Taking Notice

One man's passing thought is another man's focus

I’ve moved to a new site – TextandWorld.com

First off, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of you for reading my semi-regular thoughts and book reviews. I’ve appreciated your interaction and feedback.

For the sake of added customization, I’ve decided to move to a self-hosted blog which can be found at TextandWorld.com.

While I plan to post content similar to what I’ve posted here in the past, I’ll do so under a new title: Text and World.

As I blogged here under the title of “Taking Notice” I noticed that my content all pointed to one thing, the re-uniting of theory and practice in the Christian Life.

So when it came time to determine a theme for this new home for my collection of thoughts, I went to webster dictionary and came across this definition:

praxis |ˈpraksəs|, noun formal

practice, as distinguished from theory: the gap between theory and praxis, text and world.

While unfortunate, the truth remains—the gap exists. We do not always allow our theory to ignite our practice. We do not allow the texts we read to ignite our lives in this world. With the Text as the compass, I hope to forge a path between this gap with the hope of seeing text and world reunited in the lives of believers.

Please take the opportunity to re-subscribe to my feed via http://textandworld.com/feed or via email by re-entering your email in the right column of the new site.

Thanks again!

-Ted

A Bit of Unsolicited Advice for Men in Preparation for Valentine’s Day

heart-1

Men, in case you haven’t seen—or you’ve chosen to ignore—the signs displaying the price of a dozen roses, you should know, this Thursday is Valentine’s day. In light of this, I thought I’d share a little unsolicited advice:

For those of you in relationships:

  • Buy flowers. It may seem trite to you, but it won’t to her.
  • Plan something fun, then let her know that you have something planned. Women love the anticipation.
  • There’s no need to freak out about your plans. Whatever you end up doing will be great for the simple reason that you’re the one doing it. Anything on the spectrum from roses with no card to skydiving as a knight in shining armor (including horse) will do just fine.

For those of you not in relationships:

  • Consider asking out that girl you have a crush on. Even if it’s only for a group date or a low pressure date at Qdoba, take the opportunity to make a single woman feel special.
  • Whether you celebrate it with a girl or not, stop talking about how much you hate Valentine’s day. Women hate guys who hate love.
  • High-five. You’ve managed to save both time and money. Enjoy it, but then realize that relationships are far more satisfying.

The High Calling of Fatherhood

father-hunger

Three months from yesterday, I’m due to be a father. And Wilson has me pegged when he writes, “it is likely that a number of readers have felt simultaneously encouraged and overwhelmed.” (198)

In his book, Father Hunger, Wilson seeks to re-establish the “high calling” of biblical fatherhood by pointing our society’s fathers away from the aloof “sitcom-dad” and back towards God the Father.

While this high calling of fatherhood is, at times, overwhelming, the strength of Father Hunger is in recognizing that a father’s strength comes from the Father. “Theology undergirds everything,” he argues, “how we think of God the Father will drive how we think of all fathers.” (189) Therefore, Wilson contends, our culture’s incorrect understanding and view of God the Father is the source of not just our familial but also our cultural woes (educational, vocational, financial, political, etc…).

Hope in Imitation

Wilson writes with a pointed hope which finds its foundation in the good news of Christ. “Our comfort is that the author of this great disaster story wrote Himself into the very center of that disaster, that He might carry the weight of it Himself.” (58)

Because “the way children really follow a father is by means of imitation” (186), we, as fathers, are to imitate God the father so our children (whether physical or spiritual) might see what He has done on our behalf (cf. 1 Cor 11:11 Peter 1:16):

The hands of fathers are there for provision (which means openhanded giving), and also to protect. For the former we may read through the gospel of John again and see what the Father has done with His hands—He gives and gives again. For the latter, we can look at the hands of Christ and see the nail prints still. (197-198)

Experienced Writing

Wilson’s years of experience are clearly evidenced in his masterful writing. Having mastered the tools of logic and illustration, Wilson simultaneously simplifies and expands one’s understanding of otherwise difficult-to-grasp concepts. Here he explains how treating men and women differently (as is done in a complementarian gender roles) does not diminish the value of either:

When two things are the same we tend to treat them the same. But if we treat two things the same, it does not follow that they are the same. If we found two hammers on the workbench, we wouldn’t have any trouble picking up either one of them to do the job—because we intend to treat them exactly the same. But it does not follow from this that if we should treat something the same (in a legal setting) they must, therefore, be the same. A man might be called up to take care of all his tools, treating them all with the same kind of respect. But treating a hammer with respect and a screwdriver with respect means treating them differently—you don’t twist screws with a hammer, and you don’t try to drive nails with the handle of a screwdriver. (6)

Concluding Thoughts

While there are days I am overwhelmed by the practical implications of what it means to be a father, the encouragement of Father Hunger is in its dependence upon scripture and God as the only perfect father. My responsibility, then, is to seek Him first—and make sure my children (and my wife) see me doing so.

I fully expect this book to become well-worn by the time I reach empty-nester status. I highly recommend it to future or present fathers of both physical and spiritual children (read: all men).

—————–

I received this book as part of Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze blog reviewer program.

I review for BookSneeze®

Integration! – Writing with a depth of understanding

Political Thought Cover

There are a few things that consistently stand out to me in great writing, but one of the foremost is the integration between schools of thought.

By connecting one field on study with another, the author conveys that he/she understands the integrated complexity of this world—the way in which what we believe about one area of life influences our actions in another.

I found a great example of this depth of understanding in the following section of Political Thought. The author takes his theoretical understanding of the sinfulness of man and applies it to his practical understanding of political thought.

If we accept the truth about the sinfulness of human beings—and it is the better part of wisdom and experience to do so—then we should perhaps consider revising our expectations of what can be achieved through the institution of government. Instead of setting out our own grand visions of what sort of substantive justice could be created and then imposed upon society like some transparent overlay, perhaps we should simply be more vigilant about injustice, which seems a more certain path. Rather than seeking to confiscate great fortunes and spreading them out to a populace or declaring new measures of the value of work and dictating them to employers in the hopes of reating new and better worlds, it may be far wiser to more vigorously punish forcible assaults and fraudulent schemes. A limited government with very specific mandates can still successfully punish evil. But it takes a Leviathan to envision and enact our dreams. And too often, they become nightmares.

—Baker, Hunter. Political Thought: A Student’s Guide. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012.

Happiness & Joy: The Subtle Distinction

Gospel Deeps

An insightful and subtle distinction:

“Joy is deeper than happiness, but like happiness, joy is always circumstantial. Because the gospel is true, then, even when we aren’t happy we can know the deeper joy because of the circumstances of God’s goodness and love. On the permanent condition of God’s unrelenting grace, joy is a permanent possibility.”

—Jared Wilson, Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus, (Crossway, 2012), p. 83

That happiness and joy both need to be grounded in something is not a new concept—in fact, it is a bit of a no brainer. The difference in their foundation, however, is what makes a world of difference, and qualifies this statement as profound.

It’s important to ask ourselves, then, is our Joy founded in temporal happiness or in the eternal gospel of Christ?

An End Worthy the Shedding of Precious Blood

The eloquence of this statement is second only to its gospel substance. Read it a few times if necessary (I had to) and let it encourage your soul, because these are precious truths, indeed:

These, these are the precious truths, which a scoffing world would fain rally or ridicule us out of. To produce this glorious change, this new creation, the glorious Jesus left his Father’s bosom. For this he led a persecuted life. For this he died an ignominious and accursed death. For this he rose again. And for this he now sitteth at the right hand of his Father. All the precepts of his gospel, all his ordinances, all his providences, whether of an afflictive or prosperous nature, all divine revelation from the beginning to the end, all centre in these two points, to show us how we are fallen and to begin, early on and complete a glorious and blessed change in our souls.

This is an end worthy of the coming of so divine a personage. To deliver a multitude of souls of every nation, language and tongue, from so many moral evils and to reinstate them in an incomparably more excellent condition than that from whence they are fallen, is an end worthy the shedding of such precious blood. What system of religion is there now, or was there ever exhibited to the world, any way to be compared to this.

—George Whitefield, ‘The Potter and the Clay,’ in Lee Gatiss, ed., The Sermons of George Whitefield (2 vols; Crossway, 2012), 1:258-259 (emphasis mine)

How to Captivate and Transform

The Holy Bible

What makes great teachers? What makes a message so captivating that we cannot stop reading or listening, and cannot help but be changed on the spot?

I’ve been enjoying some time with Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones the past few mornings and have found his teaching to be captivating in just such a way. As I read, I thought to myself, “What about it makes it so great?” That’s when I found this:

“There is nothing more important in the Christian life than the way in which we approach the Bible, and the way in which we read it. It is our textbook, it is our only source, it is our only authority. We know nothing about God and about the Christian life in a true sense apart from the Bible. We can draw various deductions from nature (and possibly from various mystical experiences) by which we can arrive at a belief in a supreme Creator. But I think it is agreed by most Christians, and it has been traditional throughout the long history of the Church, that we have no authority save this Book. We cannot rely solely upon subjective experiences because there are evil spirits as well as good spirits; there are counterfeit experiences. Here, in the Bible, is our sole authority.”

—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Eerdmans, 1976

There is nothing that captivates and transforms more than God himself as he reveals himself to us, specifically in Scripture. That is why messages laced with his Word draw us in. A message captivates and transforms when it is deeply rooted in a high view of Scripture. 

This is something Dr. Lloyd-Jones clearly understood—even his argument for the necessity of a high view of Scripture is based on Scripture! His thought above calls Psalm 19 to mind: the “heavens declare the glory of God” daily pouring out speech (v 1-2), and yet it’s the perfect law of the Lord (the Word of God to Moses) that does the “reviving [of] the soul” (v. 7). We know there is “a supreme being” without Scripture, but we can’t have a saving knowledge apart from it.

So as you teach, write, or otherwise convey messages, use God’s words, not your own. Use Scripture’s themes, not your own. See the text as relevant, don’t seek to make it relevant. In other words, preach the word!

The Interesting Circumstances Surrounding Jesus’ Arrest: Part 2

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

Once the men and soldiers arrived with their swords and clubs, another interesting event transpired.

Taking the cue from Judas’s kiss, “they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him” (Mt. 26:50). This was to be expected. What wasn’t expected was what happened next, “And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear” (Mt. 26:51). We learn from the gospel of John that it was Simon Peter who drew is sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest.

What stuck out to me was not the fact that Peter retaliated when the crowd seized Jesus, but instead that it was only an ear that got cut off.

This is how I picture the scene in the garden: Jesus stands amidst his disciples, having just returned from his intense time of prayer. The soldiers in the crowd pushed their way through the disciples as they followed Judas closely. Judas gives the signal with a kiss on Jesus’s cheek. Then, as they seize Jesus, Peter, realizing what is happening, draws his sword and strikes the person closest to him, the unfortunate Malchus.

But why did he strike the ear, and only the ear? Most swords in that region were meant for stabbing, not slicing.* Perhaps his killing blow to the head was knocked off target by a guard vying for better position to arrest Jesus, or perhaps Peter merely wanted to make his indignation known—not actually kill Malchus.

Whatever the motive behind his stroke, God, in his sovereignty, had the story result in a lost ear and Christ’s well known saying, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” What’s less well-known, however, is the next phrase, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Mt. 26:52-54). Beyond that fact that Christ denounces violence as a means of forwarding the gospel message, Christ makes it known that he is going to the cross willingly. While I admit that hindsight is 20/20, perhaps if Peter had spent the time praying alongside Jesus instead of sleeping, he would acted a bit more in-step with what God was doing.

Peter’s experience teaches us a powerful lesson we’d do well to remember in the future. When we try to take matters into our own hands and deny God’s sovereignty, we act in ways that aren’t to the glory of God. The problem wasn’t that Peter acted, but that Peter acted in a way that was out of touch with what God was doing. He wasn’t trusting in Christ’s divine authority that clearly could have stopped his arrest with legions of angels.

Do you recall a time you took matters into your own hands out of unrighteous fear, anger, or frustration? Was the resultant action out of touch with God’s will and his plan to sanctify you? (cf. 1 Thess 4:3) Unfortunately, I recall many such times. Instead we ought to lean hard into God’s word and abide in Christ. Through our fellowship and union with Christ our will will be aligned with the Father’s as Christ’s will is aligned with the Father’s and our actions will transformed accordingly.

God is sovereign and God is good, so let us trust him and respond with to our situations with a grace that is reminiscent of the gospel of Christ.

References
*ESV Study Bible footnotes

The Interesting Circumstances Surrounding Jesus’ Arrest: Part 1

Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

One of the greatest joys of the Christian life is re-reading Scripture for perhaps the umpteenth time and yet, finding something new. While Scripture and its truths certainly don’t change, we do, and in order to speak to us in our newfound contexts, the Spirit wields his sword (Eph 6:17) to reveal himself to us afresh.

While the Spirit certainly does this through more obscure passages of Scripture that we may re-read every couple years, the Spirit’s work is that much more evident in passages we re-read more frequently such as the arrest, death, and resurrection of Christ.

This is the setting for the series of posts that I will be writing over the next few days. As I read through Matthew 26, a few new things stood out that I thought worth sharing—here is the first:

“Judas came…and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs…” (Matt 26:47, ESV)

Dramatic irony is what caught my eye as I re-read this passage a few days ago. The passage is ironic in that we, the readers, know Christ to be the Divine, omnipotent, Son of God capable of all things (commanding legions of angels included). Yet, when the crowd arrives to arrest Christ, they bring mere swords and clubs with them.

As I chuckled a bit to myself, the humor of the irony faded as I thought through the implications. The swords and clubs make it evident that the crowd did not recognize Jesus as the Christ. While we can’t know the motives of the crowd entirely, I think it’s safe to say that if they accepted Jesus as the Christ, they wouldn’t be there with those weapons.

On one hand, if they knew and loved Jesus as Christ, it’s likely they would have been there already praying with his disciples. On the other, if they knew Jesus as the Christ and still wanted to arrest him, surely, they would have mustered more firepower than the swords and clubs of a detachment of temple guards and priests.*

As we think about the crowd’s actions against Christ, perhaps it’s helpful to reflect upon the ways that we deny Jesus as Lord with our own actions. How many of our worries, doubts, or fears would be utterly destroyed if we understood Christ and his gospel more deeply?

I pray that as we jump into God’s word he would reveal himself to us in new and deeper ways.

Read Part 2 of The Interesting Circumstances Surrounding Jesus’ Arrest Series

References
*ESV Study Bible footnotes
 

Exulting in God: A Reflection on Psalm 5

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O LORD;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.
Psalm 5:11-12 (ESV)

David prays in this Psalm that the Lord would lead him in His righteousness (v.8). He prays this because he knows that God is not a God who delights in wickedness (v.4), but instead blesses and covers the righteous (v.12) and he responds with delight in the Lord (v.11)

Likewise, when we take refuge in Christ’s righteousness, our natural response is to rejoice and sing for joy! The ESV Study Bible notes offer a further insight on this passage:

The song prays that the truly faithful, in contrast to the evildoers, will always rejoice in the Lord and be assured of his care and protection.

Do I exude a proportional amount of joy as I think of God’s protection of those who are righteous in Christ? Do I love the name of the Lord and exult in him?  David prays that all those who take refuge in God would “ever sing for joy”—so let us do so!