newthingsold

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

Category: Theology

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.

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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.

My daughter, Genesis 3, and monkeys in boxes.

If anyone has a right to be frustrated with God right now, it’s me. Ever since finding out back in July that Sarah was pregnant, daily I consistently prayed for three things: that our child would be born healthy without complications, that financially we would continue to be blessed so that we would not experience a feeling of lack leading up to and through the birth, and that all three of us (Sarah, Kizzy, and me) would all be healthy.

And then I started dealing with some nasty digestive issues. And Sarah developed preeclampsia (very high blood pressure, low-grade fever…just Google search it). This necessitated inducing her so that Keziah was born 4.5 weeks early. And then when she was born, she had issues with hypothermia, apnea, and general lethargy to not want to eat. So then she had to be transferred to the large regional hospital and their newborn intensive care unit. Imagine the medical bills.

So in one fell swoop, it would seem that God took six months of prayers and said: Uh…NO.

Because of this frustration, I had not wanted to pick up a Bible lately. My only prayers were passive-aggressive ones that went something like this: Well, it looks like You ignored the past six months of my life. Maybe, however, could you please intervene medically with my baby girl? Please? And then something happened.

I’m sitting in a chair, feeding my daughter through her tube, and I have the thought: “Baby girl, I wish I could eat for you and fix all these things. But I can’t. You need to go through them so that you will be stronger.” And almost at the same time, I felt what could almost be described as a tap on the shoulder and a voice in my ear; although, there was no one else in the room except for me and my daughter.

I could have let everything happen without incident. But if I did, you wouldn’t grow because of this. How you are going to be different on the other end of this is not for you to get right now, but things will be different.

I started crying. And started thinking about the story of The Fall in Genesis (logical leap, right?).

My frustration with God originated out of feeling like I had my entire world under control. I realized I had been approaching the last six months with God as a wish-granting monkey in a box. Or like a recipe. If I do x, mix it with y, and do it z times, I will get the results I want. That’s not how it works. In the story of The Fall, Adam and Eve are told that the fruit from the tree will open their eyes and they will be like God. They eat it, anticipating to know and understand, and in a way they do, but not like they were hoping. They are severally let down when they realize that they are not infinitely wise, but that they are sin ropa.

After my discontent, God and I are working through things. I wish I could say at this point we’re 100% better. But I can say that coming towards the end of this experience, my relationship with God has grown from where I was a year ago.

 

A book just as true today as 25 years ago.

Recently, I was reintroduced to a book I read ten years ago. The book in question, The Ragamuffin Gospel, is a work both true and heart-wrenching. It is a book that both comforts and convicts. It is also as appropriate and accurate an introduction to its author Brennan Manning as anyone can find, especially with his passing away in 2013. Reading The Ragamuffin Gospel, I was reminded of why I read the book in the first place and how twenty-five years after its writing, the central message is just as accurate as the day it was written but perhaps much more critical for today.

The thesis of Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel is this: God has given grace to all of humanity, we don’t know how to accept it, and if we did it would so change our lives in such a radical way that we and our world would never be the same again. It does not take long to realize how right Manning is. A walk through the local Wal-Mart proves this point. People are discordant with each other, those different from each other and even with their own families. If the individual does not want to leave the house, he or she can look internally to the same result. So many of us are either so self-broken or self-righteous (it feels like most of the time I fall into the latter category) that our own attitudes get in our way of accepting the grace which has been given. Our own attitudes and counterfeit emotions call to mind an Impostor, which Manning writes about in another book.

If a whole nation embraced grace as Manning depicts it, things could/would be different. I think to the Syrian refugee crisis. With love, we would become the beacon for how to treat these people- and the world would look up to us. We would put Germany to shame, not only with the number but the attitude behind why we are doing it. The powerful message of grace that Brennan espouses would transform the conversation on civil rights in our country. No longer would the discussion be about who gets what treatment or how can we prevent this group or other from being mistreated. Instead, the question would be: How may we best ensure that everyone is treated with love and equity, because it is the right thing to do?

I first read The Ragamuffin Gospel ten years ago because I was stuck in an oppressive church environment, was done with religion, and was tired of feeling like I had to earn approval. I couldn’t pray enough, read my Bible enough, or be in church enough to appease some god-clerk with a tally register counting my good deeds against my bad ones. The true picture of grace which Manning paints in his book is what I needed. How quickly my perspective changed once I read The Ragamuffin Gospel. And whether you have known the good news of Grace for many years, or need someone to explain it to you for the first time, this book is a timeless reminder that still holds true today.

I received my 25th Anniversary Edition of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for writing a review on it. I was not obligated to write a positive review- although I did so happily. The opinions expressed are my own.

I may have broken a law today.

I am going to out myself publicly today; I, a state-licensed educator, spoke about my faith today. Now to clarify, I did not proselytize. I did not evangelize. The words salvation, eternal life, and Jesus never crossed my lips. I was discussing the Syrian refugee settlement issue and our Governor’s decision to suspend settling Syrians in Indiana. Students, after discussing the pros and cons of the decision, asked my opinion.

Here was my response:

“My faith teaches my to love those who hate me and bless those who persecute me. Welcoming the stranger, clothing him or her, and providing a cup of cold water, is the way to bring a piece of divinity into the middle of broken humanity. My faith even tells a story of a many beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. The political and religious leaders who are supposed to be the examples of morality look the other way and leave the dying man to do exactly that on the side of the road- die. The person who comes to the aid of the dying man is an individual who has every right to ignore him, and in actuality conflicts with him culturally in every way. But the man ignores everything he is entitled to do and does what is good and right, looking after the poor and downtrodden. How do think they should handle the situation and why?”

Admittedly, I never said concretely what decision I felt the government officials should make. I shared of my culture and upbringing. And isn’t that what education is really all about? Learning about ourselves and each other.

Ends and beginnings in fire.

Six years ago, I found myself unemployed for the first time.  I had been teaching in an alternative school, but the parent company ran out of money and the facility closed.  I received a week’s notice that I would be out of a job, and on my last day there, I spent it at a trash barrel in the back of the property burning confidential student files and other miscellaneous items.  For some reason, as I was standing in the shower this morning listening to “Car Radio”, my mind flashed back to that memory and I have been replaying it.

In a way, the event is representative of something bigger.  

Standing in a circle around a fire with a group of people who had been my work family for a year seemed like a fitting end.  Fire consumes, destroys, clears.  But is the consumption, destruction, and clearing to demonstrate that something has come to its consummation and has now ended?  Or is it about something bigger?

Better?

Forests require burning from time to time so that new life can occur.  Farmers will control burn a field so that the ash can be tilled in to the soil for nutrition.  That moment around that trash barrel was the dying off of a job, but it also sparked the beginning of looking for another job that brought me to where I am now.  In short, the fire could be seen as an end/beginning.  And maybe that’s how we need to look these endings.

In the Bible, the writer John in the book of Revelation tells about how there will be a new heaven and earth because the old ones passed away in fire.  New life will not occur until fire has happened.

In English there is an expression, “going through the fire.”  We typically use it to refer to some trial or test that will make us better on the other end.  And that is the point.  When these types of endings come, we should latch on to them and the weight that they carry because after the flames have wiped out what was there previously, something new and better is coming.