a scribe’s scratchings: (8)

More questions; more answers.

Q.  Since you’ll be writing in ink, what will you do when you make a mistake?
A. If I see it? Correct it! A multitude of scrolls of professional scribes in ancient times that remain to this day are not strangers to rare, but real, slip-ups. I am not better than them and so I know before I begin that this copy of mine will not be without fault. And that’s okay. Since the Author doesn’t expect me to be perfect in my daily attempts to imitate Christ in life, I’m confident he will not be let down by my honest, but feeble, attempt to copy his words.

Q. Have you ever personally known someone who copied the Bible by hand?
A. Personally? No. Known of some who did? Sure. Google it. Better yet, use DuckDuck Go.

Q. What’s the best way to keep up with you and your experiences with this project?
A. Check the near daily postings I’ll make right here on my site.

Q. How can I pray for you as you do this?
A. Do, please, praise him with me, reveling in the fact that he shines light into our darkness, not leaving us without illumination and direction, guidance and insight, instruction and correction. Thank God for the health of eyesight and hand that I have to do this. Ask our Father that I may daily approach it all with sincerity and purity of heart, humility and keenness of mind, and strength and perseverance in all my ways. Ask that good seed be planted in others through this effort to the praise of our Lord and Savior. Ask that the fruit of his Spirit would increase in my life. Rejoice with me in this privilege to encounter Scripture in this way.

Q. How will you format your writing?
A. I haven’t decided. But, I know it will be in one of two ways: (1) either following the formatting of the particular translations I’ll be using or (2) utilizing the formatting found in the paperback editions of Immerse: The Reading Bible. I’ll make up my mind on that matter.

Q. What do you intend to do with the copies when you finish?
A. I haven’t made up my mind on that either; however, I have considered distributing it among my family. The format of the Immerse Bible arranges the text in six segments;  fourteen (14) groups of literature. 1 parent + 2 in-laws + 1 wife + 4 children and their spouses + 5 grandchildren + me = 14 people. Hmmmm.

Q. What if you don’t finish?
A. I don’t entertain that thought. Instead, I think: what if I do! Besides, the good doesn’t come only at the finish, it comes, quite literally, every day along the way, and beyond.

Q. What was that URL for the Immerse Bible reading project?
A. http://immersebible.com/

a scribe’s scratchings (7)

Here are some answers to some of the questions recently put to me regarding my upcoming copy-the-Bible-by-hand project. Perhaps you have some of the same questions.

Q. Where will you find the time to do this?
A. I’ll make the time primarily by getting up a bit earlier, cutting back some on my non-Bible reading time, scaling back on social media consumption and engagement, and just being a bit more self-disciplined in general.

Q. Will you write the same texts the church reads each day?
A. Yes and no. The church reading project (Immerse) divides itself into six, sixteen-week segments (32 weeks each year) of reading across the span of three years. That means everyone has twenty weeks “off” time during each of the three years. However, I’ll do my reading and writing essentially straight through (i.e. – only a very few weeks of break each year).

So, yes, like the rest of the church family, I’ll be reading the same thing each day, but for my writing project, no, my reading and writing won’t be “on the same page.” We will start and end at the same time, but the church’s reading and my writing will operate at different speeds.

Q. Some sermons will spring from this reading/writing. Will there be other connections?
A. Yes, among them: occasional mini-series in Bible classes that I lead, my weekly devotionals at St. James house, my postings on this blog of mine, pictures that I take, postings on Facebook and Instagram, some contacts with other portions of our Sunday morning assemblies (e.g. – Scripture reading, communion meditations, fun printed quizzes, etc.), and, God willing, more.

Q. What do you think will be your biggest problem(s) getting the writing done?
A. All of us have this in common: daily life brings us a multitude, and wide variety, of unexpected things. Life’s “unexpecteds,” big and small, will perhaps be the biggest challenge.

Q. Got a specific Scripture you connect with this project? A “verse of guidance?”
A. Yes. In fact, it is the passage from which I preached yesterday morning. Here it is:

“… with humility … welcome the word planted deep inside you — the very word that is able to save you.” (James 1.21 CEB)

I’ve memorized this passage and I encourage everyone who participates in the reading portion of this project to do so.

Q. I know you hate your handwriting. How do you see that working out for you?
A. I suspect most folks who put Scripture into their own handwriting strive not merely for accuracy of copy but, also to render it all in their very best penmanship. While the former will certainly have my grand attention, I will not care so much for the latter. After all, my best handwriting is not all that great. I can’t do “pretty,” but I can do “practical,” so I’ll concern myself with the practical and try to just let the rest go. Not sloppy, of course, but I’m not going to be OC about it either. I’m not doing this for looks, but for effect.

Q. What exactly will you write in and with?
A. That will vary through the course of the project as I’ll use different pens for different groups of the Bible’s literature. We’ll begin our reading (and my writing) in Luke-Acts and so I’ve decided to write that portion with a favorite rollerball pen and some journals given to me by my daughter and son-in-law.

Q & A with a young theologian

 

Following this past Sunday morning’s worship gathering at MoSt Church, my bride and I ate lunch together at Pipeline Grill with my daughter (Amber Wheeler) and her family (I highly recommend their catfish). In mid-meal, and out of the blue, my daughter’s oldest, five year-old Ethan, posed a direct and very important question to me.

“Dah-Do, where is MaMa?”

Let the reader understand: I am “Dah-Do” and “MaMa” is my mother, now 20 years deceased.

I paused for a moment to collect my thoughts, for I wanted to answer his question as well as I possibly could. It had been asked with thoughtfulness; I wanted to reply with the same.

However, before I could make reply, another interjected an answer, direct, concise, and thoughtful:

“She’s in heaven.”

I like that answer. I like it a lot! And perhaps that is enough on the matter right now for a five year-old.

But, I also know that my mother was not a Christian, not so, at least, in anything like the conventional sense of the term. Now was she a believer in God? Certainly. Did she believe the Bible was God’s communication with people? Absolutely. Was she a virtuous woman? Far excelling the vast majority of Christians I know (for the record, through the years I’ve had a number of Christian women who knew her well describe her to me as “a saint” in their eyes; their words).

And yet, it all comes full stop right there.

And so, the question, and its true depth, remains:

“Where is MaMa?”

Now while my answer is anything but as concise as the one shared, allow me to share the answer here and now that I was forming as we broke bread (and catfish) together. I like to think of me answering that question after having scooped him up, having set him in my lap, and with my arms wrapped around him in a gentle hug, while I whispered this in his ear.

“Ethan, my man, listen to me very carefully: MaMa is in God’s good hands. That’s where she is: in God’s good hands. Much like this hug I’m giving you right now.

God does nothing but good; in fact, that’s the only thing he does do – good! And with his own hands, he made MaMa; he gave her her life. And that was good! With his own hands, he gave her life here on earth for many, many years. And that was good! He took good care of her all that time. And that was good! And she used her own hands to do many good things in her life for other people. And that was good, for God’s good hands were involved in all of those good things she did! In fact, he remembers every one of those things and can’t forget them. And that’s really good!

“And so, when MaMa died, God scooped up her spirit and now holds her close to him with his good hands of love and tenderness. Again, sort of like this hug of love I’m giving you right now. That is where she is today – in God’s good hands, his good hands of great love.”

“Now you might wonder about death. All things eventually die. But I will tell you this: you need not fear death or worry about it at all, for God has that stuff whipped! God has the last say in everything and whatever he says, and then does with his good hands, is good for her, is the right thing to do with us, and for all. In life, in death, in all things, God always does the good, right thing.

“So, what you and I, what everyone really, needs to do is to live to please God. To live our life here and now like we are walking with God, holding his good, strong hand of love. And then, someday when we are gone, we too will be in God’s good hands. And God will do what is good for us forever and ever.

“You keep loving God and loving people. God’s good hands takes care of everything else.”

And then I’d tighten the squeeze of my hug, “scob his knob” a bit, set him back on his chair, swipe one of his french fries, give him a big grin, and just let him take it from there.

Thank you, Father God, for my young theologian of a grandson, Ethan. May he seek you with all of his heart, all of his days, with all of his ways. May he find you, again and again and again, until the day you scoop him up, too, and take him in your strong arms forever. I ask this in your Son’s name. Amen.

this went thru my mind

 

Atonement: What DID Jesus Do? The Atonement Symposium Videos Now Online

[Videos featuring Scot McKnight, J. Daniel Kirk, Leanne Van Dyk, and Vincent Bacote]

Christian faith, idolatry, nationalism, patriotism & the United States: * Are You Anti-American? by Greg Boyd [essential viewing; 2 1/2 min. video]; * Nationalism: The Nationalistic Corruption of Worship in America by Craig M. Watts

* “I am not anti-American. … What I am is, I want to be kingdom. And that means I want to be trans-national in my perspective. … What I’m impassioned about is that followers of Jesus don’t become co-opted by the nationalism of a country, or by any other political or national agenda. And the history of the church is that going on, and on, and on. … It’s so important; I think it’s so, so, so so important that we understand the kingdom of God looks like Jesus, dying on the cross for the people who are putting him there … The kingdoms of this world look other than that. They look like America, or China, or Russia. They’re always some version of Caesar. … In America, precisely because it gives us more freedoms than most other countries, we have to guard against the temptation that identify it as anything more than a good country that gives us some good rights and some good privileges.”

* “… if there has been little serious conflict in the United States between Christian devotion and American allegiance it is not due to some Christian nature of America that some people imagine exists. Instead this is an indication of the extent that the church has been conformed to American ideals, interests and identity. No clear distinction between being American and being Christian is even a possibility because the two have become one in the hearts of many. The God being worshiped is the American God and the nation they love is in some fashion God’s nation. Consequently, many Christians find it incomprehensible that incorporating the rituals of America into the worship of the church could be anything other than a positive, edifying practice.”

Church & generations: How to Connect Different Age Groups Within the Congregation by Matt Dabbs

“LIFE Groups – the vast majority of our LIFE groups are inter-generational. … it is good to have a mix of different types of groups in small group ministry and inter-generational is a big part of that.”

Contribution, electronic giving & worship: I Need Your Ideas by Ed Stetzer

” Does your church offer online giving and, if so, how do you incorporate it into worship?”

Gospel & kingdom: * Paul’s “Gospel” Ministry in Romans by Tim Gombis [required reading]; * The Ugly Beauty of the Kingdom of God by Kurt Willems

* “Paul’s conception of the gospel … is not merely the tidy presentation that gets one into the Christian faith. According to Paul’s gospel conception, God is at work to restore creation.”

* “The cross is ugly, but the wonder of the kingdom is that God takes on ugliness and uses it as the ultimate example of beauty.”

Evangelism, Hispanics, immigration Latinos & outreach: It’s Time to Reach Out to Immigrants by Tim Archer

“… let me encourage churches to get ahead of the curve. Those churches that reached out to immigrants during Reagan’s amnesty program are the ones that today are making important inroads into the Latino community. Lay aside your political feelings and think about the ministry possibilities. This could well be the critical time.”

Learning & understanding: Questions vs. Assertions by James McGrath

“Confident assertions often weigh us down and tie us to ways of thinking that often are not as well founded as we initially assumed. Questions raise us up to discover new things that we could never have if we refused to ask them. Even if the questioning leads us to conclude that what we thought initially was correct, we are better for having asked.”

Les Misérables: * The Miserable by Casey Picker; * On Forgiveness and Escaping the Past by John Byron

* “True love isn’t a butterfly feeling, but an action with skin and bones. And it’s not just something we do for people we are attracted to or who are lovable to us, it’s something we extend to all who are around us. It means having eyes to see the broken and the hurting around us, a heart that feels compassion for them, and hands that are willing to give them the grace that they need.”

* “… what caught my attention this time was the struggle between being forgiven and escaping the past.”

Galatians: questions from my first “slow read” thru Gal. 1

 

One of the things I like to do whenever I read a text from which I’m going to teach or preach is to do a “slow read” of the text the first time I read it. As I do my “slow read,” I jot down any and all questions that spring to my mind, trying not to let a single question fail to be recorded.

This practice often helps me not only see where the text is going, but to see where the text might be headed with me. It also helps me discern what parts of the text need more exploration on my part than others and also helps me anticipate potential questions that might arise from my message. After I have gone further into the book I’m studying and know the book better, I check back on these initial questions and note how answers have come to them in my mind, have been modified, or how I just flat out barked up the wrong tree by asking a particular question when a different one would have served me better. All of this helps me navigate the woods, so to speak.

Following is the list of “slow read” questions that came to my mind on my first pass through Galatians 1 as I prepared for this morning’s class. The numbers before each question correspond to the verse number in Galatians 1 that sparked the question in my mind.
__

1 – Who is Paul? What do I know of him? What did the Galatians know of him when Paul wrote them?

1 – What does the word ‘apostle’ mean and why use that word here?

1 – How, specifically, does this verse say Jesus was raised from the dead?

2 – Who are the brothers and sisters with” Paul at the time he wrote this letter?

2 – Where, and what, is Galatia?

3 – What is the significance of the words ‘grace’ and ‘peace’ here? Why use these words and not others?

3 – Who is “Lord”, and, “consequently, who is not?

4 – Why did Jesus die? To what end was his death?

4 – Was the death of Christ an “accident?” Where was God in it all?

4 – Of whom is God the “Father?”

5 – Explain the meaning of this phrase: “to God be the glory forever and always!”

5 – What does the word “Amen” mean?

6 – Who is the “one” who called the Galatians?

6 – On a scale of 0-10, how serious is the problem Paul is addressing here?

6 – What would Paul call “the grace of Christ?”

7 – Who are the people confusing the Galatian Christians and how are they confusing them?

7 – How many “gospels” are there? How many true ones?

7 – What could motivate someone to try and change the gospel of Christ?

8 – Would Paul have seen the two examples of apostasy he gave in this verse to be hypothetical or a potential reality?

8 – What sort of confidence did Paul have that he was preaching God’s will?

8 – What does it mean to be “under a curse?”

9 – Why would Paul repeat what he just said?

10 – What is it that makes this verse sound like Paul is an addressing an accusation made against him?

10 – How is it that it’s not possible to be simultaneously a people-pleaser and a God-pleaser? Similarly, how it it not possible to simultaneously call two people or entities, “Lord?”

10 – Is Paul’s view of himself as Christ’s “slave” to be normative for all Christians? Why use the word “slave,” Paul?

11 – This verse is a restatement of the claim Paul made in vs. 1. Again, why repeat what you’ve just said, Paul? What does this repetition of thought say about the matters, and people, you perceive are at the root of the problem you’re addressing?

12 – Paul’s message came to him as a “revelation from Jesus Christ.” How do you back up this stupendous claim, Paul?

13 – How might the Galatians known of Paul’s reputation? What do I know of his reputation of living prior to his life in Christ?

14 – Does the word “traditions” have a negative, positive, neutral, or dual connotation here?

14 – What does Paul perceive as the path of advancement within his previous way of faith?

15 – Does this verse imply God sets all Christians apart from birth to a certain purpose or task?

15 – Was God’s grace irresistible to Paul? That is, could Paul have successfully resisted becoming a Christian and apostle?

16 – God was pleased to reveal his Son in, and use a man like, Paul. What does this say about God’s character?

16 – How important is it to Paul that he preach to people who are not Jews?

17 – If Paul didn’t get his ideas from humans, where did they come from?

17 – How could the fact Paul didn’t confer with the apostles and church leaders in Jerusalem advance Paul’s train of thought here with the Galatians? Is Paul speaking disparagingly of the leadership in Jerusalem?

18 – What did you do while in Arabia Paul? Why go there right after your conversion?

18 – Why return to Damascus after being in Arabia, and why stay there so long, Paul?

19 – Paul, what’s the significance of your noting to the Galatians that you met James, the Lord’s brother?

20 – Is swearing an oath to God always wrong?

21 – Why is Paul at pains to document his distance from the influence of, or the influencing of, the Judean churches?

22-23 – Has my reputation as a Christian surpassed the reputation I had before I believed?

24 – What impact does my way of life and my walk with Christ have on other Christians?

50 things I once believed (3)

 

So, how and why did I come to change my mind about these matters of my faith? I see at least seven steps common to virtually all of my change in belief.

First, someone challenged my thinking. In essence, they dared to say to me, “I respectfully disagree, and here’s why.” It wasn’t a matter of confrontation or debate, simply a clear and respectful challenge (let me underscore the word “respectful”). Someone dared to ask me why I believed what I believed, patiently listened to my response, and then either deliberately tried to set up a checkpoint of thought in my path or tried to plant in my mind the seed of a differing view.

In a few words, they disagreed with me without being disagreeable about it. As a result, I learned, and continue to learn, to welcome, rather than resent, questions about my faith.

Second, I dared to truly consider what the person had said or written. Actually “consider” isn’t a strong enough word; “ponder” is more accurate. But we’re talking baby steps here; consider, then ponder! This is often no easy thing to do, particularly given the speed at which we live our lives today and how so very much competes for our attention every minute of every day. Distractions are about us like the air; they’re everywhere. But unless a thought, especially a challenging thought, has time to settle deep into our mind, we will never open ourselves up to the chance of changing our mind.

If I changed my mind about something, it was because I didn’t let things go in one ear and straight out the other. This could very well be the most personally challenging of all the steps I’ll list here, for a full and busy life is not a friend to reflection.

Third, I talked with God about these things with faith. I prayed for God to shed his light on the matter. I asked him to show me if I was wrong, where I was mistaken, and what path to take. I trusted him to lead me to a better understanding and practice of his will. I believed he would cross my path with the people, places, things, and experiences that would answer my requests of him.

I believe he did. And I believe he does.

Fourth, I sought more information from the person who planted the seed. This rarely happened at the time of the question or challenge, but came about instead after pondering the matter a bit. It was as simple as saying to the person who had differed with me, “I’ve been thinking about what you said the other day. Tell me more. I’m here to listen and learn, not debate or argue. I want to know more about what you believe and why for your view intrigues me.” Significantly, it was in this listening that I often discovered that some, or even all, of my conceptions as to what exactly others believed, or why they believed what they did, were often skewed mistaken.

How very embarrassing, but, oh, how enlightening is this step! In this I continue to learn that embarrassment is more often than not, a necessary part of learning. If I will not risk shame, I will not grow. It’s as simple as that.

Fifth, I investigated matters for myself. That is, I started reading and digging into the subject at hand and as I did so, I deliberately read outside of my comfort zone. I read things that challenged my views and differed from my understandings. I read the other person’s mail, so to speak. I tried to walk a mile in their moccasins. And as I did so, I deliberately tried to keep an open mind and to not engage the material in a combative spirit. And then, having read the other person’s mail, I’d go back and examine my beliefs in light of what I had encountered.

I have grown to relish this step, for it is here that I hear the cogs of my mind turning most clearly.

Sixth, I began to look more closely at the fruit of my beliefs and the fruit of the beliefs of others. Ideas have consequences and as I traced the trail of various beliefs to their logical ends and began to pay attention to how they were commonly and outwardly expressed, I discovered much more about the real “stuff” of these beliefs. I found that sometimes a belief that sounded reasonable in my head and didn’t meet strong resistance when expressed in words, actually made little sense at all, or was contradictory to the facts at hand, when put into practice. Typically, what I learned from these observations came as a complete surprise to me. I had expected one thing, but witnessed another. I believed that practice is the acid test of faith, but I came to realize that if I didn’t hang around long enough to see what happens to the belief when it was put into the acid, I’d never really know what my beliefs, or the beliefs of others, were made of.

I can’t begin to say how immensely powerful this single step was to opening my eyes up to my change in belief on some matters (for example, #6 on my list). Some of the most humbling experiences in my life have come from taking this step quite seriously. I believe it is one of the most commonly overlooked and least often practiced of the disciplines mentioned here. May this change.

Finally, I made it a point to not stop looking at, thinking about, listening to, and seriously considering, the minority view on matters. This didn’t come naturally for me, nor did it come easily or quickly. It was something I had to work hard at developing. What influenced me strongly then was the fact that there were people around me, or people to whom I frequently exposed my mind, who believed the same way I believed. They were “the majority,” in my mind, because they were my circle of influence. What slowly dawned on me across the years is that “the minority” view on a matter needed to be given extra attention in my mind if their perspective was to ever get a fair hearing. How so? Because the influence of “the majority” was so strong in my mind that it tended to filter out any real chance of detailed consideration of differing views. And so, I made up my mind to no longer be capable of being a mere bobble-head doll, nodding in near automatic agreement with those in my circle of greatest influence. I deliberately chose to allow other perspectives to go against the flow and challenge my thinking.

This is a huge, significant step for it strongly calls out what I actually believe about God. None of us hold our beliefs alone, but majorities and minorities don’t factor into the mind of God. As a Christian, I live under his sovereignty, not my democracy.

Without a doubt, I remain a very long, long way from where God would have me to be in terms of my walk with him, and my being shaped into his Son’s likeness. But this shaping must occur, inside and out, and must not ever stop. If by sharing these things with you, you find you’ve been helped in some small way, then I know that I have been helped as well.

God have mercy and give more of his light to us all as we can see it. And may he smile on all of us as we seek to become and reflect his ways. Amen.

this went thru my mind

 

Commission: Called and Commissioned by Rubel Shelly

“The idea of leaving God’s work in the hands of a few talented professionals just isn’t biblical or practical.”

Dogs: Canaan Canine Faces Threat in Israel

“First-century rock drawings in the Sinai and more than 700 fifth-century B.C.E. canine skeletons … attest to the historical prominence of the Canaan dog, a pointy eared breed that has lived in Israel since Biblical time. … An online petition is raising awareness to protect Israel’s official breed, but a court decision could mark the end of an effort to sustain the ancient pedigree.”

Health: 4 Critical Gauges for Your Life and Work by Michael Nichols

“… a friend introduced me to 4 health gauges to assess my life and work – Physical, Mental, Spiritual, and Emotional. For more than 20 years, Bill Hybels has talked about these 4 gauges, but this was my first experience with them.”

Military service, pacifism & the American Civil WarTolbert Fanning–Advocate for Peace in 1861 by John Mark Hicks. Links to parts onetwothreefourfivesix & seven.

“Fanning, shaped by evangelists associated with [Barton W.] Stone and mentored by Alexander Campbell … was David Lipscomb’s mentor. … Fanning was a unique theological combination of Stone and Campbell and this was the legacy he left to many leaders in Middle Tennessee. … Though … Middle Tennessee voted 88% for secession in June [1861]. In this climate, Fanning attempted to persuade his readers to choose peace.”

Parenting: Brainwashing our Kids with Religion by Jared Byas

“How do you teach your kids about Jesus but also teach them to think for themselves? … For our family, we have decided that we are Christians and that we will raise our children as Christians. But along with our personal beliefs and the Christian tradition, we will indoctrinate them with a Christian faith that (1) respects religious diversity, (2) respects Christian diversity, and (3) humbly accepts they might be wrong.”

Prejudice: Ethnocentrism & Politics by Richard Beck

“Ethnocentrism is a mental habit. It is a predisposition to divide the human world into in-groups and out-groups. It is a readiness to reduce society to us and them. Or rather, it is a readiness to reduce society to us versus them.”

Productivity: 5 Reasons Why You Should Take a Nap Every Day by Michael Hyatt

“Did you know those who take a midday siesta at least three times a week are 37 percent less likely to die of heart disease? Working men are 64 percent less likely!”

Questions: 7 Suggestions for Asking More Powerful Questions by Michael Hyatt

“If you are going to be a successful leader, you are going to have to learn how to ask good questions. Here are seven tips for taking this skill to the next level.”

Receptivity & success: When to Wipe Our Shoes: What Does “Receptive” Mean? by Dan Bouchelle

“Jesus gives us a number for what defines receptivity: one.”

Sabbatical: My Monthly Trip To The Monastery by Brian Jones

“I’ve found that if I don’t get away about once a month and “clear my head” by refocusing and reprioritizing what’s on my plate, I lose my mind.

Self-control & spiritual disciplinesWhat Neuroscience Tells Us about Lenten Disciplines by Rob Moll

“Neuroscience sheds light on how fasting and other spiritual disciplines work by training our subconscious mental processes. We think of ourselves as entirely the activity of our conscious thoughts. In reality, our brain has thousands of sub-conscious processes going on all the time.”

The tree of lifeThe Tree of Life by Richard Oster

“What one discovers is that nations of the Ancient Near East also had traditions about sacred trees, trees of life. … This reality does not “prove” that Israel’s understanding of the tree of life was borrowed from anyone else, but it does suggest at the least that the belief in the sacred tree was part of the religious lingua franca of both Israel and the Ancient Near East.”