What the story of Jonah, the solar eclipse, Charlottesville, and rising nationalism can teach us

I was recently listening to a local public radio station and overheard the tail-end of story about total solar eclipses.  The segment caught my attention when I heard the bible mentioned several times. They described how scientists had discovered several historical coincidences between biblical events and total solar eclipses.

By happenstance, as I researched what biblical events coincided with total solar eclipses, I learned that scientists have been able to verify with high probability that a total solar eclipse occurred around 763 BC over Nineveh, the capital city of the ancient Assyrians [1].  The date correlates well with the time in which Jonah was called to Nineveh.  Ancient civilizations viewed solar eclipse as bad omens.  Is it possible that the solar eclipse may have preempted and primed the people of Nineveh to listen with an open mind to Jonah’s message of repentance?  As we know from the bible, the people of Nineveh did repent (Jonah 3:1-10).

Historical primer
Prior to the time of the biblical story of Jonah, the ancient Assyrians had grown into a powerful people group.  The key to their rise to power was primarily by way of an efficient, resourceful, and brutal military.  They celebrated bloodshed and the humiliation of their enemies by horrific torture, i.e.  – skinning their enemies alive, ethnic cleansing, and other sadistic means.  The height of their power occurred after the military was converted from a voluntary to a professionally trained army funded by the empire.
Yet, a new neighbor to the west, Israel, was expanding it’s territory, growing, and prospering economically under the reign of King Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:27-28).
The two empires were natural enemies.  The Assyrians worshipped multiple pagan God’s, and religion centered around the worship of nature.  The Israelites were monotheistic, God’s chosen people.

What the story of Jonah, the solar eclipse, Charlottesville and rising nationalism can teach us
Learning the history above is what inspired me to dig deeper beyond the typical Sunday school rehashing of Jonah’s story: “Why to never run from God’s will”.  In particular, the latter portion of Jonah’s story has always intrigued me, especially the portion about the gourd (shrub) and the naturistic torture he had to endure as a hard lesson.  What’s the takeaway from Jonah’s misery (to the point of pleading for death, in anger).  What was the precedent for his anger over God sparing the city of Nineveh?

What seems to call for celebration, by Jonah, results in his misery.  He sulks before God, stating that he knew God desired to spare the Ninevites from destruction.  My prior conclusion drawn was that he was annoyed by having to make the long and tortuous journey, knowing that God desired and providentially planned to spare them anyway.  However, taking the above history into account, I learned that there may have been more malevolent feelings at play in his heart.  The recent wealth and prosperity of the nation of Israel had led to a heightened nationalistic outlook and an aim for self-preservation [2]. As he sulked before God he may have asked the question….

Are the Assyrians, worthy of God’s love and redemption?

Jonah, struggled with the idea that God loved the enemy of his people; even more so, people of foreign ethnicity, culture, and religion.  The very thought that God had even used them to display his wrath against Israel (when they were disobedient to his will ) made it even more difficult to bear [3].  Perhaps he even struggled with the perceived threat that the Ninevites posed to his nation’s economic prosperity and burgeoning economy.

May it serve as a great warning to the growing appeal of “nationalism”, domestic and abroad, racial and socio-economic.  It’s noxious on multiple fronts.  When we become narrowly focused on what God has for us and/or what’s best for us, it’s easy to forget how broad and wide His love is toward all (John 3:16).  He not only sent his Son to die for “us” but for “them” as well. Even those whom the spirit of nationalism would tell us are our enemies.

1 John 2:2 (ESV)

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 Timothy 2 (ESV)

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

In modern times, our economic, racial, and cultural interests often pose the same moral threats that Jonah faced in his heart toward the Ninevites.

Ultimately, we fight and argue with one another, because we’re each at war within ourselves.   Our flesh always seeks to elevate self above others – self-fulfillment, self-pride, self-justification, self-preservation, self-interest.  Do the above terms not define the very essence of hyper-nationalism?   As Jesus half-brother James said….

James 4 (ESV)

Warning Against Worldliness

4 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions[a] are at war within you?[bYou desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people![c]Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

The recent tragedy in Charlottesville, VA is a sobering reminder of that.

“Our” solar eclipse (August 21, 2017)
On August 21st a total solar Eclipse will run it’s course, crossing America.  It will start near Portland, Oregon and finishing near Charleston, SC.  Rare in occurrence (specifically total solar Eclipses), the last time one was viewable across a significant part of the U.S. was 1932.

As the light of the sun will be temporarily blocked by moon, I find hope in the fact that it’s only temporary.  In much the same way, I find hope in knowing that the light of Christ always overcomes darkness.



[1] https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-history

[2] http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-education-of-a-prophet-jonah

[3] http://www.spiritualmanna.info/nationalism/


Expectant prayer

“There is a kind of false piety that says we shouldn’t look for answers to prayer, we should just pray and leave it to God.  That’s not bible prayer.  Bible prayer says go and look!  If we’re praying for rain then look for rain.  We’re told to ‘watch and pray’. That watching implies that your looking for something to happen.”  David Pawson

Recently, I was listening to a sermon by one of my favorite bible teachers, David Pawson. The comment above, from his sermon, made me want to learn about an old parable-like story that he briefly referred to.  It challenged me to rethink my prayer life. When I pray (according to God’s will), am I expecting to see change come about? Am I praying with faith that is expectant?  With a little google mining I was able to dig up the story he referred to in his sermon.  It really drives the point home.  I pray that it both blesses and challenges you as it did for me:

“The fields were parched and brown from lack of rain, and the crops lay wilting from thirst.  People were anxious and irritable as they searched the sky for any sign of relief. Days turned into arid weeks.  No rain came.

The ministers of the local churches called for an hour of prayer on the town square the following Saturday.  They requested that everyone bring an object of faith for inspiration.

At high noon on the appointed Saturday the townspeople turned out en masse, filling the square with anxious faces and hopeful hearts.  The ministers were touched to see the variety of objects clutched in prayerful hands – holy books, crosses, rosaries.

When the hour ended, as if on magical command, a soft rain began to fall. Cheers swept the crowd as they held their treasured objects high in gratitude and praise. From the middle of the crowd one faith symbol seemed to overshadow all the others. A small nine-year old child had brought an umbrella.” (1)

There’s one story from the gospels (book of Mark) that has always captivated and haunted me from the first time I recall reading it.  It’s the story of Jesus performing miracles in his hometown of Nazareth.  Momentarily, observers were praising his incredible wisdom and power to perform miracles.  And yet, moments later they began to question his “true identity” and power:

  • Mark 6:3
    Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.

    The verses that follow are sobering:

  • Mark 6:5-6
    Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.

    Lord, help me to return to the faith of a child.  Give us the faith of the little girl who showed up to the prayer meeting, for rain, expectant, with an umbrella.

    “Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of faith is to see what we believe.” – Saint Augustine

    Grace and peace….


1) Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Aubery, Nancy Mitchell Auto and LeAnn Thieman Jack Canfield (2006). A Taste of Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul: Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirit. Health Communicaions, Inc.

A powerful conversation on race

Listen to this:


The conversation in this podcast is like no other I’ve heard, read, or contemplated regarding race in America in some time.  There are at least fifty blogs worth of fortified, deep conversation embedded within.

Here’s one thing to chew on…..

Perhaps this conversation is so refreshingly unique, because the perspectives and experiences of those sharing their viewpoints are so disparate.  They vary greatly – featuring a musical artist with a Southern Baptist fundamentalist background, who found that God and the “gospel” are far bigger than he thought. A Christian rapper from L.A. who grew up in hispanic culture, but finds much in common with a Neo-Reformed crowd.  A young man who grew up in the black church, but comfortably performs charismatic-type spontaneous worship music before predominately white audiences.  Yes, waving praise banners and the whole nine.  LOL.  What?!  As I’ve heard Tim Keller allude to before, (taking creative license to paraphrase here)……..

God was infinitely wise enough to hide a bit of his glory, revelation, and character within each culture.  In the messy process of fellowship, we discover the real definition of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.

I won’t say anymore.  Just listen.

What does it mean? – Ephesians 5:25-27

Edited by: Leslyn Kim and Dana Curle

I’m starting a new ongoing series called – “What does it mean?” The plan is to take bible verses that use unfamiliar or complex language and research what it means. We’ve all read them or heard them before, scriptures or portions of scripture that require a leap of faith in personal interpretation. Phrases, or ideas that are not 100% clear upon first read. There are two solutions when this occurs. We can mentally cut out that particular section of the text and ignore it and risk losing the full meaning. Or, we can choose to simplify its meaning to match our level of understanding.

Ephesians 5:25-27, is the most recent one that I’ve come across.

The broader context of the chapter is an appeal to walk in holiness and righteousness before the Lord. Paul is emphatically appealing to the church in Ephesus to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but instead to walk in the light of Christ.
In verses twenty-five through twenty-seven he transitions into what that looks like for husband and wife relationships.

Ephesians 5
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

The first part of verse twenty-five is relatively straightforward. Christ died for our sins that we might be forgiven, righteous in his sight. The middle portion, “cleansing her by the washing with water through the word”, doesn’t seem as easy to understand. What does cleansing by the washing with water really mean? And how does one wash with water through the word? What does “word” mean here, the bible, Jesus – who’s referred to the Word in Hebrews?

Cleansing her by the washing with water
Mikveh – is a Hebraic tradition by which immersion in water is used to signify a rebirth. It’s a ritual that signifies a crossing over from and old chapter of life to the new. Sound familiar? Yes! Mikveh, in Jewish culture was the precursor to baptism. An outward spiritual sign of an internal conversion, where the old man is put to death and a new creation emerges (If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation..).

The same ritual is still practiced today in orthodox Jewish culture today. A bride prior to marriage is expected to perform a special mikveh just before the marriage ceremony, marking a transition from single life into that of holy matrimony with her new husband. In doing, she briefly bathes in water (natural or man-made sources) in preparation for her new life and commitment.

Through the Word
The term the “The Word” takes on different meanings in scripture. Sometimes it refers to Christ, at other times it refers to scripture. In this particular instance it’s referring to the rhema Word. The active, living Word of God spoken to us in the present form.

The word of God, as it’s spoken to us now, has a purifying and cleansing effect.
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. – John 15:3

It’s God’s will that we would be sanctified by the continual leading and guiding into all truth by the Holy Spirit (John 16:1-15)

Practical application for marriage
Christ not only saved us, sealed us for eternity, but in the present he continually sanctifies us through continual cleansing of his present Word for our lives today. The challenge to myself and others is to live out our lives in Christ-glorifying way in marriage. Loving our wives as Christ loved us, and loving our wives as we love ourselves (as the text goes on to explain) is an everyday act of obedience. One way to achieve that is to cover (wash) our wives daily in life yielding words that lead them closer to Christ, seeing to it that their sanctification and seeking God’s will for their lives is just as paramount as it is for us. Similar to a mikvah, this daily “washing” with words of wisdom and encouragement can have a purifying affect on both the person and the relationship.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – Ephesians 5:28-29






Artist Spotlight: Liz Vice – Placing Christianity on the cutting edge of culture

“Once darkness was our guide
without hope and only night (Isaiah 42:16)
We heard the call and turned to you
Now the veil and been removed (Hebrews 10:20)

Jesus we will throw away our lives to follow you (Matthew 4:20)
Struggling in your strength, resting in your truth (Psalm 73:26)
Jesus, you’re so beautiful, you give vision to the blind (John 9:25)
You in us, the hope of glory, in you we will abide (Colossians 1:27)

Though the body waste away
Inside we’re renewed, as you remain (2 Corinthians 4:16)
The hope of glory far outweighs
The light affliction of our days (Romans 8:18)

Jesus we will throw away our lives to follow you
Struggling in your strength, resting in your truth
Jesus, you’re so beautiful, you give vision to the blind
You in us, the hope of glory, in You we will abide

With hope for tomorrow
We fight through today
With energy and happy word (?)
We lift our hands and say
The mystery is known
Jesus you’re on the throne
Darkness is overthrown
Help us to make you known
To make you known”

Liz Vice – Abide Lyrics | MetroLyrics

The above lyrics indeed read like a prayer (see the interview below).  You’ll rarely hear rich lyrics like these on Christian radio. They simply don’t fit the mold of typical radio play. In some sense, Christian radio often parrots secular pop music, communicating to the lowest common denominator.  Not necessarily in a demeaning fashion, but with lyrics and melodies that are easy to understand at first take.  In the same way, simple lyrics often permeate pop music airways, telling the most basic of stories, leaving listeners with a keen ear wanting for something beyond the mundane, wanting more. Perhaps it plays into the spirit of anti-intellectualism that tends to permeate modern culture and some sectors of American Christianity.

Enter Liz Vice, who turns typical gospel music on it’s head.  Her new album, “There’s a Light”, breaks through cultural barriers and shines new light on what gospel music could be without the preconceived ideas of what it’s supposed to be.  Vice’s indirect entry into gospel music may very well be the reason for her unique sound.  It’s out-of-bounds for most gospel music in a number of ways: One Song Interview.  Almost “beyond the pale”.

Not only is the production as strong as typical secular music, but the tunes are catchy and melodic.  It’s good from beginning to end.  No need to skip tracks.

Whereas most secular music was born out of gospel, blues, and jazz, Vice enters from the opposite direction.  Using gospel music as the base (lyrically), she re-infuses smoky, gritty, blues and soul music back in.  As odd as Christian blues may sound, it works. Incredibly well.

Her lyrics are thoughtful, wise, and challenging.  Her voice is retro-soulful.  Each song is  jam-packed with uplifting and scriptural-driven themes with very little filler.  Her sound is a breath of fresh air.

Why can’t we have it all?  Great music, and great lyrics that challenge the listener to think and engage beyond surface level themes.  Liz Vice offers a solution.

Have a listen, you won’t regret it.


The gulf of righteous indignation between #Charleston and #SCOTUS

The bible says that Lot was deeply distressed by the evil that he witnessed around him (http://biblehub.com/2_peter/2-7.htm). To get a full account of how deep and varied that evil was you must read more than one book of the bible to get the full story (http://biblehub.com/niv/genesis/19.htm, http://biblehub.com/ezekiel/16-49.htm). In the same way, the evangelical church often projects half-truths to the world around them, by not fully acknowledging the complexity of sinfulness in the world. As the old idiom goes – “Half the truth is often a whole lie”. We eagerly acknowledge some sins around us that are abominations, while ignoring the complexity and depth of abominable sins found in more broad/sweeping lists like those “hiding” in Proverbs 6:16-19:  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs%206:16-19. Many are deeply ingrained and historically rooted in dominate culture. Tragically, at times they’ve even found a home in the church. These sins include racism, greed (which the bible calls idolatry – violation of first commandment), and unjust war. All of them implicated in Proverbs 6:16-19.

A more recent example of this is the number of Christian leaders and parishoners who understandably addressed their serious concern for recent events like the SCOTUS decision from blogs to social media. I can appreciate that. However, only one week prior, many failed to equally and objectively address the Charleston tragedy. Even more disheartening, few (esp. evangelical Christian leaders) attempted to address the long-standing and unreconciled sins of America’s past and present that informed the perpetrator. I’m afraid that until we stop telling these luke-warm narratives by selectively expressing our deep distress over sin, we’ll continue to look like heroes from within, but too often Pharisaic to the outside world. If a lying tongue is an abomination we have some soul searching to do in the body of Christ. Now, someone, anyone, can reply “preach”, but sadly this don’t preach much in evangelicalism.

I suspect it doesn’t, because it casts a long shadow of conviction over us all.

Thank God for his grace that extends to us all.  Blessings.

Placing Christianity on the leading edge of culture.


Edited By: Leslyn Kim

A number of thoughts ran through my mind as I read through this article in the AtlanticHow Sufjan Stevens Subverts the Stigma of Christian Music”.

One statement in particular not only made me laugh out loud, but also caused me to reflect on what it truly means to be a Christian witness as it relates to creating art:

Here the Atlantic describes Steven’s work as “representing a different camp of “Christian art,” with completely different motives and characteristics, he’s distinct among other artists of faith, who tend to produce bad, kitschy work—whether heavy-handed films like Facing the Giants and Fireproof, or the musical travesties on the Wow compilation albums.”

What constitutes “Christian art”?  
To be a Christian artist, do you have to create art saturated with faith themes, and deemphasized aesthetics, or can you simply make art which simply speaks to the person you have become as a follower of Christ?

N.T. Wright defines it this way……..
“to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology … a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity.”

The “Fireproof”, and “God is Not Dead” brand of Christian movies are meaningful to a certain audience within evangelicalism.  I stuff those movies into one giant box labeled self-affirming, Christian patriotism. When it comes to movies, I dig certain aspects of that nationalistic attitude, while still wondering how much of an evangelistic turn-off it is to the outside world. In reality, the vast majority of people probably find simple joy in watching a movie that’s not trashy, that has a uplifting message–something the whole family can watch.

Most of Christian radio does not fit into that category.  My gripe is with the idea that Christians can’t create songs with catchy tunes, or ultra-creative aesthetically beautiful art, because it too closely mirrors vain worldly ambitions centered around beauty, material or immaterial.

It’s easy to say, why should we care?  However, that begs the question why shouldn’t we?  The article from the Atlantic reveals that I’m not the only one who sees it this way.

That brings me to conclude why I decided to pen this strange blog.  To introduce a new artists that shatters every stereotype I mentioned above.  Somehow, she seems to embody everything the evangelical world could improve upon.  A more authentic and bold expression of faith that still emphasizes what we unabashedly declare with our mouths, but places the chief emphasis on a life story that reflects the work of the Masters hands.  In this particular case, the life story is told through music.  I believe it’s this type of life that people see. And in their observation it speaks volumes.

“Let your light so shine that others may see your good works, and glorify your father in heaven.”  – Matthew 5:16

Stay tuned for the next blog….



“God’s grace is the most incredible and insurmountable truth ever to be revealed to the human heart, which is why God has given us His Holy Spirit to superintend the process of more fully revealing the majesty of the work done on our behalf by our Savior. He teaches us to first cling to, and then enables us to adore with the faith He so graciously supplies, the mercy of God. This mercy has its cause and effect in the work of Jesus on the cross.
― John Bunyan