Do you hear what I hear?

From silence to sounds to succinctly hearing… watch this video it’s short… As I watch this child moved beyond words, moved beyond comprehension for an infant, stirred in a way that her eyes the windows of her soul comprehends, the words: I love you. I feel like I am watching a piece of theology on the web. With the beauty of this discovery that her senses were full a tuned for the first time. This is stirring because it is this mother saying those words to her baby and their woven connection now expanded and whole. It’s so endlessly intimate and particular. Watching that baby cry is so jarring: are infants capable of such wise, seemingly reflective, emotion? I believe so, because she has a soul and spirit in this beautiful package of life. The baby is comprehending something she has never experienced, and her emotion is stirred intensely within this loving interweaving of heart and soul with the hearing of her mother’s voice saying simply: “I love you.”

As I watch this video, I tear up because we are all deaf infants, who seem to not hear the voice of God continually telling us that we are loved beyond all comprehension. This little one’s hearing and seeing and facial reaction to the love and tears of her mother are part of the wonder and emotion we feel. Sehnsucht – is a German noun translated as “longing,” “yearning,” or “craving,” or in the broader sense, a type of desire that is renewed deep from within us at the slightest nudge of our heart. It is the same sense you get when you breathe in for the first time the cold crispness of fall, and your mind starts racing over the fallen leaves of childhood and laughter. Then at least with me, I hear the sounds echoing of those that are now not with us, those that laughed at seeing the antics of a young boy’s innocence. In hearing their loving voices resonant in my heart as I race in youthful forward motion in life, without knowing what the tomorrows hold. Or seeing the smile on the one you love for the first time, that’s when Sehnsucht-happens.

It reminds us that being loved is this compelling, it is this incomprehensible and yet so miraculous and can be known. What could be more natural: for a mother to love her child? This doesn’t seem like a striking miracle that should reduce this baby to weeping, and yet, of course, she does, because she sees and hears love. To be loved like this is our deepest desire, and for that desire to be met surely reduces us to tears.

This infant is us, loved beyond measure by God.

Our tears are because this is such a clear and striking image of calling: this is who we can be to others—we can bring others to life through love. Yes, God is the author of life, but we bring others to life, we offer them true and real life, by bringing them into love. Love is the watermark in the parchment of our existence, writes Balthasar, I would add to his truth that it is that watermarked paper on which God writes His story about us and interlaces it into His story. We are made to exist in an economy of love. we can awaken it in others, we can open them up into love. Just as we are brought into being by love, we offer others the identity of the beloved. It is so simple. It is purely one mother telling her one child that she is loved. But then again this is the world being recreated in front of our eyes. The infant’s eyes widen, and we watch a child’s sense wonder of sounding love.

This is who and what we are as human beings: human beings created for love, created for relationship, and here, at this moment—this is a child who didn’t even know that these sounds of love, could exist and suddenly this entire reality of love seems to open before her eyes. In her infant self, she is hearing and though she may not communicate with words, her whole being expresses the magnitude of this discovery.

Do we? Or have we moved on from the miracle of love into cheap trinket thrills and lost the miraculous, in our worried quest for more other stuff. Listen to Ephesians 4:14-21, hear it afresh – Know – the miracle again, renewed, restored, and then recover the magnitude of this miracle of love!

What is Your Worldview? Or What has a Worldview Got to Do with Life?

A worldview is the framework of primary beliefs that we hold, whether we realize it or not that shapes our view of and for the world. Everyone has a worldview. The question is not whether one has a worldview, but which worldview one has.
There has been a recent proliferation of camps, conferences, books, and organizations promoting the idea of Biblical worldview (Christianly Thinking is what I prefer, but for this discussion, Biblical Worldview will do!). Whereas the word “worldview” would have in times past elicited a blank stare, many Christians today have at least some familiarity with the concept.
But familiarity can breed contempt. “Biblical worldview” is often thrown around today in a haphazard fashion, and it may no longer be clear what it actually means. Also, Biblical worldview may be in danger of dying the death of the “been there, tried that, and we’ve moved on” mentality that is prevalent in so many contemporary program-driven churches, infamous mega personalities, and denominations.
This would be tragic for two reasons. First, a Biblical worldview is not a means, like a curriculum or a program. It’s an end. Seeing God, others, the world, and ourselves, as God sees them, is a telos of the Christian life. Second, despite all the rhetoric of Biblical worldview, it is not necessarily a reality. According to recent studies produced by the Barna Group, only 20% of those claiming to be born again and less than 1% of young adults in America can answer a basic set of theological questions according to the biblical worldview. So you know exactly where we stand on this view of Christianly Thinking on a Biblical Worldview: We CANNOT “unhitch” the O.T. from the N.T. as if one is complete without the other. The whole story of His-Story shows how God through one man Abraham, to one tribe of Jacob, to one Nation Israel in the line of David, brought one hope/life through one Man – Jesus the Messiah to ALL people.
Biblical Worldview: What It’s Not
Before looking at what a biblical worldview is, let’s consider what it is not.
1) A Biblical worldview is not merely holding to Christian morals. BW is more than that. Because the Biblical worldview begins with a Creator, we live in a world that was designed—not a random place with arbitrary rules. Moral norms flow from God’s character, expressed in His design for His creation. You find this thoroughly taught throughout the entire Scriptures
2) A Biblical worldview is not just living life with Bible verses attached. In this approach, the Bible is merely a therapeutic tool and never alters one’s orientation to life. These Christians view the Bible through the lens of their existent worldview, rather than having their worldview framed by the Bible. All you have to do is read Jeremiah 33 and focus a bit on 33-34.
3) A Biblical worldview is not automatic from being “saved.” One can be redeemed and yet not entirely think or act like a Christian. The apostle Paul spoke to believers about taking ideas captive (2 Cor. 10), not being taken captive by bad ideas (Col. 2), being transformed by renewing of our minds (Rom. 12), and growing in discernment (Phil. 1).
4) A Biblical worldview is not Christian reactionism. This is our reputation in culture, and it is well earned. Worldview rhetoric is often nothing more than code language for defensively reacting to all the bad things in culture. Rather than a view of and for the world, it becomes just a view of how we are against the world which is always a disaster.
Biblical Worldview: What It Is!
While a full exposition is not possible here, I suggest that a Biblical worldview is unique from all other worldviews in at least three ways.
1) A Biblical worldview is Biblically grounded. Jewish Rabbi Abraham Heschel once made the following comment about Christians: “It seems puzzling to me how greatly attached to the Bible you seem to be and yet how much like pagans you handle it. The great challenge to those of us who wish to take the Bible seriously is to let it teach us its own essential categories; and then for us to think with them, instead of just about them.”  Jeremiah 33 again you must use and have the ENTIRE Biblical story speak to us!  
A Biblical worldview is one that is grounded in the whole Biblical meta-narrative of His-Story, it is not Biblical literacy course but a view into who God is and who we are in needing reconciliation with Him and one another. The Bible is first and foremost a meta-narrative, a grand, sweeping story that claims to be the real story of anything and everything that has ever existed. It begins with the beginning of all things and ends with the end of all things. We and all people live in this story somewhere between Genesis and Revelation.
Thus, the Bible sets the stage for all aspects of life and culture. The assumptions we think and live by this worldview. We should build on these biblical assumptions when approaching theology, politics, economic theory, medical science, emerging technologies, the arts, human behavior, literature, criminal justice, international relations, or anything else.
2) A Biblical worldview is culturally literate. Loving God fully by thinking deeply, discerningly, and truthfully about His world is essential to being a real disciple of our Messiah Jesus. According to the way the Bible presents the grand narrative of God’s redemptive plan, Christianity is neither a religion of abstemious withdrawal nor a dualistic philosophy that denigrates specific human activity as less than spiritual. Followers of Christ are called to dive deeply—and hopefully headfirst—into the significant historical and cultural issues of the human situation. As G.K. Chesterton said, “If Christianity should happen to be true—that is to say if its God is the real God of the universe—then defending it may mean talking about anything and everything.” He also said sadly, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World.
Jesus makes this clear in His High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17. Jesus prays for two groups of people, His disciples (vs. 6-12) and those who would believe because of the disciples’ testimony (vs. 20-22). For both groups, Jesus prays that the Father would be glorified as people came to know Jesus and thus received eternal life. Then, Jesus asks for an astounding thing: that his followers would not be taken from the world (vs. 15), but would be protected in the midst of the world by being oriented in the truth (vs. 17).
The Biblical approach to culture is to understand it (2 Cor. 10; Dan. 1), confront it (Dan. 3-4; Acts 17), and contribute to it (Gen. 2; Jer. 29). The Bible transcends cultural trends and realities because the Bible is the context of all cultures. Therefore, we can speak truthfully and significantly to cultural trends and issues, blessing what is good and cursing what is evil.

3) A Biblical worldview is defined by hope.
Hope is a crucial aspect of the biblical approach to life and the world. Peter tells the persecuted church to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet.3:15). Of all the reputations Christians have today, being hopeful is rarely one of them.
Biblical hope, however, is a full certainty because Biblical hope is not a hope for; it is a hope in. Biblical hope rests squarely in and on Christ—the Creator (John 1), Sustainer (Col. 1), and Redeemer (Rev. 4) of the entire human story. We CANNOT “unhitch” the O.T. from the N.T. as if one is complete without the other. The whole story of His-Story shows how God through one man Abraham, to one tribe of Jacob, to one Nation Israel in the line of David, brought one hope/life through one Man – Jesus the Messiah to ALL people.
Because of Christ, neither optimism nor despair is an option for the believer. How deeply broken must the world, and we are that required God (the Son) to die! Of course, He did not stay dead. He has risen. Death, in fact, has died and nothing that will ever happen in the history of the world will alter this certainty. Thus, despair is no option either.
A Biblical worldview explains the profound goodness and the profound evil that is found in the world and the human heart. No other worldview can do this. Further, the Biblical worldview rests on the story of the world and the human heart in the hands of a God who created and has invaded both. And through our joining our hands, heart and heads Christians – thinking Christianly and acting can change: individuals, people groups, and countries, therefore cultures both micro and macro.

Easter, Passover, Ishtar, and Myths – From Jerusalem Rev. Aaron Eime

Religious Calendars are interesting things. In Jerusalem, we have just celebrated Passover and Easter together. Passover fell on Good Friday, and our community gathered at 1 pm to remember the Crucifixion and then headed to the Dead Sea to celebrate Passover and the Redemption from Egypt. It does beg the question, however, how does Death and Resurrection, Passover, Deliverance, and Redemption go hand in hand with bunnies and eggs? Well, obviously they don’t. There is no connection between Passover and rabbits, and there is also no connection between Easter and pagan ritual. Notwithstanding, Easter does have a strong connection to Passover.

Myths about Easter abound all over the internet, and I am bombarded constantly by many well-meaning believing Christians challenging me on the nature of Easter, Holy Week and its supposed pagan roots. Common claims against any celebration of Easter stem from the misconception that Easter is named after a pagan fertility goddess. The common arch-types are Ishtar of the Babylonian pantheon or of the Germanic goddess of Spring called Eostre. This is simply not true but has become ‘the truth’ essentially through repetition. We keep saying it and hearing it, so it must be true without anyone challenging and verifying the source.

Ishtar is indeed a fertility goddess of the Babylonian and Assyrian pantheon. Note that Babylon is in the East in the lands of Iraq and Iran today. The Christian community that resides in the East is the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox community has been there since the first century, descendants of the first believers in Jesus. In the Orthodox Church, the word used for Easter is not Easter, it’s Pascha. Pascha is the Aramaic of the Hebrew word Pesach (Passover). So the Christians who live in the land where the pagan goddess Ishtar comes from don’t actually call the festival after her at all, they refer to the festival by its Jewish roots, the Pascha or the Passover.

Meanwhile, over in the West the first recorded written account of the spring goddess Eostre hales from the 8th Century. She has nothing to do with rabbits and/or chocolate eggs, which didn’t start getting sold by Cadbury until the 19th Century. However, people in the Christian world were writing about Pascha/Easter long before then. In the 2nd Century, Melito of Sardis, a Jewish believer and Bishop of the community in Sardis, wrote a defense of Pascha in which he argued for the date of Pascha/Easter to be the 14th of Nisan. That is, he was arguing that Pascha should be celebrated at Passover and not the Sunday following Passover. Nisan, by the way, is the Jewish month in which Passover falls and it really is named after a Babylonian god. Interestingly, the majority of the current Jewish calendar is named after Babylonian gods, and the Rabbis don’t seem to mind at all. Perhaps we should learn something from the Rabbis on this one.

Let’s be absolutely clear: Easter is only called Easter in two languages, English and German. Most other languages call the season of Easter after Pascha or Passover. For example, in French, you say Påques, in Dutch its Pasen, in Indonesian its Paskah, etc. Even in Latin, the traditional language of the Catholic Church, Easter is called Pascha. That’s right; the Catholic Church actually does not call Easter – Easter. It’s called Pascha and therefore apparently not named after a pagan god of any sort. Rather, like most languages, it is named after the original Hebrew and Aramaic.

Easter comes from the old German root word for East or Spring. Austria is called in German Østerreich, the East land or Spring land. The festival season of Passover became known as Eastertide, and the word Easter enters our language. Easter is an eight-day holiday from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday. Why eight days? This tradition we inherit from the Jewish People who have eight-day festivals like Succot, Hanukkah, and Feast of Unleavened Bread. The tradition of celebrating the life of the Messiah and His passion for eight days was given to us by the early Jewish Believers in Jesus, and it had nothing to do with a pagan god. The Orthodox Churches mark their calendars to ensure that Resurrection Sunday does not fall before Passover.

Without Passover, Easter makes absolutely no sense. Without the death of the Messiah you cannot have a resurrection, and without a resurrection, you cannot have the Gospel. The Gospel can be stated in one sentence – Messiah rose from the dead. And that is indeed very Good News.


Martin Luther King said, ‘With essential positions in life, a Coward asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it diplomatic?” And Pride comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question, “Is it right?” I would expand this thinking with the question, “Is it Christian?” So then how should we be in this world?
One of the lying strongholds today is the worldview of Naturalism. From its walls, it floods over and under its gates a murky water, into the Kingdom of God. First, let me remind you that the Church is not on the fringe of the world but the opposite the world is on the fringe of the Kingdom of God His Church. Along the fringe of the Kingdom of God, we have these strongholds that fight against God’s Kingdom. This particular stronghold pours out a watery substance over their walls in such volumes that it seeps into Churches and waters down the robust meat of Faith. This water turns the Word that should be taught and preached into a gray watery ugly gruel to what could be the Truth, Light and the Way that is robust for all people.
We won’t build the Kingdom of God by our own efforts in the present; it remains the Father’s gift by His grace and by His power. However, we can produce signs of the Kingdom of love and justice, beauty and healing, life-giving new community work of all sorts everywhere. Thereby, we can celebrate the whole biblical story. Without this whole biblical story, “Cheap Grace” becomes cancerous. The way we lived before grace, we quietly slip back into the patterns of the world, one by one. The churches so watered down, slide one by one and becomes part of the world, which morph into all form and no substance. The tragic element in this process of cancerous thinking is that will begin to grow exponentially with those that hear the lie and believe it wholeheartedly. This is almost our landscape of the current condition of the Church in many places around the world, and I am afraid will become the norm, if we fail to stand and after DOING everything STAND (Ephesians 6:10-20)!
We must not collude with deconstructionism in how we use the Bible, as though a little bit of it here, a tiny bit of it there, will do the business of living as Christians. No, we need the whole story of re-creation, which is the heart of our God’s mission, therefore, our mission. It starts with the imagination, and a promise of a world set free from sin and decay. A world, we get a glimpse of at Easter, and in Eucharist and in this single narrative of His Story we call the Bible. We also are mandated to implement by the Spirit in the arts, music, sound literature, in politics, in theology, in medicine, in business, in relationships, and whatever we do. We are to embody that in the communities which you and I live in and make it happen in our public life and work. Messiah-Centrism — or if you prefer Christ-Centristic.
We all can do so with God’s power which He exerted in Jesus’ resurrection, that is the hope that is within us. You and I can stop that wild flooding growth that seeks to choke out our abilities, gifts and calling to withstand and prosper in our vineyards of the Kingdom/world. For we do not wage war as the world does, we as His sons and daughters demolish these artificial ways of living and breathe His life back into this sterile world.

First Post – lighthearted or is it?

A movie I enjoyed a lot in the later part of 2016 was “La La Land.” Yes, I know it wasn’t done in Israel, but it doesn’t matter where we live, we all have values and choice. The question for all of us is, from kind of mind-set do our values and choices spring from? Is it Christianly thinking (Hebraic holistic thinking) or the world’s myriad methods of compartmental thinking?

That’s L.A. They worship everything and value nothing.” So says Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as he walks through the Warner Brothers’ back lot with Mia (Emma Stone) in this now award-winning new film La La Land. These two star-crossed lovers, drawn together by their shared failures, develop a beautiful and beautifying relationship as they share their distinctive dreams for the future. He seeks to restore the popularity of jazz in a world of soulless commercial music. She wants to restore the creative role of the actress in a world of formulaic soap operas.

But what values will drive them as they make choices in pursuit of their dreams? And what impact will this have on their lives?

The Times described this film as an ‘intravenous shot of joy in the January darkness.’ (And it certainly is that.) But it is also more than that. In one pivotal scene, Sebastian shows Mia how jazz musicians are spontaneous, with individual instruments suddenly taking the lead and driving the music in a different direction. In the same way, the film illustrates how life is messy as new opportunities take us in unexpected directions. But what are the core values that underpin the choices we make and do those choices affect what we worship?  The statement: “That’s L.A. they worship everything and value nothing,” does that also apply to more than just L.A.? Could it be us too, we worship everything and value nothing?

It’s been about 50 years since Marshall McLuhan famously said “the medium is the message,” and this is probably evident in this film, as its message is conveyed through its particular use of the musical genre, where even its structure breaks the standard mold for movies.

Most films, and indeed many other forms of storytelling, use a three-act story arc. The first act, variously called the ‘setup’ or ‘exposition,’ introduces the characters and their context, with sufficient back-story to cause the viewer to care about their lives. It leads to an ‘inciting incident’ – a dramatic turning point that raises a seemingly insurmountable problem. Then follows the second act, variously called ‘confrontation’ or ‘rising action,’ in which the characters seek to overcome the problem, but the tension builds as their efforts simply make the problems worse. Finally, in the third act, usually called ‘resolution,’ the characters eventually overcome the problems, with a dramatic and emotional climax.

But then again, La La Land has five parts, each explicitly signaled by a title on the screen (winter, spring, summer, fall, winter). What could have become a dramatic, climactic, resolution at the end of the third act (summer) turns out only to be a staging post in the story as it heads on into fall and winter.  Yet, when we stop and ponder it for a moment, we realize that life is exactly like it.

It was a famous Sinatra song where he sang about four of those seasons. But as we know, life doesn’t resolve naturally and quickly and never has. We continue to face new and different challenges, sometimes daily. The formulaic three-act story arc of life is as fictional as the tales it is used to describe. Take the classic film that I didn’t like at all for a variety of reasons, Pretty Woman, which resolves at the end where the city financier (Richard Gere) driving off happily with the prostitute (Julia Roberts). However, what would have happened if the story had continued with two more acts? More than likely a relationship breakdown and bitter accusations? Possibly, unfaithfulness and distrust over each other’s pasts unresolved sexual adventures?

In a curious and in a very engaging way, La La Land is actually more realistic in its story arc, despite its use of the fantastical impossibilities of the musical genre; such as the sudden singing and dancing in a traffic jam. In the real-world people don’t join in, magically knowing all the words and the steps. Although, I personally wanted to join in dancing at numerous times throughout the movie! And for that absorbing reason, it is more haunting, for it causes us to think about the values that underpin our choices.

The film leaves us wondering what could have been different in Sebastian and Mia’s lives if they had made different choices. Also, the ending is deliberately enigmatic (puzzling). In the final musical number, whose dream are we watching? Is it Sebastian’s or Mia’s, or do both characters realize that they missed what was true happiness together, which was now beyond them? Or is it possible our dream for them, for us? We expect, even unconsciously demand, a climactic resolution, don’t we? Why is that? Is it because there will indeed be a final decision for all of the creation, in which relationships are fully restored, and we all get to sing and dance together? And, if God has planned that from the foundation of the world, has He put those desired steps deeply in our total being, and our hearts are beating with the tunes that set our feet to dancing! Subsequently, we have a deep yearning for such a resolution? I believe entirely so, I know my whole being of my heart and feet say so!

Whatever your perspective on life and love (I know what mine is, do you?), this movie made me smile almost throughout the whole La La Land musical extravaganza. It is a bright and colorful look at dreams, hopes, and love, that will cause you to think about what we value and what we worship as we make choices in our own lives.

Just a hint about your professor, I was the jazz guy, my bride of now almost 40 years, well she still is the actress excellent, and we have four beautiful kids and three in-love kids and five grandkiddos… you see we made the right choice of love.

Shalom, Yasher Koach El Hashem, (Peace, May you have strength in the Holy One)

Stephen J. Higgins