The Chair and the Desk, 3/31/16

From the chair:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship…

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them”

Romans 12:1,4-6

Today was one of those days when I woke up tired and one of my first thoughts was, Why try hard again today? Can’t I just coast through these first few hours and see how it goes from there? There’s probably a time for that kind of slow start, but, personally, that time was this past weekend, when my sister was in town and we celebrated Easter. Today is just a normal Thursday, and there is work to be done.

Yet, why do it? I found Romans 12 encouraging in this regard. First, because getting out of bed and going down to the exercise bike and getting ready and heading into class can all be worship to God, is all part of being a “living sacrifice” today. Second, our “living sacrifice” often looks like serving one another, because through Christ, we are “members one of another.” I belong to you and you to me, which means that when I step back and think about how good work today can indirectly serve the Church (and society), there’s purpose in my task list.


From the desk:

“Our first task is to understand, and to understand in such a way that we can highlight what is important and sound.” 

-Richard Bernstein, Praxis and Action, p.8

Bernstein is talking here about philosophers with whom he disagrees, and his commitment is a good one for the class I’m reading it for. I don’t agree with all the philosophers we read, but I can try to set out to understand first, being willing to highlight what’s important and what is sound.


“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, 3/30/16

From the chair:

“When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely.

“Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, “I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.” But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.'”

“But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he said, ‘Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed my voice,  I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died,  in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their fathers did, or not.'”

“It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before.”

-Judges 1:28; 2:1-3; 2:19-22; 3:2

So which is it, author-of-Judges? Did the nations remain because Israel failed to drive them out or because god left them as a thorn in their sides or because God left them to test them or because God wanted to keep the later generations war-ready. Apparently, all of the above.

The fact that these verses all come in the first few chapters of Judges doesn’t suggest to me that Judges is a hodgepodge of ancient texts. Rather, it implies that these statements could all be true at once about the same set of historical facts. Furthermore, the fact that these come together in Scripture tells me that all this is not too much for God to wrap his mind around. God is not flip-flopping here; he is operating on a level we cannot, comprehending and even using a complexity we can’t even understand.

That’s the thing about God. We often question his sovereignty or his goodness when things aren’t how we would choose, because we forget that God is not just higher than us, not just higher than the best of us, he’s higher than all of us combined, from the people who can compost classical music without sight to those who can put a person on the moon. This handful of reasons for this historical fact is just a glimpse into the unsearchable wisdom of God, just a reminder that he knows what he’s doing, and that he has countless purposes at work that we are yet to see.


From the desk:

“‘It means,’ said Aslan, ‘that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.'”

-C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, HarperCollins 1978 ed., p.178-179

I know this will make my PhD seem silly, but this is a selection I chose for class tomorrow. We start every season of “Speech Performance and Preaching” with some sort of reading–a poem, a prayer, a Biblical passage–and we haven’t done prose fiction yet. So, in light of Easter, we’ll be reading this.


“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, 3/29/16

From the chair:

I took a few days off from blogging while my sister was in town for Easter. It was a joy to take off a few days this year and spend a long weekend celebrating the resurrection by being with family. One particular reading from Sunday caught my attention:

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

-1 Corinthians 15:20-26

I’ve been thinking about this phrase, “first fruits of those who have fall asleep” a lot lately. It’s a great picture of what Jesus’ resurrection has to do with us. Sure, Jesus was the best of us, the first of us to be raised from the dead, and went fairly directly to God. Yet, we will be raised in the same way–victoriously, permanently, changed–in due season. We are different and alike in exactly the ways that allow us to follow him, not only in life, but also through death to life everlasting.


 

From the desk:

A quote from a book from last year but for Easter:

“though the historical arguments for Jesus’s bodily resurrection are truly strong, we must never suppose that they will do more than bring people to the questions faced by Thomas, Paul, and Peter, the questions of faith, hope, and love. We cannot use a supposedly objective historical epistemology as the ultimate ground for the truth of Easter. To do so would be like lighting a candle to see whether the sun had risen. What the candles of historical scholarship will do is to show that the room has been disturbed, that it doesn’t look like it did last night, and that would-be normal explanations for this won’t do. Maybe, we think after the historical arguments have done their work, maybe morning has come and the world has woken up. But to investigate whether this is so, we must take the risk and open the curtains to the rising sun. When we do so, we won’t rely on the candles anymore, not because we don’t believe in evidence and argument but because they will have been overtaken by the larger reality from which they borrow, to which they point, and in which they will find a new and larger home. All knowing is a gift from God, historical and scientific knowing no less than that of faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.”

-N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, kindle loc. 1264


 

“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, 3/23/16

From the chair:

“While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.” 

-Joshua 5:10-12

As soon as they arrive in the promised land, the manna–the miraculous traveling food that showed up every day–stops showing up. On the one hand, perhaps no one protested. They’d probably grown tired of manna every day for years. They were ready to eat “the crops of the land of Canaan.” On the other hand, some may have panicked: What if we can’t find enough food here? What if we need the manna?

This whole book suggests that God does want abundance for his people; he’s bringing them into “a land of milk and honey.” Yet, the promise of abundance does not eliminate the danger of excess. There’s such a thing as too much, too easy, that makes the good life not the good life. Because of our sinful nature, we often take excess as opportunity to be lazy, and laziness can lead to deep dissatisfaction with life.

We would be wise not to wait until we have both this and that. Manna and Canaan. When the salary comes, the free time disappears. When the big move comes, friends disappear. When the baby comes, hobbies disappear. They’re all good seasons. In every season, God provides. That includes this season, and in this season there’s something we might miss later, which we mustn’t miss now.


From the desk:

I spent today leading a preaching section and grading those preaching materials, so I have no quote to share. I have lots of great quotes from the sermons that I’d like to share, but I don’t have permission, so I’ll have to hold back.

That said, I want to reflect on the fact that this preaching section is exactly the kind of thing that I personally mustn’t miss in this season. In helping Dr. LaRue, I’m able to do a huge part of what I’m getting this degree to do: Teach preaching. Sure, I look forward to designing a class, but these are great preachers, and delightful conversations, and energizing workshops. This is an opportunity for which I thank 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, 3/22/16

From the chair:

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” 

-Romans 8:31-34

Honestly, I didn’t feel like getting up and going today. This is just what I needed to hear. There’s a time for “you should,” but there’s unique power in “God is.” God is for us. In that truth, we are offered great hope and confidence, assurance that we aren’t being set up to be knocked down today, starting behind just to end behind. God provides what we need, justifies his people, intercedes for us. The only way to truly fail this day would be to forget God, the God who, in his mercy, has by no means forgotten us.


From the desk nightstand:

I do still read for class. I’ve just been reading things like speech performance textbooks and Marx. I don’t have a ton to pass on in soundbite-size. So, here’s something I read (not for class) that spoke to me:

“’How can it be proved, how can one be convinced? Oh, miserable me! I look around and see that for everyone else, almost everyone, it’s all the same, no one worries about it anymore, and I’m the only one who can’t bear it. It’s devastating, devastating!’
     ‘No doubt it is devastating. One cannot prove anything here, but it is possible to be convinced.’
     ‘How? By what?’
     ‘By the experience of active love. Try to love your neighbors actively and tirelessly. The more you succeed in loving, the more you’ll be convinced of the existence of God and the immortality of your soul.’”
-Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Pavear and Volokhonsky (2002), p.56

“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, 3/21/16

From the chair:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

-Romans 8:18-25

Don’t give up. That’s the thought on my mind after reading these verses this morning. Don’t retreat just yet into cynicism. “What we shall be has not yet appeared.”

Scrolling through the news tempts me to just go back to bed. To try to not enter this week where the war in Syria is still on, the refugee crisis remains vitriolic, the bombings keep coming, the Zika virus looms, and slavery marches on. It looks bad.

But hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

God’s Word still calls us to have faith in the glory that will be revealed. If we lose this, we lose it all, and may as well retreat into make-believe, but if we have this–and we have this by the promise of the Almighty God–then we know that the real, the coming reality of the freedom of the glory of the children of God is not far off. We can hope for it, wait for it, pray for it, reach for it. For we have tasted what is to come, the first fruits of the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, through whom God can raise even these mortal bodies.


From the desk:

Today was largely taken up with class, so instead of a quote from my reading, I’ll pass on a conversation from class. Actually, this is only gist of the conversation, and I don’t set it up as me/classmate/me in order to suggest that I’m always right, but rather to show how this classmate pushed me to think further than I had.

We were talking about changing culture. I said something to the effect of, “Sure we need godly congresspersons, impacting lots and lots of people in little ways, but we also need 1,000,000 pastors influencing a few people in major ways.”

My colleague replied something along the lines of, “But how are you going to get 1,000,000 pastors to agree? How are you going to get them to do it together or even do the same thing?”

I had to think about this for a while, but now that class is over, here’s my answer: I can’t. I can’t get 1,000,000 pastors to agree. This is the beauty and mystery and challenge and reality of the Church of Jesus Christ: I can’t be 1,000,000 pastors. I can’t even lead 1,000,000 pastors. I can’t even contact 1,000,000 pastors. I can only be 1 pastor, but if that’s what I’m called to, I’d better be that 1 pastor in a nature that befits the one who called me.

The same thing rings true for mothers and fathers, managers and officers. None of us can fill all the roles or impact all of those who do. That’s how life works. That’s part of being human. Great things take a lifetime, and we each only get 1. Yet, we must not let our limits keep us from our responsibilities. The one who holds us responsible is also the one who holds all things together.


“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, 3/18/16

From the chair:

“But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

-Romans 6:21

I find myself wary of tossing around the phrase, “you are slaves to God,” because I’m afraid that will make a bad impression on people. However, this section from Romans explains why this is good news. Perhaps we’re afraid of the idea because the only instance we’ve seen with our eyes is slavery to sin. We’ve all experienced this slave to sin, and we know what we had to “live” on in that arrangement: death.

Being God’s slaves–that is, working in the household of God, by God’s provision, for God’s glory–is different. It leads to sanctification, and the natural end of sanctification (more than that, the promised end) is eternal life. The good life is not simple autonomy in the wide, wide world. The good life is becoming part of the community we’re meant for, the one in which God is Lord.


From the nightstand:

“A smith and a file,” he cried, “to do away the collar from the neck of a freeman!—Noble master! doubled is my strength by your gift, and doubly will I fight for you!—There is a free spirit in my breast—I am a man changed to myself and all around.”

-Wamba in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe


“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, 3/17/16

From the chair:

“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” 

-Romans 6:8-11

Jesus’ is “the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18), not just the first to be permanently raised back to life, not just the one who secures our resurrection back to life, but also the one who provides a resurrection to real life, actual life, true life. Yes, our funerals will not be the last word on our lives–we will be raised from the dead. Yet, we need not wait until that day, because even today Jesus allows us to leave behind our life for sin and walk in the newness of life for God. That way lies joy, and all we’ve been created to be–thank God!


From the desk:

“Zeal for doing, lust for action, leaves many a person, especially in this hurried and impatient human environment in which we live, with experience of an almost incredible paucity, all on the surface. No one experience has a chance to complete itself because something else is entered upon so speedily. What is called experience becomes so dispersed and miscellaneous as hardly to deserve the name. Resistance is treated as an obstruction to be beaten down, not as an invitation to reflection. An individual comes to seek, unconsciously even more than by deliberate choice, situations in which he can do the most things in the shortest time.” 

-John Dewey, Art as Experience (Perigree: 2005 ed.), p.46

This semester I’ve had to read a lot of philosophy, and one thing I’ve grown to appreciate about philosophers is that they want to help us “really live,” in one way or another. I like Dewey’s way in this quote, reminding us that if we simply rush from doing one thing to doing another thing, we will experience nothing.


“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, 3/15/16

From the chair:

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have no received reconciliation.” 

-Romans 5:10-11

This is an oft-quoted verse, and yet not recalled enough (at least, not by my mind). Our youth pastor, Bobby, read this verse in the high school group on Sunday, and it came up in my morning Bible reading today, and it wouldn’t be a bad way to start every day: Jesus has reconnected us with God. More than that, he didn’t just reconnect us with God and step aside, he lives as our Lord–he is the Living God–who helps us today by his Spirit and is working all things toward his unimaginable tomorrow.

This God is with us, and we are with him. We know if by our spirits now, we can see it with our eyes then. Our Rescuer lives and is close at hand.


From the desk:

“Why are they allowed to do things that we’re not allowed to do?”

-Molly Ball, “The Resentment Powering Trump”

This article was fascinated me more than anything else I read today. In fact, I had “write Hegel seminar paper” on my agenda for the afternoon, so, Guess what seminar! We’re talking about what Hegel has to do with this article!

The basic argument of the article is that most Trump supporters feel that there is a big “they” out there, the current focus of America, who are allowed to do things that “we” are not. I’m curious if Trump supporters would say this accurately represents them; I’m curious what Trump opponents would say about this view. I’m also trumpeting my own conclusions before looking into any of that, so here’s an excerpt from the paper:

Our one common sentiment seems to be that “this isn’t us.” As Molly Ball wrote recently wrote for The Atlantic, many Trump supporters feel overlooked in the contemporary Zeitgeist; meanwhile, most Trump opponents seem embarrassed to live in a country where he wins a nomination. Yet, “this”—the political situation—by definition, is us. This country is only a dialectic reality of and by us.

If we are unhappy with what this election tells us about who we have become, we cannot merely look to the pollsters to sneak our candidate into office, the legislators to slip our issue into a bill, or a supreme court appointee to sway judgments our way. Rather, if Hegel rightly understands the relationship between governance and religion, we must commit ourselves to the grassroots, incremental, always-in-process project of theology, of shaping the religious character of ourselves, our neighbors, and our society.


“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, 3/14/16

From the chair:

“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.”

-Romans 4:13-15

Sometimes my mind suggest things that, in hindsight, are simply laughable. I read the last phrase here, “where there is no law there is no transgression,” and for a moment thought, are people better off not hearing about this God? That doesn’t seem right. As I considered this for a bit, I realized that I was falling into the trap of thinking innocence and guilt are all that the law, the gospel, and life come down to. They’re not.

Sharks live a life of no law and no transgression. No one ever told them not to kill, and they have no guilt to be forgiven for, and they go on living their killing lives. They’re not cut off from God by their sin; neither are they living in the fulness of joy. They just swim fast, eat fish, make more sharks, and eventually die.

The law is more than not sin, the gospel is more than not guilt, and life is more than not condemnation. They are all gifts from God to help us know and enjoy God. The law not only teaches us a better ethic, it envisions a better society. The gospel not only offers forgiveness for failing to live up to the law, it also announces the Spirit who can help us walk in it. Life is not just for getting by, it is for getting right with God, who fulfills and surpasses all we’ve ever looked for in parents, leaders, rulers, and friends.


From the desk:

Articulate speech is thus the highest mode in which man eliminates from himself his internal sensations. It is, therefore, with good reason that on the occasion of someone’s death funeral hymns are sung and condolences conveyed; and even though occasionally these may seem or be burdensome, yet they have the advantage, that by the repeated talk about the loss that has occurred they lift the grief over it out of its cramped lodging in the heart into representation and so make it into an object, into something confronting the grief-stricken subject.”

-Hegel, The Philosophy of Mind (Oxford: Clarendon, 2007), p.83

It appears Hegel actually knew a thing or two about grief. When we speak or sing or write our feelings–in our words or even in others’ words–it helps us make the feelings “into an object,” something no longer controlling us, inescapably, from within, but rather something we can name and consider and talk about. We still feel them–pain or frustration or whatever it may be–but we gain some control over those feelings to counter the absolute control they could have over 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.