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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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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.

 

The Wife of Noble Character (part 2)

She was whisked away as fast as she entered in chapter 12.  She was a blip on Solomon’s radar; but King Lemuel, he took some time to dwell on her.  The structure of the end of Proverbs is unique in its formation.  Two things make it stand out from the rest of the book.

First, it is a unit.  For much of Proverbs, aside from pieces here and there, the author makes statements that stand on their own.  The prologue to the book (1.1-9) and Wisdom’s Poem (8-9) being the obvious exemptions.  For much of the book it is stuff like you find in chapter 10.  Its a couple verses about obtaining wealth (10.2-5ish); the way to walk (6-9); thoughts on the tongue (10-14); then back to the wealth (15-16); verse 17 is an outlier; then back to the tongue (18-21); the wicked and the righteous (22-30); and finishes with the tongue again (31-32).  If you have ever tried to outline the book of James or even the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus, you would know the frustration of trying to put an outline to the book of Proverbs.  The themes bounce around, into and off of each other like particles at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.  But not in this chapter and not for King Lemuel.

Lemuel wants to dwell on this topic of the Woman of Noble Character.  It is shown in the number of verses she has devoted to her.  Twenty-one verses are devoted to describing her character, her worth, her activity.  I guess it depends on how you divide it up and how you categorize and group them, but there aren’t many topics that warrant the amount of ink as the wife of noble character.  Wisdom, Righteousness, Discipline, Money are on the short list that get more press than her.

Its not only the number of verses he devotes to her, it’s the way he arranges them.  The end of Proverbs 31 is an acrostic poem.  Each subsequent verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  He begins in verse 10 with the letter aleph: “‘isha-chayil“.  The translation is “a wife/woman of noble character”.  The use of ‘isha in scripture is a bit ambiguous.  Going back to a previous post of first text principle in Genesis 2.23-25.  The word is used 4 times in four verses; once in 22, 23, 24, and 25.  The first two times the NIV translates it as woman, and the last two wife.  To say that this only applies to a married woman, rendering ‘isha as wife, would, I think be hermeneutically arrogant.  I would feel safer applying this to all women.

The second word of that first verse chayil is an interesting word.  It is most commonly translated as “army” or “wealth”.  If you remember from the last post, the word for “helper” [‘ezer] has military implications. Those are the literal translations.  The meaning, the thought, behind the word is “strength”.  Kings are only as strong as their armies and their wealth.  Joel and Habakkuk knew the meaning of this word.  Habakkuk writes: “The Lord is my strength [chayil]…” (Hab. 3.19) and Joel adds: “The Lord thunders at the head of his armies [chayil]” (Joel 2.11).

Moving on the second verse (11) beings with batach…the hebrew letter bet, translated as “trust”.  The following verse begins with a gimel.  The hebrew word is “gemalathu” meaning “she will give”.  Hebrew (and greek for that matter) is not as confined to sentence structure as the English language is.  English sentences are usually constructed as “subject-verb”.  The components are generally determined by their location in the sentence.  Hebrew, on the other hand uses suffixes to words to denote their function in the sentence.  That being said, the order of the sentence is not nearly as important in the Hebrew.  King Lemuel utilizes this freedom.  He begins verse 10 with noun-adjective; verse 11 with verse-preposition-verb; verse 12 with a verb…and so on.

He continues throughout the Hebrew alphabet, all the way through too “tav”.  Twenty two letters (or 21 if you combine the letters sin and shin, which are used interchangeably as the Psalmist in 119 does as does King Lemuel) leading the verses about the woman/wife of noble character.  Psalm 119 is the perfect example of this.  Most NIV Bible’s even begin the sections with the Hebrew letter that will lead the sentence in the subsequent sections.

When’s the last time you composed a poem?  Haiku’s not included.  Have you ever tried to sit down and write one?  Forget a poem.   Just try a word.  On the left side of a piece of paper, write the alphabet vertically with one line per letter.  See if you can come up with something that starts with that letter using a theme.  Pick one: animal, college, chemical element, or food.  See how long it takes.

I wrote one about Taco Bell (An Ode to Taco Bell).  It took me a while during last summer.  To get the right words, in the correct order, to convey the meaning, to clarify thought, was a stressful and intellectually challenging endeavor…and it was about Taco Bell, something so insignificant.  Can you imagine, King Lemuel agonizing over the proper words to get his point across?  Can you picture, King Lemuel, being poured into by the Holy Spirit, and the words flowing from his pen as he describes the heroine of the story?

The woman of noble character was worth all of the effort.  All of the time spent describing her was worth spending.

Just like a Knight who has earned the scars from battle and now gets to bask in the affection of the Damsel, he would say: “it was worth the effort.”

Just like Jacob, who worked 7 years for Rachel’s hand in marriage but they only seemed like a few days because of his love for her. (Gen. 29.20)  Ask him if it was worth it?

King Lemuel would answer the affirmative.  Most certainly yes! She is worth it.  That is why he composes this poem to her honor.

 

 

 

 

Citizens of the Kingdom

img-thing“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household…” (Philippians 2.19)

It sucks being the outsider.  When I was in 3rd grade, a buddy of mine invited me to this thing called Church Camp.

We drove down to the K-mart in North Topeka and purchased a $3 KJV Bible.   We didn’t own any Bibles and we figured one was just as good as any other.

The first thing we did every morning was raise the flags, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, recite the Christian Pledge, and the Bible Pledge.  I was good on the first one.  The other two were completely foreign.

During the day, we had devotions and teachings; but, the other kids Bibles had different words than mine.  Not totally different, but different enough.

That night it rained.  We were shuttled into the Chapel where we watched a pickle singing about a hairbrush.  No Lie!

I remember thinking that night: “If this is what Christianity is all about, count me out!”

I was the outsider.  In language, culture, thinking, and everything.  VeggieTales just revealed it.

Now its exactly opposite…trying to navigate the shop, the pens, or Walmart, there is a vernacular, culture, thinking, and language that I am unaccustomed too.

When a culture begins to feel home, you have left one and became a citizen of the other.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but citizens…” Paul says.

They were called out of one culture, the culture of Ephesus, and into a new one.  They were learning a new way of living, a new vocab, a new thinking.  Ephesians is rich with all the basics and foundational teachings on this new culture.

Ephesians 1: “In him we have redemption through his blood…”

Ephesians 2: “Dead in transgressions…alive in Christ…saved by grace”

Ephesians 3: “…through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God is made known…”

Ephesians 4: People are equipped “…for works of service to build up the body”

Ephesians 5: “Be imitators of God…just as Christ gave himself…”

Ephesians 6: “Finally be strong in the Lord…”

The basics are a fantastic place to start!

 

 

When Cultures Collide: Committed to Scripture

(This is a summary of a chapter from a book I’m finishing up)

Culture is constantly in flux.  It changes by the second; an avalanche of ideas and information.  We are overtaken by changes every breath we take on this earth.

As mentioned before, Daniel is in a centerfuge of change.  His world is spinning around and he is trying to keep up.  Prayer has sustained him thus far and given him stability in his time of service in Babylon, but now a new ruler is in town.  Daniel 9 begins like this: “In the first year of Darius…in the first year of his reign…”. Daniel has a new boss.  This is right around the same time as the den of lions event where Daniel was/will be persecuted for his prayer life.

During this regime transition, Daniel is studying the Scriptures, specifically Jeremiah.  Seventy-five or so years prior to Daniel studying this passage, Jeremiah first delivered it.  Daniel, a man familiar with God’s words, attributes the passage not just to Jeremiah, but to the Lord as well.  The passage he was studying was from Jeremiah 25; a prophecy about the seventy years of captivity that the nation of Judah would endure because of their unfaithfulness and sin.

In the midst of his Bible study, Daniel is confronted with the same question we are when we open up the scriptures: “What now?”

What happens when we read and study Scripture?  What happens when we approach God’s Word seeking understanding?  What happens when we look to apply it in our lives?

Confession

When committed to reading God’s word, I realize how far short I fall of what God desires, has commanded, has loved.

“So I (Daniel) turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and position, in fasting, and in sack cloth and ashes.” (Dan. 9.4)

Daniel assumes a posture of mourning and begins to pray.  In this prayer, Daniel confesses:

  • “…we have sinned” (5, 8)
  • “…we have been wicked and rebelled” (5, 9)
  • “…we have turned away” (5)
  • “…we have not listened” (6)
  • “…we are covered in shame…because of our unfaithfulness” (7)
  • “…we have not obeyed” (10)
  • “…all Israel has transgressed your law and turned away.” (11)

Scripture acts as a mirror showing a reflection of the life before it.  Only when it is read and studied is sin revealed.  When sin is revealed, the only acceptable response is confession.  Daniel shows this in his transition to his next thought in the book when he says: “While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel…” (9.29)

Daniel’s reading of scripture led him to confession.

Worship

When reading and studying Scripture becomes a priority, worship ensues.  Notice how Daniel’s prayer begins: “Lord, the great and awesome God…” (Dan 6.4). There is no question about who He is addressing.

Daniel isn’t the only one who began his prayer in worship.  Jesus did it in Matthew 6: “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed (or holy) is your name…” (Matt 6.9)  Habakkuk begins his prayer in chapter 3: “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.” (Hab. 3.2).

Daniel doesnt just stop there.  Sprinkled throughout the prayer are acclamations of God’s character, His activity, and His presence.  Isn’t that what worship is?  A person acknowledging who God is and honoring Him?

According to Daniel, based on his study of Scripture, God is, as attested to by his prayer, merciful (9, 18), righteous (7, 14), forgiving (9), and the one who brought them out of Egypt with his mighty hand (15).  Daniel voices his adoration and worship throughout this prayer and it all began with the study of Scripture.  As the Psalmist writes: “I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.” (Psalm 119.7)

The connection between study and worship is as real today as it was for the Psalmist and Daniel.

Identity

A commitment to understanding scripture brings with it an reminder of the readers identity.  It’s easy to lose ourselves in the surrounding culture. (See chapter 2)  In the pace of life, amongst the media, the expectations, and the rituals of the world, the things that make believers unique can get left behind and forgotten.

Daniel has been in Babylon for a long time…and the people have been there a long time.  They wrote about this experience: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion…How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?  If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.” (Psalm 137.1,4-5)

But they had forgotten.  Here they were God’s people, their temple destroyed, their walls crushed, their pride gone.  When they did return home to the land, when Ezra read the law to them in Nehemiah 8, it had to be translated because they had forgotten the Hebrew language.  The people of God, had forgotten the name they carried.

Daniel ends his prayer: “Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (19)

For Seventy years the identity, their name, had been last; but Daniel, in his study, remembered who they were as a people.

In this prayer three things are tied together: 1) who we are: confession; 2) who God is: worship; 3) what God has made us into: identity.

These themes, as a result of the study of Scripture occur elsewhere.  Two examplesstand out in Scripture.

Josiah, as an 18 year old King, gets handed the Book of the Law found in the Temple. (2 Kings 22.10) It is read to him and upon hearing, he immediately fears his clothes and confesses the sins of his people (10-13).  Then he reads it to the people and they celebrate Passover for the first time since the era of the Judges (21-23).  The central event of Hebrew history hadn’t been done in their memory. They worshipped and recovered their identity.

Nehemiah 8 tells of a time just years after Daniels prayer.  After the Jews had returned to the land, rebuilt the walls and resettled their towns, they assembled and Ezra the priest read the law to them.  The priests translated and explained to the people what it meant (8.2-3,8).  The people wept as they listened to the words being read (9-10).  Thy stopped weeping and celebrated God and His works that they now understood (12).  When they heard Ezra read about the festival of booths, they realized  that God had commanded them to live in shelters every year, just as they did when God had brought them out of Egypt (Lev. 23.37-40; Neh. 8.13-15).  A central tenant of the Jewish faith, it hadn’t been done for years, since “the time of Joshua” (17).

When a commitment to study and understanding of Scripture is made, revival happens.

 

Animal Farm: A Fair-ey Story

My rules for literature consumption:

1. No reading The Shinning before vacation.

2.  The Hunger Games should be read every year before school starts just to remind us how shaky the house of cards really is.

3.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is read every Christmas. No exceptions.

After following these rules faithfully for the last couple years, in the wake of last nights Jackson Co. Fair visit, I have added a fourth literary rule:

4. Never read Animal Farm before going to a fair.

The basic plot of the Orwell classic is this: Farm animals feel exploited.  A rebellion, began by the old pig Major, is executed by Napoleon and Snowball, two pigs and his juniors.  The animals take over the farm, throwing off their human masters with the sheep chanting the mantra, “Four legs good, two legs bad.”  Snowball is the thoughtful and calculated leader, but Napoleon is the brash and charismatic leader.  He also has two advantages over Snowball as he grabs sole control over the Farm: 1) he has Squealer, a pig who is gifted at controlling, spinning, and disseminating information to the other animals; 2) he has the dogs.  When a litter of puppies is born, Napoleon puts them in the loft, cut off from the other animals, and put himself in charge of their education, turning them into his own henchmen posse.  Napoleon expelled snowball (labeling him a Traitor), works the animals to death, and controls all the decisions on Animal Farm.  He is a paranoid dictator, exploiting the labor of even the most loyal of animals, Buck the draft horse.  The novel ends with the animals realizing their new animal overlords, the pigs, are not an improvement over the humans.  Things are worse than ever.

Walking into the beige barn that rises up in the middle of the Jackson Co Fair grounds, I was ready to watch the steer weigh in.  Then I saw it.  Some pigs were being driven in the show pen.  Every other animal gets a halter and a lead rope…but not the pigs.  The are untethered.  Their handler, if you can really call them that since they are not attached, has a little stick to direct their pigs with taps on the side.  Some pigs are pretty tame…some are fairly insane.  Then I looked to the pens where they are being fed fine grain, lounging under fans, and getting baths.  Wilbur from Charlottes Web never hadn’t it so good.  That’s when I began to look at every pig in the barn with a healthy suspicion.

On the west end of the barn were the sheep.  The dim witted animals of the novel that represented the masses.  They blindly followed orders, never thinking for themselves.  I had no fear in the west end of the barn.  But the east end left me with an uneasy feeling, as though we were in.ching ever closer by the second to an uprising.  There was a plot a-ungulate-foot.  No wonder the Hebrews were forbidden pigs.

I felt like they knew that I had had bacon that morning.

Read the classics, but don’t do it during fair season.

Isaiah 53: Mark’s Added Verse

Erie Ks 2013In Sunday School classes across the country, there was a game that was played as I was growing up.  They called it “Sword drill” after the Hebrews 4 passage comparing God’s Word to a sword.  The game is quite simple.  The Bible is held on top of the students head until the teacher calls out a scripture.  Students slam their Bibles on the table and frantically search for the scripture that was called out.  The first to arrive at the passage and begin reading would get a point.  I have better and kinder Sunday School teachers than I was as a teacher.  My two favorite verses to call out to my students were: Acts 8.37 and Mark 15.28.  Most likely they are quoted in the footnotes of your Bible, but it is not often they are found in the actual text of your Bible.  They are called textual variants (more on that later) and scholars don’t really know what to do with them.  It brought me great joy to see the confusion on some of my kids faces…kinda mean right.  I always gave them doughnuts to make up for it.   

The quotation of Isaiah 53.12 is the textual variant, the added verse, of Mark 15.

Prior to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1439, manuscripts, books, and correspondence was copied by hand.  It was an arduous, time-consuming, and precise.  Errors in copying, both intended and unintended, happened.  Sometimes, scribes hust heard things wrong.  At other times things were misspelled.  Think back to a time before word check and spell check.  Sometimes, the scribe felt background information was needed for the reader to understand (see John 5.4).  Or the scribe wanted to harmonize two passages (Luke 11.2-4 and Matthew 6.9-13).  It wasn’t an exact science nor is it an easy topic to study.  But what does this have to do with Mark 15.28.

It too is a textual variant that most scholars would argue was not in the original text of Mark.  Mark was the first gospel written.  It lacks the intricate structure that the other gospels possess.  It show signs of being written rather hastily.  It also doesn’t use OT prophecy in the same way, nor the volume of the other gospels.  Mark is like a 6th grader on Red Bull, bouncing around telling the story at a fast pace, hoping his readers can keep up!   One of his favorite words is euthus meaning “immediately”!  The oldest, most complete, and best preserved manuscripts, codices, and papyri, do not have this verse in them.  Some later families have the verse inserted.  It is doubtful that Mark wrote this verse.

So if Mark didn’t write it, who did?

This is not meant to weaken anyone’s faith in the Bible or the accuracy of Scripture.  To the contrary, I think it can strengthen it.  The Bible is more complex yet so simple.  It is a simple story of God loving the World, with a storied history.

The early church’s used to get letters and books from writers, make copies, and then send them on to the next one.  People would copy down reports and books for their own personal libraries.  They shared with one another, traded with one another, and compared libraries.  With the same veracity of a 9 year old with Pokemon cards, men of ancient renown collected volumes of documents.

There is no doubt in my mind that John Mark wrote the original gospel of Mark.  Ancient historians attest to it, the content seems to point to him, and I believe that he even wrote himself into the book (Mark 14.51-52).  But once Mark wrote down his gospel and made his own copies (however many there were); he sent them out to the Church’s as a testimony to the identity of Jesus.  And somewhere along the way, someone inserted this verse and it got copied over and over and over.  Many later copies of Mark have this verse.  It is in both manuscripts and papyri.  It is wide spread.    

So if it wasn’t original to Mark, and someone else inserted it after the fact, why worry about it here?  Why Easter?

First off, Isaiah 53 is finally put in the “right” place.  It’s a passage about the sacrifice of the servant in place of the people.  And every other place its been quoted, it wasn’t at the crucifixion!  Some early scribe, probably thinking about Luke 22, put this verse about “counted with the transgressors” at the cross.  Some early believer knew this was something that needed to be spelled out to the readers of Mark.

Secondly, it connects with the mission of Mark.  The main point Mark is trying to make is communicated in Mark 10.45: “For the son of Man came not be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  If that isn’t the thrust of Isaiah 53, I certainly don’t know what is.  If that isn’t the main thrust of the Crucifixion in Mark 15, I certainly don’t know what is.  Some early scribe connected the two and took away the doubt.

Finally, it says something about Isaiah 53.  All of the major New Testament authors drew from Isaiah 53 in vastly different ways and for many different purposes.  Mark, or should I say the scribes and copiers of Mark, used it in the most straight forward way possible.  Jesus hangs between 2 criminals…which is exactly what Isaiah said.  Could it possibly be that a scribe, who knew that they did not have apostolic authority or the direct access to an apostle, shouldn’t stray to far from what would be called direct application?  Just a thought.

The point is that Isaiah 53 has more than just crucifixion in mind as evidenced through the last week.  But when it comes down to it, the major application, the major point of Isaiah 53 is straight forward: a servant took on our sin.

“For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10.45)

 

Through the Bible in a Month

In rereading Scot McKnights book The Blue Parakeet, I am reminded of the storybook nature of the Bible.  Not a mythical story, or a fairy tale, but a narrative including characters, in depth story lines, a central plot, and revelation.  The story can be lost with too narrow of focus so, just like I will present to the Middle Schoolers at camp tomorrow morning, I have put together a reading plan to capture the whole story.

Reading Plan

Type One

image.jpegIt was three years ago that I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  While I still don’t have it completely under control, I am getting better.  Type 1 is usually found in kids and teenagers, but no shocker to most of you, I matured a little bit later than most.  Yet I can’t imagine how a 4 or 5 year old kid can manage this disease, or their parents for that matter.

With the kick off of A1C camp at Gage park this week, I wanted to let you know about an opportunity for you to help many others who have this disease. Penny and I have signed up to raise money for JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and we hope to raise $500 at the rodeos and camps that we will be at during the months of June, July, and August.

We made leather steer-heads with the blue circle for Diabetes Awareness and with a donation to JDRF you can stick one of these guys on a gear bag, hang it from a purse, or attach it to a saddle and help fund research for juvenile diabetes.

Just a little update for you.

Phillippian Joy: The Gospel

11247808_593978151979_640348591101436360_nThere have been many places where joy found me.  Last year at Chariton Hills Rodeo Bible camp was one of them.  I watched from the top row of a sale barn/chapel, as two young men shared the gospel with some of their bullriding students.  I didn’t know what to call the feeling then, but I certainly do now.

It found me at the Burlington Pizza Hut.  Sitting around 3 large pizzas with a group of young rodeo athletes as our talk transitioned from a book to the gospel, it hit me.  I couldn’t put my finger on the feeling, but I can now.

It arrived at Hog Wild BBQ around my second helping of seasoned fries.  I was discussing the attributes of God with a young man when we got on the topic of grace.  Then the feeling struck me.  I couldn’t explain it at the time, but can definitively explain it now.  It wasn’t the heartburn from the two helpings of brisket, or the numerous seasoned fries…it was the same thing that made Paul sing in spite of his chains.  It was joy.

Paul found joy in the preaching of the gospel.  The communication of God’s love for humanity, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection, and the reconciled relationship between us and God.  This is what brought Paul joy in Philippians 1.

The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.  And because of this I rejoice. (Philippians 1.18)

The backstory here is fairly simple. Paul, once again, is in chains.  While sitting in a jail cell, he passes the time by writing to some of the congregations that he began during his early travels.  He is writing this letter the the Phillippians.  They know about his checkered past because his first visit there resulted in his imprisonment (Acts 16).

As discussed prior, Paul’s circumstances didn’t dictate his demeanor.  He was joyful in every surrounding, even a prison cell.  But while he is in prison, some have begun to preach the gospel for profit and fame.  They are doing it for selfish reasons, for rivalry and competition (1.15).  Yet, Paul’s attitude about it is not what we would expect.  He takes the same approach as he does toward everything else.  It doesn’t get to Paul because the outcome, regardless of motive, is the preaching of the gospel.  Christ is preached…I rejoice (1.18)

The gospel, the good news of salvation, has always carried with it joy.  Luke 15, “the lost chapter”, there are three parties.  When the shepherd finds his sheep he says “rejoice with me, I have found my lost sheep.” (Luke 15.6)  When the woman finds her coin she says: “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” (15.9)  When the prodigal son returned his father said: “Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; was lost and is found.” (15.24)

When the gospel is preached, when it is experienced, when it is lived, joy is the natural by product.  Luke communicated the connection in his “lost chapter”.  He was, after all, a traveling companion of Paul.  I wonder where he picked this up at?  It was modeled and lived by Paul.

Paul saw the connection between the gospel and joy and wanted the Phillipians to catch it as well.

When you are down on joy, search out the place where the gospel is being preached.  Surround yourself with those on the front lines of evangelism.  Write a missionary, volunteer with a youth group, join the welcoming committee.  Do something to place yourself in a place where the gospel is being lived out and taught to those without it and there you, like Paul, will find joy.