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Areopagus Campus Ministry

21 Apr

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If you get a chance, check out the Areopagus website here.  On it, you’ll find details regarding the ministry of the Christian Reformed Church at Iowa State.  I am excited to be the new director, and look forward to what God is going to do through Areopagus.

The Federal Head of the Hillsborough 96: Liverpool F.C.

17 Apr

On April 15, 1989, tragedy struck at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England.  On the cusp of an FA Cup Semi-final tie between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, police allowed fans to flood standing room areas at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium.  This rapid influx of fans, combined with the lack of police control, led to a human crush.  Chaos ensued. Fans screamed and did everything they could to escape the area, climbing over the side fences and clambering up to the sections above.  As the pressure was relieved, the bodies of the injured and dying were strewn about the pitch, many of them awaiting emergency care that never came.

Ninety-six people died that day.  Seventy-nine of them were 30 years old and younger.  It remains to this day the worst stadium-related disaster in the history of Britain.

As a Liverpool football fan, I cannot help but grieve for the families of those who lost loved ones.  That is part of what is means to become part of a sports family.  You become a part of the history; the successes, the failures, the triumphs, the tragedies.  Though fans are found around the world–myself in the United States–we are united together around this football team.

And this leads me to a video I found yesterday when I was perusing Youtube:

It is a very powerful video.  Emotionally charged.  A roller coaster of pain and frustration, culminating in triumph and determination, looking ahead to a match with title competitors, Manchester City, on the eve of the Hillsborough anniversary.

But whether knowingly or unknowingly, the video presents us with something more.  It reveals the power of sports, the hope it creates for people, and the way in which a team can unite them around itself and represent them.

In this case, Liverpool F.C. serves as the federal head of all kinds of Liverpudlians, bringing them together under the red banner and emboldened Liverbird.  Even the motto, You’ll Never Walk Alone, conveys the unity and bond between club and community.  And did you catch the language? The video connects religious language to the tragedies of the past and the present hope in the form of the current squad.  The team takes on a messianic role, to represent the community–and especially the 96–and bring justice in the form of realized hope: a Premier League Title.

And yet, the hope a team brings is fleeting.  For every success, every victory, and every title, there are countless failures and losses.  The pain of  loss and the questions of justice will remain even after championship parades and celebrations ushering in the good days at Anfield again.  But there is a greater hope that does not fade, a more perfect representative who stands at the ready–to bring true justice, victory over death and despair, and loving kindness–for all those who might find Him as their head: Jesus Christ.

And so, I hope along with all my fellow Reds supporters that we can bring the title back to Anfield.  I desire to see joy and happiness return–if only for a summer–to many of those whose life is football, and many who have lived with the pain and trials of the past 25 years in the wake of Hillsborough.  Yet, as a servant of Christ, I yearn that their eyes, like mine, would be opened to the glorious grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For surely, with Him, we may never walk alone.  Amen.

 

Update in Ministry

11 Apr

In February, I visited and accepted a position as the director of ministry for Areopagus, the campus ministry of the Christian Reformed Church at Iowa State University.  If you would like to read more about this ministry, check out their website here.

Please pray for me as I take on this new role, and if you would like to financially partner with the ministry, check out the donate page, here.

Truly Pharisaical: Interpreting Matthew 9:10-13

28 Jan

Matthew 9:10-13 reads as follows:

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

So what should we take away from this?

Some would say that this passage is a rebuke of modern day legalistic Christian conservatives, who cry out against a host of sins and refuse to accept them as good and/or right.  Jesus was a friend of the outcasts, the tax collectors, and sinners, and rebuked and rejected the religious men of the day.  It doesn’t matter what one does so much as one is merciful and loving towards all people.

And while it is true that Jesus did embrace outcasts, tax collectors, and sinners, the modern interpretation which takes aim at “legalistic Christian conservatives” is misguided.  Those who accept this interpretation miss the true point of the passage: Jesus came to call sick sinners.  

You see, Jesus’ entire ministry was about calling sick sinners to himself to be forgiven of their sins and made new in Him.  And while it is true that the Pharisees sought to adhere to the law in an effort to earn the favor of God (Covenant of Works), it was not for their law-keeping that Jesus rebukes/rejects them here.  He does so because they did not see themselves as sinners. 

Many overlook the fact that just because Jesus spent time with tax collectors and sinners did not mean that he did not view them as sinners.  In fact, he calls them both sick and sinners in this passage.  And this not only makes them prime candidates for the temporal love and mercy of Jesus, manifested in his reclining with them at table, but also for his eternal love and mercy of the atonement.  Sinners are in need of forgiveness and new life.

Many also overlook the fact that Jesus was a advocate of the Law.  He says in the Sermon on the Mount that he did not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill it. The reason he did not abolish the Law: Because it was a good thing when properly understood.  The Law was to guide the people in holiness, love, and witness to the nations around them.  The people of Israel would live differently than the people in the rest of nations around them.  They would see their need for the grace of God, and rejoice in his forgiveness as pictured in the sacrificial system (a system which pointed ahead to the final sacrificial work of Jesus for man’s sin).  This would flow out in love towards one another, justice for all people, and in an embracing of the foreigner.

True Pharisaism is not a desire to keep the law.  A desire to keep the Law is a good thing when its understood rightly.  It is a guide for life, not a means of salvation.  No one can be saved by the Law, because all have sinned and fall short of its requirements.  And yet, the Pharisees thought they were righteous and deserving of God’s blessing based upon their adherence to the letter of the Law.  But they missed the point: It was supposed to show them their sinfulness and need for Jesus, the Savior and fulfiller of the Law on behalf of man (Covenant of Grace).  Not only this, but in their adherence to the letter of the Law, they failed to do the acts of love and mercy that flow out from true obedience to the Law.

So, to be truly pharisaical is to be blind to one’s sin.  It is a rejection of the fact that we are all sinners, all sick, all in need of the grace of God revealed in Christ Jesus.  Both the conservative and liberal Christian is guilty of this.  The conservative is guilty when his calling out of the sins of others comes at the expense of forgetting his own sinfulness (hypocrisy and lovelessness).  And the liberal is guilty by his vehement denial of the sinfulness of various beliefs, behaviors, and practices (typically done by downplaying the authority of Scripture, bad hermeneutics, or citing cultural change).

But praise God for Christ!  Though we are all guilty of pharisaism–guilty of being sinners–Christ came to save us! He came to save sick, sinful people, unite them to himself and make them truly righteous.  And in this way, we might be enabled to live lives of love and mercy towards others in the power of the Spirit.  Amen.

 

Thankful

28 Nov

Here is a short list of things I am thankful for:

1. My wonderful wife
2. Loving family
3. The privilege of attending Birmingham Theological Seminary
4. My Church Family (in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois)
5. The giftings God has blessed me with, and have been able to use in service to Him and my neighbor
6. The opportunity I have to coach wrestling
7. God’s faithful provision of food, work, money, and friends in all situations

Among all the things I am thankful for on this Thanksgiving day are these words of promise from God’s Word through the prophet Isaiah:

Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.  And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. (Isaiah 32:16-18)

Praise God that these things have been accomplished by Christ and have been, are being, and will be applied/fulfilled through Him.  Though all the things I mentioned above good and should be remembered, nothing can rise above my thankfulness for God’s gracious salvific work in my life, and the promises like this one above that are true for all those found in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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