Monthly Archives: June 2014

Family vs. Strangers

All Christians are de-facto family.  We’re children of God, that makes us siblings.   That might not make you totally thrilled, the thought that you are going to spend eternity with me… but it is as it is.  I’m sure it will be more fun after God gets through perfecting us.  😉

Family is where you let your hair down.  You can squabble a bit, or argue about the really most awesome place to put the TV remote… but you’ve got each others’ backs.  You’re family!

So it is with us Christians.  I might argue with one of my sibs over some point of doctrine for our mutual edification – iron sharpens iron and all that – but we understand that we’re both under God’s authority.  It places a limit on our quarrels.  (Mostly.  It should, anyway).  

What should family do for one another?  Well, we should support each other, love each other, encourage each other, build each other up.

But non-Christians aren’t family, so we need to be on best behavior around them. Our job is not to sharpen them, it is to show the glory of God our Father and introduce them so maybe they can join the family.  

Different groups, different jobs.

 

Just something to think about.  Well, that and the bit where we’re stuck with each other for all eternity, so we should a) enjoy that and b) remember that when we interact one with another.

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Don’t bother self-justifying

Either you’re in the right with God or you’re not.

If you are, then God will see justice done (one way or t’other) and you’re forbidden to seek it on your own behalf.

If you aren’t… then you need to get right with God and then whoever else.

Regardless, the mental conversations you have in your head, where you explain to the mythical “others” how you were right in what you did, or how you were terribly wronged, or… whatever… are totally unnecessary. (Am I the only one who has conversations in their heads?)

If you are hurt – say, “Wow, that hurt”.  You don’t have to excuse things away to forgive them.  You don’t have to pretend that you’re not hurt, not damaged.  All you have to do is not seek your own revenge, and to forgive the debt, because your debts have been forgiven.

You don’t have to be in control and “make” the other person do the right thing.  You’re not in control, God is. 

That’s the key.  God’s in control, you’re not.  Be right with Him at all times (okay, that’s the goal) and let Him worry about it.  Not your pay grade.

Do the right thing. Chill out.

Sometimes we humans act like like we’re in control of the results of our actions and in control of our worlds.  But that’s not true.  God’s in control.

That doesn’t mean our actions are meaningless.  But it removes some of the pressure.  You and I can’t control any number of critical variables.

James 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Pray. (Ask direction, ask blessing)
Show up.
Do your best.
Leave the results to God.

This will require the exercise of the fruits of the Spirit.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  To have the fruit of the Spirit, one must be *in* the Spirit.

You have to have faith in God to pray at all.  Faith that He will direct and bless His child.  Hope for all good things.  You have to have self-control (perseverance) to show up – love, joy, kindness, goodness, gentleness are all part of “doing our best”, and leaving the results to God requires faith again, and trust in Him.  Trust in Him requires that you know Him.

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

That verse doesn’t say, “to the immediate, temporal good”.  It just says “good”.  You have to trust God to know what “good” looks like, and let Him weave the tapestry of our lives.  Let the Creator create.  Let the Savior love.  And be His hands and feet whenever He lets you.

We are simple creatures, we can’t see the fabric of time and space.  We can only do our best and let God steer us for His glory.

Easier to say than do – but if I don’t say it, I won’t remember to start doing it.  😀

 

Glory: Asking for the Big Stuff and Facing Pride

Ever wanted to do something amazing for the Kingdom?

Ever wanted to do something awesome for the Kingdom and start questioning yourself about whether it’s okay for you to do it?

Ever started questioning your motives and wondering if it’s Pride motivating your desire to get it done?

I’ve got something I care about that is um… very Paladin-y.  (This is mostly meaningful for those of you who’ve played WoW with me).  And I’ve been shuffling my feet and wondering, “Is this about me?”  Riding in on my white charger with sword in hand and freeing the captive, throwing them over my saddle and dropping them off at the Kingdom’s gate…

I dunno.  But … I thought…

1) If I’m okay talking with God about it, and confessing that I want to do this… and He doesn’t swat me down or slam doors in my face… maybe it’s cool with Him.

2) If I’d be okay if every other Christian went out and did the same thing… I’m probably not into it for my own glory.  I’m tots okay with that.  Wouldn’t it be awesome to grin at each other over our saddle-bows as we ride into the fray?

Right now I seem to be in wait-mode.  I’ve wondered if that’s “door closed” and… I still want it, but I’ll wait until it suits the Lord.  Can’t be an outlaw paladin.  Then I look at what’s been going on in my life and heart and think, “Uh,  Maybe this is me hammering out some dents in my armor.”  I’m talking going straight into the fray – I’ll need armor that’s in top shape.  (And if it happens, prepare to be asked for prayer support).

I wonder if anyone else out there has dreams so crazy big that they get embarrassed of them, won’t even ask… and maybe God is just waiting for them to ask already so He can put them in action?  Maybe some of us have to be crazy…

I’ll be here hammering out dents and using my whetstone and doing whatever comes ’round, whether or not I ever get called out to the front lines.  But if I go, I hope you won’t mind a few fierce war whoops.  😉

Oikos

Cool thing my church is doing……….

We all made a list of our 8-15 closest non-Christian (or drifted) friends and family members.  We’re to pray for them **every day** and pray for opportunity to witness/invite them to church.

Instead of the somewhat daunting list on my refrigerator (which is – even though very long – still incomplete) of people in need of the Lord, I have a list I can deal with.

We’re hearing good things already… and I’d like to encourage all my Christian readers to make a short list and join me.  This is something we can all do.

No one knows exactly how the whole, “Pray ’em into the Kingdom” vs. free will thing works.  But I don’t – really don’t – want to have anyone I know and love be able to quote this poem to me someday.  No one.  Yeah, this gets me every time.

(by DJ Higgins, snagged from the internet ruthlessly)

My friend, I stand in judgment now
And feel that you’re to blame somehow
While on this earth I walked with you day by day
And never did you point the way
You knew the Lord in truth and glory
But never did you tell the story
My knowledge then was very dim
You could have led me safe to him
Though we lived together here on earth
You never told me of your second birth
And now I stand this day condemned
Because you failed to mention him
You taught me many things, that’s true
I called you friend and trusted you
But now I learned, now it’s too late
You could have kept me from this fate
We walked by day and talked by night
And yet you showed me not the light
You let me live, love and die
And all the while you knew I’d never live on high
Yes, I called you friend in life
And trusted you in joy and strife
Yet in coming to this end
I see you really weren’t my friend

More thoughts on false humility

1)  Accepting what you’re good and bad at frees you from the prison of other people’s praise.  If you know that you’re a good cook, “this is fabulous!” isn’t a revelation, it’s a compliment.  You say thank you, you remember that Fran likes flan, and you get on with serving after-dinner coffee.   No one has surprised you, life has not changed.

Therefore, you don’t spend all your time either showing off what you’ve done lately in hopes that enough other people will praise you to the heavens so that you feel just-okay about continuing or play argue with folks about the awesomeness of your work.  Because you know, it’s other people’s job to not only compliment you, but beat you over the head until you accept those compliments!   Right?  Err.  No.

2)  Taking this and applying it to parenting.  My kids have very different strengths and weaknesses.  Night and day, really.  But if I have observed them, I can say to my son – “You know, you’re really good at science, but you don’t seem to be a natural mathematician.  Perhaps you should rethink that career in robotics?” My daughter wears glasses (and is a girl).  Guess that dream of being a fighter pilot is something I should steer her away from…. (Neither of these examples is what my kids want to do, fwiw).

I can also encourage them to develop their strengths to the fullest extent possible.   Self-knowledge is useful!

3) Magistra brought out the CS Lewis quote (http://magistratrium.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/false-humility/) about true humility not thinking about yourself, rather than not thinking well of yourself.  When I’m less worried about “am I good enough” I’m more focused on the work at hand or the person I’m trying to bless.

Truly, I feel like I’ve been freed of chains.  And, other than writing these blogs in my head and enjoying the sense of freedom… thinking about my situation rather less than usual.    “How can I get on with it?”

How can YOU be freed up to get on with the work that God has given you to do?

Bible: Outline for non-Christians

One of my good friends is pagan, and she wanted to educate her children about the basics of the Bible so that they’d have a clue about the Christian faith, and so they wouldn’t miss the cultural references that are made in passing.

I got the bug in my ear, so I spent two hours yesterday making a quick and dirty Bible guide for her.   Please don’t pick on it too much – this is a) intended for someone who is completely Biblically illiterate, b) not intended for the Christian audience and c) two hours, but God wasn’t letting me out of the chair until I was completely done.

I do feel “I am only an egg” about the whole thing, but Alte said I should post it, so here you are.  This is long… obviously.  (It runs six pages in Word.  If you want me to email it to you, drop me a note). (It’s prettier in Word, but I”m not reformatting it).

Old Testament

 

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

–          History, law, genealogies

–          Called the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible.

–          Moses is the author (note:  Moses received a classical Egyptian education to age 40)

–          Key passages

o   Creation Story, Adam & Eve:  Genesis 1-3

o   Noah and the Ark:  Genesis 6 – 9:17

o   Tower of Babel:  Genesis 11:1-9

o   The Burning Bush:  Exodus 3

o   The Plagues of Egypt:  Exodus 7-12

o   Passover:  Exodus 12:42

o   Division of the Red Sea:  Exodus 14

o   Ten commandments:  Exodus 20:1-17

o   The Golden Calf:  Exodus 32

o   The cloud by day, fire by night:  Exodus 40

–           Key Players

o   Abraham: Genesis 12-25

  • THE patriarch of patriarchs.  Father of Ishmael and Isaac.  The one to whom the promised land was promised.   Extremely wealthy herdsman and capable warrior in need.
  • Promise of Abraham:  Genesis 12:1-3
  • Hagar and Ishmael:  Genesis 16
  • Isaac born:  Genesis 21:1-8
  • Isaac almost offered up as sacrifice:  Genesis 22:1-20

o   Isaac:  Genesis 21-26

  • Basically a peaceful guy who dug wells.  Very sweet story about his wife Rebekah.  Son of Abraham, father of Jacob and Esau.

o   Jacob: Genesis 27-26

  • Quite the tricky dude – stole the birthright from his brother Esau for a “mess of pottage”.  Served seven years for one wife, had a bait and switch and given her less-desirable sister, so served another seven years for the one he’d wanted in the first place.
  • Ended up with two wives and two concubines (Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, Zilpah)
  • Renamed Israel.
  • Father of the twelve tribes of Israel (twelve sons) and one daughter, Dinah.

o   Joseph:  Genesis 37-50

  • Son of Jacob .  The elder son of the favorite wife.
  • Given the coat of many colors, because he was the favorite.
  • Had the gift of prophetic dreams/interpretation of prophecy.
  • Brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt and told their dad (Jacob) that he’d been killed by wild animals.
  • Fat cow/Thin cow dream:  Genesis 41
  • All of his brothers and the tribe of Israel end up moving to Egypt.  This saves them from starvation.

o   Moses: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.

  • Saved from death, adopted by Pharoah’s daughter – he was raised as royalty.
  • Left Egypt at 40 after killing an Egyptian who was abusing an Israelite slave.
  • Herded sheep for 40 years in the wilderness.
  • At 80, saw the burning bush (Exodus 3)
  • Spent 40 years in the desert herding Israelites (they got time out for bad behavior, it doesn’t take a million people 40 years to walk from Egypt to Israel).
  • Never entered the promised land

 

Joshua, Judges, Ruth

–          History, vignettes, examples

o   Joshua tells the story of the capture of Canaan and the settlement of the Israelites into what is now Israel.

o   Judges tells the story of how Israel fell into sin and all the tragic consequences of that fall.  Occasionally judges (aka champions) would rise and pull Israel out of the fire, but it didn’t last and each episode is more tragic than the last.

o   Ruth is a love story – it’s very short.  It tells the story of a foreign woman who chose God and faith to her widowed mother in law and how her goodness was rewarded.

–          Major Players:

o   Joshua

o   Samson

o   Ruth & Boaz

 

1 & 2 Samuel

–           History

–          Major Players

o   Samuel – a prophet of God.

o   Saul – First king of Israel, insane.  Persecuted his son-in-law, David.

o   David – A shepherd boy who became a war hero who became the king’s son-in-law who became an outlaw who became king.  A man “after God’s own heart” – not because he was perfect, but because he had faith in God and not in himself.

  • Wrote the psalms
  • Got the idea for the Temple, designed it, and got the materials together.  (Was not permitted to build it)
  • Father of many, including Solomon.
  • Stories:
  • David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
  • David’s prayer (2 Samuel 7:8 – 17)
  • David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12)

 

1 & 2 Kings

–          History

–          Record of the kings of Israel (and the split between Israel and Judah).  A few bright spots, but mostly it’s about the fall from grace.  Starts with Solomon and goes downhill until the captivity in Babylon.

–          Solomon –

o   David’s second child by Bathsheba (the first died).

o   Wrote Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon

o   Extremely wealthy.  Everyone is always looking for the wealth of Solomon, which is odd since the histories discuss how the subsequent kings used it to pay off mercenaries or had it stolen during occupations.

o   Built the Temple

–          Elijah/Elisha –

o   Prophets during the post-split Israel.  Enemies of Ahab and Jezebel.  Various miracles.  Elijah taken bodily to heaven in a chariot of fire.

 

1 & 2 Chronicles

–           Same history as 1& 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, but told from a different perspective.

 

Ezra, Nehemiah

–          History of Israel after they were allowed to return to the land.

 

Esther

–           Story of a Jewish woman who became queen of Babylon and how she saved her people from genocide.

 

Job

–           Poetry

–          Story of a rich man who loves God, and how he is afflicted by Satan in order to prove that he loves God for God, and not for His blessings.

–          “Job’s comforters” is an allusion to the jerks who came to visit him and spent *chapters* saying, “If you didn’t sin, why would God treat you like this?  You did *something*”.

–          Some very nice astrological and natural observations scattered throughout.  For those who say the Bible says the world is flat – it doesn’t.

 

Psalms

–          Poetry

–          About half, maybe more, written by David (they usually say – there is choir/music direction throughout).

–          To read:  Psalm 23

 

Proverbs

–          Advice to a young man – it is categorized not as poetry, but as “wisdom”.  Lots of two-liners.

–          Written by Solomon

–          Fun/easy to read in small doses – quippy

–          Ideal wife:  Proverbs 31:10-31

 

Ecclesiastes

–           “Jaded”, in a word.  Written by Solomon … discusses life’s futility without God.

–          Key passage:  Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

 

Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs)

–          Written by Solomon

–          Poetry

–          A metaphor of marital love and God’s love.  Lots of layers, and it gets pretty steamy in spots.

 

 

 

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel

–          Called the “major prophets”.  Prophecy, and some history of the fall of Jerusalem/Israel.  Note:  The phrase, “Major prophets” refers to the length of the books, not their relative importance.

 

Lamentations

–          A lament over Jerusalem, written by Jeremiah.

–          This is where we get the term “jeremiad” to describe a sad history.

 

Daniel

–          History and prophecy

–          Story of a noble-ranked teenager who was taken in the Babylonian captivity with his friends.  They were castrated and put in training to be the intellectuals of the day.  Daniel stayed in power through three kings and one dynastic change.

–          The book is not especially in chronological order, which is confusing.

–          Vignettes

o   Nebuchadnezzar’s dream: Daniel 2:31-49

o   The Fiery Furnace:  Daniel 3:8-30

o   The writing on the wall:  Daniel 5

o   Daniel and the lions’ den:  Daniel 6

 

Jonah

–          History and slight prophecy

–          Jonah and the whale:  Jonah 1

–          It’s short.  Basically God tells Jonah to go tell people who have been killing off his people that unless they repent, God is going to squish them.  Jonah doesn’t want to do that, so sets sail for somewhere very far away from Nineveh (where he was sent).  God causes a storm.  Jonah gets cast overboard to save the ship, ends up in the belly of a fish (type not specified).  Gets upchucked on the coast close to Nineveh, gets the point and tells them what he was told to.  Nineveh repents, Jonah pouts.  (Later Nineveh goes back to their old ways, and they get squished, see the book of Nahum).

 

Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

–          The minor prophets.

 

 

 

 

The New Testament

 

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

–          Gospels… basically they’re the history of Jesus’ earthly life.   They are written by different people for different audiences, so (as you would expect) tell the stories of Jesus’ life from different angles.  John is the most mystical, and focuses on His divinity.

–          Story of Jesus’ birth:  Matthew 1: 18-2:23

–          John the Baptist is NOT John the apostle.  John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin, and preached about repentance and the soon coming of the Messiah before Jesus got to town.  He baptized Jesus, on Jesus’ order.

–          Sermon on the Mount:  Matthew 5-7

–          The Lord’s Prayer:  Luke 11:1-4

–          The Good Father:  Luke 11:9-13  (This is very special to me)

–          Render unto Caesar:  Luke 20:19-26

–          A relatively concise telling of Jesus’ betrayal, trial, death & resurrection:  Luke 22:39-24:53

–          Parables:  Stories to illustrate a point

o   Parable of the Sower:  Matthew 13

o   Parable of the Vineyard:  Matthew 20:  1-16

o   Parable of two sons:  Matthew 21: 28-32

o   Parable of marriage feast:  Matthew 22: 1-14

o   Parable of the Talents:  Matthew 25:14-30

o   Parable of the Two Debtors:  Luke 7:40-50

o   Parable of the Prodigal Son:  Luke 15:11-32

o   Parable of the Good Shepherd:  John 10: 1-18

–          Read Matthew if you’re going to read a gospel for the history and miracles.

 

Acts 

–          A history of the early church.  (Written by Luke, Paul’s Greek doctor).

–          Key characters:

o   Peter, the apostle

o   Paul, the apostle (started out as Saul, a Pharisee – highly educated and scrupulously religious Jew)

 

Romans

–          Theology, fairly heavy theology.

–          Written by Paul to the Roman church prior to his incarceration there.

–          Central theological doctrines of the Christian faith herein – but this is not easy reading.

 

1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians

–          Epistles to various churches throughout Greece and Turkey

–          Mostly fairly short, as epistle = letter, and Paul wrote these.

–          Subject:  Christian living

 

1 & 2 Timothy, Titus

–          Written to Timothy and Titus.

–          Epistles

–          Discuss Christian living, with emphasis on qualifications of elders, pastors, deacons, etc.

 

 

 

 

Philemon

–          Epistle written by Paul on behalf of an escaped slave who came to Christ to the slave’s owner, who had converted to Christ and was personally known to Paul.   Short, short, short.

 

Hebrews

–          Epistle written to the Jews, discussing how the Jesus fulfills the OT Law (aka the Torah)

 

James

–          Epistle written by James, a brother of Jesus

–          Subject:  Christian living

–          Lots of admonitions about speech and the difference between truth and hypocrisy.

 

1 & 2 Peter

–           Epistles written by  Peter the apostle

–          Subject:  Christian living, with emphasis on the inevitability of suffering for the faith

 

1, 2 & 3 John

–          Epistles written by John the apostle

–          Extremely short.   Read 1 John for a nice summary of Christian faith.

 

Jude

–          Epistle, very short.

–           Written by James’ brother (so also a half-brother of Jesus)

–          Mysticism and apostasy

 

Revelation

–          Prophecy, the end times, apocalypse, armageddon

–          Written by John the apostle when he had been banished to a small island off of Greece (Patmos).  He was quite old when he wrote this book.

–          Properly, this is the “Revelation of Jesus Christ”, it shouldn’t be referred to as “revelations” although it often is.

–          Some of this is metaphor, some of this is literal.  Organization is given in the first chapter.  It skips about a bit.

–          You can find the symbols in Revelation throughout the rest of the Bible.  It is a heavily symbolic book, but the Bible is consistent in its symbolism, so you can look that up easily enough.

–          Message to the churches:  Revelation 2-3

–          Four riders of the apocalypse are the first four of the first seven seals:  Revelation 6

o   Rider on the White Horse – Conqueror

o   Rider on the Red Horse – War

o   Rider on the Black Horse – Famine

o   Rider on the Pale Horse – Death

–          Armageddon:  Revelation 16:13

–          Marriage of the Lamb (aka Christ and His Church):  Revelation 19:7-10

–          The end of the story…. Revelation 22