The God of both Testaments

•June 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Many people have the idea that the God portrayed in the Old Testament is different than the one portrayed in the new. Upon a cursory look, this may seem plausible. In the old testament there are these humongous wars and judgements that are depicted, voluminous prophecies of downfall (Isaiah, I’m looking at you), and scores of the like material to be found. And of course we all know that the New Testament declares that God is love. Jesus bounces kids on his knees and teaches people to be good neighbors and love our enemies.

What this superficial analysis of the 2 cannons misses–besides the glaring cherry picking of the topics– is the simple temporal disanalogousness of the two collections of writings. What i mean is that even supposing a Young-Earth interpretation Genesis, the scope of the Old Testament is at least 4 thousand years. The new testament by contrast narrates at most 70 years. One might object that if you take in years covered by prophetic timelines, the NT then includes up until the Second Coming which at present is somewhere over 2010 years and counting. But then the Old Testament covers all that extra time also since Revelation quotes/paraphrases extensively from OT passages regarding the coming of Jehova to Israel, the judgement of the wicked and the exhaltation of the just so you don’t get any help there.

But aside from that, also in terms of the span of time it is authored in, yhere is a disparity. The OT was authored somewhere in the range of 1500 years (leaving aside the dating of and debate about the historicity of Job and also the undoubtedly oral history that finally gets at least compiled by Moses) whereas the NT is authored over somewhere around 55 years. So the NT is a collection which is authored in about 1/27th the time.

The OT has unbroken narrative covering the creation of the world unto the return from the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles. Again even assuming a Young-Earth interpretation, we have roughly 3500 years covered here. The NT narrates from a bit prior to the birth of Jesus until Paul’s transfer to Rome, thus around 60 years. So the NT chronicles around 1/60 ( 60/3500 ) of the time the OT does.

Any fair minded person should immediately realize that this throws the hypothesis under examination out the window. The OT should necessarily include more tradgedy and horror than the NT simply because it has room for it in a temporal sense. Consider just the tradgedy in the last 150 years with Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Pol Pot, WW1, WW2, Vietnam, disease, famine…

As far as the idea of God being inherently different in character in the testaments, consider two facts:

1) the mercy and grace of God was shown over and over throughout all of those extra years to Israel and other nations. God sends prophets to warn people to turn from wickedness and when they do He pardons and blesses them. E.g. Ninevah

2) Jesus warns that the temple will be destroyed and in AD 70 ish Jerusalem is beseiged, the temple burnt, and many slain. (Granted this part takes place after the narrative, but is alluded to by the NT narrative, and specifically by Mr. Kid bouncer neighbor lover).

Missing that God is one and the same is easy if you don’t think through the relevant facts or simply accept the rhetoric of some comparative religion professors and others who set forth the opposite idea. But once you actually look into it the idea that the testamentary accounts are disparate, you can see its so very implausible that it must be rejected.

Generations

•March 17, 2010 • 2 Comments

The Bible is replete with verses about cross-generation discipleship.
“These days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation” Esther 9:28
“You may tell the next generation 14 that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.”- Psalm 48: 13-14
“O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” Psalm 71:18
“But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generationto generation we will recount your praise.” Psalm 79:13
“Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD.” Psalm 102:18
“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” Ps. 145: 4
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children.” Titus 2:3-4

The more you look, the more you find references about sharing stories and teaching the younger generations. One of my favorites is in Deuteronomy 6, immediately following the Shema: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Today in the church, there’s a sad lack of intergenerational contact. We all stick to our “Youth” groups, our “Empty Nest” studies, our “Young Marrieds” classes, our “College/Career” nights. And we miss out. Think of how many lessons we could learn from the older Christians! Think of the stories they could tell!

And even more so, we could mitigate and even prevent many of the common problems in the church today, if only we would cease with our segregation and allow the church to truly mix like a family does. Consider the benefits that a single person would receive from being in a prayer group with a young married couple. You’d be exposed to the common problems of early marriage and maybe even learn to deal with them before you have to face them. Or imagine a single woman struggling with loneliness. What blessing it would be to hear from an older woman who is also single! Think of the energy that young people would bring to an older group!

Now, I understand the benefit of accountability groups and sharing with people in your age group or stage of life. It’s obviously valuable to find people who are going through the same issues you are, and being able to pray with each other. But even more so is the necessity of learning from others’ problems and mistakes. Even more so, the guidance to be received from those who have walked those paths, waded through those rivers.

So I encourage you, Christians! Find people of other generations! Get to know them! Learn from them! “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.”

What would they say?

•March 4, 2010 • 2 Comments

A few years ago, I dated a guy who hated to be talked about. He never wanted people talking about him if he wasn’t there. I don’t know why he had this extreme aversion to it, but I thought that it was quite unreasonable. I mean, we talk about people who aren’t there all the time. It’s not always bad– sometimes we’re just passing information. But this guy thought that his name should never be mentioned unless he was present.

Needless to say, that didn’t really work out. People DO talk about you.

When the evangelist Jonathan Edwards was a young man, he talked about someone who wasn’t there, too. We have an excerpt from a letter he wrote to a friend of his, talking about a young woman who lived in New Haven, Connecticut. Here’s a sampling of some of the things he said about her:

“They say there is a young lady in [New Haven] who is loved of that Great Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight; and that she hardly cares for any thing…being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always.”

“Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affection. She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her conduct; and you could not persuade her to do any thing wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this Great Being.”

“She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness, and universal benevolence of mind; especially after this Great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have some one invisible always with her.”

WOW! This girl had a great legacy. We know who she was. Her name was Sarah, and she would later become Jonathan’s wife. When he wrote this letter about her, she was only 13. If someone had written a letter about me when I was thirteen years old, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have said any of those things about me. I’m not even sure if they would write those things now.

The question that comes to my mind when I read about this extraordinary young woman is this: What kind of legacy am I leaving? Obviously we shouldn’t get our sense of value or self-worth from the opinions of other people. But when we look at Sarah’s example, we see that she was so secure in her relationship with God that others couldn’t help but notice her devotion and talk about her openly.

I don’t think Sarah would have been upset if she’d seen this letter. I don’t think she would have gotten offended. But I get the feeling that if I could see in writing some of the things that have been said about me in my absence, I’d be offended first, and then I’d feel shame. Shame for putting that kind of example out there. Shame for the way I treat people. Shame for my lack of devotion to Christ.

So, while I don’t recommend changing who you are in order to make people like you, I’ve got to wonder if your reputation might be a reflection of your relationship with God. If someone was writing a letter about you, what would they say?

Simplicity…

•February 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I have been asking the Lord lately to open my eyes so that I may appreciate the little things in life. I think that maybe I’ve lost sight of the simple beauty which little things have, because there are so many bigger, and more complex, things going on in and around me. But, sometimes the littlest things can make the biggest difference. Being a nanny; I get the opportunity to see life through a different perspective as I watch these lovely little girls (Olivia, 2 and Paige, 10mos) discover the world around them. Just this week the girls and I were taking their puppy for his walk; since we didn’t have the stroller that day I figured Olivia could walk and I’d carry Paige most of the way. As we got about halfway around the block I set Paige down to hold my hand and and walk a bit. She just recently discovered walking as a faster transportation 🙂 We continued walking until Paige was right next to a palm leaf stretching down to her level. She hesitated but I could tell she wanted to touch it so I stuck my hand out first to show her the coast was clear; she gave it just one small pat and giggled at the moving leaf. Then she smacked it again but this time she didn’t pull her hand away; she just kept running her lil hand up and down and watching it dance. She laughed so hard over that leaf; I think that in that moment all she could see was the excitement and beauty in her discovery of something so simple. Yes, I realize she is barely a year old but who says I can’t see such simple things and find beauty in them also? Who says that just because I’m an adult I have to stop giggling and getting excited over some of God’s smaller creations? Life isn’t all complex, straight faced, ‘adult’ moments and I wouldn’t want it to be. Thank you Lord for showing me through Paige how lovely and exciting little things can be 🙂

Water to Wine

•February 22, 2010 • 1 Comment

Jesus’ first miracle is, to me, His most human one. The magnitude of it hit me over breakfast one day, and frankly I don’t think I ever got back to my scrambled eggs. I was all at once astounded by its uniqueness. Healing, forgiveness, redemption, encouragement– all godly in every way from their impossibility to their primary target on the soul. Even physical healing is ultimately a metaphor for a deeper healing and usually leads to as much. But the changing of this water, while it is itself a beautiful metaphor, was simple and human-minded. That, to me, is where its beauty lies for several reasons. First, it shows that God cares about human customs. Typically the good wines were served first, and they eventually gave way to the lower quality wines, essentially signaling that the party was wrapping up. God chose to turn this custom on its head and the wine that Jesus transformed was impressive enough to draw praise.

Here is where it really gets good: this also shows that God both aware of and interested in what makes something delicious. THIS is the God I serve– one who bothers to make something enjoyable for enjoyment’s sake. The man’s statement that the best wine was saved for last shows this. And honestly all it had to be was wine– it didn’t, for the miracle’s sake, have to even be good because the party was drawing to an end. But this top-shelf wine demonstrated His attention to details– OUR details. How could anyone reject God’s detailed involvement in our lives when He is so clearly concerned with some very human nuances?

I cannot help but also dwell on the fact that Jesus, God in the flesh, knew how to make wine. This is, of course, ridiculous since God knows all that can be known, period. But really think about that. In making instant wine, He proved His ultimate power over the state of a thing, yes, but also the process of changing a thing. Grapes go from seed to bottle and this takes a long time and God did it in an instant. This tells me that He is in charge of the long-term method as well. Why should He be praised any less for traditional wine that miracle wine? Truth is, He shouldn’t (We should remember this when our prayers aren’t answered in our timeframe– He can do it in whatever time He wants and, fast or slow, the praise is His).

Additionally, I think of Mary. First off, what was she thinking? She gives no indication of what she expects, and she has no miracles to base her belief in, necessarily, but she suddenly jumps in and says that her son can take care of it. She must have gotten some rotten looks. And remember: Jesus initially told His mom no, and she pushed as moms do when they know it’s a good idea. At that moment He could have defensibly held His ground since He was, as God usually is, right. He could have refused, and think of how the scene would have played out: Mary, having already made the insinuation that Jesus could help them with their catering issue, standing there with her foot in her mouth and Jesus leaving her hanging. Embarrassed? I think so. All eyes were on Jesus, everyone wondering what Mary believed would happen. How gentle of Jesus to choose to concede, to go ahead on her urging, and to perform this tiny huge miracle even though His “time had not yet come.” How loving to do as He was asked and with such excellence. It is such a window into His character: that He listens, that He considers circumstances, that He cares what we are facing, and the He can be persuaded.

THIS is the God I serve.

For Lack of Courage

•February 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Dan sits across the room,
his voice a confident warrior
for his atheism, while
I hear the cackle of invisible
chains at his feet.

His hopeless words
emit a fume of desire that
make my heart ache;
thirsting words that
look for a challenge.

They crave a taste of Truth,
but from my side of the room,
I have no mane.

My volume
doesn’t adjust itself,
as I keep the Truth
from dancing notes;
I keep the Truth
on blank ledger lines
that my tongue cannot sing.

For fear, the ship withholds
its cargo like selfish treasure
when Dan stands at the dock,
waiting.

Deep blue yearning looks me
in the eye, as he speaks.

He denies You to them,
but he watches me as if hoping
I will silence the trembling
that is like nervous white noise
ringing in my ears
and give him the key
he is looking for.

A note: I pray that we all might find courage in the Lord and speak of His love to all. Often times we fear what others might think of us instead of what God thinks of us. There are so many people who are looking for a new direction, and we are here to help them know His Grace. I pray that we can all overcome our silence. We’ve covered our mouths with sieves wrought by fear. “If God is for us, who then can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). “That is why we can say without any doubt or fear, ‘The Lord is my Helper and I am not afraid of anything that mere man can do to me'” (Hebrews 13:6).

On my Fathers knee

•February 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Standing on a path, in a hall….a hall of trees if you will. Magnificent and glorious in every way, these trees stand taller than life. The smell is that of nothing I have ever experienced and I am looking for it as I continue to walk.
As I look down the middle of the row of trees I begin to notice a throne and sitting on it is the King. My Father, the King, He sits on His throne amongst the trees of this majestic place. On His right stands His sword sheathed into the arm rest. His Majesty breaks through in His fire red hair and beard, beautifully tainted with grey from the wisdom He possesses. His green eyes are as the emeralds found in the ground and His beauty is glorified over and over.
As I approach I begin to look up as if I am a child walking towards his father. The truth is, I am a child in His presence. Innocence is restored when I am with Him, He is Daddy my Daddy. A Strong Tower and Majestic Warrior, but most of all, He is loving and gracious when it comes to His love for me.
He looks down at me and smiles and as He does I see the favor He holds for me in His eyes. His voice speaks, deep yet enthralled with love like no other. ‘My son.’ He says to me. Come, sit on My knee so I could tell you things I only want you to know. He picks me up and situates me on His knee and begins to tell me His plans for me and the things He wants to teach me. ‘You are an heir to My kingdom you are My child and My heart is for you. Stay within Me and you will never fall farther than I can reach. You were on My heart and My mind before you were born. I am your Father and I love you so very much.
Serve My people and glorify My name in everything you do. I will be there with you in everything and I will never fail you or forsake you. You are special and set apart, I have planned for you to be a servant to all nations and a protector of the weak. I gave My life for you to find yours. As He speaks I caress my hand on the wounds of His hand.
The gleam of His swords handle catches my eye. As I reach over to touch it, He stops me and places one hand on my head and one on my chest over my heart and says: ‘Learn to use these and I will teach you to use this.
He smiles and gives off a gentle chuckle and I fall asleep in His arms.

Sleep My son…sleep…for the things I have for you are great…..

He hums a song of great heiratage as I fall into a deep sleep.