Category Archives: scripture

The Squeeze and the Savior

While I have never been diagnosed with textbook claustrophobia, I hate tight places. Elevators, tunnels and all other small spaces make my heart race and my palms sweat. I can rescue a child from the Chick-fil-A playplace blackhole like the best of them, but other than that, I try my hardest to avoid squishy, smushy places in the external world.

Similarly, my soul hates tight, restricting places and situations. With the exception of contortionists, I believe that most humans share my sentiments to varying degrees of intensity. Humans try to avoid being squeezed. Continue reading

Leaning in to Lament

Today the tears of fear, disappointment, and the unique tiredness that comes from trying to be tough for your kids welled up from within me.

We have been doing the workouts, reading together, and making the most of things. We tried to make Phin’s birthday two days ago feel as festive as possible. He tried to be grateful and act like it was the perfect day. But it wasn’t. He did not get to have his party. He misses his friends. Today it culminated in him being sad and disappointed that life looks like this right now.  When his honest tears started flowing, mine joined him, and we made a little river.

I don’t think I realized how much the dust of disappointment has been gathering in my heart and in their little hearts. Continue reading

Dayenu in Dire Days

I cried today. Partly because I am tired. Partly because it is a strange birthday for our youngest son. Partly because we are reading Pax, a beautifully written but sad book aloud for our temporary homeschool arrangement. Partly because I have been watching our housemate and his fiancee decide what to do about  their wedding next Saturday, a wedding they have been planning for half a year. Partly because my friends in the healthcare sector are tired and exposed to a disease that shows no signs of relenting in the near future.  All the partly’s make for a whole lot of emotion churning in my heart and the hearts of my little ones.

In the midst of the list of real emotions, the Holy Spirit was gracious to bring one word to heart and mind: dayenu which means “it would have been sufficient.” Continue reading

How the Local Church Can Shine in a Global Pandemic

As I sat down this morning with extra time on my hands from cancelled meetings and appointments, I found my soul stalled out. It seems the incredible amount of statistical information and news stories have left me (and most people, I would presume) paralyzed.

Graphs of flattening curves and comparisons between countries who have responded well or poorly to COVID-19 kept flashing to the forefront of my mind. As such, I was having a hard time knowing how to pray. Continue reading

Fully Opened

As the Spring breaths its new life over a weary, wintered earth, things begin to open. Buds bravely begin the process of opening themselves from being tightly bound, exposing themselves to the outside air.

But buds are not the only tightly bound things. Hearts, hands, and souls are also bound and closed. Exposure to the brokenness of the world constricts the soul. Fears tend to tighten hearts in reflexive self-protection; however, exposure to Christ opens the soul in hope, eager expectation, and even a vulnerable love. Continue reading

The Broadest Base for Boasting

Our culture loves platforms. Any business person, any blogger, or any entrepreneur has heard the pitch on the necessity of building and maintaining a platform. The church is not immune to this strategy. In fact, platforms, audiences, and subscribers can easily become a base for boasting both outside and inside the church. If your platform and base for boasting is built on your self or your gifts, you will find yourself on a shaky base and stuck in a mindset of scarcity; however, if your platform and base for boasting is your Savior, you have the steadiest and broadest base for boasting. Even beyond that, you will find that your platform is a place of abundance that invites collaboration rather than competition. 

Two different kings of Israel illustrate these two different approaches to boasting and platform-building.

Saul & the Shrinking Base 

Saul began on the grounds of humility, as seen when he was initially approached by Samuel as the Lord’s selection of the king His people had demanded. Saul, who was on a mission to find  the missing donkeys of his father, was taken aback by the prophet’s interest in him.

“Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the  tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?”1 Samuel 9:21.   

After his first God-empowered timely military victory over Nahash the Ammonite, Saul was quick to give all honor and glory to God, even when some of his awe-stricken soldiers wanted  to put death all who had publicly doubted the newly anointed king. 

But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel”…There they sacrificed peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly. 1 Samuel 11:14-15. 

However,  it did not take long for Saul’s platform to begin to shift from the Lord to himself. Despite the fact that God had proven Himself so obviously faithful and able against the Ammonites,  Saul took action without waiting on word from the Lord against the Philistines only three years later. When confronted by Samuel on his selfish haste, Saul’s answer betrayed this shifting, shrinking platform that would lead to full-blown competitive paranoia as he aged.

Samuel said, “What have you done? And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed,  and that the Philistines had mustered as Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering. 1 Samuel 13:11-12. 

The shift may seem subtle to us, but both Samuel and the Lord knew that Saul’s heart gaze had turned from God to self and audience. Things disintegrate fairly quickly from here, as recorded in the chapters which follow. The remainder of book depicts Saul as a paranoid, jealous former king fighting to hold on to the scraps of his platform. 

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David & the Broad Base

David and Saul had similar enough beginnings. Both were Benjaminites who were chosen and anointed as kings in the midst of their obedience to their earthly fathers, one searching for donkeys, the other tending the flocks in the fields. Both received their selection in humility and shocked submission. However, when David who had already been secretly anointed as the future king, came face to face with the Philistines, most notably their giant Goliath, David stayed on the broader boasting ground of God. 

Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God. And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.” 1 Samuel  17:36-37

Throughout the many attempts on his life by the paranoid Saul, David continually fought to wait  on and rely upon the Lord. During one of his flights for his life, David fled to Gath where he found himself in the clutches of another jealous king, Abimilech. David later penned Psalm 34 around this episode as an invitation to God’s people to boast in the Lord.

I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us  exalt his name forever. Psalm 34:1-3. 

Despite the fact that David was abundantly gifted as a warrior, as a poet, and as a leader of God’s people, he fought to make the abundant God His base for boasting. As such, he did not become a jealous platform protector, competing with others for a scarcity of praise. 

Rather, he was able to invite others onto the platform that he knew was ultimately God’s platform. Rather than viewing others as competitors, he invited them in as contributors. 

The character and goodness of our God is the platform God invites each of us people to stand upon and boast in. There is ample room on this base for more. When we choose this platform rather than the shrinking platform of self with its fickle audience of man, we can echo David’s invitation: Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name forever. 

Even more than King David, we can look to the eternal Son of David, Christ, who made the Cross his platform that we might receive His crown. 

Spring-loaded Discipleship

Time binding. I have been reading about time-binding. Lest you write me off as a sci-fi person (which I most certainly am not, though I seem to be raising children who are… never say never), allow me to explain myself.

Time binding is not time bending or some other time-space continuum talk which is well above my pay grade. Rather, it is a concept studied by Alfred Korzbyski which I came across in Present Shock, the most fascinating book I have read in a while.

Korzybski noticed that in addition to storing energy (like plants storing energy photosynthesized during sunlight for darkness and winter) and storing space (like a squirrel gathering nuts from all over and placing them into its niche),  humans also store or bind time.

While time-binding might sound like something only an Avenger could do, it is something we all do regularly.  Douglas Rushkoff wrote the following explaining Korzybski’s concept.

We can take the experiences of one generation and pass it on to the next generation through language and symbols. We can still teach our children things  like hunting or fishing in real time, but our lessons can also be compressed into stories, instructions, and diagrams. The information  acquired by one generation can be passed on more efficiently than if each subsequent generation needed to learn everything through experience. 

Rushkoff describes this action as spring-loading time: if time were a spring, we compress ages of learning and information, passing it on in shorter period of time. This concept of spring-loaded time helped me understand the significant activity that happens within Christian discipleship in a new light.

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Discipleship as Time-binding

Passing on information is nothing new. In fact, the passing on both the theological tenants of the gospel along with its practical implications on life within the context of an intentional relationship is as old as the Christian church.

In his last letter to his young protege Timothy, the Apostle Paul perfectly captures the heart of discipleship with its time binding properties.

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you  have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will  be able to teach other’s also. 2 Timothy 2: 1-2

Paul had spent countless years of his life doing life with the young Timothy. In addition to knowing the gospel, they knew each other’s strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and stories of upbringing. Timothy knew Paul’s preaching style, the lines he used to transition surface-level conversations with those around them into significant conversations that might move toward spiritual things. Timothy learned from Paul’s experience how to suffer well, how to fight against living for the approval of man, and how to persevere even in the presence of mounting pressure and hostilities.

Knowing he was nearing the end of his life on this earth (which he welcomed… for to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21), he urged Timothy to pass this eternally critical information on to the next generation.

Timothy was to live his life faithfully, binding the lessons he learned as he walked with  God through the Spirit and the Word and compressing them to pass them along to the next spiritual iteration.

This exponentially multiplicative process has been ongoing since Christ ascended back to His father, leaving the Spirit to guide his rag-tag crew of disciples in the continued advance of God’s kingdom.

We stand on the shoulders of giants. We have so much to learn from the spiritual successes and failures of the generations of saints who have gone before us, binding the lessons they learned and spring-loading us for the future. And the coming iterations of the kingdom of God will use the information bound by us and spring-loaded into their lives through our discipleship of them.

Spring-loaded lives

As I was reading about and mulling over these concepts, the Lord was gracious to bring two real life examples into my life, one to our kitchen table and the other to my office.

A friend came over to catch up and enjoy a meal with our family. He shared about his parent’s marriage and how God had enabled him to speak into their relationship at a very critical juncture. With tears of relief in his eyes, he shared about how all the years of training and discipleship he received during his college days had spring-loaded him for that very moment in their marriage. The countless workout sessions with a mentor, the weekly Bible studies, the seasonal retreats, the silly outings… all had been compressed into the wisdom he would need to help his parents reconcile.

Then, just yesterday, I sat down with a retired woman from my church. She was begging for ways invest all the time-binding she had been doing for a lifetime in the lives of the next generation. She said, “I am not getting any younger. I want to get to work passing along these things to new believers.”

Oh, that we might not only carefully number and invest the time we have been given but also bind it to pass it along to the coming generations. May we spring load the spiritual springs of the future that the gospel and its implications might continue its work until Christ returns.