A Puzzling Path to Glory 4 (Mark 10:45)


CarryingCrossIt is often said that it is impossible to find a needle in a haystack. Yet it also could be said that if, once found, one focuses too narrowly upon the small needle so as not to lose it again, they may very well loose peripheral sight of the haystack all together.

A glance through some commentaries on Mark 10:45 will reveal a similar tendency of scholars to get so focused on detailed word studies that they lose sight of the larger idea which clearly shines through if one would only step back and see the broader scope of Mark’s narrative. They have let the tiny needle eclipse the larger haystack.

Many have concluded that since there are not direct quotations from or exact word parallels to Isaiah 52-53, Jesus was not therefore influenced by or identifying himself with the vocation of the Servant of YHWH in Isaiah 52-53. N.T. Wright is correct to invite a more fluid and subtle reference to such themes:

We catch echoes of this, rather than direct statements…It is a matter of understanding Jesus’ whole kingdom-announcement in the light of several major themes from the Jewish scriptures, and showing that it is absurd, granted the whole picture, to disallow reference, allusion and echo to Isaiah 40-55 in general, and to 52:13-53:12 in particular. Continue reading


A Puzzling Path to Glory 3 (Mark 10:45)


CarryingCrossJoel Marcus has shed considerable light on the OT background to Mark’s gospel, noting especially the Isaianic influences in the words and actions of Jesus. Mark uses strategic Isaianic passages to show the reader that God is finally initiating the new exodus and ushering in the New Age through his servant Jesus. The entire gospel hangs on the initial thematic marker of 1:3, where Mark quotes Isaiah 40:3: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”

By reading the broader context of Isaiah 40, one finds that Mark sees Jesus’ entire life and ministry as the embodiment of YHWH’s glorious return to Jerusalem as conquering king.

Yet, can this theme be understood in light of the humiliating death that ultimately awaits the returning king when he arrives? Continue reading

Keri with Peter in her belly the day before his birth

This Old House 5: Our First Nest

We closed on our new house today (8/25/14) and will begin the move later this week. So, we’re wrapping up this series of posts sharing some favorite memories from our house on Cedar Lane.

Bringing Peter home from hospital
Bringing Peter home from hospital

When we bought our cute old house in 2006 we anticipated living here for 4-5 years until we decided to start a family and then upsize. It’s not exactly the perfect house for toddlers (e.g., steep stairs). But now after bringing two newborns home from the hospital and all the “firsts” we’ve experienced here, it’s hard to imagine this house without Peter Bjorn and Isaak David leaving their mark (and toys!) everywhere. 

So, let me share some favorite daddy moments. 

1. Stroller rides around town. We will miss living a couple blocks from the bike trail and downtown Mound. We have spent so many hours in the stroller hitting all our favorite spots. Our Saturday morning family ritual is to walk to the Farmer’s Market, stop by the bank for a sucker, pretend we’re shopping at True Value to get free popcorn, browse the record store, and say hi to the fish at the public docks at Lost Lake Pier. 

2. Asleep in a Drawer. We’ll never forget the day we went to check on Peter who often played himself to sleep in his room and found his bed

Peter asleep in the drawer
Peter asleep in the drawer

empty and his clothes all over the floor. Where was Peter? Asleep in the bottom drawer. Classic moment that I’m glad we captured on video and photo. 

3. Baby Powder Incident. But the most memorable daddy moment by far began on a typical weekday morning. I jumped in the shower for 5 minutes with Peter playing in his room and Isaak still in his crib. A couple minutes later I heard giggling coming from the nursery and knew Peter was up to something. I ran to the room and walked into a white cloud of baby powder. Peter had dumped the entire first container out all over every surface, and even worse we had a space heater running and blowing it around like a snowmaker. He was holding the second container and dumping it all over his

"Oh, oh!" Caught in the act
“Oh, oh!” Caught in the act

little brother’s head. Peter said something like, “I make Isaak a snowman.” Isaak was covered…but didn’t seem to mind at all!  I’ll leave you to imagine how fun and easy the clean-up process was. (Oh, and to make matters worse, Peter was standing there with poop in his underwear (no diaper on)). We got the best video that I still hope to submit to America’s Funniest Home Videos someday.

4. Down the stairs. More recently our greatest fear happened. Again, I was taking a quick morning shower when I heard Peter trying to open the safety gate at the top of our steep stairway. He had never attempted this before, and the gate pulled off the hinges and I heard a fall, a thump-thump-thump, shattering glass and then the crying from the bottom of the stairs. My heart jumped into my throat, and I ran expecting broken bones, bloody lips, bumps and bruises, and a trip to the ER. By God’s grace, Peter was fine – completely fine! He went down head first, with the gate tumbling end over end ahead of him and shattering the window at the bottom. Oh, and this shattered window happened just as our house went on the market and an hour before a showing. 

I could go on and on about first steps, first Christmases, the amazing themed birthday parties in the backyard (that Keri should write about), and so much more. But we’ll forever cherish this house as our first nest for our growing family. 

Isaak my mechanical son
Peter the builder helping me with new fence.
Isaak loves his water table on the deck and patio we put in


American Faith: “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”

Few studies have been more timely and pin-point accurate in it’s findings than the research of Christian Smith in “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers” concerning the religious beliefs of American teenagers.  I would argue that many of these teens have learned their faith from parents with similar Christian convictions and level of commitment.  Thus, his findings are not limited to teenagers by any stretch of the imagination.

Smith’s definition and description of what he calls “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” will long be used as the best description of what goes for typical civil religion in America.  Here’s an excerpt from Albert Mohler’s commentary on this ground-breaking study:

As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these: 1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.” 2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” 3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.” 4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” 5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.” Continue reading


A Puzzling Path to Glory 2 (Mark 10:45)


CarryingCrossMark’s narrative paints a Jesus who is intentionally identifying himself with two OT figures—the Danielic Son of Man and the Isaianic Servant of YHWH; and describes his mission as the fulfillment of their drastically different destinies—the glorious triumph of the Son of Man over Israel’s enemy (“the fourth beast” in Dan. 7) and the despicable suffering and atoning death of the Servant of YHWH (Isa. 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12). Mark’s gospel goes to great lengths to show that Jesus’ puzzling pathway to glory is the way of the cross. The triumph of Dan. 7 comes only through the suffering of Isaiah 52-53.

Much theological confusion and significant hermeneutical damage has come from the failure of interpreters to harmonize these two OT figures/themes (Son of Man/ triumph and Servant of YHWH/suffering) within the mind and mission of Jesus. In fact, this was the very blunder Jesus’ original audience made: they were unable to grasp Jesus’ redefinitions of prominent OT expectations. Continue reading

QUOTABLES: Lashed to the Mast (Eugene Peterson)

Next summer I will be officially ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church (10 years after I graduated from seminary — its about time!). I’m reminded of a poignant lengthy quotation from Eugene Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor. It’s a good reminder that we are weak and can, like Odysseus, be lured away by the sirens of people pleasing. We need God’s grace in seeing that pastors can fall as fast and hard as the latest tabloid headline. We are all one stupid second away from utter ruin. We also need to resolve of brothers and sisters to hold us to the commitment we made when we first set out on the stormy sea. When your men are about to mutiny and the waves are about to consume you, will you be fixed on your Star of direction?

We are going to ordain you [Jeremy] to this ministry, and we want your vow that you will stick with to it.  This is not a temporary job assignment but a way of life that we need lived out in our community.  We know you are launched on the same difficult belief venture in the same dangerous world as we are.  We know your emotions are as fickle as ours, and your mind is as tricky as ours.  That is why we are going to ordain you and why we are going to exact a vow from you.  We know there will be days and months, maybe even years, when we won’t feel like believing anything and won’t want to hear it from you.  And we know there will be days and weeks and maybe even years when you won’t feel like saying it.  It doesn’t matter.  Do it. You are ordained to this ministry, vowed to it.

There may be times when we come to you as a committee or delegation and demand that you tell us something else than what we are telling you now.  Promise right now that you won’t give in to what we demand of you.  You are not the minister of our changing desires, or our time-conditioned understanding of our needs, or our secularized hopes for something better.  With these vows of ordination we are lashing you fast to the mast of Word and sacrament so you will be unable to respond to the siren voices.

PHILIPPIANS 5: “A Gut Feeling” (Phil 1:8)

rembrandt-apostle_paul13Pull up a slab of rock, light a candle and grab a quill, ink and a scrap of papyrus to take notes. We’re journeying together back to the year AD 58 to a Roman prison cell to listen in as Paul pens his letter to the Philippians. What can his letter speak to us some 2,000 years later? Read full series here.

“For God is my witness that I long for all of you with the splagchnon of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:8).

Few words more powerfully, and graphically, express the deeply rooted love and compassion Jesus showed toward others than the Greek word splagchnizomai.  Try saying that a few times.  You should have spit coming out, and it should have sort of a rough, deep German ring to it.  “Splagchnizomai!”  Read Luke 7:13, where Jesus encounters a funeral procession for the only son of a poor widow.  My translation says, “When the Lord saw her, his heart was filled with pity for her.”  The actual Greek language conveys a deeper, more graphic emotion being experienced by Jesus here.  It literally reads, “When the Lord saw [the mother of the deceased], his bowels yearned for her.”  Jesus’ stomach churned, his bowels moved, he was sick to his stomach, he was moved with pity from his deepest parts!  Now THAT is true “gut-wrenching” love and compassion!  Jesus was touched at the core of his being, and overcome with an intensely felt compassion.

Now, back to Philippians.  In today’s verse, Paul uses this same word, splagchnon, to describe the deep, heartfelt affection he feels toward his Christian brothers and sisters in the city of Philippi.  Paul calls God as his witness (He really means it!) as he declares how deeply he cares or “longs for” them with “the bowels of Christ Jesus.”  With what?!  Yes, Paul does not just care for them from his deepest place—his bowels.  That would be amazing enough; but rather, Paul boldly declares that he loves them with the intense, deep, unconditional, sacrificial love of Christ himself—“with the deep affection (“splagchnon”) of Christ Jesus!  Paul has Jesus-like compassion and love for these people!

What does all this “bowel talk” mean for us today?  Three thoughts:

1.  I marvel at the strong love Paul communicates to his Christian brothers and sisters!  Man, if we believe his words, Paul’s actually beginning to feel the same kind of deep love and compassion for others that Jesus himself felt–the kind of love we usually only dream of.  We say, “Sure Jesus loves everyone—even his enemies—because he was God; but we are only human.”  Well, apparently Paul was beginning to grow in his character to a point where he could actually declare with confidence—God as his witness—that he loved others “with the very love of Christ.”  Believe it or not, that means we can too by the power of the Spirit!

2. I think of the cheap and shallow way we have with words.  We love God.  We love cheesecake.  We love our new Ipod.  We love our best friend.  We use the same word—“love”—for all of these things.  How much meaning can that word really carry anymore if we can use it to describe our affection for our mom or boyfriend in one breath and our craving for cookies in the next?  I think we should all seek more creative, meaningful ways to communicate our affections in life.  Let’s not just say “I love you” anymore; but instead follow Paul and tell our closest family and friends what they really DO TO US, or how deeply they touch us.  For example, when I got down on one knee and asked Keri to marry me, I can say with complete honesty that “I thought my heart was going to stop beating” and that “time stood still” for that ten seconds before she said “Yes.”   I could have just said “that moment was amazing”, but that just doesn’t describe it.

3.  This challenges me to seek a deeper, more powerful kind of love for God.  Knowing that Christ’s love for me comes from such a deep, bone-rattling, heart-yearning, gut-wrenching place, I am challenged to respond with an equally as passionate, heartfelt love for my Savior.  It’s so easy to sing, “I could sing of Your love forever” over and over again, but never really feel it in my bowels.  I want a faith that moves me to the core of my being.

Let us continue to grow in our love for God until we begin to love God and others with all our “splagchnon.”


This Old House 4: Winter Wonderland

As we prepare to move houses soon we are sharing some memories from our little house on Cedar Lane. -JB

Let’s be honest. When it’s December in Minnesota, below zero, the snow is falling and Christmas time is approaching, there’s no where more cozy than a little old farmhouse with a real wood burning fireplace and the smell of cookies in the oven.

We absolutely loved our little house in the winter time. Picking out our Christmas tree, decorating the trees inside and out, and sitting by a crackling fire. Priceless.

Screen shot 2014-08-13 at 9.21.31 PMIt took me a few years to finally get the woodpile easily accessible instead of stomping through snow to the side of the house. Uncle Brent scored big points with me when he started bringing a load of wood down for Christmas the past couple years. We made a few snowmen, but didn’t have a good sledding yard….but our new house will make up for that! :)

It’s really going to be hard to match the coziness of our little house on the hill in our new bigger house on a bigger hill. I’m glad to say we will have another wood burning fireplace (an essential in my book).

We certainly will not mind having a garage come this winter. Our little old house lacked a garage which inspired us to both get remote starters for our cars and that really helped.


Finally, yes, I admit it. We never put a high priority on shoveling our little parking space (not technically a driveway). I’m sure the neighbors were always laughing at the huge pile/wall of snow between our two car spaces. In our defense, you try shoveling snow and throwing it over a four foot retaining wall with another 2 feet of snow — that’s tossing snow up 6 feet. Funny story: A neighbor in need offered to blow our driveway for some money to help buy his wife a 417348_499501719952_44011753_nChristmas gift. Halfway through, he knocked on the door and said, “Hey, you sure got a lot of rocks on your driveway! They’re shooting out the blower at the neighbor’s cars.” My response: “Uh, that’s because its a gravel driveway!” Neighbor: “Ooops.”

Well, farewell little house with the red door. We hope someone else will enjoy your warmth and coziness this coming Christmas season.

The Absurdity-Driven Life

“If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God.”

(2 Cor 5:13)

80-2Do you make several “foolish” decisions a day?  Do people often look at you strangely, shake their head with scorn and just walk away?  Do you regularly get accused of being silly, foolish or extremely impractical by those close to you?  Do people think you’re a bit off your rocker?  

If you answered “No” to the above questions, you may not be following Christ as closely as you should.  One thing that rings clearly throughout the Bible is that God’s people are called to live in a way radically different from what the world deems normal.  For example:

Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade for your soul?” (Mark 8:34-37 The Message)

Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”  Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? (1 Corinthians 1:25ff)

When it comes down to it, we should look a bit nutty to those who don’t understand what God is up to in the world.  The Kingdom he inaugurated cuts against all conventional wisdom.  The revolution Jesus started is like no other.

How can we NOT look a little goofy and off kilter when… Continue reading


This Old House 3: God Bless this Home

Our house on Cedar Lane will forever be remembered for some of the most significant ministry gatherings and conversations that have impacted the course of our lives.  Here’s a few:

College Lifegroup
College Lifegroup

Sometime in 2006 at a youth concert, I announced the launch of the “Way of the Revolutionary” Bible Study to be held in our living room on Monday nights. Over 100 Mound Westonka teens received the invitation, but only one student showed up that first gathering. His name was Charlie Crea and we shared a Jack’s pizza on the back deck and spent the next hour dreaming of the Jesus Revolution we wanted

Charlie Crea & I (c. 2006)
Charlie Crea & I (c. 2006)

to spread through the school. A mustard seed moment for sure. Charlie was faithful in recruiting others, and for the next couple years we had a living room full of teenagers each Monday night from all backgrounds — Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist, Evangelical, etc. — all sitting under that teachings of Jesus and scheming together how to bring the light of Christ into their schools. I’ll never forget those Revolution gatherings — Bible Studies, Q&A nights, singing songs, sitting by the fire, and more.

In the summer of 2010 we held the most nerve-racking gathering of my life. In short, God called Keri and I to start a new church in Mound. We made a list of all the contacts we have in the Mound area and invited them all to our very first “Vision Barbecue” that July to hear about the vision for MainStreet. Going public and putting this precious dream out there for others to consider (join enthusiastically, ignore quietly, or reject clearly) was very scary.

Vision BBQ (July 2010)
Vision BBQ (July 2010)
Vision BBQ 2010
Jeremy shares MS Vision for first time!

We set up a bunch of tables in the backyard and grilled up some food and PRAYED LIKE CRAZY that someone other than our parents would show up and consider the call to join the adventure. People showed up. We shared the vision. We ate. And we were off and running — or crawling really slowly — toward the realization of the MainStreet Church God would birth over the next couple years. But it all started with a BBQ at our little house on the hill.

Backyard VBS (2013)
Backyard VBS (2013)

From that moment on, our little yellow house has been the home of countless ministry gatherings, spiritual conversations and Holy Spirit moments — most of them revolving around yummy food. Far too numerous to count but some moments come immediately to mind:

  • Mike & Julie Brown sitting around our dinner table in the spring of 2010 and giving us the “green light” to begin planting MainStreet with the blessing and support of the Covenant. Happy tears all around.
  • Former youth group students from Burnsville coming over to share how God’s been moving in their lives as missionaries for YWAM.  This house glows with the light of Christ when they come over!
  • Our Crown College Lifegroup watching the Passion of the Christ movie on a Good Friday and sharing in an emotional communion time together.
  • Hosting the Backyard Vacation Bible School last summer in our backyard and watching Keri transform the yard. Then cramming a bunch of screaming toddlers into our tiny house when the storm rolled in.
  • Growing our current Lifegroup and all the real, honest conversations we’ve had and the ones to come.
  • Conversations with so many MainStreet families around our dinner table talking about getting baptized, getting married, and other ways God is working in lives.
Lifegroup Gathering
Lifegroup Gathering

We’ve even had two “roomers” living with us during our time here. We’ve never had much room but we’ve enjoyed sharing it with others when needed.

Our new home God is blessing us with is much larger and will be much more ideal for hosting gatherings and doing ministry. But all good Kingdom things start small like a mustard seed! We will truly miss our little yellow mustard seed house on Cedar Lane. The Kingdom grew in us and through us during our time here.


Cruciform Justice 1: Introduction

CruciformJusticeHow long, O LORD,
must I call for help before you listen,
before you save us from violence?
(Habakkuk 1:2-4)

He came closer to the city,
and when he saw it, he wept over it, saying,
“If you only knew today what is needed for peace!
But now you cannot see it!
(Luke 19:41-42)

There is no place worldwide where Habakkuk’s cry is not heard; and Jesus’ tears still wet our cities’ streets today. The world’s pain and suffering cries out for justice and peace. Yet what does it look like when they finally prevail? And, more importantly, when and by what means will it actually come to pass?

So we ask, “What is needed for peace?” These perennial questions have had many proposed solutions. Yet, in a world where injustice still reigns supreme, it appears all human attempts to establish a global kingdom of peace and foster universal prosperity have so far ultimately failed.

Christians have taken different sides on this issue. Some quarters of “Christendom” have allied themselves with the political powers and socio-economic systems of the day, attempting to Christianize the worldly systems and use them as God’s instrument for peace and justice. Other Christians have separated themselves from society altogether, placing upon it the stamp of divine condemnation, and simply awaiting the rapture from this hopeless world.

Political and social activism is advocated by the former, while the latter focus solely on ‘soul-winning,’ shrugging off social involvement saying ‘it makes little sense rearranging the deck furniture on a sinking Titanic.’ Both of these approaches fail on biblical grounds. What then is the church’s appropriate response to the world’s injustice and suffering? And what ecclesial action (if any) is expected of us by God while we await the new creation — the kingdom “wherein justice dwells”?

Drawing significantly from the works of John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas and Jurgen Moltmann, the forthcoming series of posts will argue that the popular definitions of justice used in mainstream political and theological debate need to become more Jesus-shaped and our values more cruciform if the church is going to be faithful in its task of following the way of Jesus, i.e., the way of the cross, in the world today.  (Note: This is the unique call of the church, not the world, secular governments, etc.)

Join me on my search for a more Jesus-shaped, cruciform understanding of justice. Read full series HERE.

*This series is excerpts from a term paper I wrote back in 2004 at Bethel Seminary. -JB

Reports from the intersection of faith & everyday life.


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