29 December 2006

Today's Gospel

[The] creator God so desires to intimately relate with each of us that he became one of us so we could know and understand him. Further . . . this god-man was rejected by those who should have recognized him, was betrayed by those closest to him, was torture[d] and beaten and finally put to the most shameful death imaginable under the powers of the day. Yet somehow this constituted his victory over those very powers as was vindicated by his resurrection and is now Lord of Heaven and Earth.

Scot McKnight



 


I would add some things to this, namely that this creator God can (only) be seen by looking at the first-century Jew, Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, Jesus of Nazareth revealed Israel's God, YHWH, the creator God. That at his resurrection he inagurated the New Creation. At that moment, the world changed. And now, because he is the world's true King, he demands believing obedience from the cosmos (Acts 17.30; Romans 1.5). And those of us who do believe this story are called into a scary vocation -- to implement that New Creation, the ultimate future of the cosmos here and now. The call of Jesus is 'Follow me' (John 21.22). For us to understand what that means, we need to go back to the beginning of John's gospel and read it with our eyes open. We are to confront the powers of the world, both religious and secular; seen and unseen, not with the 'weapons of the world' but with the self-giving, self-sacrificing love of God in our hearts. We who believe this story are called to be the words of Jesus made flesh. So, I would put it all together like this . . .


The cosmos is the 'very good' creation from the creator God, YHWH, the God of Israel. The creator God desired so much to intimately relate with each of us that he became one of us so we could know him. YHWH, the creator God can be seen by looking at the first-century Jew, Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, Jesus of Nazareth revealed Israel's God, YHWH, the creator God. This god-man was (mostly) rejected by the very people who should have recognized him, was betrayed by those closest to him, was tortured and beaten and finally put to the most shameful death imaginable under the powers of the day. Yet somehow this constituted his victory over those very powers as was vindicated by his resurrection. Because of his resurrection, Jesus is now Lord of Heaven and Earth. At that moment, the world changed. At his resurrection, Jesus inaugurated the New Creation. And now, because he is the world's true King, he demands believing obedience from the cosmos (Acts 17.30; Romans 1.5). Those of us who do believe this story are called into a scary vocation -- to implement that New Creation, the ultimate future of the cosmos, here and now. The call of Jesus is 'Follow me' (John 21.22). We are to confront the powers of the world, both religious and secular; seen and unseen, not with the 'weapons of the world' but with the self-giving, self-sacrificing love of God in our hearts. We who believe this story are called to be the words of Jesus made flesh.

27 December 2006

Prayer for Today

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray you, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

19 December 2006

Vegetarianism

I have decided to become a vegetarian.

When I brought this up with my wife (who has been an on-again-off-again vegetarian for a while) she asked me why the change of mind. What follows is a summary of my change of mind and heart on the matter.

I believe that YHWH, the creator God, is the good God who created a 'very good' world. If we look at the beginning we will see that people, as well as animals, were vegetarian:
Genesis 1.29-31. Then God said, "Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.

Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!

So, that is how God's 'very good' creation started -- with everything eating plants. Therefore, because people rebelled and 'death entered the world', some of us (people and animals alike) became meat-eaters. How can I draw this conclusion? Simple. To eat 'meat' means something has to die. And death is part of the corruption of God's 'very good' creation.

But God is redeeming his creation. He is healing his creation. With the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, he has launched the 'New Creation Project.' That is, in the final consummation of the New Creation, there will be no more death (Revelation 21.4; see also 1Corinthians 15).

Isaiah described the New Creation this way:
Isaiah 11.6-7. In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow.

The goal then is to take us 'back to the garden' as the song goes. One day, we will all again be eating only fruits and vegetables (and the products of those things).

As an aside, but an important aside, yesterday I saw a program on Animal Planet about a lioness who 'adopted' an antelope calf as he own. The calf was still too young to eat solid food and so, along with the lioness, they both were starving for neither one ate anything. This relationship lasted for 15 days. On the last day, a male lion attacked the calf, killed it, and ate it. This lioness 'adopted' 5 more calves throughout her life. Needless to say, the scientific world was shocked and stunned by this. They have never seen anything like it. The host of the program stated that this type of behaviour has never been recorded. I said, 'It has too. In the book of Isaiah.' (Of course, the TV couldn't respond, but I do that a lot -- talk to the TV.) Was this a hint of New Creation creeping out into the 'natural world'? Some would say no. This was a fluke. This lioness was a 'freak of nature'. Well, I would state that she was a 'freak of fallen nature'. But, maybe she is a kind of 'first fruits' of New Creation happening in throughout the rest of the world? Call me a dreamer, but I like to think so.

So, back to my point. The vocation of the church today is to live in anticipation of the consummation of the New Creation. The technical term for this is called 'inaugurated eschatology'. We are called to take some of God's future (if I can put it that way) and bring it into the present. Part of that is to put away death. And part of putting away death is to stop killing animals for food.

Now, I can already hear the arguments (alas, I have used them myself for a number of years), 'People are made to eat meat. Look at our teeth. You can't tell me that the teeth of a lion are made to eat grass. That's ridiculous.' Or 'Maybe someday, in the future, we will be eating only fruits and vegetables and the products thereof. But, we aren't in the future. In this life we are obviously supposed to eat meat. We aren't in heaven.'

Two things with these arguments (and I know that this is what is called a 'straw-man' argument. I create a false position and then knock it down): First, yes, because of the fall we are eating meat, we have eaten meat, and we will continue to eat meat. But again, this is because of the fall. But Jesus 'reversed the curse'. Jesus initiated a new way of being. He started a new people. He started a New Creation. And as St Paul put it, 'If anyone, in Christ, new creation' (That is what the Greek has). In other words, if a person is 'in Christ', they are not just themselves a 'new creation' but they are part of New Creation. If we do not see ourselves within that bigger picture I think we are missing a lot of what salvation actually means. Therefore we should be living like we belong to that New Creation.

Secondly, and I'm sure this will make some a little angry, people and animals have evolved. This is why their teeth look the way they do. Moreover, we are looking at those teeth 'from our fallen perspective'. That is, the lens we use to classify things is based on the only data we have and all of it is in the midst of a fallen world. It's like a friend of mine said regarding global warming, 'The problem with the data is that is only (at least) a hundred years old or so. In other words, there isn't enough evidence to be conclusive one way or the other. The world may do this within itself every few million years.' While I don't agree with his outcome, I think his initial point is spot on. We don't know (because we have never seen or have read) that animals with teeth like a lion can eat only vegetables. Maybe they can. Or maybe their teeth (and the rest of their digestive system) evolved to that. Maybe they will evolve back the other way. I don't know.

Lastly, if we someone came up to us and said, 'Yes, I know it's wrong to abuse women, but I'm not worried because I will be complete and free from that in the consummation of God's kingdom', if we truly loved that person, we would hit them with inaugurated eschatology! 'Sure, you will be holy at some future point. But that is why you strive to live holy now!' That dualist (gnostic) view is part of the problem within Western Christianity. No. We are not supposed to just go on living life like every one else. We are called to live in anticipation of God's final consummated world now. We pray for God's kingdom to come 'on earth' as in heaven. God is creating, through his Church, a New Heaven and New Earth. What we do in the now matters. It is part of the 'building material' for that consummated New Creation (again, look at 1Corinthians 15, especially the last verse).

And for me, part of living in anticipation of that is to not continue bringing death to God's 'very good' creation. In other words . . .

I have decided to become a vegetarian.

Seventy times seven

Daniel 9.24. 'A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish their rebellion, to put an end to their sin, to atone for their guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place.'

This is the end of exile. The chapter starts with Daniel praying because he had read in the book of Jeremiah that the people of God would be in exile for seventy years (verse 2). The seventy years were almost up and he was praying for God's mercy (vv. 3-19).

Then Gabriel appeared to Daniel and gave him some instruction concerning his dream (vv. 20-23). The beginning of this instruction is found in verse 24, which I quoted above. Again, the idea here is that, first, it won't be at the end of the seventy years, but at the end of seventy sets of seven years, or four hundred-ninety years. That is when the 'end of exile' would actually take place. During that time, people will be returning to the land and start rebuilding the temple and city (v. 25). However, the exile won't be over. It will still be continuing. That is to say, the true exile won't be over. What is that exile? It is what Daniel was praying about -- the forgiveness of the sins of Israel.

Also, during this time, the 'Anointed One' would come to Jerusalem. But the 'Anointed One' would be 'killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing' (vv. 25-26a).

This is obviously a reference to the Messiah, as most scholars note. But what I want to focus in on is this idea of 'seventy sets of seven' or 'seventy times seven'. Gabriel said at the end of that time the exile of Israel would be over -- that her sins would be forgiven. And that during that time, the 'Anointed One' -- the Messiah -- would come. And this Messiah would bring about the Kingdom of God.

Fast forward to the time of Jesus. The expectation of the end of exile was electric in the air. We can catch glimpses of this within the Gospels. When the angel of the Lord came to Joseph, the angel told him that Jesus would 'save his people from their sins' (Matthew 1.21). And after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph brought him to the temple according to the Law of Moses. At that time, there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. The Lord had promised him that he would not die until he saw the Lord's Messiah. So, he was eagerly waiting for 'the Messiah to come and rescue Israel'. At that moment, when Mary and Joseph arrived with Jesus, the Holy Spirit 'led him to the Temple' (Luke 2.25-27). Once he saw Jesus, he took him and said, 'Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.' (Luke 2.29-31).

Likewise, the prophet Anna was in the Temple. 'She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem' (Luke 2.38).

So, again, we see that the expectancy of Israel at the time of Jesus was one of salvation and rescue. People were 'expecting . . . God to rescue Jerusalem'. They were awaiting the return from exile -- the forgiveness of their sins.

Furthermore, according to this belief, in addition to this, they also believed that this would be when YHWH would come back to Israel. Not only would Israel 'return' from exile, but her God, YHWH would return to his people. But, as Malachi wrote, '[Who] will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears?' (Malachi 3.2).

.............

This isn't really where I was heading with this post. I was leading toward some of these elements but have gotten a little of course. My point was going to be this: The seventy times seven, the end of exile and the return of YHWH to Zion would usher in the Kingdom of God, the New Creation. Jesus shows up 'when the fullness of time had come'. That is, at the 'right time', the 'appointed time'. The time that was part of the plan of God all along. The climax of the story of Israel. It was at that time that Jesus came.

. . . hmm . . . interesting. I find it interesting that I am thinking about this during advent.

Anyway, what was Jesus doing? He was announcing the arrival of the long awaited Kingdom of God! He announced it by actions and words. He even gave rules (if you will) for the people living in the New Creation. One particular example is where I am going with this. In Matthew 18, we have this conversation:
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.

“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.

“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

Look again at the first few verses: 'Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?' 'No, not seven times,' Jesus said, 'but seventy times seven!' Why is this significant? Could it be that the reason we should always forgive is because we are now living in New Creation? That the return from exile has come and that Israel's sins (and, therefore the rest of the world's sins) have been forgiven? I think so. Furthermore I think that is why Jesus gave the story. Notice he said, 'Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven (or of God) can be compared to a king . . .' In other words, the reason we should forgive people of theirs sins is because that is what the Kingdom of God is all about! The exile is over!  All debts have been canceled. And since we have been forgiven, so we should forgive others. Period. I think this is a non-negotiable principle. This is why St Paul can write that if Jesus hasn't been raised from the dead we 'are still guilty of [our] sins'. With the resurrection of Jesus, the 'seventy times seven' of Daniel 9 has been fulfilled and the New Creation was inaugurated. If we are members of that kingdom, we must forgive 'seventy times seven'. In other words, we should be the people of forgiveness. That this is our vocation is hardly in question either. Jesus said, 'As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven' (John 20.21-23).

In summary: Daniel was told that the end of exile would not be at the end of 'seventy years' but at the end of 'seventy times seven' years. At that time, all sin would be forgiven. And the Messiah would come. One of the things the Messiah would do is inaugurate the Kingdom of God. We see in the New Testament, that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel. Through his ministry he was ushering in the Kingdom of God. He was forgiving the sins of the people. When asked specifically about forgiving someone, Jesus said that we, as the people of God, we are to forgive 'seventy times seven'. Why? Because the exile is over! Because the Kingdom of God is the fulfillment of the 'seventy times seven' of Daniel 9.  If we are 'in the Messiah' then we are 'in' the Kingdom of God.  Our vocation is to continue giving the same forgiveness that God gave when he began New Creation.  God has forgiven the sins of the world. Therefore we should do likewise.

07 December 2006

Prayer for Today

Merciful God, you made all people, and you hate nothing that you have made; you do not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that he or she should be converted and live. Have mercy on your ancient people, the Jews, and upon all who have not known you and your love in your son, the King of the Jews, or who deny or oppose the faith of the crucified Messiah; take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt for your word, and fetch them home to your fold, that they may be made one flock under one shepherd: through the same Jesus, the Messiah, our Lord and King. Amen.

06 December 2006

Thoughts from Sunday School

I have been thinking a lot about our Sunday School class last Sunday. In closing, Fr Dwight made a statement that I think most people, well, here in American anyway, can't quite grasp. The idea of national judgment.

When we look at the over-arching story of the Bible it is not entirely concerned with individuals. Okay, sure, there are smaller stories that are about God and an individual. But those stories are about what God will do through that person for God's people, and ultimately the whole world. I think about the judgement of God upon Israel in the 500s where they were taken off into exile by the Babylonians. Surely there were righteous Israelites living at that time. Surely the entire nation was not corrupt. And yet they all were taken in to captivity. Or, like the Maccabees, they were tortured and killed (but none the less, that happened while they were still in exile). I think we Americans are living in this false hope, because of how we were presented the Gospel of personal salvation. That is, it was all very individualized. 'Where will you go when you die?' 'Is Jesus your personal Saviour?' The only indication that we have of anything corporate or nationalistic is that we were told that Jesus died for the 'sins of the world'. Our false hope is that, 'Yes, God may judge America, but I will be spared from this judgment.' Again, look at the nation of Israel. In other words, look at our history, as God's people. How many times have we been carried off into captivity -- righteous and unrighteous alike? And yet, for some reason, we have this false hope that the righteous (and by this we mean that we ourselves as individuals, of course) will be spared. But we won't. And that is the message that needs to be proclaimed like the prophets of old! We need people of courage (or delusion, take your pick) to stand up and say, 'Repent for the judgment of God is coming.' That's the message I'm seeing anyway. If not now, soon.

And not just America, but pretty much the whole Western world. The rest of the world, the poor, are crying out for economic justice and the Western rich are debating sex! What is wrong with this picture! I'm not trying to say that sexual issues are not important, they are. But, and God help us see this, they are not the main issue. The main issue of the day is the enormous problem of Third World Debt. And every minute that the rich West does nothing about it hundreds of people (mostly children) die from starvation. Don't get me wrong. I know that a lot of people in the Western world are doing well for others. But we are part of a nation that, on the whole, is not. America is putting band aids on cancer sores and never changing the laws that put the cancer there in the first place. Why? Mostly because of a twisted eschatology that is a deadly mix of Christianity and platonistic, gnostic dualism that believes this world is trash and will be destroyed and that the goal is to escape it for the 'real world' 'heaven'. Woe betide us if we think that we, i.e., the Western world, can continue on like this without paying for our sins.

Anyway...

I'll get off of my soapbox now.

I just wanted to let you know that I have been thinking a lot about what was said in Sunday School class. In fact, that was the point of the passages we read, actually. And we, me included, quickly moved from the unfamiliarity of national judgment to individual judgment. And the whole time, we missed what God was telling us.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

05 December 2006

Prayer for Today...

God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus the King our Lord. Amen.

14 October 2006

My Mom . . .

MomThis is a hard post to write. I have put it off for days. It will be sporadic at best and completely discombobulated at worst. My Mom, after a long struggle with a very weird disease, passed from this dimension into the dimension of God on October 7th. She was only 60.

This has been a very weird time for me and the rest of my family, especially, and obviously, for my Dad. They have been married for over 40 years. It is a very hard time for us.

It has been said, by more than one person, that my Mom was the glue that kept the extended family together. She was the cog for the wheel. She was the 'wheel within the wheel'. And it's so true. Even when she was sick and in the hospital, she urged me and my family to go visit my Grandmother's sister ('Great Aunt'?) and her husband while they were visiting from California. (He's a famous artist and you can find some of his work here.) She was a lovely person. Someone whom I miss deeply.

My relationship with my Mom was good. Not good, but great. She loved me. I know this because it was customary in my house growing up to say it all the time. But, she not only said it, she showed it. Like most moms, she was always their for me. Even when things were out of control in my life, she was there for me. She stood by me. She corrected me when I was out of line (the details of that are for another time). She made me hot chocolate when I walked home from school in the cold and snow. She hugged me and told me that everything was going to be alright. She kissed me and told me she loved me.

And not just me, she was there for my Sister as well. When my Sister was going through a very hard time in her life, my Mom would pray for her. And I mean, pray. She actually prayed that God would bring a good, solid, Christian friend to my sister. And God did. They have been friends for over 15 years.

My Mom, like me, struggled with Christianity. Not the faith, but the praxis. She saw too much. She continued to search and seek God. She went from tradition to tradition (and by this I mean the different Christian expressions) trying to find that spot where she felt at peace, where she felt a good balance in the message and walk. She finally found this in the Episcopal tradition. Like me. Some of my fondest memories are from the last few years. We used to sit out on the porch at Dad and Mom's place in Stigler and talk about God. Not only did we talk about getting our thoughts and understanding straight, but how we could and should implement that in our daily lives. But, no matter how much we griped and complained, we were certain, are certain, about one thing -- no one has seen God, but Jesus of Nazareth has revealed God. That was a very big thing for me about my Mom. Her unwavering faith. Even when things were all out of sync, even when she doubted, she still had faith. For Mom, it was not a question of 'if' but 'why'. And even then she knew that 'God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them' (Romans 8.28) even if she didn't understand them. And when she didn't understand, she knew that the problem was with her and not God. She knew that it was because she is mortal and God is not. And if she doubted, when she doubted, even then she seemed to echo the prayer of the disciples, 'Lord, increase my faith'.

My Mom longed for balance. Like so many of us, she longed for this dimension to be put to rights. She longed to see the day when the New Creation was fully implemented. Where tears would be wiped dry. Where mourning, crying, and pain would be no more. Where death itself would be done away with. She longed for that day when the dimension of God ('heaven') would be joined with our dimension ('earth') and the two would become one (Revelation 21). Part of that longing has now been fulfilled for her. She, like those that have gone to sleep before her, are awaiting the final consummation in God dimension. When that day comes, we will be standing in our new bodies, our resurrected bodies, our 'spiritual bodies' holding each other, laughing, hugging, and talking. It will be a glorious day. I can hardly wait!

Until then, I only hope that I can live up to the examples that my Mom set before me. She exemplified the Christian walk. Everyone I know, everyone I have ever talked to, relates how my Mom put others first. How she gave of herself for others. How she would walk that next mile. How should would take the crap people where dishing out with dignity. How she would love us to the utmost. I think I can sum up my Mom with a passage from Scripture:
'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'

I believe . . . no . . . I saw my Mom live that. I only hope that I can do the same.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

29 September 2006

Christianity is a religion? Since when?!?!

'Religion is a human effort toward transformation that will make us acceptable to God, make us godlike ourselves, or negate our personhood so we can become one with cosmic forces. Dr March asks, "Why should there not be a diversity of religions?" The reason is that religion is about human striving to achieve and create purpose apart from the grace of God through Jesus Christ. The distinctive nature of Christianity is that grace comes through Christ alone, even despite our best efforts to make it otherwise. God doesn't want any religions! God wants a wide, wide diversity of people with varieties of languages and cultures all accepting grace, to be free from striving, and living in relationship with God. How will they know saving grace if they are not told of Jesus? Grace isn't just meant for the afterlife. It is meant for the here and now so that we may see the presence of God's justice and mercy "on earth, just as it is in heaven." ' -- Michael Kruse responding to the book 'The Wide, Wide Circle of Divine Love: A Biblical Case for Religious Diversity' by W. Eugene March.

What strikes me about this quote is that it lays at the heart of my struggles. The book in question isn't just about diversity. It's about pluralism. The author (Dr March) believes that Christianity is just like all other religions. And he compares the different religions to the diversity of birds or flowers. And this is what gets me -- somewhere along the line of history, the church has become 'just another religion'. When did this happen? Read the NT again, particularly the book of Acts and the letters of St Paul, and you will find that the apostles were not starting another religion. Far from it. They were announcing 'good news'. Another religion is not good news. Quite the contrary, in fact. The world of the first century was chockablock full of religions, just like the world today. They didn't need any new ones then and we certainly don't need any new ones now. (And are there really any 'new' religions? See Ecclesiastes 1.9) The early Christians were not teaching a new religion. They were proclaiming a new king. The rightful King of the cosmos. They were telling people near and far that Jesus of Nazareth was Israel's Messiah and the world's true King. It was not about leaving your culture and 'religious expressions' to adopt the religious views of some new thing. It was about trusting, loving, allegiance to the King. If the culture wanted to worship this King, this Lord, the One True God as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, pretty much any way was open (with some exceptions, of course). That was the whole point of Romans 14, in fact. The Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians were splitting because of the way they worshipped and the way they lived (note that). St Paul was bringing them back together with simple guidelines on fellowship and worship. That is what diversity -- not to say anything about 'tolerance' -- looks like.

This is my struggle. We, as the church, as those who acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth as the world's true King, need to reclaim this 'truth', this 'gospel'. We need to tell the whole world that there is another King, named Jesus. The US is not king. The EU is not King. The OU Sooners are not king nor is their coach. More seriously, the government is not king. That is something that strikes me odd in this day and age within the church. It seems that too many of us look to our government for direction more than our true King. And that bothers me. We should be proclaiming with one voice, 'We have no king but Jesus!' But, alas, we don't. Why is that? Is it because, as I have noted above, that we view Christianity as just another religion? YHWH help us if that is the case.

I think a better way of looking at this phenomena is to take an example from the Native Americans here in the US. They are their own sovereign government. They are their own nation within the United States. Christians should be like that. We should act like that, think like that, live like that. We are acting too much like the Israelites when they demanded a natural king like the rest of the nations. (See 1Samuel 8.4-5.) When Jesus announced that 'the kingdom of God was at hand' he was saying that YHWH, the god of the Jews, was becoming king. That the reign of god was coming 'on earth as it is in heaven'. And the amazing thing was that it was happening with and through Jesus of Nazareth! Why don't we live like this? This is not about a 'religious experience' but about honoring the King of the world! It doesn't matter if we believe Jesus is King or not, he IS the King. Period. The question becomes will we obey the King? Will we do as our King asks? If not, then it becomes an act of treason. We are told to give up our way of life and accepting his way as the way of true humanity. This is what Jesus meant when he said,
'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news' (Mark 1.15 NRSV).

Paul put it this way,
'Since we are God's offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.' (Acts 17.29-31 NRSV)

Even Josephus used this idea when he wrote, when confronting a rebel during the Jewish / Roman War, 'Repent and believe in me' In Greek, 'metanoesein kai pistos emoi genesesthai'. (Life of Flavious Josephus; 110). This is not some inner spiritual experience that Josephus was talking about. It was complete change of life and thinking. It was the laying down of one way of being and trusting Josephus in his way. That is what Jesus meant. Jesus meant a lot more than this, but I don't think he meant any less.

The point is this: the 'good news' that Jesus and the apostles (as well as the rest of the early Christians) proclaimed was that people everywhere lay aside their way of thinking and being human and trusting Jesus in his way of being human. This isn't just about religion. It's about the whole human life. Why should we trust and believe the way of Jesus is better, more human, than ours? Just look at us! We're a mess! If we read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) we would see the subversive way to be truly human. At the time of Jesus there were at least three (3) ways to be Israel: Separatism (withdraw from society and live a separate holy life), Compromise (keep your convictions to yourself and make friends with the opposing groups), and the Zealotry (say your prayers and sharpen your swords and prepare for a holy war). Jesus came on the scene with a completely different way. And this is the scary part (for him and us) -- if Jesus and his way of being human is the right way, then the others can't be. And we know what happens when we say our way is the correct way and everyone else's isn't . . . crucifixion. When we start challenging our world and their agendas as to what true humanity looks like, we should expect no less than misunderstanding and abuse. But that just brings us back to the whole mindset of being a part of YHWH's kingdom -- 'turn the other cheek', 'go the extra mile', 'love your enemies', 'lose your life to find it'. I won't quote all of what we call the 'Sermon on the Mount' here but I would encourage us to go read it (Matthew 5-7) with this in mind: Those statements are not some new rule book. They are a mind set. They are a way of life. The way to be truly human.

The fact of the matter is Jesus of Nazareth is the worlds true King. YHWH proved this when Jesus was raised from the dead. The 'good news' that was preached and taught and believed by the early Christians was that the world now must follow it's rightful king. It has nothing to do with a new religion. It has to do with a fact of history. Should we do away with the religion of Christianity? Perhaps. But I am saying we need to redefine what that means. It is a place where people come to worship the worlds true King.

But, Jesus is more than just a king. He is the very embodiment of YHWH, the creator god. In some of our most earliest documents from the first century, we find this:
'He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers?all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.' (Colossians 1.15-20 NRSV)

So, while Christianity may be a religion, it is most certainly not just a religion. The good news is much more holistic than that. It impacts every category of human existence. Furthermore, it impacts every category of the created world. It is the means by which the creator god, YHWH, implements his new creation in the world. And the great part is that we can all be a part of this vocation! We all have parts to play! It's is much like a musical score or a play or a movie.

Yeah. That's it. A movie. Suppose we were looking through and antique store and among all the stuff we discovered an old movie script. As we read through it, we come to the conclusion that we need to make this into a movie! It was wonderful! Beyond anything we had every seen or imagined. Immediately we go out and get us a director -- some one who won't change the script but follow it to the letter. Next, we start looking for actors. We start holding auditions. However, we soon discover that we don't have any of the 'stuff' to make a movie -- props, location, extras, lights, special effects, etc. So, we open up our auditions to include all of the other 'stuff' too. We start looking for construction workers, electricians, travel agents, etc. And the cool part is that we don't look for these people in the normal areas. No, we start looking for them in the most unlikely of places. The small towns that no one thinks of when making a movie. Of course, along the way, we upset the 'establishment' and how 'they' think movies should be made. But that's okay. Even 'they' are more than welcome to join us in this adventure.

I could go on and on. But I hope you get the picture. That story was what I see when I read the New Testament. I see Jesus 'discovering' a different 'script' in the Old Testament. He then set out to make that movie and was going about looking for people, all the wrong people, to help him make it. To be a part of what YHWH was doing. it was time for that movie to be made. As you think about this, surely you can see that this means so much more than giving up private sins and 'getting religion'. It was a call to a whole new way of life. To a whole new way of being human. The greatest thing about this is that the auditions are still open. At any time, at any place, we can join the cast of the greatest movie ever.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

28 September 2006

PCLOS Revisited!

PCLOSSPlashAt my office, we have several 'new' systems that have been donated to us recently -- four laptops and six desktops. These systems were given to us 'as is' and without OS or applications. So, this was a great time to install PCLOS. After the initial install, I showed them to my supervisor. 'Wow', was her response. She was blown away at how smooth everything looked and how smooth everything worked. I took one of the laptops (a Compaq Evo N800c) into another room and attached an LCD projector to it. I booted up the laptop and the image appeared on the wall. PCLOS mirrored the image without any changes from me (This is very much like it works with Mac, btw.).

Also, these laptops come with an Ati Radeon M video card with a native resolution of 1400 x 1050. PCLOS not only identified this card correctly, it even used the native resolution -- even while running from the LiveCD! Amazing. In Windows, I have to download the latest drivers from Ati; install them; reboot; right-click on the desktop and select 'Properties' from the pop-up menu; change the resolution; and still have to put up with the Ati system app always running at startup (if I don't want this feature -- and I don't -- I have to remove it from starting up either by changing the settings manually or by downloading and installing another app). Again, PCLOS works great right out of the box, or, more correctly, PCLOS works great right off the CD!

One of these laptops have been used on several occasions and has worked flawlessly. As I right this, one of the office mates has it out of town and connects to his desktop computer here at the office to work on some files. He does this using Grdesktop. As you can see from the screen-shots on the link, it looks a lot like Terminal Services or Remote Desktop from Microsoft. And it works just as well (if not better).

I also installed OpenOffice on them using the built-in software manager Synaptic. This office suite is the best one out there, IMO. It has been used for running Powerpoint presentations. OpenOffice loads and runs these presentations effortlessly. OpenOffice can be used on Windows and Macs, too (the Mac version is NeoOffice and you can find it here).

While I prefer using a Mac, if you don't have the funds (and, according to some recent reports, Macs are actually cheaper than Dells when configured similarly) but are tired of all the gunk you get to use with Windows, I highly recommend giving PCLinuxOS a spin.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

21 August 2006

Leopard Spots

Mac OS X Leopard

I recently saw the keynote speech Steve Jobs gave (you can see it here). All I can say is '...wow...' There are some very cool features coming out in Leopard but the one that blew me away (and from the sound of the crowd, a lot of other people as well) is something called 'Time Machine'. Time Machine is a backup utility built right into the OS. It backs up everything on your Mac -- photos, music, docs, and the entire OS -- automatically. Then, the cool part, is that if you need something that you 'know was in my Documents folder yesterday' (my family is notorious for saying things like this), you click on the Time Machine icon from the Dock and you are transported into outer-space with a series of Finder windows cascading back to 'the beginning'. There is a time line on the right-hand side of the screen where you can just select the day you want to go to, or you can just click on one of the arrows to go back to when the contents changed -- this could be days or weeks or months or years or . . . you get the idea. Then, once you find the file, you 'bring it to the present' by clicking another button. It's that darn easy. Isn't that the way it is with everything that Apple creates? I think so. Just this last week my daughter was asking me how to burn some pics out of iPhoto. I had her jumping through the whole Windows way of doing it -- 'Create a folder on your desktop. Select the pics you want and then export them to that folder . . .' You get the idea. But then I remembered, I was dealing with a Mac. I just knew those engineers had to think about this one. And sure enough, there it was. Right in the iPhoto menu. That is the way it looks with Time Machine. One of those things we all know we should do (backup our computers) but most of us (and I do mean most -- about 4% actually) never do. Leopard will be doing it for us, right out of the box. To see how Time Machine looks, you can go here.

The other cool feature is called 'Spaces'. This looks very similar to the 'multiple desktops' you can have with pretty much every Linux OS out there. However, Apple has 'Aquafied' it to fit into the UI of the Mac. And, it looks limited to just for desktops . . . er . . . spaces. To see how Spaces looks, you can go here.

All in all, I can't wait for this OS. Personally, I think it will make Vista look like a cheap knock-off. And rightly so. BTW, don't think that Macs are more expensive than other computers. According to the latest prices, they are cheaper than Dells (when they are configured the same). The latest Mac, the Mac Pro, is about a grand cheaper than an equivalent Dell. That's right. A Dell costs more than a Mac. It seems to me that Apple is more poised than ever to capture some of the market from Windows. And it's about time.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

18 August 2006

It had to happen...

I have been using Blogger as my site for a while now but I have moved on. I like the look and feel of WordPress. I like the default blue and grey look. To be honest, it looks very 'Macish'. And, again, honestly?, that's why I moved. I have always liked this look and have tried to make it work over at Blogger but just couldn't do it (I'm not a programmer, for cryin' out loud). So, I saw a website and followed the link to WordPress. Wow. I like this place a lot. If the Lord wills, I plan to stay here for a while.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

10 August 2006

Where has this been?

Ecclesiastes 12.13. Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is the duty of every person. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.

Where has this been? In all my years in the tribe of YHWH, I have never heard a message on this. I have only heard, 'Believe in Jesus and everything will be okay. You'll go to heaven when you die.' Granted, that is very paraphrased, but this is essentially everything I have ever heard from the church -- no matter what version, whether Baptist, Charismatic, Pentecostal, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, as well as the supposed 'Full' Gospel. It seems to me that the American Protestant Church is so afraid to be labeled as a 'works based religion' that it doesn't teach the 'full gospel' any longer. Now don't get me wrong. I'm NOT saying that we don't have to believe in Jesus. Far from it. I'm saying you have to believe in Jesus and 'do good works'. Oh, I know. I can hear some people now saying, 'Well, OD, that's the Old Testament. In the New Testament, because of the cross of Jesus, we don't have to follow that any longer.' Really? Are we so certain? I think the New Testament has plenty to say regarding this. For example:

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said:
'But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those on the right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me."

'Then these righteous ones will reply, "Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?" And the King will tell them, "I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!" ' -- Matt 25.31-40

In Romans, St Paul's first address on the subject of 'good works' was very positive. He wrote:
'For there is going to come a day of judgment when God, the just judge of all the world, will judge all people according to what they have done. He will give eternal life to those who persist in doing what is good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and practice evil deeds. There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on sinning -- for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good -- for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.' -- Rom 2.5-11

And, as I have shown in other posts, St James is very clear on the subject. He wrote:
'Dear brothers and sisters, what's the use of saying you have faith if you don't prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can't save anyone. Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, "Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well" -- but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

'So you see, it isn't enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn't show itself by good deeds is no faith at all -- it is dead and useless.

'Now someone may argue, "Some people have faith; others have good deeds." I say, "I can't see your faith if you don't have good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds."

'Do you still think it's enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror! Fool! When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is useless?

'Don't you remember that our ancestor Abraham was declared right with God because of what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, he was trusting God so much that he was willing to do whatever God told him to do. His faith was made complete by what he did -- by his actions. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: "Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous." He was even called "the friend of God." So you see, we are made right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.' -- James 2.14-24

That last paragraph should be preached on more and more. James wrote that our faith in Jesus is made complete by what we do -- by our actions. In other words, faith in Jesus is only the beginning. How do we miss this? He is not referring to the 'leadership' of the church. He is referring to all of us. All people who claim to be followers of Jesus -- family members in good standing within the community. When will we see that it is not faith versus works but faith and works? When will we stop looking toward secular society to 'fix' the social problems in the world? When will we realize that this is our vocation? We are the ones called to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth. We are supposed to be the ones leading the way. Instead, too often, we spend our time debating about things that don't matter to anyone else. We spend our time and resources on things that don't matter. What happened to giving completely of oneself for others and putting their needs before ours?

I dunno. Maybe I'm just sick of all the inhumanity I see around me. Maybe I'm just in a funk. Maybe this is directed more towards me than anyone else . . . Nah. That's not it. Although I need to hear this as much as anyone, I still believe that it is for everyone, at least most of my brothers and sisters. We have missed it along the way. I hope that this is a wake up call for us. I know it is for me, again. It's like I keep hitting the snooze button on my alarm clock. I hear it screaming at me to do something, but I just acknowledge it and then go back to sleep. But, and this is the good part, I eventually get up! I hope that all of the family will finally stop hitting the snooze and get up and get to work -- good work.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

24 July 2006

Mingo Fishtrap

Well, what can I say. I have been telling people about this band for a while now and they were in town last night. This was their second time in Norman. They were at Summer Breeze last year too. This year, like last year, was an amazing show. The energy of this band is outta this world. They were charged up and ready to go.

It was about a 1.5 to 2 hour set and they played a lot of different stuff from their latest album as well as stuff from their previous ones. I also heard some new stuff. Mingo Fishtrap is a mixture of Funk/R&B/Soul and a little New Orleans Jazz. They hail from Austin, Texas and are one of my favorite bands. If you ever have a chance to see them (and for those of you whom I told about this gig for a long, long time -- shame on you for missing out!!), do it! You will not be disappointed. In fact, if you are not doing anything next weekend, they will playing at the Granada Theatre in Dallas on Saturday, July 29th. They will be doing some filming for an upcoming DVD. Should be a great show! But, then again, every Mingo show is a great show...

At one point in the show, my daughter ran down to the front and screamed out 'Poison Ivy', a song off of their project 'From the Private Bag'. It was great because Roger Bleven, Jr, the bands front man, said, 'Hold on, we'll get there'. Then later, when they introduced the cut, he said something like, 'This if for that girl...' Sumi and I danced like crazy.

BTW, Mingo Fishtrap will be opening for Sting and Annie Lennox in September. Just so you know.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

22 July 2006

Some accomplishments...

It has been a very productive week. First off, there is a service that our organization has been trying to implement for a over a year now and it has never gotten off the ground. This service is video conferencing for people with a hearing disability. Basically, there is just a video camera, a TV, and an Internet connection. The IT person before me had attempted to set this up but was unsuccessful. When I started working there, I was told of this service but the equipment was put away in a closet somewhere and we didn't know if it would work or not. Well, I received a phone call from the person in charge of the national project asking for me to make it a priority. She stated that she would like to have it set up by the end of the week. So I started working on it the following day. I knew were to begin -- the firewall. Firewalls can be tricky if you don't know what you are looking for. And, as I looked through the open ports, I saw where my predecessor had attempted to open up ports for the streaming video. I closed all of those ports and deleted the entries. I then opened up the ports suggested by the manual (Yes, I'm one of those guys who actually reads the manual. It's amazing how many problems can be averted by doing this one step.). I tested the equipment. The person could see me but I couldn't see them. I kept messing with it off and on all day. I thought there might be some guidance with the firewall on the support site. And there was. It seems that you don't enable H323 (the video conferencing port) unless you are having problems. I checked our firewall and it was enabled. I disabled this and it worked! We now can offer this service to people with hearing problems.

The second accomplishment this week was installing PCLOS on a really old IBM ThinkPad A21e. This is a Pentium Celeron 600 laptop with 192MB of RAM. The onboard NIC and USB doesn't work and I could make it connect to the Internet through the PCMCIA NIC or WIFI card. The battery life is only about an hour or two. Since we couldn't use it for presentations or anything similar, I was told just to get rid of it. So, I tried putting Linux on it. There were some major issues. The old version of PCLOS, with the 2.6.12 kernel installed without any major problems -- except I had to set the video to vesa and it could not find either PCMCIA card. However, I knew that the 2.6.15 kernel would recognize my WIFI card. But I couldn't get it to boot even with the video set to vesa. However, because of the excellent Forum over at PCLinuxOS.com, I was able to get the LiveCD to boot and install! Nevertheless, upon rebooting, nothing would happen. The hard drive would stop spinning and the system would just hang up. That is one of the great things about a LiveCD. When things like that happen, you can just run your computer from the LiveCD and try and fix your problems. (For those of you not familiar with this subject, a LiveCD is a complete Operating System (OS) that runs directly from the CD-ROM drive without ever installing it on to your computer's hard drive. This way, you can check to see if the OS is going to work with your hard ware and not have to worry about losing any of your data. It is also great for trouble shooting issues.) After booting to the LiveCD again, and getting back to the Forums, I did some more searching and even started a thread (which you can read here) about my issues. To make a long story short (and this is a long story, I have worked on the laptop all week), I am posting this blog from the IBM ThinkPad A21e. I am running it from the hard drive. I am listening to streaming audio (SKY.FM) through Amarok while I'm typing this up in FireFox. I like that about my job. I am not the good at a lot of things, but working on computers is something I have been blessed with. It helps me stay focused on the task at hand and I know that things can be looked at from a logical standpoint. I make a check list and follow it. More times than not, I have success. Thank YHWH!

Along this note, I am currently working for some friends of mine on a contract basis. They need some reliable work done on their network and one job in particular is going to be a fun ride! Right now the network is a jumbled mess that the company is limping along with. However, it has the pontential to be a great little network. I am very confident that we can make it work just fine and last them for quite a while. I am also going to introduce OpenSource alternatives for their software. Since they are a non-profit organization, I'm sure they will enjoy the free resources they can have with OpenSource.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

07 July 2006

Justice

Before going through the Morning Service this morning, I read a small sermon based on Matthew 5.43-48. A coworker asked the priest what it meant to be an American. After much thought and detail the priest made this statement,
Justice in never motivated by hatred or fear, but hope...To be an American is not to be motivated by fear, but hope; to be an American is to be hopeful.

This statement started me thinking about the 'justice' system here in the States. It seems to me that American justice is not based on hope. Our justice is based on revenge. Our justice is based on punishment. We are quick to point to what is known as the Law of Hammurabi, 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth', and we base our 'justice' system on that. But Jesus calls us -- his followers; family members in good standing -- to follow a different Law. What Jesus said in Matthew 5.43-48 sets the Law of Hammurabi on its head. He said:
You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Why would we want to do this -- love our enemies? It is because we have hope. We believe, we trust, that YHWH is going to bring them out the other side as better people. We see past the pain and hurt -- yes, past the injustice -- to what will be. We see people in general, and those who have hurt us specifically, as future family members in good standing in YHWH's New Creation. That is our hope. If we based our justice off of this, I think things would be better.

And not only for our justice system but for our whole way of life. If we looked at people in the face and saw them as people whom YHWH loves, we might start actually making a bigger difference here and now in the lives of 'our enemies' -- in the lives of those different from us.

Furthermore, if we looked at creation as something that is 'very good' and part of the whole reconciliation of YHWH's love, we might start treating it better. We might start realizing that what we do helps further grow the New Creation now and here.

There are a couple of prayers in the Book of Common Prayer that are tremendously helpful for me in this. I quote them here for your consideration and joy.
For Our Enemies:
God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the Conservation of Natural Recources:
Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

05 July 2006

July 4th

What a great day! Around 3:00 we went to the Zoo amphitheater to see Bob Weir & RatDog. It was a whole day full of music including the Ills, Green Lime, Taj Mahal Trio, Keller Williams, and Michael Kang of String Cheese Incident. It was awesome! The cool part was the rain. Right after GL's set, it started raining. No big. It was nice. Then, it became a monsoon! It was crazy. That lasted for a good half hour at least. Then, we all made out of hiding and the bands started up again. It was one of those events that make you glad to be alive. We were there with a lot of our friends and, by the 3 person rule, we probably knew 99% of the people there! It was a great night.

However, after we got there we found out that you couldn't bring in coolers or food or drink. You had to buy your food there and water was $3 a bottle! Crazy. I guess I'm used to Norman where at Summer Breeze you are encouraged to bring your stuff with you. If there is a next time, we will be ready.

On a different note, I had a very funky dream last night. We were at a church we used to attend ages ago. It was time for the announcements and we were told that our offerings purchased some weapons for some country.

I protested.

'What about the kingdom of YHWH? What about us following the Prince of Peace? How can we be called 'peacemakers' and 'children of god' when we support violence?' The pastor came over to me. I don't remember what he was saying and I woke up right after that. It was an interesting dream to state the least.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

23 June 2006

The Daily Office

Since I am rather 'new' to the Episcopal tradition, there is a lot I still have to learn. But one thing that my good friend told me (he also happens to be the rector of our parish!) is that when we come together, we are not just there with those around us. These people are not our only family. There are those across town. There are those in the next city. There are those in the next county. There are those in the next state. There are those in the next country. There are those in the next continent. And then, there are those who have gone on before us. There are those who will come after us. The point is, we are so much more than just the persons next to us when we are at church. Our family is world wide and centuries old.

I also learned that some parts of our Sunday morning service goes back to the second century. Talk about feeling 'connected'!

This got me thinking. There are a lot of times, even when I'm sitting in a 'church service', that I feel alone, isolated, not connected with those around me. This is primarily my fault, of course, as I have yet to get 'plugged in' to do more things at St John's. But, there is great comfort in knowing that, even though I don't 'feel like it', I am a part of this great family and we are all having the same service all around the world together. Space and time may separate us, but I know that I am having the same service that my parents are having many miles away. Even though there not beside me, they are with me.

That is what is amazing about the Internet. I have discovered that the morning service (as well as the noon and evening ones) can be found on line. I used to just read through the Morning Ritual of the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayers but wasn't sure exactly what parts to read or what parts to skip. I also didn't know how (for certain) to handle the rectors part (even though I just read over it). But, as providence would have it, I ran into the rector at a local pub a few weeks back. I was about to leave when I spotted him and he was sitting with this young woman. They invited me to join them and we had a wonderful conversation. It turns out that this young lady was about to be ordained as a priest! (The Episcopal tradition has been doing this for thirty years now.) As we were talking I told them about my struggles with the Daily Office. She said that one of the great comforts to her is that she can just wake up in the morning and start reading from it right there in her bed knowing that she is having the same service as the people that are at church. That was pretty cool. She then said that the service is online and that it is really a great way of staying connected. We had some more things to talk about and after a half hour or so I thanked them for the invitation and the conversation and went home.

The next morning I found the Daily Office online. At first I didn't know exactly which one to select but decided to just click on the 'Click for Today's Prayer Service' button. The page loads with the correct service and I can follow along nicely. It even has the music for the songs. For those of you who haven't discovered this wonderful tradition of the Christian faith, I highly recommend it. I have some links on the main page regarding the Episcopal church and I added the link for the Daily Office too.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

17 June 2006

Another satisfied customer!

Last time I posted, I talked about PCLOS. Well, this week I did some work for a lady who needed a laptop looked at. I know the people she works for (good people) and they needed me to look at some enterprise stuff as well. So Thursday I stopped by to take a look.

The desktop was alright except for some spyware (17 -- including websearch). The antivirus app she uses (it came with the CPU) wasn't updating. So I uninstalled it and loaded the free AVG. A great little app that I have used for a few years now.

At the same time, I started looking at the laptop. I can sum up its condition in one word -- dirty. The problem was not so much that (although it was a factor) but the fact that it was running hot. Very hot. And when it got too hot, thankfully, it would shut down. I had to take it with me. It was going to be a Father's Day gift for her husband if I could get it up and running.

In the meantime, I showed her PCLOS. She really liked it. Since her husband is 'new' to computers and he was probably only going to use it for 'checking email, surfing the web, writing an occasional letter', I told her PCLOS would be perfect for that. It's free. Not only is it a free OS but it is free from viruses and spyware (the problem she was having on her desktop). She played around with it some more (oh, I forgot to mention, I had a LiveCD with me). She said if it was really working well for her husband, she would have me install it on her laptop (it is the same model).

Well, I left with the laptop and worked on it some more at home. Or, I tried to. It kept shutting down on me. I had it plugged in but maybe there was a problem with the power supply and battery? After a while of that (about 6 or 7 attempts just to get it to stay on), I shut it down for the night and tried again in the morning. The same problem. So, I did some research (and this is what I love about what I do. If I can't figure it out, someone out there in TechWorld has). I discovered that my first thought was correct. The problem was with over heating and that I needed to clean out the vents (a documented problem). You should have seen the stuff fly out of there! OMG. No wonder it was over heating! According to the article, this should be done at least every month because of the poor ventilation of this laptop.

So, I cleaned all of the gunk out of it and then thoroughly cleaned the keyboard, ports, casing, etc (this took over an hour -- like I said, it was dirty). Then I booted up PCLOS. It found everything just fine (like I had any doubt). Installed it. Updated it. Installed new apps (OpenOffice in particular). Installed fonts. Started putting it through the paces. No problems. No over heating. No shutting down. It all ran just like it was supposed to. I then called my customer and she was thrilled. When I got it home, I put in X2 to see how the DVD capabilities worked (it has a combo drive). Worked like a champ. The more I use this OS the more surprised I am.

She picked it up and is very happy!

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

08 June 2006

PCLinuxOS


This is a Linux distribution; i.e., an operating system for your computer. Scratch that -- a free operating system for your computer. I have mentioned this Linux distro a couple of times now. I even have a link to the website under the 'Links' heading on the main page. I like this distro. I mean, I really like it. Let me explain how I got into messing around with Linux and why I settled on PCLOS in particular.

My passion for Linux actually started with my Apple iBook (which Apple replaced with the MacBook). You see, Apple's operating system (OS) is Mac OS X (that's 'ten', btw) and it is based on Unix. That is, the core of the OS, it's foundation, is Unix. Linux is a free OS based on Unix as well. Since I liked my Mac so much, I thought I would try and see if Linux would be just a good on my Dell (the office computer I was using). I had seen Linux about six years earlier when I was in tech school and it was awful. Not user friendly in the least. It was all command line driven. To even get something similar to what Microsoft had with Windows and Apple had with Mac OS X was a task in itself. One that the average user would not even attempt.

But not any more. In the last six years Linux has come along way. The 'latest' thing is what is called a 'LiveCD'. That is, the entire OS and a ton of apps can be on just one CD. You turn your computer on and if it's set to look for the OS on the CD, it will run the Linux OS. Then you can check and see how it reacts with your hardware. You can check things like the video, audio, hard drives, network cards, wireless cards, etc. If all looks good, you can then install Linux to your hard drive right from the LiveCD. Really. It's that darn easy.

So, for about a year now I have worked at a non-profit organization. As you can guess we have limited funds -- especially for an organization of our size. Since I'm the 'IT guy', I started looking for low cost alternatives to Microsoft Windows and that meant re-examining Linux. In my search I stumbled across Distrowatch. There you can read about new releases and find links to reviews. From this web site I looked into various Linux distros -- Mepis, Xandros, Linspire, FoxLinux, Unbuntu, Mandriva, SUSE, Fedora Core, etc. I have tried all of those I listed and could list a dozen more. There were a couple of distros that I liked -- Linspire, Xandros -- and they seemed to work well within our network. My biggest concern was a replacement for Office (which I already knew existed for Windows) and email. Like a lot of companies we use Microsoft Office for our documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and email. Our server is a Microsoft 2000 server with Microsoft Exchange handling our email. As I stated earlier, I knew of an Office replacement in the Windows world but didn't know about Linux. Well, sure enough, there it was... OpenOffice.org. If you have not tried this office suite, click on this link or on the one main page of this blog. There are a couple of things about OpenOffice that I want to just mention.

OpenOffice can open Microsoft's docs, spreadsheets, and presentations without much trouble at all. And it can save documents that you create back to those formats! Furthermore, the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) just adopted a universal document format called Open Document Format or ODF. And guess what? That is the native format for OpenOffice! The kicker is that a lot of organizations (like mine) look to the ISO for standardizations of office documents. Don't be surprised if you get an email with a doc attached in this format. It will be spreading all over the place. (Incidentally, our database app, IBM's Lotus Notes, released a statement stating that their next version would include ODF.) Oh, and did I mention that OpenOffice is free too? I didn't? Well, now you know.

The next thing I went looking for was an email client that would communicate with MSExchange. And, sure enough, there is one for Linux called Evolution. I just point it to my server with my network credentials and I can receive all of my email and notes and calendar events. It worked great.

. . . But. . .

There was 'always somethin' that didn't work with those distors. Almost every one of them made me crazy! For example, there was no sound in SUSE (I found that there was a problem with my sound card and SUSE). Evolution would work with Linspire but not in Xandros. There had to be some distro out there that worked with all of this. Surely.

It wasn't until I was reading about some new tech stuff that I spotted an ad for PCLinuxOS. The ad simple stated, 'PCLinuxOS - Radically Simple'. Well, I've tried other 'simple' and 'Windows friendly' distros before and they left a bad taste in my mouth. But, I decided to check it out and see.

When I went to the web site I discovered that there were several different 'versions' of PCLOS -- there was the standard one; there was one for nVidia cards and another one for Ati cards; etc. I just downloaded the standard iso and burned the CD. I restarted my system and booted to the LiveCD. I was shocked. PCLOS found all of my hardware with out any problems at all. The sound worked. The video worked. Even the USB WIFI card worked! So, I took the plunge and installed it to my hard drive. The cool thing was that I could partition my drive (divide it up in to different sections) and keep Windows for various office tasks. It also has very easy installation of additional software and updates to existing software through just a couple of mouse clicks. I downloaded OpenOffice and Evolution and configured them. I can access my WindowsXP drive from the file manager and I even copied my fonts over and installed them. The office printers work without any issues what so ever and I even installed a remote desktop client so I can check on the servers whenever I need to.

For a network situation, the reason I like PCLOS is the security (I actually like this for home use too). In Linux there is an administrator account known as 'root'. This account can be used as an average user but is highly discouraged. The average person can do everything they need to do without ever going into 'root'. In fact, one of the reasons Linux is so secure is that whenever you need to make system wide changes (like simple installing fonts) you are prompted for the root password. This keeps viruses and spyware from attacking your computer. Yes, that's right. Like Apple computers running Mac OS X, PCLinuxOS is virus and spyware free.

And speaking of customization (I did mention installing new fonts), you can make your computer look like just about anything you want. PCLOS comes with a lot of different 'styles' and 'windows decorations' from which you can choose. As you can see in the screen shot, my version looks similar to the Mac OS. For more images of PCLOS, you can go here.

What about support? Glad you asked! The web site has a community forum that can handle just about every kind of question you can think of. They are very helpful and supportive -- especially to the new Linux user.

Now, while I really like this OS, it is not for everyone. Some people are so 'into Windows' that any other OS will seem like foreign territory. And that's true. However, this is one of the easiest, most well thought out OSes I have ever used. With just a little time a person can be using it just like they did Windows and all the while not worry about getting a virus or having their system hacked.

Lastly, the other great thing about PCLinuxOS is that it has worked on 'older' hardware. Used to, old computers had to be handed down or donated when they were just a few years old. But not when you are using Linux! PCLOS runs very well on five year old hardware. In other words, you won't need to shell out more money when a new OS comes out (like I had to do with Windows). You can keep your computer hardware for longer periods of time.

I have enjoyed this OS so much that I have installed it on a few other computers at the office, a few friend's computers, and even my Dad's laptop. All without a hitch.

I think they have finally made an OS for everyone. I encourage you to give it a try.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

07 June 2006

What if . . .

What if the reason for demonic activity is because no one has been there as a witness of the true king? What if no one has been there as a representative of the kingdom of YHWH? Or, perhaps, if they have been there, they must continue to bring these 'principalities and powers' to reconciliation? What if this must be done constantly and continuously?

I ask because of the story of St Bartholomew. It is said that he stayed in India at a Temple housed by the demon, Astaruth. Before Bartholomew was there, the demon would 'cure' people of infirmity (but only, it seems, temporarily). However, after Bartholomew showed up and stationed himself in that same Temple, the demon was no where to be seen. You can read more about this here and here.

This has gotten me thinking. What if that is the case? That is, what if the problem is that these 'principalities and powers' have been rebellious so long that we must continually bring them under 'control', as it were?

St Paul wrote:
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before God made anything at all and is supreme over all creation. Christ is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see -- kings, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities. Everything has been created through him and for him. He existed before everything else began, and he holds all creation together.

Christ is the head of the church, which is his body. He is the first of all who will rise from the dead, so he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and by him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of his blood on the cross. -- Colossians 1.15-20

Did you notice that? St Paul wrote that YHWH 'reconciled everything to himself' -- including the 'principalities and powers'! So, like I asked, maybe we have to continually bring these demons to subjection to Christ? Reminding them that YHWH has reconciled them to himself.

This leads me to my next thought. YHWH has reconciled everything to 'himself'. But, everything has not been reconciled to YHWH. For reconciliation to work, there has to be a willingness with all parties involved. YHWH has done his part. The whole world has been reconciled to 'him'. But, to quote Paul again:
God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ's ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, "Be reconciled to God!" -- 2Corinthians 5.18-20

Just some thoughts on this fine Wednesday.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

06 June 2006

666

Well, today is the day that we see just how uneducated the world is. And not just the world. No. We get to see how uneducated the Church is too. For today is June 6th, 2006. Or, as so many of called it, '666'. Today also marks the release of the remake of the 'Omen' -- a movie about a boy who has the 'mark of the beast' on him. He is supposed to be the son of Satan -- a parody of the 'Son of God'. What this means is that most of the world, including the church, gets it's understanding of biblical things from Hollywood!

So, what does it mean? This '666'?

We find all about it in The Revelation of St John the Divine. This letter, sent to at least seven churches in Asian Minor, is a highly coded book (Talk about your Divinci Code. This letter puts that book to shame!). It was sent to the suffering Christians who were being persecuted by the Jews and tortured and killed by the Romans in the first 'official' Roman persecution. The things talked about in this letter was all about inserection and rebellion against the 'rulers of darkness', i.e., the Roman Government and it's 'false prophet' the first century Jews. Just being in possession of this letter meant certain death. So you can imagine why it was coded.

In the thirteenth chapter, we are told:
Then I saw another beast come up out of the earth. He had two horns like those of a lamb, and he spoke with the voice of a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast. And he required all the earth and those who belong to this world to worship the first beast, whose death-wound had been healed. He did astounding miracles, such as making fire flash down to earth from heaven while everyone was watching. And with all the miracles he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world. He ordered the people of the world to make a great statue of the first beast, who was fatally wounded and then came back to life. He was permitted to give life to this statue so that it could speak. Then the statue commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die.

He required everyone -- great and small, rich and poor, slave and free -- to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. Wisdom is needed to understand this. Let the one who has understanding solve the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.' (Revelation 13.11-18)

As can be seen, the 'mark of the beast' was given to the people who would follow the 'beast'. No one was allowed to 'buy or sell anything without that mark'. But the story doesn't stop there. And this is what drives me crazy. . .

One day, when I was a younger man working in a 'Christian' book store (how can a building be 'Christian' anyway?), I was working at the register. A man came up and made a purchase. His change was '$6.66'. He freaked out! He even gasped and yelled and refused to take all of the money. That man did not have 'wisdom needed to understand'. He was clueless just like so many other people today. We will hear it all over the place. There are stories of people trying to have their children born on a different day, etc. It's crazy. And it's all because most of us don't have the 'wisdom needed to understand this'. So, what is the wisdom?

The 'messenger' told St John (who in turn wrote it down as instructions to the seven churches of Asia because 'the events will happen soon' (1.1)) that this 'mark' was 'either the name of the beast or the number representing his name'. This 'mark' was 'the number of a man'. And 'his number' equated to '666'. So who was this?

To figure this out, let us turn to David Chilton, who wrote in his book The Days of Vengeance:
For the Hebrews, 666 was a fearful sign of apostasy, the mark of both a king and a kingdom in the Dragon's image. As we have already noted, the ancient languages used each letter of the alphabet as a numeral as well; thus, the "number" of anyone's name could be computed by simply adding up the numerical value of its letters. Clearly, St John expected that his contemporary readers were capable of using this method to discover the Beast's name -- thus indicating, again, the contemporary message of Revelation; he did not expect them to figure out the name of some 20th century official in a foreign government.

At the same time, however, he tells them that it will not be as easy as they might thing: it will require someone "who has understanding". For St John did not give a number that could be worked out in Greek, which is what a Roman official scanning Revelation for subversive content would expect. The unexpected element in the computation was that it had to be worked out in Hebrew, a language that at least some members of the churches would know. His readers would have guessed by now that he was speaking of Nero, and those who understood Hebrew probably grasped it instantly. The numerical values of the Hebrew letters in Neron Kesar (Nero Caesar) are:

n=50 r=200 w=6 n=50

q=100 s=60 r=200

thus: rsqnwrn=666

As I mentioned earlier, the point is not that Nero's name is the primarily identification of 666. The point is, instead, what the number meant to the churches. St John's Biblically informed readers will have already recognized many clear indications of the Beast's identity as Rome (indeed, they already knew this from reading the Book of Daniel). Now Nero has arrived on the scene as the first great persecutor of the Church, the embodiment of the "666-ness" of the Empire, and -- Lo and behold! -- his very name spells out 666.

It is significant that "all the earliest Christian writers on the Apocalypse, from Irenaeus down to Victorious of Pettau and Commodian in the fourth, and Andreas in the fifth, and St Beatus in the eighth century, connect Nero, or some Roman emperor, with the Apocalyptic Beast". There should be no reasonable doubt about this identification. St John was writing to first-century Christians, warning them of things that were "shortly" to take place. They were engaged in the most crucial battle of history, against the Dragon and the evil Empire which he possessed. The purpose of the Revelation was to comfort the Church with the assurance that God was in control, so that even the awesome might of the Dragon and the Beast would not stand before the armies of Jesus Christ. Christ was wounded in His heel on Friday, the sixth day, the Day of the Beast -- yet that is the day He crushed the Dragon's head. At his more powerful, St John says, the Beast is just a six, or a series of sixes; never a seven. His plans of world dominion will never be fulfilled, and the Church will overcome through her Lord Jesus, the 888, who conquered on the Eighth Day.' (pgs. 144-145)*

So there you have it. There is the wisdom for the masses. The number was given for understanding -- not for us to fear. It was also intended to give understanding to the first-century Christians about the persecution of Nero. It has nothing to do with us today. We have nothing to fear. Our Lord reigns. The Kingdom of YHWH has come!

Alleluia!

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

*If you would like more from this book, you can now read it online here
.

21 May 2006

Summer Breeze

Fly'n Fiddler & Suspicious Contra Band

I love this town. One of the great things about Norman is the Summer Breeze concert series. Local and out of town (and state!) bands come and play at a couple of parks about every other weekend all summer long. At tonights concert, which featured Fly'n Fiddler & Suspicious Contra Band, a Celtic mix of music, there are elderly people and young people; preppies and hippies; vegans and carnivours. People are just sitting around laughing and singing; smoking and drinking; playing frizbee and hacky-sack; having picnics; etc. Just one big party outside in YHWH's 'very good' creation.

This is one of those things that make me appreciate life in the tribe of YHWH. I think this is what it is supposed to be like throughout the world. People just loving each other and accepting each other and just letting people be themselves. It's a great scene. I wish other people could experience this. If you live in Norman (or are close enough), you owe it to yourself to see what the kingdom looks like.

May mercy, peacle and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

14 May 2006

Tribal Revival 2006

Wow, what a time! Here in good ol' Norman Oklahoma, we have a little festival known as 'Tribal Revival'. A friend of ours has this huge place out in the sticks and every year he has a huge party -- stage, lights, balloons, bands, beer, camping, huge screens to project slides and movies from previous years of TR, etc. It's kind of like our own private Woodstock.

This year the event was free and the place was packed. I saw friends that I hadn't seen in over a year, got to hear some really great local talent that I hadn't heard yet and drank some really good beer! Mahina and I stayed out there till midnight or so while our daughter stayed the night with some of our friends in their tent. Just a great family event. I wish you all could experience something like this where you live!

In all honesty, it reminds me of the previous blog, where I was discussing the different phrases one could use instead of 'kingdom of god'. I really like the 'tribe of god' but another one that McLaren referenced was the 'party of god'. Last nights event was both -- one big tribal party. There is such a diversity of people there; different backgrounds, faiths, beliefs, political views, etc.; that I can see just a glimpse of what McLaren is talking about. I hope that my life (both words and deeds) reflect this type of acceptance.

Here's hoping that we all can be part of something so wonderful as this event. Actually, we are. We just need to make sure that we are active participants in YHWH's tribal party so that other will be drawn and welcomed back into the family.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+OD

12 May 2006

The Secret Message of Jesus

I just finished this book from Brian McLaren (you can find it here). It's a great read. Like most of the other stuff that I have been drawn to, this book talks about the social aspects of the gospel. It has been my experience that Christians (primarily, me) have often missed this point of the message of Jesus. We are so caught up in the 'more important' issue of 'going to heaven when we die' that we forget that we are supposed to be doing the Lord's work here and now. More often than not, the current world situation is not even on the radar for most of us. A lot of my brothers and sisters are too 'caught up' in the idea of the supposed 'rapture' that they completely neglect doing 'good works' while here. And let me assure you, by 'good works', I'm not referring to doing something to gain any type of favour from god. I am not god's employee looking for a pay raise. I'm talking about most of us seem 'so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good', to use a popular saying. It goes back to balance. The church (at least in America) is out of balance. Some are only concerned with 'heaven' and some are only concerned with 'earth'. I recently spoke with a friend of mine and told him my feelings regarding the social context of the gospel. He told me that he sees too much of that where he's at and doesn't see enough care for the people of god. So, again, the church is out of balance.

Along this line, McLaren makes the point that the Jesus and his message have become domesticated by the church. I completely agree. No longer does Jesus or his message challenge and 'go against the grain' of society as it seemed to do in the gospels. It seemed that every thing Jesus said or did pissed someone off. But today, Jesus is nothing more than a person trying to give us some sort of moral teaching -- and some would even say that it might not be very good! But the Jesus we read in the gospels is a revolutionary. His life and message, his vocation, challenged the status quo at every turn. He went against the norms. He turned everything upside down. We just don't see that in today's churches (for the most part).

McLaren also makes the statement that, if Jesus was here today, he would not use the phrase 'kingdom of god'. I agree and disagree. As far as my disagreement goes -- Jesus would come to Israel and Jerusalem (for he is the Messiah) and they still anticipate the kingdom of god and use that terminology. However, if Jesus came to America in the beginning stages of the 21st century, at the end of the modern era and in the beginning of the post-modern era, I agree that he would use a different phrase. McLaren gives some good examples for us to use in expressing this idea; this revolutionary secret. Some of my favorites are (in no particular order): the network of god; the conspiracy of god; the community of god; the story of God; and the tribe of god. McLaren expounds on each of these phrases and shows how they could help in our conversations with people. For example, when explaining the 'tribe of god', he wrote:
[In] a world of increasing warfare and genocide, God is creating a barrier-breaking tribe that welcomes, appreciates, and links all tribes. This inclusive tribe isn't an in-group that makes other tribes into out-groups; rather, it's a "come on in" group that seeks to help all tribes maintain their unique identity and heritage while being invited into a tribe of tribes who live together in mutual respect, harmony, and love -- because God is the universal tribal chief who created and loves all tribes.

Other highlights include the topic of using the term 'justice' instead of 'righteousness' because of the religious baggage that word brings to the conversations (And because, a lot of times, in the context it is used, that is a better translation. Further, in other languages, like Spanish for example, 'justice' is the only equivalent for the Greek term.); violence and what that means for the people who are advancing the kingdom of peace; how to better understand St Paul as someone who would not have repeated what Jesus did, but, in keeping with the program, built upon it and tackled issues he faced with the secret message of Jesus as his blueprint; etc. I think the book is best summed up by this statement:
What if Jesus' secret message reveals a secret plan? What if he didn't come to start a new religion -- but rather came to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world?

And this is at the beginning of the book! The rest of the book is about answering these questions and dozens more. And he isn't alone on his journey. He quotes from some great people, including: Dr Martin Luther King Jr, N. T. Wright and C. S. Lewis, just to name a few.

I feel that this book could be read by any and all, those who follow Jesus and those who don't. There are some great reviews over at Amazon that do a far better job than I. Simply put, this book is a life changer. It is a book that I will be reading again (and again). This book, along with N.T. Wright's Simply Christian, should be read by all who profess to be in the family of YHWH. If you would like a special treat, you can go here and download a PDF version of a special chapter that was in an early edition that they felt would best be served by providing it to all. It is on the prayer of the kingdom or the Lord's Prayer.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

OD