I Hope I Never Forget:

“Anything that one imagines of God apart from Christ is only useless thinking and vain idolatry.”- Martin Luther

Thursday, July 19, 2007


A Targum* for my children based on Romans 1:18-28

St Gregory of Nyssa said that it is impossible for one to live without tears who considers things exactly as they are. How can God be faithful to his creation when things like the World Trade Center bombings are going on? I know that he promised to fix things through the People of the Old Oath- Israel, but they have fallen under his judgment and are sidelined and cursed. They can’t help themselves, much less the rest of us. It sounds like a botched operation, doesn’t it? What’s up with that?

To understand how the current reign of King Joshua answers all of these questions about God’s faithfulness we need to start at the very beginning- at Creation itself:

The first thing to remember is that because everything visible and invisible originated in the mind of God, everything seen and unseen is at its heart good. America is not evil for existing. Power finds its origin in God himself. Handsome faces and round bottoms are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. The creator delighted in making trees and animals. He said so himself and called it all "Good"! Agreed, then. We should be thankful for America, bodies, markets, wealth, etc.

But even more fundamental than the goodness of creation is the fact that God is God and Creation is not.

Since the beginning mankind has known the truth about God, but the very first man and woman (as every man and woman after them) chose to serve and worship creation rather than creation’s God. They traded God in for a critter.

God’s love for his creation necessarily means his hatred of anything that would hurt or destroy it. God’s “Yes” to us is a loud “No!” to our enemies, and underlying all of these enemies is the idolatry of putting creation in God’s place.

It’s an inviolable law that human beings become like that which they worship. While being made to mirror the glory of the true God, they instead fell into behaving like beasts. Angered at the destructive choices his vice regents had made, God turned them over to the consequences of their unthankfulness and pride. He gave them what they chose.

Men and women’s existence focused only on the gratification of their selfish desires. Gross shame resulted from the debauchery that followed. Women lived for their passions and took for themselves forbidden lovers. The offspring increased in wickedness until God destroyed the entire world of mankind during the days of Noah. It didn’t end there. Again mankind disgraced itself. Men refused to be satisfied with the restraints placed on their passions by their own humanity. They were consumed with cravings towards women and even each other, and like the women before them, sought forbidden sexual partners- the angelic messengers that God’s grace had sent to them- even to the point of violent rape. God again destroyed them.

Even worse, not only were they disgraced in their own bodies- their lives being indistinguishable from those creatures they were created to rule over, but they devoured each other with bestial violence. Many of their most vile acts of brutality took place in hearts and speech. One doesn't even need a body to hurt and defraud as they chose to.

With their minds darkened they taught others that this type of existence was how humans were meant to live. When goodness and wickedness are confused, the dehumanizing effect of idolatry is complete. There seems to be no escape. Humanity perishes.

I know this seems to apply very clearly to those who were never part of God’s Old Oath people- Israel, but didn’t she also “trade” the living God for an image of a beast while in the wilderness (as her ancient King David declares in Psalm 106:20)? Aren’t all the horrific resulting consequences present in her subsequent history, too?

Other completed passages of the Targum: Romans 1:1-7 , 1:8-17

*A Targum was an expanded paraphrase of the Hebrew Scriptures composed by Rabbis during the diaspora to aid the understanding of their “Hebrew challenged” congregations. I thought something similar might be of help to my kids. So I’ve started with Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


A Targum* for my children based on Romans 1:8-17

I thank God for each of you kids, because your allegiance to King Joshua is noticed by others. Your love for each other declares an alternative way of existing to those whose lives are spent serving the real pretenders to earth’s throne: shortsighted consumerism, empty greed, selfish pleasure and violent national pride.

God could tell you that I pray all the time that He would make it possible for me to come and visit with ya’ll. It would be so wonderful to encourage you in your faithfulness to the king and have you encourage me in return. I want you to know that it’s my desire to get down there one day, so that I can have a hand in bringing your friends into God’s kingdom. This is a task that our King has entrusted to me, and I feel I have something that belongs to those who haven’t heard. So I’m determined to help you spread the word there in Georgia.

There have been countless individuals and powers that have claimed to be the source of security and prosperity. “Look to me!” they offer “and I will make things right.” I know your nation’s economy, culture and military are not unique in this regard. So I don’t want you to think that I’m picking on you, but you know that your nation’s aggressive expansion is evident throughout the world.

McDonald’s can be found in Kuwait and China has embraced Wal-Mart. American weapons are aimed everywhere….at least potentially, and Madonna can be heard in Tehran. Your marketing is working, because it seems the whole world desires to be formed in America’s image. Ipod’s and blue jeans are the international standard of fashion. And people with rich and ancient cultural pasts are just “Lovin’ it.” Young and old, brown, yellow and white look to your nations products because they’re “the Real Thing.” Money makes the world go round. Corporate logos are everywhere so that no one can forget this. Americanism is declared at our sporting events, in our homes and on the shoes and caps we wear. Markets rule our charity, religion and sex. They just do. Look around.

But they don’t. Not really. That’s our message, isn’t it. King Joshua, not Coca-Cola adds life, and I’m not the least bit embarrassed to say so. Do you know why? Because I’ve seen the mere news of our King’s arrival tear people free from the dehumanizing tyranny of money, markets, and selfish emptiness. I’ve seen it change families into loving communities. I’ve seen its power to transform anyone who believes it is true.

This thing that God has done through King Joshua shows that He is faithful to his commitments to set all things right again. It makes clear what he was up to all for all of those ages. It is a glorious act of faithfulness on God's part, and it calls for a liberating response of faithfulness from each man, woman and child who hears of it.

Other completed passages of the Targum: Romans 1:1-7

*A Targum was an expanded paraphrase of the Hebrew Scriptures composed by Rabbis during the diaspora to aid the understanding of their “Hebrew challenged” congregations. I thought something similar might be of help to my kids. So I’ve started with Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


A Targum* for my children based on Romans 1:1-7

Dear Rachael and Rebekah, Hannah, Naomi, Tommy and Esther (and everyone else who is loved by our God and living in America- this broken world’s most powerful nation)

Things are messed up. I know you realize that. People hurt and are lonely. They are hungry for food and attention, but no one cares. Even Creation itself seems to strike out through tsunami and drought. Something is clearly wrong. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. The hearts of men and women point to something different, and this "something different" is what I desire for you. May all the deepest craving of your heart for a world made glorious with love, justice, truth and beauty be made a reality- a gift from God our Father accomplished through Joshua the King, Lord of all.

My greatest boast is that I’m a slave of this King and chosen by him for the royal task of telling everyone that the world’s true ruler has returned and will make everything as it should be. This oughtn't come as a surprise (the king’s return, not my privilege) because God had promised this very thing hundreds of years ago in the prophecies of the Old Oath. God swore that his own champion would one day come- tied to this broken world by his descent from Israel’s ancient King David, but declared through the power of the Spirit of Life to be the one who ushers in the World-Which-Is-To-Come.

Though he appeared to be a pretender- stomped on and ground up under the heel of those who fancied themselves in control, God pronounced his reign legitimate and true by raising him from the dead. The miracle of Easter told us two things: what time it was and whether the man Joshua was delusional. Clearly, the promised new age had begun and all authority in heaven and earth truly belong to this man- just as he had quietly claimed.

It is through the gracious friendship of this King that I have received my commission to call everyone to allegiance to the banner of King Joshua, Lord of all. This includes you, whom he has declared to be more than close friends- he calls you his brothers and sisters.

*A Targum was an expanded paraphrase of the Hebrew Scriptures composed by Rabbis during the diaspora to aid the understanding of their “Hebrew challenged” congregations. I thought something similar might help my kids. So I’ve started with Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.

Monday, July 2, 2007


It used to get you thrown to a hungry lion or smeared with tar and set alight over an emperor’s garden bench; now it’s as ubiquitous and harmless as sneezing. Come to think of it, it’s actually less harmful than sneezing, because sneezing might make others sick or embarrass you with its viscous aftermath. But calling the Christ “Lord,”…well, what could be more natural.

My kids do it daily at prayer. So do their young apostatizing acquaintances. Presidents speak of “the Lord." Actors and business men reference “the Lord”. The name is thrown out in Sitcom’s, standup comedy acts, sporting events and water cooler conversations.

Regularly. Daily. Often, and yet no jailer appears with hungry felines in tow. There’s little people-burnin’ going on. Few heads roll for it. I wonder why?

I suspect it’s because the phrase has become simply a name- a moniker like Joe or Sally. Little offence, there. But for the early church, “Lord” was first and foremost a title. There may be many Joes or Sallys.... or even Lords, but there can only be one LORD…by definition, you see.

The ancient world already had a claimant. Caesar, and the entire empire built around him, declared him to be Lord of Lords and King of Kings. He was the Savior of the World. In him was found its hope of security and fruitfulness. He, and he alone, required ultimate allegiance. Hundreds of competing religions existed- each at peace with the Roman Emperor.

Why weren’t devotees of Isis fed to the beasts? The answer’s simple. They poised no threat to the Roman Lord's... how would you say it, Lordship. They could worship and bow and incense all day long, but when push came to shove, Caesar ran things.

He was Lord.

Well, he just was. It was a no-brainer. One only had to look around at the glory and achievements of the Pax Romana to see that it was so.

What Caesar did, worked. Period.

To the backwards hooligans of Europe, Asia Minor and Africa, Rome had brought peace (insert bloody gurgling sound)…and prosperity (insert crack of whip) and…law (insert fat lecherous Senator’s laugh). It had been done. It was being done. It was fact.

Against the obvious, the early church dared imagine the world in a different way. Jesus, the crucified King of Israel, was the one who was actually running things. Really, that’s what they said. He was the source of security and fruitfulness- even Rome's own. He was the world’s savior. Caesar had better get down on his knees and do some serious toe kissing.

Now that’s the sort of thing that will get you turned into cat chow.

In a very real sense, I think it was easier for our ancient brothers and sisters to be faithful to their baptisms. They understood who their God’s competition was. He was that other dude- the one who claimed the title of “god.” The Kingdom of the Christ was in opposition with that other entity- the one everyone referred to as “the Empire.”

Faithfulness was clearly defined. Either the kingdoms of this world had become the kingdoms of our God or…they had not. It was simply a matter of choosing Caesar and his empire or Christ and his. One was a pretender, but which one?

The early church had a firm opinion on the matter. Other religions got on swimmingly with the Roman sovereign. They met and talked about “going to heaven when you die.” Caesar couldn’t give a rat’s rear end where they went after they died. He just wanted the honorific, economic and militaristic cooperation of those individuals; after that they could go anywhere they wanted- to hell for all he cared.

Good thing we haven’t an emperor today. Right? There is no expanding world-dominating and uniting power. There is no common story that molds the lives of geographically diverse people so powerfully that no one can imagine things differently. Nothing claims our faith and hope for security and prosperity. Christians and non-Christians live for exactly the same things, goals and ends because….the life advocated by Jesus of Nazareth is the only one on the market (and it's pure random coincidence that I chose an economic metaphor just then). True progress is measured in terms of responsibility, justice, sacrifice, contentment, fidelity and mercy. Right?

As followers of Christ we are to show forth the possibility of life lived as our God would live it, and this in stark distinction to the life of other gods. We are necessary to the world as a reminder to them of whom they truly are as human beings.

But many congregations struggle over what the church’s role really is. That’s because we’re blind to the powers that enslave human persons and society’s imagination. There are no powers. Only people and choices. The subterfuge has been so successful that we can not even imagine life lived another way. With the pitiful god’s of history, we bring our little plaster Jesus and bow to the obvious power, glory and promise of the Pax Americana, limitless markets, consumption, technology and convenience.

We go about earnestly hawking our dualist religion. “If you died tonight, do you know where you’d spend eternity,” we ask those passing by. Caesar rises from his throne of golden arches. We are truly humbled. He takes off his mouse-eared crown and helps us to our feet. “I can help you get that message out,” he offers, and we and our plastic Jesus bow with true thankfulness.