newthingsold

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

Month: March, 2015

Questions, part 12; or, “What every person thinks when they have the enemy captured.”

Reading my Bible this past week has me thinking back to a time this past year in Rome City.  I had walked downstairs to the basement to work out, and found these little brown things all over the basement floor.  Sarah and I also found them in one of the cupboards.  Anyone who has dealt with this before knows exactly what is coming next.

Mouse.

Long story short is that we caught the sucker in a mouse trap, but it was caught by the leg and was definitely NOT dead.  IN that moment, I had the choice to pick the trap up, take it outside, pick up a cinder block, and you can piece together the rest.  Or…

2 Kings 6:8-23 tells the story of a neighboring tribe to the Israelites, the Arameans, who were at war with Israel.  Through an act of the miraculous, God uses the prophet Elisha to lead the Arameans blindly into the hand of Israel.  When the Arameans realize that they are definitely NOT in their own territory and that they are in prime position to get beat down, the King looks to Elisha for guidance and asks:

“Shall I kill them all?”  (2 Kings 6:21)

In that moment, the King realizes the Israelites have a victory.  However, the victory is really old news because from the moment Elisha saw God intervene, Israel won the day.  Elisha has already seen the victory, which meant he had plenty of time to play the various scenarios out in his head.  Killing off the Aramean army and king would result in a new band of Arameans, perhaps with allies, coming back with even heavier force and perhaps this time God would have allowed it to happen to teach Israel to stop being so stinkin’ arrogant.  But Elisha, instructs the King to treat the Arameans as guests and then send them back on their way.  That hospitality is most likely the reason that from that day forward the Arameans ceased raiding Israelite territory (6:23).

When things start to seem like they’re falling apart, we should remember that ultimately love always wins.  Even in the face of daunting circumstances, we should embrace that in love there is always victory.  And when the other person or situation falls into our hands, we should remember that a soft answer “turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).

Now about that mouse

I took him outside, killed him, and dumped him and the trap inside a cardboard box and then put it in the trash can.  That’s what he gets for pooping in my cupboards.

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Questions- Part 11; or, let’s talk about the sad panda in the room.

So, last week’s installment referenced this guy in the Bible named Elijah.  And in the passage we looked at, he scores a major victory against the opposition.  Have you ever prayed down fire from Heaven?  Me neither.  But if I did…WHAMMY!  I would feel untouchable.  But a chapter later, the queen Elijah defies puts a hit out on his life.  So what does Elijah do?

Pray for more fire to rain down?

Pray for an army of angry camels to invade her bed chambers and stink the place up?

Pray for a flesh-eating disease to feast on her cats?  (Dog lovers, that was for you!)

Nope.  He runs away.  And goes into hiding.

Yeah.  I was confused too.

And in the midst of hiding, God asks him a question which at first could seem like a genuine curiosity, almost as if He doesn’t know what’s going on when Elijah is asked:  “Why are you here?” (1 Kings 19:9).  I think a modern rephrasing could be more like: “Dude, what’s going on?  Let’s talk.”

I like Elijah.  If there is an example from the Bible of someone who deals with literal, clinical depression, it is this guy.  Elijah goes through an emotional high, but then the stress mounts and he cracks, going as far as to wish he were dead.  And in the middle of it, God does not punish him for a lack of faith.  Neither does he rebuke him.  Instead, God tells Elijah to go find a new assistant (1 Kings 19:21).

What I see in this is that depression does not make a person less qualified to do great things.  The God of the Bible uses everyone, no matter their mental state.  And when a depressed person is going through a rough time, the God-modeled reaction is not to say “Suck it up and be happy.”  The proper reaction is to encourage the individual to to find a friend, while being with them in the mean time.  Or at least that’s how I see it.

Next time: killing the vulnerable?

I couldn’t have written a book like this: “Scary Close” by Donald Miller

This is a review of Scary Close by Donald Miller.

On occasion I find a book that, although it speaks to me in my current positions, I wish would have been written and published earlier in life.  If a book like Scary Close, the new one from Donald Miller, had been published ten years ago when I was nineteen and going on twenty, I wonder if I could have avoided some (many) of the mistakes I made in relationships.  Scary Close is a book of what Miller does best, anecdotes and memoir used to get across a challenging concept to a reader in a way that does not seem so challenging.

Scary Close traces Miller’s life from right before he meets and begins courting his (now) wife Betsy, up to the wedding date in New Orleans.  At times funny, other points poignant, even in some instances awkward and uncomfortable -you’ll know what I mean when you read the chapter about Don and Betsy going house shopping- yet it all is written for a purpose.  That purpose is to get the reader to move to a deeper level of sincerity and intimacy in relationships of all types.

What I enjoy about Scary Close is what I enjoy about any Don Miller book; the storytelling is personal and sincere.  One can tell that Miller does spend a sufficient amount of time on the art of word-craft.  What I was not as wild about was that at points it felt like Miller was being overly honest to the point that it almost felt less than sincere, like he was trying to seem intimate in a book about intimacy.  For example, throughout the book Miller turns to an inward, psychoanalytic lens which seems a little over-the-top for me and I am not sure how well it suits the project.

Regardless of that very minor foible, this book is indeed worth the time and commitment to read.  Not only did I benefit from having some good stories and some serious points to ponder which I can apply to my own marriage, but I also got a great music recommendation (Ben Rector– check this guy out) and some recommendations for other books to read.  Scary Close is a book that both the lover of story and the person who desires a greater level of authenticity should read.

This book was provided for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for publishing a review on the book.  I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions contained are my own.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

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While I could fault the particular student for his lack of a hyphen to connect “cotton” and “headed”, I was still flattered, nonetheless, by this photoshopped homage to me.

Questions- Part 10; or why I am no good at long-distance friendships.

There is a certain amount of attention that one has to devote to one relationship to make it work.  A person in two relationships suddenly has to try to expend double the energy and blindly try to believe that both relationships are working out.  But to quote Propaganda, “Multi-tasking is a myth; you ain’t doin’ anything good, just everything awful.”

As any Christian knows, it’s hard pleasing two lovers.  I am not insinuating that Christians are all cheaters, or that they keep mistresses (or for a woman, misters???).  What I am alluding to is that as humans who are also Christians, stuff comes up that steals our focus.  When someone or something becomes our chief priority and it isn’t God, it’s referred to as idolatry.  In the New Testament, Jesus reaffirms as the single most important law is what the Old Testament states in that a follower should love God with all of one’s heart, soul, and strength (Duet. 6:5).

I don’t do that.

I don’t love God with all I have all the time.  I get distracted.  It’s the same reason I am horrible at maintaining relationships with people who move away.  In order for me to feel vested in a relationship, I need constant contact with the other person.  Relationships with God seem a little one-sided much of the time.  So I could very easily see myself as being one of the people that Elijah calls out as he’s standing on Mt. Carmel and speaking:

“How long will you waver between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is god, follow him.”  (1 Kings 18:21).

To be fair, I am not saying that I am guilty of idolatry necessarily.  What I am saying is that I find it hard sometimes to put all the proper attention in a relationship with God because I can’t go down to the local pub for a pint like I can with my buddies Thom, Jared, or Steve.

Now to wrap up, I want to brag about how great I am with writing conclusions.  I am not the best with introductions, but I can write a conclusion like nobody’s business.  End.

Questions- Part 9 (Perfection does not mean your prayers will be answered)

1 Kings 3 tells the story of a young man named Solomon who has recently taken the throne of Israel and Judah.  This man, Solomon, is visiting the region of Gibeon in order to make sacrifices when God comes to him in a dream and asks him,

“What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you?”  – 1 Kings 3:5

And to ruin the outcome of the story, Solomon states that he is too young to know what he is doing; therefore, he needs wisdom.  God gives it to him along with wealth and power.  And now the interesting observation that…

…when this occurs, Solomon is guilty of a few things called sins in the Books of Law.

Solomon married an Egyptian princess to advance his own power and Israel’s peace (Dueteronomy 7:3- You must not intermarry with them.)  Solomon was already starting to amass more than a couple wives (Dueteronom 17:17- “The king should not have many wives for they will turn his heart away from the Lord.”).  He was also doing his worshiping at the local shrine (Dueteronomy 12:1- “When you drive out the nations that live there, you must tear down all the high places…”).

This is important for us because it brings up an important fact.

A God of love is not going to give gifts to the people who are perfect; that would not be love or grace.  Love and grace give gifts to people, whether they deserve it or not.  Solomon wasn’t perfect, and in fact his life continued to revolve around those same subtle moral failures.  God gives giftings, talents, and abilities to all people and lets them use them as he sees fit.

This also teaches up that being perfect doesn’t make you any more likely to have your prayers answered by God.  And being imperfect does not mean you are any less likely to have your prayers answered.  And this might kill some to think about it, but it’s true and the pattern holds true.  In Judges, Samson prays for the ability to and is allowed to take down a large number of Philistine soldiers and royalty, even though it was his own dumb fault that he got in that mess to begin with.  And the Bible is filled with many other examples, one just has to dig for them.

I’m thankful that if God acts on my behalf, it’s not because I’m perfect.  It’s a relief to know that God isn’t expecting me to be perfect in order for me to be of any sort of value either.  Embrace this truth and ease in to a divine rest as you realize that man-made holiness doesn’t earn you brownie points.

Questions- Part 8; or, Accusations are better as stories.

This is the eighth part in a year-long series of weekly thoughts, meditations, and musings revolving around different questions, both actual and rhetorical, posed in the Bible.  For the introduction to the series, go here.

 

As a teacher, I have learned that one of the easiest ways to cause a discipline issue to continue in the classroom is to address it out right and tell the student to “cut it out.”  At best, I have really told the student, “Keep doing what you are doing, but do it quietly and subtly so as to undermine the intended direction of today’s lesson.”  This is no surprise, as anyone who has been around teenagers can verify.  And this isn’t a phenomenon.  There is however, a more effective way to confront and fix these issues that arise…

 

In the Old Testament of the Bible, we find in 2 Samuel 12, David being confronted with moral failure on the grandest scale -using his power and authority to sleep with another man’s wife and then setting that man up so that he is murdered.  By the time Nathan, a character we can gather as a prophet and respected man in Israel, comes to call King David to the carpet, about a year has passed.  If Nathan had kicked in the palace doors, marched up to David’s throne and asked, “Why did you sow contempt for the Lord by doing what displeases Him?” (2 Samuel 12:9), King David may have ordered his imprisonment.  Instead, Nathan comes to King David, tells him a brilliant parable (2 Samuel 12:1-7), and waits for King David to have an emotional reaction which opens to door for him to be called to task for his immoral actions.

 

This excerpt from the Bible, which has everything to do with Israeli history, also has everything to do with humans today.  We do not react positively to any sort of correction, especially if slung on us directly.  The people we listen to are those with whom we have positive relationships and those who have led us to the point of being open to hear a moment of correction.  Teenagers are a primal example of this (primal instead of prime to emphasize the almost neanderthal-like quality with which they can behave sometimes).

 

As we move forward, let us take every opportunity to approach correction through grace and relationships.  We do not react positively to confrontation as an agent for real change, and others are no different.

 

Tune in next week when we consider what happens when we ask God for something and don’t get it.