,
my chain that holds me captive in the empire of my soul.

Sinner that I am, why should the sun give me light,
the air supply breath,
the earth bear my tread,
its fruits nourish me,
its creatures subserve my ends?

Yet thy compassions yearn over me,
thy heart hastens to my rescue,
thy love endured my curse,
thy mercy bore my deserved stripes.

Let me walk humbly in the lowest depths of humiliation,
bathed in thy blood,
tender of conscience,
triumphing gloriously as an heir of salvation.

The Holy Spirit and Biblical Interpretation

Scott Hafemann in his commentary on 2 Corinthians 3:14–15:

Thus, Paul’s recognition of the root problem behind Israel’s rejection of the gospel demonstrates that the Spirit must create within us a willingness to accept God’s Word so that, being receptive to its message, we will be more apt to comprehend its meaning. Paul’s argument from the Scriptures as common ground with his opponents assumes that the role of the Holy Spirit in biblical interpretation is not to provide God’s people with hidden information or insights into the Scriptures, but to change their moral disposition (cf. 3:14).

The “Mount Everest of Pauline Texts”

Dr. Matthew Barrett in the opening paragraph of his article, What is So New About the New Covenant? Exploring the Contours of Paul’s New Covenant Theology in 2 Corinthians 3, written for The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology:

Second Corinthians 3 is a hotly debated and difficult text. For example, Thomas Schreiner says 2 Corinthians 3 is “one of the most controverted texts in the Pauline corpus,” and is “full of exegetical difficulties and knotty problems.” David Garland believes the passage is “notoriously obscure” and Anthony Hanson says it is the “mount Everest of Pauline texts as far as difficulty is concerned—or should we rather call it the sphinx among texts, since its difficulty lies in its enigmatic quality rather than its com- plexity?” The result has been a hermeneutical maze of literature almost impossible to navigate.

We're currently working through 2 Corinthians as a church and I've been attempting to climb "Mount Everest" all week long in preparation for my sermon on 2 Corinthians 3:7–18. I feel like I need at least another month or two to write this one.

Knotty indeed.

A Word of Caution Regarding Bible Reading Resolutions

Sam Allberry: 

This is truly frightening: it is possible for us to hold to the authority of God’s word, and to never miss a day of carefully reading our Bible, and yet all the while neglect coming to Jesus. There is a way to be biblical but not relational. But it makes us into a Pharisee, not a disciple. Biblical it may be, in one sense, but in a way that is profoundly unbiblical. [...]
But what matters most is love for God. So I say to myself and to you: read the Bible in 2017. Read it, not to “conquer” books of the Bible or to “get them under your belt” (scare-quotes entirely necessary). Read it to kindle a fire for the Lord. Read it to prove his love for you, not to prove your self-discipline to him or to others.

Consider covering up the dates on your Bible reading plan. This doesn't solve the problem, of course (which is ultimately a matter of the heart), but it's a step in a healthy direction. 

Lincoln Students React to the Election

Margaret Reist, reporting for the Lincoln Journal Star, did an excellent job of capturing the post-election reaction of students in Lincoln, a Refugee Friendly city. I think it's safe to say these Lincoln Public Schools teachers and administrators earned their salaries this week.

Lincoln High School principal, Mark Larson:

"When students began to enter the building there was a palpable tension, a palpable anxiety in the air,” he said. “You could feel it. Students were raw yesterday, emotionally. More than any other day that I can remember in my career.”

And it wasn't just the older high school students who were affected:

At Belmont Elementary, a first-grade student in Laurie Martinez's English Language Learner class raised her hand.

“How soon am I going to have to go back?” she asked. 

Martinez said she was not prepared for first-graders to be worried about the election.

"I was naive," she said.

The Consequences of the Fall in the Political Realm

Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo in their book, One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics:

So, the political realm has everything to do with our relationships to other people. In the aftermath of the fall, the political realm remains structurally good but has been corrupted directionally. In other words, God structured the world in such a way that we would have politics and public life, and the fact of its existence is good. But because of the depravity of the human heart, politics and public life are always to some extent directed toward idols rather than toward God.

They continue:

The problem runs deep, deeper than most political analysts even conceive. But the problem is never politics, per se. Liberals aren't the problem. Conservatives aren't the problem. Politicians aren't the problem. We are. We all are—because we all have the entrenched tendency to twist God's created order into idolatry. Pointed toward Christ, anything in creation becomes a blessing. Pointed away from him, the greatest blessing becomes a curse.

Repentance and Faith

In his commentary on the book of Acts, Darrell Bock offers a helpful explanation of how repentance and faith in Jesus relate with one another:

Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin.
[...]
Repentance to God represents a change of direction in how one relates to God. It entails faith in Jesus, so that the turning results in one placing trust in what God did through Jesus as one embraces his person and work.

There is a good reminder here that repentance is ultimately about God and how we relate with God. Therefore, repentance isn't simply a turning from sin, but also a turning to Jesus, in faith. A 'gospel' that demands the former and disregards the latter is no gospel at all.

How Should Christians Comment Online?

Jon Bloom on Desiring God:

Reading people’s comments online is an interesting and sometimes troubling study in human nature. And reading comments by professing Christians on Christian sites (as well as other sites) can be a discouraging study in applied theology.

The immediate, shoot-from-the-hip nature of comments on websites and social media is what can often make them minimally helpful or even destructive. Comments can easily be careless. That’s why we must heed Jesus’s warning: “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36). This caution makes commenting serious business to God.

Can We Still Weep Together After Orlando?

Russell Moore:

Our national divisions increasingly make it difficult for us not just to work together, but even to pause and weep together. We become more concerned about protecting ourselves from one another’s political pronouncements than we do with mourning with those who mourn.

This is especially true of gun violence. Is our nation even capable of mourning a tragedy together when guns are involved? I'm not so sure any more.

Moore ends his piece with this exhortation to Christians:

How then do we weep with those who weep?

Let’s call our congregations to pray together. Let’s realize that, in this case, our gay and lesbian neighbors are likely quite scared. Who wouldn’t be? Demonstrate the sacrificial love of Jesus to them. We don’t have to agree on the meaning of marriage and sexuality to love one another and to see the murderous sin of terrorism. Let’s also pray for our leaders who have challenging decisions to make in the midst of crisis. Let’s mobilize our congregations and others to give blood for the victims. Let’s call for governing authorities to do their primary duty of keeping its people safe from evildoers.

[...]

As the Body of Christ, though, we can love and serve and weep and mourn. And we can remind ourselves and our neighbors that this is not the way it is supposed to be. We mourn, but we mourn in the hope of a kingdom where blood is not shed and where bullets never fly.

Why We Talk About Sin

The late John Stott in Confess Your Sins:

We are not in the least ashamed of the fact that we think and talk a lot about sin. We do so for the simple reason that we are realists. Sin is an ugly fact. It is to be neither ignored nor ridiculed, but honestly faced. Indeed, Christianity is the only religion in the world which takes sin seriously and offers a satisfactory remedy for it. And the way to enjoy this remedy is not to deny the disease, but to confess it.



¯\_(ツ)_/¯ © 2016 Adam Stahr