A Wild Peace.

78 years ago today, at 7:48 AM, the Japanese Imperial Navy conducted a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack was meant to cripple the U.S. Navy, and it nearly did, sinking The USS Arizona, capsizing the USS Okalahoma and damaging the six other battleships in the U.S. Pacific fleet. 21 ships in total were lost or damaged. 2,335 military personnel were killed, and 68 civilians. Another 1,143 military personnel and 103 civilians were wounded. Japan declared war against the US later that day. President Roosevelt called it “a date that would live in infamy.” It was the worst attack on the U.S. until September 11, 2001, nearly 60 years later.

These attacks defined generations. Pearl Harbor shook the US out of its neutrality, and plunged them into World War II. Since 9-11, the U.S. has been in a state of perpetual war. This past spring the class of 2019 graduated from high school in a nation that has known no peace. And despite our efforts, terrorism and war are not on the decline.

Of course, this doesn’t affect most of us, most of the time. These days, our military takes out enemy targets in relative comfort with a precision drone strike. And civilians. Donald Trump said on the campaign trail, “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.” The war on terror has transformed to a war on children. And earlier this year, Trump revoked the Drone Strike Civilian Casualty Report. Once a tragic outcome of war, civilian casualties is increasingly our strategy, with little, or no accountability.


Isaiah’s Messianic oracle in Isaiah 11 gave a vivid depiction of eschatological peace—a peace which passes comprehension:

6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,

the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

the calf and the lion and the fatling together,

and a little child shall lead them.

7 The cow and the bear shall graze,

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,

and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

9 They will not hurt or destroy

on all my holy mountain;

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.

10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Isaiah 11:6-10, NRSV

This is quite the menagerie! A wolf lying down with a lamb, a leopard with a goat kid, a lion with a calf and fatling. A bear forgoes a nice ribeye to graze with the cattle and a little child plays with his hand in a snake hole.

Lets be clear, if you put wolves together with lambs, leopards with goats, lions and bears with cattle, I’m reporting you for animal abuse. If your child is left unsupervised in a snake pit, I’m calling child protective services. Predators kill. It is their natural instinct. If we allow that these images are metaphors for oppressors and their victims, this imagery is equally discomforting. In a #metoo and #churchtoo era, can you imagine women and child victims, cheerfully hanging out with their victimizer? It strains our morality. We want the predator to be destroyed!

But Isaiah’s hopeful vision describes a world where the victimizers are victimizers no more. The vulnerable, the beatdown, the down-and-out, the oppressed, the manipulated, the young and easily dominated, will be with the powerful, and they will not fear for their lives. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. No more war, no more fear, no more destruction.

And no more victims. The timid lamb and the young goat kid stumbling on skinny legs will be transformed into confident creatures, standing shoulder to shoulder with wolves, and lions, leopards and bears. The fatling, and calf will roar, the ox will bear its teeth. The weak will be made strong and the strong will not misuse their strength .


We are in violent times, and I fear that being an American puts us more in the predator column than the prey column, though clearly these are semipermeable categories. We hurt and are hurt, we kill and are killed. Our Advent Hope is that we are ever closer to the day when we shall be transformed. We will no longer be victims. We will no longer victimize. We will no longer be killed and no longer will we kill. We will all be gathered together by our King of peace.

Gospel Transformation Bible: a bible review

The Gospel Transformation Bible is not a Study Bible, at least in the traditional sense. A team of scholars and pastors have joined together under Bryan Chappell’s and Dane Ortlund’s editorial direction to answer two questions: (1) How is the gospel evident in all of scripture? and (2) How does the gospel of grace bring about our transformation? Each of the books of the Bible have a brief introduction which describes authorship and date and how the gospel is illuminated (how it fits into the larger story of salvation). The notes on the bottom of each page, continue this dual focus on God’s larger plan of redemption and implications for our life.  Sometimes the notes are as detailed (particular books have more expansive and detailed notes). Some passages are passed over without comment (i.e. certain narratives in the Old Testament historical books do not carry much comments). The reason for this is that the notes are focused and so do not attempt to untangle every difficulty in the text (like a Study Bible would).

What is the gospel that contributors describe? It is focused on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as God’s plan of redpemption for humanity. But Jesus did not come in a vacuum. The Bible tells the story of God’s relationship to his people and the First Testament anticipates Christ’s coming. Thus the contributors to this volume, read the Bible Christologically (yet sensitively).

Some great scholars and interpreters have contributed to this Bible. Among them are Michael Horton (Joshua), V. Philips Long (1-2 Samuel),  Bruce Ware (Psalms),  Graeme Goldsworthy (Jeremiah, Lamentations), Bryan Chapell (Daniel), Frank Thielman (Matthew), R. Kent Huges (1-2 Timothy) and more. Because some of the scholars are more scholarly and others more pastoral, there is a lack of consistency from book to book.  Each of these individual interpreters give their particular spin on the gospel implications of a passage or book, though they share a broad agreement on the gospel.

Scot Mcknight argued in The King Jesus Gospel (Zondervan 2011) that certain evangelicals have reduced the gospel to the message of personal salvation, rather than describing how Jesus fulfills the hopes of Israel. In general I would say that most of the interpreters in this volume are not guilty of McKnight’s charge. They have attended to the wider biblical story and not just the ‘order of salvation.’ However there are occasional lapses. For example, Daniel Doriani’s notes on James reduce the book’s gospel value to illustrating our inability to enact ‘true religion,’ driving us back to the grace of Christ. I would say that James carries social implications (care of widows and orphans) which make the gospel manifest. The gospel in James should not be reduced to the level of personal sin (only). But this is one example. At other points, I think the notes are brilliant and illuminating.

Another feature I appreciate about this Bible, is the use it makes of the ESV cross-reference system.  Following these cross references sheds light on particular themes and I find that helpful.  Purchasing the Bible in print gives you access to the Bible online (it is easier to access cross-references if you don’t have to flip through pages for every verse). This makes this a very practical choice for personal study.

In general I am pretty happy with the quality of this Bible. The notes are not always perfect (some interpreters are more perfect than others), but the inspiration of the Bible does not extend to marginal notes. I appreciate how well executed the final product is. And I absolutely loved finding Phil Long’s contribution (on Samuel). Long was my professor for two classes of Exegesis at Regent College (neither of which focused on Samuel, but because it is an area of some expertise I heard plenty of Samuel examples). From Phil I learned to read Old Testament narrative sensitive to its narrative craft, its historical value and theological import.  I like having some of his practical insights in print form.

I give this Bible 4 stars and would recommend it for personal study. I am not a huge fan of ‘study Bibles,’ but the unique features and perspectives of this Bible make it a valuable contribution.

Thank you to Crossway for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Prayer for Epiphany Week 2

 

I know it has been quite some time since I included my prayer reflections. Life has been busy but I aim to renew the practice. This is my prayer reflection on John 2:1-11, the lectionary text for today. 

 

Six stone jars stood empty.

The had held the water

for the washing of hands.

Now they sat hollow in the entry way.

 

Mother Mary had come and

begged You,

Defend the honor of the hosts.

May no one know the limits of their hospitality,

that they invited guests but did not have enough.

 

Six stone jars stood empty.

They had held the water

for the washing of hands.

You had them filled to the brim.

 

And when they poured them out.

Wine flowed–better than any wine

the guest had, had  before. the chief steward

was full of wonder (though he did not know the source).

 

Six stone jars stood empty

They had held the water,

which had turned to wine.

Long after the guests had their fill

and Ordinary Time resumed they held

the memory of the wine on their tongue.

Later they would remember You were there.

The day that everything changed.

 

Prayers for Ordinary Time: 14th Week After Pentecost

The following prayer is based on my reading of James 1:17-27. This is a lectionary text from the book of James, a book with a lot of practical advice about how we as Christians should live. The Christian life is all gift, but as we learn to walk with Jesus, we also submit ourselves to his way and he transforms us. This portion of scripture challenges us to take care with our words, our anger, our actions, and challenges to live holy lives characterized by justice and love for the vulnerable. Lord help us!

Giver of every perfect gift and originator of every generous act,
Father of Lights we give you thanks and praise!

Take us and shape us into your image:

    Where we are angry and domineering, turn us into gentle listeners.

      We know our anger does not reflect Your righteousness, like Your love does
      Cleanse us from our wickedness, our perversions and unholy desires,

        That we may, in humility receive your soul-saving-Word.

      Transform us into doers–who makes Your ways known in all we do.
      Let us not just be a ‘hearers’ who ‘hear’ but then forget

        who we are and who You are making us to be.

    May we watch our tongues so that ‘our religion’ means something!
    And May others know we are Yours because we care for the vulnerable in our midst–the widows and orphans–
    those in our neighborhoods and communities who do not have a network of care to uphold them.

    Keep us from corruption and let us walk in Your truth.

    With your Mercy and in Your Strength,

    Amen.