On Preaching God’s Word ~ A Poem

Don’t start talking beside the flower
Discussing its hue and classification.
That is description!

Don’t just let the smell be nosed
And tell people how fragrant it is.
That is reporting!

Don’t just finger its petals and thorns
And explain the touch of soft and sharp
That is informing!

You are not yet small enough
To know the flower properly yet
You are still outside.

Like the bee, lowly and industrious
Drawn by the sight, smell, and feel
You are in need.

Wanting life for heart and home,
You sink beneath the pedal’s crown
You seek the source.

The hidden warmth, the ever-present aroma
Of the sweetest secret nectar of Life
Now, you are before Him.

 

 

I’ve Glimpsed Him. (Scoffer’s Response)

If you have seen Him, please tell me about Him.

You already know about Him. You have already heard much about Him. You do not need me to tell you about Him. What you need is to see Him for yourself. I can describe the effect of seeing Him, on my heart what’s left of it. I can point to the scars on my body where I have been branded for the Lord’s service. I can point out to you the truths and glimpses of Him that you can see if only you had the heart, but as it stands now, your heart is like heavy lidded eyes. And you would not see Him, even if He stood before you. It is not those who see who have the heart, it is those who have the heart who see.

Fine, so describe him.

Holy.
Related, dissimilar.
More familiar than anyone or anything.
Utterly overpoweringly enormous.
In his presence, all life within me surges to my breaking point.
I die, and come back only if He brings me, but remolded in fire.
Words are like clumsy children.
Trying to grasp with hands what’s too big.
He is good and kind.
Terrifying.

Is that all?

It is an honest and true drop from the ocean for you.

How about another “drop”?

There will be not even one drop for the tongue to cool you where you are going.

Come now, if this God should wish to reveal Himself to me, He should come and show Himself. 

Your judgments are like the reasoning of a small child telling his parent why he should get a bigger allowance. What have you done with the little of what God has given you? You do not value one drop, why should you be given more? You aim only to cast off and ridicule your Maker and your King because your proud heart has not submitted to His rule.

You claim to know a lot about me. Did “God” tell you this, or are you just speculating?

The fool has said in his heart “There is no God.” I do address you, as I address myself, because I too in my folly wish to say there is no God. I do not claim power or understanding, only acquaintance with the One who is more worthy than I to wield the power.

You’re stalling. I want you to show me God right now.

Do you not see?

No, I don’t see Him.

*silence*

Well?

*silence*

See? You can’t show me God. You claim to have seen God, but you can’t even prove that he’s real.

For whose judgment?

What do you mean?

You want me to show God so that God can be subject to your scrutiny. God does not submit to human scrutiny when the heart is proud. He is the one sitting in the judgment seat. You are being warned by one who has seen Him. HE is judge. He is going to condemn all sinners, except those who turn back to serve Him.

You are claiming a reality that has no basis in our reality. All you say is conjecture.

You can judge whatever you wish, but your judgment will be confined to a temporary life and a limited consciousness. There is a Judge who rules over all, and will repay everyone according to their deeds.

Thanks for the warning. I’ll believe it when I see it.

The sight of God will do one of two things to people: It will either utterly consume them so that they perish if there is only wickedness in their heart, or it will shatter them and all that will remain is what belongs to Him.

Interesting thoughts. I don’t care to live my life any differently.

By your own judgment, you either approve or condemn your own life. I could resort to the ways of the world to show you have fallacious your judgment is, but that will only point out the error in your logic, and the fruitlessness of your reasoning. Remember then this final thing, “God stands against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble.” May God save you from your own pride, or there will be no one to save you when He comes to requisition you.

I’ve Glimpsed Him. (Poem)

It takes faith to believe that God is.
Once you have this, you can see him.
I do not promise that you will
Because He must decide to reveal Himself.
It takes a pure heart, with no guile.
Some believe that this is impossible,
But all things are possible with God.
How will you recognize him?
You won’t be able to ignore.
No more than a stick can ignore an all consuming flame.

How did I see Him?
I waited.
He spoke.
I looked.
He stood.
I bowed.
He is.

Music purged my heart of unexpressed filth.
Writing arranged my thoughts according to biblical specification.
Love set my heart on fire for another.
Joy surged in my creative freedom and pleasure of wisdom.
Peace quieted me in His approval.
Translation laid sticks of explosive dynamite end to end.
The Holy Spirit’s voice was the match.
The prizing and valuing of His own personal being.
And Jesus the Living one of all my life came.

T. Austin-Sparks~ “God’s answer to strengthen His people for Suffering.”
Is a new unveiling of the glory of the person of Jesus Christ.”

“What is the answer?
A new grasp of His greatness
That’s all.
And then if we are suffering
If we are knowing adversity, trial
And the clouds seem to be gathering, Accumulating, increasing.
How will we get through?
Only thus: by this:
Getting away
And asking
And seeking
And pursuing
In prayer
A new heart revelation–unveiling
of Jesus Christ.
And I am sure that will do it.
God give it to you.”
~T. Austin Sparks

 

The Idea Cycle ~ The Rock Cycle

This one hasn’t had much time on the inside, so it may be colder than other epiphanies.

My beautiful wife is in school, in a geological science class, and I sat with her as she read her textbook and came to understand something about our planet, which for me naturally led to revelation of how we are like the earth.

I have a great fondness of ideas. They are my joy. I got the blessing to paraphrase what my assistant Head of School was saying today about Christian Education Curriculum. He was saying how if we cannot find what we’re looking for out there, then we will have to create our own, and I worded it this way, “When we can’t adopt, we give birth.” While a curious reversal of the common order of child-bearing, I have found this generally true of me. I rarely find I can adopt ideas being dissatisfied so often with how they are organized, so I am often forced to give birth to new ones.

But new Ideas are merely old ideas remixed. In the same way, rocks. I was studying Exploring Earth Science by Reynolds and Johnson, and the Rock Cycle shows how rocks are formed on earth. According to Reynolds and Johnson these steps can happen in any order, but this order is the best at demonstrating them in action.

  • The first step of the Rock Cycle is weathering, where rocks are broken down by natural forces.
  • Second, Transportation, where rocks are transported across great distances
  • Third, Deposition, where the rocks minerals and nutrients settle on the ground and cease to move.
  • Fourth. Burial and Lithification– The process by which Rocks are covered up and become layers of rock.
  • Fifth, Deformation/Metamorphism, where the rocks are changed by extreme pressure and heat into different compositions.
  • Sixth, is melting where the rocks are scattered in the intense heat of magma and broken down to their simplest elements.
  • Seventh is solidification, where melted rocks cool and solidify beneath the surface.
  • Eighth is uplift where Rocks are lifted by volcanic forces to the surface.

When I read them, these eight steps made perfect, delightful sense to me as a bit of an idealist. I deal in ideas. And these eight steps make for a very helpful way of understanding how ideas are formed and take new shape anytime they come back into the world again. We ourselves are geologically like  idea-factories.

I will begin the metaphorical “Idea Cycle” with what Reynolds and Johnson classified as the eighth step in the cycle. Ideas can start at any point of this cycle and may skip steps.

  1. Inspiration (Uplift) Where ideas are born anew from deep within us, and are raw and full of life-altering force.
  2. Talking (Weathering) where ideas are expressed thoughtfully and dialogued about. They are hashed out, broken down, smattered and shattered in this phase of ideas, but it is very important when it comes to shaping ideas.
  3. Writing (Transportation) This allows ideas to be communicated over a wide distance and left to sit on their own once they have reached the reader.
  4. Reading (Deposition) Where ideas come to rest before the eyes of a reader as he or she takes the idea into their consciousness.
  5. Understanding (Burial/Lithification) This is where the idea becomes comprehended and a part of a person’s mental internal dialogue.
  6. Deconstruction (Deformation/Metamorphosis) When ideas are comprehended, they then are to be broken apart and figured out how they all work. What makes this idea tick?
  7. Emotion (Melting) This is where ideas take their most melted and scattered fiery passionate form.
  8. Values (Solidification) The idea has been fused into the bedrock of your person and you are become a person with deeply held values, and are then ready for them to inspire your every action, deed, thought, and intention.
  9. Inspiration again arises, from (according to this cycle) our values.

There is much I learn about this cycle even as I write it. For one, ideas are not set in stone. (Shameless pun.) Even if they were, stone weathers, transports, deposits, lithifies, deconstructs, melts, solidifies, and uplifts again. Notice, two, that ideas have life internal to the person and external to the person, just like rocks to the earth. The external life comes about in talking, writing, and reading. The internal life an idea is deconstructing, emoting, and valuing. The bridge between these two lives of ideas are inspiration and understanding. Inspiration is the idea trying to get out. Understanding is the idea settling in.

If you too deal in ideas, learn from these steps in the cycle. If you are not feeling much inspiration, perhaps you need to move between different steps of the cycle. Perhaps you need to feel something you’ve deconstructed, or express what you value, or write down what you have only talked about, or deconstruct what you understand.

And let Rocks have their humbleness communicated to you. We see rocks on the surface, but they have been through a lot. Your ideas may also have plenty of interaction on the surface, but they have been through a lot of personal digestion. And the ideas of other people belong right alongside yours because ideas do NOT last forever without being settled, understood, broken down, felt, valued. “The making of books is endless.” Solomon said so in Ecclesiastes. Some books need to be out of print because the ideas have already been recycled. The key is to let your ideas burn with the fire of the soul which birthed them, and live in the humility that Christ lived with when he walked among us as a fellow human being.

Thoughts and discussion welcome. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[No] One

[No] One

The problem isn’t God’s willingness to teach
It’s our willingness to learn.
No one wants a course in suffering.
No one wants a diet of hunger.
No one wants a hard road of obedience.
No one wants the hill of difficulty
No one wants the splintery cross on their back
Only to be suffocated when you have carried it long enough.

No one wants to learn humility or compassion
The fear of the Lord or the depravity of his own soul.
No one would be utterly dependent on God
Knowing that God is not subject to our fleshly wants.
No one wants to give up everything to have nothing but God.
No one wants to leave behind their job,
Their home, their family, their hobbies,
Their possessions, their favorite things,
So that all they have is a heart to know God alone.

No one wants to pay the price to know God.
No one wants to forgo opportunity for the necessity of waiting.
No one wants to cease from their work
Until God Himself arises to work through them.

How endless, yet how tireless His search
For just one with a heart to know him!
The one to whom the Son wishes to show Him.

Mark the man of mean estate
Who holds for sin that powerful hate
And bears the scars of loss and shame
So not in vain He can bear His name.

For such a price, God can be known,
For such a cost, Christ’s pain is shown.
And only to the fire-purged heart
Will God His glorious life impart.

Humility and Pride

I would like to introduce a way of thinking about the human composition. I understand that to discuss humanity is a grand subject unworthy of such oversimplification, but I hope you will forgive the philosophical implications of this picture. I’d like to view the soul, the heart, the mind, and the body at four levels. The deepest level is the soul and that is the essence of who we are, where the spirit lives and moves in and out. The second level up is the heart, where it is deeper than thoughts, though the thoughts can try to express it, it is the place where all stored information from the mind resides sub-consciously and cultivates emotion and mood and temper. The next level up is the mind, where thoughts are understood in a conscious sense, information is taken in and formed together into the simplest and most complex interpretations, often in an environment created by the heart, which assumes it’s stance of being at the soul and spiritual level. The Top level is the surface where the body is, where our mouths intake food and output words. Where our mouths breathe, and where our hearts pump life, and where our minds control us consciously and unconsciously to act. So there you have this pattern: four levels. Topmost is body, second is mind, third is heart, and fourth is soul.

Two other features of this pattern, I give you: The Spirit moves through all of them. The spirit moves through the body as energy to act, it moves through the mind as inspiration, it moves through the heart as emotion, it moves through the soul as the life principle that animates the whole  being. The Will is also something that moves and, if you will directs, the spirit where it decides to go. It is an elevator that reaches down to the level of the soul. It reflects the state of being just as it also reflects the state of the heart, and of the mind, and is visible in the human body.

These attributes, these building blocks can be seen as making up the human person. Now, I’m sure we can all think of other attributes that could be added to this basic 6 part composition, but I want to make a point about pride and humility.

C.S. Lewis is quoted to believe that the fundamental sin at the root of all other sins is Pride. I was in Starbucks talking with my wife and the man who was best man at my wedding, and he said, “I’ve always wanted to understand that emotion better.” “Pride? An emotion?” I said to him. I understood that pride is a matter of the heart, but it goes deeper than the heart in this word picture above us. Sometimes it’s frustrating when different cultures put the seat of the emotions at different places. In English it’s in the chest, in Hebrew it’s in your intestines, where will you put it next?

The point that my friend was bringing up, and I think it’s a valid one, is that pride is something deeper than the thought, and I agree with him. He and I are likely descended from the kings of Ireland and Scotland respectively, which doesn’t seem to matter to me all that much, since we are all descendant from the first King, Adam, but anyhow. Pride is a fundamental problem of sin. And even if you’re a King, or a knave, a prince or a pauper, a scoundrel or a scholar, you still can let pride rule your heart, because it is seated deeper than your emotions.

That’s exactly the point I want to make here. Pride is central. You can Stand haughtily like you’re high and mighty, that doesn’t make you proud. You can think grandiose thoughts of yourself that doesn’t make you proud. You can feel about yourself a sense of self-sufficiency in appreciation or deprecation of yourself, that doesn’t make you proud. All of those are symptoms of your pride. Your pride is at the level of your soul. It’s the impulse we have to crawl off the altar upon which we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. It’s the living principle of self-serving that naturally refuses the submission of the will to God. Pride is more formidable than any other state of being except one. Pride is more sturdy than confidence, more insistent than anger, more devious than mistrust. It twists the noble sword of truth into a dagger of division. It kindles a flame on the tongue that ignites the course of our lives according to our own being, rather than based on God’s own being. The Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life. These three, but the deepest of these is Pride. Lust of the flesh and lust of eyes are like two greedy hands feeding this impudent self-destroyer at the core of each of our very beings.

Pride is the opposite of humility, but even if humility is not grasped at the deepest level, pride can swing humility by the tail. Humility is pride’s sack-cloth it wears whenever it feels the need of ingratiating that part of all human beings where God intended for us to reserve our devotion and fealty to Him. Pride needs only an inch, and he can live in out-right rebellion against God. All Satan, the Proud One, needs in us, is the tiniest ledge—the smallest shadow he can hide in, and he will succeed in marring the glorious image of a holy God stamped on each one of us.

As I sat there with my friend talking about how Pride can be beaten. I wrote down this phrase on my phone when I went to use the bathroom: “Perhaps the will is the only vehicle that can deliver the nuclear blow of humility to the deeply subconscious and central issue of pride.” If the Will is like the Spirit and it can be like an elevator to all four levels of a person’s being (assuming again, my word picture is a good one) Can Humility be a choice of the Will?

Well let’s think for a moment. The Will is like the steering wheel for our whole life. If we don’t have much strength of will, it simply means we do not have much grip on the steering wheel, but we each and all have one. The Will is the place of decision. The Will Moves with resolve in action, in mental affirmation, in heart solemnization and soul “becoming.” The Will can deliver true humility to that deepest level.

Now, some of you, who I’m sure have already thought this out, may say to me, “Ah ha . . . but if you by your own will choose humility at the level of your soul, aren’t you able to take pride in that?” Well, I suppose so, if that’s what you were deciding. It’s not a serpent eating it’s tale though. It’s not a never ending cycle. All the soul needs is to choose to love God. How do I know?

Because in Numbers chapter 21, the people were complaining out of pride, so God sent serpents among them. By the way, He says in Deuteronomy that this whole time He has them in the wilderness is to test what is in their hearts. Deuteronomy 8:2, says, “You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” So what is he doing here in Numbers 21? He sends the serpents among them to test them, to humble them, to see if they had a heart to keep His commandments. And what was the test? All they had to do was look at the serpent that was lifted up. That’s all they had to do. “Look!” Look! It is perhaps the most profound and simple movement of the body, but that’s not what saves a person. It is perhaps the most passive thing a mind can do to take in the information of a snake on the pole, but that’s not what saves a person. It’s perhaps the slightest nudge inside a person’s emotions against the organ of their acceptance, but that is not what saves a person. What saves a person, is the disposition, the humility to seek to see their salvation from the same hand of the one who afflicted them for example. It is the humility to seek salvation in God, not claim it for yourself. Humility gives it’s life at every level. Pride keeps back some part of it for himself.

To write about Pride is to do it an injustice. It doesn’t deserve this much attention, but because he has already done so much damage, I don’t need to convince you that it exists. You may need some convincing that it is in you. I know I did. I have a healthy does of the most unhealthy disease every man suffers from.

So how do we choose humility? What hope can we take that Pride is not incurable? Fear God is the beginning of wisdom. Fear God is to depart from Evil. Fear God keeps us from evil. Fear God is man’s all. Fear God is the antidote for pride. At least it abates it for a time, the way light abates a shadow. But should that flame ever flicker and die down, the shadows of pride will enshroud the soul evermore until the day when the Devil and all his works are totally and completely cast down. Fear God is the beginning.

This is an attitude of the Will, to transfer this Fear of God to all levels of our humanity. At the surface it is seen in obedience to God, and physical posture of submission before Him, and words which reverence Him. Fear God at the level of the mind is occupying every thought with him, seeking him and knowing Him. At the heart level, it is loving Him, and rejoicing in Him; thanking Him. To Fear God is for that fantastic word –which post-modern Christianity has all but retired—piety to permeate every part and parcel of us until we are no longer parts but we are one whole living in the Fear of God.

If any of you would give objection to this saying, “There is no need to fear God now that we have the Cross and Jesus Christ.” Or say, “’There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear,’ doesn’t the Bible say?” Of course you are right, except that you must examine more closely the meaning of Love as it is shown in the person of Jesus Christ. The attitude toward God, the soul’s position before God, the heart’s emotion toward God, the mind’s thoughts of God, the body’s posture toward God as seen in Jesus Christ was never irreverent or flippant. This lack of reverence we have for God is the very smell of Pride in a human soul that rises before the God who smells what is in secret, and cannot stand it. If Love be without reverence, it is not love, just like if love be without truth, it is not love.

So Pride versus humility. I am convinced that the answer to beating pride at that deepest level is from the deepest part of us, we decide to humbly and totally submit and fear the Holy God who fashioned us and created us in His image to rule and bless and fill the earth.

One way to test whether we know the fear of God, is if our hearts can feel the terror dripping from these words of the author of Hebrews 10:, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” If you do not feel the dread of this truth in your heart, you do not yet fear God. The emotions are not everything. They are a good thermometer. How hot is your heart at the knowledge and obedience of God?

As Paul said to his Philipian beloved church, I iterate, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” When Adam sinned, he sinned by mouth, by mind, by heart, and by soul. And when Jesus had the opportunity, “he did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. But he emptied himself.” This is our example for how to repent from our Pride. “And he took on the form of a servant.” The answer is to be a servant who is “obedient to the point of death even death on a cross.” This is the Salvation of the human soul, seen in Jesus’ humility and humanity, which we too are called to have the same mind. And this is how we as God’s servants, can know true humility when we smell it.

I close with this for now: pride and humility are like the odors of our soul. Pride is the smell of rotting flesh. Humility is the warmth of justice submitted to God as good. You can see the body, you can hear the mind, you can feel the heart, but you can smell the soul. And humility is the only perfume that is acceptable in God’s nostrils.

The Mystique of Reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew– Part 2

The Bible is one of those rare books in which the heart of the reader is transformed while he reads.


The things the heart did not know are added into the mix
The things the heart thought it knew are shown to be multifaceted
The things that seemed complicated become more simple
The things that seemed simplistic become deeply rooted in deeper layers
And each layer of the Bible into which the heart breeches becomes at the same time a deeper layer of the heart of the reader.
So that whatever the Reader’s heart is searching for is found here in this book, and is found to lead to richer and more beautiful realities upon which all relaity is based.
The treasure of all treasures, the source of all meaning, the wisdom of eternity strung through time.
And all of this is brought forth from the mouth of One.
Who made Himself known to all the earth in Jesus Christ,
He is the Word, the Wisdom, the Way, the Wonderful.
And He is my Savior, my Lord, my friend, my beloved.
I am His and He is mine.
He is I am
יְהוָה Ἰησοῦς Χριστός.
Jesus Christ our Lord
Amen.


– – To read the Bible honestly in any language is to dig deeply into the soul of humanity; because of this, every person who considers the intent study of the Bible must be willing to be honest with the darkest parts of himself. And he must approach it with the reverent care-filled trepidation of a man who has unsteady hands performing surgery on his loved one; perhaps an even better illustration would be a regular patient frequently returning to the operating table with a weak, sick heart, trying not to Jerk around while the Doctor performs surgery on him.

– – In this humble posture, the empty hands are filled with the riches of God’s goodness, one little piece at a time. Each piece can enrapture the reader with the warmth of solidified volcanic rock fresh from the mantle. Over time even this rock cools and the heart cools in response; it must feel His fire again. It must grow with the heat of the All-Consuming fire of God’s holiness, which is the only fire hot enough to keep the chilly emptiness of the World’s vanity at bay.

– – Such began my own “addiction” to reading God’s Word. That is the word that first came to mind: “addiction.” but it’s probably more like drinking soda all your life, and then one day you try just plain water; and it supplies all your body’s needs for replenishment of oxygen and hydrogen through the digestive system, and all without a sugar coma, or the slavish cravings for more. Soda was the “addiction.” Water has offered the freedom from that addiction, and allows the drinker to enjoy all other beverages better. And in spite of every other option being open and enjoyable, water becomes my favorite drink for as long as I live. This is more like what God’s Word is to me, in contrast to the empty philosophies and ideologies of movies, books, and stories which today’s world commandeers to assuage our soul’s deep thirst for meaning, value, purpose and identity. God’s Word is the Water of the World,  by which all who drink of it may live.

– – I live out in the country with my family in two houses and a mobile home, and we all use well water. My Grandmother’s house has a well that was dug to a dept of 100 feet, with a water softener. It’s alright, but this water tastes like a tad of sulfur, and this iron-nasal taste that when I was a kid always tasted to me like boogers. (Not that I would know what they taste like . . . Then there’s my parent’s house where I live, the oldest of the houses. And this house, built in 1960 had a well dug in the back yard all the way down to about 200 feet. They didn’t usually drill that deep unless they had to, but I will tell you, as all others will say who have lived in my family, and as visitors with fresh taste buds attest to us: It is the best tasting, sweetest water around. No sulfur taste; no iron. Just good hard water.

– – You can gather by now one of my points: The deeper you go, the sweeter it gets. The same is true of the Bible. The English Bible translators have done a tremendous job at reconstructing the flow of meaning in another language. It is now possible to read all the way through from Genesis to Revelation the Gospel of God in a language easy to grasp! What a depth of gratitude we owe to those who have interpreted for us God’s Word. God’s blessing be upon them.

Continued in Part 3

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. 🙂 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 JesusAll 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, “You 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’s 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 “please” 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 pastthen 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.”