Monthly Archives: September 2012

Sorry honey we can’t go out tonight, we have to pay our iPhone bill

I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal recently that reported Americans are paying so much for their smartphones (iPhones, Droids, etc) that they are having to cut back in other areas, most notably in dining out. I thought to myself, this is a perfect illustration of one of the major problems in America: spending quality time with others is not highly valued in America. One of the best things that could happen to America from a relational standpoint would be for all our smartphones to cease from operating and never work again.

Some of the best times that I have had in my life from a relational (and spiritual) perspective have been on church mission trips where I had no (or very limited) access to any type of cellphone or Internet service. It wasn’t just unplugging from the Internet and the rest of the world that was beneficial, but that there was a group of people that was also unplugged from the Internet with me and we were all in the same situation. There was nothing that we could retreat into to avoid spending time with each other; it was our only option aside from sitting in the corner in silence.

I think that everybody wants close relationships with other humans, but when we spend our free time with our phones, tablets, and computers instead of those whom we want to establish close relationships with we end up shooting ourselves in the foot. If Americans are indeed more dissatisfied with life compared to other nations one of the likely causes is that apparently we would rather spend time with our phones and computers rather than our friends.

Some people believe that technology will save us, but I do not. If anything technology (in the context I have mentioned here) will drive us to isolation and loneliness and be our destruction rather than our salvation. Our problem is our heart, our internal state, not our external state or life. Jesus is our salvation, not technology.

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Reflection: Community

I recently came to what you could call an epiphany concerning what community entails, so I figured I would share it with you all.

I’ve always been puzzled by the inability of people to establish community with one another, even among Christians. Some do indeed succeed in this area, but it seems that most groups of people fail to establish community for one reason or another. I’ve wondered why this is and yesterday it occurred to me what the reason for this might be: the failure to realize that each individual must make contributions to the group if community is to be established. A community is not a place that you take from because you need something from the other members, it is a place where you give yourself because the other members need something from you, and where the other members give themselves because you need something from them.

David and Jonathan

David and Jonathan

Everybody comes to a community needing just that, community. Community is something that has to be created though, which means that materials need to be contributed and fashioned in order for community to take shape. The basic material that needs to be contributed is love for the other members of the community. I think it is a very rare occurrence for someone to come to a community and naturally have love for the other members of the community, so usually this love must be established somehow. This love for others can be established simply by making an investment in their life. This doesn’t need to involve something huge, or even involve them, it can be something little, like praying for them,  asking them how a project at work or school turned out that they previously mentioned, or having a conversation with them watching a game. You don’t have to feel the desire to do these things at first, in fact you probably won’t. But if you force yourself to do them eventually you will come to genuinely love the others and will no longer need to force yourself to do these things.

The point is that everyone needs community, but you cannot gain what you need from community by taking from others, because what you need is to be part of a community and this will not happen until you contribute to the others in the community by loving them. You are only a part of something so long as you contribute to its benefit, otherwise you are a leech. Others need community just as much as you do, if they give themselves and you do not there is nothing for them to receive and you and them will both no longer have community. If everyone gives themselves everyone will get what they desire in community. As long as this is done the community will endure, when this is no longer practiced is when the community will fail.

The lesson for me in this is to share my thoughts, feelings, desires, etc with the people around me and not just keep them to myself and force myself to take an interest in their life, even if I don’t feel like it at first (probably a consequence of being an introvert) because they need them, and I need their thoughts, feelings, love, etc. This is God’s design for us to be in community and help each other because He saw that it was not good for man to be alone and He made a helper suitable for him.

Why ChristianMingle Makes Me Cringe

One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
(Psalm 27:4)

There’s something about the Christian Mingle commercials that just makes me cringe every time I see one on television, the line: “Find God’s match for you.”

Wedding BandsI cannot find a biblical basis for the belief that God has a “match” for everyone. In fact, I find more evidence that God does not have a “match” for everyone (see the Apostle Paul, Elijah, Jeremiah for example). What I do find a biblical basis for however is loving God with our entire being and being transformed to be more like Christ:

  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).
  • I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).
  • For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29).
  • Colossians 3:1-17
  • Galatians 5:16-26

The basic plot of the Bible is this: God created a world, then created humans to rule said world, then humanity disobeyed God and creation became corrupted and humanity became slaves to sin, God promised to redeem humanity from sin, God redeems humanity through Jesus. The goal of the Christian life then is to pursue Christ-likeness and no longer live as slaves to sin.

When I see the ChristianMingle commercials I see an underlying idea of: God has a wonderful plan for your life and wants to bless you with a great life; and I think this idea is one of the problems plaguing Christianity, at least in America. Furthermore this idea is blatantly false. If you don’t believe me read about the lives of the Prophets (esp. Jeremiah), the Apostles, and Jesus Christ. These people did not live wonderful, happy, blessed lives, but rather were usually on the run from enemies who wanted to kill them and were despised; not exactly a wonderful life.

Martyrdom of Paul

Martyrdom of Paul (Tapestry)

At one point in my life I believed the idea that ChristianMingle is promoting: that God has a perfect match for everyone. However, all my praying and hoping for this only served to make me more frustrated and angry at God. Eventually God showed me that this is not the attitude that I should have when following Him. I began to learn that the attitude God wanted me to have was one of concern towards furthering His kingdom, and not towards my own desires. This was not an easy thing to accept, it took many, many months in fact. Once I was able to accept this though it has been one of the most freeing things in my life. It has shifted my focus from earthly temporal things (romance) to eternal things (God’s kingdom), which is where my focus should be as a Christian, because:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

Now just to be sure, being married and having a family is a good thing (and Lord willing I will be married and have one myself one day), but the focus of a Christian should be on pursuing Christ and furthering God’s kingdom, not on getting married and having a family. Christ needs to be the focus of the Christian life, not earthly blessings. Our attitudes should be similar to the Apostle Paul’s:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…(Philippians 3:8 ESV)

The pursuit of Christ (serving Him and becoming more like Him) needs to be the focus of the Christian life. This needs to be borne out in the life of the Christian and not just merely intellectually assented to, which means that our lives should be marked by hardships and trials endured for the sake of Christ, and not by our “wonderful families.” The life of a Christian should be focused on Christ and eternal things, not on earthly things, of which I believe marriage and family to be one.

Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition

Cave 4 at Qumram

Yesterday (Labor Day), I went with a group from here to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth. Overall it was well worth the trip and the price of admission to see so many pieces of history. I’ll share a brief overview of the exhibition and then share some of my thoughts concerning what I saw.

The first exhibit contained artifacts from the Hasmonean Kingdom when Alexander the Great was out conquering. The second exhibit featured artifacts from around the time of King Herod in Jerusalem. Then we got to look at some ossuaries that were used to house the bones of the deceased. Exhibit four contained artifacts from Masada, where the Jews made a final stand against Rome (the temple had already been destroyed by this point). After this I believe we got the chance to look at some facisimilies of some fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

After all these exhibits we watched a short video explaining the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls and then got to look at the actual some fragments from the scrolls themselves as well as some early fragments from the New Testament and some old Christian Bibles from the Reformation (Luther’s Bible, 1611 King James, Erasmus’ Bible, among others).

Impressions

  • Many of the plates and bowls were tiny compared to the size of modern plates and bowls. The ones in my kitchen look gigantic compared to the ones that I saw. I speculate this was the case for two reasons: 1) The food supply was not as stable back then as it is today, so conservation of food was essential. 2) Because conservation of food was so necessary they ate significantly less than we do today; they realized that they could survive on significantly less food than we eat today.
  • It was a bit surreal looking at some of the fragments. It was <surreal synonym> to think that this was a 2,000 year old piece of parchment or papyrus. And not only was it 2,000 years old, but it contained words that we already old when the fragment itself was written. There’s something to be said of words that survive for thousands of years, regardless of whether or not you agree with what they say, because there’s something timeless in them that has meant something to multiple generations. This is why I like reading books by old dead guys (and gals); there is a timeless meaning in them.
  • There were a few illuminated manuscripts on display. Ever since I discovered these existed a few years ago I’ve loved looking at them and wished that there was a modern version of these manuscripts. I loved how elegant they looked and how the pictures served to illustrate elements of the biblical story. So I was excited when I found that there was indeed such a Bible in existence today! You can read about the Saint Johns Bible here.

Overall I definitely have a new appreciation for the Bible. Just seeing how skilled some of the writing was on the fragments, and how well it corresponds to the Bible we have today speaks volumes as to how laboriously and painstakingly these manuscripts were copied. Some people even dedicated their lives to copying these manuscripts.

I’d encourage anyone that has the chance to go see the Dead Sea Scrolls if you ever have the chance, regardless of what you believe.