newthingsold

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

Category: Theology

An ambitious project.

“Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.”  -Romans 10:17

 

Two years ago, I read over 80 books in one year. Last year, I read more than 50 books. So far this year, I have finished two books.

But as I am writing these words, we are 25 days into the year and I have listened through 47 books of the Bible.

This year, I am also participating in a one-year Bible reading plan, and I am reading each day’s portion of the Bible out loud.

I am reading it at a whisper, as I read at 5:30 A.M. and I do not want to wake up my wife or daughter, but it is still out loud.

I have come to see that if we are not just reading the Bible, but also hearing it read, then we are missing out on a layer of the text. We miss out on the rhythm of the poetic texts. We miss out on the rhetoric in speeches. Jesus is a lot snappier and whittier when you hear his words out loud. YouTube has a vast assortment of different translations in audio/video format. Find one that works for you; I recommend the NIV Dramatized AudioBible playlist uploaded by The Bible-smith Project.

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.

Stay lit.

The Old Testament can seem boring sometimes. There are long names that are hard to pronounce, obscure geography, and bloodshed galore. Are you with me?

But every once in a while, something special jumps out of the page:

“Tell Aaron to put the seven lamps on the lampstand so they shine towards the front” (Numbers 8:2 CEV).

Special?

Yeah.

If you’ve ever watched a candle, you can’t control what the light reveals. You can position the candle, but the light goes everywhere.

This artist’s rendering of the tabernacle (thanks, Google!) helps us get a picture in our heads of this part of the tabernacle. The lamp lights up the area in front of the lampstand, yes, but also the incense altar, the table with the shewbread and many other places in and around it. Christians, this verse has application to us today.

Image result for old testament tabernacle

We should be aware of how our character and conduct illuminate both where the light of Christ is present in our lives, and where it is lacking. We need to take time and reflect on where we are trying to focus the light of Christ, and what areas around us are being revealed in the process. The Christian Life is a process, and we need to keep the lamp of God’s Presence burning, watching to see where and what areas the light illuminates.

Stay lit.

A moment where you go, “Well…yeah…I guess so…”

I was watching a sermon from Micahn Carter on YouTube this weekend. He made a statement that a day later I am still rolling around in my head. After John the Baptist was executed, Jesus goes off by himself. In doing a play-by-play of the event, Carter makes a statement that the event was about something else. Something bigger.

“Jesus could have healed John if he wanted to. He could have taken John’s head and reattached it to his body.” And then he kept on speaking. But I was like…dang.

Carter goes on to talk about Jesus using this moment to teach something deeper in that we need to take time to grieve, or “break.” But all I could think about is how trippy it would have been to see Jesus reattach a head.

Just wanted to share.

A post of unintended consequences.

For the last couple months, the associate pastor of my church and I have been reading a chapter a day from the Bible and then posting to social media a verse, observation, etc. from what we read that day. We did Proverbs, 1 and 2 Corinthians, “30 Days of Paul,” and now we are spending October going through 1 Samuel (#OTOct).

While our posts have had the usually predictable things -thumbs up, hearts, etc.- something else interesting happened this week. I had a friend who I met through the Burning Hearts Chrysalis/Emmaus Community message me the following:

“I just have a couple of questions for you…I ran across your feed this morning and I thought it would be good to get some insight from you….I have been talking to this guy at my work. He is very into the Word and doing what it says…so here’s what we have been talking about…nowhere in the Bible does it say that the laws of the Old Testament do not exist to this day. So why do people not do these things any more. If we are to walk as Jesus walked, then how do we do this if Jesus was not only a Jew but he was without sin. And he followed the laws of the Old Testament. So if we are not living by all of the laws of the Word are we then living in sin? Some of these things would include celebrating our holy day on Sunday instead of Saturday…celebrating holidays that are not of God but holidays that man has made about God…such as Easter and Christmas which both are pagan holidays…wearing tzitzit on the four corners of our garments…and so on. I have been looking into this a lot lately and I think it would help to get a view from someone. Thanks!”

That was an unexpected side effect of my social media activities. So I did what every wise Christian should do when encountering something like this: I started watching cat videos on YouTube.

But after that, I started processing a the question. Where do we as Gentiles fit into this larger arc of Law and Grace? If you want a basic idea, check out what John Piper has to say on the subject. While I don’t agree with everything he teaches, this response does a good job of getting at the main idea.

In Romans, Paul writes that the only value the Law has is to emphasize how impossible it is for people to keep it. A person guilty of not keeping a fraction of it is guilty of breaking all of it. In Acts, the Jerusalem Council, upon learning that Gentiles are receiving salvation, decide that these new believers should not be compelled to be circumcised. Circumcision was the sign of the Old Covenant (Genesis 17). There is not enough time or space to go into detail on the implications of that here, but at its foundation is that if the Jerusalem Council and the Apostles decided that it was not necessary to practice one of the central tenets of the Mosaic Tradition, then how does the logic of a Christian being expected to follow Old Testament law hold up?

Feel free to push back on my thinking and study on the topic. I am sure that in providing a condensed idea I may have over-simplified or missed something.

Music and memory.

This year, I am reading the King James translation of the Bible from cover to cover. I “did” this once in high school. The word did is in quotation marks because, while I may have read most/all the words of the KJV, my eyes glazed over a lot and I didn’t recall much.

Can anyone commiserate?

This time though, as I am reading different verses in the Bible, coming to my mind are these short choruses that we used to sing in the fundamentalist church that I grew up in. Some of these songs I haven’t sung in almost 20 years, but in reading the sections of the Bible that inspired them, it is like I just sang them yesterday.

What is it about music that it can create moments like this? Can anyone relate?

Don’t forget we lost him in 2016. But his torch is still being carried

We can all agree that in 2016, Earth lost many people of note, from politicians to public servants to celebrities and then some. One person whose passing this year barely made a splash was Jack T. Chick.

This is unfortunate.

Because of his prolific work, Jack T. Chick is the most published cartoonist in the United States (sorry Stan Lee). It is doubtless that you may have seen his work and not even realized who created it (CLICK HERE FOR A SAMPLE). Regardless, the man and his work had a major impact on culture in the U.S. and I was surprised his passing didn’t get more attention.

His work was a major contributor to how evangelical Christians have stereotypically been viewed in the U.S. His fundamentalist Christian tenets are the things which drove his work. Full disclosure: I read Chick tracts for pleasure and amusement, not to prepare how to use them as an evangelism tool. When I found out Chick had died, I was worried that I would be unable to find anyone to fill that void for me. And then I found Matt Walsh and Pulpit & Pen. There are others out there maintaining a fundamentalist bent, but these two do a great job of keeping it at the forefront.

So while I mourn the passing of a talented comic artist who I would have loved to dialogue on many of his views, I can rest assured that content that falls into that same vein is still alive.

Job.

This trimester I am teaching a Biblical literature course at the high school. A couple weeks ago we finished Job. The discussions were enlightening and has led me to determine that I should reduce the amount we are reading for the course, and increase the amount of discussion. But that’s not the point of this post.

This is.

Over the weekend, our senior class lost one of its own. And I couldn’t help but think about how timely Job’s coverage was. Because we didn’t talk about it necessarily in the way one traditionally thinks about Job.

We didn’t talk about patience in suffering- the dude got pretty heated. We also didn’t talk about the (weak) explanation for why suffering happens. Instead, we talked about how to respond appropriately when others are suffering.

If you have never read Job, please do. But to catch you up, this guy named Job has the perfect life, loses everything as a result of a cosmic bet between God and satan, and then Job’s friends comfort Job by telling him this happened because he probably secretly sinned and this is karma coming back to get him. They would have been better to have showed support silently by simply being there.

It will be interesting to watch my students this week to see how any of them act out their support for suffering classmates this week.