Thinking Out Loud

December 31, 2018

Of Lives and Years; Of Beginnings and Endings

Have you made your New Life’s resolutions?

As I was thinking about how to wrap things up for 2019, it occurred to me that there might be four different possibility for how your year has gone; and those are the same four which can be applied to the longer span of our lives. For some context as to what I mean by this, here’s something I wrote in 2009. A small portion of this is actually appearing for the 4th time; much of it for only the 2nd time, and some is new.

I’m certainly not one of those “Everything happens for a reason” people, but I do believe every book in the Bible is there for many reasons, and with II Kings, the clearest message that I see is that when it comes to their relationship with God, not everybody ends well.

living-bibleIn II Kings we see a succession of leaders, many of whom are relegated to the most minimal of mentions. In the original The Living Bible, Ken Taylor in his most paraphrasial — ya like that word? — moment in the entire work actually lapses into point form in the later chapters. Those chapters could be called the “bullet point translation.” One could think that perhaps Taylor tired of the various Kings simply not getting it. Basically there are four main types of stories told and each King is representative of one of them:

  • Started badly, ended badly
  • Started well, ended badly
  • Started badly, ended well
  • Started well, ended well

There are several benefits to reading this. It should make you want to end well, to leave a legacy of faithfulness and devotion to God, His word, and His work. But if you’re not solidly signed up with the eternal security camp, it also means you must end well. It allows the possibility that I can blow this Christ-following thing, with severe consequences.

Of course it helps that God, by His Holy Spirit is constantly nudging us closer to His ways. There are times in our lives however, when we don’t respond to His prompting. In the Revelation given to John, a message to the church in Laos ascribes three possible states of response: hot, cold, or lukewarm. Although the descriptors here apply to the local church as a collective noun, I believe the same terms can also apply to us individually.

heat-sensitive-imageMany of those who are cold or even lukewarm will recommit themselves down the road, but in terms of the here and now, if you were to take a picture of the spiritual temperature of people using a “spiritual heat sensitive” camera, you’d find that not everyone is responding to what the Spirit is suggesting. Or demanding; God’s not big on suggestions! Some just love their sin too much. Others are just spiritually apathetic. Some are just too busy.

One of the biggest myths in the Church (capital ‘C’ this time) is to suggest that “It’s all good.” To me, that’s not dissimilar from the Universalist perspective. It’s all good if it all ends well. Right here, right now, in the middle of the story, we don’t see so clearly how it will end. We have absolutely, positively no idea what’s going on in the lives of people at the deepest level, so we can’t begin to assume what God may be doing, or what He may be using to work His purposes, but if II Kings tells us anything it is that even Kings, representing the highest their country has to offer, can refuse to see the need to make God part of their lifelong equation.

lifes-journeyAnother myth is to say “We’re all on a spiritual journey.” The Greeks held that there were four core ‘essences:’ Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Knowing their list didn’t account for everything in the world, they held that there was a fifth essence, ‘quintessence,’ representing ‘spirit.’ Unfortunately many people live lives that are dominated by earth or air or fire or water or whatever modern equivalents represent our modern passions. Their journey can’t be characterized as spiritual at all; or if it contains elements of spiritual life, it appears to be a journey to nowhere.

In Jesus time, we see life represented in the phrase, “heart, soul, mind and strength;” both in terms of Jesus early life in Luke 2:52, but also in how we are to love the Lord with all our being. Some people allow their lives to be dominated by mental or intellectual accomplishments (mind) or physical prowess (strength) or their physical or emotional passions (the eros and philios loves; soul) rather than by a focus on their own spirit and the spiritual side of life.

Of course, it is not for us to know what God is doing in everyone’s lives. We are responsible for the ending to our own story, not that of anyone else.

I want my life to be spirit-focused; to be quintessence-focused. I want the center of that focus to be Jesus Christ. I want to end well. I want those around me to end well, too.

So while we’re caught up in what is really the ‘micro-focus’ of how a particular year began or ended or both, we need to also consider the ‘macro-focus’ on the overall progression of our lives. 

It’s a time for New Year’s resolutions, but also a time for New Life resolutions.

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December 23, 2012

Pass the Bread

Filed under: Humor — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:37 pm

In 2013, I want to try to mine some classic, ancient posts from blogs that are still running. Suggestions are welcomed. With a new year approaching (admittedly not Jewish New Year), this seemed timely. This appeared EIGHT YEARS AGO — that’s 7,542 in blog years — at Blogotional

The following is from a friend of mine that is quite experienced in the ways of sin. (Can’t you just hear Groucho Marx saying, “But then aren’t we all?!”)

The Definitive Tashlich Guide
On Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), there is a ceremony called Tashlich. Jews traditionally go to the ocean (or a stream or river), pray, and then throw bread crumbs onto the water, so that the fish can symbolically eat their sins. Some people have been known to ask what kind of bread crumbs should they throw.

Here is the definitive Tashlich Guide for the Complicated Modern Jew

For ordinary sins…………..White Bread
For exotic sins…………….French Bread
For particularly dark……….Pumpernickel
For complex sins……………Multi-Grain
For twisted sins……………Pretzels
For tasteless sins………….Rice Cakes
For sins of indecision………Waffles
For sins committed in haste….Matzo
For sins of chutzpah………..Fresh Bread
For the sin of substance abuse/marijuana…….Stoned Wheat
For the sin of substance abuse/heavy drugs…..Poppy Seed
For the sin of committing auto theft………..Caraway
For the sin of committing arson…………….Toast
For the sin of passiveness when action is warranted…..Milk Toast
For the sin of being ill-tempered/sulky……..Sourdough
For the sin of cheating customers…………..Shortbread
For the sin of risking one’s life unnecessarily………HeroBread
For the sin of excessive use of irony……….Rye Bread
For the sin of telling bad jokes……………Corn Bread
For the sin of being money hungry…………..Raw Dough
For the sin of war-mongering……………….Kaiser Rolls
For the sin of immodest dressing……………Tarts
For the sin of causing injury or damage to others…….Tortes
For the sin of promiscuity…………………Hot Buns
For the sin of promiscuity with gentiles…….Hot CrossBuns
For the sin of davening (praying) off tune…..FlatBread
For the sin of being holier than thou……….Bagels
For the sin of indecent photography…………Cheese Cake
For the sin of over-eating…………………Stuffing Bread
For the sin of gambling……………………Fortune Cookies
For sin of abrasiveness……………………Grits
For sins of pride……………………….. Puff Pastry
For the sin of cheating……….Baked Goods with Nutrasweet and Olestra
For sin of impetuousness………Quick Bread
For negligent slip-ups………..Banana Bread
For the sin of dropping in without warning…..Popovers
For the sin of perfectionism……………….Angel Food Cake
For the sin of being up-tight and irritable….High Fiber Bran Muffins

Remember, you don’t have to show your crumbs to anyone. For those who require a wide selection of crumbs, an attempt will be made to have pre-packaged Tashlich Mix available in three grades (Tashlich Lite, Regular, and Industrial Strength) at your local Jewish bookstore.

Can I borrow some cornbread? Please?

January 4, 2012

Wednesday Link List

By request, a fresh take on the recurring List Lynx pun here

(B)link and you’ll miss it! 

  • Hard to imagine anyone opposing a translation of the Bible into another language, but the Jamaican patois version isn’t pleasing everyone.  Text sample: “De angel go to Mary and say to ‘er, me have news we going to make you well ‘appy. God really, really, bless you and him a walk with you all de time.”
  • Daniel Jepsen admits it’s not like him to walk out of a church service, but he did just that when the service went too far, or perhaps didn’t go far enough. Teaching the Bible would have been a refreshing addition.
  • Fuller Theological Seminary’s Kara Powell thinks that while adults and children are all sharing the same church, they’re all having a different experience of it.  In a 4-page article at CT, she suggests keeping kids in church beyond high school means giving them a faith that sticks.
  • He uses his involvement in TV and film production to evangelize well known actors, and he’s been fired by one prominent casting agency for doing so.  Steve Cha talks to Christian Post about evangelizing Hollywood.
  • This is the link to part one of the original video that Ben Breedlove posted at YouTube just days before he died on Christmas Day; though you need to watch part two to get the full story.  Gateway Church in Austin, Texas also posted the 42-minute memorial service  video in which lead pastor John Burke refers to Ben’s faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Cerebral palsy and epilepsy didn’t stop Toronto’s Robert Gagnon from completing a BA at Redeemer and an MTS at Tyndale Seminary, or from launching a new ministry for people with visible disadvantages, Abilities in Christ.
  • Here’s an interesting standup routine by Phil Long that gets some deep analysis on Tyler Braun’s blog.
  • Still haven’t made those New Year’s Resolutions?  Ann Voskamp offers five steps to help you begin.
  • Is heaven and The New Jerusalem the same thing? Think about it.  Here’s a C201 blog post that took on a life of its own in the comments.
  • Mike Breen looks at the Rainer Research Group’s ten trends for the next decade in church life.
  • The man at the center of the Jesus movement in the early 1970s, Costa Mesa California’s Calvary Church pastor Chuck Smith is now battling lung cancer though he never smoked.
  • TV Producer Mark Burnett is joining with Zondervan and the digital team that developed Glo Bible to introduce a new app, Bible 360 which will integrate with devices and social media. Sales will be through iTunes.
  • Seems a policy statement issued at Rossville Christian Academy in Tennessee is really just a mass memo directed at a single student. (The video is useless, but there’s a full text of the story when you scroll down.)
  • Time for one last Christmas image; J. R. Briggs got this from David Fitch; it’s titled Advent Distraction:

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