Issues

Interestingly enough, I’ve realised that I’m fascinated by males with issues. This goes for the whole age range.

That’s bizarre, you say.

Females with issues just aren’t quite so intriguing as males with issues. And by ‘issues’ I mean boys with behavioural problems, young men with complicated pasts, older men with stubborn convictions… Mind boggling.

You have an issue.

Fortunately for me, the Bible is dominated by men with issues rather than women with issues. (Not that women have fewer issues, or that theirs are less important. Just less fascinating.)

Yea, why is there such measly content about women in the Bible? It’s so chauvinistic.

Wild thought, but maybe that’s why feminists find it hard to read the Bible – they’re too interested in women’s issues. In the bigger picture, I must concede that men and women have some of the same issues… so women can be fascinating too, at times. And about the Bible being chauvinistic, it’s people who are chauvinistic, and the Bible narrates the lives of many people, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes people are all three.

You women are pretty complicated.

Your call, but usually, I look at a female issue and think “meh, just do this <insert action here>.” Obviously though, the answer may be clear but the implementation not.

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This has been a random snippet of internal conversation from yours truly.
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Psalm 116

Read the following on this: [Psalm 116:1-19 HCSBhttp://msb.to/Ps116:1 – the automatic concordance is great for tying it to other psalms and verses of scripture. See some of my notes on this psalm here.

Psalm 116

Thanks to God for Deliverance

I love the Lord because He has heard
my appeal for mercy.a
2 Because He has turned His ear to me,
I will call out to Him as long as I live.b

3 The ropes of death were wrapped around me,
and the torments of Sheolc overcame me;
I encountered trouble and sorrow.d
4 Then I called on the name of Yahwehe:
“Yahweh, save me!”f

5 The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is compassionate.g
6 The Lord guards the inexperienced;
I was helpless, and He saved me.h
Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.i
8 For You, Lord, rescued me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.j
9 I will walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.k
10 I believed, even when I said,
“I am severely afflicted.l
11 In my alarm I said,
“Everyone is a liar.”m

12 How can I repay the Lord
for all the good He has done for me?n
13 I will take the cup of salvation
and call on the name of Yahweh.o
14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all His people.p

15 The death of His faithful ones
is valuable in the Lord’s sight.q
16 Lord, I am indeed Your servant;
I am Your servant, the son of Your female servant.
You have loosened my bonds.r

17 I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of Yahweh.s
18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all His people,t
19 in the courts of the Lord’s house —
within you, Jerusalem.u
Hallelujahv!

Footnotes:
a. Ps 18:166:19
b. Ps 17:640:1
c. A Hebrew word for either the grave or the realm of the dead
d. Ps 18:4-5
e. Or The Lord; the personal name of God in Hebrew; “Yah” is the shortened form of the name.
f. Ps 18:6118:5
g. Ex 34:6Neh 9:17Ps 112:4
h. Ps 19:779:8142:6
i. Ps 13:6Jer 6:16
j. Ps 49:1556:13
k. Ps 27:13
l. 2Co 4:13
m. Ps 31:2262:9Rm 3:4
n. 2Ch 32:251Th 3:9
o. Ps 16:5105:1
p. Ps 22:2550:14
q. Ps 72:14
r. Job 12:18Ps 86:16107:14
s. Lv 7:12Ps 50:14
t. Ps 22:2550:14
u. Ps 96:8102:21
v. Or Praise the Lord!; it literally means Praise Yah! (a shortened form of Yahweh)

The Importance of Being An Earnest Reader

Ezekiel contains some greatly unpleasant but undeniably present prophecies. ‘The prophets of doom and gloom.’ My whole Old Testament reading venture has been sobering, and perhaps not helping with the February blues.

Still, read this:

26 Calamity upon calamity will come,
and rumor upon rumor.
They will go searching for a vision from the prophet,
priestly instruction in the law will cease,
the counsel of the elders will come to an end.
27 The king will mourn,
the prince will be clothed with despair,
and the hands of the people of the land will tremble.
I will deal with them according to their conduct,
and by their own standards I will judge them.

“‘Then they will know that I am the LORD.’”

I first noticed that “by their own standards,” God will judge them. A good Biblical reference to support that God is fair to those who don’t know him. And that is not to say that in some cases, God’s standards don’t matter; only that these people do not even pass their own standards, let alone God’s.

But that was all I really noticed, until a Bible commentary pointed at me and said, “read earnestly!” The (Matthew Henry) commentary had this sentence written on it: “They would not hear what God had to say to them by ways of conviction, and therefore he has nothing to say to them by way of encouragement.” At a basic level, you can see that they asked the prophet for visions after ‘calamity’ and ‘rumours.’ Thinking critically, what are they expecting of the prophet? Is it to say, “yea, it sucks but that’s life – it’ll get much better for you soon,” or to say “you’ve done rather badly for yourself; change your ways or you haven’t got a hope?”

If the Old Testament is indeed full of doom and gloom, what a picture it is of a very human disinclination to be moved about our need to change our ways. A badly behaving child does not need encouragement, but a fitting reprimand. It is soy good.

Innovative redesign of reclining seats on Cathay Pacific planes (a.k.a. Christmas is about Christ Jesus)

The title is strange, I agree, but it does make sense. I hope it will by the end of this post.

The new Cathay Pacific planes have a cool reclining seat design that takes away the horror of the person in front leaning their seat back and crushing your head/laptop/food/personal space. Your seat still reclines to a more comfortable angle, but instead of actually leaning back, the seat slides forward. Here’s a diagram.

Now why would I bring this up in conjunction with Jesus? Rhetorical question – this is a roundabout connection. Sitting in one of these chairs on the flight home just reminded me of the principle of innovation: achieve the same purpose with a different method. The seat still reclines (purpose), but it does not lean back (method).

This is like when Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” He is adapting, changing to fit his audience. This is important, but just as important is that he is not compromising where it matters. He does not mean by this that it’s ok to do or be anything that suits you. He also says ,”that by all means I might save some,” where salvation as ordained by God is the ultimate purpose. For that salvation, there are unchangeable criteria, including

  1. Being saved by Jesus. John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
  2. Depending on The Bible. 2 Timothy 3:14-15 “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

The method is flexible as long is it stays true to the purpose and the truth and commands that surround it. Revelations 2:25 says, “Only hold fast what you have until I come.” This business of holding fast is serious at other points in Scripture too. Holding fast means not compromising or abandoning the original.

Finally, what about my bringing Christmas into the mix? I realised today why I’m not big on Christmas music. I’ve lived in Hong Kong for too much of my life, and having bad pop versions of carols overplayed in every public & commercial place during December has ruined them for me a little. I will put up with the hype and make an effort to get excited though, because the yearly remembrance of Jesus humbling himself to become human flesh is too important, and the hype is worth the while.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14) and this happened, for the sake of God’s name.

So even though Christmas is full of irrelevant details like reindeer and elves and buffets and excessive shopping and bad pop renditions of carols and crowds and lineups etc., I will deem this hullabaloo worth the while because once a year, there is a chance to make a big deal about the faithfulness of God in planning for how we could spend eternity with him and then enabling the whole plan and making up for all the places we screw up at.

I just wish I made more of this season in a good way.

Interrogate

In English critical theory, we are told to interrogate the text, interrogate culture, and interrogate traditional norms. Derrida interrogates universal claims, feminists interrogate masculinity, Marxists interrogate capitalism… etc. But we are never told to interrogate ourselves.

We don’t hear these academics saying that we need to interrogate our souls and our selves. No one seems to suggest that the problem lies within each of us; instead, the problem is externalized. No wonder people say the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Oh, right, people don’t believe what the Bible says about every person being sinful.*

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* C.J. Mahaney preaches on The Troubled Soul, mentioning our need to “interrogate” our souls (38:00-40:00), an internal focus that made me think about all this in the first place.

Chapters of frustration

Walking down the ‘Christianity’ aisle at Chapters book store is a little infuriating. Maybe extremely infuriating. “Why?” you say, “Aren’t you into Christian stuff?”

First question: what is the point of the Bible? Or a more simple question: why did Jesus come and die on the cross?

The Green Bible (NRSV) and The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation are not legitimate versions of The Bible. They thoroughly distort the gospel of Jesus Christ; he did not come to hug trees or slap the backs of self-righteous comrades, but to testify to the truth (that he’s the Son of God) and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Before you think I sound like a crazy conservative fundamentalist because the content of the three are still ‘mostly’ the same, think about the absolute importance of titles and context. The Bible is all about the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ. The Green Bible is all about a 21st century fad of planet-earth-loving. The First Egalitarian Bible is all about people struggling to make all people of equal greatness (but some are more equal than others). These other versions are completely raining on God’s parade, hence are not God’s Word. Green/Egalitarian emphases take things other than God and make them the greatest (i.e. idolatry) and hence misquote The Bible. Yes, God wants us to be good stewards and to love other as ourselves, but God’s first consuming purpose is God glorified. Glorify being exalting, honouring, highly esteeming… designating importance.

[As a side note… NRSV translators allowed this Green version to be published. How does that make them look as those entrusted with the gospel of God?]

I hadn’t realised the priorities were so badly skewed. This creates a strange urge to be a submissive housewife and to throw the recycling in the trash.

These and many other worthless books are wrongly stocked in the Christian section of bookstores that are not run by Christians.