The Chair and the Desk, 1/15/16

From the chair:

“Passing by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon, casting a net into the sea, for they were fisherman. And Jesus said, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately, they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were standing in their boat and mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.”

-Mark 1:16-20

 

I love the breakneck pace of the first chapter of Mark, not least of which the speed with which Jesus calls his mentees once his ministry has begun. It’s a strange promise: “I will make you become fishers of men.” It has a ring of evangelism to it, but also an echo of judgment from Jeremiah 16:16 (I’m indebted to my teacher, Stephen Witmer, for this observation). They leave what they know for something very uncertain, but in Jesus they see something worthwhile. They leave it all right there, and follow Jesus Christ.


From the desk:

“The demand for ‘originality’—with the implication that the reminiscence of other writers is a sin against originality and a defect in the work—is a recent one and would have seemed quite ludicrous to poets of the Augustan Age, or of Shakespeare’s time. the traditional view is that each new work should be a fresh focus of power through which former streams of beauty, emotion, and reflection are directed. This view is adopted, and perhaps carried to excess, by writers like T.S. Eliot, some of whose poems are a close web of quotations and adaptations, chosen for their associative vale; or like James Joyce, who makes great use of the associative value of sounds and syllables. The criterion is, not whether the associates are called up, but whether the spirits invoked by this kind of verbal incantation are charged with personal power by the magician who speeds them about their new business.”

-Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (1987 ed.), p.119

I believe this is an appropriate quote for this blog.

 

The Chair and the Desk, 1/14/16

From the chair:

“But you, beloved…keep yourselves in the love of God.”

-Jude 20-21

Pastor Matt encouraged a group of of with this verse yesterday, exhorting us to keep ourselves in the love of God everyday, to take time every day to recognize and give thanks for and live in light of God’s love. God’s love is both comforting and convicting, holy and healing. I hope to do a better and better job of this each day.


From the desk:

“…we must come back to our first principles. And the most basic of these is the fact that God is there and that he is objective to us. He is not there to conform to us; we must conform to him. He summons us from outside ourselves to know him. We do not go inside ourselves to find him. We are summoned to know him only on his terms. He is not known on our terms. This summons is heard in and through his Word. It is not heard through our intuitions.” 

-David Wells, God in the Whirlwind, p.32


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

 

The Chair and the Desk, 1/13/16

From the chair:

“Now when John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'”

-Mark 1:14-15

This the day, when I was trying to remember this verse, I first said, “Repent and be baptized.” Now, that’s a good thing to do. In fact, that’s a biblical thing to do–it comes from Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. We should repent and we should be baptized. However, we are also called to believe in the gospel. That’s a more challenging word for me today, because I can say “I’ve already been baptized,” but I can’t simply say, “I’ve already believed.”

I believe and I don’t believe. I believe, but not as much as I want to believe. Not as vividly or as regularly. What are we to believe in? The gospel of God. Dr. Witmer helped us understand what Mark means by this in our exegesis class: On the one hand, the gospel of God is the whole narrative of Jesus Christ. That’s why the book starts out: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” On the other, it’s also this succinct declaration on Jesus’ lips, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” I believe…help my unbelief.


From the desk:

“In other ages, unlike our own time, the love of God has been anything but self-evident. The harshness of life, its brevity, its seemingly random catastrophes, its hollowness, its moments of malignancy, and its violence have all seemed to point in another direction. Perhaps to a God of indifference or, worse yet, a God who is hostile to human life. Perhaps he is so remote as to be untouched by it. In the first century, it was the cross that dispelled thoughts like these. It was to the cross that the early church fathers returned again and again as they confront their pagan world. How could anyone think that God is hostile to human life, or indifferent to it, or removed from it, if he gave his own Son?”

-David Wells, God in the Whirlwind, p.78

As Wells says, the love of God would not be self-evident, but it is evident in Christ. How do we know that God loves us and what his love is like? By looking to Christ, who laid down his life for us.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

 

The Chair and the Desk, 1/12/16

From the chair:

“Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joesph. And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’…Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstone, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall. live.’ But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.” 

-Exodus 1:8-9, 15-17

This verse has stuck with me more than any other today. “But the midwives feared God.” I heard it in a sermon while cooking lunch, and it’s been echoing in my head: “the midwives feared God.” What would I do if I feared God? What would I not do if I feared God? Do I fear God?


From the desk:

“The early Church was ascetic, but she proved that she was not pessimistic, simply by condemning the pessimists. The creed declared that man was sinful, but it did not declare that life was evil, and it proved it by damning those who did. The condemnation of the early heretics is itself condemned as something crabbed and narrow; but it was in truth the very proof that the Church meant to be brotherly and broad.”

-G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, p.224


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

 

The Chair and the Desk, 1/11/16

From the chair:

“Man puts his hand to the flinty rock
and overturns the mountains by the roots.
He cuts out channels in the rocks, 
and his eye sees every precious thing.
He dams up the streams so that they do not trickle, 
and the things that is hidden he brings out to light.
But where shall wisdom be found? 
And where is the place of understanding?
Man does not know its worth,
and it is not found in the land of the living.
The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’
and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
It cannot be bought for gold,
and silver cannot be weighed as its price.”

-Job 28:9-15

We’re starting a new chronological Bible reading plan for 2016, and after taking us through  the first chapters of Genesis, it sent us into Job. As I’ve started the morning with Job complaining and his friends condemning, I’ve wondered, Why do we read Job? This afternoon, I ran across one answer that may permanently contribute to my understanding of the book:

From the desk:

“Indeed the Book of Job avowedly only answers mystery with mystery. Job is comforted with riddles; but he is comforted. Herein is indeed a type, in the sense of a prophecy, of things speaking with authority. For when he who doubts can only say ‘I do not understand,’ it is true that he who knows can only reply or repeat ‘You do not understand.’ And under that rebuke there is always a sudden hope in the heart; and the sense of something that would be worth understanding.”

-G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, originally published 1925, Ignatius ed., p.98


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

 

The Chair and the Desk, 1/8/16

From the desk: “One slogan stands out from the revolutionary dreams of this period. The Fourth Philosophy, Josephus tells us, were ‘zealous’ in their attempts to get rid of Rome because they believed that there should be ‘no king (hegemony despotes) but God’. Nor was this view condoned to a fringe group. Those who rebelled against the census did so on these grounds; the teachers who urged the young men to pull down the eagle held the same view; the revolutionaries of 66-70 were fired by the same thought. ‘The kingdom of god,’ historical and theologically considered, is a slogan whose basic meaning is the hope that Israel’s god is going to rule Israel (and the whole world), and that Caesar, or Herod, or anyone else of their ilk, is not. It means that Torah will be fulfilled at last, that the Temple will be rebuilt and the Land cleansed. It does not necessarily mean a holy anarchy (though there may have been some who wanted that). Rather, it means that Israel’s god will rule her in the way he intends, through properly appointed persons and means. This will certainly mean (from the point of view of the Pharisees, Essenes, and anyone loosely described as Zealots) a change in the high priesthood.” (N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, p.302)

From the chair: “They cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.” (John 19:15-16)

When did these chief priests cross this line–“We have no king but Caesar”? Were they raised this way? Had they schemed in advance? Did they surprise themselves in the heat of the moment? In any case, the loyalty they owed to God they gave to Caesar. Their identity, their hope, their purpose should have all been based in God’s reign, instead they banked on Caesar’s reign, and that commitment drove them to call for Jesus’ execution.

Ethical debates are dominating social media. Presidential campaigns are dominating the news. Who should we commit to? Let us render to Caesar–and parties and thinkers and candidates and authors and pundits–only the things that are Caesar’s. Let us render to God the things that are God’s: Our ultimate loyalty, the right to determine what’s right, our hope, and who we are.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

The Chair and the Desk, 1/7/16

From the chair:

“But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.”

-Isaiah 43:1-2

This verse had never stood out to me until my professor, Jim Singleton, encouraged us to memorize us last spring. When I read it at the end of the class, the Princetonians informed me that it’s one of President Barnes’ most oft-quoted passages. I can see why. These are the promises we need: God is with us in the waters, and they will not drown us. The fire will not burn us or burn us up, because the LORD is our God.


From the desk:

“The four structural elements in the movement of embrace are opening the arms, waiting, closing the arms, and opening them again. For embrace to happen, all four must be there and they must follow one another on an unbroken timeline; stopping with the first two (opening the arms and waiting) would abort the embrace, and stopping with the third (closing the arms) would pervert it from an act of love to an act of oppression and, paradoxically, exclusion. The four elements are then the four essential steps of an integrated movement.”

-Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, p.141

Volf is talking about more than physical hugs here; he’s describing reconciliation. What does reconciliation require? An invitation of self-opening, a pause for the other person to choose a course of action, a pulling in and joining, a letting go and respecting. Without any of these things, our attempts at reconciliation actually become something else. With all these things, we must be witnessing the work of God.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

 

The Chair and the Desk, 1/6/16

From the chair:

“I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them as you loved me.”

-Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer,” John 17:23

What a remarkable thing, to be loved by God as God the Father loves God the Son. So often we afraid that we won’t be loved because of what we’ve done wrong, because of who we’ve failed to be. Jesus prays for us to be full of Christ and one with one another so that the world will see what he already knows to be true: We are loved just like Jesus Christ, who did nothing wrong and succeeded in every way. Blessed assurance; Jesus is mine!


From the desk:

“Scholars of an old conservative stamp used to try to explain varieties in the synoptic tradition by saying cautiously that ‘maybe Jesus said it twice.’ This always sounded like special pleading. Today, once a political has made a major speech, he or she does not usually repeat it. But the analogy is thoroughly misleading. If we come to the ministry of Jesus as first-century histories, and forget our twentieth-century assumptions about mass media, the overwhelming probability is that most of what Jesus said, he said not twice but two hundred times, with (of course) a myriad of local variations.” 

-N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, pp.422-423 (Wright gives credit to Theissen’s The Shadow of the Galilean for this point)

This totally makes sense to me. Why does Matthew 5 seem different than Luke 6? Maybe because they were different occasions. Maybe that’s a totally reasonable answer. Actually, I agree with Wright here: That is a reasonable–in fact, probable–answer, and it helps me to trust both Jesus and the Bible. I’m grateful for that.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

 

The Chair and the Desk, 1/5/16

From the chair:

“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” 

-John 16:21-22

Yes, much seems to be going wrong in our world. It often leads us to ask, What’s going to happen? God is going to be faithful; that is what will happen. We will see Jesus. The past and the present are not all there is. We have a great future, a future with God.


From the desk:

“Why then did early Christianity spread? Because early Christians believed that what they had found to be true was true for the whole world. The impetus to mission sprang from the very heart of early Christian conviction. If we know anything about early Christian praxis, at a non- or sub-literary level, it is that the early Christians engaged in mission, both to Jews and to Gentiles.” 

-N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, p.360

I’ve felt bad about asking for this book since…well, since I received it, because I’ve never finished it. I do want to read it, but it’s so long. It also got a bit technical in the middle. I now know more than I knew I needed to know about “1st c. Judaism within the Greco-Roman world.” Nonetheless, one of the things I want to do before classes start up is make an honest effort at all the half-finished books on my windowsill. This is at the top of the stack, and I’m really grateful for it now that I’ve dedicated some time to it.

Wright is one of the most thorough scholars I know. I don’t always understand him, but I increasingly trust him. When he says something like “If we know anything…” he really means (and has really made a case) that this is truly important. After three-hundred-some pages of ancient backgrounds, he concludes that one of the clearest distinguishing marks of Christianity is that Christians share their faith. Christians share their faith because they believe it applies to everyone; we believe it is good news for everyone. The sharing impulse is at the very core of who we are. If I’ve lost sight of it, perhaps I’ve lost sight of who I am.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.