Opinions and Truth

Everyone has an opinion.
Few hold the truth.
I know where to find it,
But it’s very hard to get there.
Mainly because it’s where I have no power
Only accountability
Only a glaring ugliness of all the lies I love

Opinions muck up the works
The Truth brings simplicity
Few know it when they hear it
But it’s very hard to ignore
Mainly because of it’s quiet immovable power
It is only submitted to His authority
He who loves me, and hates my proud Babylons

I am tired of opinions
My heart aches for truth
Where can I find it?
It’s worth the difficult search
Mainly because it can give me the power
To face my accountability
For the problems in my life that are really my own fault.

Oh God, I submit my opinions
I yearn to be shaped by Your truth
Can you find me?
Am I worth the search
Mainly because You have given me the power
To be accountable for your Truth
To the one who loves me more than all my failures.

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Answer: The Cross

“By His stripes we are healed.”
There it is again.
I’ve heard that so often, like I’ve heard, “By the atomic bomb Nagasaki was destroyed.”
Let me rearrange it:
We are healed by His stripes.
Let me take care of the pronouns.
We are healed by Jesus’ stripes.
Let me personalize it for this blog.
I am healed by Jesus stripes.

Why? What about Jesus getting beaten senseless is so healing for me? I’m sick. I consider the deepest cause of my sickness is my own self-salvation, my own self-righteousness, my own self-service, or simply, my own “sin.” Is it just a matter of Jesus being beaten for that, that I am healed?

“The stripes that wound scour away evil.” All the brokenness of the world He scoured away in his body. There is something to that, because His resurrection proved that God was coming not just to crucify the world, but resurrect the world. The world will burn. The world will be remade. We will die. We will be changed. Every pain I face isn’t just a reminder that it hasn’t happened yet. It’s a chance to go to the cross and embrace it and say, “I accept your mercy to righteously judge my brokenness and my sinfulness because of your great love, and I lay down my life again, the way Jesus did on the cross, and ask you, that I may take it up again to serve you a little longer.”

The Cross is the door; only the dead can pass through it. That means I can’t save myself, I can’t heal myself, I can’t rule myself, I can’t love myself, or keep my relationships or my family, my church, even my own life for myself. “God you can have me, but you can’t have my family.” You haven’t gotten a hold of it yet. It’s Christmas, the “Family Holiday” it has become more so than Thanksgiving. Everything needs to be nailed to the cross, even family. Right?

So how does this practically apply? I am going to wait patiently for the Lord to completely heal me. Seems simple. People of the “Faith” tradition will say, “Proclaim it!” I do indeed. Just remember God doesn’t listen to the proud. He listens to the humble. ūüôā The humble are those who embrace the cross. It’s perfectly in keeping with God’s plan for the world to work supernatural healing in the world. I kinda want someone to come to my house and teach me a bit more of how this works, but the cross takes care of all sickness. And if there’s a sickness still, then He’s bringing part of the world to the cross, until it’s completely put to death. I guess.

The Cross is the answer. Thoughts?

The Problem: Self-Salvation

Thanks Tim Keller for helping me with that phrase.
– – Dear Reader,
– – You have read lots. Here’s something else. I’ve been sick with a grueling fever for the past week or so, and I’m tired of it. As soon as I sit up, I start throbbing in my head. People are depending on me for so many things. I have responsibilities. Children to lead in song, home-bound family who need to go into town, and this is not to mention my truck which needs fixing, my laundry needs to be done, and I have about 2 hours of upright energy a day before my fever goes up a single degree. Thankfully my family are around to care for me, and take care of pressing needs as they arise. Things came to a pretty weepy head today when I had to skip work at school. I cried out, “God please come get me!” from my curled up blanket on the couch, wracked with weariness and worried-ness.
– – Finally. He really does listen. He just listens better than we do to ourselves. I could tell you countless times I had asked him to heal me because people depend on me. But now the problem comes down to just me living with me. What kept crushing down on me was the weight of everything I had to do, and just could not do. I had to partially delegate it to my boss.
– – I know He listens every time, but He responds to honesty. Suddenly, in that moment, I found myself writing in my journal, “Thank you for saving me from my own self-salvation.”
– – I like to think I can fix things. I can do it. I can handle life. I can face challenges. I can manage my time, my relationships, my money. And so I can, or at least act like I can. But what happens when all that power is gone? You go to your power source and have the balls to ask him, “Get me more power, so I can take care of things myself, so I will not need you to save me, cause if you save me, that means I have to completely serve you alone.” That’s what I’ve been doing anyway. I wrote this down after that realization:
“Let’s face it. We’re all a bunch of sucky self-saviors.” I slept with peace after that, ’cause I know my Savior is real. He won’t save everything important to me. That’s not His job. His job is sustaining the cosmos, just like he showed Job. And in the End his Wise plan is best.

 

The Disciple and the Tree

In response to those in the church who say the primary purpose of any disciple is to make more disciples, I have this to say:

Jesus called the church to make disciples.
Jesus did not call the church to make disciplers.

Being a discipler is totally part of being a disciple,
But there is more to a tree than the seed which bears it;
Or the seed in the fruit on the branch which stretches out
With the leaves that take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen
Shading the bark shielding the hart and the sap drawn up from the ground
Through the roots which stand the tree upright toward the heavens.

In the same way there is more to a disciple than the new convert;
Or drawing people to the gospel by the love of Christ
Which comes from humble submission to God in working as He does
Offering strength and rest to those in need, preserving the value of life in truth
Being grounded in a world from which we are inseparable, being dust
Standing upright before God for the good of all men.

There is more to being a disciple than being a discipler
Just as there is more to being a tree than a bearer of seeds.

The church must remember the tree out of which is made the cross they are called to carry.
The church must remember what it means to be fully human.
Only then will she ever properly represent the fully human Jesus Christ.

Who is the Second Adam.

Woe to Babylon

Based on Revelation 18, Genesis 11, Psalm 2, Isaiah 54:11, and a recent trip to Las Vegas, Nevada.
 
Woe, Babylon, O Babylon!
You build your towers tall
Your boasting blocks the wind of Heaven
You slowly die behind your wall.
 
Your sin from Genesis to Revelation
Has piled up before the God of Heaven
Your plans amuse Him; then His fierce indignation
Only the New Jerusalem will be safe.
 
“Come out of her, my people!”
And understand this Tale of Two Cities:
One will rise and fall without memory
The other will fall and rise set in antimony.

My Truck

Pretty as a 19-year old model
Shiny like she’s brand new
Bright red like a fire hydrant
Big like the King of the road

An 8-foot bed huge loads handles well
Her gate well-oiled snugly shuts
A bed liner makes the whole body protected
Its ridges guide the water out straight

Beneath the shine, a villainous corrosion
An oxidization made brittle by city salt
The frame has holes and cracks that deepen
Every bump it takes, and puddle it fords

One bump, the spring shackle bracket broke
And the left back corner of the truck bed sank
Suspension, transmission all put under tension
And the metal floor of the bed began to scrape

ACH! That noise! That digging scream
That cried for repair before the break came
It would punch a hole in the 8-foot bed,
If it was not healed with the Welder’s flame.

BREECH! That bump cost far too much
Too long the scream went unacknowledged
And now silenced the dagger is still
Jutting up through the floor of the 8-foot bed.

The frame now bears weight on the bone of the Truck
And the bed liner is not pierced but raised from the floor.
But a once water-tight 8-foot bed has a leak,
And the moaning continues as the hole gets bigger.

Aiee! Ach! That shameful burden stabbed
My heart to know my own neglect
Caused one small problem to cause many more
And now the damage cannot be undone.

But repair can be made by the Welder’s flame.
The community shop can raise up her frame
Line up the spring shackle bracket again
And solder it back to shoulder loads well again.

The hole in the 8-foot bed can be patched.
And the scar will still hold the water inside.
In fact, the strength lent to this space may be needed
Should any further breech occur beneath.

But the rust still needs to be arrested.
Or the problems will continue unless dealt with

How Personal is He?

There’s a post on Facebook that has been floating around for a while that I have a real issue with. This is an article about my issue with it.

The post is a cartoon drawing with two scenes. The top scene is a man on his knees praying toward the Clouds of Heaven asking, “God, please speak to me!” The next scene is a large hand reaching out of the clouds to hand him a¬†Bible. While I get the point (if you want to know what God said, read the Bible. “G-doi!”[Little shout out to Wreck it Ralph for that one.]) I immediately reacted against it. “Oh come on! God is a lot more personal than that!”

Isn’t He?

A certain man had two sons. He was a busy man, and worked in his office with the door closed.¬†One day, one of his sons knocked on his office door, and asked to speak with him. In¬†response,¬†the man slipped a piece of paper to his son that said, “I love you, son. If you have any pressing concerns read my notes I left you.” The son left and went to read his father’s notes. A little later the other son knocked and asked to speak with him. Immediately, the father swung open the door, and invited the child into the office and showed him what he was up to.

Which son did the man show more love to? Which one do you think will continue the family business when they are older?

Consider this verse: John 20:31–“These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

I learned this verse in AWANA, a program for children to learn Bible verses from an early age, based on the idea of 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show yourself approved, a workman that needs not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of Truth.” Though I barely understood these words as a 7 year old, I did understand the idea of Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed: AWANA. I got the Citation for completing the whole program and purchased the white gold citation ring with my name and that verse on it, as a reminder of my pledge to “rightly divide” His Word.

It was in Seminary that ¬†this”training” came into question. I heard a professor from Wheaton, John Walton, ¬†say these words which would shock most of my many self-proclaimed fundamentalist friends:

“The Bible was not written¬†to¬†us. We believe the Bible was written¬†for¬†us, like it’s for everyone of all times and places. But it wasn’t written¬†to us. It wasn’t written in our language, it wasn’t written with our culture in mind or our culture in view.”

I am inclined to agree with him to a point. If the Bible was written “to” us (and for this writing, I say us representing American, technological, free people) it would have been written in English, and He probably would have used emojis. ūüôā Just saying. The Bible records two very distinct conversations: The Old Testament records God’s personal involvement and conversation with the people of Israel as a testimony to the Nations of His Goodness and unfailing love for all who would Hear His voice and keep His word; the New Testament records the conversation between Jesus Christ, the Son of God, his followers, and the people of the whole known world at that time. Even this verse in John 20:31 is written to John’s audience at his time. Just because it has been translated into English does not mean that it was written directly¬†to¬†“you” O ye noble¬†English¬†speaker.

Let me put it this way. Which is more meaningful to you: to get a letter from a friend with inside jokes and shared understandings? Or to read¬†a letter from your dad to your older brother who are both¬†fishermen who¬†talk about life¬†using¬†fishing metaphors and you’ve never been fishing a day in your life? (A little shout out to¬†Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs¬†for that one.) “Better is a friend who is near than a brother who is far away.” Solomon said to his son.

I’ve been deep in the languages, and submerged myself into¬†some¬†of the contexts of the Bible. The Word of God is so much more profound than in English: but it’s also a lot simpler than most teachers¬†make it out to be. What really gets me fired up about this, is¬†It’s also a lot more¬†interpersonal than most Christians think it is, and also a lot¬†less¬†intrapersonal than most American Christians think.¬†¬†Let me explain.

I¬†have sat under teachers who have said, “You have got to have a relationship with this book.” I cringe every time, because a book can’t talk back, can’t hold you, can’t convict you, except on your terms. It’s a lot easier to tie yourself to a book than it is to stare into the face of another human being eye to eye. Especially if the book isn’t even written directly¬†to¬†you in the first place.

On the other hand, I have watched¬†my fellow believers swaying to complete misappropriations and misapplications of the Biblical Text. As a result they emotionally mislead many and themselves to their own disgrace. It’s a lot easier to read whatever you want into the words of the Bible than to read it as a conversation between two other people, in which you hopefully know One of the parties very well. Or rather in which One of the two parties hopefully knows you very well.

Both of these approaches are shallow and lead to error. One sucks all the blood out of a body, the other suffers from internal bleeding. What is the answer? Is there a third way?

Yes.

Paul, suffering persecution unto the end of his life, passed the torch to his “son in the faith” Timothy saying¬†this, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.¬†But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.¬†You, however,¬†continue in the things you have learned¬†and¬†become convinced of, knowing¬†from whom¬†you have learned them,¬†and that from childhood¬†you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.¬†All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;¬†so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

“From whom.” I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure what Paul means here. One helpful note from translation:¬†the “Whom” is plural!¬†That throws out the idea of it all coming back to God teaching you, which is what I thought at first. Paul is writing a letter, so it could be he’s referring to something or someone not referred to in the text like teachers in the past, but . . . The word could be translated “who” or “what.” And directly after he says “knowing from ‘whom’ (pl)¬†you’ve learned it he goes on to describe ¬†the “sacred writings” of the Old Testament.

This is common sense. Interpretation is not a science; it’s an art. In electricity, energy passes from a positive electrode to a negative electrode. Interpretation is like tracing the path of the bolt of lighting between them. In communication the positive electrode is the speaker, the negative electrode is the listener. The meaning is the spark they share between them.

Many people would love to load a bunch of meaning into 2 Timothy 3:16 as the verse for the authority of the whole Bible: Old and New Testament. Paul wasn’t referring to his own letters, he was referring to the sacred writings of the Old Testament. To say he meant more than that is to set up another negative electrode with which there is no “spark.” The New Testament is gonna have to look somewhere other than this statement of Paul for its authority, which I do affirm.

Let me share my interpretation of this passage: Paul is¬†praising Timothy for how he has grown in Bible study. This is an older man commending his follower in how well he has followed him. And when Paul is¬†gone,¬†Timothy¬†will 1. Know what he’s been taught. 2. Be deeply assured in faith about it, and 3. Know the sources that it is based in.

You have read so far so kindly, let me pause for a second. Is he talking about teachers or scriptures? Both are valid interpretations. We do need multiple teachers just like we need multiple eyes to see 3-D, and two people to verify¬†truth. The grammar of the language Paul used to write this thought to Timothy could go either way, but the usage of the words for “learning” really make it sound like he’s talking about people. Multiple teachers.

So,¬†he goes on to continue the same thought of 1. Knowing what he’s been taught, 2. Being deeply assured in faith about it, and 3. knowing the people who taught him. 4. by discussing¬†the sacred writings. Aha! And how do these writings function?¬†One thing to note is that,¬†Paul at no point of this passage does Paul refer to the Sacred writings as God’s Word¬†to¬†Timothy.¬†The Old Testament served the purpose of “giving wisdom that leads to Salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

We see from this snippet of conversation why wisdom is important (because it leads to Salvation), but how do the texts give wisdom? Could it be through seeing how the spark of meaning jumps between God and His people in a specific and personal way? Is it wisdom to take a letter between two people talking about cars, and put yourself in the position of the recipient, when you have no idea what a carburetor does? Or is it more humble to say, I would rather see what the letter meant to the original recipient before trying to understand what it meant. Which way is more human and accurate?

And what about this “faith” thing? Faith is internalization of truth as reality that externally shapes your world around you. But truth that is not kept between two people is not truth. It is a man talking to himself, and you can find that in any insane asylum. Faith is like putting your weight on a rock while climbing a cliff¬†knowing it is sturdy enough to hold your weight. Woe to those who put faith in an engine to start that has only positive electrodes distanced¬†from the negative ones. Because such an engine will not combust with true fire.

The beauty of the divinity of the Scriptures (which is absolutely true, and attested by Jesus Himself in conversation in the book of John), is that God speaks by divine revelation communicated very humanly between at least two people. Search the Scriptures and see if you find anything that is not written or spoken from one person to the hearing of another. Hint: before you go thinking about Proverbs, remember it was largely written from a father to his son. Kings, Chronicles, Samuel? Nehemiah? Hmmmm.

All of the sacred writings of Scripture have the very breath of God in them. When God breathed in the second chapter of Genesis it was to put life into the man. If you are reading the Old Testament, and you are not feeling the life in them, perhaps it is because you’re trying to suck air through a hole in¬†God’s cheek, instead of aligning yourself with the person on the other end of God’s breath¬†to¬†whom He is speaking, and feeling in that moment “the cool of the day” in Eden, “the whirlwind of the storm” in¬†Job, “the gentle whisper” to Elijah at Mt. Horeb.

It is because of God’s breath/spirit in these passages they are profitable for teaching, exposing, improving, and training in righteousness. ¬†Without God’s breath, they are¬†not. Without God’s spirit they will not¬†make the man of God fully complete to outwardly complete every good work.

Is it possible to read the Scriptures and miss God’s breath entirely? Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day,¬†‚ÄúYou search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;¬†and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”

Let me regather: The point I made in the beginning is God is more personal than to hide himself behind words distant or disconnected from our own hearts. The way we handle the Bible: Old and New Testaments must be human/humble acknowledging that God spoke directly to others, and we can get in on that spark if we just line up the electrodes and watch the meaning unfold. That’s where the fire is! I’ve seen it! It’s real! He is real! Not only this, but God still speaks directly to us! He still directly speaks to each one who has the ears to hear, as the Holy Spirit living within His people guiding them into all truth, especially the truth of the Holy Scriptures. But the question of this whole grappling¬†is “How personal is He?”

You see, dear reader, one of the reasons I hate sin so much, is it blinds us to the Goodness of God. That is why the “goodness/kindness/loyalty of God leads us to repentance.” And is it in a¬†father’s accessibility to his children that we recognize God’s own goodness,¬†or¬†in a father’s cold detachment through a book that once meant something and is supposed to mean something again. Whenever I have gorged myself on the empty pleasures of this world, whether food, movies, wrongful sexual stimulation, it is SO hard to see Him. And I hate that. Because when I see Him, I enjoy His likeness in all things, especially in the face of another human being. That is where the same spark exists. Love is the true fire between two faces that kiss, and don’t let anyone tell you that physical touch means nothing to love.

It is exactly my point that God‚Äôs engagement with the people of God in the Holy Scriptures is just as personal as a kiss between two lovers. He made them, breathed into his nostrils, clothed them, spoke to them, instructed them, led them, said ‚Äúplease‚ÄĚ to them, shared His secrets with them, performed great miraculous wonders for them, showed Himself to them, pursued them, wanted to be pursued by them, grew angry with them, was grieved by them, disciplined them, brought them back to life, saved them out of slavery, fed them, gave them water, adopted them, taught them, fortified them, fought for them, protected them, beautified them, glorified them, and sang songs of gladness over them. ¬†And that is just some of the things we have recorded! Then He walked among them and touched them, gave himself up for them, won the victory for them! He was their friend, their father, their God, their beloved. How much more personal can you get? Why would you think that God would be any less personally, actively involved in your life?

I think I’ll close this grappling with just one more thought. If the people of God represent God in the world, then they must pay great heed to this question. We become like the One we worship. And if we worship¬†a God who is like a book, then the church will see itself as a book that the world can pick up and read and be saved, or a book that can be overlooked and rejected. If we worship a God who is personally, actively engaged with us¬†in the same way¬†He has been personally, actively engaged in the past,¬†then we are going to go after this world. Why? Because that’s what Jesus did. He went after the world so that the world could have life through him, not through a book. It was Jesus the people of Israel rejected, not the Scriptures. It was God’s last demonstration of His forbearance to the people who had killed all his servants and been exiled and returned enslaved: “I’ll send them my Son. Surely they will hear Him.” Let those of us, who have been entrusted with the very gates of the Kingdom of Heaven, with which little children¬†are so familiar,¬†not¬†be included in this woe: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”

An Outcry from the Earth

The earth raises an outcry!
Stars give birth to sighs and sobs
Evil ones siphon life from the weak.
As angels far and near weep bitter tears

The anguish of eternity strained by a fault
Where the continuum is shattered with corruption.
The Joy of a child is truncated to the impish fear-slave
Who powerfully shapes the world to his cold, imprisoned self.

The ignorance of sticklers too engrossed in their pride
To march in their fury as one brick-burning tide
Of lava born from new and uncultivated earth
To demolish man’s futility and gold of no true worth.

Crusty squabblers talk the wind out of noisy gullets satiated
By the unending torrent of frenzied feedings they crave
While the simpler joys go tasted without gumption
And silence waits his turn to escape the vault.

“How long?” the earth bemoans its weight
It cannot stand to see the angels weep.
The heart of man is like the earth
It bleeds both fire and water.

Vanity (A venting of feelings)

Futility’s ache of timelessness borne
In a time capsule that drifts downstream
Between eternity past to eternity future
And conveys us before the scrutiny of Angelic eyes

The winding of a clock ticking in purple space
Floating endlessly in an expanse of starry hosts
They study how the Glory of God looks
When flowing steadily in one direction.

AICH! Those capsules that encase eternity entrapped
Down the tube which we call finitude which isn’t so bad
Except for the corruption that has corroded the metal
That would have preserved time’s treasures unwasted

Oh the loss of precious seconds, those synovial drops
By which the clock-works turn their increments
Over and over, made pointless not by the repitition
But the emptiness that accompanies the incredulous tick.

Daddy, Time-Keeper, Heart-lover, friend-forever,
I spit out time into a cup like lukewarm water.
I etch out the daily grind of losses repulsive and unnecessary.
I cry out for meaning in this enterprise I take.

Why do the hours cake over my heart like mud?
Why can’t the hours be burned up in flames
Fuel for the passionate heart that utilizes
All the stuff of life, so nothing goes to waste?

Come, O God, show Your glory in this outcry
Little sense comes from seeking worth in vanity
But instead let me find my worth in You
So that I can somehow maintain humble sanity.

Outcry: A Venting of Poetic Anxiety

AIEE! A shade, a shadow, a block
The sun is bright, but I cannot see
My eyes have seen into the depths
Of what can but must not be

I retch and heave, the asphalt black
Has scorched my feet with trepidation
My riven side is cracked with fever blisters
My tongue is aching with the stomach’s refusal

How brisk this scattered search for light
That my eyes will light on a single star
And pray that it rise like a morning sun
To light my day with hope and life

But here I sit swallowed up with strings
They strangle me with the impediments of actionless-ness
They bite at me like a siphoning stringent strain
That leaves me beleaguered

Except for when I’m with her.
The light of favor in another’s eyes
The buy-in that requite¬†Heaven’s treasures
To see them reflected in the pure pools of a beautiful soul.

But alas should that pool with mud be thick
For then the ways of my feet cannot be quick.
I move like a drunken man, and make myself sick
I strive to break my stride of one man carrying the weight of bricks.

The echoes of a heart that long to be begotten
Lest all its treasures that once fell ripe off the branch might be forgotten!
Nay, it shall not be . . . the light of day comes to make a planet new
But how am I to face the sun, without a bead of dew?

So happens when the eye is drawn to split his view
Between Heaven and Earth to dig the old for the new
To partner with the souls that seek a home
And find a place to rest from life’s torpid foam.

A stirring deep within me centers quietly
Tis goodness to be wrought from His seed planted.
The tired steps I take toward Eve’s bower.
When I do not know if she is even there.

Will I the man find a place for my hand
To till the ground and serve the land
Or will the earth not yield her strength
To make the seed bear fruit again?

A risk to walk one path with Him
And then to join into one way two
Shall I well-serve His pleasure here
And give water to she who still misses her home?