The process is always the same: prayer, exegesis, exposition. What comes out at the end always looks different. It is always exciting seeing how God chooses to work.
The process is always the same: prayer, exegesis, exposition. What comes out at the end always looks different. It is always exciting seeing how God chooses to work.
I have this tendency to wait until I have an idea formed and completed before writing about it. However, I know that God has developed my thoughts the most in the times when I have written about them. So, by titling a post ‘brain dump’ I feel like I am giving myself the freedom to further develop ideas that are not complete.
Almost all of the writings on this site are somehow connected to spiritual life, church, and suburbia (aside from a few random rabbit trails). I have experienced church in suburbia pretty extensively. I grew up deeply entrenched in the local suburban church. Today I find myself convinced that something needs to be done differently. Yet, just as anyone would, I drift toward the experiences that I know and the ones in which I have found comfort. Having said that, I am compelled by the rumblings in my heart that suburbia needs something radically different than what it has had for the last 50 years. We should not throw the baby out with the bath water either… but we must open our eyes to see what is happening around us.
What is the problem? The suburban family has mastered the facade of cultural christianity. We are all good at giving the right answers and even knowing how often to attend a church event so that we can retain our christian reputation and moral comforts. We are really good at listening to Sunday’s preaching and nodding our heads as a profession of agreement. I would argue that we have made our ‘religion’ no different than our children’s extracurricular activities. We show up at an event in appropriate attire and endure the outing because we know that we should… it is expected of us as good suburban folk, after all.
I am left asking myself what it might really look like to see a holistic expression of gospel informed relationships in suburbia. What if we really walked through life as partners in experiencing the presence of Christ in our lives? My hypothesis is that it would be messy, difficult, and incredibly refreshing. It seems to me that these questions would raise the importance of what happens in our Monday through Saturday lives. In other words, maybe everything should not be about Sunday morning. In a culture that has greatly compartmentalized spirituality, maybe radical transformation in suburbia demands expressions of faith that are not compartmentalized to Sundays. If the church is supposed to facilitate this transformation, how does that impact the way the church approaches ministry? How do those desiring to know Christ in deeper ways truly experience an authentic expression of gospel community in suburbia?
Brain dump… accomplished.
I went on a date last night. Actually it was more like yesterday afternoon, evening, and night. We ate together and then enjoyed the Astros game at Minute Maid Park – and yes my wonderful bride enjoys the game too. We had a great time. It was an investment. Not only in regards to cash, because we splurged with a trip to the ballpark, but in our relationship.
Our story consists of three wonderful kiddos… but don’t relegate dating your spouse to something you only need to do when you have kids. All of us are constantly giving away our time. We all make commitments every single day that demand not just our time but our emotional energy as well.
We are especially guilty of this as suburban dwellers. When we commit to an opportunity it isn’t just about the time it takes to complete the opportunity but we must also consider the amount of time we are thinking, day-dreaming, or researching this new opportunity. Every facet of that takes a piece of us away from our marriage and gives it to that new opportunity. As you know, we have no shortage of good opportunities to give our time to here in suburbia.
I know that you are involved in some really good things – even some great things. I also know that you have to work so that your family can eat and keep the electricity bill paid. I KNOW that amidst all the commitments and great opportunities filling your days, you still have time to invest in your marriage. Your marriage deserves your attention.
I still love all of my old High School friends. I wish I was able to see them and spend time with them on a regular basis. The farther I get from those late night, junk food filled conversations, the farther I drift from those friendships. I would still do anything for them but life’s commitments have pulled me in other directions. We have all given our time to other people, other things, and have moved on to other places.
I’ve heard people talk about their marriage in the same way. It isn’t anything that a spouse has done to hurt them, but the more time that passes between the relationship investments the more distant the relationship becomes.
Making time investments in our marriage must be a priority for all of us. Every time my bride and I put in the effort to spend some intentional time together our relationship reaps the rewards. Take some time and plan a date for you and your honey. RIGHT NOW! It doesn’t matter a bit if you are the husband or the wife. Take the time to let your spouse know that he/she is important to you. What are some creative ways that you can put action to this in your home?
I remember in college, being in my last year of study, and being thrown a huge curve ball. In all of our music classes everything had revolved around a baseline system. That system was called “Movable Do.” It is that aged old system you are at least remotely familiar with – Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do. I know how you feel… you are suppressing the urge to sing the song from the Sound of Music. Anyway, we reached a point where they removed that system and altered the foundation that everything else had been based. This new system was like walking into a class finding a teacher who was suddenly speaking an entirely new language. Everything we had thought previously… our entire frame of reference was now pulled out from under us completely. It was a shocking and overwhelming moment.
Many people who grow up around our western church, and maybe most specifically our suburban church, have been raised with a definition of Christianity. This definition has been imposed and formed by the culture at large. Often we are raised equating the idea of Christianity with either being a good person or, for those of us who grew up inside the church, we have defined it by a prayer that is repeated in a sacramental fashion.
There is a passage in Matthew’s gospel that is particular hard for me to think about –
“Not everyone who says to me, Lord Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, Lord Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
This means it is very important how we approach this idea of being a Christian. We have to fight against the cultural definitions and see a journey that begins with putting authentic faith in Jesus. This authentic faith is authentic because it touches every nook and cranny of who we are as individuals. This means that where we go to church, how often we attend, or whether our name is on a membership list isn’t the crux of the conversation. This cannot be overstated because the #1 answer I get during any spiritual conversation with someone in the community is a reference to what denomination they belong to or what church they attend. Too many times ‘attend’ just refers to walking in the doors of a building once a year, twice a year, or at best once per month.
We are called to follow Jesus, abide in Jesus, and trust in Jesus. This journey (the ups, downs, struggles, and victories) is what it means to be a Christian. It is a daily adventure which forever changes the story of our life. We are individuals who are called to follow, abide, and trust. Then, the church is called to navigate this journey as an authentic community being transformed by the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Not only is correctly defining Christianity hugely important to you and me but it radically changes the conversation we have with others. Have you ever experienced a spiritual conversation that was quickly met by the credentials of someone’s denominational affiliation? Have you ever heard the, “we go to *name-a-local-church* and we really enjoy it”? How can you participate in reclaiming the biblical definition of Christianity amidst your everyday conversations?
I told you a little about by new Bible purchase over HERE. After reading that you are probably wondering why I chose the English Standard Version as my primary study and preaching translation. That’s easy… because John Piper uses it. Duh! Okay, I’m kidding… that probably falls under the category of what my wife calls a ‘seminary joke.’
To answer this question I need to offer some definitions. One of the most important terms in this discussion is ‘inerrancy.’ I believe very strongly in the inerrancy of the Bible which means that I believe the Bible has no errors. There is an important detail when defining inerrancy that many do not know. The definition of inerrancy for conservative evangelicals was solidified by the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy. They defined the term by stating that the original manuscripts are without error. Among other things, this means that all of our different English translations and paraphrases do not fall under this umbrella.
This means that choosing a translation can be very important depending on the intended use for that translation. I believe that I own a copy of every single mainstream translation. Aside from the hard copies on my shelves, I use Logos Bible Software and have thousands of volumes filed away on my hard drive. I use many of them and have experienced the Holy Spirit using most all of them in my own life.
I remember during my seminary days needing to read the Old Testament from start to finish during one semester. Then during the next semester we were assigned the New Testament from start to finish. I used Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase called The Message and was blessed by it. It was a blessing to take in the big picture narratives through Peterson’s great gift for writing.
If we wanted to make some very broad and basic generalizations, we could divide all of these editions into two categories, paraphrases and translations. When I use the term ‘paraphrase’ I am referring to an individual (or group of individuals) who have taken the original languages of the scripture and correlated an idea in Greek with an idea in English – or an idea in Hebrew with an idea in English. A translation, on the other hand, would take each individual word within the original language and associate that with the best individual word in the English language.
I do believe that paraphrases have a significant purpose. However, when we want to take an in-depth look at the scriptures for personal study or teaching purposes, we should strive to find the best word-for-word representation of the originally inspired words. This is what we often refer to as a word-for-word translation.
Early in my Master’s program I chose the degree path called Master of Divinity with Biblical Languages. I really enjoyed Greek and Hebrew and took every class that was available. After we went through the basics of vocabulary and grammar, we transitioned to translation and exegesis. When I began, it was before all of these great software tools were readily available. I remember sitting at the table with my Hebrew or Greek texts, the appropriate Hebrew or Greek lexicon, and multiple english translations/paraphrases all open in front of me. I would translate a passage from the original language word-for-word and then reference the various english editions. This process opened a world of understanding to me in regards to the differences between all of these english editions.
I quickly learned that no single English edition was perfect. Every one of them was translated by one man or a group of men in the very same way that I was translating in those moments. There were decisions that had to be made regarding how a word or idea in the original language would be equated to our native language of 21st century English.
Those days of working deep into the intricacies of the languages was when I found my affinity for the English Standard Version. Please understand that I do not consider myself an expert in these matters, but rather just someone with some experience – maybe just enough to be dangerous. I consistently found that the most consistent translations adhering to the original languages were the New American Standard Version and the English Standard Version. This is why I encourage one of these two translations for personal study and teaching. The reason I chose the ESV over the NASB was primarily because the translation committee who completed the ESV did a great job taking the literary genre into consideration as they were accomplishing this word-for-word translation. The best examples of this can be found through reading the two translations side-by-side in Old Testaments books such as the poetry of Psalms.
My goal here was to share my journey in the most simple terms that I possibly could. Remember, none of our English translations are perfect. They were all translated by men who have inherited a sin nature through Adam as described in Romans 5:12. Yet that does not lessen the importance that we must place on carefully handling the word of God as THE truth and means of God wrought transformation in our lives today.
Now you know how and why I chose my new Bible.
Purchasing a new Bible is a special thing because I didn’t just buy another Bible but rather I replaced my primary study and preaching Bible. Sure I have shelves full of various Bible translations and paraphrases, study Bibles, application Bibles and the like. But this guy is the captain of the team, the one I depend on to get me through the crucible moments of my pastoral calling. I had used the previous one for around 8 years. Forcing it into retirement has been a difficult process. However, it was just time and there wasn’t any getting around it. After carrying it with me to various meetings everyday for 8 years, studying and preaching with it, it was time. The pages are brown from my oily fingers (gross, I know), the maps had fallen out, and the pages were so marked up it was becoming distracting. Oh, and I was missing some pieces that had just crumbled over time.
I had some very specific things in mind as I was looking to replace my seasoned – but retiring – veteran. I needed a thinline version because I do take it with me everywhere. I do have electronic versions on my iPhone and iPad but the Bible is one area where I am a little old school. My primary preaching notes are written into the margins of my Bible which I can’t do in an electronic version.
Although a great resource, I was not going to carry around one of those huge study Bibles to every meeting, every day. Also, I love the red-letter editions. I find it incredibly helpful to quickly know if it is Jesus that is speaking. This keeps me from needing to stop and analyze the discourse to find out if it is Jesus or not.
Next, I wanted real leather without any crazy designs on it. My retired edition was genuine leather and it weathered all of my abuse extremely well. I want to drain all of the life out of each edition that I buy because I invest a lot of time into the notes that are written into each one. For years I will reference various scriptures and I will find the margin notes that came out of another time of study (this is also why I mourn the retirement of an old copy). The genuine leather editions are always a little more pricey, but they are definitely worth it over the years of use.
The most significant and truly foundational aspect of the choice was the translation. How did I choose the translation? Very good question, I’ll be answering that in the next post.
… to be continued…
Monday is my day off as usually my work week is Tuesday through Sunday. Today I took my son to the movies and we saw Cars 2. He ate a carton of popcorn and drank a cup of Sprite. Every few minutes during the movie he would turn to me and say, ‘Daddy, can I ask you a question?’ He would follow that with various random questions about the movie. It was obvious that he just wanted to connect with me every few minutes.
Tonight we took a family outing to Mission Burrito. I drove the kids around the parking lot while Momma was inside ordering the food. We passed the music store in the parking lot and we took a moment, stopped, and all looked at the guitars and drums in the window. My son asked me if we could go to that music store sometime and I let him know that we definitely could… sometime. My oldest child quickly piped up in the car by letting everyone know that her and I had gone there one time on a date night. That was probably at least 2 years ago when we did, in fact, go to that music store together on a date night.
It amazes me that all of my kids have those moments seared so deeply into their memory. It does not appear that they will ever forget a moment that we have spent together. This is convicting and inspiring all at the same time. It is convicting because I realize that I need to invest in more of those times with each of them (all THREE of them). It is inspiring to realize that each of those times are truly investments into their memories which will always be filed away as ‘time with Dad.’
What things are you investing your time in that will have zero significance tomorrow or next week? Parents, how can you make more of these memory investments in your children? Last week while Mom was at Bible Study we loaded up in the van, wearing our pajamas, and went to a friend’s movie/media room to watch Toy Story 3. For the small investment of watching a movie together plus 3 bags of M&Ms, they have brought that evening up in conversation countless times over the past week. I’m convinced they will never forget those moments. Will you commit with me in making more of those kind of memory investments into the lives of our children?
I’ve been going through some health issues recently. I’ve had several surgical procedures over the past few months with the final one, hopefully, being last week. I have missed being able to engage in a lot of things over the past few months. I haven’t been able to run or exercise in months and that has really affected me in numerous ways. You probably either think I’m nuts or you completely identify with what I am talking about here.
I don’t think I understood how much exercise brought balance to my life. Exercise helps me immensely in balancing out the ups and downs of a day. I can’t wait to have that balance back again. I am confident that there is a connection between spiritual, emotional, and physical health.
There has been much recent interest in environmentalism from some Christian circles. I think it has been a good discussion in as much as it does not dilute the essence of the gospel. Much of the discussion seems to revolve around a desire to participate in God’s act of redemption.
Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience.
Why is it that a desire to steward the environment has come out of this text and not also a desire to steward our physical bodies? There are so many great truths here and to minimize it to an environmental discussion is just sad. Sure that is part of it, but only ONE part. The trees, mountains, and lakes are a beautiful act of God’s creation AND so are YOU.
I believe the neglect to steward our bodies – God’s creation – may be one of the most neglected sins of the 21st Century Church. How are you stewarding God’s gift of creativity and creation in which you walk everyday – your body?
I do not hide the fact that I have a significant affection for coffee. There are not many smells that excite me more than walking into an overwhelming aroma of freshly ground and brewed coffee beans. Although I do have my favorites and when given the opportunity I can fit the definition of a coffee snob, I am a purest. What I mean is that I truly enjoy the natural flavor of coffee, not the cup of almond toffee flavored cream with a dab of coffee on top.
There have been a few moments in my adult life where I was forced to do without this miracle brew. I’ll never forget going to the Philippines and asking for coffee only to be met with those little crystals that dissolve in hot water. Hi, my name is Matt and I am a coffee snob. I’m sorry to say that those crystals in a jar are no substitute for that little blessed bean. One of the first things on my mind after hugging my wife and kids upon returning from the trip was finding some coffee.
You might not be as infatuated with coffee, but I’m sure you have your cravings. I often wonder how our Father feels when he sees all of the things we long to see, do, and experience and He is equated to a task we accomplish on Sundays. I think that sometimes God wants to take us through things that make us dependent upon him. Sometimes we have to go through a desert in order to become thirsty.
He wants to be the object of our desires. He wants to be the one we turn to in times of joy, sadness, frustration, and success. He wants to be the first one we look to at the break of day. He wants to guide us, instruct us, and come along side of us. He desires to know us so deeply that He gave His Son to die – to afford us the ability to have relationships with Him.
We need to take a look at our pursuits in life. Maybe today God wants you to do some reorganizing of pursuits. Can you think of one investment of your time which should be placed second in priority to our loving Savior?
If we are constantly trying to be someone else – or trying to project an image that is less than honest – no one will ever truly know us. If no one truly knows us then we are living in isolation. You may be surrounded by people all day long yet still be emotionally and relationally isolated. Moms can be surrounded by kids and even other moms and still be relationally isolated. Men and women can work amidst a sea of people for 40-60 hours per week and remain relationally isolated. It can easily happen to any of us. How do you know if you have crept into relational isolation?
Isolation creates a petri dish where all sorts of problems take shape. To the surprise of many, pastoral leadership can create a very isolated environment. I have to be incredibly intentional to foster these kinds of relationships. So, I would be the first to say that it is much easier said than done. However, the struggle pays unspeakable blessings.
If you cannot answer a resounding “YES” to those five questions then I challenge you to seek deeper relationships – at least one. Fight the suburban isolationism that can easily breed all types of unhealthy thoughts and emotions.