The Chair and the Desk, 2/29/16

From the chair:

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, 
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”

-Psalm 90:14

In Robert Frost’s words, we often pass life decisions where,

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

However, it doesn’t all come down to choosing the right path. There’s also a right way to walk the right path, and perhaps even a right way to walk the wrong path. In the psalmist’s words, it’s not an outcome or an achievement. It’s not an experience and opportunity. It’s a disposition, a prayer, in which what we all could have, on any path, becomes our satisfaction:

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.


From the desk:

This week, I’m presenting on an oral interpretation textbook, Roles in Interpretation by Judy E. Yordon. In the introduction, she suggests three ways that oral interpretation benefits the student, and they’re three reasons I think everyone should considering joining a class at a community college or local society where you practice reciting or reading pieces of literature:

1. They “enable you to study the world’s best literature”
2. They “expand your knowledge of yourself and your world”
3. They sharpen your speaking skills

-Judy E. Yordon, Roles in Interpretation  (5th ed.), p.9


“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, 2/25/16

Today, “the desk” drove me back to “the chair.” I put these in quotes because lately “the chair” has been the kitchen table and “the desk” has been the chair. A lot to process, I know.

In one of my classes, we’re reading Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason, in which he tries to describe how morality works. He seems to believe that “the moral law” is self-evident (much like C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity). He also believes that we couldn’t be expected to obey something we cannot obey, so he believes that we’re free to act as we choose. He also believes that we are reasonable, so he believes that when we are free to act as we choose and know the moral law, we will behave morally. Finally, he believes that because we can obey this self-evident law, we eventually will: We will eventually be holy, but because that doesn’t seem to get accomplished in this life, we must be immortal. In Kant’s defense (for Christian readers), he does attribute this all to God, and in all this wants to help his readers obey God better.

Like Kant, I do believe in the moral law, freedom, moral behavior, and holiness. However, I don’t believe in these things for the same reasons, nor do I believe they unfold in the same order. I’m going with the Apostle Paul on this one instead:

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

-Romans 8:2-4

I believe that our freedom isn’t owed to us–we actually give it up when we choose sin–but the Spirit of life can free us in Christ Jesus. I believe that we actually are offered holiness before we start to live well, because God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemning sin in the flesh. I believe that in this new holiness, we will be able to do good, to live morally, because we can walk by Spirit. I think Kant and I may want very similar things, but I don’t trust in human reason to get us there. Rather, I’m putting my trust in what we call “apocalyptic events,”* God breaking in from the outside, and making us what we forfeited, what Jesus Christ has won.

No post tomorrow–mom’s coming for the weekend!

*Thank you, Jim Neumann, for reminding me that we call this this while enjoying some teriyaki chicken yesterday


“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, 2/24/16

From the chair:

“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 

-1 Timothy 4:5

To become a child of God is to discover great worth and dignity. In the Church, of all places, we should remember that pastors are not above others in either of these regards. However, there is something particular about pastoral ministry. I think it springs from this particular responsibility, which, which faithfulness, can lead to a particular joy. We’ll be reading this whole paragraph to start off our preaching section this morning, and if there’s anything I hope to foster in our 3 hours together, it’s a longing to fulfill this ministry, this gift from God.


From the desk:

“Consistency is the greatest obligation of a philosopher and yet the most rarely found. The ancient Greek schools give us more examples of it than we find in our syncretistic age, in which a certain coalition system of contradictory principles, replete with dishonesty and shallowness, is contrived, because it commends itself better to a public that is satisfied with knowing something of everything and nothing as a whole, so that it can turn its hand to anything.”

-Immanuel Kant, “Critique of Practical Reason” in Practical Philosophy (Cambridge U: 1996), p.158

Our society and educational system too often rewards us for pasting together bits of things we like and name-dropping books we’ve skimmed. Deconstruction is useful, but it is not the end. As teachers, I believe we must aim people toward a whole understanding and whole faith. As students, even if we’re not pushed in this direction, we must seek and grasp for it ourselves.


“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, 2/23/16

From the chair:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

-John 14:15-17

That which God gives us through the Spirit we desperately need and cannot find anywhere else. We really could not hope for and need not look for anything more “useful” (to put it crassly), helpful, fitting, joyous than this: “You know the Spirit, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” It does seem like we could use more love, more joy, more peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. It’s coming, and we know where it’s coming from: The Spirit, who bears this fruit in our lives.


From the desk:

My favorite thing from the desk today is a new toy tool: Google Ngram Viewer. You can choose any words you like, and it will make a chart of how often they were used in the millions of books that Google has digitized. Whether you’re trying to come up with a dissertation topic or not, I recommend checking it out! (Warning: It sucks you in)

https://books.google.com/ngrams/interactive_chart?content=Holy+Spirit%2CHoly+Ghost&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2CHoly%20Spirit%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2CHoly%20Ghost%3B%2Cc0

 


“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, 2/22/16

From the chair:

“Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”

-Philippians 2:17

This is one of my favorite verses, because it reminds me that if ministry sometimes feels like getting “poured out,” it doesn’t mean something’s gone wrong, and it also reminds me that the real meat of the matter is not pastors but the Church. Of course, pastors are a part of the Church. In fact, that’s exactly what we are: Not a stand-in for Christ, but part of the body of Christ that he formed and fills with his Spirit.


From the desk:

“Those who live in this psychological world think differently from those who inhabit a moral world. In a psychological world, we want therapy; in a moral world, a world of right and wrong and good and evil, we want redemption. In a psychological world, we want to be happy. In a moral world, we want to be holy. In the one, we want to feel good, but in the other we want to be good.”

-David Well, God in the Whirlwind, p.126


“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, 2/19/16

From the chair:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

-Galatians 5:22-24

I think I may have posted this verse and made this point here before, but that’s probably more good than bad. This (the above) is it. This is what we’re looking for; this is what it’s about; this is what we’re missing; this is what it means to truly live. I don’t know why I missed it when I heard it the first time at 4 or 5. I don’t know why I kept looking for other answers, other definitions of “the good life”; for that matter, I don’t know why I still do. This is it: The life God intends for us, and it’s also the life God grows in us. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Thanks be to God.


From the desk:

“I think it’s about finding the need. It’s about finding the need to say it.” 

-Benedict Cumberbatch, interview with Melvyn Bragg about his recent role in Hamlet

Preaching isn’t exactly acting–it’s not pretending–but perhaps that’s exactly the point. When asked how he wrestled with the “to be or not to be” monologue, Cumberbatch says, “it’s about finding the need.” If we’re not acting, then we, even more, as preachers, need to find the need to say what we’re saying this Sunday. The words aren’t enough; the people can tell the difference if we don’t mean it. Our great advantage is, it’s true–it’s true of us; they’re our words, in our voice, so we can mean it. We can mean it, and the people can at least be convinced of 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, 2/18/16

From the chair and the desk:

For the last couple weeks, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between this:

“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

-1 Corinthians 9:27

…and this…

“That men have such terrible faults in expression is due to the lack of this preparatory training. The various languages have not been specifically developed, and all parts brought into proper co-ordination and unity.”

-S.S. Curry, The Province of Expression, p.175

Now, these aren’t exactly the same thing. It’s not that I am training my body to speak in order that I not be disqualified as a participant in God’s work. Yet, there’s something to this idea of a vision of excellence, a passion for ministry, and bringing even the body into ministering well. Thoughts I’ll have to keep thinking over.


“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, 2/17/16

From the chair:

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine…he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing…imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But Godliness with contentment is great gain.” 

-1 Timothy 6:3-6

I’ve typically read this last verse with those that follow, teachings about worldly possessions and instructions to the rich. It does launch us into that subject, but it also sums up what has come before. There are those who “peddle” Christianity (a phrase Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 3), so-called “godliness,” thinking that it is a means to gain, but godliness with contentment is great gain. It is not beyond our reach today, in this moment, but we need to stop and address why we’ve allowed ourselves–God’s children!–to become discontent.


From the desk:

“Bad criticism is characterized either by fault-finding or by flattery. The aim of criticism is not to praise, not to compliment, not to condemn, but to inspire…Great criticism ever makes a [person] see better [her] own ideal, causes [her] simultaneously to realize [her] own possibilities, as well as imperfections. There is no comparison with others, but an awakening of a comparison in the students own breast between what he is and what he can become.”

-S.S Curry, The Province of Expression, p.276

I love to see this come together in Intro to Preaching sections. It’s a joy to hear people caring for one another with good criticism: Not flattery, not discouragement, but inspiration.


 

“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, 2/16/16

From the chair:

“Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple…When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out ‘Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place.’ For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple…And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion…Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains…

“As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, ‘May I saw something to you?’ And he said, ‘Do you know Greek? Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?’ Paul replied, ‘I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.’ And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:”

-Acts 21

I’m amazed that Paul lets this go on. Maybe he tried to fight it here and there, but the way Luke tells the story, he was largely just carried along by all sorts of folks who wished him all sorts of harm. Yet, by the end of the chapter, there he is, secure in the barracks, with practically the whole city, standing in silence, waiting to hear what he has to say. There may be times when we must seek out a voice, but there will be other times when we are simply handed a microphone, and must be ready with the character and truth and Spirit to speak as one in Christ.


From the desk:

“Whenever the Scriptures are read without first being enjoined upon the speaker himself, whenever they are read as an intellectual lesson, merely as something for men to know, or as so many words, the performance becomes tame and glad. It inspires no realization of worship. No conception is awakened that it comes from God.”

-S.S. Curry, The Province of Expression, p.140


 

“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, 2/15/16

From the chair:

“When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload its cargo. and having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days…

“When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for one day.

“On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied…

“Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, ‘Let the will of the Lord be done.'”

-Acts 21:3-4, 7-9, 13-14

Paul’s on his way to Jerusalem, where dark things await him. Yet, in just 14 verses of journeying, he stops with at least three groups of friends, comrades. This week I FaceTimed my family, called my old co-worker, Kyle, in Slovenia, made some plans for a trip to Austin to see my old classmate, Jimmy, started working on a sermon for our old New England congregation, NSCBC. This is how it is, following Jesus, isn’t it? This is what it looks like to “receive a hundredfold–houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands–in this life” (Mark 10).

Sometimes, it breaks our heart. In all of it we say, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” This is how it is, following Jesus, isn’t it? We are promised not just this “hundredfold,” but “in the age to come: Eternal life.”


From the desk:

“The seeds we sow are largely thoughts and deeds. Every time we allow our mind to harbor a grudge, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure fantasy, or wallow in self-pity, we are sowing to the flesh. Every time we linger in bad company whose insidious influence we know we cannot resist, every time we lie in bed when we ought to be up and praying, every time we read pornographic literature, every time we take a risk which strains our self-control, we are sowing, sowing, sowing to the flesh. Some Christians sow to the flesh every day and wonder why they do not reap holiness.”

-John Stott, The Message of Galatians, p.170

Now, there’s an opposite, positive side of this truth: Stott is commenting on Galatians 6:8, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” I found these to be very helpful illustrations of what “sowing to the flesh” might look like–but, thanks be to God, those in Christ have Christ’s Spirit, who can help us do the opposite and reap eternal life!


“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.