Photo Journal: Curbside Beauty

The other day I was walking around and praise the Lord I brought a camera. Martin Luther once wrote that God does not just write the Gospel in the Bible alone but also in the trees, flowers, the skies and stars. Well it certainly seemed to be true when I saw these very ordinary side of the curb being decorated by these amazing creations. Otherwise uninteresting outside fences and curbside decorated by flowers that somehow managed to find a way out of the garden to please the eye of the innocent by-passer.

Or what to think of more color than my camera seemed to be able to handle.

Flowers: they seem to never get boring and spectacular time and time again.

And thus an otherwise unnoticed part of the street that ‘no-man’s land’ between the end of a garden and the start of the street was transformed by the beauty of these amazing creations.


Two beautiful versions of this Donnie McClurkin song.
A song close to my heart.

What do you do
when you’ve done all you can
And it seems like it’s never enough?
And what do you say
when your friends turn away,
and you’re all alone?
Tell me, what do you give
When you’ve given your all,
and seems like
you can’t make it through?

Well, you just stand
When there’s nothing left to do
You just stand
Watch the Lord see you through
And after you’ve done all you can
You just stand

Tell me,
how do you handle the guilt of your past?
Tell me, how do you deal with the shame?
And how can you smile
when your heart is broken
and filled with pain?
Tell me what do you give
when you’ve given your all
Seems like you can’t make it through?
Child you just stand,
when there’s nothing left to do
You just stand
Watch the Lord see you through
And after you’ve done all you can
You just stand.
And be sure
After you’ve done all you can
After you’ve gone through the hurt
After you’ve gone through the pain
After you’ve gone through the storm
After you’ve gone through the rain
Prayed and cried,you’ve prayed and cried
Prayed and cried, prayed and cried
After you’ve done all you can, you just stand.

The Jesus We’ll Never Know: Scot McKnight

In the times prior to my conversion I read a lot of material about the historical Jesus, by the way with great interest but something was not quite alright.

McKnight, author of the article quoted below and one of the historical Jesus researchers himself makes the comment:

Furthermore, these scholars by and large believe in the Jesus they reconstruct. During what’s called the “first quest” for the historical Jesus, in the early 20th century, Albert Schweitzer understood Jesus as an apocalyptic Jesus. In the latest quest, Sanders’s Jesus is an eschatological prophet; Crossan’s Jesus is a Mediterranean peasant cynic full of wit and critical of the Establishment; Borg’s Jesus is a mystical genius; Wright’s Jesus is an end-of-the-exile messianic prophet who believed he was God returning to Zion. We could go on, but we have made our point: Historical Jesus scholars reconstruct what Jesus was really like and orient their faith around that reconstruction.

The comment very much resounds my own sentiments when reading these studies: could it maybe be that we are creating out own desired reality. If, as we may suppose, historical research departs from the same methodologies, should the outcomes not be more alike? Yet very similar to the students mentioned in the first lines of this article, it appears that the historical methods lead to similar results: a Jesus construct that is potentially more who we want him to be or a Jesus construct that is in our own likeness.

In his closing paragraph McKnight comes to the same conclusions I had to admit to myself prior to conversion: at some point methods run out of steam and energy. And where McKnight makes this point for historical research, I think it is not that dissimilar for other disciplines as well. Simply put perhaps we should start to be more open about the limitations of our methods and about what exactly it is they can and cannot prove. Most of all about our own potential biases prior to any research as they may influence our findings or lead us to conclusions that are no longer carried by our findings.
No matter how I look at it: science an the human sciences included are all involved in telling us about the supernatural from a position of limitation to the natural and natural explanations. So, let’s try to be honest about this limitation, which in my view is exactly the strength of science and leave the rest to our own non-scholarly experience and doctrinal understandings, as an individual and a church as well as a community of researchers.

On a personal basis: it seems to be that the best way to get to know Jesus, God, has proven to be the opening up for a relationship again.  Of course that goes outside any methodological realm but at the same time science can at no time go where the Holy Spirit may take us, whether that is measurable or not, it seems to me that that’s the most secure way to fill up the blanks.

Who needs faith when science and history could ‘prove’  it all. At the same time I acknowledge that it is exactly science and  historical method that provided me the (rational) basis I needed for my faith.


The Jesus We’ll Never Know

Why scholarly attempts to discover the ‘real’ Jesus have failed. And why that’s a good thing.

On the opening day of my class on Jesus of Nazareth, I give a standardized psychological test divided into two parts. The results are nothing short of astounding.The first part is about Jesus. It asks students to imagine Jesus’ personality, with questions such as, “Does he prefer to go his own way rather than act by the rules?” and “Is he a worrier?” The second part asks the same questions of the students, but instead of “Is he a worrier?” it asks, “Are you a worrier?” The test is not about right or wrong answers, nor is it designed to help students understand Jesus. Instead, if given to enough people, the test will reveal that we all think Jesus is like us. Introverts think Jesus is introverted, for example, and, on the basis of the same questions, extroverts think Jesus is extroverted.Spiritual formation experts would love to hear that students in my Jesus class are becoming like Jesus, but the test actually reveals the reverse: Students are fashioning Jesus to be more like themselves. If the test were given to a random sample of adults, the results would be measurably similar. To one degree or another, we all conform Jesus to our own image.Since we are pushing this point, let’s not forget historical Jesus scholars, whose academic goal is to study the records, set the evidence in historical context, render judgment about the value of the evidence, and compose a portrait of “what Jesus was really like.” They, too, have ended up making Jesus in their own image.

Read the rest of this very commendable article at The Jesus We’ll Never Know | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

Book Review: Timothy J Keller, The Reason For God. Belief in an Age of Scepticism

Most recently I had the pleasure to read the book The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan New York.

The Reason for God is written for sceptics as well as believers alike. It responds to the the writings of popular authors like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.  What I thought was especially attractive about the book was the currency. Many introductions to Christian belief were written longer ago and do not address what today’s skeptics are concerned about. The timing of the book is impeccable as it arrived in a time frame where both skepticism and conversion appear to be on the rise. More importantly the discussion is being polarized by popular fundamentalists of both camps.

Going over some apologetic notes that will probably be part of another post I noted that perhaps a lot of these books (and similar to what happens with many Christians in general) are focusing on fellow believers and not so much on the group that really deserves serious and respectful attention: the skeptics.All too often other (apologetic) books merely gloss over the important questions or come up with answers that may be convincing to the average believer but do not seriously address the questions by skeptics.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism

The Reason for God:
Belief in an Age of Scepticism,
Buy here>>>

Keller does not distinguish between believers and unbelievers. Instead he talks of believers and skeptics. His theory: we all believe something. And rightfully so I guess as the questions or concerns discussed by Keller are more than once similarly difficult for people that do consider themselves to be a Christian.

“If you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs—you will discover that your doubts are not so solid as they first appeared.”

The first seven chapters of the book cover seven of the most common objections and doubts about Christianity and discerns the alternate beliefs underlying each of them. This section is titled “The Leap of Doubt” and answers these seven common critiques:

  1. There can’t be just one true religion
  2. A good God could not allow suffering
  3. Christianity is a straitjacket
  4. The church is responsible for so much injustice
  5. A loving God would not send people to hell
  6. Science has disproved Christianity
  7. You can’t take the Bible literally

In the second half of the book, titled “The Reasons for Faith,” he discusses seven reasons to believe in the claims of the Christian faith.

  1. The clues of God
  2. The knowledge of God
  3. The problem of sin
  4. Religion and the gospel
  5. The (true) story of the cross
  6. The reality of the resurrection
  7. The Dance of God

This book places Keller’s apparent influence C.S. Lewis into this day and age and I could not help but thinking how in some respects the experience of reading Keller’s book was similar to reading for instance Mere Christianity.
Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity,
buy here>>>

Publishers Weekly has advises that this is a book for “skeptics and the believers who love them.” Believers will rejoice in this book that carefully and patiently answers the most important objections of their skeptical friends with integrity and grace and Biblically consistent way. Skeptics will see that even their skepticism may well be based on some kind of faith. They are challenged to discern those underlying beliefs. A GREAT READ. It is most certainly one of the most compelling and at the same time highly accessible apologetic books I have read so far, and one that mist certainly addresses the right crowd.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism

The Reason for God:
Belief in an Age of Scepticism,
Buy here>>>

But perhaps even better: why not let the author explain about the book himself.

An extensive chapter by chapter summary of the book can be found at the Set ‘n’ Service blog here >>>

Also highly recommended is the next video in which Keller visits Google’s Mountain View, CA, headquarters to discuss his book. This event took place on March 5, 2008, as part of the Authors@Google series.

I think that by now you should have enough reason to get the book for yourself. Follow the link below to order online. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism

The Reason for God:
Belief in an Age of Scepticism,
Buy here>>>


His Eye is on the Sparrow

Recently during a walk in Hagley Park I got a chance to make these two pictures of a sparrow gathering little stuff to build a little nest.

When developing the pictures I could not help but thinking about the song “His eye is on the sparrow” which  have known since childhood as sung by Mahalia Jackson. I actually never listened to the words until only recently.

Why should I feel discouraged / Why should the shadows come / Why should my heart feel lonely / And long for heaven and home / When Jesus is my portion / A constant friend is He / His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches over me / His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches me /

I sing because I’m happy / I sing because I’m free / His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches me (He watches me) / His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches / I know He watches / I know He watches me

The story behind these beautiful lyrics makes it an even more special song.  Civilla Martin, who wrote the lyrics explains (source wikipedia):

Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” was the outcome of that experience.

— Civilla Martin

One of my absolute favorite versions is of this song as sung by Jennifer Holiday.

And of course the Sister Act 2 version is very touching.

And to close off the version  knew from childhood the way I knew it from childhood.

Happy listening.