on who we are and what we do

A while ago I uploaded a video I made onto social media, a speed drawing of a Turkish Janissary soldier. Most of the views were (unsurprisingly) from Turkish viewers, and while the vast, vast majority appreciated it, and were touchingly… touched by the interest I showed in their history, one incident did stick in my mind: one Turkish viewer, a complete stranger over the internet, was so incensed by what I’d drawn that he felt justified cussing me out – me, a complete stranger over the internet – because he felt mortally offended by a silly line drawing, which in the words of another viewer, ‘looks like shit.’ Continue reading “on who we are and what we do”

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on the God who stands by

“The LORD gave me this message: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
“O Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”
The LORD replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken!”
Then the LORD reached out and touched my mouth and said, “Look, I have put my words in your mouth! Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant.”
Then the LORD said to me, “Look, Jeremiah! What do you see?”
And I replied, “I see a branch from an almond tree.”
And the LORD said, “That’s right, and it means that I am watching, and I will certainly carry out all my plans.”
Then the LORD spoke to me again and asked, “What do you see now?”
And I replied, “I see a pot of boiling water, spilling from the north.”
“Yes,” the LORD said, “for terror from the north will boil out on the people of this land. Listen! I am calling the armies of the kingdoms of the north to come to Jerusalem. I, the LORD, have spoken!
“They will set their thrones at the gates of the city. They will attack its walls and all the other towns of Judah. I will pronounce judgment on my people for all their evil— for deserting me and burning incense to other gods. Yes, they worship idols made with their own hands!
“Get up and prepare for action. Go out and tell them everything I tell you to say. Do not be afraid of them, or I will make you look foolish in front of them. For see, today I have made you strong like a fortified city that cannot be captured, like an iron pillar or a bronze wall. You will stand against the whole land— the kings, officials, priests, and people of Judah. They will fight you, but they will fail. For I am with you, and I will take care of you. I, the LORD, have spoken!” –Jeremiah 1:4-19 (NLT)

There’s a phrase out there that goes something like this: “Ima get all Old Testament on you.”

Basically it means I’m about to inflict some serious bodily harm on you. Continue reading “on the God who stands by”

on Messiah the son of David

“Later, as Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple, he asked, “Why do the teachers of religious law claim that the Messiah is the son of David? For David himself, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’ Since David himself called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with great delight.

Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.” -Mark 12:35-40, NLT

Why should the Messiah be the Son of David? On the surface of it this seems like a very uniquely Jewish question, more or less unrelatable to many Christians. And in many ways it is a uniquely Jewish yearning, but it does have more to do with us as Christians than might seem. Continue reading “on Messiah the son of David”

on grace

The story of Mephibosheth recently came up in a morning talk. King David was given supernatural grace to love his rival, the speaker pointed out, and this is something we should pray for too.

Now when I heard this I flew into a self-righteous rage (more on this later) over the seemingly man-centric conclusion, because I reckoned there’s a better way to look at it: we are Mephibosheth, standing before the King. By all rights we are dead men, not (it seems to us) by any virtue of what we’ve done, but simply because of who we are, the blood that runs in our veins. But someone before us has earned the King’s favour on or behalf, and because the King honours promises, he not only calls us friend, but brings us into his family, gives us a home, a future, and his own riches (2 Sam 9:6-7). Continue reading “on grace”

on believing in God

Disney’s Aladdin is flawed in a lot of ways – the cheesy story, the sometimes comically inappropriate racism (though to be fair things were a bit different in the 90s) – but in lots of ways it’s a great movie.

One line has always stuck in my head though: when Aladdin (or Prince Ali at this point) invites Princess Jasmine for a magic carpet ride, he asks her “do you trust me?”

That line for me holds a lot of theological water when we think about our faith. At times we’ve made it all a bit hard to understand, or we’ve made ‘believing in God’ a mark of faith without really defining what said belief means. What does believing in God mean? Believing he exists? Believing he wants the best for me? But I think at the heart of that concept and of our faith is that same, simple question.

Do you trust me? Continue reading “on believing in God”

on looking out in despair

You remember that scene in Return of the King where Denethor pines over the mortally-wounded Faramir? He thinks his biggest problem is that his son is dead and his line extinguished, but he walks to the edge of the cliff and sees that it’s much worse: the host of Mordor is at the gates and he’s had no idea. And so he despairs, telling his soldiers “Flee! Flee for your lives!” Continue reading “on looking out in despair”

on the place of the ten commandments

What place would you say the Ten Commandments still has for us today?

It has always struck me that for many non-Christians, and not a few self-professed Christians as well, the heart of Christianity is the Ten Commandments: whether or not you adhere to them, the similarity of your life in comparison to the standards and ideas laid out on those stone tablets. The measure of how good a Christian you are seems to hinge on your ability to mold yourself based on the Ten Commandments, your ability to transcend your own nature and force yourself to become godly and Ten Commandments-y. Continue reading “on the place of the ten commandments”

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