Tagged by Nick Gill

I resisted Nick’s tag a bit, partly because I didn’t want to fall into the stereotypical blog and partly because everyone else’s lists look so erudite compared with mine. But hey, I’ll play the game:

One book that changed your life? {I’ll assume on all of these that the Bible doesn’t count.} He Loves Forever by Tom Olbricht, though it’s more because of the impact that Dr. Olbricht had on my approach to Scripture. The ideas are in the book, but I learned them from him.

One book that you’ve read more than once? Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

One book that you’d want on a desert island? An Anthology of English Literature

One book that made you laugh? At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

One book that made you cry? Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

One book you wish had been written? Everything Jesus Said by Simon Peter, et al

One book you wish had never been written? While some misleading religious books come to mind, I have problems with the idea of needing to silence any expression of ideas. I don’t have anything for this list.

One book you’re currently reading? Juan Antonio Monroy gave me a book he’s written about Frank Pais, an evangelical who was a hero in Castro’s revolution in Cuba. The title is Frank País, Un líder evangélico en la Revolución Cubana

One book you’ve been meaning to read? Jack Reese’s The Body Broken

I’m supposed to tag 5 other bloggers, but I’m doing an intraoffice tag instead. Vince, Steve, Debi, Kay, Lauren, Nic, Courtney, Justin, Skye… you’re it.

God on God

Dr. Tom Olbricht, one of my professors when I was in college, had a profound impact on my approach to the Bible. I was reminded of this the other day when reading Nick Gill’s blog. Dr. Olbricht taught me to look for the things that the Bible itself says are most important and that one of the ways the Bible does this is by repetition. Something that appears numerous times in the Bible is probably something that we should take notice of.

In the past year I’ve become aware of a passage that the writers of the Bible seemed to think is very important, even though it’s a passage that I’ve tended to overlook. The passage is Exodus 34, especially verses 5, 6 and 7. In those verses, God describes himself. And the Bible refers back to this description time and again.

“The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” ” (Exodus 34:5-7 ESV)

You may rememeber the scene. It’s “the replacement of the tablets,” when Moses goes up the mountain to receive the law a second time. He asks to see God’s glory, and God has him stand in a hollow in the rock, allowing Moses to see “God’s back.” And as God passes by, He declares His own name.” But He doesn’t just say “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.” He offers this description, a description which is referred to time and again in the Bible (For an idea, look at Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3).

Who is God? He is a gracious and compassionate God. He is slow to anger and abounds in love and forgiveness. Yet He punishes sin. That’s our God. We need to see His love and mercy, and we need to see His justice.

I want to take time to meditate on the meaning of this description of God. After all, it comes from God Himself.

Red Herring or Heartfelt Inquiry

Painting by Simon Dewey

I don’t think it was noontime. There, I’ve said it. I’ve offered up my red herring, my distracting observation that will keep you from reading on to my main point. In John chapter 4, I think that John was using Roman time when he says “the sixth hour.” It was probably 6 p.m.

But that’s not actually what I wanted to write about. As I’ve heard this story retold, many feel that the woman became flustered when Jesus spoke about her 5-and-a-half husbands and that she proceeded to ask a totally irrelevant question, bringing up a popular debate without any real significance. “The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”” (John 4:19-20 ESV)

I think that this question is not just trivia for this woman. It’s not just a smoke screen. I think she’s finally met a real prophet, and she finally gets to ask the question that’s been bothering her for a long time: Do we proskuneo to this mountain or to Jerusalem? My extremely limited Greek studies tell me that proskuneo refers to a physical worship, usually meaning a bowing down. [Interestingly enough, the writers of the New Testament never use it to describe what Christians did in the first century; that may be because of Jesus’ comments in this passage] She’s asking a question about physical worship.

I think this woman wants to know where to pray to. Remember that the Old Testament talks about praying toward the temple in order to have one’s prayers heard (1 Kings 8:29-30, 35; 2 Chronicles 6:38). Remember that Daniel prayed toward Jerusalem while in Babylonia (Daniel 6:10). I think this woman wanted to pray to God so that her prayers would be heard, but she didn’t know which direction to pray. Jesus tells her that God is spirit (not a physical God that lives in a temple) and is worshiped in spirit and in truth, not by bowing down in a certain way or in a certain direction.

I think the question that this woman asked was the question: how do I worship God?

Why this blog isn’t one

I’ve long been aware that most of the Western world is waiting breathlessly for me to write about what I had for breakfast or to share my thoughts on the world’s current events. However, while I hate to disappoint a waiting public, that’s just not the sort of thing that I feel like writing. What I would like to do, however, is to share some of the less-orthodox thoughts that I’ve had over the years, just to get some feedback and critique on those thoughts. Since I’ve spent most of my adult life in ministry, most if not all of those thoughts pertain to biblical texts or Christian subjects in general.
Most of what I post here will be original in some sense of the word. Yet I realize that I have heard so many people over the years and read so many books and other writings, that the chance of a truly original thought coming forth from my head is rather unlikely. The best I can hope for is to combine the thoughts of others in some new way that will therefore yield something that seems original.
If anyone reads the different things I write here and agrees with all of them, I probably haven’t expressed myself well or they probably haven’t been paying attention. I hope that there is something that at least makes you think for a moment: “He’s got to be kidding” (I’d like to inspire an “Are you daft?” or two, but I doubt that many people say that on a regular basis).
It is also my intention that there be many chefs in this Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts. The Bible says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” The only hope these ideas have of ever reaching Full-Baked status is that others join in the process with their comments. I hope you’ll put on your chef’s hat (no aprons required) and join me in the baking.
—Tim

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