Posted tagged ‘The Bible’

The Ache

November 1, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. November 1, 2011

It’s a tough time!
Almost all of us have been through them. They take different forms- loss of jobs, fractured relationships, serious illness, mounting expenses, loss of life. The past couple of weeks have been a tough dark tunnel for me. Two people I’ve known for a long time passed away. My mom’s health has slipped at a quickening pace. And then there was the bronchitis issue!
On top of that there are a number of life stressing situations that people of my congregation are dealing with that have no easy answers.
It produces “the ache”, that internal moan that is void of peace, and the antonym of comfort. The ache intensifies and suppresses joy. It is unsettling and lonely. The anxiety of the ache is connected to the uncertainty of its time table. How long will it be within me? Will I wake up one morning and discover that its gone? Will it lessen in intensity? Will I come to a place that I no longer recover the pain, but consider it as a part of my existence, kind of like aching knees in the morning and a tooth that always throbs?
What comfort I receive in the midst of this is knowing that so much of the Bible is written by those who were experiencing the ache? So many of the Psalms are about trials, tribulations, discouragement, and fear. Ecclesiastes has the reoccurring theme of meaninglessness. Lamentations I not a title for a happy book. The prophets were led to write and prophesy about the ache of God, as he encountered the various betrayals and apathy of his people. Paul writes about the thorn in his side, the ache in his life.
It is good to know that those who have been close to God all down through history have dealt with the ache. There’s a sense of journeying together with those who have gone before, and yet there is also that sense of “deadness” that is a part of me.
The ache of “the dessert” causes us to draw closer to God or drift further away. It is an experience that we can not stay the same as a result of.
And so I seek a deep intimacy in which the embrace of God will be sensed in more profound ways. I pray the words of the psalmist: “O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength.” (Psalm 88:1-3)
If David could pray that, and yet at another time pray, “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:1-2)
It gives me hope.

Rewriting History and Other Things

September 28, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. September 28, 2011

One
of my reading projects for the past couple of months has been reading James
McPherson’s
Battle Cry For Freedom, his extensive 900 page
masterpiece about the Civil War. It’s a fascinating work that exposes some
situations about the Civil War that I never knew. For instance there was the
Fugitive Slave Law, which gave a slaveholder the right to go into any state that
his runaway slave had escaped to, and claim his slave as property. In 1842, when
a slaveholder from Maryland sent a man into Pennsylvania to bring back his
escaped slave, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that a slaveholder’s right to his
property overrode any contrary state legislation. In another situation,
President Millard Fillmore threatened to send federal troops into Boston to help
retrieve a couple that had run away from their Georgia owner and been in Boston
for two years.

I was
also amazed to find out that Jefferson Davis, when he was a U.S. Senator, led an
effort to purchase Cuba from Spain to try to make it into another southern
slaveholding state. There was an effort afoot to increase the number of states
where slavery would be legal. In doing so it could tip the voting balance in
Congress. On the other hand, there were apprehensions expressed about any
possible new state being added. These concerns were from pro-slavery Senators as
well as Senators who were abolitionists.

I
don’t remember a lot of the things that McPherson writes about being taught in
my U.S. History class my junior year of high school. Perhaps I was sleeping.
After all, class was right after lunch and our teacher’s voice was infected with
“extreme monotone syndrome!”

As we
look back at that era from today there is a tendency to summarize the situation
by saying the South wanted slavery and the North was against it. It makes it
easy to remember, but misses much of the history.

I am
constantly amazed today at how people frame their explanation of a problem on
the basis of what will make them look right. People, and talk radio hosts
especially, rewrite and reconstruct current events not so much to look right and
knowledgeable, but rather to make the other side look out-of-touch and
insensitive.

But
you see, I also think we dangerously “rewrite Scripture” to say what we desire
it to say. It seems there is a tension these days between “culture” and “the
written Word.” It is foolish to think that we are able to look at Scripture
without any filtered culture lens–and it is also foolish to allow culture to
dictate what it is that Scripture is saying.

In
essence, we allow our culture to be the double-edged sword that determines who
is going to get cut and where. Our leaning is to figure out what I believe and
then find Scripture to support it, or interpret Scripture so that what I believe
does support it.

There
are many things in Scripture that people cannot come to agreement about, and I
don’t think we should expect that. The community of Christ should expect to have
interesting and diverse dialogue. As long as there are Yankee and Red Sox fans
in the church there will be debate on God’s opinion about pin stripes.

However, it seems that editing the Word and rewriting it
has gained new momentum in the midst of polarized people.

To
that I wonder, although I won’t be around to discover the answer, how history a
generation from now will summarize the Christian movement of the present?

RUSHING DOWN THE STEEP BANK

June 27, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. June 26, 2011
One of my favorite Jesus stories is the “swine dive” in Mark 5. In case you don’t have it memorized, it’s the story of Jesus’ encounter with the demon-possessed man. The man is so afflicted that his name is Legion, an implication about how many demons has taken up residence in his life.
Jesus is going to set this poor fellow free and the demons request that he send them into a herd of pigs nearby. When that happened there was a two thousand swine mass stampede to death.
I can only imagine what that must have looked like. I’m seen a bunch of guys rush into a lake to try to get the greased watermelon, or a herd of crazed people rushing through the doors of Walmart on the day after Thanksgiving about 4am…and those were quite the sights, but I’ve never seen a herd of pigs racing to their doom.
I think of that story because of another comment that was made by a man who assigns basketball officials to college games. He said “moving too quickly maximizes risk.” His point was about how someone who referees basketball games usually wants to move up the ladder to high school, then Junior College, College, and then…for a very, very few…professional basketball.
He’s seen many officials advance too quickly, and then come crashing down, because they hadn’t put in the necessary time to season their game.
The same principle applies to the growth of a follower of Jesus. Moving too quickly maximizes risk. How many times has someone experienced new life, had incredible enthusiasm and excitement, and been put into a position, or entrusted with certain responsibilities that they weren’t ready for?
Many times!
We expect instant success and sudden stardom. To have gradual growth as a disciple is looked down on.
The responsibility is on the mentors and the Body of Christ. If we don’t see the value in solid gradual growth then no one else will. We even see it in church growth. If a church grows by 50% in one year it’s applauded. There’s a good chance a traveling workshop will arise out of it within the year after that. It’s common for other people to want to copy the sprint to success.
But a sprint to success is on the same level as the swine dive off the steep bank. People aren’t ready for rapid growth, individually and corporately. The first church grew quickly…I mean, off the charts growth patterns…and then it had to stop and figure out the Hellenistic widows who had fallen between the cracks. In essence, it had to stop and think about where things were.
Moving too quickly maximizes risk.
Perhaps that’s why the description of an overseer, or elder, in 1 Timothy 3:6 includes these words: “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.”
Hmmmm…