Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Message

There I was on a recent Wednesday night, innocently teaching from the Psalms, when I happened to casually mention "The Message" by Peterson. I prefaced my remarks with the disclaimer that Peterson was simply paraphrasing the text, putting it in his own words for his own personal benefit. It started with a few psalms, spread through the entire book, and culminated in the entire Bible and publication.

I don't honestly even remember the point to which I was driving (other than that I was going to read the psalm where "enemies" was turned into "hit men"...I love that). All that stands out is the disgusted looks, the barrage of opposition, and the melee which followed.

Now, the truth is, I love the occasional melee. I enjoy hearing people argue their positions, especially on the Bible, with passion and fire. I see my role in those discussions as referee, making sure each side gets heard and that both sides show due respect. My greatest desire is that someone sees something in a new way; my greatest fear is that feelings are hurt and that people equate "study" with "arguing."

I heard the viewpoint that felt that The Message might lead people to a false understanding of God and of The Word, that people would confuse paraphrase for translation. I also heard the viewpoint that anything which makes God more accessible or approachable is good, that reading about Him at all is a good thing. I tried to be fair, but ultimately our own perspectives usually win out. I had to make the point that the Spirit is not dead and that God Himself might have something to say about how He is viewed by the untrained eye. I also pointed out the pleasure I take in simply reading The Message. It's not always poetic, it's not always even good writing, but it is always interesting and fresh.

My favorite comment came from someone who mentioned that she first became acquainted with Christ through "Jesus Christ, Superstar." Certainly the theology there is suspect, but it made her want to learn more about him. Which is, I guess, all any of us really want to do.

In the end, I was disappointed though. I am always able to appreciate a differing opinion. I am never able to appreciate a lack of tolerance for a differing opinion. The discussion, brief though it was, carried far too much of a "right or wrong" feel. I expressed this, of course, but I was still left with the feeling that some people were upset with other people for not seeing things their way.

Alas. I suppose the church will always be growing up.

Monday, August 27, 2007

40 Days

My summer of study was rewarding in so many ways. A sincere study of prayer cannot help but bring you closer to God. It cannot help but remind you how important it is to talk to Him all day, every day. I was also reminded to talk to Him about praise Him, to thank Him, to confess to Him, to inquire of Him, to request of Him.

It was also wonderful to rekindle my love of teaching the Word. When I preach on assigned topics, there is some benefit. But when I teach about my own personal study, study that is based on where I am in my (intentional) walk, study that comes from my own questions, I am filled with a passion and a love in my teaching that doesn't otherwise come. My favorite moments during the summer were the ones spent teaching. It helps that I was teaching a class on Sunday mornings full of people whom I have dearly loved for a long time, people who have laid their own personal foundation of study and prayer. And on Wednesday nights it felt very much like an elective class...the only people who came (and there were plenty) were those who wanted to discuss and delve into the topic.

There were frustrations, but I learned from them as well. I learned that I have been very flexible in my ministry for many years. I have made too many compromises to accomodate the inflexibility of others and, at times, my service has suffered as a result. I learned that I am sometimes too quick to say "yes" and almost always too slow to say "no." It's all too common in the church to serve with the best of intentions, but at the expense of other ministries. It helps to recognize this so that we can all serve in step with each other.

In an effort to keep my service in step with the service of others and, most importantly, in step with what God would have me do, I am in the midst of 40 days of prayer. During this time, I won't be preaching, teaching, or leading the church in any way. I will be deep in study and deeper in prayer. I will be having many conversations with many trusted brothers and sisters. I will be seeking God's will for me...God's role for me. I may come to the end and find myself squarely back where I started. And I may find myself someplace new. It's scary, but God never promised that it wouldn't be.

I have shared this with a few people and asked for their prayers. Now I ask for yours. This is a time of renewal, discovery, and rededication. It is not a vacation. Some have thought that I am taking time off and praying during that time. Actually, I'm praying and searching in such a way that I must have the time and distance necessary to do so. On October 1, my 40 days are up. I may have a very clear answer by then, I may not. Either way, I will be sharing here what I have learned. I am sincerely grateful in advance for being lifted up.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

New World View

For a long time, I've viewed Christianity as being "upside-down" from what the world expects.

The world says "Me first." Christ says "God first."

The world says to give what you have at the end of your paycheck to charity. Christ says to give first to God.

The world says that evil deserves evil. Christ says to repay evil with good. Even more, he says we should love our enemies!

The world says we should strive for personal gain and glory. Christ says that all glory and honor belong to the Lord.

The world shrugs its collective shoulders and rolls its collective eyes when they hear that "the last shall be first and the first shall be last."

Dallas Willard calls this concept "The Great Inversion" and makes the smack-your-head-in-disbelief-that-I-never-saw-it-this-way point that it is, in fact, the world which is upside-down!

When I see this, when my perspective comes from this vantage point, I realize that my work in bringing others to know Christ isn't as impossible as it seems. It's simply a matter of turning them right-side-up. As Willard puts it, "to become a disciple of Jesus is to accept now that inversion of human distinctions that will sooner or later be forced upon everyone by the irresistable reality of his kingdom."

Monday, August 20, 2007

First Day

Strapped securely to a backpack as big as he is, James strolled into kindergarten today. He was very excited and, according to all reports, had a wonderful day. He got to play in the big play area. He got to take papers to the office for copies. He was the Big Boy on Campus.
Many of my students didn't seem too excited to be here today. The Calculus class was abuzz and a lot of fun. An odd thing about teaching Calc is that those kids all know each other so well that I feel like I'm catching up for the first few weeks. But my freshman Algebra students were quite agitated that summer vacation had the poor taste to end so soon. They seemed especially upset that I would give them homework on the first day. I'm a big meanie.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Five out of Three

"Giving 110%" is a phrase that drives math teachers batty. So my blog title may require some explanation.

For the past four years, we have met for five days before the kids showed up for school. Five days of meetings and room prep and meetings and catching up with each other and meetings. This year, we squeezed that into three days. It was better. Incredibly busy. But waaaaaay better.

It was even harder to carve out enough time to be ready for Monday, but I am not nearly as loopy as I have been in previous years, wiped out before I ever saw a student. I have a lot of lesson planning to do next week, but the meetings (3 cheers) are over for now.

Ready or not, here they come.

Monday, August 13, 2007


The Greek "psalmos" translates the Hebrew "mizmor." The especially erudite among you already know what the word means: "To pluck." Yes, to pluck, as in to pluck a stringed instrument.

See, the Jews had a songbook of their own, but it didn't go up to 728B. We have 150 of them collected in our Old Testament and what I wouldn't give to hear them as they were really sung. With David on lead vocals and the Sons of Korah supplying backup. With the lutes and the flutes and the lyres and the cymbals. And the dancing! Oh, I want to see the dancing too!

I know, I know. Jesus came and did away with the old law and proclaimed, "Thou shalt no longer sing with accompaniment." Maybe God had heard one too many drum solo, who knows? All I know for sure is this: This paragraph drips with sarcasm.

God loved hearing His people lift the psalms to Him, even the lamentations. He loves hearing His people lift their voices to Him, even 728B. God loves hearing guitarists pluck their strings for Him, even Greg. God loves psalms, hymns, and contemporary Christian rock. God loves to be praised.

As my summer winds down, as I head back to work, as I get ready to teach just three more classes in my summer my niece and nephew head off to ACU this week and my new students get ready to face their fears, namely MY I catch up on blogs and settle back into a routine that helps me write the days get shorter and Hollywood runs out of "threequels" and I try to remember just what a polynomial my son (*sob*) starts kindergarten a week from my entire paradigm shifts, whatever that means, I ask you this:

What psalms do you love?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Baby Delaney

Yow, that's a long time between posts!

I have to explain why this blog has been post-free for so long. Last Sunday I preached and taught Bible class. I also taught class Wednesday night. I'm doing the same thing this week: preach, teach, teach. The amount of study time necessary to pull that off is extensive. If you don't believe me, ask Lisa. Nearly every day she asks me what my plans are and I tell her the same thing almost every time.

What a joy it has been to spend such time in the Word. What a privilege to be blessed with the time off. And just think how much money I've saved on playing golf! It has been exhausting, to be sure, but I'm so much better off for it. It's certainly a pace I can't keep up, but it's brought me closer to my Lord and given me a glimpse of what it's like for the people who do it all the time. Just the preaching wears me out...preaching and teaching back to back makes me want to...well, it makes me want to take a nap.

Sunday will be my last preaching gig for a while and the teaching will only continue for another few weeks. But by then school will have started and I'll have a whole other reason to be tired.

In far more important news, I became an uncle again this week! Lisa's sister had her first child, a precious daughter that she named Delaney. Everybody is happy and healthy, but the poor little girl hasn't met her uncle yet, a situation we plan to rectify tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy this picture of sweetness.

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