Saturday, November 28, 2009

New Twilight

Yeah, that's what all this mania is to me--a step into darkness. I am appalled that Christians would defend vampire movies. What is wrong with people? Sucking blood from a lover's neck? Have they read the Bible or studied literature or history at all?

When people ask me, I just say, "I don't do vampires," but I want to say more. Defending the movies because a Mormon wrote them and because the characters don't have sex is bizarre.

Vampirism is a sexual fetish, it is related to the occult, and the enemy is using it. No wonder the church is a joke to most people. Its members have no more sense than this.

Psalm 119

This is the last lesson in the psalms. We have had quite a journey. We have studied many themes: thankfulness and gratitude, looking at the craziness and injustice of the world and responding to it correctly, dealing with enemies, being shepherded by God, and many others. It is appropriate that this lesson is the last, because it points us beyond the psalms to the whole counsel of God.

When the psalmist meditates on and extols the excellence of the word of God, in his mind at the time it was basically the first five books of the OT. We today have the completed canon. Understanding why the Bible is the Bible, where it came from, and how to properly study it is an interesting and important study. So in this lesson we are going to look at what the psalmist says about the excellencies of the Word and what we should do about it, because this is my key point: No matter how excellent and powerful the Scriptures are, they are not magic. God uses them mightily in our lives but we have a part in that; He doesn’t barge in and automatically change us with the word; we have to interact with it, study it, obey it, and learn to love it.

Why do I say that? Because some of the foremost scholars of the text of the Bible are not Christian believers. How could that be? How could the Jewish people who study the OT not see the Messiah? Because the human heart can be very dark and stubborn, and even the mighty scriptures cannot get past that alone.

Part I—the excellencies of the Word
Read 1-16. Now you can see that there are many more verses here. Clearly the psalmist is saying that the revelation of God, whether he calls them testimonies, the law, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgments, ways, is perfect and a trustworthy way to lead one’s life. Each of those words has a special significance. Just three:
Law – torah, teaching. The law isn’t just rules, but teachings about God
Testimonies – truthful witness to the past, present, and future
Statutes – comes from a word meaning inscribed in stone, permanent

If we were to read the rest of the psalm, we would find many other descriptions:
1. The word is a lamp v. 105
2. The word is precious like gold
3. The word is sweet like honey 103
4. The word is cleansing v 9
In other parts of the Bible we learn that the word is like
1. A mirror – James 1
2. A weapon, Eph. 6
3. A sword, Heb. 4
4. Water Eph. 5:26
5. Bread, nourishment Matthew 4

The people of the psalmist's time did not have a printing press. There was not a real, functional, inexpensive way to print until about 1450. So it wasn’t as if each person had a copy of the torah and other holy writings of the Jews. So how did they do this? They memorized it. We are amazed if a preacher today memorizes a chapter of scripture, but that was no big deal, just child’s play, in the ancient Jewish world. So they were able to “study” the Word at all time and truly had “hidden it in their heart” v. 11

We today? How many study guides, etc. do we need? It’s not an issue of how, or why, or what? It’s an issue of when? When are we going to make the study and application of the Word a priority?

And that brings me to the second part of this study. As excellent as the written revelation of God is, we don’t get its benefits from having copies of it on our shelves, or even from reading a few verses every day. It’s not a fortune cookie or talisman or magic formula, although we act like it, and sometimes preachers talk like it is. The power of the word takes two people—us, to diligently study it, and the Holy Spirit to guide us. I think that is the clearest lesson here. We know the word is precious; Psalm 19 was our first lesson, and it speaks of this subject as much as 119 does. But it must be utilized carefully and correctly, by the Holy Spirit and by our minds.

Many of the word pictures show that: a sword has to be wielded correctly. Has anyone ever used the word like a crazy person swinging a sword? How would that happen?
Inflicting it on people, out of context, in a mean spirit?

What about the mirror metaphor? Let’s look at James 1:22-24. We don’t look in a mirror and say “I look perfect.” We look into it to adjust something in our appearance. We don’t look into the Bible and say, “I’ve got it together, I’m good.” But we open our eyes to see wonderful things out of his law (v. 18) and to get a true view of our real spiritual appearance.

As I read Psalm 119, it came back to me over and over: we have a responsibility to be diligent, studious, open-minded, correct interpreters of the word from our part and to respond to what the Holy Spirit is teaching us from His part. There is a three fold partnership: the word, the Spirit, and we (both individually and corporately, because there are some people who are gifted at explaining and clarifying the scriptures). Take one out of the equation, and we have trouble. Take two out and we have heresy.

So where does that leave us? Let me suggest six steps.

1. Have you ever read the Bible all the way through? One reason I like the Explore the Bible series is that it doesn’t skip anything. Perhaps that would be a good choice or goal for the new year. Why is it important? To get the big picture. Should you do it over and over? I don’t think so. I’m due for another one, for it has been several years. Should you do it fast? Personally, I wouldn’t, but that’s me. Some people need the challenge and discipline of getting through the Bible in one year. If you choose to do that, you don’t need to buy a special Bible. There are guides on the Internet, but you can just divide it up, so many chapters in NT and so many in OT. We read through the Bible in devotions with Paul from 6th grade to 12th grade! And we read out of order, but we did get through it.
2. Prayerfully. We can’t approach the word with a cold and doubting heart, and the Holy Spirit is the one to change that. Hebrews 4:2: the scriptures are not effective if they are not mixed with faith in those who hear it. Psalm 119 says, several times, “Open my eyes, Lord.”
3. Regularly. Every day is best, but I’m not here to put restrictions on people. If you miss a day, and trust me, I do, I’m not going to act like a spiritual giant because I’m not—if you miss a day, just jump back on. God is God of the past, present, and future. I said the other day to my husband that even God can’t change the past, and he laughed at that and said God could do what he wanted. God does not change the facts of the past but he forgives it and frees us from it. He uses the past in our lives to move us closer to Him, not to keep us tied up. He does not want us to be in bondage to the past, but I meet so many people who are, and I am tempted that way, too. Oh, please let him free you. I spoke with a woman in this church this week, I would say by accident but it was a divine appointment I know, because it was in a place I rarely go. She is so clearly held captive by something from years ago. When she first started talking I thought it had happened a few years ago, but then she said it was 15. What had happened was terrible, but it was clear it held her in emotional bondage—or she was letting it. It was sad. Past failures and successes can both be bondage, as well as past tragedies.
Why do I say that? If you have failed at Bible study in the past, you are not your failures. Every dawn is a new gift for you to get into the word and walk with God, not just another day to trudge through your activities. God is a God of the present and future as well as the past.
4. Get some help to study. The gift of the Reformers was 1. Multiple copies of the Bible in our own language and 2. The teaching that all people are capable of studying the word by themselves. Priesthood of the believer rather than a layer of priests who are the only interpreters. But don’t get all your help from one place.
5. Don’t jump to do. Wait on the Lord. If your heart is obedient, the body will follow. I think sometimes we read a short passage of the word, and say, “What does this mean for me to do today,” instead of “what does this mean?”
6. Share publicly. Proclaim the testimonies to others. Focus on the word, not your feelings and experience. Be winsome about it, not as if you were an oracle of God with special revelation. “The scriptures says,” or “Psalm 119 has a verse that says,” is better than “God showed me through my daily study.”
I cannot help but finish this lesson with a third part, which will lead us into our next study in Mark, one of the gospel or “evangelists.” John 1 refers to Jesus Christ as “the Word.” I have heard preachers imply that this equates Christ with the Bible. That is so wrong. The Bible teaches us of Christ, but it is not Christ. It is the messenger. If you read Psalm 119, over and over it says “You are my portion” “You are my shield,” speaking not of the scriptures but of God Himself. We must not confuse them, we must not praise the word so much that we stop praising God. Baptists call themselves “people of the book,” and that is great—we do it distinguish ourselves from creedal or confessional groups (we don’t stand up and say the Apostle’s Creed). But we are people of the book because it leads us the the Living Lord. I think this is the final lesson of Psalm 119. Don’t deify and worship the Bible, but study it for all its/it’s worth to know Christ.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Food for Thought

I got these off a blog posting from Christianity Today magazine website. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." -- Edmund Burke... "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both." - Dwight D. Eisenhower..."A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one!" -- Alexander Hamilton... "It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error." -- Robert H. Jackson... "As soon as people drop the reins on government, government will leash the people." -- James Bovard...

I have signed the Manhattan Declaration. Now I have to live it.

We don't really have peace in this world.. We have negotiated absence of war.

Thanksgiving

The lesson I am teaching this week is on Ps. 119, the Word of God. I come from a tradition that talks about the Word of God almost as if it were a magic formula, that is, if we hear it, or read it, it's going to have an automatic effect on us that we can't control. It's powerful, and more powerful than us, so we have no say in the matter of its influence on us.

Neither the Bible nor reality teaches that to be true. The Word is sharper than any two edged sword. But someone has to use it rightly. The word is a mirror; but James says we can look in the mirror and walk away unchanged. The Lord does not impose His will on ours. We can read the word and formulate our own response to it. Some of the primary Biblical scholars of today are unbelievers. They approach the text as a scholar would approach Chaucer, Plato, or Homer, as something to be dissected, not as something to be believed and obeyed.

That being said--that there is a human element in the effect of the Word--God is still more powerful than we, and the Word is amazing. Everyday is an adventure in studying the Bible, if one comes to it with a prayerful and open heart and is willing to put the effort into going below the surface. I often use the metaphor of untangling necklaces that have been jumbled up in my drawer--that's how it feels to pull apart those passages in Hebrews, Romans, and Ephesians. But it's not just an intellectually stimulating exercise, it is a treasure hunt.

So I am thankful today for the Word of God, and for being able to study it in this post-Reformation, post-printing press world.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Disappointed

Project Runway--very disappointed. The fix was in. Irina's clothes were ugly, streetwalker-ready suits of armor, and she was an unpleasant person. I would love to wear some of Carol Hannah's clothes (obviously not my size, though, if they fit those emaciated models!). She makes me want to take a sewing class, she is such an impeccable craftswoman. I will be more wary of this show, but of course I watch for the clothes, not for the reality on this so-called "reality" show. Tim Gunn should be more on the same wavelength with the judges, whose taste is questionable.

Do I Love God?

Do we really ask ourselves that? I have the wonderful responsibility to teach Psalm 116 tomorrow (how often we say "I have to...." incorrectly, as if everything is under obligation or compunction, we have no will, and there is no joy in it). The first line is "I love the LORD." I really don't think about this very much, which means . . . ?

Nonbelievers don't talk about love for God, as should be suspected. But Christians don't much either. In some ways that's probably good; we should be professing our love for God before people unless we can back it up, and it would take a pretty hefty spiritual life to look like you can back up "I love God." And it's not about us. But personally, it's a legitimate question to ask. How would we know if we love God?

Do I want God's presence more than his blessings, his stuff? do I want to spend time alone with God? Do I ask myself what God's view of something is? Do I talk about him to others? Do I take God for granted? When I am conscious of loving God, what does it feel like?

And perhaps the most important, Does heaven call me?

It is interested that the same psalm that starts "I love the Lord" also contains "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." It also says, in v. 7, "Return to your rest, O my soul." And there are no imprecations in this psalm--the fancy word for calling down punishment on enemies. the psalmist is world weary--verse 11--but love for God has crowded out the need for revenge.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Questions

It seems to me that the foremost excuse of the day is "I'm just so busy." And no one can argue with it. Yet, the same people who say they are too busy to do something they have committed to are also on Facebook playing Mafia Wars. We don't suffer from too much to do, but from an inability to prioritize.

I am so frustrated with my students' behavior. They are extremely rude; as soon as one asks me a question, the rest erupt into chatter so loud I can't hear the question. They walk in and out of class, despite my asking them not to. They text constantly. They are late, everyday, no matter what I say or threaten. I obviously need a different tact in the future. So what will work with 18 and 19-year-olds who act like they were raised by wolves? Will assigned seating? Will asking them to leave if I see a cell phone?(which truly have caused a great deal of trouble in classrooms)

Why are terrorists, who are war criminals, being tried in civic courts?

Why does Khalid Sheikh Mohammed look so awful, in both pictures--the skinny version and the fat version?

Why can't I like Sarah Palin but still thinks she's not qualified to be president?

Why is it self-serving to write a memoir if you are a conservative but not if you are a liberal?

Why do I watch versions of Jane Austen and Dickens, no matter who is in them and no matter how bad the screenplays are?

Why did I just get a call from a telemarketer that was a recording apologizing that all the operators are busy and thanking me for waiting? (I didn't).

Why do we write blogs?

What is it about chocolate?

Friday, November 13, 2009

News Flashes

Random comments from my life, posted here rather than Facebook, I suppose.

I watched an excellent old movie last night, The Country Girl. I always like William Holden movies, for some reasons, and Grace Kelly was so pretty and gracious I consider watching her like watching a work of art. But what got me was the portrayal of alcoholism. I know more about it than most people. I am an adult child of an alcoholic, and two of my brothers-in-law struggle with it. Alcoholism might be a disease, or have disease elements, but, sorry, it's a disease people partially choose, and I resist calling it a disease because that somehow excuses the awful, narcissistic, mean things alcoholics do to get that next drink. The drink is more important than a spouse, a child, God, or humanity. I am glad to say my father never sank to that level, but I've known others who did. At any rate, Bing Crosby often got it right in that movie and it kept me awake even to 2:00 a.m. (though I'm tired now).

My brother had open-heart surgery today. He is out now, and it was successful. I have been in denial. If something happened to him, I don't know what I would do.

I am reading Adriani Trigiani's latest book. Don't bother. Big Stone Gap was wonderful, a good example of a character one can care about. I don't care about this character, but the descriptions of fabrics are cool. I think that's one reason I watch Project Runaway--for the textiles. I worked in a fabric shop in college, and loved it.

I went to a mentoring meeting today, and ended up being mentored myself, especially in Spanish. My mentoring partner is bilingual, and we conversed. I need lots and lots of practice, and it wore my brain out.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What's It All About?

I've been thinking about prayer lately. Well, I hope I have been doing more than thinking about it. That and meditation. I am doing a mini study using Cynthia Heald's book, Becoming a Woman of Prayer. It's pretty good, but I have come to the conclusion that . . .

. . . a lot of things we think we know about prayer, and that gets said about prayer, just ain't so.

One thing we don't need is another book about prayer. Nor do we need more guilt about prayer. Prayer should not be a guilt trip, a chore, a burden. If it's any of these, what's the point? Why should we have trouble talking to the Heavenly Father if we really believe all the things we say about his love and grace? If I've been told once about John Wesley praying 3 hours a day, I've heard it 1,000 times. Does that make a person pray more, because John Wesley did? He also rode thousands upon thousands of miles on horseback. The man had amazing stamina. And I doubt he would like to know he's being put up as the standard for the last 200 years!

No, prayer should be work, but it should be joyous work. We simply are too distracted in this world, distracted by good things that pull us away from the holy things, the best things.

A coworker wrote on her facebook page a while back that Facebook had suggested her daughter as her friend. Unfortunately, her daughter committed suicide in summer of 2008. I'm sure she's not the only person that happened to. That's what we get for trusting a technology rather than a person.

Why is Nidal Hassan still being called "the alleged shooter" in the Ft. Hood massacre?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sad Day, Sad Week

I am disappointed that the House massed that monstrosity of a bill; if three had gone a different way and not given into the White House's persuasion, it would have gone the other way. It seems ridiculous to make such a huge decision on the basis of three representatives. In fact, we can blame Dede Scozafava and the lone Republican who voted for the bill.

When people's taxes go up and the health care system does not improve, those three and their cronies will pay the price.

The health care system will not improve until people start to take care of themselves and take control of their own lives. Will this new bill keep me from being run over by 400-pound drivers of those little carts in Walmart? Most of the health care in this country is needed because people don't take care of themselves, eat poorly, don't exercise, smoke, and abuse legal and illegal mind-altering substances. Will we now be motivated to do so? Or do I get to pay for all the morbidly obese people who need bariatric surgery, diabetes treatment, and heart repair?

I'm getting angrier the more I think about it. This will not help working people. It will help the poor and ignorant who voted for this president, well, maybe it will help them. It will at least convince them that they should vote for him again.

My disrespect for this man grows daily. He can go to Copenhagen to advocate for Chicago getting the Olympics but he can't go to the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I'm surprised he's going to the memorial service for the Ft. Hood victims. My husband points out that he's all over the ESPN channels. I'm glad he's running the sports world. Actually, on second thought, he can run the sports world and leave the rest of us alone. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. This failure to go to Berlin is too much.

When I am sick in bed I watch too much TV, and this is the result--an atrocious attitude. But I do hope and pray the Senate will take a different tact on this health care thing.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Flu Cometh

I don't know if this is a 24-hour thing or the real flu. I've been up three hours and that's about it. Maybe I'm fortunate enough to get the short version, but it's not been fun. I am a lousy patient, but my husband has been sweet. So we'll go with the minimal posting today.

If you want to read a good novel, buy mine. Christian book distributors has the best price, but I don't know about their service. My boss liked it.

Advent 2017, Post #11, Ancient and Traditional Christmas Songs

A Welsh carol from the 1700s.   Sleep my child and peace attend thee, All through the night Guardian angels God will send thee, All throug...