newthingsold

The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Month: January, 2015

Questions- Part 4

This is the next post in a year-long study of posts based on questions in the Bible.  For the introduction to the series, click here.

 

Exodus chapter 3 relates the story of a man named Moses who is working as a shepherd tending his father-in-law’s flocks out in the middle of nowhere.  As he and the sheep are walking, Moses sees a bush engulfed in flames.  And he thinks…

…nothing about it whatsoever.  This is the desert where it is hot, dry, and these types of bushes burst in to flames all the time.  There’s nothing weird about this.  Until Moses notices that this bush’s branches are not being consumed by the flames.  He goes to the bush for a closer look, and from the bush hears:

“Moses!”

And unlike my response, which might be to turn around and run away as fast possible, -sheep or no sheep- Moses talks back to the bush.  It turns out the voice from the bush is the Angel of the Lord giving Moses the task of being His instrument to go back to Moses’s home country of Egypt and lead the Israelites to a new place.  And then Moses asks a very important question:

 

“Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And Moses has a point in asking this question, because the direct answer to the question is: Nobody.  If we look back over Exodus chapters 1 and 2, we can give a more specific answer though.  Moses is an Israelite who is adopted as a baby by the Egyptian royal family, develops a temper, becomes a murder who has been a fugitive in hiding for 40 years, and is now a lowly shepherd for his father-in-law (causing him to lose two man cards because he is: 1) Doing a job with a negative stigma attached to it; and 2) Working for his father-in-law).

 

But that’s not what God sees.  To hold to an appropriate idea of God means to let go of the idea that God sees time in a linear fashion like humanity does.  While Moses sees his own past which has led to his present circumstances, God sees that and Moses’s future PLUS that of all those who will be impacted by him.  Simultaneously.

 

To steal a phrase Rob Bell likes to use:

This has profound implications for our present reality.

 

1.  My past may define my present, but only my present defines my future.  The first words of Exodus 3 are, “One day…”.  All it takes is one day to change everything.  And since life is an endless series of one days, all of my yesterdays do not have as much of an impact on my tomorrow as my today does.

2.  Everyone has the chance to make a long-lasting impact on the rest of existence.  If Moses had not stepped up to the challenge of being a liberator for the Israelites, the next 3,500 years of Jewish history (culture, conquer, being conquered, *gasp* The Holocaust) would not have happened.  We do not know the impact our lives will hold far down the line, but we should realize that what we do today is going to affect someone or something later on.

3.  Having an appropriate identity of self is critical.  Romans 12:3 states that “No one should think more highly of themselves than they should, but rather to use clear-minded judgment.”  If Moses had approached this task with pride, things would have fallen apart.  If he had demonstrated too much cowardice, things would have not happened to begin with.  Likewise, we should accept that we are not great and that there is only one Reason to boast (1 Corinthians 1:31).

 

Tune in next week when we discuss what happens with Moses after he finally gets the Israelites out of Egypt.

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What do you get the family man as a present?

Go to "Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible (Signature)" page

While I am a fan of the television show Duck Dynasty, and admit that Duck/Buck Commander put out some quality products, overall I have felt pretty nauseated by the total amount of Robertson Clan merchandise overload the past couple years.  When the opportunity was given to me to review the Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible, I was hesitant.  I’m glad that I ultimately decided to give this book a shot.

The copy with which I was provided is in NKJV; since I have read the NKJV through cover-to-cover a couple times and think it is a solid translation, I’m not going to focus on the text of the Bible itself, but rather on the companion material inserted throughout the pages of the book, which is what I critically focused on.

There’s a reason I posed a question as this blog post’s title.  The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible is a quality gift to give him.  There are devotional Bibles for men, fathers, and the like.  But whether the reader knows who Al and Phil Robertson are or not, the men do not use their celebrity status as a reason to establish credibility with the reader; they acknowledge that they are well known individuals because that’s a part of who they are, but that does not drive the companion material they provide.  Approaching the “52 Days with Phil and Al” plan is like conducting a Bible study with a couple of those old guys from the Church who have plenty of life experience that can be immediately applied.  When reading through their comments, I felt as if I was sitting down with a church mentor who was talking me through some heavy life moments which every man should be thinking about, such as facing responsibilities as a man, showing grace to others, and maintaining manly integrity.  The “LifeChangers” devotional plan provides similar information with points to ponder, kind of like mini devotionals or sermons from the local men’s ministry pastor.

Throughout reading through the material that makes this the Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible, the big thing that reminded me that this was a “branded” Bible was the presence of duck images throughout the pages.  I liked that.  I would call this a Duck Commander product that is not a Duck Commander product.  I’d call this a men’s life application BIble without a lot of the extra frills.

I received my copy of this Bible for free through the BookLookBloggers program in exchange for reviewing it.  I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions contained are mine.

The joy of the Gospel.

This is a review of the book The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis.

 

 

People all over the world -religious and irreligious alike- do not know quite how to take Pope Francis.  In his short time as the head of the Catholic Church he has done things to both encourage and confound people.  On one occasion he makes statements that could hint towards a more progressive view of marriage, but another time he takes a pretty conservative stance on birth control.  What does one make of this guy?  The Joy of the Gospel gives the insider/outsider some perspective into what lens to apply to view the actions of the Pope.

 

The Joy of the Gospel, much like his actions, seems to be motivated by a desire to connect and engage with people on the topic of the message of the saving love of Jesus.  The book deals with topics broad and applicable to an entire Church community as well as those which can be narrowed ones which focus on the individual in Community.  He discusses the role of the Church as messengers and its members as emissaries.

 

What is refreshing about this book though is how Pope Francis addresses some of the other issues which seem to be overlooked.  This is not a Pope motivated by hardline rhetoric, but love and dialogue.  The best chapter in the the book is the chapter “The Social Dimensions of Evangelization.”  In it, Pope Francis provides almost a primer on how navigate daily life and living the Gospel.  He advocates for thinking clear-headed and realistically, leaving space for the realities of life, even when they stand in direct opposition to our beliefs and ideas.  He endorses interfaith dialogue and showing patience/tolerance for those who might disagree.

The Joy of the Gospel would make a good read for a daily devotional.  Taken in segments, it can provide some thought-provoking material which overdosed on could become lost otherwise.  Take this book slow and let the point of the material sink in.

 

I was provided with a copy of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for reviewing it.  I was not required to post a positive review; the opinions expressed within are my own.

 

Questions- Part 3

Hello and thank you for stopping to read the next installment in the ongoing “Questions” series.  For an explanation, visit the introduction post. 

Genesis 39 can be paraphrased concisely like this:  This dude named Joseph is sold into Egyptian slavery to the captain of Pharaoh’s guard (Potiphar) and while working for him, everything he does prospers.   Potiphar’s wife has the hots for Joseph and when everyone is out of the house but Joseph who is doing his daily work, she tries to seduce him.  He refuses her advances and like a scorned lover, she lies and sets up a frame job to make it look like Joseph did.  Potiphar has Joseph thrown into prison where the jailer puts Joseph to work and again, everything he does prospers.

Of course, providing a Spark Notes summary glosses over plenty of nuance throughout this chapter.  A surface reading like this can give us the takeaway that good can always come out of bad situations, or maybe that we should be careful about where and when we go places because it can place us into compromising situations.

But so what?

Where is the call to transformation?  How does a story like this set us up to view our own Humanity through the lens of Love?  If this is all a passage like this is good for, we’re just as good to read Aesop’s fables and go on.

In the middle of the scene where Joseph is standing alone in front of Potiphar’s wife, he looks at her and asks her this:

“How then can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

Joseph is in Potiphar’s house as a slave.  He was sold into slavery because of jealousy on the part of his step-brothers (he had been Daddy’s favorite, a story that could take a few posts on its own to cover.  So if you’re curious, grab a Bible or look online and search a little earlier in Genesis).  Joseph asks this question to Potiphar’s wife as a way to stand up for what is right and in the end he is still punished as if he had done something wrong.  The end result is that he is back in jail.

Life is not fair.

When I was in college, I dated a girl who broke up with me from a distance of 65 miles away over the phone.  I went from feeling like I was on top of the world to feeling like everything was falling apart.  All I could think about was

Life is not fair.

My Uncle Dave was one of the reasons why I started playing music in bands.  He died in 2007 of cancer.  The whole time before that, so many of us prayed continually for a miracle to take place.  It didn’t happen.

Life is not fair.

A few weeks back, my wife and I came back home from church to find that our pug had pooped in his dog crate and smeared it all over the place so that everything looked like a cross between a sanitarium, a massacre, and Jackson Pollock painting.  As I was outside in sub-freezing temperatures trying to wipe down and rinse off the floor to the dog crate, I kept thinking about all the other things I had to get done and thinking

Life is not fair.

How many of us have sung the “Life is not fair” refrain time and time again, as if calling out the unfairness of life is somehow going to make things better?

If we’re honest, we say things like this in the face of doing all the right things as a reaction to being confronted with the fact that we control nothing in this life.  So what do we do about?  Nothing.  What can we do about it?  Nothing.  And that is what Genesis 39 is all about.  Live life day by day and realize that things are going to happen that do not make sense.  In his messed up situations, Joseph’s work still succeeds.  Fast forward a few chapters and Joseph’s circumstances change for the better.  It doesn’t make much sense and it’s really weird how things change, but they do.  This doesn’t mean it will happen to all or any of us, but we won’t know if we don’t go through daily life and try.

Levi McAllister (Levi the Poet) brilliantly writes that: “Life is pain, highness, anyone who tells you different is selling something.” Ah, it’s not true. The Dread Pirate Roberts may have been awesome, but that kind of theology is a hell of a downer to subscribe to.”  Holding on to a mentality that there is no point in trying to live because bad stuff is going to happen is the easiest way to cheapen life.  Yes, the bad/unjust/unfair/terrible things happen, but their happening only makes the beautiful moments more beautiful.

“How then can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

You will.  You won’t.  That’s life.  You’ll do good things and the results will be good.  You’ll do bad things but the results will be good.  You’ll also do good/bad things and the results will not be positive.  But that’s life, working through each situation day by day as it comes.

A Comment on the President’s SOTU

To anyone who cares about public education, so concerned about all the “reforms,” and does not know who Diane Ravitch is, I would recommend familiarizing yourself with her…

Diane Ravitch's blog

There was a new tone in the President’s brief comments about education in his State of the Union address. Of course, he promoted his proposal for 2 tuition-free years of community college and the need to help students from debt incurred when pursuing higher education. That was welcome but not surprising.

What was welcome was the absence of fear-mongering about our public schools. No crisis talk about how nations with higher scores would take away our jobs and ruin future economic growth. The President instead highlighted the facts (that I documented in “Reign of Error” in 2013) that the high school graduation rate is at an historic high, as are test scores.

I don’t know if anyone gave much thought to this shift to a positive tone, but it definitely represents a repudiation of the “reformers'” sky-is-falling rhetoric. No reference to “obsolete” high schools, to “failing schools,” or to the…

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Questions- Part 2

Genesis 18 recounts the story of three mysterious men who come to visit Abraham the head of a nomadic tribe of individuals who will eventually become the direct ancestors of Israel; these men reveal themselves to be the Lord (or the chief spokesperson of the Lord) and two others.  Over the course of the visit and ensuing conversation, the Lord reveals to Abraham that he intends to visit the neighboring cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and if they are as wicked as he has heard, he is going to completely wipe them out.  And to this, Abraham responds with a question:

“…Doesn’t the Judge of all the Universe judge with justice?”  -Genesis 18:25, The Message

It’s as if in that moment the reality that good and righteous people will be wiped out alongside the wicked; in true God-fashion, he is going to not be a respecter of persons and wipe out everyone.  One can even hear in the back of the head the next line following it:  “That’s not fair!”

A couple of observations…

There are verses in Scripture that refer to God being just (Job 36:6; Psalms 25:8-14; 1 Thesselonians 1:6), as well as verses about how God is slow to anger and abounding in love (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:5; Nehemiah 9:31).  And yet, there are moments in the Bible where God would seem anything but full of love and justice.  Like…Sodom and Gomorrah for example.

How do we reconcile this?

It’s helpful to remember four things:

1.  There are two sides to every story and we don’t always have all the information.

2.  Though the Bible seems to have one unifying plot, it is still a collection of 66 different texts with many more authors, who collectively took about 1,500 years to write the canon of scripture.  They came from different places, times, and cultures in history.

3.  As we Christians, we believe that God ultimately revealed himself and his nature in the personhood of Jesus to try and reduce errors in comprehending who he is.  Not sure it quite worked in clarifying things, but…

4.  It may be best to keep in mind that believing in a God who can’t be experienced through the natural five senses is irrational to human nature, so perhaps we need to acknowledge the idea contained in Isaiah 55:8,9 that God’s thoughts are beyond the comprehension of natural man and figure that if we believe in a God who breaks natural law by us not being able to see, feel, hear, taste, smell, or touch him, then trying to apply natural logic is going to be futile too.

And then there’s heaven and hell (which is a likely jump from here)…

If God is fair and just and loving, hell doesn’t seem to fit the concepts.  Do all dogs and people go to heaven or just a select few?  

Jesus tells parables about sheep and goats, wedding feasts, wise and foolish virgins, and uses other things to teach about the idea of a heaven and hell.

Ezekiel, Hebrews, and Revelation discuss the restoration of all things on earth, in heaven, and under heaven at the culmination of the ages.

So which is it?  Is God going to punish an unfortunate group of people to all eternity based on the short amount of years of life they have?

I knew the answer to those questions, I would write a book to shame Francis Chan, Rob Bell, and anyone else who’s written on the topic and make millions of dollars.  If there were a 100% clear indicator as to the answer for the questions, the conversation would have ended a long time ago.  But since there isn’t, maybe we should ask if we are asking the wrong questions in this case.  Maybe the better question might be to ask:

Do I have a responsibility to share the Good News of Jesus and work to make things better hear on Earth in this life?  Does God’s love for me overrule his desires for me in that I can make my own decisions?

The answer to these questions we an answer definitely, and the answer of course is yes.

I am not in God’s army.

Originally I thought about titling this post, “Sympathy for the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ attackers” because I believe they do need our sympathy.  They shouldn’t receive it (posthumously) for their actions; those are inexcusable.  They should be the object of sorrow and sympathy for the cause behind their actions.  And now to the post…

Growing up in the Church, war imagery was a common theme on any Sunday:

-“We are waging war against the Enemy.”

-“Take a stand against the devil for your faith!”

-“Fight the devil and resist his temptations.”

If you are like me you heard this a lot; if you didn’t grow up in the Church, I think you get the idea of what I mean by war imagery.  Some people take it a step further however, claiming they are a part of God’s army.

And there’s nothing inherently wrong with someone getting so hyped that he calls himself “God’s soldier of faith.”  But the problem is that some people have a difficult time being able to leave a word like “soldier” in the metaphor stage; they are so mentally weak that it is not too long before the word “soldier” becomes an identity word and that person begins to act on his intuitions physically.

The Bible does not call for people to physically pick up arms to defend God’s honor.  Critics might call attention to the violence of much of the Old Testament; yes, there is plenty of violence in the Old Testament.  But the people group is fighting to find a land to call home and then defend it.  The fighting is not a result of God telling them to massacre people because someone made a nasty joke about him.

Even the most war-heavy book of the New Testament, Revelation, does not call for people to fight for God.  Anywhere people on God’s side are mentioned (Ch. 14 for example), they are singing and standing back amazed as God does all the work.  Ephesians 6:10 (the beginning of the “Armor of God” passage) tells Believers to be strong in the Lord and His power (not our own).  The Psalms are filled with expressions of frustration as the Writers call on God to fight against enemies.

We should feel pity for religious fundamentalists who wage any sort of violence, physical or social, in honor to their “god.”  It is clear that at some point down the line someone has taken advantage of their naive, gullible nature and duped them.  A “god” who needs man to fight for it is a wholly impotent and pathetic figment of someone’s imagination and hardly worth of the title “god.”  I am not a part of God’s army because God doesn’t need me to fight his battles for him.

Christians are called (Galatians 5:22-23) to live in a way that makes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control evident.  As long as the words “soldier” and “army” are affiliated more with war than justice, I will be a Christian who avoids being in God’s “army.”

Disclaimer:  This post is not meant in any way to denigrate or speak ill of our U.S. Armed Forces members.  They have my respect and admiration for doing something incredibly difficult that I would not be able to do.  Neither is this post meant to be an attack on Islam in general, as I know many peaceful Muslims who themselves have cringed over the events of this week.

Beloved Dust.

This is a review of the book Beloved Dust by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel.

Beloved Dust

“What does it mean to live with God?”  As Goggin and Strobel pose this question at the beginning of their book Beloved Dust, the authors set forth to write a book on prayer that isn’t about prayer.  Many times I find problems with books that claim to be able to “fix” issues such as a prayer life that seems to have gone stale, and while there are moments throughout that seem to attempt to do this, there is some good stuff in this book that makes it worth the read.

 

Using a mix of personal anecdotes and reflections, wisdom from  experience serving in church ministry, and Scripture, Goggin and Strobel layout their case for how people should approach prayer: realize that prayer is not to make ourselves look better, we are mortal and temporary, though we are dust we should not accept living in “dustiness,” and that in every facet we should strive to live with God.

 

Where I think this book works is that it is not a how-to book on prayer.  The life of prayer the authors are endorsing is not something that can really be done formulaically, so the book focuses more on the approach and characteristics leading up to the moments of prayer instead of describing how one should live a life of prayer.

 

If the reader approaches Beloved Dust expecting simply to be given some good points to ponder regarding why a person prays and how to approach the concept of prayer in order to live with God, this book will satisfy the reader.  If the reader is looking for a guide on how to pray better, the only thing this writer can say is that one gets better by practice.

 

I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for writing a review on it.  I was not obligated to publish a positive review; the opinions contained are mine.

Well isn’t this nifty?

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 710 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 12 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Questions- Introduction and Part 1

Introduction to QUESTIONS:

Last year I published a critique on The Jesus Code by O.S. Hawkins.  The book is a 52-chapter study of questions posed in the text of the Bible.  This year I am using the book as a catalyst for my own Bible study and reflection: one chapter from The Jesus Code each week, reading the text from the Bible which is referenced in a different translation of the Bible each day.  Each installment will begin with the chapter’s driving question, and then observations over the text.  So with that, below is Part 1.

 

Has God indeed said…?-  Genesis 3

Doubt can be deadly.  A seed of doubt leads a person to question what he or she has been taught..  The deceiver uses this tactic to get us to doubt God and His word, which so often can lead to sin.  But the first book in the collection of books known as the Bible, Genesis, indicates that God wants people who will take the time to follow Him on their own, not let other people do the thinking for them.

 

How do I know the difference between God’s Word and the words of men packaged as those of God?

 

In Genesis 3, Eve states to the serpent that God says not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but also not to touch it.  If she or Adam does either, they will surely die.  A look at Genesis 2:17 indicates in the text that God only said not to eat from that specific tree.  Maybe, as Kent Dobson explains in reference to this discrepancy that Adam taking the role of leader for the two of them, that “Perhaps this came from Adam telling Eve, ‘Don’t eat it; you know what, just don’t even touch it.”

 

How often have I taken what others have claimed as the word of God as truth without investigating it for myself?

 

            Despite what some outspoken individuals might make it seem, a Christian’s responsibility is not to blindly agree with whatever a church leader say.  A Christian’s responsibility is to do his or her best to follow God which comes from reading His word.  One key way we do this is by knowing the Bible, God’s living word (Hebrews 4:12).  A close look reveals that God wants His followers to actively engage with Him:

 

Psalm 34:8–  “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Malachi 3:10–  “‘Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty…” (while while only focusing on a few words, the fact that in the text, God encourages his followers to put him to the test).

1 John 4:1–  “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.”

 

So did God say…?  Maybe.

 

I will be the first to admit that as soon as we move from the text on the page to its interpretation and application, things can get messy and complicated.  But that’s the  beauty of the Bible and why Christians are not meant to go through life alone.  Proverbs 27:17 states “As iron sharpens iron, so one sharpens another.”  It’s as if (through Inspiration???) the writer of Proverbs knew that such a text could hold a wide range of possible interpretations which would need to be put against each other.  But we’re never going to know what those messy ideas if we don’t read the Bible in the first place.

 

A believer’s responsibility is be knowledgeable of all the things come with being a “believer.”  One of them is Biblical literacy.  This makes all the difference in whether or not one has the ability to give an answer other than “I don’t know” to the question of “Did God say…?”