New Year’s . . . whatevers

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I Resolve to Use More Headers

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We all love to set New Years  . . . you know.

I’m shooting for some attainable goals.

1. Renew and continue the Motivation by Humiliation ( I did meet my goal last year, btw)

2. At least every other week (but every week if I can pull it off) create something completely new for me.  This will probably show up on a different 2.0 version of my other blog.

3. Grow this blog into a place for conversation and community.  There have been sparks here and there, but I want to build on that.  More on this later.

4. Use my brand new Bible to form a better reading habit.  I also plan to get over my fear and follow Tim’s advise to mark-up the heck out of my Bible.

These are all year-long goals to some extent.  No reason to rush . . .

So what are your New Year’s . . . whatevers?

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Matthew Journey Chapter 8

Chapter 8

  • Amazingly, after the often confusing and very challenging words of the Sermon on the Mount, huge crowds start following Jesus.
  • People appreciate the Truth!
  • Jesus here heals people and keeps it quiet.
  • Do we find ourselves helping the hurting and healing the broken as advertisement, or do we do it because it’s our mission?
  • The centurion has power not because of his authority, but because of borrowed authority of the one over him . . . how can we borrow God’s authority?
  • I love how some of this chapter feels like friends telling stories, jumping back and forth some, little snippets here, like hearing second hand about a good basketball game from a few excited guys who were actually there.
  • This chapter raises up the faith of the random people around Jesus, while the disciples are astounded at what he can do.
  • In another unexpected twist in this chapter, Jesus performs the most miraculous miracle, and when people find out they run him out of town.

I love the contrasts in faith with this chapter. The underclass people accept Jesus, those close to him are still confused, and some groups just want him to go away. It just goes to show how God is always doing something, but it is our choice how we respond to it.

The Hermeneutics Quiz

All right, everyone together, say “hermenuetics!”

That was fun.  Ok, so we all love those little internet quizzes, right?  When are you going to die, will you find true love, what’s your favorite color . . . all answered in 10-20 thought-provoking soul-searching questions.

A month or so ago I came across the hermeneutics quiz put together by Scot McNight, who you can read at Jesus Creed.  (By the way, hermeneutics is just the way you interpret the Bible.)  Anyhow, the idea here is to rate you as conservative, moderate, or progressive in your interpretation.  It’s very interesting to see how you turn out.  Some leaders have taken it and disagreed with their rating, others liked the quiz.

I think what you have to keep in mind is this is a broad, blunt tool.  It doesn’t define you, it’s just a general way of categorizing and looking at your beliefs.  Of course someone who is progressive would probably say that the need for categorization is itself a very modern trend.   But let’s not split hairs (or is that the point?)

At the very least it forces you to think about what you believe, which I am always for.  It also forces you to think about how you approach the Bible; what are your preconceived notions?  I would take the 10 minutes or so for the test; you may be intrigued, insulted, annoyed, frustrated, or educated.

So take the quiz.

(By the way, I scored a 68 which puts me at slightly progressive according to the test)

Matthew Journey Chapter 6

Another great chapter. Jesus continues his sermon from the previous chapter. This chapter is all about the inner life v. the outer life, and what God values.

  • Who are we doing good things for, God or ourselves?
  • If we give to those in need to somehow earn something, we have missed the point.
  • God is not impressed by us when we pray.
  • People used to think it took dramatic loud acts to catch the attention of the gods. They would sacrifice, cut themselves, perform sexual acts, scream and yell . . . not so with our God.
  • Jesus’ prayer is so simple a five-year-old can memorize it, yet so passionate and forthright.
  • if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”
  • Have you ever done what God led you to do, then complained about it so everyone would know how spiritual you are?
  • Jesus is point out here, among other things, that the Father looks at our inner life, not our outer appearance or actions. Who are we to do differently?
  • Jesus says don’t be an actor, be yourself.
  • Jesus points out two masters we must choose between. Was it God and Satan or God and the World? Nope: God and Money. That’s something to digest.
  • Jesus makes a great contrast: Humans vs Birds. Birds were cheap, they were the sacrifice of the poor people. Of course we are more valuable than they are, and God takes care of them
  • “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[2]? . . .Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” This stuff is in the Bible folks.

This chapter tells me to get over myself! I don’t need to worry about my needs, God will take care of me. I need to worry about my relationship with God and with others, and do those in a selfless way. The rest will take care of itself IF I get my priorities straight.

What about you? How are your priorities?

The Return – Matthew Journey Chapter 5

After a month or so hiatus, the Matthew Journey returns, with Chapter 5.

Whew, Chapter 5 is intense! Here we find the so-called Beatitudes and the beginning of Jesus’ single longest sermon. This is a chapter all about rethinking.

  • In the Beatitudes, Jesus bit by bit turns everything we think about life and power on it’s head.
  • This is such a cool example of asking the wrong question. For instance, we want to ask, “God, how can I find happiness.” Jesus answer is, “You should be asking, how can you comfort others and bring them happiness?”
  • What would happen if we applied these principles in this year’s election?
  • Totally dig the implications of verses 13-16. Jesus really highlights how we should be a new creation by giving us ludicrous examples. I love it when Jesus resorts to hyperbole. Let’s build a huge city on a hill so no one will see it and turn on a light so we can cover it up so we can’t see.
  • If you think the existence of sin is debatable, consider this: we all repeat behavior that is bad for us, things we know are foolish.  These are usually things that go against our personal value system. This is as ridiculous as turning out the light when you’re trying to find your way, and it is a sign of how fallen our world is.
  • Sin sets us apart from the animals if you think about it . . . no animal would be so dumb as to do something that was knowingly bad for it.
  • It is so hard to be a new creature sometimes, and God is always there to show us grace.
  • After pointing out how we need to be a new creation, Jesus up and points out that it is impossible to do it!
  • Why must Jesus teaching be so frustrating sometimes!!?
  • I love this. I was actually discussing this with someone online today. The law that Jesus demands we follow can not be followed completely, and that makes God’s grace that much more valuable.
  • I am so messed up in so many ways, so this cuts deep. But Jesus is still there for me.
  • Jesus demands that we go the extra mile.
  • And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? OUCH!
  • This is one of the greatest, simplest arguments for what may seem illogical–loving our enemies. Any idiot will be kind to those who are good to them. It takes a real idiot to go out of there way and love their enemies.
  • Ok, kidding about the idiot part, but isn’t that how it feels sometimes? It is so counterintuitive to go the extra mile.

Man, I could go on and on, this is one of my favorite sections in the Bible, and maybe my favorite part in Matthew so far. It is such a great, confusing, confounding, and satisfying piece of text to digest.

Going Through It

“Now he had to go through Samaria.”

Those have to be some of the most loaded words in the Bible.  In John 4 Jesus is traveling, and this requires him to go through Samaria.  The people of Samaria were hated by the Jews.  They were considered half-breeds–less than a true Jew.  They were lower people.  A Jewish child would have been taught from a young age the many reasons to hate a Samaritan.  In fact, most of them would not have traveled through Samaria.  They would have taken the long way around, yet Jesus passes through it.  That phrase, when read by the first Christians (who were mostly Jews) would have been so filled with history and passion.  They would probably emphasize it like he HAD to go through Samaria.  Who would do that if they had a choice?

There is a phenomenon that of late has come more and more to disturb me.  It has always bothered me, but it has really consumed me of late.  It’s what I like to call “casual racism/casual prejudice.”  In most circles today, it would be very faux pas to let it out that you have any prejudices towards another race or culture.  But there is this pervasive casual prejudice that I find everywhere.  No dirty jokes, very rarely any racial slurs, but an attitude . . . an outlook.

I see it in the assumption that if someone is black, they’re probably in a gang/stupid/somehow different.  It’s there when people think a Hispanic person is lazy/a theif/untrustworthy/dirty/poor/stupid.  This to me is just another strong sign of how broken our world is by sin.  It is so twisted that someone could make an immediate assumption about someone due to their race.  We live in a fallen world.  The place where I get really angry though, is when I see this among Christians.

This is where the casual prejudice is most dangerous.  I doubt any of my personal Christian friends or acquaintances are actually racist.   They would be angry if anyone implied it.  But there’s a look, and attitude, and a reaction.  And it may not seem so bad, but God makes it clear how he feels about landing in the middle and not choosing right or wrong-he will vomit you out.

There is absolutely no place for a Christian to have an attitude like this.  It does not matter if you’re not really racist.  We are called to battle for the Way of Christ. You don’t do that by succumbing to the cultural attitude.  You do that by putting a stop to this sort of thing when you hear it.  You do it by plowing in where it may be uncomfortable for you and getting to know someone who you think is different from you.  Jesus was intentional about where he went.  He meant to encounter that woman at the well.  He was aggressive about healing racial disputes throughout his ministry.  We should do the same.

There is no place in the Kingdom for an attitude of anything but love.  Are there habits you need to let go?  Is there someone at work or school you have unfairly assumed things about?  Have you avoided someone because of there race?   Have you put up with someone else’s prejudiced beliefs?  Now is the time to change.

What do you need to go through rather than around so you can heal the world around you?

Matthew Journey Chapter 4

In Matthew 4, so much happens. Jesus leaves for over a month alone to face temptation, and then begins his ministry. By the end of the chapter his ministry is in full swing.

Matthew 4

  • It is so strange if you go a chapter back here. Chapter 3 ends with the Father declaring his love for the Son, and the Spirit coming on him as a dove. Chapter 4 begins with the words, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”
  • Just because God loves us does not mean he will protect us from all chances of difficulty or harm
  • Andy Stanley really contributed to my understanding of the temptation. He points out how the three temptations mirror the most dangerous temptations that we face. Jesus is first tempted to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. Next he is tempted to presume upon God, which is a fancy way of saying you try to back God into a corner based on your understanding of who He is. Last, Jesus is tempted to take a shortcut to his goals by breaking outside the boundaries God has set for him.
  • After this we find out that John the Baptizer is in prison, and it seems that Jesus steps into John’s role of calling for repentance and announcing the arrival of the Kingdom. This shines another light on Jesus joining of the people by being baptized by John previously.
  • Jesus is considered by the people to be a Rabbi, which was a respected Jewish teacher. A rabbi would have disciples, or followers, who would be with him every waking moment to learn everything possible. Jesus chooses his first two disciples here, (Simon)Peter and Andrew.
  • As Jewish children grew up, they went through stages of learning. At a certain age, the brightest would continue to “level 2” learning, while others continued to learn their families trade. These level 2’s, after studying, would find a rabbi whose teaching (or yoke) they appreciated, and apply to be his disciple. Only the best and brightest were accepted, and the rest earned a living with their families like the others.
  • When Jesus chooses these two disciples, they were fishing with their father. This means they were young and had not moved on to higher learning. They were the not-so-brights . . . the unaccepted.
  • There are many times in my life where I feel like one of the not-s0-brights.
  • Jesus does not just wait for them; he calls them out. He requests that they follow him. This says much about who Jesus accepts to be his followers compared to whom the “religious” leaders would choose.
  • After this it says Jesus began to heal the sick and spread the good news. He didn’t start a building program, he didn’t raise an army, he didn’t start a petition, he didn’t hole up in his house and hate the world. He met the world on their basis, and brought them hope and healing.

Chapter 4 once again shows me a Jesus who meets us where we are. He was tempted in every way that we are tempted. He chooses the least among us. He brings us hope and new life rather than rules and consequences. Jesus is becoming like us to meet with us. He is looking past our outside value to our inner worth. Jesus is setting us up for relationship with him. This is so awesome and so different than any other way of life or “religion.”