Archive for August 23rd, 2007
It doesn’t come to you on a silver platter, you have got to want it above everything else. That means you have got to pursue it above everything else while you are doing everything else. The first step to desiring it supremely is recognizing you don’t. Everything else will fight you with every distraction, attraction, endurance, conflict, time, and with all that is in the world.
You can memorize the entire Bible and not reach it.
You can know all the Greek and Hebrew and not have it.
You can write your own exhaustive systematic theology and be far from it.
You can preach on every verse in the Bible and not arrive at it.
You can witness and not progress toward it.
You can be doctrinally pure and be far from it.
You can teach a Sunday School class and not have it.
You can post blogs and not arrive at it.
Nothing is born of God without travail, and this will take a lifetime. It will cost you inordinate amounts of time. It will require deep focus. It will require some early mornings and some late nights. It will require limiting some social interaction and discipline of the tongue. Total forgiveness is a huge prerequisite and the foundation must be built with humility. You will suffer misunderstanding and you will sometimes be considered aloof. It necessitates pursuit when you are Spiritually exhausted. It is tangible and yet ethereal. It will satisfy and yet produce desire for more. There will be times you will not be able or capable to effectively communicate your experiences with anyone. Some experiences won’t translate into words. Sometimes God won’t let you share it. A personal desire for holiness will be part of the process. The search for truth is a door. Inconvenience must be accepted and flexibility practiced. You must surrender any comparison to anyone else and you must reject legalism and performance. You will be required to capture and direct your mind through conscious and sometimes frustrating discipline.

…to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple…He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High…Seek the Lord…they that wait upon the Lord…that diligently seek Him…Looking unto Jesus…

THAT I MAY KNOW HIM

To know Jesus, that is the disciple’s journey. Not just know about Him but with an insatiable thirst pursue Him as if you will die if you don’t go deeper and deeper in intimate fellowship with Him. As Lord and as Friend. As Master and as Helper. As fearful and as comforting. We will have to take quantum leaps in quantity and quality in our prayer lives. We will have to both devour the Word and chew it over and over, and we will have to be able to during those times not read it looking for truths to buttress any doctrinal argument but as our living Spiritual food. Oh it will take more than the pro-life position. Much more than a ban on same sex marriage. Light years more than electing conservative politicians. It will take a slow and self-crucifying journey that will be accompanied by hills and valleys, victories and setbacks, and a frequent desire to feel content with where you are and stop pressing toward Him. Don’t look for a group to go through it with you, real pursuers are rare, and comfortable nay sayers are legion. The devil will remind you that you will see Jesus when you get to heaven so why go through all this trouble now. Discouragement will sit on one shoulder and self righteousness on the other.

So, as someone once said, count the cost. But if you agree to start a painful but unspeakably rewarding journey that seeks the heart and face of the Lord Jesus Himself, you will find Him. Not fully, for He is infinite, and not just as an efficacious object for salvation, no, you will find life. The abundant life cannot be found on this earth, it is only found in Him, and the deeper you go the more abundant the life. You want contentment and peace? You want joy and satisfaction? You want patience and hope? You want faith and love? You want an array of Spiritual emotions that transcend earthly definition and bring your inner man into a depth in Him that cannot be plumbed? Seek Him with all your heart, mind, and soul.

But if you want material, fame, corporate advancement, treasures, and worldly position…you’ll have to look elsewhere. But be encouraged, that road is glamorous and wide, and it is easily and well traveled even within the church.

But if you still desire Him…you’re going to need a cross.

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What ODM's think of when they hear the word 'emergent'What should be the Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy in regards to tattoos?  This is a subject that I knew was going to come up at some point, but hadn’t decided whether to write about before it did, or to just cut it off at the pass and address it proactively.  Well, while I was contemplating this, it seems that it came up in the conversation over at C?N, via this article.

So, what does the Bible say about tattoos?  We have one verse to go on:

‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.’ Leviticus 19:28

OK, you might say to yourself, that seems pretty clear.  Now, just to follow good hermeneutics, though, perhaps we should examine the scriptures in all of Leviticus 19, just to see the context of this particular passage.

For instance, here is the passage right before this verse:

‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.’ Leviticus 19:27

Johnnie Mac, ODM IdolHmmmm.  OK.  Does that mean that trips to the barber should be equated with a trip to the tattoo parlor?  Should we view the person above as being in violation of a similar command as this man, who has obviously cut the hair at the sides of his head and shaved his beard clean off?

Or, how many of you reading this right now are in violation of the command in v. 19 of Leviticus 19 (have someone else look at the tag for you, to avoid being semi-naked, which would also be a problem)?

‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.’

If we read the verse right after v. 28, we get this command:

‘Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness. Leviticus 19:29

Good, sage advice.  How many of us, though, go about doing this, or does it even cross our mind?

Now, before I am accused of not taking the Bible seriously, perhaps I should suggest that there is something else going on in Leviticus 19 – something that is still relevant to us, but not something in which we play a game of literalist pick and choose.

Within Context of Leviticus

When you read Leviticus, one important thing to do is to tie each command back to the ‘preamble’ or ’summary’ of the Law, which we often call the Ten Commandments.  In Hebraic thought and teaching, all of the Laws of God tie back to these commands.  Additionally, Jesus (and just prior to Jesus’ ministry, Hillel) indicated that all of the Torah could be summed up in the shema (Love the Lord your God) and “love your neighbor”.

So, when interpreting Torah, it is important that we tie it back to the precepts from which it came.  In the instance of Lev 19:27-29, these tie back to “You shall have no other gods before me”, with a direct reference in Lev. 19:28 to Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD.”  In the case of cutting hair, ritual cutting/tattoos and prostitution of children, all three of these were part of the Baal worship in Caanan and the surrounding area.  We have Biblical, as well as archaeological evidence for cutting (Elijah and the prophets of Baal) and temple prostitution (Tamar and others).  Additionally, creating a cutting or graven image (both encompassed in the same Hebrew word) was something done to create an object which could be worshipped as a god.

So the admonition against cutting hair, cutting for the dead/tattoos, and child prostitution would speak to us today in urging us to avoid those things which would lead us in to worshipping other gods, or – at the very least – would serve in the purpose of worshipping other gods, even if we were not. 

Additionally, the references to dress, hair and body appearances in Leviticus 19 would also relate to ritual purity.  The ritual purity required of Jews to serve in the Tabernacle (at the time Leviticus was written) or the Temple (in later times), required the person be free of blemish (”leprosy” included many skin diseases, not just Hansen’s disease) and whole (no missing fingers, limbs, etc.).  This was why many scholars believe that Peter cut the ear of the Temple worker – it would disqualify him from working in the Temple.  So, if you wanted to participate in Temple worship, you had to be free of blemishes, which cutting and tattooing would negate.

With Relationship to Christianity

One thing to consider when reading Old Testament law is the relationship of Old Testament laws to Christianity, particularly in light of the Council of Jerusalem ruling in Acts 15, which affirmed that gentile Christians need not follow Mosaic law, but that they were still bound by Noaic law.  This ruling meant that gentile Christians should not be expected to keep ritual purity, ceremonial and festival laws. 

This is why we are not required to keep a kosher diet, wear prayer shawls, follow all of the Hebrew festivals, or celebrate the weekly festival of Shabbat.  Instead, we are to keep to the laws given before Moses (called the “Noahide Laws”):

  1. Do not worship other gods.
  2. Do not blaspheme.
  3. Do not murder.
  4. Do not steal.
  5. Do not commit sexual immorality.
  6. Do not commit animal cruelty.
  7. Establish courts of justice.

The answer received by the gentile church in Acts 15 is considered to be short-hand for the Noahide laws (and includes the tentpoles of Noahide law), and the answer from the Jerusalem Council, upon which Peter, James and John all sat, should still suffice us today. 

Tattoos Today

Cross tattooAs with many other freedoms we have in Christ, the key, I believe, to good orthopraxy regarding tattoos is in the heart.  What is the reason for wanting a tattoo?  Mere ‘relevance’ does not seem to suffice, nor to a number of temporal issues, just based in common sense.  Since it is something permanent (or semi-permanent), the decisions should be made soberly with that in mind.

It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows. Proverbs 20:25

One reason I held off writing this article is because it would require some self-disclosure, which I had not completely prayed through yet.  However, I see the timing of some of the conversations speaking to me that the time is right.  Last year, at the age of 38, I decided to get a tattoo, primarily for my own reminding and repentence when I look in the mirror each morning.  It is one I designed (see left) as something that would be both honoring to my creator and meaningful to me – something I do not ever wish to disagree with.

If you meet me, you would never see it in normal circumstances (unless you were swimming – which actually gave me a chance to witness in San Diego earlier this year), and it is not something I wear clothing which would reveal.  But it is there, nonetheless.  I considered it long and hard, particularly in light of Leviticus 19, and it is something I sought counsel on more than a year before it was done. 

So, obviously, I believe that we have the freedom to have pierced ears, tattoos, etc., but I think that the concert of heart, soul, mind and strength love for God must play a part, and that any such decision not be made rashly.

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Hey Guys,

I am back from beautiful Bali, Indonesia.  We had tons of our cross-cultural workers together for a beautiful time of relaxation and preparation.  Thank you to all who were praying for me.

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A Little Leaven got a little more mean spirited today. They have a pop quiz to tell if you are a “real” Christian like them or a fake one. The last question was particularly annoying. It goes:

Question 4 – (This is the toughest one. Be sure to read all the options before you answer.)

This picture depicts a poverty stricken African child infected with the AIDS virus. He will be dead within the year.

Which message do you think he needs to hear the most?

A. Learn How to Have a Dream Family

B. The Gospel According to the Beatles.

C. How to discover his life’s purpose.

D. How to Live Your Best Life Now

E. Overcoming Dysfunctional Relationships

F. How to have an iLife.

G. That Jesus Christ died on the cross to atone for his sins and that he needs to repent and believe the gospel.

(The correct answer is G. If you got this one wrong then we REALLY need to talk. Have your Christian friends contact us and we’ll schedule an intervention for you.)

It seems that the critics think we can do only Either/Or. My answer is “None of the Above.”

How about being a little more edifying like saying something like, preach the gospel (answer G) and help the child out with his medical needs? True Christian faith is not a multiple choice quiz. True Christian faith is living out the Gospel.

The message that child needs to hear is our faith in action that is consistent with the words of the Gospel.

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This post (alternate link) over at Old Truth (motto: where only half of our site’s name makes sense) contains some absolute gems into the mind of the watchdoggies and what they really object to about their targets. This particular post takes the form of a how-to make your own relevant blog. The derision is about as subtle as Ezekiel 23.20 (Now I’m a bit confused, does that make me prurient or Biblical?). Anyway, lets see what we can see inside the mind of a watchdoggie.

For example, check out the first point:

Talk about your wife in gushy glowing terms, like you can’t wait to get home to see her every single day.

So if you want to be all cool with the watchdoggies, make sure you don’t like your wife. Or at least, don’t let anyone suspect you actually like her. You might want to come up with code words for “I love you” so no one catches on (I’d suggest something like “Chicago is wonderful this time of year”), and be sure to forget all anniversaries and birthdays. On the off chance you might actually love your wife I’d suggest sending all cards and gifts via UPS, that way when the guys come over to trade collectible Spurgeon cards they’ll never suspect you would dream of being nice to your wife.

When seekers find out that they don’t have to give up their U2, Bon Jovi, and INXS – they will realize that Christianity is not such a big step after all.

This tells us that in order to be a watchdoggie, time travel is a must. Or, at least time travel at concert venues.

If you have no fear of God whatsoever, you can do what I’ve seen in the seeker blogs, and also refer to the Lord Jesus Christ as “a dude” as well.

Watchdoggies have a strong belief that Jesus was a chick, and anyone implying otherwise will not be tolerated.

Say things like this: “Bon Jovi was cool, but my boys in our worship team Rock!”.

Under no circumstances will watchdoggies allow competent musicians to lead worship in anyway. All watchdoggie musicians must be at least as incompetent as Bon Jovi, and if one does sneak through, their proficiency must never be acknowledged.

Those words are: Doctrine, Theology, Elders and Deacons, Bible Commentaries (oops some of these are two words), Hermeneutics, or any of those kinds of things that pastors have cared about for centuries.

Watchdoggies believe they are hundreds of years old and have trouble counting.

Tell your readers how disappointed you were when certain shows ended differently than you expected. Mention how you watch TV with your wife.

Watchdoggies are always contented with how their favorite shows end (even Seinfeld). Oh, and they never, ever admit to actually being with, or doing things with their wives.

If you bring up scripture on your blog, keep it short and sweet, perhaps give your “life verse” or maybe mention a verse that talks about “vision”, but be sure to quote from The Message. It will often give a completely different meaning than any of the other bible translations, but the important thing is that people will be able to understand what it’s saying.

Watchdoggies believe that no one should be able to understand what scripture is saying (BTW, I had trouble finding any actual scripture on that post).

Stay upbeat! I can’t stress this enough.

Watchdoggies are never, ever happy. I can’t stress this enough.

Talk about those guys a lot in your blog posts, and make it sound like you are best buddies with them by using that familiar “my man” prefix when you refer to them by name.

Watchdoggies have no friends. Or at least none that they’ll publicly admit to (see the entry on wives).

The way to handle these is to cover-up any biblical points that they made, by citing the number of baptisms you had last month.

Watchdoggies don’t baptize anyone. Ever. That’s obviously something the semi-pelagian, purpose driven, emergent cult of neo-liberalism does.

So there you have it. A quick look into the watchdoggie mind.

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