Zachary Bright

The Wonder of it All


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Jack’s DOGmatic Reflections

home image9 1:16

the Word of God is more precious tha gold

O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
— Psalm 34:8 (NRSV)

…if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
— 1 Peter 2:3 (NRSV)

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
— Psalm 119:103 (NRSV)

More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.
— Psalm 19:10 (NRSV)

Jack Lewis, the Bible Study Dog (BSD), is an avid bibliophile, a lover of books. We had been scanning the horizon, looking for the arrival of our book order, when one day my wife Terry, brought in at the end of the day, a ripped-up package, that contained a book. Apparently, the mail-person had chucked our book order over the fence, and on to the lawn, which as far as Jack was concerned, placed the projectile clearly in his “wheelhouse”, on the BSD’s “plate”, so to speak. Doubtless, the damage to the package came from the Bible Study Dog’s attempts to drag the package to safety, knowing that the timed sprinkler would come on and damage our long-anticipated book order. But just to show you the respect that Jack has for books, the book itself was totally undamaged.

I buy most of my books on my Kindle; it’s cheaper and it saves room. Sometimes though, only a hard copy will do, or maybe the book is not out as an ebook yet. Jack, however, prefers the hard copy; I think the way he put it was, “something you can sink your teeth into.” The Bible Study Dog is nothing, if not earnest, in his participation in my theological studies.

Recently, Jack has been interested in drawing together, in a meaningful whole, his scattered biblical insights. Hence his interest in theology, the study of God, who for the BSD, is often revealed through Jack’s relationship with me. I am trying to exercise some of the care of creation that God assigned to humankind (Genesis 1:26-28), through my life with Jack Lewis. Also, I have a little sign that someone gave me, that reads: “I want to be the person my dog thinks I am.”

The Bible Study Dog especially enjoys the theology that draws on biblical theology, historical theology, and God’s revelation of himself in creation and redemption, DOGmatic Theology. This is for at least two reasons: 1) the word “dog” in the title, helps Jack feel included; and 2) the size of many dogmatics volumes are impressive. Just looking at some of the dogmatics books on the shelves behind me: “Church Dogmatics” (I have seven of them), by Karl Barth; “Systematic Theology”, two volumes (1997), by Robert W. Jenson; “The Institutes of the Christian Religion”, two volumes, by John Calvin; The “Christian Foundations” series, seven volumes, by Donald G. Bloesch; four volumes so far by Michael Horton; five volumes by Emil Bruner; several single volume Presbyterian theologies; and more. My favorite right now is probably the Jenson volumes.

As so often, the BSD has an important insight. Even though culinary interests are not in view, we do taste (in a spiritual way) the reality of God and the wonder of the Word (Bible). From this I take two understandings: 1) encounter with God in worship or Word can be a pleasure, even greater then physical pleasure; and 2) we don’t eat physical food just once a week or once a month, but we eat every day. Daily feeding on the Word, and worshiping our Creator-Redeemer, help us to grow spiritually, to grow to be more like Jesus.

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This post was powered by the album, “Hope’s Not Giving Up” (2016) by Remedy Drive and the album, “Vittles and Valentines” (2016) by Rebecca Loebe.

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“Songs For Christmas” (2014) by Branches – A Recommendation

Branches Songs For Christmas

I have one more Christmas gift for you: “Songs For Christmas” by Branches. The sheer joy in making music is what strikes me most about this album. The more I listen to it, the more details of instrumentation, arrangement and sense of rhythm, of being “in the pocket”, I find. Care, creativity and attention to detail are in evidence throughout. The vocals give the album an Indy feel. All the songs are spiritual rather than secular. I regret that I am only making this post the day before Christmas. However, you may follow the Church year, in which Advent is observed in the four weeks before Christmas Day, and then Christmas is celebrated for awhile after Christmas Day (remember “The Twelve Days of Christmas”?). Or you may want to download the album in preparation for next Christmas. Maybe you are one of those happy souls who celebrate Christmas in your heart all year long. In any case, you can (and should) download the album for free (though tips are appreciated) at noisetrade.com. They also have an EP and a single at noisetrade. You can also download “Songs For Christmas” and other Branches offerings at Itunes. I booked bands for a music venue/coffee house from 2008 through 2011 and some members of Branches performed there. If you have a music venue in Southern California, consider inviting Branches to perform.

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Like Branches on Facebook and download “Songs For Christmas” at: http://noisetrade.com/soundslikebranches/songs-for-christmas

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This post was powered by the CD, “Songs For Christmas” (2014) by Branches, of course!


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Reflections About My Father

Bill Bright portrait

Today is Father’s Day. I had a wonderful father: Bill Bright (Oct.19, 1921 – July 19, 2003). Along with his wife and my mother, Vonette Bright, he founded and led Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru). I want to say some things about my dad. This is not a balanced memoir, just some things that I want to say. Many people, possibly most, will want to uphold other parts of my dad’s life and character.

One characteristic way that Dad and I spent time together was editing his articles, messages or book chapters. This was a ‘twofer’ for him: he could spend time with me and continue to work. Dad would hand me pages from what he was working on and tell me to write in the margins, circle or underline, or even cross words out. Mostly, I was trying to come up with the most accurate and culturally resonate way of speaking. It became an incorrigible habit for me to this day. I am almost constantly coining phrases, looking for more daring images, turning ideas on their heads and smashing disparate themes together. I especially try to find images or phrases that carry a logic within them such that they will slowly burn within people and prepare the way for acknowledging the truth of the gospel of God’s kingdom. We call this planting seeds: the seeds have life within themselves which we hope will bear fruit later.

The Dad that I love, is the Dad of his book “Revolution Now” (oops!, now the IRS will target me) and the committed band of cadres, infiltrating every part of culture for Christ. He is the one who could recite a long passage from famed Scottish preacher John Stewart and memorized passages of Scripture with his family. I recall memorizing Ephesians, 1 Corinthians 13, Matthew 28:18-20, John 15, parts of John 14-17, some verses from Proverbs and other passages.

Let me tell two stories about my Dad for now. We were on a family vacation in Hawaii and he and I were floating in the water off Waikiki beach. Dad had a perforated ear drum and was not to get his head wet, so he was floating in a plastic tube. Dad was witnessing to the good news of God’s love to a man we met out in the water. This was so characteristic of him; compassion for people drove him to let few opportunities to introduce people to Jesus to pass by. However Dad’s tube sprung a leak so that he scrunched up the plastic around the leak in order to slow the loss of air. He wanted to continue to give a witness to Jesus for as long as he could. Needless to say, I watched with alarm as air continued to escape and Dad floated lower in the water.

My Dad was culturally conservative about some things. Cru’s music groups would push the envelope, so to speak, and Dad and others would pull them back to conservative earth. You know from some of my other posts that I was a rocker and still am. One day my Dad and I were talking widely about culture. I told him that many people today carry a musical sound track in their heads which makes a particular narrative or worldview plausible or implausible to them. Also, music carries a powerful emotional punch. Whoever creates the most intriguing, evocative, excellent and memorable music wins the music wars and potentially the hearts and minds of many people. Dad could have the music he liked and was comfortable with or he could “win”, I said. Dad thought only for a moment, and then said, “I would rather win”. At least at that moment, as God is my witness, that was his choice! But surely for him that would have been an insight hard to keep in view in the face of music that was disturbing to him and his generation.

The longer I live, the more I see in Dad that was so right. So many of my values, preferences and ways of living I ‘caught’ from my Dad. We still don’t agree on everything, unless of course, he has now seen the truth in heaven (ha, ha).

In January 2003, I visited my parents in Orlando, FL. for about two weeks. My Dad was very ill by then but very active and alert. Occasionally, he would get out of bed and dress for dinner. As usual, I was helping to edit a book and a couple of articles for him. I served communion to my parents every night. When people would call or visit my dad, he would always say, “I’m rejoicing!” On April 1st, I became ill and bed-ridden in California. Dad phoned me every day. Two men separated by a continent talking with so much in common until about 3 days before Dad graduated to the Church Triumphant on July 19, 2003. I think about his amazing qualities and commitments almost every day.