Friday, April 26, 2013

No Cheating on the Eating

Do you remember some sort of experiment in chemistry class when you dripped a drop of some sort of catalyst into a solution and the liquid instantly changed color? Do you ever remember thinking or hoping that it might turn a different color next time? No, you didn't, because it's chemistry. It does what it does.

When we feed our bodies poorly and hope to still be healthy, we are like children watching a chemistry demonstration hoping the solution turns a different color next time. Our bodies are a big sack of active biochemistry. Chemistry is chemistry. Just like you can't cheat chemistry in the classroom, you can't cheat chemistry in your body. Whatever you put in your body will do what it's going to do, chemically speaking.

Now, there's a lot more to health than just eating, but eating is a central part of health. When you consume something, don't just think of the taste, think of the chemistry lab that is your body. What will this thing you are consuming do in your body. And don't hope it won't, because it will.

The Bible says it this way: You reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). It's a law, like gravity.

Your body is chemistry. There's no cheating on the eating.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Gnaw on the Bible for Spiritual Nutrition

The first Psalm paints a beautiful picture of "blessed man."
...his delight is in the law of the Lordand on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:2–3 (ESV)
But tell me this: when you think of meditation, do you not think of crossed legs, candles and perhaps soft music? How on earth are any of us supposed to do that day and night? And even if we could, it really doesn't sound like an attractive or fulfilling lifestyle.

A little searching through the Old Testament reveals that the word for meditate in Psalm 1 is the same word used for "growl" in Isaiah 31:4, “As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey..." (Bear in mind that this "prey" is a carcass that the lion is devouring.)

Eugene Peterson in his excellent book, "Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading," writes about the way his dog engaged in this act with bones he'd found out in the forest:
He gnawed the bone, turned it over and around, licked it, worried it. Sometimes we could hear a low rumble or growl, what in a cat would have been a purr. He was obviously enjoying himself and in no hurry. After a leisurely couple of hours he would bury it and return the next day to take it up again. An average bone lasted about a week.
That seems exciting to me. Challenging. Engaging. Get a delicious piece of scripture and start chewing on it. And keep chewing on it. Shake your head rapidly side-to-side (dog owners know what I'm talking about). Maybe even fling it and then run after it yourself just for fun. Let it slowly dissolve into your being and soak into your spirit through a good bit of enjoyable gnawing.

While quiet meditation can be beneficial, this way of "meditating on the Word" is closer to the Old Testament command to, "talk of [God's words] when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." (Deuteronomy 6:7 (ESV)) 

You digest God's Word and it becomes a part of your life. Meditating on God's Word is nothing more than chewing on it all the time (day and night!) as you go through your life. It's the way that God, through his Word, gets into the beating of your heart and the waves of your thoughts instead of just being a cultural institution you observe on Sunday mornings and maybe Wednesday evenings.

If your faith seems dry or empty, perhaps you haven't been chewing your spiritual food long enough to extract the nutrients that God has provided. Start gnawing on the Word!


I highly recommend Eugene Peterson's book: "Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading," I borrowed it as an audio book from the Orange County, Florida Library system. Click here to go to the Orange County Library search results with both the audio book and printed book available. And here is the Amazon link. (And no, I don't get any kickbacks or other benefits by referring you to this book!)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Your Life on the Front Page?

Here's a simple way to evaluate something you are contemplating saying or doing:
Would you want that behavior or choice in bold print on the front page of the paper?
Not pictures or details, mind you! Just simple facts. If you don't want what you are saying or doing proclaimed, you should think about whether or not you should be doing it. Jesus indicated that in the end, this full disclosure will take place: "For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light." Luke 8:17 (ESV)

For instance, consider this headline: "Pastor John & Kelly Sleeping Together." Who cares, right? "Duh," is the likely response. "They are married and they have children."

Private stuff is, of course, private stuff. That's why I say "no pictures or details." But I think this question can be helpful in at least two ways:

First, when we choose things or do things that we know are wrong (or things that don't align with our values), we are usually aware of it. Nobody wants their bad or compromising behavior on the front page. So this question can set off a little alarm in our heads, telling us that we are considering or doing something we think is wrong or something that doesn't align with our values. We are not living the way we want to live.

Second, people often have an image they like to project that is not exactly who they really are. This gap between who we want to be seen as and who we actually are causes tension in our lives. The more we can close that gap, the more we will feel like we are living authentically.

This may not be the last word or the best word on evaluating your behavior. It might also be dangerous if it causes you false guilt or hypersensitivity to how you are spending every moment of your life. This question could leave you curled up and whimpering in a corner if you are unable to be gracious to yourself, because we've all done and will do things that we certainly don't want proclaimed and are not proud of. And, of course, it is quite useless if you are proud of your bad behavior.

But I do think it can be helpful for those of us who desire to live authentically good lives.

That's what I'm thinking today as I continue on this journey of life...

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Dangers of the King James Version

While the King James Version of the Bible may rank among the great achievements of 18th century literature, the era, the style and the presuppositions underlying this most classic of English translations pose significant problems for the Christian who wants to interact with God through his living and active Word in the twenty-first century.

First, as a piece of 18th century literature, the language of the King James Version is archaic by today's standards. This presents us with all sorts of foreign vocabulary and sentence structure. The language and culture gap between us as readers and the time of the Bible is already quite significant. Why compound the problem by reading this book in 18th century English when exellent modern translations are available?

Second, the style of the King James Version is very high literature. While the style of the writing is beautiful, the very high style of the writing makes it less accessible to the average reader. (We'll come back to this in a moment.)

Thirdly, the presupposition behind Greek translation of the time was that the New Testament was written in a special Greek style that was unique to this book of divine revelation. Scholars at the time thought this because the style of Greek did not match any of the ancient Greek literature that was available. However, the reason for the style mismatch was more prosaic. High Greek literature had been preserved precisely because it was of high literary value and called for preservation. Archaeological evidence uncovered in the 20th century shed light on what was thought to be "Holy Spirit" Greek. Researchers combing through dumps in two places uncovered treasure troves of documents from daily life of the period written in Greek: shopping lists, letters from travelling family members, instructions to servants. The real shocker was that contrary to the prevailing opinion, it turned out that the Bible was not written in "Holy Spirit" Greek, but mostly in "street Greek." The New Testament is a book of common letters written very much in the common man's language. (To be fair, some of the books of the New Testament are of fairly high literary style.)

Why do I call this "dangerous"? Because taken together, these three factors combine to create distance precisely where God contrived to create intimacy. Humans naturally tend to want a God who is distant, who speaks in odd language, who is best studied by candlelight. We gravitate to the ideas of the mystical and the unapproachable other. The King James Version sets us up to hold God at a distance when God, as he has revealed himself, is abba, "dad." God wants to be in our family rooms not just our living rooms, at our kitchen tables not just in our formal dining rooms. The real language of New Testament Greek to the people who were the first recipients was much closer to, "Hey, let me ask you something," than "I pray thee, hearken unto my request."

The other gods of the era (and our other gods of today) are gods that are worshiped from a distance, from behind the rope, from the bottom of the steps. The true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who reveals himself in Jesus Christ, wants to come in close and sit on the couch with us. Just as he comes to us by the plainest of foods — bread and wine — in the Lord's Supper, so he wants to come close to us in His Word, in plain everyday language that was so common that it wasn't even considered worth preserving for posterity.

The King James Version is dangerous because, quite without intention, it presents God in a way that He has not presented himself to us. The older it gets, the more the danger increases. It is ancient, formal, dead language and it is inappropriate for growing close to our living, earthy, incarnational God. The God of the Bible is the God who comes down and takes on flesh and blood, walks around with dirty feet, welcomes outcasts and eats with sinners. He prefers drawing in the dirt and rubbing mud on people's eyes. He tells simple stories about travelers and farmers.

Don't get me wrong. I think the language of the King James Version is beautiful. If you love it and understand it, more power to you. But it is dangerous for the average person because it misrepresents the original common and approachable language of the New Testament.

That's what I think at this point in my journey...