Archive for May, 2008

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Review of “The Double Bind”

May 31, 2008

A Novel The Double Bind: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian


My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Because I loved “The Thirteenth Tale” my contact at Barnes and Noble was sure I would like this book by Bohjalian. He had heard the two books had many things in common. Unfortunately, they don’t. Fortunately, I liked this one for much different reasons. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Summer Goals

May 29, 2008

At breakfast the other day, a friend of mine and I were talking about some of our goals for physical fitness. His are quite extensive and mine are … less so. I felt convicted that I should be pushing myself more. In conversation, we got around to spiritual goals we have for the summer. The conclusion we both reached is that we had really just counted on “winging it” as we have often done.

Perhaps winging it will produce for our souls what winging it produces for my body – i.e. Not much change. What spiritual goals might you be setting for this summer?

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Is there a Word for it?

May 28, 2008

This is for golfers primarily. We need a word for that putt you take after the putt you missed you were sure you would make. We have all done it. The five-footer that had your name on it pretended like it didn’t know you. Then, after you miss it, forswear grounding your putter on the green in case there is a marshall lurking in the bushes, you pull back the putt and try it again. Everyone knows you won’t count this one, but your ego and desire to improve (are they the same thing?) requires that you try it again. Twice is probably the limit for such a putt. If you don’t make it by then, it was not to be.

But, returning to the question: What should we call that putt? I would like to hear from my golfing lurkers on this one.

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More About Rehab

May 28, 2008

The Governor of Alabama is seeing the value of churches (trust a bible belt state to see this one). Here is what this news article says:

Ala. (RNS) Gov. Bob Riley on Tuesday (May 20) asked Alabama churches to shoulder the burden of caring for newly released inmates, saying the state lacks the flexibility and funds to help them successfully re-enter society.

Leaders from churches and charitable groups were asked to provide a wide range of services to former inmates, including employment assistance, housing, clothing, health care and cash.

Riley said the state’s churches can rise to the challenge just as they do in response to natural disasters such as hurricanes.

My only doubt is that just as churches get involved in this, someone will cry “separation of church and state”, it will be challenged in the courts and then all the hard work will be for nought. What do you think?

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The Rehab of Judas

May 27, 2008

Everyone on the planet gets a chance at rehab, no matter what they’ve done. Judas Iscariot, the so-called “Traitor Apostle” is no exception. I remember sitting in a West End London Theater in 1973 with my family as we watched the mega-hit, “Godspell”. In that recounting of the gospel story of Jesus, Judas is cast as a misunderstood maladroit that just wanted everyone to get along…except the Romans of course.

Later that summer, Weber’s “Jesus Christ, Superstar” made it onto the movie screens. In that retelling, Judas is a sympathetic worrier, best friend type, who is actually made the scapegoat of the entire thing by being tricked into thinking Jesus wants him to be the Betrayer.

In 2006, National Geographic published an article on the newly translated “Gospel of Judas”, an ancient Egyptian manuscript that tells a different story of Judas. They released the translation at the same time as a special documentary and a website splash. All of the media told the same story. Judas was Jesus’ best friend who volunteered to be the scapegoat. Jesus liked him better than the rest and as everyone knows, only a good friend will do your dirty work if you need something done.

As soon as the television special ended, many Coptic scholars downloaded the original document and the translation. Most of them were appalled. Listen to this description in the Chronicle-Review concerning April DeConick, a professor of biblical studies at Rice University:

She started the next day on her own translation of the Coptic transcription, also posted on the National Geographic Web site. That’s when she came across what she considered a major, almost unbelievable error. It had to do with the translation of the word “daimon,” which Jesus uses to address Judas. The National Geographic team translates this as “spirit,” an unusual choice and inconsistent with translations of other early Christian texts, where it is usually rendered as “demon.” In this passage, however, Jesus’ calling Judas a demon would completely alter the meaning. “O 13th spirit, why do you try so hard?” becomes “O 13th demon, why do you try so hard?” A gentle inquiry turns into a vicious rebuke.

Then there’s the number 13. The Gospel of Judas is thought to have been written by a sect of Gnostics known as Sethians, for whom the number 13 would indicate a realm ruled by the demon Ialdabaoth. Calling someone a demon from the 13th realm would not be a compliment. In another passage, the National Geographic translation says that Judas “would ascend to the holy generation.” But DeConick says it’s clear from the transcription that a negative has been left out and that Judas will not ascend to the holy generation (this error has been corrected in the second edition). DeConick also objected to a phrase that says Judas has been “set apart for the holy generation.” She argues it should be translated “set apart from the holy generation” — again, the opposite meaning. In the later critical edition, the National Geographic translators offer both as legitimate possibilities.

In subsequent months, it has been shown that this Gospel could not possibly have been written by Judas, for it refers to events in the second century. In fact, no one ever claimed it was written by Judas. It was penned by a group of Gnostics around 150 A.D. and their purpose was to show that Judas was not actually a man, but a spirit force sent to guide Jesus through his spiritual path. In the last year, no one talks much more about this Gospel or the books written to laud it, for it stands as a monument to what the media can do to historical truth.

So why does everyone from Andrew Lloyd Weber to Harvard University want to paint Judas in a better light? As with anything, there is no one theory that stands for all. But here is my take on it. People feel uncomfortable with anyone being the worst bad guy in any situation. Except for the most cruel and hate-filled people of history (Hitler, Genghis Khan, Frank Burns) we react with a certain amount of sympathy for those who mess up but still have much in common with us.

Judas is painted in the Bible as greedy, opinionated, wanting the Romans to be overthrown, and impatient with Jesus’ program. He also doesn’t like others to be in the spotlight apparently. I can survey my life in the last ten years and see greed, a bevy of opinions, wanting megachurches to be overthrown, and impatient with Jesus’ program for my life. In fact, I’m not sure I don’t resemble Judas more than I care to admit, even on a bad day.

However, believe it or not, Judas is not painted as just a Betrayer in the Bible.  He actually repented of it later and gave the money back. No, the Bible shows that Judas was destroyed by the belief that he could never come back to God. Think about this: Both Judas and Peter let Jesus down big time. Peter ends up being the leader in the church and Judas has his intestines littering a field. But they both committed equally heinous crimes against their friendship with Jesus. What was the difference?

Judas hung himself because he believed the lie that it could never change. Peter jumped in the water, swam to shore and somehow came back to his friend. This is the difference. Give up hope and there is not much God can do. Keep the door open to God, no matter how badly you fail, and God can still get his stuff done with you.

If we really rehab Judas, he would be Peter.

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Memorial Day for a Called Man

May 25, 2008

I am sorry for the fuzzy quality of this picture, but all I had time to do was grab my camera phone and make this. On thursday afternoon, I had the awesome privilege of taking part in the ordination interview for Ted R. who will soon be serving the Lord as a military chaplain. Ted was interviewed for 3 grueling hours as we went through every aspect of biblical knowledge, theology and practical ministry. Ted came through it all with flying colors (after all, these colors don’t run) and exemplified himself as a man that can lead other men in their spiritual walk.

This Memorial Day, remember Ted and his wife as they embark on this courageous career. Pray for them and their three kids that they can make the transition from Church life (Youth Pastor for 14 years) to military life. This picture is Ted receiving the oath of office from a senior chaplain. God bless you Ted!

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WDDJD

May 21, 2008

In actual words…What Devotions Did Jesus Do? By “devotions”, I mean that spiritual moment or time when we spend time with God, whether by reading Scripture, praying, worshipping or even appreciating aspects of his creation. It can include disciplines (like Contemplation or Solitude), attitudes (Confession or Thanksgiving) and even actions (Journaling, kneeling, imagining). These are all human creations to attempt to solidify our tenuous-feeling working relationship with our Creator.

Jesus, the one who was both God and Man, spent time solidifying that Daddy-Son intimacy. Since he is completely human as we are, he felt those moments of isolation and responded to them with discipline and a process of thinking through the day. So what “devotional life” did Jesus have?

My favorite glimpse into his life with Abba comes in Matthew 4. I won’t take time to deal with the entire section, but the first part of Jesus’ encounter with the Father of Lies (satan) in the wilderness shows us something of his life with God. Jesus has just spent 40 days alone with the Spirit of God. This time followed his incredible filling with the Spirit at his baptism and the earth-shaking voice of the Father who said “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”. But that was 40 days ago, and as all of us face, Jesus cannot recapture the words spoken over a month ago. Every day has a new impact and even yesterday’s exciting victories ring hollow in the face of attack and hunger.

In verses 2 and 3 of Matthew 4 it says

2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

The word “tempter” means “tester”. As I noted a few weeks ago, this is satan’s role: he is the Proctor, he delivers our tests. We prove who we are through these tests. He designs the tests individually for each of us. This test was for Jesus. It was not as simple as it sounds. Jesus heard the Father, saw the Spirit come down on him. Felt the baptism. But our humanity is frail. He cannot hold onto that memory. Now satan wants to see if he will doubt the Truth of Abba’s words.

Here is what Jesus answered:

4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

His answer can seem glib on paper, but it reveals so much at the first level down below the bare words. First, this quote is from Deuteronomy 8. In fact, every answer that Jesus gives to the Proctor is from Deuteronomy, chapters 6-8. They didn’t have chapters in those days, so let’s just say it came from the same general region in the same historical book. Coincidence? Hardly. You don’t have these answers unless they are recently familiar to you. I get a kick out of teachers who look at this section and tell people this is a takeaway suggesting we memorize Scripture. Don’t bother. The Proctor knows the Bible better than you do. Simply quoting the Bible back to him when your heart hasn’t processed Truth and embraced it won’t pass this test.

Second, Jesus’ understanding of the Truth in Deuteronomy 8 was deeper than just quoting something to do with Bread. The passage in Deut. 8 speaks of Manna and humbling. To go out every day and collect bread in the desert and have to rely completely on God to feed them was humbling in the sense that they had to completely rely on him. Jesus got that! He is telling the Proctor that if God tells him to turn the stones into bread, he will do it. But not a second before. What an incredible answer. He also uses the word “word” correctly in Greek. The Greek word is rhema, which means a message intended for a specific reason, situation or person. If God told Jesus directly to turn the stones into bread that day, for a particular purpose and for God’s glory, then, and only then, would Jesus do it.

Do you prepare yourself in the Scriptures that way? It means bringing the Spirit into that time and preparing your heart with Truth that can be lived (as opposed to Truth that is just memorized to win a discussion). Then when the test comes, you will pass the essay questions as well as the fill in the blank ones.

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