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July 4th PSA from Brian Zahnd

My wife, some friends, and I have been reading Brian Zahnd's new book A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace. We've only just started reading it, but already we've been challenged and inspired.

Since today is July 4th, and no doubt some of the US Americans who will be celebrating the birth of the United States today will be self-professed followers of Jesus, I wanted to share this Public Service Announcement from brother Zahnd in the form of an epic poem that will rock your socks off.



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The Love of the Thessalonians: The Arrival of King Jesus, Part 3 of 10

Last week, in part 2 of this 10-week study of First Thessalonians I'm calling "The Arrival of King Jesus," we looked at the first couplet from chapter 1, verse 3, the Thessalonians "work of faith." This week, we're looking at the second, their "labor of love."

Love Requires Labor

The first thing that sticks out is the way Paul's characterization of love contrasts so cleanly with the way love is often depicted in 21st century Western culture. Rather than a "feeling" that comes over a person without warning and over which the person has no control (e.g. "falling in love" etc.), Paul's description of the Thessalonian's love is one of painful toil, or labor. The Thessalonians have had to put effort into their love; it hasn't been a romantic walk in the park. The kind of laborous love Paul describes manifests as self-control. Here's an excerpt from this week's study guide:

Instead of “lust like the heathen who do not know God,” by which people take advantage of one another, the Thessalonians have been “taught by God” a new way of love. This love is a holy love that is controls one’s body. (4.4) It is like the protective armor the Roman soldiers wear, only it protects believers from spiritual warfare. (5.7) And this self-control also entails leading a quiet life, “minding one’s own business,” as a missional witness to those outside the body of Christ. This self-control comes from the Holy Spirit whom God has given the Thessalonians. (4.8) A few years earlier (perhaps), Paul penned similar words to the churches of Galatia saying,

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” — Gal. 5.22-24

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The Faith of the Thessalonians: The Arrival of King Jesus, Part 2 of 10

In week two of my ten-week study of First Thessalonians I'm calling "The Arrival of King Jesus," we're looking at "The Faith of the Thessalonians." Click here for last week's lesson.

It's commonly believed that chapter 1, verse 3, is a kind of "table of contents" for the whole letter. It sets out a three-fold order that roughly characterizes the letter's structure. The verse reads:

“remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The three couplets form an outline for Paul:

  • Work (acts, deeds, enterprise, etc.) of Faith (conviction of the truth, belief): 
    1.4—3.5 (transition pericope: 3.6-10)
  • Labor (intense, painful toil) of Love (good will, benevolence):
  • Steadfastness (endurance, patience, etc.) of Hope (joyful and confident expectation):
    4.13—5.11 (verses 13—24 are the “peace” verses)

In this week's lesson, I cover the relationship between "faith" and "works," Paul's view of these things, as well as other apostolic teaching. Then I cover the content of the Thessalonians' faith, which Paul describes, and ask: "What socio-political implications would this faith have?"

See the attached PDF to follow along in the study. Next week, I'll cover The Love of the Thessalonians.

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The Arrival of King Jesus: A Study of Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians

In the Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom) in Istanbul, the mosaic pictured above can be found depicting Christ seated on the throne of the cosmos with the Byzantine emperor Theodosius I worshipping him. Mary, Jesus's mother, and an angelic figure are on Christ's left and right. 1

Starting this week, I am leading a ten-week study of First Thessalonians that I'm calling "The Arrival of King Jesus". While the above mosaic is not from first century Macedonia, what it captures that I find relevant to Paul's letter is the reality that for the early Christians their faith in Messiah Jesus had very clear political ramifications vis-a-vis the empire.

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The "Genetic Relationship" Between Theological Determinism and Political Oppression: Extended Excerpts from Amjad-Ali and Ruiz

I've been told there is no "genetic relationship" between theologies that conceptualize God as all-controlling, all-determining, and utterly unfeeling and the political, cultural oppression of human beings in societies set up by adherents of such views.

I've been told theologies that teach God "ordains" the unjust circumstances under which some human beings suffer (while others prosper) and "predestines" those circumstances hasn't been used as justification for continued injustice and oppression.

I've been told that people can have "good theology" and yet own human beings like chattel, deem them less than human, and brutalize them. Such actions, they say, don't reflect the slave-owners' conception of God at all.

But I think we all know Thomas Paine was right when he said, "Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel [person]."

Well, I'm proud to say at least two eminently qualified Christian theologians have had the intellectual integrity and courage to make the case for just such a "genetic" link, and to refute this classic copout with a clear argument from history, sociology, and politics.

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Browncoats and Bibles: Prophetic Misbehavin' in the Whedony 'Verse of Firefly


'No Power in the 'Verse…' — The Whedony World of Firefly/Serenity

Joss Whedon is perhaps best known for his work in such cult franchises as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, and Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog. But many fans also recognize him as the visionary creator of the short-lived but loved Firefly series and Serenity movie. The futuristic " 'verse" Whedon imagines for the Firefly series and Serenity is both surprisingly unique and strangely familiar. Set some 500 years in the future, the galaxy is both a multicultural, technologically-advanced, Star Wars-esque network of planets, while also including many back-woods, folksy worlds at the outer edges that appear to be direct from a Wild West 'shoot-em-up' movie. Whedon's world isn't populated by innumerable alien species as is the Star Wars universe. Instead, it entails an interesting amalgamation of Eastern and Western human cultures. Far from the latent Euro-American-centric (White) culture of both the Star Wars and Star Trek series, inhabitants of the Firefly 'verse speak almost as much Mandarin as English. Urban centers look more like Bangkok than New York. But white people still seem to run things, as evinced by the complexion of all the villains and shadowy government-type folks who relentlessly pursue Serenity (save one extraordinary black assassin). Buddhism appears to be dominant religion, most of the swearing is done in Chinese, and everyone who isn't a Fed talks like Huckleberry Finn. One of the more interesting slang words is "shiny," which replaces "cool."

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Abusing the Bible: Why Jesus Hates Oaths of Office

Presidents since the birth of the United States republic have been sworn into office on a Bible. (Not all presidents, but many.) George Washington is said to have kissed the Bible after reciting his oath. Also, many presidents have added to the end of the oath "So help me God."

Is this the proper usage of the Bible, according to the Bible? What are the implications of this practice? And most importantly, What does Jesus have to say about oaths that his disciples should know so they can follow his Way?

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Welcome to

Theological Graffiti is a blog written by T. C. Moore @tc_moore ...a Jesus-disciple, husband, father, Associate Pastor @NewCityChurch of Los Angeles, sometimes web designer, writer, and theology geek. For more about me, visit my Personal Website or my Online Profile. Otherwise, enjoy the graffiti.

T. C.

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