newthingsold

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

Category: Life

I hit a roadblock.

In an earlier post, I wrote about how challenging it was staying motivated to write the first draft of a book which I have been putting off for two years. Right before Spring Break, I officially hit the halfway point in writing the book. That was Saturday, April 4. It is now Monday, April 27. Today was the first time I worked on the book since taking a break from writing.

It’s incredible how quickly we can lose the momentum and progress that we have worked so hard to build.

Isn’t that how life goes, though?

I’m curious to know what other things I’m going to lose once life finds a new, post-quarantine normal. I’m hoping fitness isn’t one of them. My scale number has increased, but that it is because I am heavy lifting and packing on muscle (so I’m strangely okay with this fact). I’m hopeful that the amount of time I have not been spending on social media continues.

The question I have to ask is, “Now that it seems like we’re approaching the end of this thing, what’s worth keeping?”

Have you started doing something worth keeping? If so, what? If not, I’m just going to point out that it isn’t too late to start.

Easter Sunday pop quiz.

POP QUIZ! 

What is the first thing that Jesus says to his disciples on Resurrection Sunday? 

QUICK!!! WHAT IS IT???

Answer:  “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36)

This is not a coincidence. Two days previously, Jesus’s disciples  had witnessed the execution of the One for whom they had given up everything -livelihood, relationships, their own identities.

What would be running through your head after you watched everything in your world fall apart? What’s going through your head right now?

Jesus did everything with purpose. A common greeting of his day and age was all the more relevant at this moment, and you know this is why he chose to use those words. When he showed up in the locked room, he had the words (He is the Word) his disciples needed to hear to know that Resurrection had taken place and they did not need to fear anymore.

It’s also the word we need for now: “Peace be with you.”

Easter Sunday is our reminder that there is resurrection in the midst of it all falling apart. It may not look exactly like it did before it died (John 20:14), but in the end it looks better.

Nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2 Timothy 1:12).

May the One in whom you trust bring you through this time and on the other side may you see the resurrection power which has been at work this entire time.

 

Sometimes bad application is the best application.

This week feels like it has been the set-up to a bad post-apocalyptic movie. As an English teacher, my profession spends a good amount of time reading literature about dystopia, never expecting to end up in one. I should have paid attention.

I have a morning routine when I arrive to my classroom: “Bible before email.” When it comes to study of the Bible, there are nuanced rules towards accomplishing good exegesis of a passage. Some days, though, the takeaway from the passage when ignoring the rules is the one you should get.

Thursday morning, I read Colossians 2. I am reading it out of the NIV. For the first half of the week, there had been a general sense that something was building and people were beginning to act irrational. In the midst of all of it, I read the following:

They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow” (2:19).

I bolded the phrase from the verse for emphasis because that is what jumped out at me and got my brain thinking. While the “head” referred to in the passage is not talking about “common sense” or “control of emotions,” that phrase stuck me in just that sense. As I went through the rest of the day and school week, I kept reminding myself “Don’t be a they” in order to keep my perspective.

It helped.

So, to you, I say: Don’t be a they. Keep your head.

The book that reminded me of my fragility.

I was sitting at a table reading earlier today. Specifically, I was reading the book The Pilgrim’s Progress. More specifically, I was reading a paperback edition of the book The Pilgrim’s Progress which was published in 1985.

The same year I was born.

And as I was reading the book the way I normally read books, something unexpected started happening. The front cover started tearing. And you could almost hear the strain of some of the pages.

I’m not hard on my books, this book is just older.

Like I’m getting.

The book and I are the same age.

There’s a meme floating around the interwebs right now that reads: “The number one cause of injury in middle-aged men is believing they are still younger.”

It’s like, I’m starting to hit this place where sometimes doing the things I used to do hurt a little more for a little longer than they used to. And reading that book today reminded me of that.

Do you have any objects in your house that remind you of similar realities about your life?

Writing is hard.

I’m writing a book. I said I was going to do this two years ago. The difference is that two years ago I spent so much time trying to come up with a formal, structured outline before starting and then got caught up and overwhelmed int he planning phase.

This time, I’m 8,700 words and 35 pages into this thing. I think the thing that made the difference this time is that instead of trying to outline with multiple note cards, I came up with a broad idea of three major sections, and then started at the process.

I think it also helped that I had a one-sentence pitch for my book idea before I began writing. Here’s the pitch:

Often,we feel empty in life  because we are permitting things in our lives because they seemed like a good idea, and Jesus identified this problem 2,000 years ago.

 

Sometimes, you don’t need a great and complex plan. You just need a target.

What area of your life needs a target instead of a map?

Dangerous questions.

The young man said to him (Jesus), “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?”  -Matthew 19:20 (NET)

Perhaps the most dangerous questions are the ones, driven by pride, we ask when we are trying to prove to others that they are wrong because we are convinced we are right.

The young man in this story is not right.

Before Jesus even answers the question, the young man has already reflected that he is still lacking something. And that something is a change of heart. A changed heart not driven by materialism or pride would perhaps have prevented the young man from setting himself up to have his ego deflated. And Jesus does deflate the young man.

However, he does not answer the young man directly, but tells him instead to do some things which show the young man that he actually lacks much (Matthew 19:21-22).

So what’s the lesson? If someone challenges you on something, and you feel a rise in the cackles which could lead you to saying something foolish, understand before speaking that this may be a moment revealing something going on that you may not be prepared to deal with. And then after the moment passes, deal with it.

And you deal with that by praying, “Jesus, I feel as if I am lacking in ______________________. How can I close that gap?” Sometimes that makes all the difference.

I’m a sheep.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” -Matthew 9:36, ESV

If you’ve spent any length of time in a church, especially an evangelical one, you’ve doubtless heard a sermon preached on the portion of Scripture from which this reference comes. It is the same one in which Jesus talks about a great harvest but few workers (Matthew 9: 37-38). And if your experience is similar to mine, then the point of the sermon was usually something to the effect of, “The lost are out there and Jesus needs us to go out there and get them.”

I don’t disagree with that idea. It’s valid. But there is a truth in this passage that often gets overlooked or minimized.

If we expand Jesus’s gaze beyond the immediate portion to all those who throughout time would be considered a sheep without a shepherd, one helpless and harassed, you are one of them. I am one of them. You are a sheep. I’m a sheep. The only way to have Jesus as the Good Shepherd over you is if you willingly submit to His shepherding. What separates “us” from “them” is whether or not we have a Shepherd, and it is not something we should use as a lens to justify ourselves in front of others. We’re all sheep.

We are a part of the crowd of which Jesus has compassion because He loves and lays down His life for His sheep. We need to remember this when Jesus talks about harvest. The lost need someone with the answer, but they also need someone with compassion, like we first needed. Looking at the harvest through this lens is the difference between, “We’re in this together, and I want you to know I have found a treasure greater than anything that could ever be imagined and you need to have a share of it” (see Matthew 13:45,46), and “You’re lost, condemned, and I have your answer.”

Did your faith collapse?

There are certain things in which we should take extreme care to their details. Health. Finances. How we raise our kids. Faith.

Faith?

Especially faith.

Have you ever tried to build a house of cards? If not, watch this video to see what it takes, and then come back. If you have, then you know that the tiniest thing can level the whole construction and leave nothing but a pile of 52 cards. This can lead to feelings of frustration or anger on the part of the builder.

Now expand those sentiments out to a factor of 100 and that approaches the internal feelings of somebody watching his or her faith collapse. There is something gut-wrenching and paralyzing about seeing the thing that you built your worldview and safety on fall apart right in front of you.

Here’s the truth, though.

If your faith collapses under the same amount of emotional/intellectual/spiritual stress as the small amount of physical stress that causes a card house to plummet, your faith wasn’t strong at all and probably needed bulldozed so that you could build onto a strong rock that is not broken in the wind, rains, and floods. (Matthew 7:24-25).

The reason we need to pay such close attention to the detail of the development of our faith is because our emotional and psychological health are directly tied to it. The soul is comprised of the mind, will, and emotions. The soul relies on faith the way that the physical world relies on gravity.

How does one develop faith?

Sit down with a journal and pen. Write down the answers to these two questions:

  1. What is something you believe so strongly that everyone needs to know and believe this, too? If you cannot answer this in one to two sentences, then you need to spend some additional time reflecting on this to come up with something clear.
  2. What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and found out that your answer to #1 was a lie? If this question gave you anxiety, then spend time writing in your journal about why you believe #1 above.

Faith is messy, which makes it beautiful. Its sturdiness, however, is something we need to work on for our total well being.

 

Death by discontent.

I’ve read story of Adam and Eve in Genesis chapters 1-3 so many times I can’t even count. If you are one of those people who annually sets a goal to read through the entire Bible in one year and loses steam somewhere around Leviticus, you also have read through the narrative countless times. I have also sat through numerous sermons about “the Fall,” and the connection to disobedience, idolatry, letting the woman be in charge, why snakes are evil, and a number of other topics.

Something jumped out at me.

The New English Translation, tells it like this:

“The serpent said to the woman, “Surely you will not die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will open and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it.” (Genesis 3:4-6a)

What does the serpent use as the strongest element of persuasion? He says (paraphrased), “Eat this and you will be better than you are.”

If we think about it critically, the argument in context is illogical. If God created man “a little lower than the angels” (Psalms 8:5), and God is above the angels, then clearly there is nothing which man can do to make oneself. And yet, when Eve looks at herself compared to an unrealistic standard, she makes an awful decision.

Does that sound familiar?

I have been guilty plenty of times of doing thisbuying thatparticipating in that one thing. All because I thought that it could make me better than I am. But comparison to others only sets unhealthy and unattainable patterns. And in the Genesis account, it may very well have been the linchpin which unraveled the whole thing.

So what do we do about this?

The first thing to do is understand that you were created with different characteristics, body traits, etc. which make you unique. No matter what you do, you will still be you.

The second thing is to accept that God loves you the way you are. You can just be.

And third, if you make changes, change to be more like Christ and not like your neighbor.

An update. And a shift in content. Sort of.

Welcome to 2020!

Last year proved to be my least productive year on this blog. In part it had to do with a couple of the book blogging programs to which I belonged shutting down. In part it had to do with not feeling like I had much to say. A big part was just a lack of motivation.

New year. New focus.

This year, I will still periodically (maybe) review books I have been reading. As normal, the title will begin with “REVIEW:” so that there is no question as to what will follow.

The majority of this year’s (and maybe from here on out) focus will be on working out ideas I’m wrestling with and sermon ideas as I read through the Bible this year. I read through the Bible once a year, but this is the first time in years where I have read it on a paced schedule which is intended to last the entire year. It will be my goal to publish those types of posts once a week.

Or at least that’s my goal for now. We’ll see.