Five Minute Friday: Secret

Reach

Gentle Reader,

It’s been a month since I last participated in Five Minute Friday. Missed the chat tonight because I put off exercising until 5:15 p.m., which I rarely do, because as much as I hate mornings, I hate exercising at night even more. As often as I’m able, I roll out of bed, slide my feet into my shoes and get the job done. The sweaty, annoying job.

So. Anyway.

Kate says: secret.

Go.

I am not a health nut.

When I talk about my exercise schedule or the way I have to eat (which is pretty much vegan at this point), some assume that I’m an amazing gym rat or that I spend my days crafting fabulous, quinoa-based recipes. No. Not at all. Not true.

What I am is a lazy junk-food addict. I love Pepsi, chips, cookies, Arby’s and bacon. I don’t like getting up and doing burpees or hefting weights above my head. I want to binge-watch Netflix all day while sitting in a barrel full of Doritos. I want to take as many naps as possible. I want to become one with the couch. If I believed in spirit animals, mine would be the sloth.

So what’s my secret? How did I manage to change my diet? How do I keep up with the exercise?

There is no secret.

Taking care of our bodies to the best of our abilities falls under the realm of stewardship. We don’t own these flesh-tents. God made them. They belong to Him, just as our hearts, souls and minds do. Being the humans we are, we easily slide toward laziness, as I do, or toward obsession, spending hours and dollars crafting the “perfect” body because we hope that a beautiful outer package will fill the inner void. Neither is healthy.

Stewarding our bodies really is as simple as “eat less, move more.” We don’t like hearing that. We want the quick fix. We want the diet fad. Having to make deep, lasting lifestyle changes? #nothanks

So if there is no secret, and the route to success is truly simple, why is it so hard? Why do I (and maybe you) have so much trouble aligning our attitudes, thoughts and desires with the actions we know we must take?

Because we forget the spiritual aspect.

…let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

– Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)

This verse is eschatological. Paul draws us to keep our eyes on what lies ahead, knowing that serving Jesus now is worth every effort and toil because in the end we will receive the great reward of being with Him, face-to-face. There is a broader principle, though: sowing and reaping. In verse eight,

…he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

– (NKJV)

Again, eschatological and broad. We have everlasting life by “sowing to the Spirit,” meaning placing our faith in the saving grace of Christ. But the kingdom is not just “then.” It is also “now,” within us, by the indwelling of the Spirit. We are to live as people who see things differently, who comprehend a new reality.

So I pray, Jesus, help me. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to make a salad. I don’t want to do push-ups. You’ve got to enable me to do good. You’ve got to empower me to listen to the Spirit instead of myself. 

And He does.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Guide

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Completely spaced the fact that yesterday was Thursday and the crew was gathering for the Twitter chat. Not that I would have been able to participate, anyway. Had an eye appointment the resulted in numb, dilated eyes and a headache. Such is the fun of that yearly exam.

Kate asks us to think about: guide.

Go.

I have no sense of direction.

Really. Whatever way I am facing is North.

My mom and I went to an antique/junk/shabby chic/craft show last Saturday. I decided to be brave and drive us there, just so long as she would navigate. Good thing that she’s reliable, because I had no idea where I was, what turns I needed to make, or how to replicate the path to get back home. After perusing the treasures for awhile, we made our way up to one of our favorite bookstores. At this point, I argued with her and insisted that the store was on the right-hand side of the road.

It wasn’t.

Honestly, I’m surprised that I’m allowed to go anywhere by myself, let alone have a drivers license.

Later, as I thought about our day, my mind drifted to Psalm 119:

Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.

– vs. 97-104 (NKJV)

When it comes to the important things of life – how to know and love God, how to love others – none of us has any clue. We don’t know which way to go. All natural paths lead straight to our own belly buttons, because we believe ourselves to be the center of the universe. How gracious of the Lord, then, to drop 66 books, written over centuries, across cultures and languages, into our laps. How kind of Him to say, “This is the way. Walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).

We don’t have to be lost. We don’t have to panic. God is ever-near, speaking through the words on the thin pages or the smartphone screens. His Spirit breathes life into the ink and graces our minds with understanding. We don’t have to wander. We don’t have to attempt to cut our own path blindly in the darkness.

So, perhaps we should stop viewing the Bible as such a great burden. Perhaps we should learn to love and cherish it. Perhaps we should study it hungrily, eagerly.

Just a thought.

Stop.

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They Say It’s My Birthday

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Today I am 33.

And it’s stupid hot outside, so I’m hiding in the house, next to the air conditioner, shades drawn. There’s a small rectangle between the top of the couch and the bottom of the blinds that allows me to peek out on a scorching, quiet world. Nobody is out-and-about. The rose bushes climbing up the trellis look a little sad. The dogs alternate between panting and snoozing.

It’s August.

I feel kind of sorry for making my mom go into labor during such a miserable time of year (as if I had any control over that). I was supposed to show up at the end of the month or even in early September. But I was in a rush, three weeks early. Bald-headed and a little over five pounds. My dad tells me that I came into the world with my eyes wide open, which I like to think was a sign of the curiosity and hunger for understanding that remains with me.

I’ve reached yet another transitional season of adulthood. I’m not young and stupid, but I’m also not old and wise. I know enough to know better, but not enough to always foresee the oncoming bend in the road. People begin to seek my advice on serious issues like faith and relationships, which is completely frightening. Most scary of all, I’m old enough to have been married long enough to start being looked upon as an example for other, younger wives.

Yikes.

I can’t help but take that seriously.

Today I wonder what kind of advice I can really offer to anyone. The better part of wisdom is knowing just how much you don’t know. Despite all my reading, all my studying – I know very little. But perhaps it’s not about the quantity of knowledge, but rather the quality of knowledge.

With that in mind, I move to pondering what I might wish to say if this were my last birthday. Yeah, yeah. Some of you find that morbid. Hike up your big kid britches. We’re all going to shed this leaky tent; some of us are forced to face that fact sooner than we’d prefer. I am painfully aware on a daily basis that this skin-suit is going to stop working one day. I have no delusions of immortality, none that are beyond the life eternal promised in Christ Jesus.

On this day, then, I want to leave you with some of the truest words I know, the best pieces of wisdom that will light the way through any darkness:

…what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. …

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. …

How can a young man cleanse his way?

By taking heed according to Your word.

With my whole heart I have sought You;

Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!

Your word I have hidden in my heart,

That I might not sin against You.

Blessed are You, O Lord!

Teach me Your statutes.

With my lips I have declared

All the judgments of Your mouth.

I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,

As much as in all riches.

I will meditate on Your precepts,

And contemplate Your ways.

I will delight myself in Your statutes;

I will not forget Your word. …

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. …

“…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Hebrews 11:32-12:3; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; 1 John 2:15-17; Psalm 119:9-16; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; Matthew 28:20b (NKJV)

Look to Jesus. Cry out to Jesus. Follow Jesus. Rest in Jesus.

Now, instead of singing happy birthday to me, go and sing to Him.

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Linking up with Suzanne EllerHolley Gerth and  Susan Mead.

Sola What?: Sola Scriptura

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This post was edited August 11, 2014, Edits appear in red italics.

Gentle Reader,

This is the post that I have been dreading. Attempting to keep a discussion of Sola Scriptura concise and accurate is like getting my wiener dog to stop chasing a ball. It’s just not going to happen. So please don’t take this one little entry as your only point of access into this centuries-old debate.

I begin by saying that Scripture should be seen as a coherent whole, containing the entirety of the Gospel message from Genesis to Revelation. This is the point of

Sola Scriptura: Scripture alone; the Bible, as the inspired (both directly and indirectly) word of God (as distinct from the Word, Jesus) is the only source that is authoritative for the faith and practice of Christians

I absolutely believe that Scripture, as the specific revelation of God (as opposed to the general revelation of nature), is the only source from whence faith and practice can be derived. There is no separate oral tradition. My Catholic friends who insist that such a tradition exists must also admit that this oral tradition is taken from the written word – simply not the written word of Scripture. Rather, oral tradition can often be traced to the second and third century pseudepigraphical (not written by the author named) documents such as the Protoevangelium of James. Despite Church Fathers noting that the document was of dubious origin, it was a popular work, and the belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary, first taught here, became entrenched.

 When a doctrine can be traced to what was recognized as an unreliable source, we have a problem.

But Protestants are not free of problems, though they are not of the same sort.

There are two kinds of problems within the congregations who claim Sola Scriptura. The first is seen in cases where there is no rule in how to approach the Bible, no idea for an interpretive framework. “Me and my Bible,” is the cry of this set. Ancient Christians answered this cry when they developed what is referred to as the Rule of Faith:

The Rule of Faith enabled the church to identify, preserve and pass on a coherent doctrine of God in the face of competing accounts of Christian identity. . .The plurality of potential interpretations did not entail the equal legitimacy of all the various claims, as if the church simply appealed to tradition because the Bible was defenseless. Instead, the early Christians saw the Rule of Faith as a form of moral restraint against human tendencies to twist the Scriptures in a self-interested ways. (1; emphasis mine)

In other words, if you read the Bible and cannot come to the conclusion that you

believe in God the Father Almighty, the Maker of Heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy [Spirit], born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucifed, dead and buried;. . .the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven and [sits] and the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from [where] He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic [universal] Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, (2)

then you have a problem. This is the ancient, orthodox understanding of both the frame around and the conclusions of Scripture. This is the lens through which it must be read. There needs to be a basic framework through which it is rightly understood. The proliferation of groups and cults that take a handful of verses and run wild with them is more than enough comment on the dangerous places that too-simplistic an understanding of Sola Scriptura can lead.

Thankfully, many churches understand that the Bible must be approached in this way. However, there are other areas of entrapment, found in our fondness for adhering to and elevating certain ways of interpreting and applying that teaching to the detrimental eclipsing of Scripture itself. 

Consider the theological hot-bed of eschatology (concerning the end of all things). There are denominations that absolutely insist, for example, upon a dispensational, premillenialist understanding of the end. Trouble is, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, Scripture does not spell this out for us. The only things that are perfectly clear about the end are:

Calamity will strike the earth.

Jesus will come back.

Everyone will be judged; those who are saved will enter into Heaven and those who are not will enter into Hell.

It’s not easily discernible whether a pre-, mid- or post-tribulation rapture of the Church will occur – or whether a rapture will happen at all.  Nobody knows for sure what form the mark of the Beast will take. Is the scroll that only the Lamb is worthy to open (Rev. 5) a Scroll of Destiny or the Title Deed to the Earth? Are the two witnesses (Rev. 11) Moses and Elijah?

I fully understand that the Bible must be interpreted. We interpret anything we read. The problem arises when, as in our example of dispensational premillenialism, an interpretive theological tradition outside of Scripture is held with such tenacity that it becomes the authority. Anyone not holding to this tradition is seen, at best, as something of an idiot and, at worst, as being outside of the Body. This is not appropriate. We must be willing to see those who claim the essentials of faith as being our brothers and sisters, whether or not we agree down to the last dotted “i” and the last crossed “t.” 

Once more allow me to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with holding to a particular understanding of the end times or of other things, such as soteriology. What I am attempting to show here is that we must not close our fists around such concepts and beat people with them. We must be willing to subordinate our systems to Scripture itself, constantly looking at the text and asking the Spirit for guidance.

Ultimately, Sola Scriptura is an accurate understanding of the Bible’s place in the life of a Christian. Surely we must say that it is God Himself who is the authoritative ruler on things pertaining to the faith and that the Bible, as His word to mankind, contains all that we need to know in order to establish a correct and ongoing relationship with Him. This is our authority. And yet we Protestants do not practice what we preach. In some cases we lack the most basic of frameworks, such as the Rule of Faith, and this leads us to some wildly inaccurate conclusions and dangerous cherry-picking. In others, our framework becomes so entrenched that we cannot and will not consider another view. We even go so far as to reject the trueness of our brothers and sisters who see a passage differently. 

This should not be so.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all posts in the Sola What? series, go here.

 

References:

1. Daniel J. Treier. Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recovering a Christian Practice. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 59.

2. Ibid., 58.

3. http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/29.