UC Berkeley's Men of Alpha Gamma Omega Fraternity daily seeking Jesus Christ.
We come from different walks, philosophies, and backgrounds and approach the Bible differently, but we all agree that Jesus Christ is Lord. This summer, we decided we’d post about the worthwhile things from Scripture that keep us thinking.
"Closer" by Bethel Live feat. Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger
A year has passed since my last post.
I was looking over my past posts. It’s crazy how sad my posts were getting. I don’t feel the same way I did before; I definitely feel the same emotions (i.e. sadness, bitterness, anger, pride, hate, despair, loneliness), but to entertain thoughts of death - which was what I was doing - surprises me and makes me sad. I don’t want that for myself.
Theodosius, are you weary and troubled? To follow Christ is not merely a call to death. It’s not simply a call to deny the world and take up your lonely cross. The cross is the mechanism for salvation, but isn’t - dare I say - the goal. The goal is life! The end is no end, but instead, it is beginning an eternal walk with God! He has not called you to abandon you. (John 14:18)
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. … I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:1-6)
I just want to get to know Him and seek His justice and mercy. The more I realize that He plants in me the desire for these things, the more I notice that there is less of myself to be worried or troubled about.
"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32)
Do all Christians have this same assurance that Peter had? If Jesus prayed over Peter a faith that could not be destroyed, then I trust the Lord granted such a faith.
As for the rest of us, Jesus warns that there are many kinds of soil, and the seed sown may not last for many (Mark 4:3-9). Paul and Timothy warn us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). James says that we must endure trials until the end to know that our faith was long-lasting (James 1:2-12).
I hear often that Christians have assurance of salvation, but I honestly never know if I have that assurance. So often do I recognize that my soil is dry, rocky, filled with ravenous crows, and covered in thorn bushes. I quickly choke out the seedlings of the Word in my life. Each day I tremble before God regarding my salvation because I know how quickly my heart turns away from Him. And as much as I’d like to believe that Christians have assurance of salvation, most of my trust rests in James’ words, which do not really give me any peace or rest. James simply says that when I receive the crown of life and cast it before the feet of Jesus, then I will know that my faith has endured. Really, James? My death and my resurrection will be the only ways to know that my faith was true?
I wish I might hear Jesus’ words. “Keith, Keith, Satan wants you, but I have prayed that your faith will last.” That would bring so much peace.
Here’s just a comment (originally to Apollo, but I figured I’d put it here instead), sorry guys!
So it’s been a while since I’ve seen our dollars, and I just pulled out a twenty and realized I’d forgotten Jackson was on it. Now all I can think is how perverse and bizarre our country is and how complicit we are in forgetting or ignoring what’s happened (t)here. Why is his face there? Why do we let him stay there? Are we afraid to denounce him? There are so many reasons to be proud of the U.S. and most of them come down to the principles we’ve managed to live out. For every one of those principles, though, we’ve also done something entirely in the opposite, and usually pretty frequently and grotesquely.
I wish we could step back and honestly identify how corrupt we’ve been, at least it would be honest. The one thing is, by having Jackson on the 20 we’re constantly broadcasting part of our history. Even though being on money is an honor, I’d like to think we keep him there to remind ourselves of how terrible our enlightened society, what we’ve called the last great hope, has proven itself to be. I guess it can serve for those who follow Christ as a reminder of how far short this nation we’re in falls from the reality that Christ has ushered in as God’s Kingdom.
In any case, I’m really glad that Jesus Christ is who he is, and our record of his life and words and works hasn’t been corrupted. We’ve done a lot of horrible things in this country and tried to say it was for the God of the Bible. We’ve been so willing to lie and cheat our way out of God’s word to get what we really wanted to, and have justified so much evil with a book which is full of a more powerful love and the most true good than anything else records. If the Bible were just written by normal people, it wouldn’t so powerfully counter our nature, which casts humans aside like waste. I believe that if the Bible were just written by normal people without the Spirit’s guidance, it probably wouldn’t condemn us even when we try to say we’re following it. If it were just human writing, it would probably endorse our evil.
Each night on my bed, I found myself looking up from within at the vertex where the wooden poles of the teepee merged and overlapped with one another. Never would I have imagined myself to be, but I was a camp counselor for 3-5th graders.
I thought, “Is this what it would be like to be in heaven?” Complete peace, that is. Something I’ve really been craving. The one camper who had given me grief throughout the entire week was finally put to sleep. No kids screaming or fighting. No make-your-own whistles from acorn shells annoyingly screeching about. All I felt was myself breathe. None of my worries from back home had followed me to the top of that mountain. None of it occupied my mind. All I could see was the white tarp of the teepee in contrast with the jutting rays of black wood that kept the tent up above me.
I imagined God within the tent. And if you think me not irreverent, just for this moment, it was as if His presence were the shelter itself.
My favorite chapter from the Bible is Hosea 2. It talks about God taking His adulterous people, Israel, back to Himself. God steals Israel back from the other gods to which she bowed down, and He takes away her well-cared vineyards and treasured goods which she gave credit to other men and gods. He then leads her through the desert and makes her His bride, where she forgets all of her former idolatrous ways as she looks in the face of her God and Master, whom she now calls her Bridegroom and Husband.
One thing I’ve never understood about Hosea 2, however, was verse 15: "And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt."
What is the Valley of Achor? While at camp (and while being on track with my daily readings), I finally understood that the Valley of Achor was the valley in which an Israelite, Achan, had been found guilty of being unfaithful to God’s commandments (Joshua 7). Because of this one sin, God permitted all of Israel to be overwhelmed by her adversaries. And when Israel discovered the source of her downfall, they stoned Achan with a great heap of stones. And then it hit me: the Valley of Achor means “the Valley of Trouble.” Achan brought trouble on God’s Israel, and God had justly brought trouble upon Achan.
But in the Valley of Trouble, God places Hope. A troublemaker received his just and troubling punishment. And later, Hope in the flesh, received a troublesome sentence at the hands of troublesome people like myself.
I often and willingly turn aside from Hope in almost everything I do. So often are the future days’ worries found in my heart and mind. So often do I let the wind and seas shake my eyes from walking toward my Savior. So often are the names of other gods found on my lips; but He "will remove the names of the Baals from my mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more" (Hosea 2:17).
One day, I will experience this peace. I trust that this peace will be more undisturbed and eternally satisfying than the brief silence I found in the dingy, white teepee tent - as serene as it was. The new Shelter in which I will find myself will be none other than Christ Jesus.
I harden my heart in so many ways. I know the good I ought to do, and then desperately try to pretend like I never heard anything that might lead me to believe God meant for me to actually go through with it.
I’m in good Christian company in this hard-hearted place. We know that Christ told us to give to everyone who begs from us, but we go beyond just saying “Well, I’m not sure what he’d use the money for and I might just be making a problem worse” and often don’t give at all. We don’t smile, don’t engage in conversation, we just ignore those asked of us and go our way.
He also told us to give more of what we’ve got on us if someone tries to steal, so if they ask for your wallet, give them your jacket too. Does this happen? I think I might be too afraid to consider what action I should take in that instance. Often people try to struggle or resist, and at the very least, we all try to find a way to get our stuff back. But Jesus the actual person told us to just let stuff go, and to give and give and give.
He also said to treat people as we would like to be treated. That’s so often repeated and sewed into pillows that it seems meaningless, but when you think about what he’s actually saying in its full weight, it smacks you pretty hard in the face. Jesus is talking about that while saying to love those who are persecuting us, who hate us. To pray for the good of the one who would torture and beat us. Our love for God, who loves and gives and gives and gives to the evil and ungrateful (which would be, well…us), should be so strong that even when we’re getting hurt badly we can see beyond ourselves to the creation of God whose actively harming us or wishing us harm.
If we’re supposed to that for our active enemies, we probably shouldn’t avoid going out of our way to show love and serve the normal people who aren’t actually planning our pain. I wish I loved God enough to love his creation enough to want to desperately serve him in humility by serving in his kingdom. I really wanted that once, but lately I have to remind myself that it’s God’s will. I need to get back to studying His word and hope that He fills me with energy and love to pour myself out for others and see beyond myself. He’s definitely matured me to a point of sensitivity and selflessness I used to be far, far away from, and I don’t want to say that I’m totally terrible because He’s actually done a lot in me, but I’m also far, far away from the model of love, humility, and service shown by our awesome God, covered in dirt and blood, nailed to a tree, washing our feet, and being moved by our needs.
"If any man among you becomes unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he shall go outside the camp. He shall not come inside the camp, but when evening comes, he shall bathe himself in water, and as the sun sets, he may come inside the camp." (Deuteronomy 23:10-11)
So, I was talking with a friend one day. And we were talking about masturbation and our views about it. He held the view that it did less harm - possibly no harm at all - especially compared to pornography or premarital sex. I asked, “So, you can masturbate without lusting?” Because, I think that lust in itself is destructive. I think that’s what the Bible teaches, at least.
But I often have the same thoughts as my friend, however. I even wonder, did Jesus masturbate? I mean, to experience self-stimulating pleasure is not any worse than feeling the physical self-stimulation of giving oneself the pleasure of food … or the emotional pleasure of friendship … or the mental pleasure of rest and sleep. As far as Christians know, it is that Jesus did not lust. Perhaps He could have masturbated without lust.
After all, He had to have had a nocturnal emission at some point in is life if He chose not to masturbate. So, knowing that Jesus followed the Law perfectly, He would have had to make a Temple sacrifice for the uncleanliness of a seminal emission under either circumstance, right?
Is this blasphemous? It feels weird, but at the same time, I feel like it ought not to be.
Perhaps this is just my liberal, gender/sexuality-oriented, Berkeley mindedness sinking in.
In the meantime, I’ll be gone for a week. No posts from me for a while (which I guess is a good thing, because I seem to be the only one posting now … and my posts are tending to get weirder and weirder as of late).
Why is this the first time I’ve actually noticed the difference between Luke and the other gospels? I’ve known for quite sometime the discourse that people have had regarding Luke and the “Q source,” but this is the first time I have noticed for myself the uniqueness of the Gospel of Luke.
The other Synoptic Gospels seem to start right off the bat with the nativity and Jesus’ baptism. But Luke is addressing his as a letter to Theophilus, which I suppose to mean “friend of God.”
And though the other Gospels of Matthew and Mark show glimpses of Jesus’ divinity, Luke is the most blunt of the three. He tells us that heavenly hosts sing of Jesus’ coming, Elizabeth and her unborn baby are filled with the Spirit, and Mary even shouts the famous Magnificat (Luke 1). Simeon and Anna phrophesy of Jesus’ messianic and divine nature after His circumcision (Luke 2). Following that, this is the first time in the Gospels that Jesus is ever mentioned as a child, who even at twelve years, shocked people with His wisdom (1:41-52).
But that’s not all. What blew me away was when Jesus walked into Nazareth, practically stating His purpose by opening Isaiah’s scroll and reading aloud Isaiah 61:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor" (Luke 4:18-19).
He rolled up the scroll and sat back down saying, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21).
He must have been a lunatic to walk into the midst of a Jewish assembly and declare Himself Israel’s ultimate Messiah. If someone were to walk into my church today and say, “Yep. That thing that you read, the Bible? Well, yeah, it’s really all about me.” I’d think him a lunatic and blasphemer, and if I were living under Jewish halakhic law, the congregation would take Him out and stone him.
Likewise, the people around Jesus responded initially with a blank stare and became filled with rage to the point that they pushed Him to a cliffside, but did not prevail in killing Him.
As I read today, I was arguing with and totally disrespecting my mom. I actually was talking back to her. “Go ahead. Shake your head,” I said to her as she swung her head side-to-side at me in disappointment and shock. Yeah. Simultaneously sinning while reading the Bible. It was a pretty big argument with lots of back-talk, and we’re still not talking …
Something is really wrong with me, and I’m not sure what’s gotten into me lately. “Sin is crouching at the door,” but I am to master it. But as the supposed master of sin, what if I decide to let him in? As the master, I have that freedom, no? According to God, I’d be granting Death a visit; I, the host, would become the house slave. But the sound of his knock is quite beckoning. In fact, I think I’ve let him in already. And I don’t remember when I did.
Much of what I read today came as a quick blur. Maybe it was because my mother’s voice and my voice were far too loud for me to hear what I was even reading. And even after our argument, I just found myself too angry to hear what God had to say … other than this section:
"If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ … you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people." (Deuteronomy 13:6-9)
I find it so easy to turn from God. Death has made a long journey and he is willing to greet me at my doorpost bearing a basket of comfort and pleasure. God, who supposedly is omnipresent and omnipotent, seems off in the mountainside taking His precious time (lest He tire Himself), promising from afar the great Gift He has for me: Himself.
I read this book called Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill. I thought it a good read. It made me look forward to the day when God would look at my struggles as I waited for Him. He would look at me and see His Son, who gave me strength to fight until the end. He’d give me strength to fasten my locks to Death as I prepared my house for the coming Bridegroom. And at His arrival, I’d hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”
But I don’t feel empowered anymore. Washed and Waiting may have been a good read, but I really am tired of waiting. It’s times like these when I’d much prefer the fate of the idolatrous Israelite.
The story of Balaam has always intrigued me. (Pretty much any non-Israelite who communicated with God or had astounding, “insider” knowledge of Abraham’s laudable God intrigues me.)
Would Balaam have been a priest of the Zoroastrian religion? Seeing that he was a contemporary of Moses, it would have been understandable if he were a follower of polytheistic faiths - just like the rest of the faiths during those times. Rather, it seems he was monotheistic (Numbers 22:8), which is especially (and specifically) a characteristic of the Zoroastrian religion. It’s just baffling how God still used this outsider as His own prophet.
What about King Melchizedek? Where did he come from and what knowledge did he have that he could bless the one and only God, Abraham’s God (Genesis 14)? He is mentioned in a mere verse or two, and yet Paul extracts a whole theological essay about Jesus being the High Priest of the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7). What the heck, dude.
What caused Ruth to bless God and cry to her mother-in-law, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God" (Ruth 1:16)?
And Job. He was not of Israel as far as I know. In fact, he was an inhabitant of the far-away land of Uz. He was healthy and wealthy. Yet, he did not make this a reason not to have a firm faith in God. From where did this Godly knowledge come? From where did this faith ignite? When God dealt with Israel in the desert, Israel angrily cursed at God every time (e.g. Numbers 20:3). But when God dealt with Job by means of loss and sickness, Job still blessed God: "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).
None of this was meant to put Balaam in a good light, because his overall story is rather twisted. But it’s just intriguing how God used (and saved) people who weren’t initially His own.