Archive | Devotional RSS for this section

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!

Advertisements

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 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…

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.”

Wisdom (part 2)

6836A1EE-F2E0-41BE-8139-70AA0C8B9220If you have ever tried to repair or fix anything over the last decade, you know the struggle.  Nothing today is made to be fixed or restored; its meant to be replaced.  Metal can be bent back, plastic is bent to break!  Anyone like me can go online and get replacement parts, but it takes a person of skill and understanding to restore.  Restoration is a process for a craftsman.

To recap last post, Wisdom was:

  • 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.

Which brings this study to verse 30:

Then I was the craftsman at his side.  I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. (Proverbs 8.30-31)

Wisdom was a craftsman.  As discussed prior, Wisdom is simply “ability”.  The first men in Scripture to have been given wisdom were not preachers or priests, they were: tailors (Exodus 28.3); workers in metal (Exodus 31.2-3); women who spun cloth (Exodus 35.26-27); stone cutters, wood workers, and embroiderers (Exodus 35.30-36.3).  One of Paul’s teachings, who himself had some ability and wisdom as a tent maker (Acts 18.3), from 1 Thessalonians 4 is quite applicable here: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands…” (11)  That is a life of wisdom…that is a proverbial life.

I come from a family of craftsman.  My first job was framing houses for my uncle Jim.  He was a good first boss because he knew how limited my ability was .  We were putting on a porch one day at a house up off 90th street.  It was Friday afternoon and it was coming on quitting time.  The porch was a full wrap around with tongue and groove slats.  Right at the corner of the house, it came off at a 45-degree angle to meet with the adjacent run of porch.  As we set the decking, I found myself nearest the wall and reading measurements to the saw man. Very patiently and calmly, after 2-3 meaurements, my uncle Jim stood up, walked over and said, “Why don’t you switch me ends before you ruin your weekend?”  Craftsmanship done by a master craftsman is a thing to behold.  My uncle Joe and uncle Charlie can make any engine run.  My dad can read terrain and build maps with the best.  My uncle Chuck replaces windows and siding.  Uncle Mick can build websites.  I think I can still do Macaroni art.

Wisdom is the master Craftsman of creation.  He is the hands that would do the building.

The last section of Proverbs 8 to consider is verse 32 and those that follow.  A lot is known about a person by what they come bearing.  I always tell first time conference presenters to bring a handout.  It may have taken you 2 minted to type and make 40 copies of, but your audience interprets it as hours more of prep work.  When I was in youth ministry, I would always show up to games with a Gatorade for the student.  It was a dollar and a minute out of the way, but it communicated to them that I  actually cared and prepared.

Th Wisdom character in Proverbs brings so much more than handouts and Gatorades.   Wisdom makes it clar that this point is to be known as he redirects his “sons”/our attention. “Now then, my sons, listen to me…” as if we are jr. high boys with ADD.  He gets to the main point in verse 34:

”For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 8.34)

Wisdom comes bringing “life” and, in parallel, “favor” from God.  The Hebrew word for life, chay, is the amen word used in:

  • Genesis 2.4 when God breathed into Adam life creating his being
  • Genesis 2 where the tree of life sustaining their being
  • Too many times to count on Scripture when’s statements validity rests upon God’s being, “As surely as the Lord lives…”

Life is about doing the things God created you to do and being who he created to be.  This is only accomplished by finding and attaining wisdom.

As for “favor”, as discussed briefly in a previous post, Noah found “favor” [chen] or “grace” in the eyes of the Lord.  That would fit perfectly here. The problem is that it is not the same Hebrew word.  Same english translation but a different Hebrew word.  Instead, it is a word used of sacrifices to obtain acceptability with God.  The word is ratson and it is used throughout Leviticus to show show God’s acceptance of our offerings.

By seeking and finding Wisdom, we get life and acceptance to the Lord.

So just to recap the five statements about the Wisdom Character in Proverbs:

  • 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.
  • By seeking and finding Wisdom, we get life and acceptance to the Lord.

So who is this wisdom?  To be continued…

Wisdom (part 1)

11709442_593975946399_3035019246921557046_nPracticality is a word that is sacred among ranches.  The simplest way to do something is always valued.  When dealing with 1500 lbs animals, refurbished equipment, or hand me down tools, simple is always better.  Murphy’s law, “if it can go wrong, it will go wrong” is offset by Okham’s razor, “the simplest solution is usually the correct one.”  That is why a horse, a saddle, and a rope is still relevant amidst a world that is mechanized.

Proverbs is the horse, saddle, and rope book of the Bible.  Set among the backdrop of the elegant poetry and beautiful worship compositions of the Psalms, the creative angst and despair of Ecclesiastes, the romance of Song of Solomon, or the deep questions posed by Job, Proverbs is  just a down to earth, practical application of the best way to live life.  There isn’t a lot of hidden meaning or deep interpretation that needs to be done.  It is a book of simplicity that cuts out all the excess.  That’s the kind of life we need more of today.

As part of the wisdom literature (as is the aforementioned 4 books), Proverbs is all about attaining wisdom.  Wisdom is the application of knowledge.  It was Bezalel, who was given “wisdom” [chokmah] to build the Tabernacle in Exodus 31.  It was not just that he had the mental and theoretical understanding of what to build; his hands were able to accomplish the task.  I can give you all the theory on how to shoe a horse; but when it comes down to using a hoof knife, I’m worthless.  Wisdom is knowledge getting its hands dirty.  Wisdom is knowledge in action.  Proverbs is all about living life well, by putting knowledge into action: wisdom.  Just over 25% of the times this word, chokmah, “wisdom” is used in the Old Testament, it is used in the book of Proverbs.

But wisdom in middle of Proverbs seems take on person-hood:  “she” stands and calls out” (8.2-3); “I” raise my voice (8.4); “I, wisdom, dwell” (8.12); “I walk” (8.20) and so many more.  The classification of wisdom as the female gender, has nothing to do with with the person-hood of wisdom.  In the same way that the greek word for wisdom, sophia, is feminine in person, the Hebrew word, chokmah, is a feminine word as are many abstract words in the Hebrew language.

The real identity of Wisdom is hazy until verse 22 of Proverbs 8.  I want to focus on four aspects and identifiers of Wisdom throughout the remaining There Solomon writes:

“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be.” (Proverbs 8.22-23)

Three things about Wisdom in this first section.  First, when the Lord “brought him forth”, the initial thought was that Wisdom was a created entity.  The hebrew word qanah can be used of creation, however, much more common is the meaning “to aquire” or “to buy”.  Proverbs 4.5-7 uses the word 4 times in 3 verses and not once does it even hint at creation.  The word qanah (to acquire) and its homophone (to create) and the confusion between the two, would provide the interpretation that gave rise to the heretical movement of Arianism and its teaching that Jesus was a created being, not to be equated with God.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ would follow this teaching as well.

The second issue raised is the “formation” of Wisdom.  Theses verse fall into Hebrew poetry structure of parallelism.  There are three ways that Hebrew poetry is structured: 1) parallelism, where the second line repeats the idea of the previous; (2) antithetic, where the second line argues against the first; (3) synthetic, where the second line completes or builds upon the first.  Verse 23 is in parallel to verse 22.  It is conveying the same idea.  Wisdom was appointed, the most recent NIV translation says “formed”, from eternity.  The hebrew word, nasak, “appoint/formed” is also used in Psalm 2.6 speaking of a king being “installed” in his kingdom.

Finally, verses 24 and 25 says that Wisdom was “given birth” prior to the hills and  and the oceans.  Once again, was Wisdom a created being or eternal?  “To give birth” would argue a beginning of Wisdom; but this is a complex word.  The word is chil.  The most common use of the word is used to mean “tremble”, “wound”, or “writhe” (that would be the Qal stem in Hebrew).  This usage in 24 and 25 is the Pual stem.  It means an intensive action.  Simply put, the qal stem is intensified.  Instead of “he killed” the same word becomes “he slaughtered.”  As it pertains to our discussion, chil becomes “give birth”.  Speaking from ignorance, I hear that giving birth is way worse than a paper cut.  The word is used 7 times in this sense.  Twice it is used in abstract: “The Lord twists the oaks” (Ps. 29.9) and “north wind brings rain” (Proverbs 25.23).  It is doubtful that would be the intention here.  Elsewhere, God has brought forth the Israelite’s (Dt. 32.18) and the world (Psalm 90.2).  The metaphor is vital to our doctrine of God.  He does not literally give birth, but he can act as a father.  Which brings us to the final usage which means literally “to give birth” like the doe and fawn (Job 39.1) and Sarah giving birth. (Isaiah 51.2)  Abraham was the father, but Sarah gave birth.  God didn’t literally give birth to Wisdom, did not give rise to it, but he was connected to it.  The father-son relationship is the intention of the Hebrew verb here.  God relationship to Wisdom is fatherhood.

So according to Proverbs 8.22-26, Wisdom was acquired from God, installed from eternity, and in a intimate relationship with Him.

The second section to look at, verses 27-29, describes Wisdom’s presence at creation.  Wisdom was there when God caused “the heavens to be set in place”. (8.27)  Wisdom was present when the waters of the ocean were laid out, when the clouds were established, and when the deeps were dug out.  Wisdom didn’t come about during creation; Wisdom was there in creation.  Wisdom wasn’t a by product of creation; Wisdom produced creation.  Wisdom had its working gloves on during the creation event.  The knowledge of God in action.

So Wisdom was with God during creation.

To be continued…

 

The Wife of Noble Character (part 3)

The book of Ruth begins like this: “In the days when the Judges ruled, there was a famine in the land.” (1.1)  There is a lot of information conveyed in that introduction.  If you look back to the end of the book of Judges, the key verse that describes the book and this period is Judges 21.25: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”  That sounds like a recipe for disaster.  There was lawlessness and idolatry.  There was disobedience and disorder due to a leadership vacuum.   Then there was a famine in the land.  When there was a famine in the land, someone was not obeying the Lord.  To put it simply the Hebrew nation was in trouble and headed down a road that they didn’t want to be on.  They needed a hero.

God had been raising up Judges to deliver his people from subjugation.  There was Gideon and Ehud, Shamgar and Samson and many others.  They each relieved Israel out of the hands of their rulers.  But it wasn’t a permanent fix.  It was always a temporary solution.  They cycle would repeat itself and Israel would find themselves under foreign rule again.  This is the world that Ruth lived and Israel needed a hero.

The story begins with the fleeing of a famine.  Naomi, her husband, and two sons, fled the famine to Moab.  While there, her two boys met women and married.  Then all the men in Naomi’s life, died.  Her husband and two son’s passed, leaving her and her daughter-in-laws alone in a male dominated society.  Noami decided to head back to Israel.  She told her daughter-in-laws to stay in their homeland.  Orpah did so, Ruth on the other hand, refused to leave Naomi’s side.  Her classic response:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1.16-17)

Ruth refuses to abandon her mother-in-law.  In that society and at that time it would have been nearly impossible for Naomi to support and fend for herself.  Ruth though still a tough draw would fare better in taking care of her and Naomi.  When Naomi is nin need, Ruth is there.

“She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31.20)

Ruth travels back to Bethlehem with Naomi.  They arrived during the barley harvest.  Ruth took it upon herself to provide for her and Naomi.  She went to the fields to pick up the leftover grain. (Ruth 2.2)

She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. (Proverbs 31.16)

The owner of the field comes to check on the harvest.  His name is Boaz.  He inquires about this woman picking up the grain behind the workers.  Their description of her is very honorable: “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.” (Ruth 2.6-7)

She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servant…

She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks. (Proverbs 31.15,  17)

Ruth works her tail off and she meets Boaz the owner of the field.  Come to find out, he is their closest relative.  He is the one who is supposed to be taking care of them in their time of need (Leviticus 25.47-55), called a Kinsmen-Redeemer.  He had given her grain and water and food for home.  But still there was more.  So Ruth went to him at night and said: ““I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”  She is challenging him to step up and be all that he is meant to be.

Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31.11-12)

Abigale challenged David to step up and be the man.  Deborah did the same with Barak.  Eve was sent as a reinforcing army as was the wife of noble character.  Ruth is challenging Boaz to step up and fulfill his God ordained role in this world.  By sleeping with him, that is the meaning of the idiom ‘spread the corner of your garment over me’, she he asking him to step up and live out who God had called him to be.

Boaz was a ‘man of standing’. (Ruth 2.1)  He went to the city gates and redeemed Ruth and Naomi from another closer in line. (Ruth 4)

Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. (Proverbs 31.23)

He took her as his wife for this very reason.  Their first night together, after she had asked him to cover her with the corner of his garment, Boaz had this to say to her:

“The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.” (Ruth 3.10-11)

She was a woman of “noble character” [‘asha-chayil], the same word and title given to the woman in Proverbs 31.10.  Her title and her activity show that she was a woman to be distinguished from others.  She was the embodiment of Proverbs 31.

She bore Boaz a son and named him Obed (Ruth 4.13, 17) and if you skip to the end of the book, Obed is the grandfather of the someday King David.

There are those of us who are here today because of women of noble character.   Women like Ruth and Abigail and Deborah and Priscilla. Mothers, Grandmothers, Daughters, sisters, and wives are the reasons that some of us have survived this long.  Proverbs 31 makes it very clear that they are to Ben doted upon and celebrated.  They are to be held in the highest regard.  There should be no greater protector or celebrator of feminine nobility that the men of the church.

Jesus is the man downstream from David many generations and Ruth, the woman of noble character, was vital to the current.