Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Reflections & New Reading List

I was able to stick to my New Year's Resolution and read through the Gospels this month. I would like to keep going on my quest to read through the Bible this year, so I am going to post my thoughts for my time spent with the Gospels, and then list my schedule for the next month. I have decided to follow up my time in the Gospels with spending some time in the Torah. I think this is appropriate because I believe that Jesus came to earth to put flesh and blood on the Torah, so it will be good to have that mindset going into the reading.

Reflections on the Gospels

1. Jesus is Difficult - I suppose that I let my mind get carried away with this image of loving, friendly Jesus who gets along with everybody. I was surprised by the many polarizing aspects of Jesus' life. Over and over again I found myself wincing at some strong words that he said. For example, listen to the way Jesus ends this parable found in Luke 19:27 - "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them - bring them here and kill them in front of me." What do you do with that? I understand that this is part of a parable, but does it carry a literal meaning? I can see how someone could take a text like this and use it for evil purposes. As I read through the Gospels, I sensed God humbling me and reminding me of my need to continually rely on the Spirit for help. Interpreting Scripture is a heavy responsibility that should never be taken lightly or flippantly.

2. Miracles - I forgot what a huge role the miracles of Jesus play in the Gospels. A large chunk of the text is devoted to stories of Jesus healing various diseases, driving out demons, and raising the dead. It also appears that the disciples had these capabilities, albeit to a lesser extent. As a follower of Jesus, I want to pattern my life as closely as possible to Jesus' life. The miracle stories challenged me in my pursuit to follow Jesus. I understand that there are many ways that God can work through me to be an agent of healing, but I sensed the text challenging me on a deeper level to rethink what it means to follow Jesus in this area.

Needless to say, reading the Gospels was a major challenge. At times it was very painful as some of my preconceived opinions and understandings were either crushed or challenged. I guess there is some truth to the idea that the Word of God is sharper than a double-edged sword. Below is my reading list through February:

January 30: Genesis 1-4
January 31: Genesis 5-8
February 1: Genesis 9-12
February 2: Genesis 13-16
February 3: Genesis 17-20
February 4: Genesis 21-24
February 5: Genesis 25-28
February 6: Genesis 29-32
February 7: Genesis 33-36
February 8: Genesis 37-40
February 9: Genesis 41-44
February 10: Genesis 45-50
February 11: Exodus 1-4
February 12: Exodus 5-8
February 13: Exodus 9-12
February 14: Exodus 13-16
February 15: Exodus 17-20
February 16: Exodus 21-24
February 17: Exodus 25-28
February 18: Exodus 29-32
February 19: Exodus 33-36
February 20: Exodus 37-40
February 21: Leviticus 1-4
February 22: Leviticus 5-8
February 23: Leviticus 9-12
February 24: Leviticus 13-16
February 25: Leviticus 17-20
February 26: Leviticus 21-24
February 27: Leviticus: 25-27

Friday, January 26, 2007

My Brain

So there are not too many perks to working in office world, but my particular office world happens to support the part of Duke that researches the brain. A few weeks ago I participated in a study that tested my cognition while I was in a MRI machine. It was painless and I got paid $50 for my time, plus they emailed me some of the pictures that the MRI took of my brain. I guess not everyone has pictures of their brain, so I thought it was pretty cool.

Is it just me, or is my brain unusually large?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Moments vs. Memory

This past weekend I spoke at a youth retreat for Indianapolis Westside Church of the Nazarene. The retreat was held at an indoor water park and everyone had a good time. On Saturday night after my message, God came in a really cool way and was working on the teenagers. I sort of just slipped to the side of the room and sat there soaking up the moment. It was so amazing to see young people praying and seeking God and to realize that God was speaking to them. It was just one of those perfect moments where everything just seems to work out. You never want to leave those moments. I totally relate to the story of Jesus' transfiguration when Peter offers to put up three shelters - one for Jesus, Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-13). I imagine in this scenario that Peter is acting like a little kid meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time - you have no idea what you are saying or doing, but you want that moment to last forever.

Well, through the technology of airplanes, I began Monday morning in Indianapolis, but by 10am, I was back in office world at Duke University. As I went through the day, I constantly caught myself being annoyed with my trivial job and completely forgetting the high from the weekend.

I think that, for the most part, humans have horrible memories. We are so quick to point out all that we do not have, while completely forgetting all that we do have. We are so quick to point out all the ways that God seems to be absent in this world, while completely forgetting the many times in which God has been so real to us. For this reason, I absolutely love the Christian calendar. God knows that the human memory has a difficult time remembering anything beyond one year. Therefore, as followers of Jesus, we need to be constantly reliving his life. Every year, we need to be reminded of Jesus' birth, as well as his death and resurrection.

Here's to hoping the moments find a way of remaining in my memory.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Biological Clock

No, this is not our kid. No, Laura is not pregnant. No, we are not trying to get pregnant. These questions seem to dominate conversations that Laura and I have with a lot of people, so in case you were wondering, I wanted to get that out right away.

The child is actually Jackson, a cool little dude who belongs to our friends Carrie and Mitchell. A few weekends ago we went to visit them in Wilmington, NC. This picture was taken at the beach. It was the first weekend in January and it was 75. You gotta love the South.

I thought I would write a post verifying the urban legend known as the "Biological Clock." It is absolutely, 100% true. After we had been married for awhile and some of our friends starting having kids, Laura started to gradually become more and more obsessed with the idea. A few days ago we were looking through our pictures taken while we were in Wilmington and we came across the one here. All of the sudden Laura got all gushy and starting talking about how perfect the picture looks. I am starting to wonder how much longer we are going to be able to hold out.

So fellas, if you are married without kids, never say that I did not warn you.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hip Phones

I tried to be the last person on this planet to have a cell phone. Starting in the year 2000, it seemed that most people began to get one, but the thought of having a phone with me at all times made me shudder, so I held out as long as I could. Well, this past summer I had a pastoral emergency and I really dropped the ball on some important commitments. I came to realize that I did not have a cell phone out of spite, which is not a good reason to avoid getting one. Strangely, getting a cell phone became the most loving choice I could make in regards to my communication capabilities.

Well, I have one now and it is fine. But, I felt like I needed to say something about wearing your cell phone on your hip. I cannot put my finger on it, but doing this is completely repulsive to me. I am the type of person who hates having things in my pockets, but I would rather carry a 50 pound cell phone in my pocket than wear it on my hip. Why does this seem so uncool to me? Every time I see these "business batmen" out in public, I just shake my head and give a little smirk. Back in Medieval times, men wore swords on their belts, and that seemed to be popular. So why does this strike a nerve with me?

Well, I told myself that I would never get a cellphone, so maybe I will one day come to the point where I need to wear a cellphone on my hip. But if you see me out in public wearing one, please make fun of me. I deserve it.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Peace Child

"Peace Child" by Don Richardson recalls the missionary exploits to the Sawi people of New Guinea. As recently as the 1960's, the Sawi were basically untouched by the Western world. They were a violent and cannibalistic people. Betrayal was held as the highest virtue in the culture and the stories that were passed down were stories of deceit and trickery. "Fattening someone with friendship" was the recurring story where one Sawi would fake friendship with another in order to make a murder more deceitful. When Don Richardson began to share the story of Jesus, the Sawi believed that Judas was a hero for his actions.

There was, however, one thing embedded within the culture that could stop the cycle of violence and betrayal - a tarop or peace child. In this scenario, one Sawi would give his own child (his most important possession) to be raised by another Sawi and vice versa. As long as the Peace Child remained alive, the two different tribes would be at peace with one another. You can easily see how the missionaries used the concept of the tarop to explain the good news of Christ.

Peace Child was an entertaining book that provided a window into sharing the story of Christ in a foreign environment. It certainly challenged me to seek redemptive analogies from my culture as a way of sharing the story. God is already present in this world, we just need to reveal this to others.

Monday, January 1, 2007

New Year Resolution

For the most part, I have a strong dislike for cheesy cultural traditions, but the New Year's Resolution is something I have always enjoyed and participated in. I love the idea of getting a fresh start, of getting a second chance to make one's life better. No matter how things have gone in the past, there is always hope that the future will be brighter.

Having said that, I want 2007 to be a year where I join John Wesley in being homo unius libri - a man of one book. For too long, I have relied on my Sunday School knowledge of the Bible and have not taken the responsibility of reading it for myself. I have read plenty of books that comment on Scripture without taking the time to let the Word penetrate my life.

I plan to at least read the Bible all the way through during 2007, and I going to start by reading through the Gospels in the month of January. I heard a teaching recently that commented that someone who claims to follow Jesus and yet does not read all 4 Gospels at least once a month is lying - there is no way that person could know Jesus well enough to follow him. I want to come to the point in my life where I basically have the words of Jesus committed to memory.

If you would like to join me this month in reading the Gospels, here is the schedule I will be following:

January 1: John 1-3 January 2: John 4-6 January 3: John 7-9
January 4: John 10-12 January 5: John 13-15 January 6: John 16-18
January 7: John 19-21 January 8: Mark 1-3 January 9: Mark 4-6
January 10: Mark 7-9 January 11: Mark 10-12 January 12: Mark 13-16
January 13: Matthew 1-3 January 14: Matthew 4-6 January 15: Matthew 7-9
January 16: Matthew 10-12 January 17: Matthew 13-15 January 18: Matthew 16-18
January 19: Matthew 19-21 January 20: Matthew 22-24 January 21: Matthew 25-28
January 22: Luke 1-3 January 23: Luke 4-6 January 24: Luke 7-9
January 25: Luke 10-12 January 26: Luke 13-15 January 27: Luke 16-18
January 28: Luke 19-21 January 29: Luke 22-24

Happy new Year!