Archive for October, 2014

The Dark

Posted in Uncategorized on October 30, 2014 by nmpreach

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to hear Episcopal priest, author, and professor Barbara Brown Taylor. Although her talks weren’t long, I (and I assume others) were intrigued from the very beginning.  One of her God-given gifts is the power of words.  Being read to is not one of my favorite past times, but Taylor’s voice, and more importantly, her subject matter was what drew me in from the beginning.  Taylor spoke regarding Genesis 14, and particularly on the identity of Melchizedek.  Although she was willing to let the vagueness of the text speak for itself, she also offered a few principles I thought simple yet powerful enough to jot down.

“God works through religious strangers.  Some people are different, yet God chooses them to affect you and/or your circumstances.”

“God blesses through all kinds of people in all kinds of ways.”

I left that talk thinking maybe we search too hard for a meaning in texts that are vague.  In other words, could it be the narrator of Genesis (1) didn’t know the details of certain historical accounts, (2) didn’t think them important to the “take away,” or (3) intentionally left them vague for a bigger reason.  Defining God contains a bit of mystery.  Maybe that’s the simplest sentence you’ll read today.  But it’s important.  The point is:  Can we ever be okay with simply saying, “I don’t know.”?

The vagueness is what Taylor would call “the dark.”  Examples in Scripture are numerous but include the exodus at night, and Jesus’ dialogue with the Pharisee Nicodemus (John 3).  Blaise Pascal once spoke of a “God-shaped hole” within each of us.  Taylor would proffer the search for what fits in the hole is part of the gift.  In other words, there’s an intimacy found in the dark (vagueness); whereas we’re never promised certainty – at least this side of paradise.  Finally, Taylor stated, “Practice faith in the dark until something blooms again.”

Although we’ve been taught (and perhaps teach others) about the things that “go bump in the night,” what might we learn about God’s character within the darkness?  I’m currently reading Taylor’s latest work Learning to Walk in the Dark (Harper Collins, 2014).  More on that later!

If God is sovereign (I believe that He is), He is even bigger than the dark and those things contained in the dark.  He remains sovereign even in the midst of storms.  Maybe the darkness is offered not only to teach us about ourselves but to encourage us to appreciate the light even more.

 

Community, Sin, and Love

Posted in Community, Love, Sin on October 28, 2014 by nmpreach

Community

Most of us know the story of Creation and The Fall.

God creates. Everything good. God creates man in His image. Everything very good.

“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'” (Gen. 2:18, ESV, emphasis mine).

Don’t miss what’s going on here.  Being alone without a helpmate was less than God intended.

God creates woman from man. A helpmate.  Man excited.

“Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man'” (Gen. 2:23, ESV).

The narrator of Genesis then offers readers an interesting declaration. Read it slowly and as many times as needed.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24, ESV). Other translations use words such as cleaved, united, or joined, where the English Standard Version uses the phrase “hold fast.”  The point the narrator is making is they were in communion.  They had a relationship with one another and with God. Enter the serpent.

Sin

Serpent offers doubt and accuses God of wrong doing.  Woman rebelled and ate from the tree.  Man did likewise.

Everything changes!  Shame and guilt arrive.  Man blames woman.  Woman blames serpent.  God is heart-broken.

The communion once enjoyed by the first family was destroyed in a single second.  God tells the woman in part, “…Your desire shall be for your husband” (Gen. 3:16, ESV).  But this is no longer as it was.  Read on!

“…and he shall rule over you” (ibid).  Sin changes everything.  The narrator now describes an authoritarian relationship that didn’t exist prior to sin.  But it didn’t stop there.  Man and woman are forced from the presence of God.  Walking with Him on a daily basis is no longer possible.

The Apostle Paul writes of sin, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12, ESV).

It’s obvious communion/relationship was part of God’s original plan – communion between God and man and between man and man.  However, sin destroyed the innocence of community.  The consequences of sin include a severed relationship between man and God and constant struggle between mankind for relationship.

Love

The question becomes, “Is there anyway to restore communion/relationship as God intended?”  In other words, “What would it take to walk with God daily or love one another with no boundaries?” That’s the process we call sanctification.  Loving as God loves means becoming more like Jesus.  As we become closer to God and His character, loving those around us becomes second nature.  That said, it’s crazy to think we can love our brother without loving God first.  We know love only because God loved us (1 John 4:10).

God created.  Everything as intended.  Man screws it up.  Jesus offers restoration.   Man chooses!

There’s Just One Answer!

Posted in Scripture on October 24, 2014 by nmpreach

The way we read Scripture makes all the difference in the world – literally. All too often, well-intentioned Bible students turn to their favorite verse and begin explaining why it holds such prominence for them.  Although there’s nothing particularly wrong with having a favorite text within Scripture, often times it is quoted out of context.  How many times have you or others you’ve heard quote Philippians 4:13?  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (ESV).  But what is the context?  What challenge is Paul facing as he writes that text?  Chances are, our scenarios are much different from his.  But how often do we (I include myself) clumsily quote a verse not knowing the circumstances surrounding the words?  We put them on t-shirts, share them on social media, and locate them on refrigerator magnets.

Think with me for a second.  Could it be that we miss the forest for the trees?  Here’s what I mean:  Is there a chance that we fail to interpret Scripture as a whole?  In other words, when I turn to my favorite chapter or verse and quote it out of context, I miss the bigger picture.  Let me give you another example.  Pick your favorite book of the Bible.  Obviously, you’ve read the book, you may know it well, and perhaps you’ve even quoted it a time or two.  Maybe your favorite book is one tree in the midst of a large forest.  Here’s the point:  Often times, we live compartmentalized lives.  Bible study is no exception.

There are two “Testaments” – Old and New.

There are 39 “books” in the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is made up of the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets.

There are 27 “books” in the New Testament.

The New Testament includes Gospels, the beginning of the Church, some letters, and a weird book at the end.

I’ve heard some claim, “I’m a NEW Testament Chuuuuuristian.” – Read it with the included emphasis.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.  I’m not intending to beat a dead horse.  But here’s the thing:  The Bible is one story.  It’s the story of how much God loves man.  In other words, as you read Philippians 4:13, what has Paul been talking about before it?  Who are these people called the Philippians?  Why would Paul write what he did?  How does the letter fit into the New Testament?  What does it say about Christ?  You see.  That’s the crux of everything in the Bible.  Jesus is the beginning and the end.  That includes the middle.  Whether it’s an Old Testament history book or a New Testament pastoral letter, the question must be, “What does this say about Jesus?”  If you can’t determine the answer, keep looking, get some wise counsel, mine the depths of the text.  But I can assure you.  Jesus is the answer!