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Friday, June 28, 2013

Job Description: Minister

Preparing for this week’s worship service, I was studying Romans 15 which spun off the question, “What is the responsibility of the minister (or priest): to present God to the people or the people to God?” 

Read the passage below and comment on topic:

But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” (Romans 15:15-19, NASB)


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The LORD Sits Enthroned

But the LORD sits enthroned forever; He has established His throne for justice, and He judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.” (Psalm 9:7-8)

Ever play that game where you say a word over and over and over again until it sounds like a different word,? The game involves a sort of a mind trick where the repeated word seems to lose its meaning. Say the word repeatedly until the mind sort of “clocks out” and the word sounds foreign. Children at that moment laugh when they realize what happened. I think this has happened with “forever.”



What does “forever” mean? Well, the word as we know it has been around since at least the late 17th century, combining the concept of “before” with “at any time” or “always.” The Hebrew word is “o-lam” which carries the idea of “hidden time, long” or simply “ancient.” So how long has the LORD been enthroned? Since ancient hidden time.

How long will He remain? Will He ever leave the throne? Look again at what has been happening since ancient time: the LORD sits enthroned (“sits” is present tense). Like His name, “I AM,” (present tense), here translated “the LORD”. He is now sitting on His throne since before ever. He’s not going to move.

Though we’ve only mentioned it, let’s take a closer look at that on which the present-tense, personal, covenant-making God sits. “Throne” means much more than the exalted chair on which a regal sits. “Throne” carries the idea of support, of that which is steadfast, strong and stable. We can easily picture this in a chair but the best meaning says this is the seat of law, the seat of statutes. Without going to the dictionary and looking up “throne”, the Psalmist tells us this is the place of justice, of judgment. The LORD dispenses justice from established law. He does not make things up as He goes. He does not change His mind to fit situations.

The LORD sits on an established throne of justice judging the world with righteousness. The people of the world, all nations are judged with uprightness. Judgment is present-tense, not future. The LORD is at this very moment passing down judgment from His ancient throne upon all ethnicities. God determines what happens to people now and in the future. The formula is simple: obedience brings blessing; disobedience brings consequences. The LORD is not unjust to give any person what he or she deserves. He is the same way with nations and governments as a whole.

The LORD is on His throne and His reign is over all the earth. No nation is excluded from His rule or judgment.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:9-10)


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cinemapunk

We used to make the joke, “I’ll wait for the movie.” Now it seems that’s all that remains, the movie. Hard to imagine what life would be like without the movie. Steampunk imagines a fantastic world where technology never progresses beyond the steam age. What would we call the film-less world? Are we able to imagine such a world at all? Hard to believe there are some places in the world that remain cinemapunk (for lack of a better name).

Some say that Fritz Lang’s 1927 film “Metropolis” set the stage for steampunk. Yes, a film started the sub-genre, but this may have been inspired by the controversial 1917 movie, “Birth of a Nation” which was set in the Civil War.

What would our days and nights be without movies? I remember when going to the movies was a big thing. I stood in line that wrapped around the block in 1977 to see Star Wars. I returned to the theatre five more times to see it. I went to movies nearly three times a week (at least once on Wednesdays) for years. Now, I can’t seem to manage my Netflix Instant View account and am totally burned out on “24.”

Somehow we think we can’t live without film media. It’s everywhere. Thousands of blog posts daily illustrate their content with YouTube or Vimeo--there is some very creative stuff out there. News media can’t seem to thrive without film. Television shows are now taking on a new format, breaking away from the 25 or 45 minutes for 15 weeks seasons to delivering 1-1 ½ or 2 hour “episodes” over a three or four week “season.”

I think part of the reason we moths are attracted to the flickering light on the screen is because we enjoy being entertained. Our culture now thrives on entertainment. We like “checking out” of reality and going to another place and time. Sadly, we pay good money to have someone imagine for us. Left to ourselves, we are boring because we are forgetting how to think.

A world without film is the world outside, where the birds sing and the sun shines; where the moon dances in the clouds and the smell of flowers fill the air. A world without film is a world where people talk to one another beyond, “what size popcorn should we get?” A world without film moves, in real pictures.

I enjoy a good film, but in it’s place; in it’s time. A GOOD film.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Necessity of Confession

"A man who makes it his business not to confess his sin, but to understand it and explain it, no matter how philosophical he may seem, is walking in darkness, and the truth is not in him." (Scottish Theologian, James Denney, 1856-1917)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Joseph Conrad, on Art

"A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line. And art itself may be defined as a single-minded attempt to render the highest kind of justice to the visible universe, by bringing to light the truth, manifold and one, underlying its every aspect. It is an attempt to find in its forms, in its colours, in its light, in its shadows, in the aspects of matter and in the facts of life, what of each is fundamental, what is enduring and essential--their one illuminating and convincing quality--the very truth of their existence. The artist, then, like the thinker, or the scientist, seeks the truth and makes his appeal."

(Joseph Conrad's Preface to "The Nigger Of The 'Narcissus'", originally published 1897 )

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Randoms

Glenn Beck now promotes . . . Chrislaminism?

12 Steps to Strong Sermon Illustrations.

Christians borrowed from pagans, or what it the other way around?

Can anyone confirm this:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Photoblog: Prison

It's nice to know there's a prison just 10 minutes from downtown Atlanta. Looks solid enough . . .

The camera did this strange effect as I was driving by (the fence are fine. See above picture):



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Reflecting on "Snake" by D.H. Lawrence

I know nothing about D.H. Lawrence other than getting him confused with T.E. Lawrence (of "Lawrence of Arabia" fame). Now I want to get to know this man. I came across a poem of his (D.H.) that I could not put down as I returned to it repeatedly throughout the day. The title is simply, "Snake." Should I say the poem is striking is not to make a pun for it truly is striking, mezmerizing. Like a snake. It would do the reader great good to take in the entire work for himself or herself here before continuing.

The more I read the poem, the more observations I made which in turn led to many questions. First permit a small notation for the remarkable rhythm of the piece in it's irregular stanzas:

"A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there."


He meanders along his path to the water trough and brings the reader up short as if grabbing our arm to prevent another step. Two beautiful stanzas caught my attention, the first being:

"Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second-comer, waiting."


Permit this observation here: so far Lawrence has alluded to "my water trough." Hold that thought as we observe the second stanza found later in the poem:

"I wished he would come back, my snake."

The sense of invasion of property shifts from the trough to the snake; but, the reasons are astounding as we should see shortly. The one snapshot that held me most was this:

". . . And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black . . ."

That was not a black tongue simply, but a rich, deep tongue of night. Here we may refer to a theme that Lawrence uses that cause the reader to think more deeply about this snake drinking at his water trough, and by noting these themes we observe a shift in imagery as the snake becomes much more than a snake. Lawrence will repeatedly use "dark" words, referring to the snake coming out of the "gloom"; from the "burning bowls of earth" (he uses this phrase twice); the "black, black snakes"; the "dark door of secret earth"; the "black hole" in the wall; the "blackness" of the "black hole" to which the snake returns.

What amplifies the mystery of this dark imagery is that Lawrence first notes this snake is golden colored, not black. He recalls (then strangely, later laments) how he was taught that black snakes are "the innocent, the gold venemous." The reason this is important is because this beautiful, bright creature is deadly, coming and later returning to his home that seems nearly hellish. Underscoring this thought is Lawrence's reference to the god-likeness, the stature of this creature:

"For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again."


This is chilling as Lawrence is describing a creature visiting from another world. This leads us to note four subtle references within the work. First, one cannot read this and not think of Kipling. Second, the Biblical reference to the serpent in the garden is clear, being there before the first man. The writer carries on a wonderful dialogue with himself concerning killing the animal. This leads one to wonder about that first meeting of Adam and Eve in the garden, being met by the serpent. Why did they not kill him except that they took the beast to be just one of the animals of the field. Nothing seemed amiss . . . at first.

The second reference Lawrence is less subtle, but the meaning is clear when he says of the retreating snake, "And I thought of the alabtross." This is a clear reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and the lesson of the albatross found there. Here, the snake does not die, but is gone nonetheless.

Finally, the already mentioned passage regarding the regalness of the snake, like a king, is a nod to Milton's "Paradise Lost." The question now is, which is Paradise and would he really want this one to be king? How is it he is so filled with fear yet calls the reptile "one of the lords of life"?

Lawrence ends the poem considering the need to atone for omission, of thinking too lightly of things that really matter--perhaps regarding spiritual matters.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Photoblog: Killwin's

Just one of the happiest places on earth.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Waiting, With Questions

“Waiting for Godot,” by the absurdist Samuel Beckett, is my favorite play. Exactly why this is may favorite is difficult to explain as the the play itself is difficult to explain; however, the explanation can be as simple as the play is simple. One must experience Beckett’s work here to fully appreciate this perspective. The play is absurd and it is simple. The play makes no sense, yet plunges deep with its themes into meaning, an agenda is clear.

Beckett’s main character is an “invisible center” as in both acts (there are only two) two men pass the time in waiting for him. The main character never appears, is never heard and nearly nothing is known about him--even by Valadamir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo) who wait for him for reasons unknown. Yet, they must wait. Other characters appear with their time on the stage: Pozzo with loyal Lucky (who, incidentally, delivers a fine-hatted speech) and a boy.

Didi and Gogo are children at heart. They do what they are told, without question. They are told to wait and so they do. While they wait they ask questions in and of themselves and the moment they seem to reach a point of understanding, all meaning suddenly gives way and collapses into despair. They return to their starting point: waiting.

One reason why this play is so appealing to me is how it reminds me of my childhood. One scene comes to mind: I am five years old and riding in the back of the car. Since seat belts were not an issue in those days of thost steel-bodied road-boats we called “cars”, I was probably riding up in the rear window of the car, laying in the space up above the back seats. My father was driving and talking with mother. I don’t recall what they talked about, but I never questioned my father. One never questioned. One simply did as he was told. If I gave the slightest hint I did in fact follow the conversation between them, it quickly fractured into spelled words and meaning slipped my mental grasp. I was shut out and left to my own questions.

Never question. Just do as you are told. Wait for Godot, no matter how long it takes--even if he never comes. So what, exactly, is a child to do? 

Didi and Gogo show the disaster of not asking questions, of asking the right questions to the wrong person, or asking the wrong questions altogether with no direction, correction or instruction. Left to their own devices, they stand at the threshold of despair. The heart is deceitfully wicked--who can know it? They explore reality and come very near shaping one of their own understanding and have no discernment to see reality as it should be. The boy at the end of both scenes may be their only key to the real world, showing them that things are not what they seem.

The most intriguing portion of the play occurs early in the first act where Didi asks Gogo concerning the Gospel. Everyone’s heard it and behind it all, there is the question of paradise, reality. While they wait and discuss the heavenly realm, they wrestle with what is real: pain, hunger, cold, harsh landscape, life and death. These lead to questions, less “why” but “for what purpose.” Beckett takes us very close to the spiritual realm and there must be a way to make sense of it and to do so, one must ask questions. The best one to ask is the Architect of paradise. Even a child knows this.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Randoms

Pop Quiz! Who said, "It is more difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle; yet, with genetic engineering, we can now breed very small camels." The answer may surprise you!

Ah, yes: The Kettlebell. Here are 4 exercises (with illustrations).

5 reasons to keep a journal.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Reading and Writing

The other day I was lamenting how I would love to sit down and write again. My writing has fallen by the wayside and I am nearly bursting to contribute by means of pen to paper, or by choking up the blogosphere with more head-dibs. Simultaneously I was lamenting my problem concerning reading: I can’t seem to get it done. So many good books, so little time. I’m not one of those who can sit and flip through and say I’ve read it. I am one of those “consuming” readers--I need to process. Making matters worse, I like to read nearly anything and if it has a study guide . . . well, there goes my life.

Some of us categorize ourselves as readers and others would say they are writers. The truth is that readers should be writers and writers should be readers. The two compliment each other, so there is really no doing the one thing in preference over another. Reading should be done with pen or pencil in hand. Writing should be done with books open. That’s why margins exists (ok, perhaps not, but look what famous authors did as they read the classics). Truth be told: I am not writing well because I am not reading well (and vice versa).

Think of reading as a conversation, interacting with the author--and this can be done with any book. What I mean is that as a reader we converse with the author, after all, he or she is a real person with real thoughts, ideas, feelings. We are able to understand what we are reading by asking questions, or even making statements. Sure, we will not get answers from the author unless we write with our questions (should the author still live), or research the subject ourselves. Ah, now we are owning the material--learning! We may even find ourselves writing paragraphs spontaneously in response to something we’ve read--or perhaps even written!

Our daughter recently graduated from High School and asked that age old question, “now what, now that all my school work’s done?” I reminded her that life-long learning has just begun, go pick up a book and do something about it.

There are times when reading should be done in isolation, apart from writing. Similarly, writing has periods of independence apart from reading. We can be better readers and writers by paying attention to what happens when we do both, respectively: the reader may find himself “conversing” with the author or characters. Even if words go unsaid, the reader returns to the novel because he must finish--there are questions! The writer will find herself looking for explanations, illustrations. The things that happen with paper are fascinating!

Consider: writer’s block. It does not exist for a reader. Given the fact that I desired to write something, I sat down and simply started. No plan. Not even a subject. Yet you read and, I hope, are inspired to write. Pick up a book with me and write!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Reflecting On A Death

Last week, a close friend died. He was 29. His last words were “God is good.” Yes, Stu. God is Good.

I certainly don’t corner the market on grieving here, but am surprised by how I am responding to our loss, his gain. This is a gain for Stu because he is not suffering and He has all of Jesus and a glorified body to boot. Just before going to the hospital he posted “Prayers for real answers and healing are appreciated.” This is loss for us because, well, that’s what death does. Death is a loser. Death gets nothing in the end, when its' all over.


I was sitting in a faculty meeting when my wife called. I texted, “in a meeting, call you later.” She texted right back to call immediately. I did and she gave me the news. Death has a peculiar characteristic striking those close to the departed with deafness and blindness. I heard her call, loved her, hung up, returned to my seat in the meeting and heard nothing and saw nothing for the rest of the morning. Or the rest of day for that matter. The fog rolled in as we mourned. 

Our dear sister, the wife. We had a wonderful visit Wednesday night with friends and Stu did his thing, sending us all into fits of laughter. That was one of his super-powers: bringing laughter. So we laughed--and cried a little--and laughed more. I’m sure I’m not the only one who could say this but as we reminisced and laughed, we could hear his voice as we quoted him. 

One can hear his thick white glasses plonk onto the table as he screwed up his mouth proclaiming, “I quit!” or nod in the context of argument, “that’s fair.” It is not difficult to imagine Bigfoot strolling into the cafeteria, looking for burgers. Burgers will never be the same now because I’m going to be looking toward the door . . . 

Oh, how the questions come. This is one feature of my grief that surprises me--the questions. I’m too old to have these kinds of questions. Questions like, “why do we say, ‘rest in peace’?” Perhaps we intend that we need peace ourselves because of the chaos of death. My mind begins to explore theological implications.

What do we mean by “rest”? Do we assume the soul is buried with the body, asleep? Are we fearful of some kind of un-rest that is different than any suffering faced by the now-dearly departed? If the soul is in an eternal state, and we know that soul is a peace with God, then the words are more comfort for us--that we can rest in peace now that his suffering is over. I'm not so sure we know what we mean when we say it.

I tried to journal some that day, but could not. When I opened my journal, a handmade card fell out made by our oldest daughter a number of years back. Inside, it reads, “I know that this week is going rough, but you can do anything! Rely on God! With him [sic] you can do anything! I love you, Daddy!” I love you, too, Baby. What an unexpected blessing from so long ago . . .



My beautiful, darling and incredibly swift and witty wife quoted MacBeth (Shakespeare) and I took personally, “Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bid it break.”  Ok, dear. I did. And having laughed a little, feel so much better now. He’s at peace with the Prince of Peace. God is Good.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Photoblog: The Real Thing

Vending machine outside our favorite Mexican Restaurant:


Friday, June 07, 2013

Kingdom Advance and Church Growth

It’s difficult, perhaps nearly impossible to read 1 Corinthians 15:25 without forming a mental picture: “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” Can you see it?


Perhaps one reason the image comes so quickly to our sanctified imagination is that Paul describes something unusual. Then as easily and suddenly as we imagine it, we face a crisis of feeling because the image is either comforting or disturbing. What do you see? “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.”


Perhaps you see the picture of a someone making a footstool of someone’s back.
Perhaps you see a head or neck under the tread of a foot.
Perhaps you see people lovingly bowing down.


What’s interesting is we tend to focus on a small part of the image and not the whole. Who is being trod upon? These would be enemies. Who is not being trod upon? Why isn’t every person under foot? These would be the friends.


Enemies and friends of whom? The one who must reign. See, there’s more to the picture. Do you see Him, or the ones under Him? “HE must reign until HE has put all HIS enemies under HIS feet.” The language here underscores the necessity of Christ’s reign, following the necessity of His birth, the necessity of His death, the necessity of His burial and necessity of His resurrection. He reigns necessarily, like it or not. He is Lord, like it or not--no one makes Him Lord--He is Lord. Demonstrate humility in bowing before Him, lowering yourself under Him and in turn exalt the Lord; or, be counted among the hostilities subject to the rule of the Prince of Peace.


The true church is the agent of His Kingdom and the ambassadors are we (created in God’s image) who have been redeemed through repentance by faith. We are the agents of Kingdom advance. This means we have a calling to bring God’s Kingdom into the world. What does this look like? It looks like the humble before Him moving among the hostiles against Him speaking with His authority, influencing. How can we tell how we are doing in this kingdom advance? Romans 14:17-18 is a great measuring stick: “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.” Subjects of the King stand out with the purity, peace and joy as given by the Holy Spirit. Too bad so many local churches are known for potlucks and festivities that mimic the world. We are to bring the world to the throne where they meet their Lord, to love and obey Him; or, glorify His righteous judgment (more on this later).


We have a beautiful example of what this looks like in Acts 17. Paul arrived in Thessalonica, where he entered a synagogue and for three weeks spoke from the scriptures for three weeks. The religious community had presented to them evidence of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. A Kingdom representative impacted the the religious community with Kingdom teaching concerning the King. Some were persuaded while others were not, growing in hostility against the message of The Lord. Can’t help but note that the Kingdom’s representatives only spoke the message; it was the enemies of the King who raised their voices.

The Prophet Daniel was inspired to give us a snapshot of what the Kingdom will look like. “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up kingdom which will never be destroyed and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crust and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.” (Daniel 2:44). We see a forever-kingdom. It’s not going anywhere, so fighting it will only usher in loyal subjects who will bow in love or hostiles who will bow under His foot.

As ambassadors of the Kingdom, we impact the world through: proclaiming and explaining God’s unchanging Word; going into all the world pointing all its citizens to the King; discipling those who are humble before Him; worshipping Him through the spiritual service of transformed minds and hearts.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Randoms

Phil Ryken suggests "How To Discourage Artists In The Church."

Ever wonder what famous authors wrote in the margins of their copies of classic literature?

Suggestions for "Breaking the Mental Barrier" for exercise and fitness.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

You Did Well, Brother.


1983-2013

WOD: Happy Thoughts

My tee-shirt says, "I'm Training To Be A Cage Fighter", pictured with Napoleon Dynamite's brother. My favorite workout shirt.

My Workout of the Day (WOD) was a 4 mile walk carrying 45 lbs (any object). I put a 40 pound dumb-bell into a heavy-duty backpack and set to walking. One feature of walks like this is when the brain kicks in and you really start to think. My blood gets flowing as I get on the road, climb the gentle incline, round the curves then start up the hill. I realized that at a total weight of 260 lbs, I am carrying 7 pounds more than when I started Spark People in 2011 [note: down to 219 at the time of this writing].

The happy thought came about half-way through the walk (Dream Theater pounding in my earphones) that when I get home, I am going to remove the backpack and drop 40 pounds in an instant. I imagined myself lighter already, picking up speed--and sure enough--the moment I came around to the backdoor, I removed the pack and felt my body nearly float on the tips of the grass blades. I celebrated with some push-ups.

Another thought came to me: many folks (self included) carry a lot of stuff inside that needs to put down. We over overweight mentally, emotionally, spiritually. John Bunyan wrote of this in the 1600's when he spoke of Graceless taking his burden to the cross of Christ where it fell off and rolled into a grave. It was at that point he became another person (Pilgrim) and it was at that point his journey really began (Progress). 

Happy thoughts alone don't change a person. Being changed brings happiness. What we fight should the that which is hostile against our Creator and us. We should not be fighting against that which helps us and I fear we have it backwards.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Role Of The Saints In Church Growth

Ephesians 4:11-16 helps me think differently about church growth.  Here in Ephesians 4 Paul is discussing the body of Christ; that is, the church. The true church of Christ is distinguished by unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (4:3), with one Lord, hope, faith, baptism, one God and Father who graces through the gift of Christ. Within this body are found other kinds of gifts given by God: some who are called to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Verse 12 explains the purpose of these gifts of God, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”  Here we find a way that Jesus grows the church.

The saints are to be equipped for the work of ministry by those whom God has appointed as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Since the local church is the microcosm of the true, universal (“catholic”--to use an old term) church, those who walk in the manner worthy of their calling (the saints) are to do the work of ministry. Those who train them are those who are loaded up with the cargo of God’s Word (apostles), by those who teach the gospel and God’s’ Word under His authority (prophets, evangelists and teachers), by their shepherds (pastors). The saint when properly equipped, is to prepare and present God’s Word to the world.

Let’s not miss one important feature: those who are not born again are not the church, so the ministry of the saints is to bring people in. The way Jesus grows the church is through the ministry of the saints in the world by the promotion of wisdom, godliness, happiness and holiness. Let’s approach this from a different angle: what keeps the church from growing? Foolishness, lack of commitment, conformity without transformation, depression and impurity. The enemy trips us up by suggesting we flip the model and hire professionals to fill the building to occupational capacity by professionalism and marketing then refer the nurture of those who come to other professionals.

If anyone is to go out there and get ‘em, it’s the saint;
If anyone is to teach ‘em, it’s the saint;
If anyone is to think rationally and stand up for truth, it’s the saint;
If anyone is to think theologically, it’s the saint;
If anyone is help people through their stuff, it’s the saint;
if anyone is to have experience in matters of God, it’s the saint;
If anyone is to be content, it’s the saint.

Perhaps we have it backwards, calling our pastors “ministers” when it is the saints who are the ministers. The saint is to be all the offices rolled up in one. Pastors and teachers, we should have “trainer” on our business cards. Instead of “clergy” on the bumper sticker of our car (for parking privileges?), we should have “consultant”-- or perhaps a more biblical term, “counselor.” And find another parking place.

Monday, June 03, 2013

The Reason Why I Don't Really Want It All

Reading through the life of Christ, I returned to the biblical account of what happened that day in the Garden of Eden  and was caused to reflect on the events of that day as it relates to the necessity of Jesus (Jesus makes sense when His life is viewed as His-tory).

Let’s set the stage: God caused “to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food” (Gen 2:9a). Man was to receive his sustenance from the ground by means of nurturing and delicious trees found within the garden. Now let’s follow Adam and Eve’s attention as they are directed to notice two specific trees found among all the trees of the garden. We find “the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:9b).

Two questions:

1) What command does God give concerning the tree of life?
2) What command does God give concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

Genesis 2:16 says “from any tree of the garden you may eat freely.” God commands man to live by eating.

Genesis 2:17 says, “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” God warns man about death by eating.

Why is this warning so important? The immediate context suggests that if man dies no one bearing God’s image will care for the garden. Man’s choice is to eat or not eat; that is, obey or disobey. Live by eating or die by eating--one of these choices brings sin.

What is most interesting about all this is the question regarding man’s choice and God’s response. Does man have free will? Yes. Is God required to respect man’s choice? No. After all, He is God with nothing above Him.

God gave man all he needed right there in the garden and all he had to do was eat of all God provided. God did not intend for man to have everything in the garden because everything was not good for man. All was declared “good” as God created, for His intention--even the tree of the knowledge of good and evil--but it was not good for man’s life. Like sand, or poison ivy. Neither of these are good for man.

When we have before us the temptation that everything the world has to offer is ours, we should consider the consequences of taking it all. First, it’s not possible that we should have everything in the world. Second, if we could have everything, why do we avoid the poisons? Deep in our hearts we know we can’t have it all. When we are tempted to complain that God is holding us back, that He is being mean and would rather steal our pleasure, consider: am I prepared for the consequences? Are you?

Adam chose to disobey God and died by eating. As Adam’s descendants, we need God’s remedy for our sinful situation: the one who gave His life on a tree then rose again three days later. The one who crushed the serpent's head.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Happy Graduation Day, Sparkie!

Here upon this graduation
as I write congratulations
upon my laptop like a homework chore;
I think back to those books and reading,
finding lessons in flour kneading
doing math till eyes were bleeding--
You can say to High School, “nevermore.”


We’ve reached the end, though weak and weary
(the world’s your oyster now, my dearie)
and your brother’s not quite Soph-o-more;
It’s time to put to use that learning,
go on to college if you’re yearning,
or perhaps a living, earning--
But you can say to High School, “nevermore.”

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