Found it on the Web 18.09.12

I’ve wondered for a while if I’m allowed to do this. Tim Challies has an A La Carte post he does where he amalgamates interesting things from the web into a post, by providing links and a little blurb. These cover theology and beyond. I wasn’t sure if I should do this because often the things I’d want to post are just things he’s posted already. (Spell “redundant” for me please.) However, I’ve started to read a bit more far and wide, so I think it’s about time to give this a try, if only for the sake of organizing all these extra ideas I’m putting into my head.

On the gospel, expressed in the idea of 3, 2, and 1. Clearly expressed and the most logical I have heard thus far, perhaps because this way of presenting it is novel to me and not full of over-used phrases.
[vimeo http://vimeo.com/48734715]

On our responses to times in our life when we thought we were walking with and following God’s will on the road to blessing, but end up in a mess. How should we perceive these events?
http://www.ccef.org/blog/when-god-pulls-rug-out

On the wrong way to be faithful – the notion of “I must try harder” which is hopelessly oriented towards self-achievement.
http://www.ccef.org/blog/what-christians-really-believe-i-must-try-harder

On the criteria for baptism of children. A well-reasoned discussion that gives good points to extrapolate to understanding what conditions should be met for an adult baptism.
http://www.challies.com/articles/when-should-my-children-be-baptized

On solid advice for youth ministry.
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/08/10/some-advice-for-youth-ministers/

On the right way to “wait” for those who are single. “I Don’t Wait Anymore” also inspired another post.
http://gracefortheroad.com/2012/02/03/idontwait/
http://www.boundlessline.org/2012/09/what-are-you-waiting-for.html

On observing the responses to the anti-Islam video from the Muslim world. Consider the premise of Islam as a religion compared to Christianity: the effects of valuing honour versus valuing humility.
http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-mocking-of-muhammad-and-condemning-of-christ

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On 20 things that are useful to know for those in their 20s.
http://theburiedlife.tumblr.com/post/24011465597/20-things-i-should-have-known-at-20

On the magic of photography and the lapse of time, juxtaposed.
http://dearphotograph.com/

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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.

King Lear and The King of Jews

Prince Edgar speaking about his usurped father, King Lear, from Shakespeare’s King Lear.

When we our betters see bearing our woes,
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.
Who alone suffers suffers most i’ the mind,
Leaving free things and happy shows behind:
But then the mind much sufferance doth o’er skip,
When grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship.
How light and portable my pain seems now,
When that which makes me bend makes the king bow,
He childed as I father’d!

Paul in his Letter to the Philippians about Jesus, also called ‘King of the Jews’.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Since Shakespearean plays were written in a time of ‘Christian culture’ when Biblical discourse was familiar to people in common ideas and phrases, it makes sense to form an analysis of these two passages together. The following are some of the salient ideas I see here:

  • The effect of seeing a great individual suffering
  • Having fellowship in suffering together
  • The significance of a great individual suffering voluntarily for your sake

The Lear passage focuses on the first two points: when we see greater people than ourselves suffering the same things we do, it makes our miseries seem less intimidating (less like our foes/enemies). If you think you are suffering alone, life sucks. But when you suffer grief together with another, you don’t pay so much attention to the fact that you’re suffering. Less pity partying. When you’re in the dumps and you see that someone greater is also in the dumps – ah, well it’s really not that bad.

Paul’s passage more directly addresses us and Jesus, the King. Jesus is in very nature God – clearly someone greater than ourselves – but he made himself ‘nothing’. That is, God became human; and not just any human but a lowly human, a servant. The suffering he endured was not merely misery or grief alone, but also death. And that death referred to is not just an ending of life as biologically understood. Biblically speaking, the concept of ‘death’ is separation from God. (Colossians 2:13) It is the logical conclusion of sin, or non-holiness. But if one were holy and not sinful, death would not be logical or deserved!

“When we our betters see bearing our woes,
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.”

“When we Jesus see bearing our sins,
We scarcely think our struggles worthy foes.” — Not great poetry, but interesting anyways.

For me, reading the Shakespeare is more emotionally gripping than Paul’s letter, not because Christ’s death on the cross is not moving, but because the passage about death on the cross is an explanation of a culminating event, whereas the Lear passage is an internal emotional palette. It’s a little like eating sugar or eating carbs – the carbs turn into sugar, but the sugar is already sugar and can give you an immediately energy boost. But in this way, non-Biblical texts can sometimes support the logic of the Bible with the immediacy of emotional trigger.

All this still does not discuss the part where suffering Lear says, “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,” but I’m  not getting into that here. I’ve written another post on King Lear a while ago that focuses on that anyways. See that post here on King Lear and God.

Loving = Obeying + Serving

I’ve been pondering Jesus’ ‘commandment thesis’ to Love God and Love Others for quite a while. (weeks, months…) Love is such an ambiguous word. Google it and you will get “Results 1 – 10 of about 2,350,000,000 for love [definition]. (0.09 seconds)” Isn’t that ridiculous? What is love? Click on that definition Google directs you to in the [] and you’ll find that 9 out of 10 of their definitions centre around some feeling of affection, passion, attachment, desire or enthusiasm. The one that stands out is #9 Christianity/Charity. We’ll get to that. I think that to ‘love’ is more than just some-kind-of-feeling, however strong it may be.

The Old Testament

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:18

The New Testament

This ‘commandment thesis’ is quoted/mentioned in 3 of the 4 gospels. In Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34, it is discussed because teachers of the Law (Pharisees) ask Jesus what he thinks the greatest/most important commandment is. In Luke 10:25-28, an expert in the law asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.

If you look further down chapter 6 in Deuteronomy to verses 13, 18, and 24, they read: “Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name” and “Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight” and “The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God…” As much as we may prefer to define love in a fluffy huggable way, that kind of love might better be called “luf” – love for God is slightly, if not majorly, different. That is because of who God is. He is the ultimate authority of the universe! He is not ‘an invisible friend’. Although God loves us and though “to all who received [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12), when children have a father who is GOD… that merits some respect. Can you really say you love your parents unless you respect them and are obedient to them?

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. (2 John 1:6)

This is more bluntly put in the book prior:

This is love for God: to obey his commands. (1 John 5:3)

That is the kind of love that requires all your heart, soul and strength. Obedience to a holy and perfect God  can hardly ring up to less than that.

As for loving your neighbour as yourself, that is perhaps the more self-explanatory command of the two, but requires thinking about what the greatest act of love you’ve received is… Perhaps, first, love is to share that gift of salvation.

4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 
 6Who, being in very nature[a] God, 
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 
 7but made himself nothing
      taking the very nature[b] of a servant, 
      being made in human likeness.  (Philippians 2:4-7)

When [Jesus] had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. (John 13:12)

I think the love for your neighbour is a love inextricably linked to Jesus’ attitude. It doesn’t mean serving other’s whims so much as bearing their burdens. Just as Christ bore the burden of our sins, though he was blameless. It is an attitude of serving that keeps in mind always that the master is God.

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature[a]; rather, serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13)

That verse comes before yet another summary of the law to love your neighbour as yourself, this time given by Paul.

So, the conclusion after this long-winded quote exposition is:
Loving God  = Obeying God
Loving others = Serving others

nice courtesy

Interesting fact I discovered while thinking through an essay on whether courtesy is an Ideological State Apparatus (re: Louis Althusser): “nice” as a word is not Biblical; that is, it does not occur in either the NIV or ESV translations.

Meanwhile, “courtesy” only appears once in the ESV translation, in Titus 3:2, and does not appear in the NIV at all.

Here is a comparison of Titus 3:2 across different translations, to show what courtesy might mean:

ESV
to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

NIV
to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

KJV
To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

NKJV
to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.

NASB
to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.

NLT
They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.

The Message (3:1-2)
Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand. No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous.

The conclusion? Being courteous and showing courtesy means having an attitude of humility towards others, and being considerate. It is an active reflection on your actions towards others, and when in doubt, to be generous. Some initial thoughts.

How to see ‘god’ as ‘God’

[Because I have numerous other essays I need to write, I shall blog instead. (Contradiction intended.) Being able to write continuously and develop an idea about something else may help writing in general? Right now I am stuck, stuck, stuck like a pig in the mud.]

Job. He is the “suffering” guy in the Bible. The one who was a good man, but on whom suffering was poured. He rescued the poor and made the widow’s heart sing; was eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, and father to the needy; he took up the case of the stranger, and broke the fangs of the wicked, snatching victims from their teeth. (Job 29:11-17) Job was righteous in his own eyes. (32:1) A contemporary Job might be a leftist humanitarian volunteer doctor working in a third world country.

But Elihu, the youngest among Job and the three other friends who came to console and talk to him, becomes angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He hears Job say “I am pure and without sin; I am clean and free from guilt,” (33:9) “I am innocent, but God denies me justice,” (34:5) and replies: “But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than man.” (33:12) Ultimately, Job, in his ‘goodness’ and ‘righteousness’, had become too comfortable in it. He lost his perspective of the awesomeness that is God. He was proud when he needed humility. “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders.” (37:14)

Job in his mind had begun to belittle the surpassing goodness and righteousness of God, that is beyond his imagination. God asks: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” (40:8) If God had punishes the fully righteous, then God would not be righteous. In the same way, we ask why God allows suffering in the world – it may not be our own. Would we discredit his justice? Can we condemn God in order to justify people? On a side note, are we forgetting the existence of Satan, of evil?

This is Job’s reply. “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (42:3-6) Job in this penultimate chapter displays Biblical wisdom: the fear of the Lord. Although he had earlier stated it himself, having heard that “The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding,” (28:28) he was full of himself (to use a colloquial wording) and not full of the Spirit (literally). He had forgotten the evil still in himself. “It is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.” (32:8)

In the end, it boils down, yet again, to God-is-Holy-and-we-are-sinful. We strive towards (hunger and thirst for) righteousness, but must realise that we cannot attain that quality in and of ourselves. We are to be filled (and this is where Jesus comes in). I wish I had a better way to end this patchwork of the book of Job, but I am growing tired.

[NOTE: add from beginning of Job]