Manifesto Statement

We were given Scripture as a divine instrument to become like Jesus.

Path Point Contributors:
Edward Sun · Emily Fernando ·  Jeff Liou · Michelle Ami Reyes · Mondo Scott · Salena Marie Scott · Travia Forte

Art By:

Artist

Edward Sun

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Reflection | Inspiration

Welcome to StoryArc  
Issue 03: Scripture

Travia Forte

Travia Forte

Travia Forte has an AA in Radio, Television, and Film and Humanities/Fine Art. She is currently an undergrad at Biola University where she studies Broadcast Journalism and Biblical Studies.

Travia Forte

Travia Forte

Travia Forte has an AA in Radio, Television, and Film and Humanities/Fine Art. She is currently an undergrad at Biola University where she studies Broadcast Journalism and Biblical Studies.

Story | Inspiration

Receiving the Transforming Gift of God's Word

Jeff Liou

Jeff Liou

Jeff loves ministry with and for young adults. Since 2001, Jeff has worked with college students and young adults in campus ministry, the local church, and as a university chaplain. He studied theology at Fuller Seminary (PhD, ’17) in order to better serve and reach both young people and the ideas and institutions that shape them. Jeff is a mediocre musician and woodworker. A child of Taiwanese immigrant parents, he’s a husband to Lisa, father to a high schooler and a middle schooler, and human to their dog, Shadow. Jeff is taken captive by Christ for ordained ministry in the Christian Reformed Church of North America.

Jeff Liou

Jeff Liou

Jeff loves ministry with and for young adults. Since 2001, Jeff has worked with college students and young adults in campus ministry, the local church, and as a university chaplain. He studied theology at Fuller Seminary (PhD, ’17) in order to better serve and reach both young people and the ideas and institutions that shape them. Jeff is a mediocre musician and woodworker. A child of Taiwanese immigrant parents, he’s a husband to Lisa, father to a high schooler and a middle schooler, and human to their dog, Shadow. Jeff is taken captive by Christ for ordained ministry in the Christian Reformed Church of North America.

God just seems really immature!

I could feel my face turning red as my body responded to my classmate’s comment. I was in my first-year college English class, and I was excited to study the Bible as literature. I can’t remember the passage we were studying or the classmate who said it. I can only remember feeling responsible for defending God’s reputation in front of my skeptical classmates, and feeling frustration for not knowing how to respond.

In that moment, my body was responding to the offense I took at the challenge to my presumptions about religion and academic conversation. Bottom line: I was used to being in the majority.  I think young Christians now know much better than I did then: we are not.

When we receive God’s Word as a gift of love, we are able to better see and understand Scripture as a divine instrument that molds and sanctifies us to become more like Jesus.In late 2020, I came across a young TikTok creator and self-described “non-religious 20-something” giving her daily take on her first time reading through the Bible, beginning in Genesis. My face turned red–again. This time, however, it was because of the cringey comments from Christians (also Gen Z, and of many different ethno-racial backgrounds), prompting this creator to repeatedly ask them to stop trying to convert her. She exhibited a lot of grace under pressure.

At best, these well-intended, over-enthusiastic commenters were excited at the possibility that God’s love would break through to a first-time reader of the Bible. Unfortunately, the Bible-thumping failed to demonstrate the love of God to someone going at her own pace.

Christians have used the Bible in some really damaging ways. I’m sure you can think of at least a few examples of catastrophic uses of the Bible in Christian history, and maybe even in your own experience. It seems apt to call them “uses” because they place the user’s own priorities in the foreground. In the first snapshot, I treated the Bible as a territory to defend. In the second, people were using the Bible like a jackhammer to crack open hearts. To be clear, the Bible itself describes God’s Word as a “good deposit” that should be stewarded carefully (2 Tim. 1:14) and as a sharp sword that can separate things that are not easily pulled apart (Heb. 4:12). Both of these descriptions place God in the foreground, as well as the effects of the Bible upon us.

When we receive God’s Word as a gift of love, we are able to better see and understand Scripture as a divine instrument that molds and sanctifies us to become more like Jesus.

Receiving Jesus in All of Scripture

I have had the privilege of walking alongside young adults and congregation members who have endured horrors none of us ever should. I am inspired by the way they have made it through. I give God the praise when these individuals credit God’s sustaining Spirit for their survival and eventual flourishing. But nothing stops me in my tracks like the Spirit’s gift of the kind of forgiveness that releases us from anger–especially justified anger–that traps us emotionally, spiritually, and physically in a spiral of anguish.

Hearing that someone has found the freedom of forgiveness always reminds me of the Jesus we read about in the Scripture. There, we read about a liberator who could not have been more free to love, and a lover who could have not been more powerful to liberate.  

This Jesus–lover, liberator, Lord of the universe, and second person of the Trinity–is the center of it all. The four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the texts that give us accounts of Jesus’s birth, life, teaching, healing, crucifixion, and resurrection. Reading and meditating on just the four Gospels would probably give us a lifetime of contemplation. But it would also be a grave oversight.

When I say that Jesus is the center of it all, I mean that even the texts that come before the Gospels (the Old Testament) eagerly anticipate a Messiah who would usher in God’s righteous reign and rule over the earth. The four Gospel-writers tap directly into that hope so that every detail of Jesus’ time on earth can be read as a fulfillment of the deepest desire of God’s people. The texts that come after the gospels grapple with the status-quo-shattering revelation that the one we’ve been waiting for is a carpenter-rabbi who almost no one correctly identified as the King of Creation.

In order to know who Jesus is – his character, his humor, his earthly and spiritual family, his love for and unity with God and the Spirit, his power, his heavenly reign, his future personal return – we meditate on all of Scripture.
Much more than organizing our weekly rituals, receiving the good news of Jesus Christ re-orders everything. I want to focus on the word receiving. Jesus repeatedly refers to the way in which he, his gospel, and his disciples were received (Matt. 10:14, 40; Mark 6:11, 10:15; Luke 8:13, 9:48; John 1:11, 12:48). When I use the word Scripture, I am referring to these authoritative writings we receive regarding this Jesus whom we follow, his unity with the Father and the Spirit, his liberating Way in the world, and his sacrificial love for us.

As described above, all of Scripture is about Jesus. In order to know who Jesus is–his character, his humor, his earthly and spiritual family, his love for and unity with God and the Spirit, his power, his heavenly reign, his future personal return–we meditate on all of Scripture. In fact, forsaking the hope of the people of Israel has led to dangerous anti-Judaistic and even anti-Semitic attitudes in Christian history. Reading the Old Testament in order to know how Jesus fulfills the hopes of God’s people is crucial. Jesus was Israel’s Messiah. That makes him the key to understanding everything we read.

While there are many words in the Christian Scripture through which we get to know Jesus, the Gospel of John teaches that Jesus is the Word (John 1:1-4). John taps into the Jewish imagination, recalling that in Genesis 1 God created the cosmos by speaking. And every time God speaks in the Bible, that same creative power rushes forth to accomplish good and gracious purposes. So, for Jesus to be the Word of God makes him Wisdom incarnate in whose body “the whole fullness of deity dwells” (Col. 2:9). This incarnate Word turned water into wine, restored the sick to their families and communities, and taught with a kind of authority that “comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.”

The loving wholeness and goodness that flowed from him then is what compels me to love and follow him now. In fact, the night before Jesus gave his life on the cross, he dined with his disciples one last time. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” he says. Jesus’s teaching and example flow directly from who he is as the Word, united with God and the Spirit. When we shape our lives after the self-sacrificial, enemy-loving, justice-pursuing, God-worshiping life of Jesus, we truly live.

Receiving Jesus in and through Others

Indeed, in some Christian spiritual traditions (e.g. Ignatian spirituality), directors talk about spiritual progress, or journey toward or away from intimacy with Jesus and Christlikeness. Yet the very basic question, “Who is Jesus?” is not answered simply by reading the red letters in your Bible. This is perhaps nowhere more the case than when it comes to our endless political strife. Competing depictions of Jesus and selective hearing of the words of Scripture lead people who call themselves Christians to very different ways of life.

All of these people, including you and I, are people in the process of becoming. To the extent that we give ourselves over to this Jesus we meet in the Gospels, to his way, to his family described throughout the whole Bible, the Spirit of God is remaking all this mess into God’s people by God’s Word. Apart from giving ourselves over to God’s Word, we would not know the shape of this people, its character, its composition, its songs, its loves, or its future hope in Christ’s return. To give ourselves over to God by meditating together on the same words Jesus loved, and the testimonies about Jesus, our Lord, is to open ourselves up to wrestle with those who are trying to do the same. This is perhaps most apropos of this fractured and painful age in which we live. Many of us feel like Elijah did in 1 Kings 18. We feel alone, like we’re the only ones in our communities trying to find a faithful way in the wilderness.  

This is how I feel most days.

Yet our process of becoming is not about purifying our friendship groups, our ideologies, or our strategies. If it were about purity and gate-keeping, Jesus would not have joined himself by baptism to such faithless, faltering, fallible, finite people as we see in the disciples, nor would he have joined himself to us who call on him by faith. Instead, we shape our lives to be like Jesus who is gracious and graceful while “giving no quarter to injustice.” I can’t recall anything more difficult in my time in ministry.

All of these people, including you and I, are people in the process of becoming. To the extent that we give ourselves over to this Jesus we meet in the Gospels, to his way, to his family described throughout the whole Bible, the Spirit of God is remaking all this mess into God’s people by God’s Word.
We continue to fracture and divide. Strident voices please crowds that applaud them as “prophets.” What if the raucous audiences we’re a part of are making the mistake of asking for a new kind of oppressive regent (1 Sam. 8:6), or what if our ears are merely itching for what we want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3). What makes us less susceptible to these pitfalls than the people we deem to be dupes? What if our characterization of Jesus is shaped more by our own againstness and less by the Scripture. How would we know if we’re becoming more like a concocted messiah of our imagination instead of like the Jesus who came to redeem God’s people?

I’m not sure I can answer all those questions fully in this short article. But I want to be clear about this: We give up on becoming like Jesus when we give up on the people he came to love. That’s easy to say, of course, so let me be honest about how I feel about that. Jesus inspires me and I feel dismay at how much this requires of me. There’s a reason why Jesus’ nonviolent love for enemies has largely been left untried and found wanting. Becoming like Jesus is the exception, not the rule for human beings.

So, I joined two small groups after a long drought of Christian community. The first small group is a refreshing drink of sameness. We are mostly highly educated BIPOC, and lean progressive. The second small group is a spoonful of nourishing difference. With the exception of me and one other, the group of men is comprised of evangelicals over the age of 65. The first group of my peers fills my lungs with laughter and my heart with comfort. The second group of my elders fills my mind with new-to-me stories of God’s faithfulness, and tugs my ears to listen better. The two groups speak of Jesus in very different ways, and are making me more like Him.

To be in the process of becoming is to persist in relationships across differences. Otherwise, we cease becoming when we behave as if the transforming, disrupting, Spirit of New Creation is not, in fact, everywhere present or for all people. [3]

How We Receive

I don’t think I could ever be mistaken for a gym rat, and I know that exercise analogies exclude those of us who don’t even lift. But the letter to the Hebrews uses this phrase - “trained by practice” - that I just can’t get away from (5:14). This word for training is the one from which we derive our word, gymnasium. Becoming like Jesus, at least for Jewish minds in the first century, had something to do with training and discipline. Additionally, the word for practice (hexis) occurs only here in Hebrews and is the word that theologians working in Latin would have known as habitus, from which we get our notion of habits.  

Habits are formed by those practices, people and values we love and lean into until it becomes second nature. If you’re at the beginning of the process of becoming like Jesus (and even if you’re not), here’s a few suggestions:.

  • Audit your routine and observe Jesus’:  What practices, people, and values do you love and lean into as a matter of course?  When you read about Jesus, what do you observe about his loves?
  • Check your nutrition: When you make a decision about how to live, who or what do you consult first? If it’s the words that Jesus loved, obeyed and fulfilled, read even more deeply and meditate on it with a community that will encourage you to do well.
  • Increase resistance: Jesus came for the afflicted. Follow him to places where others are resisting oppressive powers and the appeal of comfort.
  • Rest on purpose: Sunday isn’t just a fun day for the people of God. Jesus taught and healed on the Sabbath to show that people will be freed for the eternal rest of the people of God.  Practicing the rhythms of bodily and spiritual rest shape us for that destiny.


We give up on becoming like Jesus when we give up on the people he came to love.
Both Old and New Testaments have so much to say about all of this and more. In the final analysis, you can gauge your process of becoming like Christ by Jesus’ own words: “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27) If Jesus, the Word of God, is the one from whom you want to hear, the one who’s voice draws you in and sends you out, and you know this voice because of your habit formation from attending to the Scripture, “you will receive that your joy may be complete” (John 16:24, emphasis added).

1. This is referred to as “supersessionism.”
2. Theologians have called this “logos theology.” Logos is Greek for “word.” Since as early as the second century, this theology has inspired many, many volumes of writing.
3. I hesitate to put this in a footnote instead of the body of the article, but I need to make this tangential comment somewhere. I cannot prescribe persistence.  Persistence across difference is a gift of the Spirit. As a matter of fact, I have sat down to catch my breath, nurse my wounds, and taken many breaks when the marathon gets too difficult.  I refuse to be shamed for knowing my own limitations in Christian community. Some folks are too much for me to deal with. At the exact same time, Jesus ever stands before me as the Prince of Peace and great Reconciler.  I am fine with the fact that I am not Jesus, but he never stops shining.

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Poetry | Reflection

Biblical History of a Pastor’s Wife

Salena Marie Scott

Salena Marie Scott

In the beginning of adulthood, Salena muzzled her artistry, worked in the stock market, married a pastor and had a daughter. She then crawled through severe illness for a decade. In her 11th hour, Jesus gave her a seed of hope. Since then, she has been on a journey of unmasking the poet that God made her to be and finding healing through sharing her story. In her spare time, Salena likes to write poetry published in her orange journal and play piano for her houseplants. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband Mondo, her daughter Selah, her enemy Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and her companion Holy Spirit. See more of Salena's work at www.salenamariescott.com

Salena Marie Scott

Salena Marie Scott

In the beginning of adulthood, Salena muzzled her artistry, worked in the stock market, married a pastor and had a daughter. She then crawled through severe illness for a decade. In her 11th hour, Jesus gave her a seed of hope. Since then, she has been on a journey of unmasking the poet that God made her to be and finding healing through sharing her story. In her spare time, Salena likes to write poetry published in her orange journal and play piano for her houseplants. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband Mondo, her daughter Selah, her enemy Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and her companion Holy Spirit. See more of Salena's work at www.salenamariescott.com

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*Image scan of Salena’s first Bible.

Art By:

Artist

Mondo Scott

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Mondo Scott is a co-founder of PAX and served as its creative director for five years. His other creative side hustles include design, photography and mentoring urban youth in the digital arts at AMP Los Angeles, where he serves on the Board of Directors. He also serves on the pastoral team at Ecclesia Hollywood in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife Salena and daughter Selah.

Art By:

Artist

Emily Fernando

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Michelle Ami Reyes

Michelle Ami Reyes

Michelle Reyes (PhD) is the Co-Executive Director of Pax and the Vice President of the Asian American Christian Collaborative. She is also the Scholar-in-Residence at Hope Community Church, a minority-led multicultural church in East Austin, Texas, where her husband, Aaron, serves as lead pastor. Michelle's work on faith and culture has been featured in Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, Missio Alliance, Faithfully Magazine and more. Her forthcoming book on cross-cultural relationships is called Becoming All Things: How Small Changes Lead to Lasting Connections Across Cultures (Zondervan; April 27, 2021). Follow Michelle on Twitter and Instagram.

Michelle Ami Reyes

Michelle Ami Reyes

Michelle Reyes (PhD) is the Co-Executive Director of Pax and the Vice President of the Asian American Christian Collaborative. She is also the Scholar-in-Residence at Hope Community Church, a minority-led multicultural church in East Austin, Texas, where her husband, Aaron, serves as lead pastor. Michelle's work on faith and culture has been featured in Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, Missio Alliance, Faithfully Magazine and more. Her forthcoming book on cross-cultural relationships is called Becoming All Things: How Small Changes Lead to Lasting Connections Across Cultures (Zondervan; April 27, 2021). Follow Michelle on Twitter and Instagram.

Visuals, whether on a canvas or  within the vastness of nature, have an incredible ability to inspire us to a greater meaning of God and his word. Art, in all its forms, is a medium for God to speak to us. Are we listening?

For the Scripture StoryArc, Pax interviewed 58 college students and asked them the questions: What word or image comes to mind when you think about Scripture? Some of the answers included, “A tree upon a hill with salty sea waves calmed,” “dried flowers coming back to life,” and “stillness.” Others offered one-word answers, such as shalom, sacred, promise, stillness, love, safety, comfort, and peace. We then commissioned the artist, Emily Fernando, a Gen Z college student herself, who brought these words and ideas together into a beautiful illustration.

We want to encourage you to spend some time with this image and allow God to speak to you through it. What might this image stir up within you about your own journey with faith, God, and the Bible right now? We’ve included a short contemplative practice below called Visio Divina, a form of divine seeing in which you can prayerfully invite God to speak to your heart as you look at this illustration. However you choose to approach this visual, simply be present and allow God to speak through it to your heart.

Visio Divina:

  • Audit your routine and observe Jesus’:  What practices, people, and values do you love and lean into as a matter of course?  When you read about Jesus, what do you observe about his loves?
  • Check your nutrition: When you make a decision about how to live, who or what do you consult first? If it’s the words that Jesus loved, obeyed and fulfilled, read even more deeply and meditate on it with a community that will encourage you to do well.
  • Increase resistance: Jesus came for the afflicted. Follow him to places where others are resisting oppressive powers and the appeal of comfort.
  • Rest on purpose: Sunday isn’t just a fun day for the people of God. Jesus taught and healed on the Sabbath to show that people will be freed for the eternal rest of the people of God.  Practicing the rhythms of bodily and spiritual rest shape us for that destiny.
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The next path point is Myth. Unpack the false beliefs and counter-narratives that divide and mislead us.

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