Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry Christmas!


Is Wall-E the best movie of 2008? Check out Steve's Interesting Stuff blog, here:

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

What the Future Has In Store

This discussion was originally posted in MennoDiscuss:
This thread is only for those of pre millenist persuasion. I'd like a discusion of how present day events are pointing to the second coming of Christ and the rapture of the church.

I am pre-mil, although not pre-trib and certainly not dispensational (sorry GC).

It seems that there are three topics in this thread and I want to comment on each:

1. 1948
I don't find this significant for Biblical prophecy because the state that calls itself Israel is not the Israel of promise, as some would have us believe. Just because there is a rebel group in Africa called the Kingdom of God, that doesn't mean that we should all rush out and join it. Even so, Israel the secular nation is not spoken of in Scripture and there are no promises concerning it. Just another historical blip. An interesting one, but still, just a blip.

2. The Antichrist
First of all, I don't like the term. It is only used in I John, and he was speaking of false prophets, not "the beast" as referred to in Rev. 13, or the "man of sin" as referred to in II Thess. 2.
The main characteristics of the "beast" seem to be-- he is a worldwide power, he persecutes all the people of God and kills many, he desecrates all that is holy to God on the earth, he expects people to worship him as a god.
This person hasn't arrived on the scene yet, although Antiochus Epiphanies, Domitian and Diocletian are all excellent examples of such a person. We will only know who this person is by their leadership in the world scene and in the persecution of God's people.

3. Coming up signs
I need to say that I don't believe in a multiplicity of signs. I think the period we are in is pretty distinct and that the next items Biblically would be pretty narrow. I don't believe that we should be looking for a rapture, a temple, a nation, an economic crisis, earthquakes, famines, wars or rumors of wars. The gospel spread to all ethnoi is a prossibility, but that prophecy seems to already be fulfilled.

Rather, the best indication that God is ready to wrap things up will be on the basis of the actions of the world (which includes much of the church). When there is an organized effort to rid the world of all people who believe in Jesus, especially when that effort is directed by a single world power (whether a nation, organization or a single person), then we should start looking for other signs.

If You Think This Blog is Interesting...

Well, there's a lot more. If you want to read more of Steve's stuff, or to check out other resources that relate to some of the stuff talked about in this blog, visit my other blogs. There is a little overlap, but, honestly, not very much. I must be some kind of writing machine!

Ministry To The Homeless
A blog about my ministry to the homeless.

Radical Sermons for the 21st Century
A selection of my teachings from 2001 to the present day.

The SKV—A New Translation in the Making
My translations-- literal and extremely dynamic-- of the Greek New Testament.

Brief Bible Basics
Short summaries of Bible themes and a retelling of the story of Scripture.

A Commentary on the Sermon On the Mount
Verse by verse commentary on Jesus' Law in Matthew 5-7.

Meditations On The Psalms
A selection of the psalms and commentary

The Faithful: Brief Summaries of 20 Christians Who Changed The World
A list of my heroes throughout Christian history with a brief summary of their lives and what they teach us about following Jesus.

Class War: Thoughts On The Interaction Between Classes
Essays on povery and the relation between the middle and lower classes in the U.S.

Questionable Wisdom
Short principles of life written by both me and quotes from many others.

Interesting Stuff
Various stuff that I find interesting that don't fit the category of my other blogs. Movies, music, poems, internet sites, whatever.

SOON TO COME: An illustrated commentary on the book of Revelation!

Standards and Abilities

Two responses to the question, "Should we hold everyone to the same standard, or should we change the standard for those who have less ability?"

(First posted in MennoDiscuss)

Hopenafuture writes:
When you have a standard and someone is not naturally gifted in that area, it IS going to require that he work harder to reach that level. On the other hand, there are some things (such as dunking a basketball) that are [i]part of a larger goal[/i], and that a shorter guy might [i]play a different role[/i] than being a dunker. Perhaps his 3-point shots are his strength. Or defense, or moving the ball down the court. As part of a team, he can contribute to the scoring without being a "lean mean dunking machine" like a taller teammate might be. but the goal is still to win games.

In school, there is a level of perfection (A+ or 100% and there is an acceptable level of ability (C, or often 70-75%) If a student reaches the acceptable level, and is performing to the best of his or her ability, there is no need to hold them to the level of perfection. To do so is unfair and unkind.

So in that respect, one could say that I feel different standards are necessary. But in the long run, the basic goal is that each student passes his classes and learns to read, cipher, or write. So in another sense, the standard is the same for all.

Steve writes:
So then, perhaps the problem with education-- and much of the church-- is not that the standards are the same for everyone, but that some standards shouldn't apply to everyone.

In education, there are different ways of learning, and different skills that we are all good at. Some may be good at some things, while others good at other things. But if we only see someone as being educationally successful if they get 'A's or 'B's in everything, then perhaps our standards are faulty. Perhaps someone can consistantly get a 'D' in all math subjects, but an 'A' in all English subjects-- then they are still successful in many things, but not math. They have met the English standard, but not the math standard.

And in the church, we have a lot of standards. We want to see people pure and loving, because that is what Scripture says we all ought to be. But we add in many other standards as to whether someone is a "good Christian" or not. Do they attend service? And when they are there, do they disrupt the service? Do they only use language we deem as appropriate? Are they socially connected to other Christians? Do they wear (or not wear) the appropriate kind of headgear? And on and on and on... These are the kinds of things that Jesus calls "traditions of men" and they aren't appropriate standards in considering whether a person is a "good Christian" or not. We should stick to Jesus' standards, not our own, or else we put blocks in people's way to the gospel.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Discussion on Addiction

Originally posted on the Portland Mercury Blog:

Posted by el cubano on December 12, 2008 at 1:11 PM

I just wanted to share something- while this might be hard to talk about, I wanted to ensure that it's not impossible. I'm 25 years old and I'm a year away from graduating at PSU- when I was younger, I had an addiction to drugs that lasted a few years and was homeless for a while as well- couch-surfing and whatnot if not sleeping out of my own car while I was trying to get a job that would scrounge up enough money to be able to afford rent in the L.A. area.

I was lucky enough that I had some family support, although I had to move all the way across the country to Miami to be there to get it. I had heart palpitations and was having all sorts of health issues, including trying to quit smoking to be completely clean. While I'm certainly not perfect now, I've definitely turned my life around and I know that I can stay clean, healthy, and happy- but the will definitely has to lie with the individual and they absolutely, positively have to leave whatever life they had behind in order to move on to a better one.

It's a shame, but it doesn't look like Diver has gotten the support he's needed to be able to do that, since he apparently felt a connection to those people in Gresham in that lifestyle again. It hurts to not have family support, and to not have good friends who are willing to help you through those dark times and won't bring you down. I hope he can pull it together and make it, and as for you Sarah- believe me, it's possible!

Posted by Steve Kimes:

Sarah, first of all, I really want to thank you for your article, and for your update of Diver here. It must be hard to correct a good story, even if you didn't write anything wrong. Ankles and I give you an honorary "breakfast pie" piece for your excellent effort.

But also to respond to El Cubano above. Diver has all the support he wants, if he wants it. Either from his mother, or from our community, which is a strong family, complete with arguments. We all want him to succeed in being clean and in living a positive life.

But there is another community that pulls at him. A community that encourages him to endulge, not really understanding that it means his death and it cripples him spiritually. And he's lived in that community for as long as you, El, have been alive. It's hard to surrender a whole life and begin a new one. We who have done it keep going back to the old life until we are really ready to surrender it.

The road to freedom is different for different people. The reasons for addiction are complex and the solutions can be even more complicated. Chronic homelessness is even more complex still. There just isn't a single answer-- sometimes not even for one person.

But I am confident of this. Diver has left before and returned. When it is time, he will return.


Suppose your spouse left you and divorced you, and either (a) sexual immorality prompted the divorce, or (b) your former spouse died, or (c) your former spouse has married another and there just ain't no way they are ever coming back.
Suppose you had someone interested in marrying you. How would you decide whether to marry them? I've heard some suggest that even when there are scriptural grounds for a divorce, you should not marry another. I've heard others suggest that if 'sexual immorality' was a grounds for divorce, you may marry another.
What guidelines do you suggest? And why?

According to Jesus (Matthew 19), divorce does not end a marraige. Only two things do: adultery and death. After adultery, the couple could be reconciled (as you see with Hosea), but the original covenant has been broken. Paul says that, in the case of a believer being married to an unbeliever, that if the unbeliever leaves the believer then the believer is "not under bondage", (I Cor 7:15) which I take to mean free to remarry.

I see marriage as being like a contract. Once the contract is broken by one party, then the second party is under no obligation to remain in the contract-- it was already broken. So one can join in another contract, in contradiction to the first, because the original is null and void.

However, again, the crux of the matter is that divorce doesn't nullify the covenant one made before God. But adultery (or remarriage) does). So for my congregation who are divorced, but neither of the couple has remarried, I strongly encourage reconcilliation, or celibate patience for God to reconcile. But if one of the couple remarries, then I can give freedom to the other to remarry, if they choose.

I know this is in opposition to most Christian viewpoints, but the one side seems too harsh in comparison with Jesus' actual teaching, while the other side seems to just be ignoring Jesus' teaching.

What Does God Want In A Marriage?

First published in MennoDiscuss:

I think that the most important thing we should remember is that a Christian marriage should be a little congregation.

We should hold each other accountable to living in Jesus and obeying Him. We should restore each other with gentleness and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We should be aware of each other's needs and meet them when we can. We should pray for each other, especially when one is in difficult circumstances. We should rejoice when the other is rejoicing and weep when the other is weeping. And while the wife is to submit and the husband is to sacrificially love, this will often look on the outside as the couple submitting to each other. And there should be no place for pride in a marriage.

Obviously, this is a goal. My wife and I are still working on it. If we acheive it, we'll let you know.

Special Needs, Special Rules

First posted in MennoDiscuss in response to a discussion on the question: "Should we have lower expectations of obedience for those with special needs?"

Now I'm going to throw a wrench in the whole works.

My congregation is perhaps 75% mentally ill. I don't know what that says about me as a pastor, but I do know that we are a lot more flexible than other churches. For instance, I allow people to talk back to be during the sermon. This is partly because the folks get interested enough that they can't help but respond. So that's okay. But, at the same time, no matter how mentally ill someone is, I don't allow the conversation to be a free-for-all, where people are talking over each other.

Nor do I allow arguments. However, should there be an argument, I hold the more mature (read: mentally capable) brother to be responsible to back down. If they persist in the argument, then I ask the more mature brother to leave, even if they didn't begin the argument.

The church is also for the homeless, who are uncomfortable with a church where people dress well, because they can't match it. So the rule is casual dress in our church. Thus, if someone shows up in a tie, I politely ask him to take it off for the sake of the brothers.

The church runs well, although considerably different than one's run of the mill congregation. But since we are a congregation of the homeless and mentally ill, it SHOULD run different. And I will say that while the middle class isn't very comfortable in our church, for the homeless and mentally ill, they are able to develop community and call it home.

Thus, I guess, I create a different context for those unable to follow the rules, and then make everyone follow the new rules.

For more about our congregation, check out our website:

The Law of Jesus

First posted in MennoDiscuss in response to the question, "If we are all followers of Jesus, should Jesus' teaching be a law, and if so, how literal should we be?"

1. For those of us who declare Jesus as Lord, Jesus' teaching is law.
2. And Jesus is the only teacher of the law we have (Matt 23-- "And you shall call no one teacher, for you have but one teacher and that is the Christ")
3. Under Jesus, we are all equal in trying to understand the law of Christ and in trying to obey it.
4. We are to assist each other to be obedient to Christ
5. However, if we have a disagreement as to how to obey Jesus-- as long as we do not deny a principle of Jesus-- then we must allow other's their interpretation without judging them. (Romans 14)
6. Nor, if we hold to a more loose interpretation, should we cause our brothers to sin against their interpretation. (Romans 14)

Even this brings up a lot of points.
For instance, my "interpretation" of "love your enemies" means that followers of Jesus should never kill anyone under any circumstances. Does this mean that I can't fellowship with a brother or sister who holds to the idea of "loving them in your heart" but harming them in the flesh? I believe that the interpretation is in reality opposed to the teaching of Jesus, not in harmony with it at all. But what I can do is pray that the Holy Spirit reveal the truth to them, over time. But I shouldn't deny fellowship with them simply because of a misunderstood interpretation.

On the other hand, I would not allow such a person to teach in my congregation, because it says in Scripture that one who stands against the word of Jesus is a false teacher and shouldn't be allowed in the church (I Timothy 6; II John). I do, however, allow people to publicly have a discussion about these interpretations with me in front of my church, so people can hear the different points of view and make their own choice. It is good to allow the Holy Spirit reign to lead people as He will.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Grammar of God

Originally posted in MennoDiscuss:

Greek is often pulled out in converstions about the Bible or theology, as if a grammar is the final word. However, Greek experts are usually humble and recognize that there is much we do not know.

I think that there is much that we cannot prove from the Greek. First of all, no one today speaks the Greek of the NT, because that form of Greek is dead. Yes, some people could possibly learn to speak old English, but it is a dead language, and isn't used in a real way except to understand texts. Even so with Koine Greek-- it is fine for understanding texts, but we can't use even Modern Greek to really help us understand it.

Most of the time when people get into arguments about Greek or Hebrew, they are arguing the positions of their faviorite scholars, not their own understanding-- thus, it is an argument from authority, not from knowledge.

But in reading the Greek Testement, one the most important things I learned is how many things translations seem so clear on that are NOT clear. Every once in a while, I find a new insight from a literal translation that was translated more dynamically, but there are the occasions that I find translators just adding more words than exist in the original. Thus, I think they are trying to clarify too much. Sometimes this is necessary to have it make sense in English, but sometimes the translation just seems like an ideological rather than a literal interpretation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jesus, Law and Grace

Posted on MennoDiscuss, concerning the question "Is Jesus' teaching just another restrictive law that stands in the way of grace? Isn't that why Jesus taught in parables so that there would be varieties of interpretation and flexibility?" (That's my summary)

Jesus at first gave clear principles, opposing them to Moses' more specific laws (Matthew 5-7). These same principles he illustrated by his life-- his healings and his approach to the outcast (Matthew 8-9). But he was rejected by the Jewish leaders, specifically for his example and teaching of love, and so called a servant of Satan (Matthew 12). It was only at this point that he taught in parables-- not to illustrate his principles, but to hide them (Matthew 13). Jesus taught in parables because they had already rejected his clear principles of life. It is interesting to note that most of the parables in Matt 13 have to do with a division among God's people between those who listen to God and those who don't.

The main subject of God's word is that He has a lifestyle that He wants us to live. That lifestyle was presented in a very specific way in Moses' law and the world was invited to participate in it. However, Moses' law was also compromised (See Matt 19 about divorce) and it was also culture-specific. Jesus presented the same God-pleasing lifestyle in principles that could translate to any culture, among any context.

The principles are general enough that they offer flexibility to different points of view, as Paul talks about in Romans 14. But this does not mean that there aren't standards to uphold. It is clear that a free-love lifestyle isn't the love that Jesus talks about. Nor is a life of judging others based on petty rules. Jesus' standard is a perfect mean, a perfect moral lifestyle of both restraint and radical sacrifice, of both loyalty and striking out against the evils in our culture.

If we are followers of Jesus, I don't think we can compromise this life. I don't think we can talk about "love" in general terms and that's enough. But also, I believe that talking about hats and movies and coats aren't a part of the general principles. We might try to apply something in a specific congregation, but let's not call anyone else a sinner because they don't follow our specific constraints. The ethic of Jesus is a law, but it is the only law we need.

The Working Poor

I was asked on a survey about my experiences with the working poor. This was my response:

How much space do you have?

I have been working poor since 1997 when I quit my job and started living on donations. However, my children have never gone hungry, even one meal, nor have they had to sleep on the street. God has provided for us, and now even a house and our daily food, although we often eat food from dumpsters-- but not filthy food.

I have seen people who don't want to beg and so they look for cans to recycle. They may make 30 dollars a day for working five hours in independent recycling.

I know of some people who work for phone sales. They get hired in one place, work for a few weeks or months, get laid off and then they have to look for work again. They never get enough to get an apartment.

I know of others who are on disability at about 500 or so dollars a month. They try to work as often as they can, but their physical or mental disabilities don't allow them to work for long, so they soon have to quit or they get fired. Eventually they find another job.

People who live on the street all want to work. Everyone is looking for work to do. But they have mental or physical or social limitations that don't allow them to work as long as they would like. I know of some people who look for work, but then they have an attack from their mental illness, and they are unable to work for two days to a week after that. They can't hold down a job like that.

What people on the street and some folks on disability need is work that will be flexible with their situation. Work that will allow them to take off and who will help them to fill out the necessary paperwork. Not just a day labor place, but a social assistance project that gives people work as they are able to work so they can make more income than they currently get-- even if they don't have enough for an apartment.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gentrification and the Homeless

Originally posted in the Portland Mercury blog:

Gentrification doesn't have to mean kicking the homeless out of their outdoor homes, but it almost always does. After all, the name of the game is "beautification" and "improving the real estate value" and the homeless are unwitting enemies of those shining values.

When my apartment building in Rockwood was being "cleaned up" on the first day the new owner took ownership, he gave me and my family a thirty day notice, because the homeless people we had visiting us in our apartment (not sleeping around our apartment, mind you) wasn't good for the "work I am doing" as he put it.

The fact is, the homeless are seen as non-enitities, non-existant, or persona-non-gratia by property owners and developers. And those who work with or defend the homeless are simple nuisances.

What a wonderful day it will be when the poor of the world can kick the developers out of their homes for being compassionless!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Sexy Stuff In The Bible

Published in MennoDiscuss.

I've been trying to find the place of Song of Songs in the Bible for some time.

It is a pretty common-- if long-- piece of love poetry that was pretty common in the Mid East in the first millenium BC. You can read Egyptian poetry that sounds just like it.

On the surface it doesn't seem very theological-- it is just a celebration of romantic and erotic love.

I did read an interesting article on it, though. The author was saying that there are a number of parallels between Song of Songs and Genesis 1-3, but with the idea that erotic love is the "leftovers" of God's original creation of the world. It is described as the "paradise" and the lovers at one point go into a "garden".

This could very well be. In the ancient world, sex was used in two ways-- as a commitment of marriage and for prostitution (usually as an idolatrous practice). But if we think of it, the eroticism of marriage is as close to being a part of the original creation of Adam and Eve that we have left. Perhaps Song of Songs just celebrates this.