To Create

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To create something of true beauty.
To forge something to stand. Endure. Carry another’s life.
To speak into the darkness some word of light. Flickering. Brief but bright.
To add some weight of meaning to a fleeting moment.
To stamp onto a shifting mist the permanence of a memory, a sign post, an Ebenezer.
To not merely consume, nor mechanically produce.
But to form.
To fashion.
To bless.

WikiTheology: But it’s a different culture…

Here is an explanation of WikiTheology. For similar posts, see why we have armswhy we don’t eat snowy owlswhy Hell might not be what you think, maybe Jesus just being overly dramatic, and why your stomach still growls.

Question: The culture that Jesus lived in is so different than ours. How can we know that everything he said then is culturally relevant for today?

Text where it stems from: The sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7)

Me: Are there some commands that Jesus gave to his disciples that are not relevant for us? Yes! For example, he told the disciples to not go to certain cities. He told individuals to not tell others about him. He told people to pay their taxes to Cesar. He told his disciples to meet him in Galilee. None of those things are relevant to us. But does that mean that nothing is relevant for us? I think we would all say “No. There is much that is relevant for us!”

But how do we know the difference between what is relevant to us in the 21st century and what was only relevant to those standing beside Jesus in the 1st century, or even those who were listening to Moses in the 15th century before Christ, and what is relevant for us today? This question is part of what we call Hermeneutics, or “the discipline that studies theories of interpretation” (Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta, Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002, 56).

The Bible is a collection of 66 books written over the span of more than 1500 years by 40 authors. We also recognize that this collection we “Scripture” is inspired by God, or given to us by God himself through human authors (2 Tim 3:16). We must take into account both the diversity and unity of authorship. Because of the nature of this revelation we must as well acknowledge its time-bound and timeless nature. This is distinct from other faiths such as Islam.

Given the nature of the Bible, when we come to a certain text we must come to it as though we were three different audiences. We ask ourselves, “How would I have understood this if I were the original audience?” Then we ask, “What does this reveal in a timeless way about God and mankind throughout all history?” And finally we can ask, “How does this apply to me as part of the present audience?”

[This mashup of the COMA questions and the Flow of Bible study did not originate with us. See One to One Bible Reading by Helm and also this post by Michael Patton]

You may think, but that sounds like a lot of work! Yes. Yes it is. The Bible is a big book, and if we don’t take our reading of it seriously we could arrive at the point of where we are sacrificing goats and chickens, or rejecting the whole book outright. For example, you may have heard statements such as, “If you are going to say that a certain sexual behavior is wrong, you can’t eat pork either because Leviticus says you can’t!” Given what you have read, how would you respond?

So, was the culture of Jesus different than ours? Certainly. Does this mean that nothing is relevant for us? Absolutely not. The words of Jesus, and all of Scripture as the revelation of God, are essential to our life and godliness (2 Peter 1), and although they are difficult to understand at times (2 Peter 3), they are the words of life (John 6).

Si la cultura de Jesús fue tan diferente de la nuestra ¿cómo sabemos que sus palabras son relevantes para nosotros?

¿Hay algunos mandatos que Jesús dio a sus discípulos que no son relevantes para nosotros? ¡Sí! Por ejemplo, dijo a sus discípulos no ir a algunas ciudades. Dijo a algunos no hablar de él a otros. Dijo que todos deben pagar sus impuestos al Cesar. Mandó que sus discípulos fuesen a Galilea para reunirse con él. Ninguno de estos son “relevantes” para nosotros. ¿Pero significa que no hay nada relevante para nosotros? Creo que todos de nosotros diríamos “No. Hay mucho que es relevante para nosotros.”

Pero nos lleva a otra pregunta. ¿Cómo sabemos la diferencia entre lo que es relevante para nosotros en el siglo XXI y lo que fue relevante solo para ellos de pie al lado de Jesús en el siglo I, o incluso a ellos escuchando a Moises en el siglo XV antes de Cristo? Esta pregunta es parte de lo que llamas Hermenéutica, o, “la disciplina que estudia las teorías de interpretación” (Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta, Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002, 56).

La Biblia es una colección de 66 libros escritos durante más de 1500 años por 40 autores. También sabemos que esta colección que llamamos “Las Escrituras” es inspirada por Dios, dada por Dios mismo por medio de autores humanos (2 Timoteo 3:16). Tenemos que reconocer la diversidad y la unidad de la autoría. Por causa de la naturaleza de esta revelación también tenemos que reconocer su naturaleza como eterna y, a la misma vez, temporal. Esta declaración distingue Cristianismo de muchas religiones, como Islam.

Dada la naturaleza de la Biblia, cuando leemos un texto tenemos que pensar como si fuésemos tres diferentes audiencias. Nos preguntamos, “¿Cómo lo hubiera entendido si yo hubiese sido la audiencia original?” Después, nos preguntamos, ¿Qué nos revela, en su aspecto intemporal, de Dios y la humanidad a lo largo de la historia?” Y finalmente, nos preguntamos, “¿Cómo se aplica a mi este pasaje, siendo yo como la audiencia presente?”

[Estas preguntas y “audiencias” no tienen su origin con nosotros. Puedes consultar “One to One Bible Reading” por Helm y también este blog]

Probablemente piensas, “¡Me parece mucho trabajo!” Sí. Lo es. La Biblia es un libro grande e importante, y si no lo tomamos en serio, podríamos llegar a un momento en el que sacrificaríamos cabras y gallinas, o rechazaríamos el libro por completo.

¿Has escuchado declaraciones como, “Si vas a decir que este tipo de acto sexual es malo, tampoco puedes comer jamón porque Levítico dice que no!” Según lo que has leído, ¿cómo responderías?

A ver, ¿la cultura de Jesús fue diferente que la nuestra? Claro. ¿Significa que no hay nada relevante para nosotros? De ninguna manera. Las palabras de Jesús, y de todas las Escrituras como la revelación de Dios, son esenciales para nuestra vida y piedad (2 Pedro 1), y aunque son difíciles de entender a veces (2 Pedro 3), son palabras de vida (Juan 6).

WikiTheology: Was Jesus being overly dramatic?

Here is an explanation of WikiTheology. For similar posts, see why we have armswhy we don’t eat snowy owlswhy Hell might not be what you think, and why your stomach still growls.

Friend: If Jesus knew he would rise from the dead, wasn’t he being over dramatic, or lacking in faith when he asked the Father to take the cup away?

Me: That is a tough question! Let me think about that…

Text where it stems from: Matthew 26:36ff

This question deals with one of the more perplexing issues found in Scripture and the answer is determined by how we understand Christ, or in theological studies, Christology. When understanding Jesus’ cry in the garden (or any of his other human characteristics such as his hunger, tiredness, limited knowledge of the Father’s timing, and ultimately his death) we have to take into account what we read in Philippians 2:4-11:

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

In these verses we see that Jesus was just like us because he became a human being, or “emptied himself, by taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” This did not eliminate or mix with his divine nature (“the form of God”). Being the second person of the Triune God he could not give up his divine nature just like God the Father could not give up being the Father, or the Spirit the Spirit. Nor could Jesus separate himself from his divine attributes such as his omnipotence, or omniscience, and still continue to be God. However, because Jesus took on the human nature in addition to his divinity, voluntarily limiting himself to that which corresponded with his humanity, he could accomplish the loving rescue plan which the Father had given to him, which involved his own death. He could be tired and thirsty. He could be lonely. He had humbly become a man and set aside the independent control of his divine attributes which were rightfully his.

With this understanding of Jesus’ divine nature and his human nature, we now consider him in the Garden. Here he knelt, weeping. If he knew he would rise again, why the drama? As a human being, he had lived perfectly. His entire earthly life had been one of unhindered communion with God the Father. He never had any sin to disrupt their communion, nor had he ever experienced the correction of God for pursuing his own sinful desire. But this was about to change. Soon he would be hung on a tree and made to be a curse. He would bear the wrath of God for sins he had never committed. He would drink the cup of God’s justice down to the dregs. He would be cut off from the Father for the first time in his life (see Isaiah 53, Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:13; Romans 4:25).

At this point, we have to remember that we are speaking of the human nature of Jesus the Messiah. We are not speaking of his divine nature, which could not be cut off from the Father and the Spirit. The Triune God could not abandon one of the persons, but the man Christ Jesus could take our sins and carry them to his grave. There he, flesh and blood, would lie dead.

This is why he wept. This is why he was in agony. He was about to give up his life and his perfect acceptance and communion with the Father on behalf of sinners like you and I.

So from this perspective, the struggle in the garden which Jesus faced is not an evidence for a lack of faith, but rather a demonstration of his faithfulness in the midst of the most horrific fate possible, to feel the full wrath of God upon him.

This is a very brief look at a very complex issue. I highly recommend reading this book for a greater treatment!

Ware, B. The Man Christ Jesus. Crossway, 2012.

Top Shelf Book: The Man Christ Jesus

Book: Ware, B. The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ. Crossway, 2012.

Pages: 160

Point: Jesus Christ, the second person of the triune God, emptied himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. This truth has a profound impact on how I view his life, my life, and the coming life.

Path: Ware walks through the key passages speaking of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and future reign with an eye toward how Scripture presents his humanity. He answers common questions and critiques oversimplifications and quick responses which we are prone to make.

Sources: Based on exegetical studies of pertinent texts and also historical theology, the author helps the student or the layman to find a better foothold when considering the profound ramifications of Christ’s humanity.

Agreement: I found this to be a great encouragement both theologically and devotionally. Ware helped me to shore up different areas of my Christology and point out the errors of my sometimes sloppy explanations of our Savior’s life and ministry.

While there were a couple places where I was disappointed in how he ended a discussion but I was encouraged throughout the entire book.

Personal App: Jesus Christ, the God-Man, obeyed God perfectly through his dependence upon the Holy Spirit. This same Spirit he has promised to his followers. Therefore I have been provided all that is necessary for my faith and godliness in his Word and his Spirit.

Favorite Quote:

“Second, given the fact that this was the greatest act of obedience he rendered, requiring the deepest commitment of faith and hope in his Father, in light of the severest of all suffering he was about to encounter on the cross, does it not stand to reason, then, that the Father had prepared Jesus for this moment? Can we not now see that all the previous tests of his faith, the divine demands that he followed and the sufferings that he experienced, were preparatory and strengthening for his obeying the Father in the garden?”

Stars: 5 out of 5

Top Shelf book

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

– Is seeking to understand better our Savior Jesus Christ

– Someone willing to think through the complexity of Jesus the Messiah.

Other books along this theme would be:

Scott, J. The Incomparable Christ

Piper, J. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ

Athanasius. On the Incarnation of the Word of God

A relational God

A couple of months ago, a non-believing friend told me that he loves Greek mythology more than Old Testament stories because Greek gods and goddesses have human personality traits that make them relatable. Zeus is stormy. Hera is manipulative and difficult. Athena plays favorites. “Holiness is too strange,” he said. “I don’t understand it. I don’t want to be close to a shapeless fire on a mountain.” In this moment, I realized the relational importance of the incarnated Christ because in Jesus, we see a compression of divine emotional complexity. In him, we find a fiery Lord who turns over tables in a temple, a tender Lord who weeps with the weeping, a gentle Lord who welcomes little children, a weary Lord who sleeps, and an introverted Lord who needs time alone. We also find a Lord who sometimes wants to quit and go home. “Let this cup pass from me,”[5] he prayed—wishing for a way out that would not come. Here, Jesus gives us a beautiful example of authentic prayer—showing us that we don’t have to go skipping and grinning into every loss we face. We can cry out. We can weep. We can be honest with the Father about all of our feelings before we come at last to “Not my will, but thine.”[6] It’s okay for that process to be a monumental battle for us because it was a monumental battle for Jesus. You have a High Priest who is able to empathize. You can talk to him straight.

Just another shot…

For those of you who were following along with the pregnancy and birth, we hope these photos give some perspective to what Crystal walked through over the past months. We thank God for a healthy baby and a healthy mother.

Not all of the shots are shown here, but this is a majority of them.

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When Crystal had to ice and then give herself the shot, Grant would push as far away as he could from them. I imagine this picture brought back tough memories!

The Common Rule

Book: Earley, Justin. The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction

Point: Our daily habits form us. If we are not intentional about those, or if we buy into the lie that unrestrained freedom is the good life, we will wither.

Path: Earley helps those of us lost in our business to begin to order our lives around 8 keystone habits. These simple (not necessarily easy) habits form how we view ourselves, others, our world, and our God. These are separated into two categories, daily and weekly and include: (Daily) Kneeling prayer, Meal with others, Phone-free hour, Scripture before phone, (Weekly) Hour conversation with a friend, Curated media, 24 Hour fast, and Sabbath.

Agreement: This book was a challenge to me. I appreciate much of what he said. Some of the habits were new to me, some were not. Some I continue to practice, some I have yet to try. I have even incorporated other habits not mentioned in this book, but as a direct result from reading it.

The simplicity of the habits is deceptive. Some are really hard. I could feel myself fighting against them. For example, putting the phone away for an hour was revealing for me.

I don’t disagree with any of the keystone habits he has chosen. They are good. There are other ones, for sure, but these are helpful.

Earley is both thoughtful and interesting in his writing. I enjoyed reading the book. The simple charts were helpful to reorientate myself in the overall movement of the book, in the same way that the habits themselves help me to reorientate myself daily and weekly.

Disagreement:

He is a good writer, however there are points in the book where an idea or a sentence sounds great, but it fails because it is 1) false; 2) unproven; or 3) vague. In those moments I could sense the undercurrent into which we easily fall, namely, “Everyone is saying it, and it sounds good, so it must be true.”

Here are some examples from the chapter on prayer:

“I believe in the power of words – and especially the words of prayer – to shape the world” (32). Is this sentence, and the paragraphs surrounding it, saying his words are powerful, his praying is powerful, the one he is praying to is powerful, or all three? There is truth here, but it is vague.

“There are two kinds of prayer” (34). Only two? Are there more? Where do you get this from?

“You say your prayers until your prayers say you. That’s the goal.” (43) Is this true? Is it false? It may be true, but where do you get that from? Help me to understand why it is true.

His epilogue, On Failure and Beauty, was both encouraging and confusing. I recognize that trying to live a thoughtful life is not easy. There will be failure. But what is this “failure”? How do you defining “failure”? Is failure just another way to say, “I didn’t pursue a thoughtful life”? By failure do you mean sinning against others by responding in anger, indifference, or apathy? If failure “is making you a work of art” (166), I need to know what that failure is. I think if he were to switch out the word “failure” with “dependence”, “humility”, “faithfulness”, or perhaps another word, I would be able to better understand his point. As it stands, this appears to be a “you’re messed up and I’m messed up, so we are good” type concession. That may make me feel ok about myself, but that doesn’t help me. I need to hear that God’s mending is what makes all things beautiful, not my “fault lines” (166).

Personal App: Living life without intentional habits to reorientate me toward God and others will numb my relationships, shrivel my soul, and hasten my body to the grave.

Favorite Quote: “But the rest that our souls need is not simply a nap. It’s the rest that comes with realizing we don’t have anything to prove anymore” (147)

Who should read this:

If you are expecting this to be the foundational book of any of these ideas, you will be disappointed. It was not written to be that. There are excellent books on prayer, fasting, community, etc. This book was written, not as the go-to manual, but as a reality check to get you interested in a life that is possible because of God’s work. This book serves as an agent of change in the same way a hallway of a home serves hospitality – people pass through it to the larger rooms. For that, I am thankful for this book. I will re-read it. I will recommend it.

Stars: 4 out of 5

Other books along this theme would be:

Reinke, T. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.