Beginning Hebrews

Today I began a close reading of The Letter to the Hebrews. In recent months I’ve read Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastes, and Ezekiel. I think my time and effort in the Old Testament will help me read Hebrews as if for the first time.

The author of Hebrews (AH) says that God spoke previously in many ways and in splintered ways to reveal himself. Now there is Jesus, and he will pull it all together for us.

That’s pretty exciting. I’m certain I will have comments along the way. I’d invite you to read along with me, if you want. I would even be open to some kind of online study, if we can figure out how to make it work.

Since I don’t have the physical strength anymore to teach classes at church, I would love to find another way.

Recently on Postmodern Prophet:

Recently on Postmodern Prophet:

Health Update

It appears that the doctors have run out of ideas and options for fixing whatever is wrong with my bone marrow. Short of having a very risky bone marrow transplant, the only play now is to let it play out.

I have been through an extensive set of chemotherapy treatments and I’ve been through a grueling regimen of immunotherapy-type treatments. And my situation is the same as it was last fall when I started them.

My bone marrow has almost shut down as a factory for red blood cells. With a shortage of red blood cells (known as anemia) it is hard for the body to get enough oxygen around to the various systems. My anemia is quite severe, so any exertion at all leaves me gasping for air. And I seem to need about twelve hours of sleep every day, though I still wake up tired.

The news that we are out of options is causing us to reconfigure a lot of our thinking. However long I may live with this, it will be a very inactive life. We have some places we want to go and some things we want to see, but my life will be without many of the things I have enjoyed, like golf, biking, and hiking.

Outside of these necessary restrictions, we are going to try to live as normally as we can. We’ll be going back to church and doing things with our friends as we always have, just not the active things. I feel pretty normal except for the weariness. I hope you all will understand that I am doing the best I can, but things have significantly changed inside me.

Through all this, God has been faithful and true. He doesn’t always heal, but he is present. Very few times have I felt fearful about the future. Very few times have I wondered why. Mostly I’ve been able to stay in the present and to accept reality. I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God.

And of course, there is Carol. If you want to understand God’s faithfulness, hang around with Carol for a while. She daily lives out a great parable of God’s love. I am very blessed.

Heaven

We don’t go to heaven.

Heaven comes to earth.

If you don’t believe me, read your Bible.

Two Compulsions

Concerning my calling and desire to be a Bible teacher, I have two goals, two passions.

  1. I want to teach people how to read the Bible properly. My experience with church people is that most of them hardly read the Bible at all, much less read it seriously and deeply. Most Bible reading stops at the devotional level. I firmly believe that a deeper reading will bring with it deeper devotion. If I weren’t sick, I would already have started a podcast with this aim. I’m hoping for enough remission in my disease to begin it soon. If that sounds good to you, maybe you could pray for me that I could get this going.
  2. I want to blow up shallow and incorrect interpretations of scriptural texts. For many people, their knowledge of the Bible is limited to outlines of the major stories and a set of prooftext that guide their lives (in theory). This shallow approach to the Bible leads to disaffection and disappointment because of an incomplete picture of who God is. I want to dispel the incorrect and dispense the truth. This is where my blog should come in. If I had enough energy, I would have a weekly post that takes on a passage for deeper interpretation.

This is my heart. I have a deep desire to accomplish it. The flesh is weak. God help me.

Tyre, the Proud

To the church at Tyre —

You were once humble but you have grown proud. Not satisfied with being a little duck in a big pond, you have moved to a dinky pond so you can be the king duck. You are obsessed with cool. You are committed to attractiveness. You have lost your mission. You would rather be acceptable and politcally correct.

Your pastors have not been allowed to be prophetic because they are on the payroll. Your members refuse to be called account. Because you will not be judged now, you will be judged when kingdom comes.

You have grown fat. Your landholdings are great. You have plenty. You have not sold all that you have to give to the poor. Your help for the poor has been but a secondary token effort. You have not gone away sorrowfully because of your failure; indeed, you revel in it.

A great fall is coming. You have been warned, but you do not have ears to hear or eyes to see because you have paid them to not hear and not see. It is too late for you. There is no relief from the coming fall.

Your enemies will exult over your fall and you will still fail to see your own foolishness.

May God have mercy.

What It Is

The Bible as we have it is what it is. It probably isn’t what you wish it were. It isn’t a handbook for life or the missing manual. It doesn’t have an answer to every question. It isn’t always a happy book with blessings and sunshine for your daily devotions.

Instead, it is a very messy book full of very messy people and very messy situations. It is full of teachings to we pay no attention to if we don’t want to. We like the things we like and pound on about those things, ignoring other things that we don’t like.

Your interpretation of the Bible will take a turn for the better if you are practically realistic about your view of scripture.

  • Not every propositional statement is the truth.
  • Most of the truth is not in propositional statements.
  • You can’t trust every speaker. People lie and people are mistaken.
  • Not every character is a good example. In fact, good examples are hard to find.
  • Not every prophecy comes to fruition. God sometimes changes his mind.
  • There are lots of seeming contradictions, making it hard to know what God is saying.
  • People get orders to do things our modern sensibilities tell us are wrong.
  • There are punishments and requirements (death penalty, ethnic cleansing, Jubilee, etc.) that are never seen to be carried out in real life.
  • Even if we could assume verbal inerrancy (and we cannot), there are still lots of things verbal inerrantists disagree on: Free will vs. Predestination; Baptism; Church government; You Name It.
  • You can’t live in a canon-within-the-canon (such as Paul’s letters), nor in a canon-within-the-canon-within-the-canon (such as Romans, like most neo-reformed Piper Cubs). There is a whole Bible out there. Explore it.

Interpreting the Bible is really, really hard. The ability to do it well takes lots of time and effort. Also, it takes an open mind — which few of us have.

Read your Bible and read it hard.

False Shepherds

I offer the following passage, without comment, as an indictment against the modern ideas and ideals, and especially the practices, of “leadership”.

The word of the LORD came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.

Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild animals, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  Thus says the Lord GOD, I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them.

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Eze 34:1–10.

Don’t Tell Me

I am interested in what the Bible has to say. I am far less interested in philosophical, and even theological, constructs. It’s fair to say that if you present me with a theological or philosphical idea, you’d better back it up with some scripture, and I don’t mean a prooftext or two.

For example …

  • don’t tell me that God can’t change his mind, because God does it all the time in the Bible.
  •  don’t tell me that people can’t change the mind of God, because they do it all the time in the Bible.
  • don’t tell me God always knows the future, because God tests people to see what they will do.
  • on the other hand, don’t tell me God never knows the future, because sometimes God is said to know the future in the Bible.
  • don’t tell me there is only law in the OT and only grace in the NT, because there is plenty of each in both.
  • don’t tell me the God of the OT contrasts with the Jesus of the NT, because they are the same.
  • don’t tell me that all I have to do is say a simple prayer and I’m eternally secure, because the Bible talks about a lot of things I need to do if I am to be a faithful follower of Jesus.
  • don’t tell me I’m going to heaven when I die, because you can’t find that in the Bible. We will await resurrection and then live on the new earth.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Read your Bible.

Will not be the Church

The evangelical church in the US will not be the church we are meant to be …

until …

we care less about …

  • Who is president
  • Who is nominated to the Supreme Court
  • Trying to get “prayer back in schools” (as if it were out)
  • Keeping evolution out of schools
  • Whether Muslims worship the same God
  • Making our churches bigger

and more about …

  • Figuring out who our neighbors are
  • Arranging our schedules for others and not ourselves
  • Pleading with God to remember us before we fade away
  • Being honest with ourselves about ourselves
  • Living the life Jesus set out for us
  • Being committed in allegiance to Jesus with more than lip service

That would be a good start.