Friday, August 31, 2012

Some thoughts on Goethe's Faust

Among the classes I needed to select this fall semester was a literature class, and I chose Goethe’s Faust.  I am familiar with the story and jumped at the chance to study this along with some other German literature.

One of our first assignments is to give a short (no more than 12 minutes) presentation on some old or new “Faust” myths: representations from culture where this story has become a part of our ethos…as represented, for example, of the saying “I’d give my right arm to do that” as in I’d give a large part of myself, cripple myself, dare I say “sell my soul” to get some seemingly important benefit in this life, right now.

I am making an assumption that you, my reader, is familiar with the Faust story, but in the case that you are not, Faust sells himself (his soul) to the devil in exchange for all his desires being filled here on earth for a span of years.

Now not to be a ‘spoiler’ but in the end, in Goethe’s version, Faust is ‘redeemed’ and ends up in heaven, but in an earlier version, written by Christopher Marllowe, Dr. Faustus goes to hell.

As I was reading a commentary on Goethe, and enjoying some of his other poetry, it occurred to me that we seem to think we are giving up something to ‘be good’ and to sacrifice for others, and to not fall prey to our yearnings and lusts, but to follow the leadings of God.  To not yearn for earthly pleasures but to look forward to the World to come. Do we think we are somehow depriving ourselves of something here on earth that might not be as good as Heaven.

Think about this; that someone, (like Dr Faustus in the story) would be willing to enjoy satisfying all his desires here on earth for a set number of years, and damn himself to eternal torment in hell, and think that perhaps the memories of his pleasure would keep him going through the pain and torment?

Do any of us have the idea that good memories of pleasure will ‘tide us over’ future suffering and torment? Perhaps temporarily, but why give up heaven for the fleeting passion and pleasures of the moment here on earth?

This could be the ultimate definition of short-sightedness! 

But don’t we do the same thing when we choose to go into tremendous debt on a house we can’t afford just to feel equal with the “Jones”? 

When we fall for advertising saying we need to own the luxury car?

Or the name-brand clothing?  Or sneakers? Or_____? (fill in the blank)

Do we somehow forget that we really cannot take these "things" with us?

What are we, right here and now, selling our own souls for?

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

“I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What is Grey? From Hailstones and Halibut Bones

What is Grey?

Gray is the color of an elephant
And a mouse
And a falling-apart house.
It’s fog and smog,
Fine print and lint,
It’s a hush and
The bubbling of oatmeal mush.
Tiredness and oysters
Both are gray.

Smoke swirls
And grandmother curls.
So are some spring coats
And nannygoats.
Eagles are gray
And a rainy day
The sad look of a slum
And chewing gum
Wood ash and linen crash.
Pussywillow are gray
In a vevety way.
Suits, shoes
And Bad news,
Beggars’ hats
And alley cats
Skin of a mole
And a worn slipper sole.
Content is gray
And sleepiness, too
They wear gray suede gloves
When they’re touching you…

Hailstones and Halibut Bones: Adventures in Color (1961)  By Mary O'Neill, Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard. Doubleday & Company, NY 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Donald Duck in Mathematics Land

I stumbled across an old Walt Disney classic: Donald Duck in Mathematics Land.

Enjoy this 'blast-from-the-past'!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Quote from James Montgomery Boice

Our sermon today was on two questions "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" and "Who are you Lord?", ably preached by Rev. Jane Filken. In her sermon she shared a quote from the commentary on Acts from James Montgomery Boice who wrote this:

"In the trial and martyrdom of Stephen, perhaps for the first time in his life, Saul must actually have come face to face with a true and articulate Christian.  What an impression it must have made on him.  Saul was educated; so was Stephen.  Stephen may not have had the equal of Saul’s superb education-at least technically- but when Stephen gave his testimony before the Sanhedrin, he demonstrated a knowledge equal to that of his chief persecutor.  It was a natural part of him…Could Saul have given an address that powerfully? I think, too, that Saul must have been impressed with Stephen’s final words.  As Stephen died, he looked up to heaven and said ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man [Jesus] standing at the right hand of God.’ Could Stephen have been lying? Under those circumstances?...I suspect Saul asked himself if he could have died like that.  Was his faith as strong as Stephan’s? Could he die with peace of mind and heart? Did he have that moral character that could ask forgiveness for his murderers at that moment when he was being killed?"

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Merits or De-Merits?

Are we afraid of being labeled Christian?

Are we expecting a gold star to be pasted in our [so called] playbook if we think we are being abused for being a Christian?

I ask you read the above sentences very carefully.

Then read the passage below just as carefully.

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For ‘the one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.  He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayers, but the face of the lord is against those who do evil.’[1] Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
1 Peter 3:8-17 (emphasis mine)

So how do you stack up?

[1]  See Psalm 34: 12-16

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What's Your Ministry?

What is your ministry?

We all have gifts and calls on our lives which we tend to set aside because we get too busy and distracted.  But perhaps it is time to think about what God has called you, gifted you, and is asking you to do for his kingdom.

If you haven’t assessed your skills, perhaps it is time to. You need to list the things you feel that God has gifted you with…and don’t go taking some standardized test (the really accurate tests cost money, the rest are simplistic and misleading).

Spend time in prayer and:
·        List what you are really good at.
·        List what really makes you excited.
·        List what your passions are.
·        Write down what you wanted to be “when you grew up.”

Now that you have done this, sit down with your spouse, or really close friends/co-workers and have then look over your list…and see if they can add or take away from it.  We all need to have someone take an objective look to see if we are assessing ourselves correctly.

Once you see what skill sets you have, start looking at what your dreams are, and ask God to show you what He wants you to do.

Now if God has put a ministry in your heart, see what additional training you will need to walk into this ministry…no matter how long you “think” it will take to get you ready.

And a little FYI: if God has called you to be a missionary to Japan, and you have confirmation, and you don’t know how to speak Japanese, your first project is to learn the Japanese language so well you speak it fluently.  I have no doubt you are called, but to be an effective worker for the kingdom in another country, God expects you to learn the language before you go.

Don’t let time, age, or a million other reasons stop you: even if you never develop your ministry, think of the adventures God will put you through while you learn.

Please don’t leave your dreams behind.

I believe that God gives you those dreams, because to follow his dream for your life will challenge and grow your faith.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

An Over-Looked Prophet

Allow me to shine the spot-light on a great Hebrew Prophet of the Old Testament who gets very little attention, yet was so revered by Israel that one of the gates in the walls around Jerusalem was named to commensurate this prophet contributions: Huldah.

The following is a quote of Richard M. Davidson, from his book Flame of Yaweh”(2007, Hendrickson Publishing, Peabody MA)

Davidson writes;
“Narratives from the time of the monarchy also spotlight a woman of special divine calling, Huldah the prophetess (2 King 22:14-20). Against those who argue that God never calls women to an office that includes a teaching function over men, note that when King Josiah commanded the priest and scribe, “go, inquire of the LORD” (22:13), regarding the discovery of the book of the law, they went to Huldah the female prophet for divine counsel when the male prophets, such as Jeremiah, could have been consulted. A woman was chosen to authenticate that scroll found in the temple was authoritative Scripture. According to 2 Kgs 22:14, Huldah lived in Jerusalem in the misneh,[1] which most versions translate as the “Second Quarter” (NRSV) but the NJPS transliterates as “Mishneh” and the KJV translates as “college.”  The latter translation may be the best inasmuch as some scholars have suggested that this has reference to an academy, perhaps even headed up by Huldah. This was apparently the view of early Judaism, which held Huldah in such high regard that the gates at the southern entrance of the temple were named after her.”  (p 272)

From this passage I would like to draw attention to one fact: King Josiah and his councilors could have chosen the prophet Jeremiah or other men, instead they chose Huldah.

Huldah: prophet, teacher and possibly leader of what may have been an entire college devoted to Torah.

[1] The word used from the Hebrew is missing an accent mark from a font used by Hebrew scholars that I don't have yet.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Back to basics: A Bit of the Sermon on the Mount

We have a difficult task as Christians.  First, we need to submit to God: our lives, our thought life, and our hearts.

Second, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.  But being fallen, faulty people, with imperfect understanding and incomplete knowledge, how can we do this?

  • We are not to judge, but we need discernment.
  • We need wisdom, but not “idle philosophy.” (sophistries)
  • We need to be righteous, not self-righteous.
  • We need to read and embrace Scripture and not memorize a script.

There is only one Way, Truth and Life, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; and we will never convince the world of that fact until we lose our own incessant need to win this war of words.

Until we accept that we are not perfect, understand we don’t have all the information, and comport our lives and words with humility, we will never convince the world at large to listen to our voices.

This is part and parcel of membership in the kingdom of God, and a Gospel message, which in Craig Keener’s words “…transforms those who meekly embrace it, just as it crushes the arrogant, the religiously and socially satisfied.”[1]

Here are Jesus’ own world shaking and life changing words from various translations of the New Testament.

Blessed are the poor in spirit [those who are not spiritually arrogant[2]] for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who morn [how happy are those who know what sorrow means[3]], for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the gentle [humble, meek, patient[4]], for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [goodness[5], uprightness[6], justice[7], holiness[8],] for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful [compassionate[9]], for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart [clean in heart[10], utterly sincere[11]], for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers [those who make peace], for they shall be called sons of God.

Matthew 5:3-9

[1] Craig Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (1999, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans) P.162
[2] Footnote from the NASB
[3] Philips translation
[4] Knox translation
[5] Moffat Translation
[6] Goodspeed Translation
[7] Lamsa translation
[8] Knox
[9] Weymouth
[10]  New Testament in Basic English
[11] Philips (and last [bracket] is Philips as well)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Advice to teachers from Philo

I have been reading through the translated writings of Philo Judaeus. To give you a context to place his writings, Philo was alive at the same time as John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and St. Paul.  He was a Hellenistic Jew from Alexandria.  Historians believe he was born at about 20 B.C. and there is record of him taking part in a delegation to Caesar Caligula 39-40 A.D. 

But the writings of Philo give us a window into the 
philosophical thinking of the day and a unique view of
the Hebrew Bible which for Philo was the Septuagint,
which was the Greek translation of what we call the 
Old Testament.

Philo's thoughts on teaching:

“…Teachers who when they set about giving their lessons keep in view their own great superiority and not the capacity of their pupils, are simpletons, who are not aware how vast is the difference between a lesson and a display.  For the man who is giving a display uses to the full the rich yield of the mastery which he possesses, and without let or hindrance brings forward into the open the results of hours spent in labor by himself at home.  Such are the works of artists and sculptors.  In all this he is trying to gain the praise of the public.  The man, on the other hand, who is setting out to teach, is like a good doctor, who with his eyes fixed not on the vastness of his science but on the strength of his patient, applies not all the he has ready for use from the resources of his knowledge—for this is endless—but what the sick man needs, seeking to avoid both defect and excess.” (p.411)

Philo vol. II, Translated by F.H. Colson and G.H Whitaker (1950, Harvard University Press)

Friday, August 3, 2012

"...A Time of Unsettlement" Charles Gore

This quote was written by Charles Gore in 1907.

We need to revisit our history in Christianity.  There is much to remember.

“…There are a great many people whose convictions on religious subjects are very far from solid.  They would confess that they have very little religious experience, or perhaps spiritual sensibility.  They do not read more on such subjects than a newspaper review or a magazine article.  Thus, when they hear of every traditional belief being questioned by men of apparent learning and integrity, their convictions, such as they were, even on quite fundamental subjects, are quite undermined. How shall they decide where learned men disagree?

          Again, there are others—and those a great number—who are disgusted by the unworthiness of the Christianity which they see around them.  They are alienated by the divisions among us Christians, by our bitterness or pettiness, or by the worldliness of orthodox believers.  The Christian churches seem to them to make no serious struggle against the forces which enslave masses of men in social and moral degradation, and to exhibit no real likeness of Jesus of Nazareth.  A great many men, that is to say, disbelieve in current Christianity because they desire something more like Jesus Christ.

          And there are others who hold their religious convictions piously and fervently, and who yet add to the prevailing skepticism: for they are distressed because questions are even raised about subjects of such sanctity.  They resent altogether the atmosphere of free inquiry, and by their nervousness and apparent distrust of the power of truth to prevail in the open field, they do more than they suspect to propagate the opinion that the Christian religion is an old-fashioned superstition which cannot bear investigation.

          In such an age of religious unsettlement it is as well to remember that, after all, it is to ages of such mental ferment as ours, and not to ages of mental stagnation, that we owe our great debts of gratitude for the works of religious construction.  It was from an age of universal intellectual ferment and unsettlement that there emerged the solid structure of the catholic creeds; it was in an atmosphere of serious unsettlement the Butler and other in the eighteenth century relaid the intellectual foundation on which Wesley and Simeon and Pusey and Newman built their works of spiritual recovery.  If religion is 'the pearl of great price’ we must not expect to win it cheaply, and intellectual trouble is no more to be resented than pain of body." (p. 2-4)

Charles Gore (1907) The New Theology and the Old Religion: Being Eight Lectures, Together with Five Sermons.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Somewhere in the Middle"

“Somewhere in the Middle”

Somewhere between the hot and the cold,
Somewhere between the new and the old,
Somewhere between who I am and who I use to be,
Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me.

Somewhere between the wrong and the right,
Somewhere between the darkness and the light,
Somewhere between who I was and who You’re making me,
Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me.

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?

Fearless warriors in a picket fence,
Reckless abandon wrapped in common sense,
Deep water faith in the shallow end~and we are caught in the middle.

With eyes wide open to the differences,
The God we want and the God who is,
But will we trade our dreams for his~

Or are we caught in the middle?

Somewhere between my heart and my hands,
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves
Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door.

Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle You’ll find me.

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?

Lord, I feel you in this place and I know You’re by my side,
Loving me even on these night~

When I’m caught in the middle.

Mark Hall © 2007 My refuge music/club zoo music/SWECS Music (BMI)

Casting Crowns, "Somewhere in the Middle" 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Unexpected delight!

I’m never sure how my cards will be received, and as anyone who has been trained in sales, you know how
to quickly look over a store set up to see whether your product will fit or not. But even if your look-around seems to tell you “no,” you talk to the people behind the counter anyway.

So as I walked down the steps that led to a below-street-level coffee shop, I could see no card racks and thought to myself, this was a “no-go”.

But the young fellow behind the counter asked to take a look at my card.  He looked up at me quizzically and asked, “So, what’s Proverbs 3:5 and 6?” (under my logo on the back of the cards)
Logo on the back of my cards


Without missing a beat I recited what I consider to be my life-verse “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understandings, but in all you ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight”

He and another gentleman were both nodding their heads before I even got done with the verse.

And then we started one of those wonderful “God encounters” conversations…you know, when you meet up with another believer who wants to know what adventures you’ve been on here on this earth…those bright moments when the light of Christ just shines.

That’s when the worries you had just a moment ago disappear.  When your world, which was looking pretty dark, suddenly becomes sunny and bright. You have hope again, and are sure of what your calling and gifts are…beautiful gifts from God. When again you realize you have been put on an important path by the One True Living God, and He just reminded you that you are not alone on this road.

What a delight!

“Open to me the gates of righteousness; I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the Lord.  This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous will enter though it.  I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me, and You have become my salvation.”  Psalm 118:19-21

And by the way, the coffee shop is LaVita Bella Coffee etc at 475 Main St. Longmont (at the corner of 5th and Main)...their web-blog his here: