26 December 2009

"Oh, wow!"

"Oh, wow!"

I don't think there is any higher compliment, and better response, to a gift. It is the 10.0 score in gift-giving. It encapsulates, "It's perfect," with, "It is more than I hoped for, or at least dared to dream."

It is not possible to get such a reaction often. If we raise the level of expectation by consistently giving on this level, the ingredients of "Oh wow" become lost. We are quite capable of becoming spoiled.

But, if we are attentive, there are opportunities where desire and resources and imagination intersect. If we seize upon them, they become the Christmas, or birthday, or whatever, that is remembered for years to come.

God, of course, is an "Oh wow" giver. Look out your window. Consider the birds of the air, the grass of the field. The trees and the clouds and the sun and the rain. Our familiarity often dulls our sense of wonder, but if will look anew, the wonder is still there.

Consider His word. In our hand you hold His revelation for the ages.

Consider His deliverers; Moses, Joshua, the judges, Samuel, Saul, David and others. The ultimate deliverer, of course, being Christ.

400 years of virtual silence. Then, in a manger one night, "Oh wow." The miracle of birth, which is always an "Oh wow" in and of itself, but even more so in this case.

Immanuel--God with us. Just what we needed and so much more than what we expected.

Thank You, Father.

15 December 2009

Little Words

John 21 has been bouncing around my world lately. I heard a sermon on it, it came up in my devotional reading, I've just been reflecting upon it lately.

It's a familiar story, Jesus appears again to the disciples, this time while they are fishing. It is a mirror of Peter's calling. He's out fishing, Jesus calls to them, "try the other side of the boat." They do, the catch a huge haul of fish.

Much has been written on this story, and I won't recap it all here. I just want to suggest what I think the Spirit has suggested to me these past few weeks.

When Jesus calls Peter, He says, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19) This is something that Peter can conceptualize, he has spent his life fishing. Peter leaves his boat and follows.

Jesus is teaching in John 10. He is telling the disciples who He is, the Good Shepherd. He is explaining what He means by that. He is instructing them.

Jesus is crucified, dies and is resurrected. He appears to the disciples. An unprecedented turn of events. Peter declares, "I am going fishing." (John 21:3) Some of the disciples say "We will go with you."

Jesus appears, there is a catch of fish, there is a meal of fish and bread (harkening to his miraculous feedings). Jesus and Peter are sitting on the beach. Jesus asks that question.

"Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" Much has been made of

these in sources I have read. However, from my limited Greek, it seems reasonable to render it as this as well. I'm not discounting all the great applications based on "these." But allow yourself to consider "this" for a moment.

Peter is a fisherman. He is sitting there with Jesus in his element. A pile of fish on the shore, a plate of fish in his belly. Sand and water, sun and wind. Here is Peter, the fisher of men.

"Do you love me?"
"You know I do."
"Feed my sheep."

Not, "Catch my fish."
Not, "Bait my hook."
Not, "Clean my catch."

Feed my sheep.

Three times Jesus inquires of Peter's love, three times He tells him to demonstrate it by tending sheep.

Yes, this beach and boat is great, Peter. Do you love me more than this? I understand this is comfortable to you, this is what you know and you could do this very easily for the rest of your life. But do you love Me enough to walk away?

Verse 19, "Follow me." It is a literal command, because in the next verse John is following them, so that implies that they are moving, no longer sitting on the beach. John then gets distracted by his own story. We don't know where Peter and Jesus were walking to.

Perhaps over a hill to overlook a flock of sheep? Away from the boat and the lake. Put down your net, take up a shepherd's staff, Peter. You're no longer a fisher. Fisher's just catch, clean and resell. You're a shepherd now.

You know sheep? You feed sheep. You tend sheep. You protect sheep. You lead sheep. This is long-term. It is 24/7. It is different and hard.

C'mon, Peter. This is why I called you. My sheep need a shepherd. I'm leaving, I'm trusting you to take care of them....

10 December 2009

The Priorities of Man

Continuing my journey through Augustine's City of God I came upon this observation in the first chapter of book 3.

"It grieves them more to own a bad house than a bad life, as if it were man's greatest good to have everything good but himself."

I stand guilty. How much time to I spend researching a new computer purchase? How much time do I spend in prayer on a given day? How easy is it to review a piece of software or a book? Yet how often do I focus any of the same critical energy on myself?

Lord, have mercy.

06 December 2009

Look Back

Job 8:8-10 (ESV)
“For inquire, please, of bygone ages,
and consider what the fathers have searched out.
For we are but of yesterday and know nothing,
for our days on earth are a shadow.
Will they not teach you and tell you
and utter words out of their understanding?"

The message is clear, if you want understanding, ask those who have gone before. Yet, today, that idea seems anathema to many.

26 November 2009

Nothing New Under the Sun....

Several hundred years ago, a wise man wrote:

"If the feeble mind of man did not presume to resist the clear evidence of truth, but yielded its infirmity to wholesome doctrines, as to a health-giving medicine, until it obtained from God, by its faith and piety, the grace needed to heal it, they who have just ideas, and express them in suitable language, would need to use no long discourse to refute the errors of empty conjecture. But this mental infirmity is now more prevalent and hurtful than ever, to such an extent that even after the truth has been as fully demonstrated as man can prove it to man, they hold for the very truth their own unreasonable fancies, either on account of their great blindness, which prevents them from seeing what is plainly set before them, or on account of their opinionative obstinacy, which prevents them from acknowledging the force of what they do see. There therefore frequently arises a necessity of speaking more fully on those points which are already clear, that we may, as it were, present them not to the eye, but even to the touch, so that they may be felt even by those who close their eyes against them."

Augustine of Hippo, City of God, Book II, Chapter 1

07 November 2009

Words Have Meaning

Words mean things. All words. To the author, and the audience, whether the later is the intended one or not. Just because we are surrounded by words, many of them banal, many of them profane, does not give us excuse for thinking any of them are without meaning. All of them are a window into the author's heart and mind.

To claim that words may be without meaning, or that we cannot know their meaning is not only illogical, but I would submit, is also heresy, and quite possibly even blasphemy.

We should pay attention to our words, the words of others, and the Word of God.

31 October 2009

Two of My Favorites

Last year, while in Iraq, I was preparing a sermon out of Lamentations. In my exegesis, I discovered that the Revised Standard Version and English Standard Version were the exact same, for the passage in question. I found that a little odd, so I did some research online when I had a chance.

My Google search led me to Michael Marlowe's excellent site. I read his extensive write-up on the ESV and was impressed, both with Michael's thoroughness and, incidentally the ESV.

As I read more about this translation, I started reading it more on my computer. When I came home on mid-tour leave, I purchased a printed copy and have used it exclusively since.

I have also read quite a bit more of Michael's site. These is a lot of good stuff there. I would encourage you to check it out.

25 October 2009

J. Gresham Machen

Finishing up Christianity & Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen. It was given to me by a good friend of mine. Written in the early 20th century, he clearly spells out how the liberal movement in Christianity misses it.

For being almost a hundred years old, it reads like it was written yesterday in so many ways. A quote sums up the spirit of the book.

"Christ died"--that is history; "Christ died for our sins"--that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity." (p.23) He explains well what he means by this, and the implications are far-reaching.

Considered on of the top 100 books of the millennium by World magazine. I can see why.

24 October 2009

Professor Horner's Bible Reading System

I ran across this Bible reading plan about a month ago. I had been using my own system of 5 chapters a day for well over a year and was looking to modify it. I came across this 10 chapter a day plan and decided it was pretty close to what was considering going to anyway.

The idea is you read a chapter each out of ten different sections. Some sections will repeat faster than others. I really like it so far. I thought it might be too much at first, but I find that it seems to really go quickly--it doesn't feel like I'm slogging through.

23 October 2009

The Day That Preaching Died

Great presentation by Calvin Pearson at the Southwestern Baptist Seminary 2009 Expository Preaching Conference.

Click here to download through iTunes U.

Very good job of differentiating expository preaching from everything else.

No Dogs Allowed

Andree Seu with an insightful commentary. (Click the title to read it.)

I admit I'm guilty. In the bureaucracy that is the Army, it is a survival mechanism to ignore things until they are raised in volume or frequency. But it is dangerous behavior to generalize.

Death Is Over-Rated

It is not uncommon to hear discussions about how one wishes to die.
"Quickly and in my sleep," is the usual consensus.

Augustine of Hippo redirects us from this distraction to what really
matters in this event we call death.

"That death is not to be judged as evil which is the end of a good
life; for death becomes evil only in the retribution which follows it.
They, then, who are destined to die, need not be careful to inquire
what death they are to die, but into what place death will usher
them." (City of God, Chapter 11)

It is not the door we walk through, but the place we arrive at through
the door, that should concern us. "For to me to live is Christ, to die
is gain." (Philippians 1:21)

This is Totally Self-Serving

You've been warned.

This blog exist as a way for me to collect, and express thoughts on the Bible and theology. I'm really not anticipating a whole lot of discussion, or even readership for that matter. If you find it, and want to read it, great. If you want to argue, go away. If you have a genuine insight you want to share, feel free. If something I post here is used by God to bless you, I'd like to know. If you don't want to tell me, that's fine too.