a 9-day hygiene routine in Romans

 

You shower or bathe daily, right? For this we’re all even more grateful, right? And yet, what about your ways with others? When was the last time you carefully washed away any filth and scrubbed off all of the stink that’s a part of the way you treat others? Has it been awhile?

You use toothpaste and/or mouthwash, right? For this, we’re all very thankful. But, do you do a brain and heart wash? Have you even done that this week?

To be sure – we all need it. And we dare not think we can “skip a day” or that we’re “good enough” for we all know that there are plenty of times that we think we pass “the sniff test,” but others would tell us, if prodded for honesty and they were true friend, that … parts of us, well, just plain stink or that there’s dirt in places we can’t see. For just as a person will never see 30% of their own body without the aid of a mirror, so there is no small percentage of our ways to which we will always remain blind, nose blind even, without the help of others.

And so, we all need others – especially the others we don’t think we need!

Remember: honest to God Christian faith is not about you and God. It is about God and your relationship with him and all others. Think “one another,” not merely “me and him.”

All of which leads me to note: there are several dozen instances of the phrase “one another” in the New Testament and a significant number of them – quite a cluster, really – appear in the latter part of Romans (ch.12-16). And while we’re reading through Romans right now, I’d encourage all of us to keep our eyes open for these passages.

And why is that? Because they speak clearly and directly to the heart of a very important matter – to use our common and terribly watered-down way of speaking today – how church members treat other church members. All of them. Take the time to seriously ponder what it would look like for you to carefully live these things out in your life, and deeply so. To the point that you became a walking, talking embodiment of each one of them in your ways with others, all others, beginning with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Each of these nine statements are exceedingly brief, so brief in fact that you could easily memorize one in the morning and turn it over and over again in your mind throughout the course of a day.

Be devoted to one another in love. (Romans 12.10a)

Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12.10b)

Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. (Romans 12.16; cf. 15.5)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13.8)

… let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. (Romans 14.13)

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus … (Romans 15.5; cf. 12.16)

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15.7)

instruct one another. (Romans 15.14)

Greet one another with a holy kiss. (Romans 16.16)

Think of these matters as floss for your heart and body wash for your behavior. And then imagine a church full of people practicing the same every day.

Courteous, to say the very least, no? Respectful, to be sure. In truth – beautiful.

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to five articles that I have found to be interesting and helpful reading.

American history, corruption, fear, hate, hysteria, intimidation, lynchings, racism, revenge, rumors, social memory, suspicion, terrorism & violence: Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror [essential reading]

“Between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States. Lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. These lynchings were terrorism.”

Bible study, humility & reading: How to Make the Most of Your Bible Study [essential reading]

“We are pulled in many directions: work, family, ministry, fitness and many other activities tug at our schedules. The more we are tugged, the more we have to work to guard the time we give to personal study of our Bibles. When we are at last able to sit down to read, we want every precious minute to count. Whether we have 15 minutes or two hours, we want our efforts to yield the most benefit possible. But how can we make the most of the time we have to read and study?”

Community & forgiveness: The Act of Rigorous Forgiving

“There’s something sad in Brian Williams’s need to puff up his Iraq adventures and something barbaric in the public response. … the larger question is how we build community in the face of scandal. Do we exile the offender or heal the relationship? Would you rather become the sort of person who excludes, or one who offers tough but healing love?”

God, non-violence, violence & witness: Why NO Violence in Jesus’ Name is Justified

“The character of God is manifested when instead of employing violence against enemies to crush them, Jesus loves his enemies in order to redeem them. The kingdom is revealed when instead of protecting himself, Jesus allows himself to be murdered. God’s love is marvelously put on display when instead of clinging to his perfect holiness, Jesus puts himself in the place of sinners. And the nature of the rule of God shines radiantly in Jesus’ final prayer for the forgiveness of those who moments earlier mocked him, spit on him, whipped him, and crucified him (Luke 23:34).

“This is simply who God is and what God is up to in the world, and so living consistent with God’s character, reflected by the cross and the teachings of Jesus, is simply what it means to submit to God’s reign. In sharp contrast to the kingdom-of-the-world thinking, therefore, disciples of Jesus aren’t to act first and foremost on the basis of what seems practical or effective at securing a good outcome. We are to act on the basis of what is faithful to the character and reign of God, trusting that, however things may appear in the short term, in the long run God will redeem the world with such acts of faithfulness.”

Judging, judgment & love: Judgment: Isn’t Judging Others Healthy?

“Isn’t it time to for us to ruthlessly cut out judgment of one another from our sermons, conversations and mindsets? Isn’t it time for us to address personal and social change with long suffering love and when that doesn’t work—doesn’t transform ourselves and those we ought to care for—shouldn’t we try long-suffering love again?”

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to several posts that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading.

Ancient world, archaeology, children & toys: Ancient Toys

“It is often easy to forget that the characters we read about in the Bible and in the history books were real people, and lived much like we do today.”

Bible, culture, faith & reading: * These Are the Most Godless Cities in America; * Actually, THESE Are the Most Godless Cities in America

* “The American Bible Society measures ‘Bible-mindedness’ by how strictly survey respondents read the book and believe in its accuracy. … The American Bible Society found that only 27% of Americans are Bible-minded. The data was based up on telephone and online interviews with 62,896 adults …”

* “In response to the ABS study, the popular Bible-searching website BibleGateway.com has released a study of its own with some striking findings. Based only on how often people in a given city use its Bible-searching software (and controlling for population size) … Bible Gateway’s different methodology—which, perhaps most significantly, does not take into account whether or not a reader considers the Bible to be literally true—yields some remarkable differences from the ABS study.”

Fear & idolatry: The Greatest False Idol of Modern Christianity [essential reading; spot-on!]

“Parroting the politicized talk show hosts and reposting the latest terrible news stories, we perpetuate the now comfortable, Evangelical Christian narrative of impending destruction, and we make it clear at every opportunity: The sky is falling.

“Though we will loudly, repeatedly and confidently proclaim Christ as Lord, in reality, many of us no longer practice faith in a God that has any real power, any true control or inherent God-ness. We seem to have little more than a neutered figurehead Deity, who doesn’t seem to be able to handle much at all anymore. He’s lost His Old Testament swagger.

“The truth is, Fear has become a false God, one too many of us worship with complete and undying devotion.

“Dig just beneath the sunny ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ Bible covers, and the ‘God’s judgment is coming’ bullhorn warnings and you’ll find that much of America has imagined a powerless God who’s mostly just keeping Heaven tidy until all the Christians get there. In the meantime, we live in perpetually frightened freak-out mode.”

Fear, manhood, men & respect: The Problem with Men and Why We Ignore It/Them at Our Own Risk

“…  human males crave respect. For most males, boys and men, respect is somewhere near the top of their hierarchy of needs. I would go so far as to say that, if they were to be completely honest, when asked which they would prefer if they had to choose one over the other most males would take respect over love. And, perhaps unfortunately, part of that craving for respect is desiring to be respected for their maleness. …

“… “when boys and men conclude they will not gain respect they turn to fear. That is, for many, creating fear of them in others becomes a substitute for respect. Fear feels, to them, like respect or at least is an acceptable substitute. Boys and men who feel respected rarely turn to fear as a substitute. They are satisfied with respect (or the real prospect of it). However, boys and young men who believe respect is out of their reach often turn to implied violence if not real violence such as intimidation.

“Nothing I have said implies this is how things should be. However, I have concluded that this male habit of the heart is so deeply ingrained that it is unlikely to be changed by social engineering or anything else. We ignore it at our own cost as a society.”

God, providence & sports: Aaron Rodgers: God Probably Doesn’t Care Who Wins Football Games

“‘I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome,’ Rodgers [quarterback for the Green Bay Packers] said. ‘He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.’ …

“… [meanwhile,] Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson — an outspoken Christian — told reporter Peter King that a divine influence made Sunday’s barnburner so exciting. ‘That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special,’ Wilson said, according to King.”

2015 church-wide Bible reading project – Take Note: Give Thanks!

I urge every MoSt Church member to participate in next year’s church-wide Bible reading project! It will be unlike any reading project you have ever done before. While most Bible-reading efforts focus on what to read, our focus in 2015 will be not on what we read, but on how, when, and where we read. That’s right: what you read is left completely up to you.

How will that work? Let me answer in a Q & A format.

Q. When will the 2015 reading project start and conclude?

A. Our reading will start on Mon., Jan. 5 and will continue through Fri., Nov. 20.

Q. At what pace should I read?

A. You’ll make the call as you’re the one who determines both the parameters and pace of your reading. Whatever you decide, tailor your choice to maximize your ability to actually accomplish the reading.

Q. So what’s the plan? What’s it made of?

A. This project has four components. The first concerns the place and time of our reading. Strive to be as consistent as possible in this, making it a matter of daily routine – the same place and time.

Second, if at all possible, do your reading in a paper (non-electronic) format. Is that a change for you? Roll with it for it’s good to get out of your comfort zone on occasion!

Third, take a few, simple notes on each day’s reading. Those notes can be as simple or as involved as you want to make them. The point is to truly engage what you’re reading.

The fourth component is not directly related to your daily reading, but will connect with the persistent theme of gratitude that runs throughout all of scripture. At the end of each day, take ten minutes to write down three matters that happened that very day for which you are thankful, and as best as you can discern, why those three things happened. Then, pray in regarding such. Try to make this step virtually the last thing you give real thought to, and actually do, right before you go to bed each night. Seek to work this fourth component on a daily basis – no exceptions! – whether or not your Bible reading plan is daily.

Q. Why should I participate?

A. The purpose behind all of this is fourfold. We want to help you: (1) create a habit of body and mind that associates a specific place and time with feeding on God’s word, (2) develop a mental and tactile sense about such, (3) truly engage what you read, and (4) fill your mind at the close of each day with good things you recall that cause you to thank God.

Further, think not only of the benefit you’ll receive forming this habit of discipline, but think also of the good your children, grandchildren or other loved ones will derive in the future from pouring over your handwritten notes about Scripture and your thankfulness to God. Just imagine the possibilities of what God could do with such tools!

Q. Is there a verse that sums up the essence of this effort?

A. Yes! In fact, there are two texts: Philippians 4.8 and Psalm 106.1. Memorize both passages as soon as possible if you haven’t already. In fact, I’d encourage you to recite Phil. 4.8 every morning, out loud, before you even get out of bed, every day next year. Similarly, I’d encourage you to recite Ps. 106.1  aloud before and after your night’s posting of three things for which you are thankful. Using these two verses so can only help us deliberately enhance the growth of a mind bent all the more toward the Lord.

Q. How will you go about your reading, preacher man?

A. I’ll read the Old Testament through on a six-day-per-week schedule with Sunday being my ‘off’ day. I’ll do my reading sitting in my favorite chair in my study at my house somewhere between 5:15-6:30 a.m. The translation I’ll use for this project is The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition. I’ll make my thankfulness list in a small, leather journal that was given to me as a gift. And I’ll make my Bible notes in the NIV Note-Taker’s Bible.

If you have any questions – or are looking for some suggestions – as to this project, do let me hear from you.

Oh, and I’d greatly enjoy hearing how, when, and where you’ll do your reading and writing, as well as the what of it. Share such with me, won’t you?

May we be formed by this daily discipline it into something more of a blessing from God to each other and the whole world.

Remember:

“From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4.8 CEB)

links: this went thru my mind

Apps, archaeology & children: Free App “Dig Quest: Israel” Teaches Children about Archaeology in Israel

“The app is in English and is available for download at the iTunes Store for iPhones and iPads. An Android version will be made available soon. The app features two simulated dig sites.  One is based on the site of a Roman period mosaic at Lod and the other on the site associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran.”

Beauty, creation, earth, environment, goodness & wonder: Creation Is a Many-Splendored Thing: Delighting in Creation’s Goodness

“… the psalmist praises God and relishes the vastness, complexity, and beneficence of God’s creation and the astonishing creatures who find a home there …”

Bible reading: Five Practices to Refresh Your Bible Reading [essential reading]

“1. Retell the passage from the perspective of the different characters. … 2. Interview each of the characters. … 3. Read the passage five times with each of the five senses in mind. … 4. Find the good news in the passage. … 5. Read the passage out loud.”

Discrimination, prejudice & racism: * The New Threat: ‘Racism without Racists’ [required reading]; * America the Beautiful, America the Violent

* “…  racial domination is a collective process and we are all in this game.”

* “We remained either quiescent or ambivalent on race and violence, and then somehow manage to look at the images in Ferguson with shock and dismay.”

Food & recipes: Amazing Recipes from Chefs Who Feed the Homeless

“… here are a collection of holiday recipes we’ve culled from restaurants, shelters and churches that serve those in need, but also value nutrition and fine cooking.”