Screen Epidemic

9B330D9C-3D4A-497A-9596-6886D8A88714TIME magazine sounded the alarm a little late this year.  With the latest iPhone release and the new Moto coming out, the smart phone has now turned 10 years old.  Still to young to measure the ultimate effects that it will have on society, but old enough to begin watching the trends play out.  TIME magazize about once a year runs a apocalyptic/praise piece on the smart phone and youth culture.

Schools don’t know what to do.  Part of the reason I didn’t return to full time at school was because of the policy on phones. Give a kid a $300 laptop and they still have to wander around with a phone?  Teachers don’t want to be on phone duty, but if they did without administration backing, the kids were on their phone suring lessons, in the hallway, and at lunch: non-stop.

There have been numerous articles and pieces written now about inattentive walking.  I about hit a kid in the parking lot at Taco Bell because he had his earphones in (as he had all throughout his dinner with his family) and was texting as he stepped out into the parking lot.  PSA:  if you hit the age of 16 and have to have an ear bud in at all times, some where in 16 years you failed to learn a very important lesson about respect.

These two stories are my most recent interactions with smartphones.  I am not the biggest fan of them.  I have watched (grown people: 28, 29, 30 years old) people get a smart phone and suddenly fall into the internet abyss.  I myself have been convicted by my own use age.  TIME definitely sounds the alarm with this piece.

The article begins as many others do:  a seemingly happy student attempts suicide.  The shocked parents realize the amount of depression after the attempt and stumble onto the social media accounts.  Bullying, peer-pressure, and drama are the underlying causes, but smartphone usage is the symptom that was a) missed and b) blamed.

This students depression did not come because of the piece of aluminum, plastic, and glass that she held in her hands.  It was all the things the phone stood for.

Smart phones are this generations and this worlds answer to our deepest desires.  1) Connectivity.  We want to be connected.  We want to be able to reach people immediately.  When Facebook began, you could send a message to a friend and they might not check it that day.  Now they have Messenger which alerts you to a message immmediately.  This is an app that you have to use now on your smart phone, which by the way has a feature on it nearly as old as the cell phone itself called text messaging”

2) Opprotunity.  FOMO is an acronym that stands for “fear of missing out”.  Without a phone 24/7 and the ability to talk to everyone all the time, there is a chance that something will be missed.  It could be as trivial as a trip to Sonic or Publishers Clearing House holding a million dollar check at your door.  The predominant way thinking today is that there is always something better out there than what I’m doing now…I don’t wanna miss the opprotunity to upgrade.

3) Image.  If I were to stop eating decently healthy, and quit trying to be active, my health and appearance would suffer.  If I decided to stop checking the fluids in my truck and quit doing maintenance on it, the truck would  eventually have some issues.  In the same manner, should an image be constantly maintained, it will have a health issue.  Social media is the place where an image is cultivated and displayed.  It must be regularly kept up and it must be  constantly added too.  When the phone is off, when the tablets are down, when away from the internet, an identity is being starved.

So how is the situation curt tailed? How is the screen epidemic to be remedied?

  1.  In education.  I understand that technology is the career of the future and it is a tool in the classroom; however, educators should  spend half of their classes without technology.  I’m not saying that it needs to be only teaching time w/o technology.  It could be a brain break or Kagan activity.  It could be an ice breaker game or communal learning.  A lecture or even homework time with, God forbid, paper and pencil.  Education’s purpose is to cultivate viable citizens.  The educational buzz word now is “soft skills” that employers are looking for.  Non-screen time aids in both.
  2. At Home.  Disallow screen time at the table.  I get more frustrated watch kids at a table with other people while on the phone.  The same can be said about adults.  Make it a point to put the phone away and spend 45 minutes talking with the people in the same room.  It may be awkward do a time but it will be ok.  Make it a point to have a black out time.  9:00 pm the phones go away on week nights.  There are emergencies that take an adult call but I trust an adult to be able to screen calls.  Trust me, there is no such emergency that would warrant a teen answering a call at midnight who is at their own residence.
  3. In public.  Less phone and more interaction.  I get bothered watching a kid in a shopping cart watching a video on their parents phone.  A 6 year old kid can learn to walk along side their parent I the store.  Heck, if I’m there tell them I will buy them a candy bar and I will do it.

Our screen epidemic was created by us…it’s time for us to start working to solve it.

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Twix

DDFC98DD-975D-428F-AA77-8EC4A2E00DE9Dear Mars.com,

Since you began your right Twix vs left Twix campaign, this philosophical distinction has brought forth a serious question: what constitutes a Twix bar? Is it one candy bar made of two parts or two parts packaged together? If packaged for Halloween candy it is a single bar named Twix, but if it’s got two bars it is still Twix. This is a question with philosophical implications, so I come to the source! What is the real name of your candy bar and how should we refer to a single Twix candy bar? I humbly wait for your reply and will wait to rely on your expertise.

Sincerely,

Travis Long

Skittles are plural.  M and M’s are as well.  Twix carries with it an immense amount of ambiguity.  Is it one or two? (Or 4 in the case of King Size)?  If each side of Twix is going to obtain an individual personality, where does that leave us?  To sentient individuals or one scidzophrenic?

Where Resees seems to be uniting us (see the previous two posts); Twix seems content to drive a wedge in.  Let’s just say that in some instances Jesus brought the duct tape, but in others he brought a pry bar.

One key concept in the book of John is division.  John understands that sometimes discipleship is moved forward by people being added to the number, and other times it happens by others leaving.

John uses division as a iteray device.  The whole purpose of Johns book is found in chapter 20:

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (30-31)

Johns gospel brings the reader to the crossroad where a decision needs to be made about “who Jesus is?”  But throughout the book, people have been brought to the line of decision.

  • John 6, Jesus teaches on the life that he alone can give and the people divide (6.60,66)
  • The crowds and even his family don’t know what to do with his abscence at the festival. (7.12)
  • Jesus teaches from God’s authority and above Moses’ in the Temple and the people are divided. (7.30-31)
  • The Pharisees are up in arms and division I’ve how Jesus can heal blindness.  The real issue is Jesus place of origin. (9.16ff.)
  • Then the apex of the book, the antithesis of the thesis statement in chapter 12, “after Jesus has done all these  miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe…”(John 12.37-42)

Like Col. Travis or Jean Luc Picard drawing a line in the sand, Jesus has clearly declared the two sides. But there is an interesting dynamic at work here.

When a line is drawn, battle, political, or ideological, the image at the forefront of your mind is often of two sides, yelling at each other while encroaching upon the line.  They are two opposing forces bent over the line with bulging veins in their forheads and necks, screaming obscenities at one another.  That is not the case here.

Certainly, the battle over the identity of Jesus is as real and vital as it had ever been.  John’s excessive use of metaphor shows this.  Life and death; light and dark; the city of God and the World.  But it is not two sides attacking one another.

Instead, it is two lines that are not attacking each other but ignoring one another.  It’s like everyone is standing with their backs to the line.  The groups never really enter debate about Jesus’ identity, but instead ask searching questions.  With each inquiry, individuals on either side of the line step backward over it, switching positions, or stepping forward strengthening their position and allegiance.

This “cross-the-line” mentality is paramount for Johns gospel because of his stance on culture.  Of the New Testament authors, John’s position on how a follower of Christ should interact with the world around him is firmest and recessive.  Jokingly it’s hard to figure out whether John turned his back on the world, “Do not love the world or anything in it…”(1 John 2.15), or the world turned its back on him, he was “…on the island of Patmos beacause of the word of God.” (Rev. 1.9)  Johns attitude is withdrawal.

Paul takes a much softer position.  “I have become all things…” (1 Cor. 9.22); using his political position (Acts 22.22-30; 25.11-12); and quoting the philosophers of the day (Acts 17.28) and referencing their gods (Acts 17.23).  Paul utilizes culture in order to transform culture (Romans 12.1-2).  But this study is for another time and place (and one that I hope warrants time and discussion here).

Johns division is between the followers of Christ and the world that surrounds them.  John is certain that believers are to be seperate from the world in far not ways than where they spend 2 hours on Sunday morning.

It’s in the way we tallk;  the content of of our conversations.  Listened to two high school boys use the f-word 18 different times in 6 sentences and in four different parts of speech in 6 sentences, the other day.  I didn’t know whether to get me a dictionary so I really knew what the word meant, or to get them a thesaurus so the could learn a new word.

It’s the way we parent and serve in schools.  It bothers me that PTO is such poorly attended and how hard schools have too look when the numbers suggest how many Christian parents are connected to the school.  It is disconcerting as to how many single parents lack support from the church in raising their kids.  I struggle with how many parents feel like the are on an island in raising their kids.  Christians are called to be different.

It is in the books that are kept.  It’s the amazon accounts, credit card debt, Craigslist addiction, and Cabelas points.  “Stuff” is a currency all by itself now a days.  Followers of Christ, and their stuff, the amount, how it’s used, and how it is obtained, is one way that they are divided from the world.

Twix has it right, the followers need to be distinct from the world. We may be in the same package as the world, breathing the same oxygen, living in the same space, struggling with the same sins, but John knows we are not the same!

Ps.  Still no reply from Mars or Hershey!

Resees (part 2)

C35C32A3-95D9-4425-94E5-8BD84D0D4970The theology of today is the downstream result of the philosophy of 10 years ago.

I’m behind the times a little and I will admit that I originally didn’t see the danger of the movement.  I know that I have a book from about 10 years ago with the title: More Jesus, Less Religion. The more common statement was:  “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.”

I got into a disagreement with a cowboy pastor a few years back over his gratuitous use of this bumper-sticker Christianity.  He told me that apologetics, doctrine, and religion were of little use today.  I asked him to tell me about Jesus.  He began by saying that Jesus was the son of God.  I then asked him who God was?  Every time he began a statement I reminded him that he was making a doctrinal statement.

Relationship is defined by doctrine.  Who’s in the relationship?  The identity of the two parties?  How do they interact, communicate?

Whether it is a spouse, parent, child, friend, stranger, or alien, whatever method of contact, relationships are based upon timeless truths and rules.

When we think correctly about God, our lives will align correctly in Him.

This thinking is what motivated Jesus to pray: “I am the true vine…remain in me, as I also remain in you.” (John 15.1,4). Jesus knew that a key to unity is a common source.  It’s the same principle that unites our country every 4 years during the olympics, the same principle that unites college alumni all over the country, and the same principle that makes Texans so annoying!

A common bond, found in a common source, is what Jesus is identifying here.  He is the common source and he knows that when unity will be challenged, their connection to him will be in call.

I have seen it in Youth Groups.  When a youth group starts focusing on the youth band or what the next fellowship gathering is going to be instead of Jesus, their  unifying source has been eradicated.

I have seen it in churches.  When the discussions begin to focus on worship styles, or what the Pastor’s wearing (tie vs. no tie), or even the addition of a Sunday school class, the source has been severed from the people.

I have seen it in small groups when meetings turn into bbq’s and fishing excursions instead of opening God’s Word and looking for Jesus, the source, the vine has been weed whacked.

So Jesus prays: “Remain…”

The formula from verse 5 is pretty simple.  Jesus is the vine; we are the branches.  Apart from him, we can do nothing.  (15.5) As long as we stay connected to the source, unity will prevail.  Three legged races, under ware races, or blob tag is a living picture of what a common source can result in.  It may not always be pretty, nor will it be easy, but a common source will direct unity.

That is why doctrine is paramount.  And not just any doctrine, but sound doctrine.  Paul makes it a priority for Timothy and Jon makes it central to his book.  The question of “who is Jesus?” is every bit as much a doctrine question as it is a relationship question!  So before the touchy-feely people take over theology, let’s explore first how sound doctrine can provide unity, prior to radical inclusivity.

Resees

C35C32A3-95D9-4425-94E5-8BD84D0D4970.pngDear Hersey’s Inc.,

I commend you on your transparency.  On your packaging, you clearly state your name “Resees” followed by the number of cups contained in the package.  For this I commend you.  But that begs the question of what a resees really is?  Is it one cup?  Is it a package of 2 cups?  When I buy the package of two at the front of the store, am I buying one Resees or two?  An informed word of authority on your part would bring swift end to my dilemma and my own personal hell over this matter.

Sincerely,

Travis Long

This was the email that I sent to multiple levels of the Hersey organization last week in order to get the ultimate answer to a question that has plagued me for years.  The king size (4 cups), the regular size (2 cups), and the individual (1 cup), all bear the same moniker “Resees”.  Beneath the name they each state how many cups are included.  Do you see the ambiguity and dilemma?  How can one be many and many one?  How can unity and diversity co-exist?

It is most certainly a problem our country is facing on multiple fronts: racially, politically, and economically.  It is a problem facing the church as well: worship style, technologically, preaching style, etc.

What is fascinating about Jesus is how he embraced both unity and diversity.  I first want to focus on the unity.

In his discourse/small group lesson/prayer found in John 14-17, Jesus is addressing his disciples in what is known as the Upper Room discourse.  He is short one disciple as Judas has already left to betray Jesus and lead the mob. (John 14.27-31)

Jesus addresses the remaining 11 with the information they would need soon, when he would be no longer with them.  A major theme of this talk is unity.

One Way

“I am the way and the truth and the life” says Jesus (John 14.6).  One of the best ways to stay unified is to have the same goal and the same plan to get there.  Marines are a brotherhood because every Marine from their inception in 1775, has sweated and bled just like those who have gone before them and those that will follow.  Regardless of time period, their path remains the same because their end goal remains the same: to be the toughest fighting unit in the world!

When the path is the same and exclusive, unity is the result.

That is why empathy is so important.  Two books pointed this out to me.  The first was a book “Season of Life” by Jeffery Marx.  Marx was a towel boy for the old Baltimore Colts.  He grew up around the team but as he grew fell out of touch with the players, even his favorite, Joe Ehrmann, now a minister and high school football coach.  He coaches his teams to be tough, disciplined, and loving.  That’s right, he teaches them to love one another.  Marx follows Ehrmann and his team throughout the season, soaking in lesson after lesson.  Towards the end of the season Ehrmann shares this insight: “To me, the number-one criterion for humanity has to be empathy…when you have empathy, when you can understand the amount of suffering in this world, the pain that so many people are living in, and the causes of all that pain, then you can have a cause beyond yourself.” (128)

Empathy is the ability to travel the path of another, to walk in their shoes and to feel what they feel.  Which brings me to the second book:  Aliens Ate My Homework by Bruce Coville.  Rod Allbright is dealing with a problem every 6th grader deals with: a bully.  His bullies name is Billy Becker who counts the number of different types of bugs he can smash into the back of Rods head.  One day Rod is visited by 5 members of the Galactic Patrol sent to Earth to capture the universes most notorious criminal and suddenly hid bully issue seems insignificant.  They use his volcano project to fix their ship and they eat his math homework making his job of keeping them secret harder.  Finally it is realized that his bully and their suspect are one in the same.  When Billy realizes that Rod is helping the patrol, he kidnaps Rod’s twin siblings.  When talking to a worried Madame Pon and crew they reveal that he is wanted for the most heinous crime in the universe.  Rod begins to run through all the crimes he knows and doesn’t even come close.  The crew tells him it is cruelty. Rod wonders if he heard right.

”In the civilized galaxy, cruelty is the greatest of all crimes,’ said Madame Pong…’an intelligent being who takes pleasure in causing pain to others—well, such a being is considered dangerously bent.’

’You must understand,’ msaid Tar Gibbons, ‘that empathy is the heart of civilization…the ability to understand what another feels.’”

Our ability to walk the path of another until our paths meet in Jesus is part of the unity that Jesus applauds.

Think of the group he has assembled around him.  Zealots and tax collectors don’t belong together.  Day workers and the elite.  The poor and the kit cast.  These men are a picture of diversity, yet they came together because of the message, the person, and work of Jesus.  Their unity came from the identical path that they were walking.

by the way I’m still waiting on a new email…tbc.

Three Musketeers (part 3)

41855E78-5DFE-4CCF-A287-4C868050C67C“A tragedy is when the hero comes face to face with his true identity.”  — Aristotle as explained by Mike Rowe

Jesus is the antithesis of Aristotle’s hero.  He didn’t have a fatal flaw that would lead to his downfall (in most Greek tragedies it is hubris).  He walked this earth humbly, acting as a servant to all.  He was without pride.  He lived a flawless life.

Neither did he have a fall from greatness.  He didn’t go from living in a palace with riches to a poor homeless state.  But in a way he did, however, it was a choice to “empty” himself by coming to Earth (Philippians 2.7).  He left the heavenly realm, seated at the right hand of the Father, and put on human flesh as a baby.  Satan fell from heaven; Jesus stepped down.  So he misses that category as well.

But the third characteristic, “face to face with his true identity”, describes perfectly the final situation where the Three Musketeers are together.  The story takes place textually in Mark 14 and geographically in the Garden of Gethsemene.  The disciples are with Jesus as they enter the garden.  Then he gives the twelve an order to remain there while he goes to pray. (32). He takes Peter, James, and John deeper into the garden with him. (33). They could tell that Jesus was under stress.  As a side note, Mark was a traveling companion of Peter in the book of Acts.  Most would argue that Mark’s book is really a collection of Peter’s sermons.  That would make some sense as to how Mark knew some of these things.  As it is pertinent here, Peter recounts the duress that Jesus is under on their little hike.

Going on a little farther, he turns to the Three and says: “stay here and keep watch?” Jesus knew that soon a mob would be coming to arrest him.  The word translated “keep watch” is the same way a guy watches over his household.  So it has physicality to it, however, later on Jesus would explain the reason he wanted them awake: to pray for strength against temptation. (38)  Three times Jesus goes away to pray and all three times he returns to find them sleeping.

“Simon…”, he walks them up by saying Peters name.  Two times in Mark is a proper noun spoken by Jesus and both of them are used of Peter.  The first is just after Peter confesses Christ.  Jesus says he must suffer and die.  Peter rebukes him and Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan…”.  The second is here.  This too is not a good situation.  Peter is being called out.

Jesus knew that this wasn’t the end for these three.  They would combine to write 8 books of the New Testament, preach on two continents, and die as either martyrs or in exile.  This was prep time for the future.  Jesus knew the more you bleed in training the less you bleed in battle.

Secondly, Jesus knew what lay beforehand him.   He prayed the cup would be passed from him.  For the rest of the book, his death was always down the road aways.  Now it was imminent.  It lay directly a head of him.

This study shows that the three saw the Power of God in Jesus in Mark 5.  It also showed the Presence of God in Jeusu in Mark 9.  This final grouping of the three shows the perseverance of Jesus in the plan of God.  The three get an in depth look at the petitioning Jesus for God to find another way, but also the willingness of Jesus to trust and follow.

Jesus had always known that he was sent to save the world.  On this night that reality was driven home harder because of the nearness of the event.  The Three Musketeers, much like D’Artagnan in the Dumas’ novel, saw and got more than they bargained for that night.

 

Three Musketeers (part 2)

41855E78-5DFE-4CCF-A287-4C868050C67C“It was this fear that restrained him, so powerful is the influence of a truly great character on all that surrounds it. (40.59 – 40.60)” — Alexander Dumas

D’Artagnan was a young man whose dream was to join the Kings body guards.  When he goes to Paris, he is given the run around.  When he runs into a few of the Musketeers, unbeknownst to him, by challenging them each to duels. They end up teaming up to defeat the Cardinals guards who had interrupted their duels.

D’Artagnan befriends Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, the Three Musketeers.  Athos is a calculated man.  “Athos…never gave his advice before it was demanded and even then it must be demanded twice. ‘In general, people only ask for advice,’ he said ‘that they may not follow it or if they should follow it that they may have somebody to blame for having given it’” writes Dumas.  The strong, reserved, soft spoken leader.  He becomes a father-figure to D’Artagnan.

Unlike the Disney version, Dumas’ novel paints a more chaotic plot.  It’s not the Cardinal vs. the Musketeers in the book.  The Cardinal, near the end of the book offers D’Artagnan the commission and leadership he has been seeking from the beginning…all he had to do was sign on the line.  He paused as he left the room, weighing the results of his decision  and this was the thought that went through his mind: “It was this fear that restrained him, so powerful is the influence of a truly great character on all that surrounds it.”. The great character was Athos he was thinking of.  The influence was the decision not to sign the commission.  He knew that should he sign, Athos would renounce him.  Truly great characters change the actions of everyone around them!

Mark 9.2 begins with the words “after 6 days”.  What is the deal with waiting almost a week?  As discussed previously, Mark is a fast paced book.  And also discussed elsewhere, Mark is all about identifying Jesus as the Son of God.  His book begins with the statement: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God…”(Mark 1) and climaxes with the Roman Centurion at the base of the cross exclaiming “surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15).  Right smack dab in the middle of the book, Peter makes the confession “You are the Messiah.” (8.29)  So there is the confession. 

Then Jesus begins to tell his disciples about his death.  He would do so in chapters 8, 9, 10.  Mark 8 serves as a tipping point in the Gospel.  It is the fulcrum that balances the entirity of the book.  The confession and the prediction are where the two purposes of Jesus come together.  His action and identity.  In Mark 1, Jesus declares: “I have come to preach.”  (1.38)  In Mark 10, Jesus says that he came “not to be serve but to serve and give his life up as a ransom for many.” (10.45)  The middle of chapter 8 begins a section of the book that serves as central teaching to Jesus’ ministry.

Finally, on top of the confession of Peter and the prediction of Jesus, there is the teaching of Jesus at the end of chapter 8.  The confession and prediction mean little if there isn’t anything that becomes of it.   Jesus reiterates that this is not just a teaching or a lesson, it is a pattern of life.  Jesus wants his disciples to know that it doesn’t end with his cross, but ends with ours.   “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8.34)

The whole book has been racing along and now all the information about Jesus that is needed has been communicated…then he hits the brakes for 6 days.  For an impatient man like Mark, I bet 6 days seemed like eternity.  If you have ever taught 6th graders or trained a horse, you would understand what Mark is doing.  Its called “think time”.  Letting the message sit and rest for a period, preventing overload of information.  If you have ever tried to teach someone how to play pitch, you know the look of overload.  So he takes a break.

Then the story picks up with the Three Musketeers.  They head up the mountain, alone, with Jesus.  Think of how many great moments have happened on mountain tops.

  • The Ark came to rest on Ararat (Gen 8.4)
  • Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22)
  • Moses was given the 10 commandments on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20)
  • The Blessings and Curses came from Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim (Deut. 11)
  • David built his city, Jerusalem, on Mt. Zion (2 Samuel 5.7)
  • Elijah had a showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18)
  • Jesus gave his sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5)

Every ancient culture, the pyramids of Egypt, the Ziggurats of Sumer, the temples of the Mayans, the gods on Mt. Olympus for the Greeks, believed that Mountains were where man met with God.  So there is some theology wrapped up in their trek up the mountain.

When the reached the summit, Jesus was transfigured before them.  Essentially, he started radiating.  There isn’t a whole lot more to this word than what comes to your mind at first.  He became really shinny.  That’s when two other men showed up: Moses and Elijah.  Neither were unfamiliar with mountain top moments as seen above.  The list above, however, left off two very important moments.  The first being Moses’ Mt. Sinai experience in Exodus 34.  The second was Elijah’s Mt. Sinai moment in 1 Kings 19.  I will deal with each in turn.

Exodus 34 recounts a 40 day stay atop Mt. Sinai by Moses.  The purpose of this ascent was two-fold.  Primarily it was to make good on God’s promise to Moses in the previous chapter to show him His glory.  Second, it was to renew the 10 commandments and the stones Moses had broken in anger the first time he was up on Sinai.  God meets Moses and “passes by” him making a statement about his identity.

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (34.6-8)

This meeting has been discussed more elsewhere, but for the purpose of this piec it can be said that Moses met God in Sinai.

On the same mountain, many years later, Elijah stands after a 40 day journey (1 Kings 19.8).  He too meets with God.  He is exhausted standing and speaking for God against a corrupt royalty and a stubborn nation.  He had wished for death before coming to the mountain (19.4) but now he has a hearing with God where he offers his complaint.  He says that he is the only faithful one in Israel and that won’t last long if Ahab gets his way.  So God responds:

“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” (19.11)

And God did so in the following verses.  He wasn’t in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but in the subsequent whisper.  There it is again; the idea of God “passing by” which brings us to Mark 9.

Peter and the guys are frightened by the dazzling sight before them.  Jesus, Moses, and Elijah are talking in front of them.  So Peter speaks up while scared.  He wants to build shelters for them.

God ends up speaking in verse 7, putting a halt to Peter’s idea, with His statement: “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

The two men on the mountain with Jesus are no strangers to mountain top moments.  And with each of their encounters there was the presence of the Lord and the voice of the Lord.  Mark 9 has God speaking and God presence, through and in the person of Jesus.

The Three Musketeers were shown Jesus identity as the Son of God and his relationship with God.

And once again they were told to keep it quiet (Mark 9.8).

 

Three Musketeers

41855E78-5DFE-4CCF-A287-4C868050C67CThe previous post mentioned 4 exceptions to the public healings of Jesus and the proceeded to list only 3.  This was by design.  As the prior post mentioned: “to understand what Jesus did, follow the crowds.”  That statement is on only a partial thought.  It’s compliment is: “to understand who Jesus is, follow the three.”

The three: Peter, James, and John.  They were three of Jesus’ first followers.  They were fishermen by trade and pastors in training.  They would someday be authors and speakers, but for the time being, they were working through some issues.  James and John had anger and pride.  Peter was foolish and loose with his tongue.  They failed at discipleship a lot.  So much in fact, that it is a dominant theme in the book of Mark.  Still, Jesus saved his most revelatory moments for the Three.

Instead of a public healing, the Three were pulled aside by Jesus for a revelation.  A girls father had caught up with Jesus as had many others.  Jesus is met after his return from the Decapolis by a crowd of people. A synagogue ruler gets his ear and tells him of his daughters illness.  He knew that if he could get Jesus to her, he could heal her.  Jesus grants his request and goes along with crowd in tow.

One in the crowd, a woman, was sick herself.  The similarities between the two sick ones are inescapable:

  • both female
  • Immediately”
  • One was sick 12 years and the other is 12 years old
  • Faith/belief led to healing
  • It was Jesus touch that instituted healing
  • The thoughts that led to their healing were similar.  The bleeding woman thought: “If I can just get to him…”.  Jairus’ thought: “If I can just get him to her…”

The main difference between the two was where it happened and who it was in front of.  The bleeding woman was healed right in front of the parade.  Jesus even brought attention to it.  “Who touched me?”, he asked as he felt the power leave him.  He made sure the crowd knew what was happening and how the healing happened.

When he arrived at the scene of the dead girl, he was not only a leading a procession, he interrupted a procession.  The corresponding verses in Matthew, those recounting the same story, tells us that the funeral has began: “When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes…” (Matthew 5.23)  Mark adds that there was crying and wailing.  It was a fiasco.  The first thing Jesus did was send everyone out.  Taking the Three Musketeers with him, he visits the girls bedside, where she lies dead.

Jesus touched her.  This time, unlike the bleeding woman, the power left him by his own ambition.  He told her to get up and, again just like the bleeding woman, “immediately” she was healed.  “Immediately” is one of Mark’s favorite words.  Mark is a fast paced narrative, that scurries the reader along.  When two or more gospel writers tell the same story, as is the case here with Mark 5 and Matthew 9, Mark is usually the longer more in depth version, but still his gospel is quite shorter than the others.  He doesn’t tell as many stories, but when he does, he does it thoroughly.

This story, told by all three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, put the identity of Jesus on display.  John, tells the very public resurrection of Lazarus and the public response.  Luke precedes this account with the raising of the widows son at Nain (Luke 7) and the crowds awe and wonder concerning the event.  But only the Three Musketeers are privy to this event.  They are even given orders “not to tell anyone” (Mark 5.43) a cry that would be echoed throughout the book.

But lets end with this question.  Why the three?  Was the room too small for everyone else?  Was Jesus just wanting some more quite and three people are always quieter than 40 or 100?  Perhaps there is according to some more liberal interpreters a “messianic secret” contained in Mark, where Jesus is desperately trying to keep his identity unkown?  These can all be answered in the negative!

The reason for the Three is simple, this is the only resurrection in Mark outside of Jesus’.  This is a key event revealing the identity of Jesus to his closest followers.  Two more times these three men would be specifically chosen to witness a deep truth of the identity of Jesus.  Jesus has the power to raise the dead; he has power to give life.  This lesson was on display before their very eyes.

 

100 Grand

s643667121527569464_p68_i3_w640“Turkeys flock, but Eagles soar.”

”In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” — Thomas Jefferson

”If everyone else jumped off a bridge…”

Ancient proverbs, founding fathers, your Mother; all have their advice about succumbing to peer pressure and following the crowd.  Nature understands the safety in numbers: the adjectival crash of rhino’s or murder of crows (nod to Poe); the aptly named tower of giraffes or bloat of hippos; or the alliterated leap of leopards or prickle of porcupines.  If you have ever watched one of those nature documentaries on Nat. Geo or the Discovery channel, before reality mechanic shows and survival shows took over, of the wildebeests crossing the river in front of the crocodiles, the principle is fully on display.  But success, especially in America and contrary to all of history, is all about standing out and swimming upstream.  Mike Rowe put it best in this video (if you watch until the end).  That American ideal is also contrarian to understanding Jesus in Mark’s Gospel. To understand what Jesus did in the book of Mark, follow the crowd.

Much of Jesus ministry was done in view of the crowds.

  • He led them
  • He fed them
  • He taught them
  • He performed miracles before them
  • He was praised, arrested, sentenced and mocked by them (all in a week)

His public ministry was just that: it was public.  Despite some of his best efforts, he was with people most of the time.  He was forced “to get up while it was still dark, very early in the morning” in order to pray (Mark 1.35).  The only times that Jesus is recorded to be alone in Mark, he is either praying (1.35; 6.42; 14.35) or healing (7.53).

One of the biggest things he did in front of them was healed.  On 8 different occasions Jesus healed before the crowds. Sixty-six percent of the time he healed someone, it was before the people.  Only 4 times did he not follow this pattern.

  • He healed a deaf and mute man privately (7.53)
  • He raised a girl from the dead in front of Peter, James, and John (Mark 5)
  • He healed Peter’s mother-in-law with Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 1.31)
  • He drove the Evil Spirits out of the Gadarenes Demoniac with the Twelve watching on (Mark 5) because the crowds couldn’t get around the lake fast enough.

The pattern had been set as healing was meant to be seen publicly.  All the times it wasn’t on display, the connecting ties are few and far between.  The number of people who were either healed, witnessed his healing power, or saw the result of his healing power would have stretched exponentially both in geography and in time.

  • Every marriage that is saved through repentance and submission has been touched with his healing.
  • Every man who finds recovery from a porn addiction has felt it.
  • Every middle school student who has felt the sting of depression and loneliness, who finds grace and compassion in Jesus arms, knows his healing.
  • Every parent who has lost a child, but finally is able to pen a letter to them, knows the power of his healing.
  • Every victim of disaster who has ever received a warm meal and a warm blanket as they begin to piece back together their life, has felt his touch of healing.

Healing was communal.  It is communal.  It was public and it was celebrated.  Jesus lived this out.

Indications point to a population of 500,000 in Palestine during the Second Temple Period.  I think this easily puts a 100 grand within 2 degrees of seperation of Jesus and his healing ministry.

While Jesus was alone, he prayed.  While he was with the Twelve, he explained, corrected, and taught.  With the crowds, the 100 grand, Jesus was the compassionate healer, who’s arms were open to all who came.

But what about the Three Musketeers?

To be continued…

Almond Joy

9D494A70-DAF4-4DAC-B0AE-5395FD5D2AAB.pngI have a routine and it really goes in month long cycles.

September is Football and Franks.  I love to tailgate and grill.  I also love brats and hotdogs.  So I are mostly hot dogs and brats throughout the month.

November is turkey/poultry and Thanksgiving.  I will alter my crock pot taco soup recipe by substituting shredded chicken for beef, load up on the tobasco, Fritos, and shredded cheddar cheese and eat a crock pot full every week.

December is all about the three C’s: Christmas, cinnamon rolls, and chilie.  Chilie is served seven nights a week, cleaning out the crock pot only to repeat the process.  Fun fact: apparently this is a Kansas thing because if you mention it anywhere else people look at you like you are crazy.

But that leaves out October.  Taco Soup (with beef) will get me through the month, but it really is all about candy.  Walmart keeps dentists employed in November.  I  saw a sign the other day where a store is offering to buy back Halloween Candy to keep kids healthy.  Meanwhile, I spoke with a Dad who refused to buy candy this years so he is taking his kids Trick-or-Treating an hour early so they can circle back by their house to refill their own candy bowl.  That is #NextLevelParenting.

I have recently been studying the life of Jesus.  I have also been trying to organize some thoughts on leadership and methodology.  Here I bring the two together.  One of my favorite get-to-know-you/team building games is what I call “synthesis”.  Each group gets one note card.  They have to write down 5 topics or thoughts on the left hand side.  Then the team trades with another team.  The new team has one minute to write down a word that corresponds with the first teams thoughts.  The catch is that there is a theme.  It might have to be an animal, or a celebrity, or a song, or anything else.  They have one minute.  Then each group has to explain to the whole group why they chose that thing to describe the first teams topic.

Since October really is all about the candy, how would Jesus ministry be communicated through candy bars?

One of the first things that draws me to Jesus ministry is how contagious it was.  People were drawn to him.  They brought the sick, they brought friends, they traveled miles, and they fought through crowds.  They climbed trees, dug through roofs, watched from gates, crawled between legs, and snuck into dinners, just to be near him.  But what drw them?  Certainly it was his ability, some of it was probably his teaching, but I want to focus on something that not many other’s have touched: his Joy!  Mostly because I struggle with it.

Joy is really a Paul word.  First, I want to introduce you to three greek words.  This will be painless.

  • Chara is the greek word for “joy”
  • Charidzomai is the greek word for “forgiveness”
  • Charis is the greek word for “grace”

Notice that all three of theses words have the same root.  From that the connection is easily made.  When we understand that we are forgiven and have been shown grace, the only appropriate response is joy.  Paul was joyful because he understood the great lengths to which he was shown grace and the the great depths that he had been forgiven.  The reason I say this is a Paul word is quite simple.  Half the uses of these words in Scripture come from Paul’s pen.  He loved to talk about “joy” and “grace” and “forgiveness”.

Fir James and Peter, the source of joy is found elsewhere.  James begins his book like this:

”Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1.2)

James knew that the growth received through the testing of faith would bring about joy. Peter echos this sentiment in his letter:

“These [trials] have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1.7-9)

Peter and James found their source of joy in the trials they suffered.  These two knew about suffering.  Both would die a martyrs death.  Both would face beatings and persecutions.  Both would counsel people through the same things.  They knew that if you wanted the prize you were going to bear the scars.  This was joy.  Dostoyevsky once said: “One thing I fear is not to be worthy of my sufferings.”  Their joy came in the suffering in the same manner as Jesus.

But what about Jesus?  He didn’t need the grace that Paul was given and his sufferings were unlike any other.  It was his pattern that the other’s followed.  So where was Jesus’ joy found?  The Gospels don’t reveal it.  None of the epistles of Paul reveal it.  The only verse that touches upon it is found in Hebrews 12:2, in context it reads:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12.1-3)

The author of Hebrews encourages the Church to continue its run, not only because of those that have gone on before us and are cheering us on, but because that’s what Jesus did.  Still the question remains, what gave Jesus his joy?  Verse 2 tells us it was his death, resurrection, and ascension.  The process is called redemption.  Paul was joyful for the grace showed him, James for the sharing of suffering patterned for him, but Jesus was brought joy in the redemption he brought others.  Despite the coconut!

Wisdom (part 3)

BC9EC7E8-6795-4279-AEE5-906714064F4C.jpegA man spent years working in a factory as a mechanic. He was the best in the organization to ever turn a wrench.  When he retired, they had a tough time replacing his years of experience.  They found guys todo the job and managed to get by.  One day, they came across a problem that they thought was unsolvable.  They had to call up their retired mechanic for knowledge.  After looking over the machine, he marked an “x” with chalk on the part needing repair.

The next day the machine was fixed and they received a bill from the old man.  It was a $5,000 bill for 1 minute of work.  The factory refused to pay until it was itemized.  The next day they received an itemized bill that read:

—$1 chalk mark

—$4,999 knowing where to put it!

The old man had a practical knowledge of the machine which led him to success in his trade.  In the study of Proverbs, practicality has been the driving force. Proverbs is all about living life well.  The purpose of the book is for attaining wisdom (1.1-2).  As noted in the previous 2 posts, Wisdom takes on personhood in chapter 8.  The discussion has been about finding the identity of this Wisdom character.  To recap, Wisdom:

  • A person (Proverbs 8.12)
  • According to Proverbs 8.22-26, Wisdom was acquired from God, installed from eternity, and in a intimate relationship with Him.
  • According to Proverbs 27-29, Wisdom was with God during creation.
  • Wisdom is the master Craftsman of creation. He is the hands that would do the building. (30)
  • By seeking and finding Wisdom, we get life and acceptance to the Lord. (35)

Standing at the decision point of the identity of Wisdom, the Gospel writer John is a key witness.  He begins his book in this way:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

John uses “Word” as a title for Jesus in this passage.  With that being said, look through the list of attributes the John gives the Word:

  • He was there in the beginning.
  • He was with God.
  • He was God.
  • Through him all things were made.
  • Life was in him.

If attention is turned back to Proverbs, the connection is easily made.  The first statement, that of personhood, is implied by John attributing a name to Word, so consider the second statement: “Wisdom was acquired from God, installed from eternity, and in a intimate relationship with Him.”  John 1 certainly affirms that statement. The Word “was” and “with” God “in the beginning”. (1.1)  Genesis 1.1 would add that God “spoke” into existence the cosmos.  He gave the directive for creation.  Elsewhere, John would add that he doesn’t follow his own will, but differs to the will of the Father (John 5.30; 6.38; 8.28).

The third statement from Proverbs, “Wisdom was with God during creation” is clearly defended by John 1.1 so warrants no further discussion.

The fourth, “Wisdom is the master Craftsman of creation. He is the hands that would do the building” is attested too in verse 3 of John 1: “Through Him all things where made.”  As discussed earlier Jesus was there at creation.   I like to think of it this way.  God the Father was the General Contractor.  The Holy Spirit hovering over the waters was the creativity and designer, but Jesus the Son was responsible for putting the “x” down.  He was the one hammering nails, pouring the concrete, building the univers with the night of his muscle and the sweat of his brow.  He was the master craftsman.  You think it was a coincidence that before his three year ministry that he spent 20 as a carpenter.  It’s hard to find the same kind and amount of experience in a pile resumes.  Jesus was not only the word being spoken to create, he was the ability and skill, the heavy lifting to do it.

Statement Five: “By seeking and finding Wisdom, we get life and acceptance to the Lord”.  John tells the story of a paralyzed man at a pool.  He had been there for 38 years wanting to get into the pool and be healed.  Jesus heals him and then warns him of worse things to come should sin reign in his life. (John 5.14)  Then Jesus changes the topic to “eternal life” in his next discussion about this ordea.  Jesus says: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life…” (John 5.24)  Jesus makes it clear: just because you’re walking around doesn’t mean your living.  For Matthew, Mark, and Luke, eternal life is living forever in Heaven; but for John eternal life happens now!  Whoever hears and believes HAS eternal life.  It is not a quantity of life but a quality of life.  It’s not forever life but a for  real life!  Proverbs makes it clear: if you attain wisdom you will have life.  Proverbs is about living the best kind of life as that life is only attained through Wisdom.

Jesus came into this world and got his hands dirty. Jesus was sent into our world because that is where God’s knowledge took action; that is Wisdom!

If Proverbs really is all about practicality and living the best life, then the Wisdom Character must be Jesus.  Solomon the author of Proverbs makes it clear that we Cain attain every thing else, wealth , fame, fortune, but if we miss Jesus, if we fail to gain Jesus, then we miss the point!  Jesus really is the only way to live the life that Proverbs lays out as wise and Godly.  It is as if he was reading 1 Corinthians 1.30: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”