Tuesday, March 27, 2007
This is what happens when you let your eight-year-old use the camera- very scary.
I have been leading a study of Luke this year and have been struck by Luke's consistent emphasis on the poor. I wrote up the following thoughts on a few key passages that I think have been misinterpreted over the years. It was a bit controversial when I shared it with my study. I am eager to know what others think.
“…like a little child…”
What does it mean? What is Jesus referring to when He tells us that we must become like little children?
The common interpretation, at least what I have always heard, is that we should have the faith of children. Children’s faith is innocent and wholehearted; they love Jesus and readily believe truths about Him. These are wonderful traits and most of us quickly agree with this interpretation without much question. However, a closer look at the relevant passages shows that this interpretation is not what Jesus intended. In saying that, I am not saying that children do not have a pure faith that we should imitate, but rather that Jesus was not speaking of their faith in these passages. In context it is clear that Jesus is referring to the humble position of children.
Children, and in some of the passages He seems to be referring to infants, had no possessions and no rights; they were weak, dependent on their parents and the community for everything, and under the authority of others.
Matthew 18:1-6 Who is greater?
At that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Who is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven? And Jesus called a little child to Him and set him in their midst, and said, Truly I say to you, Unless you are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Therefore whoever shall humble himself like this little child, this one is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven. Mat And whoever shall receive one such little child in My name receives Me. But whoever shall offend one of these little ones who believes in Me, it would be better for him that an ass's millstone were hung around his neck, and he be sunk in the depth of the sea.
Mark 9:34-37 Who is first?
But they were silent. For in the way they had disputed among themselves who was the greatest. And He sat down and called the Twelve and said to them, If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all. And He took a child, and embraced it, and set him in their midst. And He said to them, Whoever receives one of such children on My name receives Me. And whoever receives Me does not only receive Me, but Him who sent Me.
And when the ten heard, they began to be indignant with James and John. But Jesus called them and said to them, You know that they who are accounted rulers over the nations exercise lordship over them. And their great ones exercise authority on them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever of you desires to become first, he shall be servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
Luke 9:46-48 Who is greater?
And an argument came in among them, who might be the greater of them. And seeing the argument of their heart, Jesus took a child and set him beside Him. And He said to them, Whoever shall receive this child in My name receives Me. And whoever shall receive Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all, he shall be great.
Luke 22:24-27 Who is greater?
And there was also a dispute among them as to which of them seems to be greater. And He said to them, The kings of the nations exercise lordship over them. And they who exercise authority on them are called benefactors. But you shall not be so: but the greater among you, let him be as the lesser, and he who governs, as one who serves. For which is the greater; he who reclines, or he who serves? Is it not he who reclines? But I am among you as He who serves.
This becomes clear when we see the underlines phrases above. There are seven passages in the gospels regarding children and the kingdom. Five of the seven passages in Matt, Mark, and Luke that cover this topic (all quoted above) are in the context of the disciples arguing about who is greatest. [Note Mk 10:41-45 and Lk 22:24-27 do not mention children but deal with who is greatest, and, therefore, should be included in a discussion of this topic as we try to determine what Jesus intends.] Jesus brings a child into their midst as a picture of who is great and then follows that often with words of being a servant, being last, and not being served.
Only one reference to belief exists in the nine passages (Matt 18:6), and Jesus never explicitly says that we should have the “faith of a little child”. In this verse Jesus is warning against offending a child, who believes in Him. The focus here is not on the faith of the child but rather on the person who offends.
In fact this is making a case against faith being the correct interpretation as it would seem strange for Jesus to be calling us to imitate a faith and then present it as being offended and needing to be protected. However, it fits nice if this is continuing the idea that children are weak and need to be protected. It also goes to show that as we become humble like children Jesus becomes our protector who will punish those against us.
Mark 10:13-16 Children brought to Jesus
And they brought children to Him, so that He should touch them. And His disciples rebuked those bringing them. But when Jesus saw, He was much displeased and said to them, Allow the little children to come to Me and do not hinder them. For of such is the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter into it. And taking them up in His arms, He put His hands on them and blessed them.
Luke 18:15-17 Infants brought to Jesus
And they also brought infants to Him, that He might touch them. But when the disciples saw, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them and said, Allow the little children to come to Me, and forbid them not. For of such is the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no way enter into it.
The two remaining passages listed above deal with children being brought to Jesus to be blessed. These were most likely infants, who wouldn’t even be capable of any noticeable faith. The disciples tried to keep them away from Jesus, but He allowed them to come. He makes the point that, “Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no way enter into it.” The meaning of this sentence is debated but for the purpose of this discussion, the context makes it clear that the faith of the children is not what Jesus is intending as the focus.
Both Luke and Mark follow this event with the rejection of the rich young ruler. The point of that story is not that the young man had no faith but that he was rich and could not make God his treasure. Jesus prescription is that he should get rid of all of his possessions – become like a little child- and come follow Jesus. The young man walks away sad because He was so wealthy, and Jesus makes His comments about salvation of the rich, a camel, and the eye of a needle. His point is clearly to warn that the rich, being so connected to their riches, can not make Jesus their treasure. However, children have no treasure to get in the way; they have nothing so it is easy for them to see Jesus as a treasure. In a sense this is faith, but the point is their place and position (or lack thereof), not their childlike faith.
Regarding the application of this interpretation I think it has tremendous implications for the western, evangelical church as well as for my own life. I think it fits well within the message of the whole gospel of Luke as it is a continuous theme touched upon in almost every chapter. I am not going to get into specifics here, but it has been significant for me as I have studied Luke over the last 6 months.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Laurie (what a babe!) and I went to the Queen Mary for a Valentine's Date Night dance. We had a decent time and the Queen Mary is very cool.
And two days before Valentine's was my 38th birthday- wow, that is old! Laurie made a delicious carrot cake with soccer decorations and the C's joined us to celebrate at church as we were there for Cub Scouts, Breakout, and the kids' choir practices.
I was reading in World magazine that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has made a habit of praying the Litany of Humility. It told enough about it to stir my curiosity so I looked it up on the web and printed out to pray myself. I thought others would appreciate it so I have posted it here. It really captures the heart of Jesus and expresses what I long to be like.
LITANY OF HUMILITY
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.
- Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
These are a few of the flowers that are blooming in our yard this winter. You gotta love living in southern California. I got this cheap add-on lens for taking macro pictures, and I am still learning to use it.
We planted a bunch of tulips in one part of the yard and are waiting to see how they do. One group came up quickly and were beautiful on their own but would look better if the whole area bloomed, which we are still hoping for by Easter.
I was sent the prayer below a while back and have been praying it ever since. As a child I was often called a crybaby as I cried so often and so easily, but after my parents' divorce something inside of me shut down, and I stopped crying. I remember the vow I made after dad told us he was leaving, "I will not let this affect me..." I went years without crying before realizing why. When I finally figured it out I renounced the vow and started going to Jesus asking for healing and wholeness in this area. Slowly over the years I have seen Him restore this part of me. I am still not to a fully healthy place in terms of expressing emotions, and I am seeing deeper and deeper areas in which I am affected. I find that I still quickly become hard and stubborn in certain situations in which I should be soft and repentant. There is clearly more that Jesus needs/wants to do in me. One thing that has proved helpful is this prayer. I thought it was worth posting as my experience is that most men are not able to weep in the way that Jesus modeled for us. May He be our goal for manhood/masculinity and not some western cutural definition that is either emasculated or macho.
"Father, please draw me so that I may run after You. Make me sensitive to Your heart, Your touch, Your voice. Have mercy on me, dear Lord, that I may weep in Your presence. Unblock the dam of my emotions that I may weep tears of compassion. May Your merciful heart give me a sense of Your grief for the lost and the lonely. And I pray that I'll be full of tears of joy at Your kindness and goodness. May I be overwhelmed by Your tender mercy and unfailing love. Amen."
Saturday, March 10, 2007
A friend had tickets to the Lakers-Magic game a while back and invited me. My first time in Staples Center was a good one and the Lakers won a close game as Kobe took over in the fourth quarter.
I finally finished writing up some thoughts on the audio books I have listened to in the last few months. Most of these are unabridged.
Experiencing Prayer with Jesus by Henry & Norman Blackaby
This was good in that it was a picture of a faithful man and the blessings that came as a result, told by himself and one of his sons. He sees his commitment to pray as a key to the life of faith he experienced and the fact that all of his grown kids love the Lord. He gives some interesting examples of his prayer life like the time he left a big ministry in California to move his family to frontier Canada where they would be poor and living in difficult circumstances. He prayed God would protect his children from knowing they were poor but never told his children about the prayer. Later his son shared how he was talking to classmates in college about their growing up years and realized for the first time just how poor they were. Honestly, I am not big on books in which the author seemed to do everything right and never discusses his mistakes. When someone says that whenever people were against them even to the point of wanting to destroy their ministry, they just pray for that person and love them, I have to wonder how honest they are being. It may be true, but I am not there yet, and would love to hear about how they got to that place (the process is not given in the book, just the end result). However, I was encouraged in my prayer life through reading it.
Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels
I really like Hybels' books. He is down to earth and honest and gives the reader hope that what he is talking about is doable in Christ. The basic idea of the book came from a time when he was at a party, and he saw someone leave their comfort zone and walk across the room to talk to a stranger. The idea is that we need to do the same thing in reaching out to people. He gives a good picture of the process that comes in seeing someone come to Christ; it is not a one time thing. Sometimes He felt God leading him to be bold and at other times he barely mentioned anything about God and in both situations he felt comfortable. I long for this. He talks of taking small steps to love people into the kingdom. He does Matthew parties which comes from Matthew having a party with all his tax collector buddies after he started following Jesus. Hybels invites non-believers and believers to parties at his house and lets God work. He prays that the believers will "just walk across the room" and reach out to the nonbelievers. He gives many other examples as well of how people did creative things to build relationships with the people in their lives- neighbors, coworkers, etc... Overall I really enjoyed this book, was encouraged, inspired, and would recommend it.
Joy at Work by Dennis Bakke
Dennis Bakke started and ran an energy giant (I forget the name) and did it in a radical way. One of their foundational tenets was that people should have fun at work. They did many radical innovations in the work place including minimum titles, creative pay scales (e.g. a salesman could be making more than his manager) in which people were rewarded for being good at their job by pay increases rather than promotions, almost flat organizational chart, and so on. At times it is a bit detailed on items like contracts and such that I was not interested in, but overall an excellent book that should be considered for anyone managing people. Another book I hear is good on this idea is The Starfish and the Spider by ?. I plan to start reading it soon.
For Men Only by Jeff & Shaunti Feldhahn
Having read and watched the video series for Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerich, this was an excellent follow-up. The authors did extensive research through surveys and interviews to find out what women need/want from their men. This book goes well with the book mentioned above as well as the chapter on women in Wild at Heart by John Eldridge.
The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
Doing what we do peacemaking (dealing with conflict) is probably number one on the list. I have been through the fire in this area and made lots of mistakes. I have seen some successes and experienced some major failures in working through conflict and making peace with people as well as with acting as intermediary or coach. Ken Sande has had lots of experience in western settings and is gifted as well as being able to articulate the issues well. He deals with the philosophy, the relevant Bible texts, and the practical steps. I think this book is a must read for all humans, but just reading it will probably not help much. This is a good one to do in a small group in which you see each other enough to get on each other's nerves and, therefore, will be able to put the lessons into practice.
The Martyr's Song by Ted Dekker
Very powerful story. I was weeping. The martyr's song is the song that martyrs in the story hear Jesus singing to them as they are being tortured. It is set in the mid 1970's when a woman goes up to a teenager who sees herself as ugly and claims she can make her beautiful. The girl is angry and offended but goes to see the woman anyway. The woman begins to read her a story set it a village in Serbia during WWII. All the men are off fighting and this day the priest and the mothers and children are celebrating a birthday or one of the little girls. Five soldiers come upon the village and you will have to read the book for the rest. You will not be disappointed. Signigicant story about how special we are to God.
Too Busy not to Pray by Bill Hybels
Again Hybes wrote a winner. He is blunt yet encouraging. He gets into the Bible verses yet is very practical and is able to share his journey and what worked and did not work for him. He does not try to fit the reader into a box or give over simplified steps, but is full of grace. My hope in reading books on prayer was to grow in my prayer life and this book was helpful.
Walking from East to West by Ravi Zacharias
This is Zacharias' memoirs. He is an amazing man and is able to convey the story of God's moving in his life in a very engaging way. He came to the Lord after a failed suicide attempt and "accidentally" became one of the great evangelists of our time being one of the first international evangelists to use apologetics in their EV feeling called to reach the "happy pagan" as he puts it. I was struck by his ability to enjoy different seasons of life. He had times when he was in school and able to spend lots of time with his wife and children and other times when he was too busy to do anything but work. He took advantage of those slower times, which is something that has really spoken to me as our lives are very seasonal with crazy busy times interspersed with slower times. I did not know it was his biography when I picked it up, but was glad I listend to it in the end.
The Next Door Savior by Max Lucado
This is quintessential Lucado. I am reading/listening to anything I can find on Jesus and Lucado has a unique way of bringing the text to life with his illustrations and stories. If you like Lucado, then you will like this and vice versa.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
This is a self-portrait.
Some thoughts on Luke 18 and 19
I was struck this week as I was studying and discussing Luke 19 and the story of Zacchaeus how Jesus is able to speak directly to the heart of Zacchaeus when He tells all who are listening that "he too is a son of Abraham". This was significant since Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, working for the Romans, and hated by his fellow Jews. He had become very rich but was an outcast, hated by all as the passage makes clear. It is one of the few times, if not the only time, that the whole crowd, not just the Pharisees, grumbles about Jesus befriending "sinners". So to the Jews, as I understand it, Zacchaeus was not considered a Jew anymore. He was a traitor. So Jesus not only announces that "salvation has come to this house..." great news to say the least, but He needs to add that Zacchaeus is a "son of Abraham". He is a Jew, one of the chosen, accepted and loved by God. And when Jesus speaks these words He is speaking right into the heart of Zacchaeus and healing the deep wounds that have developed over the years. I find that I need Jesus to speak in the same way to me. "For Duke too is my child." The words may be different for each of us, but all of us have a deep need to hear Jesus of Nazareth, the Word made flesh, speak into our hearts and heal our wounds. Notice that He knew what Zacchaeus needed to hear; Jesus did not need to ask him. It is the same with us. We need only listen for He wants to come and stay with us. I have to ask myself if I am pursuing Jesus like Zacchaeus was? And am I expecting the Zacchaeuses of our tmes to be wanting to see Jesus?
And on another note, this story really should be part of chapter 18 for it concludes what Luke has been saying in 18. In the Zacchaeus story Luke answers the question and statement that he gave us in chapter 18. "Who can be saved?" and "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven... What is impossible with man is possible with God." We see in Zacchaeus a rich man be saved. God has done what was impossible, that is brought a rich man to the place where his possessions do not own him anymore. Zacchaeus gives half to the poor and the other half will go towards paying back those he cheated. That is as big a miracle as any of Jesus' healings.
And lastly chapter 18 is also the place that Jesus says that unless we "receive the kingdom of God as a little child we will not enter it." What I have usually heard in regards to this is that it means we should mirror the simple faith of a child, which made sense to me. But now I do not think that is what Jesus means here. There is nothing in the passage that indicates the children's (and it seems to indicates these are babies, not children) faith is what Jesus is referring to. Nothing specific about the children is described. But Jesus has talked almost continuously about the need to sell our possessions and give them to the poor. He has focused on the blessings to the poor and woes to the rich. In this episode in 18 the disciples try to keep the children from Jesus and would have if He had not intervened. This all points to the fact that children and especially infants have nothing. They have no possessions, no authority, no rights, nothing. Jesus is saying that unless we are like that we can not enter His kingdom.
Why? Because the way is narrow and all those things will not fit.
Why? Because there is only one king, and it is not me. And there is only one treasure and it is not anything I own (or that owns me as the case may be). In His kingdom his way is best and He is the treasure, and if we do not recognize that and act accordingly, then we can not, and in reality will not want to enter it. And unless I give the wrong impression, I want to make it clear that we are fools if we do not see this as good news and what will give us the most joy. If we do not see it, if we are still holding on to things, then we need to repent and pray for our eyes to be opened. This is what I am doing. I still do not have the freedom that Zacchaeus found (or that found him). I want it and yet part of me does not want it; part of me wants my stuff and my rights and my way. Oh Lord, have mercy on me a sinner (also in chapter 18 by the way). Free me from the idols and possessions that grip my heart.