The other day, I was thinking about some of the ramifications of the resurrection, and I decided to jot some quick thoughts down. The first one which came to my mind was that believers should be optimistic. But to be honest, there is one ramification which must precede that optimism. Continue reading ‘Ramifications of the Resurrection, Pt 2: Crisis’
This morning, I received an Easter card. Now, to be honest, I don’t receive all that many Easter cards. I guess I’m not as popular as you. But when I get them, as I do with Christmas cards, I do take a moment to read through them and appreciate the gesture. As I opened this card, I found inside a beautiful letter about the reality and import of the resurrection for believers. And that letter has got me thinking: the resurrection should have a number of important ramifications for our lives as Christians. Continue reading ‘Ramifications of the Resurrection, Pt 1: Optimism’
“Jesus, where are you?” It’s a familiar question which we almost always ask in the wake of tragedy, and it’s a question countless people across our nation and around our world are asking after last week’s horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. It’s a good question. In fact, it’s a better question than a lot of the platitudes that various sources will offer. It deserves more than the standard. It demands more than the cute. Because the tragedies which prompt us to ask are nowhere near cute or standard. We ask because our souls are grappling with universal crises like Sandy Hook, 9/11, or the Holocaust, or deeply personal things like the loss of a job, a terrible disease, or the death of a loved one. Big things. Profound things. Earth-shaking, life-altering things. Some would have us believe that there are no real answers to the question, that we can never truly know if God – let alone where God – was in these moments. But they are wrong. And I wanted to take a moment today to offer a little insight I’ve been gaining in the last several weeks as I’ve worked on my series of Advent messages in general, and particularly as I’ve reflected on the implications of the Incarnation of Christ on the situation which has transfixed our attention the last several days. Continue reading ‘Jesus, where were you?’
Well, here we are. It’s been over two years since I started this word study about joy. I’ve learned a lot along the way about what joy is, what it’s not, what fuels it, what quenches it, and more. I’ve had my perspectives broadened to realize that it’s not just my joy that I should be considering. I’ve had some misconceptions cleared to discover that real joy can and does thrive even in the midst of incredible hardship. In some cases, I’ve had my expectations and understandings challenged. In others, I’ve had them confirmed. It’s been a good, enlightening, encouraging, equipping journey. And I’m glad I’ve taken it. Joy is, after all, the second integral component of the fruit of the Spirit; it must be an essential part of being a believer. As I come to the end of this study, though, I do want to dig into one more passage. Continue reading ‘That’s All, Folks!’
I enjoy writing and teaching. I mean, there are obviously times when writing or teaching is a real killjoy. For instance, when I was in college and Dr. Weeter had us writing a term paper in each of four classes, all due the same day. And when I’m teaching a room full of brats that don’t want to listen, learn, or grow. Then, writing and teaching stink. But most of the time, I enjoy these two tasks. Continue reading ‘writing, teaching’
Everything about the account of Micah in Judges 17-18 is wrong. Just plain wrong. The guy steals 1,100 pieces of silver from his own mother. Then, when he hears her cursing about it, afraid that he would fall victim to the thing, he returns it. She blesses him for undoing his wrong and then dedicates the silver to the Lord to benefit him (i.e., buy his salvation) and be used to make an idol (which was explicitly prohibited in the second commandment). Then Micah hires his own priest to teach him (but only the stuff he wanted to be taught) and ensure that he was indeed blessed.
So basically, Micah is trying to do everything in his power to make God like him, except for the stuff God wanted him to do. Brilliant plan here.
And then the Danites come along. At the beginning of Judges 18, we learn that (a) there was no king in Israel (i.e., there was no one in charge, no central government), (b) the tribe of Dan still didn’t have a territory (i.e., they forgot where they were supposed to settle or simply failed to do what they needed to do to drive the previous inhabitants out), and (c) the Danites were in the market for some new real estate (i.e., they were looking for somewhere new that they could capture easily and call their own). And so the people of Dan dispatch five men to find this new home.
When the Danite spies came across Micah’s house, they ask Micah’s personal priest-for-hire to ask if they will be successful. Of course, the guy tells them what they want to hear: “Go in peace. The Lord is watching over the journey you are going on.” It was a diplomatic answer. On the one hand, if the Danites went, found a new home and conquered it, the priest could say, “See, God was watching over your journey like a black ops sniper: ready to take out the bad guy for you.” On the other, if the Danites went out, didn’t find a new home or worse were smacked around in the process, the priest would say, “I told you! God was watching over your journey like Santa watching over the naughty kids!”
But it worked. The Danites were convinced that this guy knew what he was talking about, and when they found a place they thought they could capture and came back with the army to do so, they returned to Micah’s house to invite the priest to join them. Their offer to him in Judges 18:19 is compelling: “Come with us and be a father and a priest to us. Is it better for you to be a priest for the house of one person or for you to be a priest for a tribe and family in Israel?” Translate that: Hey, come with us, and you’ll be bigger, more popular, and more prominent than ever.
It’s a flattering offer. Compelling, even. And as I read it, I found myself asking how many modern pastors have succumbed to the same. But the more I look at it, the more I realize just how wrong the whole situation is. You see, Micah wasn’t the only one trying to do everything except the stuff God wanted him to do.
This personal priest shouldn’t have been a priest at all. He was a Levite. He should have been ministering in the tabernacle, not wandering aimlessly through the countryside. And the Danites shouldn’t have been looking for new territory. They should have been working to conquer the territory they were already allotted.
And when the priest decides to go with them, the whole situation only goes downhill from there. He and the Danites steal Micah’s wrong idol, go to the wrong town in the wrong territory, slaughter the wrong people, call it all by the wrong name, and then proceed to set up for themselves their own wrong religion.
Three things get me about this. First, Micah’s mom, Micah himself, the Levite priest, and even the Danites all wrapped their wrong ways in good stuff. Micah’s mom wanted to use the silver to secure blessing for her son and make an idol. So she “consecrated” it to the Lord. Micah wanted to make sure he was blessed rather than cursed. So he hired himself a Levite “priest.” The Levite just wanted more. So he went where he could “minister” to more people. And the Danites wanted a home. So they “inquired” of the Lord.
Their token piety was worthless in God’s eyes.
The second thing is the Levite himself. He starts out doing illegitimate ministry. He ends up doing illegitimate ministry. And he is, all along the way, nothing but a climber. You know the type. They’re the ones who will step on anyone and anything to secure for themselves the next best thing. And all the while, they’re not really interested in doing anything real.
God has no honor for climbers.
And the third thing that stands out to me is how the Danites cover their tracks when it’s all said and done. At the end of Judges 18, after the Danites had secured their new territory, they settle in the town of Laish and rename it Dan. It was a testament to themselves, their own greatness, etc. But it was also them stamping their names on the place, as though that made it truly theirs. And as though that wasn’t enough, they set up Micah’s carved images for themselves and set up Micah’s priest as their own. Because building their own temple somehow made the idol theirs.
God sees right through our covers.
No matter how good they seem to us, God has no use for token piety, no interest in people who are only interested in ascending the ladder, and no time for fraudulent victories.
I do not want to be in those camps!
In my last post on this whole joy study, I discussed 1 Peter 1. There, the apostle Peter was writing to believers in northern Asia Minor – believers who were filled with everyday disciples dealing with everyday problems and everyday persecution – and exhorting them to do the right thing no matter what. There, he started his teaching with the challenge to praise God in every circumstance, rejoicing because, even if for nothing else, they had been remade from the inside out, were being saved unto eternal salvation, and loved God and His will more than anything else. It is no coincidence that the next time the word “rejoice” shows up in the Bible is in 1 Peter 4 when, having issued the call to do the right thing no matter what, the apostle turns to explain what we need to be doing on a daily basis to ensure that we will do the right thing in the no matter whats of life. His advice in chapter 4 is designed to enable us to realize his instruction in chapters 1-3. And it goes something like this: decide now, in the good time, that you will do the right thing; expect adversity because it will come; keep your focus on eternity where God will judge; be serious and disciplined so you can – and will – pray; love people intensely and unceasingly; be hospitable; and use your God-given gifts to serve others for His glory. To these more practical tips, the apostle aimed to add some attitude tips starting in verse 12, where we read this: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory.” Continue reading ‘Instead, rejoice’