Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Ultimately, we all (whether we realize it or not) are hoping for and expecting redemption. Eternal redemption, yes, of course, but even smaller redemptions (though they seem large to us at the time and not always undeservedly so)--a job, an unhealthy relationship, a massive debt, an even more massive sense of guilt...As Jon McLaughlin sings, "We all need saving."
December 25, go figure, was a day that needed redemption as well. Some people get their panties (boxers, briefs, boxer-briefs, thongs, diapers) all twisted due to the fact that what we now know as Christmas Day used to be a pagan holiday dedicated to the Roman god Sol Invictus (which sounds like an awesome comic book character). Christianity hijacked the holiday though, which celebrated the Winter Equinox, i.e. the day when nights stopped getting longer and, instead, days started getting longer. But this is perfect in two ways:
1) Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, of God's Son, of the Savior and Embodiment of Redemption, is all about word becoming flesh, light shining in the darkness (John 1), and sunrise (Luke 1:78). What better day, when night fades and day breaks, to celebrate Jesus.
2) Christmas is of course the (beginning of the) culmination of God's story of redemption, begun in Genesis. Shouldn't the natural, Christian thing to do be to take a pagan holiday and turn it into a celebration of the One True Light?
Anyway, I was talking about expectation. We recently had a job interview (feel free to e-mail, call, or Facebook if you'd like details) and now we sit in expectation. Will it be a yes? Will it be a no? Expectation can be wearying if you let it get to you. My life and Emily's life can change based off what other people think and feel about us. But again, this is just a microcosm of life in general. So much of our lives is structured around how other people's lives intersect with ours. In so many ways we think we're in control, but those who've been on the receiving end of a car accident or a heart attack or even a stubborn computer know better.
But talking like this can get one down. Deuteronomy 33:27 states, "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." This is certainly more encouraging then what I was talking about. And perhaps even stronger is Zephaniah 3:17:
17 For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
God is living among us. This needs no expectation. Nor redemption. God is already here. Saving. Singing. Loving.
Monday, November 30, 2009
The Justice Project is a collection of essays by a handful of "progressive," "emergent," and otherwise cutting-edge Christian writers. The essays serve as meditations on the Biblical concept of justice, with titles such as "Just Elections: What is the Most Pressing Voter Issue Facing Our Democracy Today"; "Just Suburbs: What Does the Call of Justice Mean for Life in Our Suburbs"; and "Exorcism as Racial Justice."
The book--as most collections of essays are doomed to be--is annoyingly hit or miss. Quality and depth of writing varied wildly. The editing, it seemed, also did not curb repetition. Too often I found myself skimming over sentences or entire paragraphs that a previous essay had just said in a only slightly different way.
However, the essays that hit the mark did so excellently. If you're borrowing this book from someone, definitely check out Jeremy Del Rio's "Prophets of Justice"; Bart Campolo's "Just Elections"; and Ashley Bunting Seeber's "Just Perspectives. A quote from each will give you a flavor of what is being said.
Del Rio: "Too many Bible readers have been trained...to approach the biblical text through the priestly lens, not the prophetic one. That is, they look at the priestly theme of personal justification and ignore the prophetic theme of social justice."
Campolo: "I hereby assert that...there is only one voting issue of ultimate significance: campaign finance reform."
Seeber quoting a friend: "...what would America justice look like? Would it be restorative justice, or retributive justice? It seems Americans are focused on retributive justice more than anything else, on punishing people for their wrongdoing." She herself comments, "Do we even know how to seek distributive justice, to love other countries as we love ourselves?
The Justice Project would serve as great discussion-kindling; it doesn't stand alone very well. Three stars (out of five).
Monday, November 23, 2009
But things are a little different now. I'm married and of course Emily and I can't go on moving every 3 or 8 months. Though, admittedly, that was our plan. We had no intention to still be living in Mishawaka once winter hit. Perhaps our dreamt-of grandeur was merely delusional, but it was grandeur nonetheless. But nearly 11 months later, on Lowell street we live.
That's okay, though. We bought Christmas decorations yesterday. The level of affection I feel for, like, Star Wars or Robotech is what Emily feels for Christmas decorating. Honestly, I never had that much of a desire for Christmas decorating (and she has little for Star Wars). Don't get me wrong; Christmas decorations look nice once up, but who wants to put them up? Well, Emily does. So we bought lights and a wreath and garland and a star to put on top of our not-yet-cut-down-or-paid-for tree.
These things--stars and wreaths and such--are not things you buy in order to keep a sense of fluidity and mobility. They are, rather, the beginning of a sense of permanence. Of course, we won't be living on Lowell Street forever. But Emily and I are going to be living together for quite a while. The next place we move will (I hope) be a place we intend on staying for years to come. Fathoming this as a high school student (who I'm surrounded by currently and who can't think beyond Thanksgiving Day) or as a college student has to be impossible, because even as an alumnus and a no-longer-bachelor, I still occasionally blanch at the idea of permanence.
They always say that life goes by more and more quickly as you get older. But I think, at least for me, its finally about to slow down. And I, for one, with my wife by my side, embrace this change in velocity. If I'm going to be in the same spot for a while, it might as well be a while long enough for me to enjoy it.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I'm reading A People's History of Christianity right now, and you'll be getting my thoughts on it soon. In the meantime, check out this OOZE.tv interview where Diana discusses the impetus behind the book.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
--God, played by Morgan Freeman, from the film Evan Almighty
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
On Sunday afternoon as we were exploring downtown Grand Rapids, we found ourselves confronted by a woman at a park. She approached us and asked if we had any spare change. The woman explained she was homeless and trying to get money to get out of here. She wasn't dressed to the nines by any means, but she also wasn't your typical beggar on the street holding a coffee cup (if that makes sense). Yet, for some reason, my immediate reaction was to avoid eye contact and stall. We all kind of stood there looking at each other before one of us reached in their wallet and gave her a couple bucks. Then, we were on our way.
I instantly felt convicted. Not necessarily guilty, but convicted... there's a difference at least in my mind. Now, I didn't have my purse on me (I had left it in the car while we wandered around downtown), but the issue was not about money. What kind of a Christian am I if I can't even look another human being in the eye? I didn't have to give her any money (though, I probably should have), but I could have asked her about her story. I could have introduced myself and treated her as a person. Who knows how long of a conversation we would have had. I don't think that's the point. Even if it was short and she didn't want to talk, I would have at least had the decency to ask. Instead I fumbled around, avoided eye contact and waited for someone else to do something.
Why didn't I try and start a conversation when I felt so urged to? At the time I felt a bit frozen and didn't know how to react. I think I was also waiting for someone else to step it up first. Also, I would have felt foolish (stupid, I know). But ever since it happened, the incident keeps running through my mind. I have all this knowledge and passion about ministry, but I can't seem to live it out (at least in this one case). Perhaps I am being too hard on myself. Perhaps not. Regardless, I pray that I will be more in tune with the Spirit and more willing to act when He nudges.
Anyone else have a story like this? Where maybe you did what I did? Or maybe you did what I should have done and you saw God act in a big way?
Monday, June 22, 2009
It was really quite a wonderful weekend. Brett, Anthony, and I drove up Friday after work (for them, not me, of course). Board and Dee cooked a fabulous meal for us all and we enjoyed visiting and watching a movie. Saturday, Anthony and I met up with David Reed and Diane Howard for a long awaited graduation present. They gave Anthony a spending spree at a couple of cool Christian bookstores in Grand Rapids. Anthony was able to get some really thick books/commentaries that will be very helpful when it comes to preaching. Though I could admire the deals at Eerdman's, I really loved Baker's Bookstore. It was huge and had a wonderful selection. Not only did they have all the joys of a normal bookstore, but they had a large "factory seconds" section as well as a used section! I enjoyed browsing, though it was Anthony who walked away with some great books.
After our book hunting, we all went to Gun Lake for the rest of the evening. Gun Lake makes me happy. There's just something about being there that brings peace and happiness. lounging on a boat, eating ice cream, going tubing. Ahhh, so wonderful. Sunday, we went to Mars Hill for church. Anthony and I love being able to go there when we visit Grand Rapids, and it was great to hear Rob Bell preach. It was a wonderful sermon on forgiveness. We explored downtown for a while (though not a lot was open on Sundays), and not long after we headed for home.
It was a busy, though good weekend. Unfortunately, we came home Sunday night and realized that the next day was Monday. Too bad we couldn't have 2 weekends... one at home and one in Grand Rapids. Alas, it was not to be.
Today, I am at my parent's house doing laundry. Since I was sick last week, I was not able to do it when I should have. So things have really piled up. I don't even want to think about how many loads it would have been in our tiny washer and dryer at home. We probably would have spent $20 just doing laundry! Thank goodness for generous parents who let their grown and married children use their laundry. I am still fighting off my cold. I thought it was gone, but I woke up this morning and my nose hasn't stopped running since. I do feel better, so I guess that's a plus.
Ok, I think it's time to switch the loads! I must say goodbye for now.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Anyway, I wonder if I would be a better off person if I had an unlimited source of money. Would I travel the world, become cultured and multi-lingual and study theology, history, geology, and astronomy and become learned? Would I just feed the poor and build houses and let everyone who needed a home stay in one (here's a free house, btw)? Or would I become selfish and greedy and eat myself to 500 lbs and never clean a bathroom ever again?
I suppose the need to work in order to get money is healthy, because it keeps me active and honest. I suppose that could be used as an argument against welfare, but that's another story.
Anyway, life-in-transition is actually treating Emily and I well. I don't believe either one of us has lost weight due to lack of food; we've enjoyed a Silverhawks baseball game (well, we at least attended it; and we enjoyed the people we were with; I'm not sure we actually enjoyed the game); beautiful days outside; wonderful books; and the simply joy of friendship and marriage.
But life-in-transition is a bit wearying. Humans are stuck with the odd need to know the future and the matching inability to ascertain that knowledge. I'm looking for a full-time job in ministry, which in itself is strange. I was talking to a friend at the dunes on Sunday. He had the privledge of being called to a place of ministry (by the Spirit and by a literal phone call). I however have to treat this very much like any other job search--sending resumes, letters of reference, etc. It doesn't seem very spiritual at all. But my friend and I came to the conclusion that God uses all forms of job searching to get people into ministry. Consider Paul and the second missionary journey. They tried to go to Asia but the Spirit would not permit them. They tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit would not permit them (Acts 16). Then one day Paul got a dream. So they went to Macedonia.
I guess right now Em and I are in the trying-to-go-to-Asia/Bithynia stage. We're simply looking for where the Kingdom of God needs laborers. If the Spirit does not permit us, we'll keep on trying. But one day we'll get our own vision, go to our own Macedonia, and have a place to belong for a while.
But for now, we belong here in Mishawaka, scrubbing showers, getting colds, and fighting off the dictator called cash.
Friday, June 12, 2009
My life has changed dramatically these past couple of weeks. I am no longer in an office from 8-5, and I have been enjoying my time off. I thought I would be dealing with boredom or at least feel a little lethargic, but in actuality, I've been fairly busy. Not that I don't have time for reading or relaxing (I think I've read about 3-4 books since being off...), but I haven't had ny time to be bored. In truth, I guess I'm being a house wife. I've been doing dishes, laundry, and cleaning the house. I've been running errands, fixing lunch, and buying groceries. To be honest, I don't think our house has ever been this consistently clean. haha. With both of us working full time jobs, it was hard to keep up with everything. I'm glad to be able to keep up with everything... it allows Anthony to be able to relax when he comes home from his job at Housekeeping.
Though I have no intentions of permanently being a housewife (at least not in the typical sense), I'm glad that I can be filling that role for this season of life.
Tomorrow marks wedding #3 of the summer. Zach and Courtney are getting married in Angola, and it should be a beautiful wedding. I'm just praying that the weather holds out for them. Weddings are a great reason to celebrate and get together with friends. I'm excited to see Anne and Dee this weekend (along with a lot of other people that will be at the wedding). And then on Sunday we have plans to go to the dunes and celebrate Flag Day (yay Anne!)
Ok I think I'm done rambling for now. :) Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Going through this whole process got me thinking about a bit about what makes a pastor a pastor. Is it when I feel God's call on my life? Is it when I take one of those spiritual gift personality tests? Is it when I get credentialed? Ordained? When I find a job? Obviously the 1st century church did not have any sort of structure anywhere close to what we have. Credentialing committees, pastoral search boards, little ID cards that let you into hospitals. I'm not saying that any of that stuff is bad. It's pretty necessary, generally speaking. But if the 1st century didn't have it, what did they go by?
I think it's safe to assume that there are plenty of people out there with credentials and ordination from denominations that aren't really pastors, at least in the spiritual sense. They might have the title, the job, the parsonage, and a congregation listening to every word they speak, but they are by no means pastoring, nurturing, or loving their flock. On the flip side, I think there are probably people out there who have little training, no letters after their name, no titles before their name, and yet are the most anointed pastors out there. They know how to love, take care of us, and feed Christ's sheep.
I've chosen the path of letters after my name (B.A., thank you very much) and a title before (Pastor). But I pray that I will never use those as a crutch, as an excuse to assume that I've arrived spiritually and that I get to now go around making spiritual pronoucements. I don't think the pin/certificate/card I receive from Fort Wayne will make my "bless you's" any more holy after a sneeze. I do hope, however, that I will continually seek out the Way that Christ is blazing ahead for us; the Way of loving God and loving people. And I hope that one day, like Paul, I will be able to say, "Imitate me, as I imitate Christ."
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Monday, June 1, 2009
"I mean, the dish soap works ok, but it would be nice to have some bubble bath."
!!!My husband has been using dish soap as bubble bath!!!
Then he proceeds to inform me that he adds some of his cologne to the bath to make it smell good.
Really?? Haha, I laughed a long time when I found this out. In fact, I am still chuckling as I write this.
I just thought the world would want to know :)
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
On Saturday, Anthony and I packed a couple of books and took off for a bike ride. We rode down to the river and explored the riverwalk and various parks around Mishawaka. We settled at a park and read for a couple hours. It was glorious! I even got a sunburn! It was my first time really being outside and in the sun this spring/summer. We just soaked in having a free day to spend however we wanted.
The rest of the weekend was full of other relaxing endeavors. Lots reading, movies, and park time. We even got a free grill on Sunday with a free propane tank soon to come. Now it just needs to warm up enough for a beach day.
Now on to more serious topics. Most of you probably know that I am being laid off. Bethel has been and is still going through some financial difficulties (who isn't?), and with an effort to cut budgets and restructure, my position is being eliminated. Anthony and I were pretty shocked and terrified at first, but as time went on and as we learned more information, we're seeing this as more of a blessing.
We are very bummed that we won't be making the income we were expecting to this summer. So much for knocking off some of our debt and so much for some weekend mini vacations. But, the good news is that we will be ok financially. We won't, at least not that we can foresee, be needing to move into our parent's basement.
The good is that Anthony and I were both looking to move on come the fall. This is a few months earlier than expected, but in some ways it's good that I won't have to actually quit. We have always had a bit of fear that we would stay complacent and just do what was easy. It would be easy for me to stay at Bethel working, but it's not what we were meant to do. So we're wondering if this is God giving us an extra 'push' into ministry.
The bad (or potentially scary) is that Anthony is only guaranteed a job at housekeeping until the middle/end of August. If we can't find something before then, things could get a little sticky. The other scary thing is the loss of health insurance. We'll be ok for a couple months if Anthony finds something soon. But if anything were to happen, then it becomes a problem. But we're learning about COBRA and other options to see what we can do.
All this to say that we are now in a transition stage mixed with a lot of waiting. We're trying to have as much faith as we can and trusting that God is going to show Himself in amazing ways. We're looking at a potential move soon (since there aren't a lot of pastoring jobs in the area). And we're just praying that we find something sooner rather than later. My last day at Bethel is this Friday (3 days). But, they are being very generous with a severance check and some help with rent.
Please pray that for direction and guidance and we seek where it is God wants us in ministry!
Love to you all,
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Thursday, April 30, 2009
This chapter (the introduction of the covenant between YHWH and His people) puts a rather large emphasis on listening to God.
4:1--Listen to the statutes...
4:10--Let them hear My words...
4:12--the Lord spoke to you; you heard the sound of words; only a voice
4:15--the Lord spoke to you
4:30--Return to the Lord..and listen to His voice
4:33--Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire as you have heard it and survived
4:36--He let you hear His voice; you heard His words
Listening is probably a skill we have forgotten. Even now I had to force myself to turn off my MP3 player just so I could allow the words of Scripture to penetrate my heart. We constantly have noise; it's not too often that we listen.
Now obviously the way God speaks today is substantially different than they way God was speaking to the Israelites then. We don't come across bushes--much less whole mountains--burning with fire with the voice of God Himself booming out of it. However, we do have Scripture and the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. We need to listen.
Not only do we find emphasis on listening, but also on NOT seeing.
4:12--You heard the sound of words, but you saw no form--only a voice.
4:13--So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you
Now these passages are followed with the command to not "make a graven image...in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female...animal...suns...moon...and the stars" (4:16-19). Remember that image is an important (daresay crucial!) concept in the OT. Genesis 1 declares that humanity was made in the image of God. We are not to make graven images, nor are we to bear the name of God worthlessly (commandments 2 and 3).
This makes sense considering 4:5-8. God tells the Hebrews to "keep and do" God's statutes and judgments "in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord...?" God was not just giving these commands to create some strange system of laws and rules and dead animals. He was creating a system based on justice unlike anything the world had ever seen. Look at 4:8--"What great nation is there that has statues...as righteous as [what] I am setting before you today?" Israel was meant to let the world know that there is a "God so Near" who is just. Why not make a graven image? Because ISRAEL was meant to be the image of God.
Now, who is this God? 4:24 states that he is "a consuming fire, a jealous God." But seven verses later, 4:31 states "God is a compassionate God." How are both possible? C. Wright writes,
"The apparent contradiction between verse 24 and verse 31 is in reality a vital consistency. It was the fire of God's jealousy that protected the strength of God's mercy...to this people. In rebellion and idolatry they would find the God of verse 24. In return and obedience they would find the God of verse 31. This is the same unchanged God, responding to a tragically changeable people."
Whether we like it or not, God responds to His people. When they reject Him, He lets them go on their way, sometimes even if it leads to their destruction. God is a God of freedom; those who do not chose Him, He will not coerce into love. As a professor of mine used to stay, God is not a cosmic rapist. However those who seek Him will find Him (4:29) and in response: He will not fail...nor destroy...nor forget (4:31).
Speaking of forgetting, that is another thing we aren't supposed to do (4:9, 23). That is why it's worthwhile to read books like Deut...so we won't forget.
Verse 35 states that God has done all these things for Israel "so that you might know that the Lord is God." God is a revelatory God; He is not Deistic, floating away somewhere. "He is God in heaven above and on the earth below" (4:39). He is everywhere. The earth is full of His glory. It is also important to note that God is not just the God of "up above." He is the God of here below as well. Remember: Your will be done on earth...
But Israel is not only meant to merely know but also God disciplined (taught, trained) His people in morality. Knowledge of God leads to action. God being revealed to you leads to being disciplined in His ways.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Church was excellent (if a bit under-attended) this week. Dr. Tony Tomasino taught on loving the Lord with all of our soul (as opposed to last week which was about Heart and next week which is about Mind). He pointed out to an ANE thinker, the heart was the seat of the will and that the soul (Hebrew: nephesh; Greek: psychē) was not just some disembodied part of you (which is actually a novel idea in the history of the world, making way unto the modern mind in the 17th century) but rather the whole of your being.
This is has many implications. First off, Love is a choice. It is a conscious act of will. In fact, it is something that can be commanded. Dr. T. told the story of a woman going to a counselor, complaining that she doesn't love her husband. "What should I do?" she asked.
"Well, you should love your husband," the counselor responded.
"No, you don't understand, my husband and I have fallen out of love. What should I do?"
"Love your husband," he said again simply.
"No you don't understand--"
"No, YOU don't understand," the counselor declared. "You have confused love with passion. Love is an emotion. It comes and goes. But love is a choice that you have to make."
This is the same with God. Our emotions of how "in passion" we are with God will come and go. But loving God is a choice to obey and follow Him. This is something that we don't often understand. Even John Wesley missed this point. He once wrote to his brother
I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen.However, John had obeyed the will of God to the utmost. John had a bad definition of love, as if it were some feeling in his heart (or in his kidney's, if we were to go with Ancient Near Eastern imagery). Love must be acted out on by the entirety of our person. Perhaps to understand Mark 12:30 it should be translated like this:
Love the Lord God with your will, your being (body and mind), and anything else left!
Though I'm no longer a student, there's still something about summer that puts happiness on my heart. I start planning all the wonderful things we can do, even though I know with both of us working full time we probably won't have time for half of them (nor the money for half of them), but it's still fun to dream. Here are some things on my list: Spend time at Little One's pool, go to the beach, make a weekend Chicago trip, go to the beach, make at least one weekend in Grand Rapids, go to the beach, go to the fair, go to the beach, etc. And of course, who can forget the multitude of weddings this summer!
I also love Bethel during the summer. Since I'm local and since I've worked at Bethel over the summer before, I have a certain affection for it. Though it's sad to see the place empty out, I love being able to eat my lunches outside and have the pond to myself. And there's a certain community that builds with those left behind to stay and work. I'm curious to see what my job will be like in the summer. I have a feeling it will be quite slow. But I'm ok with that... hopefully I can bring some books in and get some summer reading accomplished.
Anthony and I have 2 more weeks at Cedar Road. Though I know it's coming, it still seems unreal. It's also unreal that a year has already passed. But it's been a good year there. Challenging, but in the best of ways. We have both grown to love many of the people there... especially the staff and worship team. It will be a bittersweet end. This past Sunday they actually held a love offering for us. We were sosurprised when they announced it a few weeks ago. We weren't expecting that at all. It's very generous of them, and wonderful for us since Anthony didn't receive any pay of stipend while he was there. Yay for unexpected blessings!
Anthony and I are still going strong as well. We're still loving life and marriage. I was just commenting the other day that I really love the companionship aspect of our relationship. We make such great companions. It's so enjoyable to live with someone you can just hang out with. We went grocery shopping together last week and we had a lot of fun laughing and getting food. And it just struck me that I just really enjoy doing things with him. I realize that some of you out there might chalk this up to a "newlywed" phase, and maybe that's true, but I truly hope that it always stays this way.
Well, I could probably go on, but I will wait for another day and end here. Enjoy the sunshine and the beautiful day!
Friday, April 24, 2009
"How are you feeling about the graduation?"
It's a pretty common question these days, not only to me but to my peers. Graduation is obviously a pretty big deal--it's signifies the end of four very crucial, forming, trying, and yet enjoyable years of our lives.
But too often when I hear a fellow student asked about the end of not only undergrad for this school year but for the rest of their lives, they respond with:
"Oh I'm so ready to be done."
"I'm so ready just to be out of here."
Isn't this kind of sad? I mean, these four years have crafted relationships that we will have for the rest of our lives. Our minds and our hearts (and our bodies, I guess) have been changed into something very different then what they were four years ago. We think differently about the world, as well as the people and the things in it. We know our God better than before. And hopefully we've allowed Him to know us as well.
So, now that we've come to the end of this journey, I think the response should not be "Get me out of here, let's rush out." I think it's time to sit and reflect, rekindle memories, retell stories.
Think of the Israelites. They had just wandered around for 4 years...I mean 40 years...
doing really dumb things,
really heroic things,
but always being provided for by God Himself.
Their journey is told in blow-by-blow detail through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.
And yet we get to Deuteronomy.
They're on the banks of the Jordan. They can almost smell the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey (which is more than we can say about the land we enter into after Bethel). And yet what they do?
And they listen.
They listen to Moses retell what God has done with them and through them. They listen to the good and the bad. The tales of woe and the tales of victory. They know these stories. Their parents had lived them out; they grew up in the midst of them happening. And yet, just a few days away from the next stage in their journey, the fulfillment of all that had been promised to them, they listen to it all.
Finally Moses dies and they stay still for 40 more days, just to mourn their leader, the symbol of what had happened to them.
And so, as we go to the bookstores, pick up our graduation gowns, sell our textbooks, and pack up our bags, can we too sit? And stop? Let's post pictures from Freshman pictures up on Facebook and remember. Let's go to a round table at the Dining Commons and retell stories of how we met. Of what we used to think and what we think now. Of what God has done in this 4-year wandering of a wilderness called college where God has given us manna each and every day that we needed it.
And then we can go.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
A man came into the computer lab today with a donut and a big coffee. From where I sit at work I can see 3 signs that say "NO FOOD OR DRINK IN THE LAB." So my co-worker stops the man and asks him to leave his drink and food at the counter to retrieve when he's done.
"Why do I have to do that?" the man responds.
"I'm sorry, but there are signs everywhere that there is no food or drink in the lab," she responds.
"I know," he says, "but I've been here 5 years and no one has ever told me that."
Wait? He know's that there are signs, but he ignored them for 5 years? Whatever happened to integrity?
I'm reminded of my quite virtuous father who, even when coming from work at 4a, will still not park in a handicapped spot or run a red light when no one is there. What happened to doing the right thing just because it's the right thing?
Monday, April 20, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
Emily doesn’t like it when all I post is “Bible Stuff” (but who does!) so I suppose I should update y’all about the stuff going on in, like, my life. Here goes.
These next few weeks will definitely be weeks of transition. I graduate from college on May 3, start working at Bethel Housekeeping on May 4, concluding my 4 years at the Computer Department, will be done leading worship at Cedar Road Missionary on May 10, will be interviewed to be credentialed Missionary Church minister on May 12. After that then begins the search for a job as a pastor. The future is as blank as a newborn’s memory.
I’m learning to be okay with that. Not knowing the future is okay when you are perfectly content with the present—which I am. In some ways, I don’t want things to change. My friends are a phone call and a short walk away. Emily and I, excluding my school work, which will end soon, are pretty much free each night to do as we see fit. Speaking of fit, Emily wants me to try Tae-bo with her. Like on purpose. I’m more likely to purposely sit naked on a pineapple.
Anyway, being content is something unique for me. All my life I’ve always wanted life to go warp speed ahead. When I was 7 I wanted to 13. When I was 13 I wanted to be 21. Now I’m 22 and I kinda like it that way. My church likes me. I don’t have children running around, dictating how I run my life.
But on the other hand, I’m constantly talking about change. And I know that as soon as I get too comfortable being comfortable, God will shake things up. So I eagerly await the day—though fully content in this one—when everything will be turned upside down.
For fans of all thing dorky, you can see a Star Wars/MacGyver Mashup.
For those looking out a good deal, check out Todd’s blog. For some good philosophy on pacifism, check out D.C. Cramer. For science buffs, check out 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense. If you’re tempted to buy a burger at McDonald’s, remember things are never what they seem. And remember the easiest way to corrupt a youth.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
He says, "Love is the deepest mode of knowing..."
Though it wasn't necessarily meant to be a powerful statement, I couldn't help but stop dead in my tracks. Something struck me about it, and it got me thinking. Love is the deepest mode of knowing. So what does that mean? Perhaps it means that the more I love God the deeper I know Him, understand Him. Again, this can be taken to human relationships as well. The deepest and truest way I can know Anthony is by loving him. If I didn't love him, I could only know and understand him to a certain point. And the same with all of the other relationships in my life. Maybe this is another level to why Jesus commands us to love our neighbors and our enemies.
We have always known that love is powerful. That people can do a lot of good under the influence of love. That the world can be changed because of love. And I think this just added a whole new depth to the word. It's like something I always knew but had never put in tangible words before.
Just something to think about...
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Deuteronomy 2 presents some more challenging material. In 2:34 we see that the Israelites killed all "men, women, and children of every city" in the land of Heshbon. In 2:30 we see that God "hardened the heart" of the king of Heshbon so that Israel could fight him and take over his land. This is a God to shiver at.
But we also must remember that it's the same God that commanded Israel to not provoke to war the Edomites (2:5), the the Moabites (2:9), and the Ammonites (2:19). Why? Because God had also promised them land and had ordained that they should live there. Chapter 2 presents a God who is supremely sovereign, dispossessing some people to allow those of His choosing to thrive there. And we also discover that God's dealing with Israel--though unique in it's covenant nature and unheard of revealing of the Divine--is not unique in terms of providing for a people group. Esau, Moab, and Lot were all family to the Hebrews and had had some sort of dealing with YHWH. God was being faithful to His people and punishing those (the Emim/Anakim/Rephaim/Zamzum
2:7 presents a personal God that has "BLESSED," "KNOWN your wanderings through the wilderness," "BEEN with you," and has made sure that "you have not lacked a thing." YHWH, though sovereign and Most High, is also taking care of His children.
Notice that the parenthetical explanations of 2:10-12 and 2:20-23 show the obvious hand of an editor. Even 2:12 states "...Esau dispossessed them and destroyed them...just as Israel did to the land...the Lord gave them." The text is speaking in past tense ("Israel did") of an event that hadn't happened yet in the chronology of Deuteronomy (the taking of "The Land").
As mentioned, we see the dual nature of human free will and Divine sovereignty. Verse 30 presents a king that, one the one hand, "was not willing" for Israel to pass through his land. We have obvious language of the king making a choice, using his will. On the other hand we see that God hardened his heart for the express purpose to cause a war between Israel and this king. This reminds me of John 1:12-13, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God...who were born...of [the will] of God." Which is it? Are they receiving Christ of freewill or by God's will? The only correct answer is Yes.
Finally the end of the chapter almost sings of "I told you so." Verse 36 states, "There was no city that was too high for us; the LORD our God delivered all over to us." This shouts in the face of 1:28, "The people are bigger..the cities are large." When we follow God, there is no person or city big enough to stop us.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Don't get me wrong, I think salvation is an essential part of our faith (obviously), and I would never suggest that it's never mentioned, I just think sermons are not the ideal place for them.
On Easter Sunday our pastor, like many others, I'm sure, decided to preach a salvation message. The idea is that Easter will bring in a lot of visitors, so what better time to tell them that Jesus loves them. The sermon was titled "How to Know You are Going to Heaven," and it began with him asking "Do you know where you're going when you die?" As I sat there listening, it got me thinking. I simply came to the realization that we are going about things the wrong way.
Perhaps this is a generational thing, but I couldn't help but wonder, if I were a visitor to a church would I understand enough from a 15 minute sermon to accept Jesus? Though I'm sure it can happen, I have my doubts. What is the purpose of the church? What should visitors, non-believers, and the unchurched see when they come into a church? In my opinion, one of the main purposes of the church is for edification- to teach and grow in knowledge, maturity, and spiritually. When visitors come to church or when non-believers come to church, they should be able to see the body working, worshipping, and learning. Hmmm, I'm not quite sure how to word this next part, but if pastors were teaching about living life abundantly and about bringing Jesus' kingdom here on earth instead of how to get to heaven when we die, I think that would be more beneficial for non-believers. They would see what our faith is all about, and it gives them questions, and hopefully God can start working.
So when does salvation enter the picture? Well, I think ideally, salvation should be presented in terms of a relationship. One on one. With a friend. If a non-believer heard a sermon about abundant and full life, perhaps they would be curious enough to visit again. And maybe again. Even if that wouldn't happen, maybe they would talk with someone after. Even if the church never saw them again, I still don't think all would be lost. Perhaps that person will speak to someone they know who has faith or maybe they will try another church. That's where people like you and I come in. Being a person living out faith. Being someone who can be approached. Living in the world (yet not being of it). Hopefully, we can be out in the world to help answer questions. To guide on the journey. That's where I think salvation comes in. Again, I would emphasize that I would never try to limit God and the ways in which He chooses to work. Obviously, He can speak through a salvation sermon. And surely he can speak through conferences, etc. But I have a hard time believing that a one time "here's how you can get to heaven" spiel is the most effective way to reach people in this society.
And I won't even go into the fact that salvation should not be focused on Heaven or death, but on life and what living life truly means.
I know these thoughts are disorganized. Instead of trying to write pretty, I just needed to get them down. They've been mulling about in my head since Easter morning. I guess I just wish the church (the church in general, not the individual church) would start acting like they're preaching. I wish more Americans had the desire to get past salvation and dig deeper into Truth. And I wish that that desire and passion would draw others to the God who we know is Love, Grace, and Goodness.
Tis all for now. Feel free to leave your thoughts :)
Monday, April 13, 2009
We started last night and already have a ton of things to think about.
1:1, 5--We have the repeated phrase "across the Jordan." This phrase is particularly significant. It represents being in the wilderness (1:1), which though is not all that exciting of a word, should still conjure up memories of God's provision. "Across the Jordan" is also where we find Jesus hundreds of years later, in his own "wilderness" (Matthew 4:1).
1:2, 3--The author of Deuteronomy gives the reader some rather pointed irony. It's only 11 days journey from Mt. Horeb/Sinai to the banks of the Jordan, but it took the Israelites 40 years to get there. Again we see parallels with Jesus who was in his own wilderness for 40 days (Mt. 4:2). But again, we should know that just as the Israelites were provided for, so was Jesus (Mt. 4:11). And I doubt it's coincidence that Jesus would quote Deuteronomy 3 times (Mt. 4:4/Deut 8:3; Mt. 4:7/Deut. 6:16; Mt. 4:10/Deut. 6:13).
1:8, 21--Here we see that there is a "both/and" when it comes to God's will for a people or even individuals. God has "placed" the land before Israel, but they are still requried to "take possession" of the land. When it comes to God's will, we cannot simply stand around waiting for it to happen at us. God asks that we take responsibility for our own lives and simply allow Him to guide and direct.
1:16, 17--God has always been a God of justice. His asking to be fair to both a fellow countryman and the "stranger/alien" would be unheard of in their contempoary society.
1:30, 31, 33--We find the repeated phrase that God "goes before you." We also see that "God carried you" just as father carries His son. If any preacher ever tells you that the New Testament was the first time people referred to God as Father, please let him know that this simply not the case. In Deuteronomy, we do not find a god concerned merely about rules and regulations; He is a God of justice and compassion.
1:22-46--This is a complicated story of disobeience. God tells them to take the land; they say they can't, and so God punishes their generation to die and not have the promised land. The next generation attacks when God asks them not to, because they were relying on their own strength. The moral of this story is that obedience is key. Intriguingly we find that the same situation may require different responses. But what we do depends on God.