Monday, July 28, 2014

Beware of Reading the Old Testament

Check out my blog on the Old Testament at the Apprentice Institute.  I know I've been on sabbatical for nearly a year from posting, but perhaps this fall the Survey of the Bible course I teach will inspire me to new writings.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Taking control of one's life situations

Welcome to the world of a frustrated problem solver.  That's been my strength for years, from mathematics to a myriad of other specific situations.  Consequently, it is also one of my biggest frustrations with other people, when they won't seek to solve their own problems once it has been indicated that they have a problem.

Now, this does not mean one should not ask for help. Asking for help is a trait that is practiced too little by many in case they should appear to be weak.  No, this is the result when one has asked for help, been given help and assistance, but a new problem arises that the prior source for help can not address.

Scenario 1: I never have any "free time".  This situation is common in my work environment. By "free time" an individual means, time to do what I want to do when I want to do something. As a "problem-solver" I can sit down with them and assess their "required time" when others expect them to be somewhere and help them understand that their "free time" is any time not required by others.  The problem they sense is due to their misuse of the "free time" that they already have and not managing their free time.  However, rather than use this information and take control of their life, they continue allowing others to schedule their free time and they continue to complain.  They need to solve their own problem now.

Scenario 2: I just don't have enough money.  The person has money to eat out, to drive randomly around town, to stop for a 'coffee' or soda several times a day, but can't accumulate enough money to pay for a repair or buy a book!  I can sit down and identify their money leaks, but I can not change their actions. They have to make the changes personally.

You may be wondering what this has to do with the Bible.  It has a lot to do with the biblical teaching of Jesus. The problems listed all have at the center of the issue the capital letter "I".  All the excuses, all the scenarios, all the complaining begins with "I".  The problem is that due to the impact of sin, the effect of sin and how sin affects (one is a noun, the other a verb!) our selfhood. The Bible teaches in several different ways that the "old I must die" and a new I be raised from the dead.  Because our culture so dramatically separates the 'spiritual' from the 'physical' we don't see how they have anything to do with one another. But they do!

The transformation process Paul addresses in Romans 12.1-15.13 is not limited to some non-physical or non-material realm.  It does not just have to do with our thoughts and attitudes.  In fact very little has to do with our thoughts and attitudes.  It is not that these are not important, they are.  However, the transformation has to do with more than the mind.  Rom 12.3 discusses how we think, but then 6-8 all deal with actions. Rom 12.16 deals with the mind, but the remainder of the chapter is what we  do.  Romans 13.13 says (NASB95) "Let us behave properly".

Transformation encompasses our entire life, just as death encompasses our entire life. We don't just die with Christ in our thoughts so that we can be raised to new life in our thoughts.  We die to Christ so that we can be raised to new life!  No one else can solve our problem. We have to address it and take control of our new life, control that comes by giving up control-not to others-but the the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Reason for Discipleship (Kansas Style)

Why follow Jesus every day? There is only one reason: nourishment!

Having said the only reason to follow Jesus is nourishment it now becomes my privilege to explain why. The normal analogy given for a time with Jesus described as intimate, enlightened, spiritually informed, etc. is that of a mountain top experience. We go to the mountaintop to meet Jesus much as Moses did in the book of Exodus, although anyone who has read Exodus knows Moses went up to meet God. We spend our requisite 40 days on the mountaintop or some appropriate amount of time sufficient to refresh, refill, or renew our soul. Then we begin the long trek downward until we reach the valley and we do fine in the Valley for a period of days; until the sun rises on a morning when the refreshment, refilling, or renewal of our soul is no longer perceived. We then begin to look longingly and reflectively at that time when our soul was fresh and full and refer to that time as a "mountaintop" experience. The analogy works fine for anyone who's ever traveled to the Western part of the United States or might be fortunate to live in or near the Appalachian mountain range. However, for those who live in the great Midwest plains the mountaintop analogy simply does not suffice.

A Kansas analogy for the same experience has been lived out in the period of the last 30 days. During the month of August Kansas received an over abundant amount of rain for this time of year. Consequently, grass needs mowing, mosquitoes are abundant, and gardens are producing plentiful amounts of green beans, squash, and other vegetables. However, in the last few days the typical August weather has returned, there has been no rain, and the grass is beginning to show the stress of heat. Where grass is nonexistent the ground is cracking because the soil has not received sufficient nourishment to counteract the heat.

Why follow Jesus everyday? There is only one reason: nourishment! When we follow Jesus day by day, look to Jesus for nourishment, and engage in those practices that put is in contact with the spirit of God, then our souls are refreshed, the fruit of our life is abundant, and the soil that provides nourishment, location, and the foundation for our life is moist and healthy. When we follow Jesus for a shorter time until our soul is refreshed, refilled, or renewed and then take a break, step aside, and seek no nourishment we find our soul to be dry, empty, or expired. Yet somehow we still think that we can produce fruit, spiritual fruit, when there is no nourishment  in our own life. Without further rain, spiritual rain,  the fruit of our life begins to wither on the vine.  Cracks begin to form in our foundation  allowing vermin  that for content to remain in the ground come forth seeking water, seeking food, seeking to be seen.  The nourishment of Jesus  transforms our soul in such a way that not only do we bear fruit but the vermin of our life are transformed, and redirected, in a mysterious fashion such that our lives in their totality bring glory to the transforming power of God.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New Beginnings

Today is a day of new beginnings. My wife's 22 kindergarten students will all assemble in her class for the very first time as they begin their 13 year stint in public education. I'm glad these 44 students in her school have Superhero teachers (they got special shirts that say so!) to start them out.  In a few hours freshmen and transfer students at Friends University will enter into the "Alumni Auditorium" as they begin their trek to becoming part of a larger group, those who have studied at Friends with friends and, hopefully, graduating in a few more years.

One friend celebrates a birthday, beginning a new day of life, while others unknown to me will begin a new period of life mourning the passing of a loved one.  New Beginnings, what an opportunity.

New beginnings are not only counted in special occasions of life, those transition markers that lead us into a social realization.  New beginnings are available in a myriad of ways.  For those like me who struggle with attempting to intake fewer calories than we burn in energy, each meal is a new beginning, each snack, each choice of a beverage is a new beginning. For those who, like me, attempt to write or blog each momentary pause from activity to allow their brain to formulate thoughts, words, paragraphs, and even sentences. is a new beginning of creation.

Most importantly, for each follower of Christ new beginnings are available daily; listening to the Spirit, praying for and with another person, 'gooddoing' actions that derive from God's leadership as opposed to "evildoing" that derive from the selfish center that battles for control.

What will be your new beginning?