When it comes to reading both Genesis and the Revelation, I can say hands down that I am not a literalist. At the same time I can say hands down that I believe both texts to be true and the inspired, inscripturated word of God. We do have to read all of scripture for what it is, each part. And we have to read it in context, especially its own, and it helps to know something of the historical, cultural context into which it was written.
I am reading in the Revelation right now, and sometimes don’t know quite what to make of it in regard to literal and figurative. Sometimes I’m thinking the text I’m reading is to some extent figurative. Truth is told all the way around, but exactly what is meant or how that truth will be played out in literal terms, sometimes I’m not sure, nor frankly do I care. What I do care about is that it is true. In fact it is rather easy for me to depart from some literal reading of a text, and chalk it down as figurative, saying something profound in a striking sort of way. Like the possibility of being victorious so that we can sit with Jesus on his throne just as Jesus was victorious and sat with his Father on his Father’s throne. Maybe all that means is that we will reign with Christ if we are victorious in him in this life. It may help to find more information which might actually see something of a literal fulfillment in the like. But much of the Revelation as well as the early chapters of Genesis lends itself readily to something of an interpretation which does not see all the text as strictly literal, while nonetheless true in its context, true in some way or another as part of God’s inscripturated word.
We need to read, study and ask questions. Though for myself, I am most concerned at this point with reading with a view to being formed more and more into the image of Jesus by God’s grace through the Spirit in communion with others in Jesus and in mission to the world.
There seems to be a strong tendency among Christians to not take seriously the calling of God to be holy and to resist sin. I’m not talking about Christians who regularly complain about their sins, but are repentant. Perhaps in some ways we should all fit into that category, even if we must be careful, since excusing our sin may be the near fatal next step and comes all too easily. I am referring to those who simply do excuse their sin. “I am a sinner.” “Everyone does it.”
Judging others and grumbling seem among the pet sins of Christians. Thankfully I’m not talking across the board, as many do not seem taken up with these vices. And yet in some ways these vices can afflict us all, not only as recipients, but also, alas, as those who fall prey to them. It is all too easy to grumble and even easier to judge others. I am not talking about seeing the wrong in others, but seeing them as outcasts because of that wrong. We indeed are all sinners in need of the grace available in and through Jesus.
In love we need to learn to look past the judgment another might have of us and pray for them. Also realizing that to some degree we’re inflicted with the same sickness in sometimes judging others. Remembering that Jesus indeed was condemned for both them and ourselves. So that our goal can never be the judgment of those who have judged us, but through the cross, the reconciliation in the love of God of us all, even of the entire world in and through Jesus.
It is good to live in grace and have an assurance that somehow all is well in God’s will, even though that will has yet to take hold on earth as it has in heaven.
I for one often find myself struggling over something. Usually it is something I get over less than a day (as opposed to the past when it could stretch into days- knock on wood). Sometimes it seems in life I’m going up a normal hill which is more like a sand dune. You’re gaining little ground, but getting a good workout in the process. Or this or that or something else is wrong, one of the many challenges of life which can hit us on nearly every side. Challenges which come both from being a human who doesn’t have it all together and living in a world in which problems are a part of daily life.
I know there are formidable obstacles. I seem wired to look at and go on to the next challenge, even as I gladly take some deep breaths and enjoy in between.
I am glad we can turn to the Lord who can work even in the hardest places for good, beginning with myself, my heart played out in attitudes and actions. Being overwhelmed with life and all the challenges that come our way can have its advantage for sure. Then we ought to look to the Lord all the more and find our consolation and hope in him. That means I’m all the more in scripture as well as wanting to be in the fellowship or communion of God’s people in Christ. And wanting to be a witness to the world of the difference that makes.
It is wonderful and best to have lived by grace in a straightforward Daniel-like kind of way, to show others that in and through God such a life of integrity and wisdom is possible. We also need those who having failed along the way or been held in one stronghold or another to have overcome so that their lives tell the story especially to those around them everyday, of God’s saving, sustaining grace in Jesus. I am more in company with the latter. All of us together pointing to the one Savior for us and for the world, our Lord Jesus.
Sometimes if a fellow worker asks me how I’m doing, I might say (and mean), “Hanging in there,” and they may very well echo the same. Life is like that sometimes, some days, even some periods of time. Sometimes it seems the best one can do is hang in there and go with the ebbs and flows and ups and downs of life.
Simply hanging in there can be underrated. It means we aren’t bailing out, but remaining faithful to the calling we’ve received from God, what we believe we should do.
Hanging in there invariably means you’re not backing down from the attacks of the enemy. We in Jesus are called to be strong (or strengthened) in the Lord, in the power of his might, to put on the armor of God, and to stand firm in resisting the spiritual enemy. We often end up doing so in great weakness. But in that weakness we can find the Lord’s power, in fact such power is made perfect in weakness.
And so hanging in there is like hanging on. We’re hanging on for dear life in more ways than one. To survive, yes. But to thrive as well. Into nothing less than the Lord’s life, a life meant for the world. Maybe one form of death at work in us, but through that life at work in others in and through Jesus.
For the ear tests words
as the tongue tastes food.
There is no doubt that much of what takes place in our human interaction of give and take has to do with words. Words point us in all kinds of directions, offered for a variety of reasons. Often to persuade, but quite often just to converse. Sometimes to humor. And much more in what it means to be human.
Readers are testers of words. But in fact everyone is. We respond according to the words given from the minds as well as hearts and spirits through which they come. When no words come at all, that can be simply a sign of bliss in acceptance and even intimacy. But it can also mean the exact opposite in flat out rejection and even repudiation of the other person.
In the context of Job it is certainly a matter of trying to persuade each other. We see the words throughout the discourses in light of what we know is to come at the end of the book- God’s response, but neither Job nor his three friends had that advantage. They were all in a quandary, Job’s friends seeing life as they were always taught it: God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked (or blesses and curses). And Job seeing that his experience did not line up with that at all, and that, by the way, neither did the experiences of others, at least many of the wicked.
Job is a compelling book, the story itself striking, even if it strikes in some ways contrary to what seems good and right, and the words poetic and bristling with wisdom, even if out of place, as we know is the case from Job’s friends.
We all test words. First and foremost we need to test our own. By the words of God’s revelation given to us in scripture and fulfilled in Jesus, ultimately with reference to the gospel. Words point to realities and are evidenced (or verified) as to their truthfulness by tradition, logic and experience. In the end words can help or hinder, wound or heal, weaken or strengthen, bring life or death. We do well to remember that both in what and how we listen, as well as how and what we say.
I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.
C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, quoted by Dennis and Janet Fisher, A Day With C. S. Lewis: A Spiritual Journey into Fascinating Worlds: Seminar Travel Guide, 21.
The quite helpful guide by Dennis and Janet Fisher enabled me to give this post a title in keeping with C. S. Lewis’ book, The Silver Chair.
Oh yes, I believe Jesus is the supreme revelation of God and I believe in the literal physical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. We do draw this out from the biblical text, but we have to remember just what kind of witness that is, a credible one grounded in history, even if a remote part of it. But in and through Jesus by the cross (his death and resurrection) scripture says that the Christ event, or the story of Jesus and what is ongoing from it, is indeed central in history and in the story of humankind, of the world. And so yes, that has a life all its own. Certainly on the written pages of scripture, particularly the New Testament, and as real as the air we breathe. So that the life I live and the faith I have are invariably connected to that. And I read scripture in light of that, as well as scripture enlightening me in regard to that.
But what keeps me going practically speaking, what keeps my faith hopefully growing and maturing amidst the vacillations and ebb and flow of life is very simply the text of scripture. Both of the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament along with the New Testament. Of course it is the gospel of Christ which actually keeps us grounded- alive and empowered as a witness to the grace and kingdom of God come in Jesus. We end up reading all of scripture in light of that, even while at the same time seeking to consider each passage in its own context.
My current practice plays itself out in reading a text of the Old Testament, along with five psalms (to read through the psalms every month) and a text of the New Testament. And I meditate on a book by going through it verse by verse, right now in 2 Peter. I do a chapter from the Old as well as the New Testament, along with the five psalms, seeing that as the minimum. And so far that is all I’ve done daily, apart from some extra reading connected to a rich study on Job I’m participating in on a week night at our church. So to do precisely that does take some time and commitment. But not all that much time, unless you’ve run into Psalm 119.
My point in this post: Get into the text of scripture, read the Bible, and meditate on it, perhaps by going over its lines through a book, so that one can say it comfortably. We in Jesus are people of the Book. We must grapple with it, so that the Book as God’s word inscripturated can do its work in us, in and through Jesus.
When one has been there over and over again, the same old, same old (now, I’m not talking about my job, you who are trying to read between the lines), one begins to gather that it’s time to move on. That is in part what I’m praying about. New wine can’t be held in old wine skins so to speak, though it’s not even in those skins at all. Maybe I should try my hand at poetry.
Classic within the church and the Great Church tradition is the practice of soul care. When we think in terms of God’s mission to the world and our part in it in Jesus, we can do no better as far as in its succinctness, to consider the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father prayer) Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Of course along with that we need all of the rest of Jesus’ words and the apostolic teaching which followed. But soul care is certainly woven in and explicit elsewhere. Some might criticize it as “navel gazing.” And it can become that, if that’s all we do. I used to be perhaps a bit critical of it myself, but I see better now it’s importance, so that we can carry on well in being a blessing to others in the mission we’ve received from our Lord.
One good example of soul care is found in 2 Peter 1. From the reality of the new life in Jesus and actual participation in the divine nature and within that having God’s promises, we’re to make every effort to add to our faith certain virtues: goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance (or perseverance), godliness, mutual affection and love (agape). We’re told that if we have these in increasing measure they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus. But if we lack these, that we’re near sighted, even blind. And this is tied into the promise that if we do these things we won’t fall, and will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of Jesus.
And so we do need to take care of ourselves, so to speak. To practice “soul care.” I’m sure we can learn a lot from those who are steeped in this from the Great Tradition (I think specifically of Roman Catholics, though I would include Eastern Orthodox in the mix). They have been at it for centuries so that a number have learned from those who preceded them.
And so we do need to take care as we carry on in the life and work given to us in Jesus.