It’s easy for us to forget that the message of Jesus and the entire Bible come from an intensely Hebrew context and worldview. Jesus was a Jew teaching Jews, and bringing the words of scripture back to their original Hebrew language and setting, understanding what the first Jewish hearers of those words would have understood, is the closest we can come to their original intent.
Dave Brisbin | 12.10.17
We know so little of Jesus’ birth and childhood. Only two gospels give us any information at all. Luke gives us most of what we traditionally know of Jesus’ birth and childhood, and Matthew gives us the story of the Magi. Who were these Magi, these wise men from the east? What was the star they followed and what do their gifts signify? Why did Matthew feel this story, above all and any other stories of Jesus’ nativity and early years, was the one to include in his narrative?
Dave Brisbin | 11.19.17
The world and culture that produced our Scriptures is so different from ours that the very basis through which we understand the words we read in our translated texts—our worldview—has to be translated first in order to really understand the truth being conveyed. Try to imagine a world in which the workings of nature—from thunder and lightning to earthquakes and solar eclipses—are not scientifically understood, but ascribed directly to God. Imagine a complete dependence for survival on rains and weather, animals and crops, on family structure. An impossibly dark sky at night exploding with stars and the bright band of our galaxy as divine lightshow. Imagine living your life never seeing your own reflection, and the sense of self and identity that would entail.
Dave Brisbin | 10.29.17
A nationally-known pastor writes of a sea change earlier in his life when he realized that he was no longer on a path he recognized or thought would lead where he really wanted to go. He wrote that he believed that we have a far too narrow view of repentance, that it meant “to think,” and he had much to rethink and repent. But if we really look at the etymology of the word repentance through five different languages, ancient and modern, we find that repentance is vastly broader than simply feeling regret or rethinking.
Dave Brisbin | 10.22.17
Looking at the record of increasing human awareness of the intimacy of God’s spirit recorded in scripture: from a wild, fearful presence on a mountaintop, to the shepherd-like pillars of cloud and fire leading the people of Israel, to the cloud standing outside the tent speaking to Moses, to that presence settling on and filling the tent and eventually the temple, to filling Jesus at his baptism, to the apostles at Pentecost…what of us? How do we move from the awareness of Spirit standing outside our tent to resting on and filling us as well? How do we receive the Holy Spirit? What does that even mean? And how do we know if we have that filling?
Dave Brisbin | 10.15.17
At the end of John’s Last Supper account, Peter asks Jesus in the Latin version, “Quo vadis, domine?” Where are you going, Lord? Isn’t that the question we’ve all been asking since the very beginning and are still asking now? We’re still asking because a question this large, that encompasses all of life and all it means to be human, is not answered in a conversation. It’s not answered verbally at all, but in the actual following after…once we have discerned a general direction. And what is that direction? If we are willing to look at scripture in a different way, from Genesis to Revelation, the direction the Lord is going becomes apparent.
Dave Brisbin | 8.27.17
In saying that Jesus’ hidden years show us a life of willingness to let go of anything that is not truth, to descend first, with no guarantee of ascension, just a promise…what does that look like? What does it mean in real life? Our lives? Piecing together the clues in the few stories we have in the Gospels, it looks like leaving home. Leaving everything that is familiar, comfortable and comforting, what has always been and seems secure and certain, stepping out into the unknown without a safety net, away from those on which you’ve always depended. We see Jesus leaving home four times in the Gospels—short bloodless, matter of fact descriptions with little or none of the raw human emotion and drama of such leavings, both for Jesus and his loved ones.
Dave Brisbin | 8.20.17
Francis of Assisi is credited with saying that we should preach the Gospel continuously and use words where necessary. Taking his cue from Jesus, Francis understood that the Gospel was first a way of living life and only secondarily and of necessity a concept put into words. That words were only as good as the experience that gave them life. Jesus himself and his life itself is the message, the Way, but in our hyper-intellectualism, we miss all that, and in our focus on Jesus as God, we miss his life as a human, as a man—as scripture tells us: fully human, like us in all things, prone to all our weaknesses, learning and growing as we do, yet with an unquenchable desire to know truth, which brought him fully one with the Father, or as scripture puts it, “without sin.” What does that “gospel” look like, what does the shape of Jesus’ life tell us about the shape of ours?
Dave Brisbin | 7.30.17
How could an abundance of emphasis on the absolute love of God be a problem? What could go wrong? It is one of the ironies of my life and chosen profession that my absolute focus on the absolute nature of God’s love has placed me at odds with many of my Christian contemporaries, and though this over simplifies the nature of any controversy, it at least accurately expresses my intentions and the method in my “heresy.” At a recent gathering, in the midst of an energetic discussion, one man called me a “functional heretic,” a term I just loved and enthusiastically accepted. I knew what he meant: that I was someone pushing the envelope just short of too far to remain functioning within Christendom, remaining true to Jesus and his message even if expressed in radically different ways. But the reason I loved and accepted the term is because I believe it absolutely applies to Jesus as well.
Dave Brisbin | 6.18.17
On Fathers’ Day—Is our Father in heaven male? We call him Father after all…and “him.” Intellectually, most of us know God is spirit and neither male nor female, but emotionally, subconsciously, the feelings, the consequence of maleness surrounds our Western notion of God. To have been immersed in a male conception of God keeps him at a distance—the king, judge, executioner, administrator, creator/builder, lawgiver and standard bearer. We talk of the female attributes of our God: compassion, mercy, intimacy, love—but we really order our lives of faith and religion around the king, not the queen, Father, not Mother. Jesus had an ingenious way of dealing with this dilemma: while his people called God their Ab, Hebrew for father, he called his Father, Abba, the familiar, intimate name that Hebrew children use for their daddies to this day.
Dave Brisbin | 5.28.17
The theme of balance in kingdom life continues as we consider a very strange saying of Jesus: to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. In sending his followers out to teach and heal, what is he trying to tell them and by extension, us? To balance “shrewd,” as intelligent, thoughtful, discreet, practical, and cautious with “innocence,” characterized as simple, sincere, straightforward, without deceit is a difficult mix that seems to be in basic contradiction at first glance. But as with all of Jesus’ instructions, it’s not only possible, but necessary, of course.