The Bible is a rare book which embraces its reader’s heart with love. It knows its reader and it receives its reader with the same knowing love Jesus had when he spoke in parables. Our heart’s deepest questions are not just answered, but they are loving accepted and left unanswered until our fears are laid to rest by the testimony of God’s faithfulness, and then we find that the answer isn’t just in the Bible, but the answer is out there seeking the questioner. The book is like its author: loving, truthful, humble, and wise. Through the book, the reader comes to know what the Author knows about the reader, and then invites and excites gratitude to the Author for how well the Author understands, searches out, and resolutely stretches out its arms and his hands to bring the willing heart into right relationship with Himself. When reading it, one wonders, is it a book or is it a person? The Bible is obviously a book of books, but the Author’s love and truth so saturate every page that the Word– the message, the thought, the meaning– of the book come alive in the heart– as alive in the heart as the Author of both the heart of the reader and of life itself. O that every student of the Bible would learn the Bible’s ways of embracing the heart of the reader with all its questions, doubts, and fears, and of showing them knowing love that invites them to be saved!
Recently, a friend of mine told me that he believed the church should prioritize Paul’s teachings over Jesus’. Another friend told him that can’t be right. After all, if Paul learned from Jesus, we should prioritize Jesus’ teachings right? I believe this is a wonderful question and I believe the answer can be found by comparing the Old Testament Law and Prophets.
In seminary I learned that the Old Testament has three sections (Torah or Law, Prophets, and Writings) but the last two of those sections are exposition or explanation of the first section. One professor put it this way. “The Old Testament is the Torah and the rest of it is exposition of the Torah.” Another way to say this is that the Torah gives us the definition, the boundaries, the seed of what is to come, and the rest of the writings (The prophets and the writings, or just “the Prophets” for short) just explain how it happened in real life. Example: In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people, “You are going to go into exile, and God is going to bring you back.” (Deuteronomy 29-31). Read 2 Kings 17. You’ll see why He sent them into exile, and read Nehemiah and you will see what happens when God brings them back. Again, I will say it. The Old Testament = Torah + Exposition of the Torah.
Now if this is the case, which should we prioritize in the Old Testament? My answer is this: The Old Testament is set up in such a way that you need both of them to make sense of it. If you just prioritize the Prophets, chances are you’re not going to have much guidance to understand the plot of what’s happening. Why after all, did Elijah shut up the heavens in 1 Kings 17? (The Prophets) Because in Leviticus 26:18-20, God said he would shut up the Heavens if the people disobeyed. (The Law). If however we just prioritize the Law, then we will get lost in semantics and not know how it is rightly to be applied. Example: Leviticus 25 said you should give your land rest every 7th year. (Law) but we see in the Prophets what happened to the land when the land was NOT given rest every seventh year. (The Prophets) Within the Old Testament God does not leave us in the dark but gives us not only the seed of the tree, but also what the tree looks like when it is full grown. The seed of the Tree is God reaching out to love Israel. The Tree itself is God being faithful, and the people of God being faithless. We need both of these to rightly handle the word of Truth. We also need to use both rightly so we don’t get the cart before the horse.
Now, this wonderfully simple pattern of understanding God’s word couldn’t possibly be the pattern for the New Testament could it? What major sections of the New Testament are there? The Gospels and the Writings (History, Epistles, and Prophecy) In essence, we have a repeated pattern of the New Law and Prophets.)
Does it work the same way? Is the New Testament, the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament exposition on the Gospels? Yet again, we find that God’s Word in the New Testament not only gives us the seed, but also the Tree. It shows us the Teachings of Jesus in their powerful demonstration and the proof of their truth, and then we are given in the writings what those teachings applied looked like in historical and instructive ways. Paul applied the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6 during the sermon on the mount about worry when he wrote tot he Philippians, “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” But Jesus’ teachings about how to treat your neighbors would not make as much sense to us who are not Jewish unless Paul and Luke expounded on them for us who are the nations outside of Israel.
So then, which do you prioritize? The teachings that directly apply to the nations (The New Testament Prophets) or Jesus’ words themselves (The New Law)? I see how I would lean personally, but once again, I must keep the whole in perspective. Just as the Torah is expounded in the Prophets, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word, so the Gospels are expounded in the Writings, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word. Both have a relationship that must be rightly kept in humble interpretation of each other.
But still there is one more layer to peel back, which I find rather wonderful and sobering
Now that we have a canon of Scripture, the Church is interpreting the Scriptures to the World in every culture, tribe, tongue, people, and nation. We have, in both Testaments, the pattern of the house, and now we are responsible to enforce, to explain, to bring into reality God’s Word as it is revealed through both Testaments. The question left to us is how is this Scriptural revelation of God going to brought to full expression in the world. Or to put it in another way:
What is the Kingdom of God today? Our blueprints are established, and the writings of the Prophets both old and new have shown God’s way of bringing His word to fruition. It is the power and leading of His Holy Spirit that brings God’s kingdom here on earth among his people. And this Kingdom is going to be the final testament to the nature and character of the God we serve before He comes again.
What a tremendous privilege and responsibility!
To show it visibly, I came up with this Analogy of the Testaments. Can you solve the analogy?
The rule of humor is you give two similar things one after the other, and then the third, you bend slightly to get a laugh. May the church not make God’s Kingdom the biggest cosmic joke that will make those watching to mock our God! Instead, may we be led and empowered by the Spirit to make of the church what the Spirit seeks to make of the Kingdom of God.
He didn’t know why it was laying against the kitchen wall. Kitchens don’t usually have walls, but he figured it could be fun to play with. Grown-ups all seemed to learn one way of doing something and to stick to it. He wanted to try them all!
- First he grabbed the handles with both hands and thrust the broomy end at his sisters to poke fun at them. They were not amused.
- Then, he went into the living room and spun it around on his hands and it fell clattering to the floor as he dropped it. He tried again because it was fun! Maybe he could do it for a whole minute!
- He held the stick nearest the broom between his legs and started swaying his body back and forth to move things off the coffee table with the tip of the handle.
- He balanced it on his head and tried to walk through a door with each end sticking out either side. It fell backwards instantly, but after a second try he bent up his leg and caught it on his heel!
- He flipped the broom so that the broomy end was up, and he parted it down the middle like hair and grabbed both clumps. He then started rotating the broom like it was a giant steering wheel and he became the pilot of a ship heading through rough seas. The wind was bellowing, the lightning flashing, the rain hailing down on him. The ship ran aground and he took his musket with him with the wide end under his arm, and the tip pointing out in front of him. He made his way to a beautiful lighthouse. He climbed to the top, and from the top saw there was another ship. A Pirate ship! He looked through the scope of his gun, and saw that they were getting ready to sail. He jumped down from the lighthouse onto the ground, and fired a shot at one of the pirates holding onto a rope. And when the man fell off, he grabbed the rope and swung up onto the deck. Suddenly, he was surrounded by bad guys, and his musket now became a sword! He fought them off, and swung his sword wide to fend off the attackers! He reached the Captain, and the captain said if he could beat him in a fight, he’d be the new captain. So, he fought the captain, and swung his sword down on his head and knocked him unconscious. The crew were amazed! The captain shook his head vigorously after a few moments, and he took the hat off the captain’s head and he became the new captain of the ship!
Now that I am exiting another stage of life, Time has locked into high gear for me. Days are an afterthought. Weeks gone in a blink. In a flash the months are past. I anticipate time will only continue to accelerate.
I know time hasn’t budged. It continues to grind at the same pace it has with a few variations of years being seconds longer or shorter. I know the change is within me. What has caused me to feel time has sped up?
I believe I have found the brake pedal and the gas pedal for time. Why do children feel like every day is an eternity, and most adults feel like it is a blur? This equation helped me find the answer:
Requirements speed up time
Retirements slow it down
Ask any retired person, their days crawl by just like a child’s does. When in the working world however, our time is being poured out into the mold of those who require things of us. Our present is thinned to a narrow strip between what just happened and what is needing to happen in the next minutes.
Present time is the greatest gift we have: and the celebration of that present gift is rest. Responsibly rejecting the requirements of a person for a time, and enjoying the gift of doing nothing of required consequence allows a person to be real with themselves, and most importantly with God. This is what makes rest an act of worship which just happens to be prescribed in the Ten Commandments.
Think about it: Why do you work? Why do you do anything? Is it not a reflection of your belief about the God who you worship? If you believe God is always working, then you will never give yourself a break. If however, your design is patterned after a God who rests occasionally, should that not inform your decisions concerning your own rest?
Genesis 2:2–“On the seventh day God rested.”
The Lord has made us after the pattern of His likeness with eternity in our hearts. It is Eternity that we step into whenever we rest from our labor. The silence, the stillness, the sweet release of tension– These are the gift of God to a body worn down by time’s millstone march.
This Christmas season, take time to rest. Enjoy the gift of eternity that God has given you, and see what your heart is just waiting to release as part of the tension you have built up over time.
This post was a result of resting.
I saw joy’s fire burning white
In a heart of flesh hidden from sight
Cruel thorns slashed gashes gaping wide
And there spilled out a glorious light
What mystery is brought to bear
When crushed plants’ perfume fills the air
The sweet aroma soft and fair
Arousing those fellow-crushed to care
I heard a spirit blowing past
Being split upon the metal cast
To rend the air with full-lunged blast
That screamed the music breathed at last.
What other ways, has He made known
The joy of new life, despite death grown?
To the humble of heart, proof He has shown
That the joy of the cross can be my own.
“For the joy that was set before him…”~Hebrews 12:2a
It’s hard to imagine a boy so happy with a 1-inch thick crooked dead tree-dropping, but for this boy, it was a key to unlock the world! It was a gun to fight off pirates, a boomerang to throw at game. It was a sword to rescue damsels. It was for drawing pictures in the dirt. He didn’t have anything else in the world, but with this stick, he felt like a king with a scepter in his hands.
One day the boy was walking by a garbage can and saw a stuffed animal someone had discarded. The boy plucked it out and made it his friend. Later that year his parents made more money, and at Christmas he got a pair of roller skates, and for his birthday the next year, he got a cool remote control car. Well, this boy was so happy with his new toys he left his stick by the back door of his house behind the window sill in it’s secret hiding spot.
The boy got older, and his toys got more sophisticated. He eventually he had grown old enough to get a job, so he could buy more expensive toys: A Four-wheeler, a computer, a phone. And by this point you’d think the boy with the stick had everything he wanted. Nope. He was an adult, he had the car he wanted, the friends he wanted, and was dating a girl, but he always wanted more. Only when he had more, would he be happy.
Then one day the unthinkable happened: He was the victim of identity theft. All his money was gone, and he went back to his parents’ house empty handed. They gave him his old room, with his old toys. none of them seemed to matter anymore. He went outside and sat on the back doorstep and suddenly remembered what was to his right as he was looking out into the woods: his secret hiding place. In a moment of nostalgic curiosity he looked and saw it: his old stick he played with as a boy.
It’s hard to imagine an adult so puzzled by the memories flooding back at holding a simple 1-inch-thick crooked dead tree-dropping, but the feelings came back and this time he knew what they were. He walked back into the house with his old stick which by now had rotted through, so it would break easily, and took it to his bedroom. After a little while, he settled into the feeling he had forgotten with every new toy. He remembered.
The key to the world isn’t owning everything, but truly appreciating the one thing that is truly yours.
Now, the world was his once again.
It’s something many people do not appreciate. On my way home from work, I was thinking about how the choir at my old church sang with a very heavy alto because there had been no change in the choir and had lost soprano members. But altos seem to outlast soprano.
There are always changes happening. If we don’t have change of something new, we experience the inevitable change of decay as things get old. Change is like weather. Weather makes our world fresh and new by precipitation and also breaks it down by erosion. Our world is not very unlike us: it is subjected to futility, and the unchanging nature of change.
We who seek to preserve constancy in this world will find it to be hardly a passive battle. The ground will keep waxing old, and we will need to dig for new fruits. The one who builds a house will need to maintain it or it will change to corruption. The one who tries to be faithful to his word will find he needs to sacrifice to keep it true.
One principle of how change works I realized on my way home from work. I will share it in parts and then as a whole.
Before change, something is okay,
Because of the principle that all is decaying, if something has been the same for a while, it is probably out of date or expired. To simply do things a certain way because you have always done them thus you will find things achieve mediocrity speedily.
but after change things get worse
Transition means that parts of the problems grown in situations left unattended by good leadership need to be cut out so that the good can be grown. It will get worse first.
So that things can get better than before
But if all the dead weight is cut out, and new vigor about the new ideas is infused (and they are good ideas) Then things will improve. Even here, this will not happen naturally.
Under a good leader.
Here’s where Trust, Integrity, Wisdom, and Value and a whole other host of dynamics come in. We who resist change are often seeking to preserve our own value both of ourselves and the things that matter most to us. What we seek is a leader who has the integrity to stay true to his word, who has the heart to recognize the things we value, and has the wisdom to cultivate them skillfully.
I believe change is a risk and what determines whether the risk is a good one or not, is if the leader is a good one or not. If he is good, if he is on the Lord’s side, if he is a servant, and is carrying his cross, trust him and follow him. If he is not on the Lord’s side, beware the effects of the changes that come.
E.M. Bounds said, “Men are looking for better methods. God is looking for better men.”
I’ve been here before
The world is sprawling around
The rush of water forcing its way
Down, around, along the ground
Inland waves sweep you off your feet
Fear of loss, and helplessness
Feeling too paralyzed to go outside.
Familiar is the feeling when I choke
A shame, a stifling of the breathing life
Situations feel insurmountable
Everything beyond my reach from my unsure footing
Each victory seems one stroke against the tide
Catastrophe feels bigger than reality
I wish I could run and hide myself somewhere.
This is what I have always known
The storm, the shame they have an eye.
One is the calm around which the winds rage
The other is that body’s light, I evade to the floor.
The fear to surge through the fiercest tempest
Only to let the ferocity shatter my frailty
Venturing to enter that gaze safely
Elihu told Job that God was here
Our heart meandering knows this home.
The screaming winds guard this safe place.
The place only the humble seek unswervingly.
As shame gives up the last ounce of covering
Naked and vulnerable just I alone remain
Staring into His gentle clear blue sky.
Ordering all powerfully
Present within our midst.
Testing the heart
I’ve been here before
The world is sprawling around
The rush of water forcing its way
Down around, all over the ground
I will wait here with Him safely
His presence my security
His eye, my soul’s calm.
I visited the Las Vegas last year at night. The lights were staggering. The buildings lit up with enormous screens, and neon colors. Noise, clamor, flash, glamour, all a sham or something the like. And while I was in that city, my spirit was grieved. I looked up to Heaven, for a sign, but no stars could compete with all that garishness. Man’s invention had succeeded in blocking out the gentle constant voices of truth with their triumphant trumpeting.
One cannot see the stars in the city that never sleeps
One cannot find Heaven’s glory in a Government owned 501(c)3.
The established authority of the world in the church is a ever present white noise that excludes the sacred sweetness of silence in the Spirit. It is a ceiling of man’s devising that prevents searching eyes from seeing what Isaiah saw in the year King Uzziah died. It is a control of power in exchange for tax protection ensured, simply to those who agree not to politically get in the way of the Prince of the power of this age. Pull the plug on the power of the city, and suddenly the night sky will blaze bright again, and moon’s night song will sing it’s nocturnal melodies. That is when we will recognize truth’s soft voice again in places we call church. Then we will remember that there is no accord between the temple of God and idols, and God’s kingdom is not subject to any part of Satan’s Kingdom except its persecution.
But did not Paul say to submit to the governing authorities? Yes, and so you may submit to the 501 (c) 3 regulation, but you will not see God move there. He will not share His glory with the World, and He will isolate to Himself heart-searching, heartbroken men to see His face, to hear His voice, and represent Him to the institutional church first, in order to echo His cry, “Come out from their midst, and be separate!” Says the Lord.
A fledgling bird will not fly until it leaves the nest and takes wing on the Wind. The nest is Government sanctioned, and by extension, in a way, God sanctioned. But the Wind in all its unpredictability is what can carry the free falling bird to maturity, over time and with practice.
Take heed to the difference between an umbilical corded baby and an oxygen breathing baby. Once the breath comes, the umbilical cord has only minutes left or the baby will get jaundice.
From depths untold the Warmth was baked
Into the hardened crust ‘neath waves
And gathered into land, He seeded
The tree to bear the fruit we needed.
The planet much like to the fruit
It’s pit the core, round-pressure formed
The meat the fiery mantle surging
Through cracks in skin here on the surface
The land locked secrets not for mortals
The Maker made the fruit for eating,
But one tree he kept for His own
The seed of which was deeply sown
The very heart of Eden there,
Two trees stood at the river’s spring
One with juices invigorating
The other only the skin was for beauty.
And now the Tempter comes to toy
“You will be like gods! enjoy!”
And with a bite, the lady sought
The core knowledge not meant for her.
O! Leave the blessed fruit alone
And let replanting take right place
Of the tree of life, whose seeds take root
Not the seed of death, and weeds un-tame.
So the world once lost, will rise
At the core unveiled, it’s glory dies
And the surface rebellion is swept away
For the seed of the New Earth in the soil of Day.