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Archive for the ‘humility’ Category

A targum of Psalm 8:

1 Yahweh our Master!
Your Name is priceless throughout the universe!
Your glory is unsearchable and inscrutable
and utterly beyond our capability to measure.

2 Even the smallest and inexperienced ones; yes – babies
they praise you – just as you wanted
all this is like ignorant and inane babbling to those who hate you,
yet this incoherent baby-noise completely silences sinners and evil-doers.

3 When I ponder the chaotic-order of the cosmos,
the mechanics of your workshop,
whether multiple distant galaxies or single stars,
knowing you plan and place them all,

4 I wonder why you bother thinking of mere humans,
or why you concern yourself with homosapiens?

5 But – no other thing you’ve created comes as close to your divine greatness,
potential and power, reason and rhyme; you gave it – we have it.

6 Everything that you’ve created, we are now responsible for;
under God and over creation:

7 over the lions and llamas,
and every land-dwelling animal,

8 over every single thing that flies in the air,
and every thing in fresh-water or salt-water,
indeed – every kind of ocean-floor crawling and swimming thing.

9 Yahweh our Master!
Your Name is priceless throughout the universe!

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For some reason, I respect people the most when they obviously are very smart, but are ever-concious that they don’t know everything.

Matter of fact, it seems that the more you know, the more you become aware of all the things you don’t know.

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Everyone is a theologian.

Theology is simply the ‘logic’ (thought, ideas, study) of ‘theos’ (god), and everyone does this. Even atheists, who claim to be quite certain that the idea of god is silly, spend much time, energy and thought trying to demonstrate this – and therefore, I suggest, they engage in theology.

Anyway, some people put theology on a spectrum with something else – like theology on one end and emotions on the other (as if the ‘goal’ was to stay in the safe ‘middle-ground’ between the two). This is making less and less sense to me. Are not emotions present in all that we do; and – is not even simple reflection about god at least some form of theology?

Emotions matter. Ideas about god matter. We don’t need 50% of each – we need 100% of both.

Having said that, let me be quite clear: I am convinced that emotions (though we need them 100%) cannot be trusted. Sure, feelings are god-given and must not be rejected or disregarded, but were never meant to be relied upon. They are more a ‘thermometer’ to life than a road-map…

Now, the ‘road-map’ of theology can also be trusted too much. We can delude ourselves into thinking we have got it all sorted and sussed. If the apostle Paul can say that ‘we know in part’ (1 Cor. 13) then I think that goes for all of us. But there are certain things (assurance of salvation in Christ alone, the will[desire] of God, etc.) that we can know.

Just as God has given some people more sensitive emotions and feelings, he has given others more critical and thinking minds – and neither is more ‘spiritual’! Both must continually strive to use these things for God’s glory – because it all matters!

We get this messed up all the time. Some christian communities value feelings/emotions so much that critical thought and discernment goes out the window, while others value theology/’truth’ so much that any sign of life or vibrancy is absent.

We must work hard to not be emotion-less or emotional-istic. And we must work hard at theology – because it matters. How we feel and what we think can cause us to do and believe some very interesting (and possibly tragic) things (i.e. – belief that national Israel has to go back into ‘the land’ and restore the ‘temple’ before Christ can return can result in indifference to the atrocious militant actions of the nation of Israel against Palestine that seem to clearly go aganst God’s will[desire]).

Don’t mock people whose emotions are more vibrant than yours. And – don’t think for a moment that theology gets in the way of ‘real’ worship. Instead, love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength… together.

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“Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will be abolished; whether there are other languages, they will stop themselves; whether there is knowledge, it will (also) be abolished. For we know in part and we prophecy in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end… For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, 12

How true.

A friend of mine and I have been studying biblical eschatology (the study of ‘last things’) in the past few months and I must say, though it’s been worth it, it’s been very challenging.

The extremes of belief and interpretation (even among those who love, serve and follow Jesus) are quite far apart! Some expect a universe-ending event to come in our future and point to current events as bringing this event to pass (of course, some have gone as far as predicting the very year in which this ‘end’ will come… and have been quite wrong!). At the other end, some interpret the ‘end’ having already happened when the Temple was destroyed in the year AD70 (including ‘resurrection’, 2nd ‘coming’ of Jesus, ‘new Heaven and new Earth’).

This current ‘study’ of eschatology is just one area of biblical debate I’ve listened to in my few years as a Christian. Personally, I find such debates to be very helpful and educational. I’m committed to the goal of interpreting the Bible as faithfully as possible (being as aware of my biases as I can be), and such debates are great ways of observing how a particular pattern of interpretation stands up to scrutiny.

As an aside, if a person gets angry or abusive in a debate, it can often be due (as my Dad and I both have observed) to the fact that his/her position (or at least his/her grasp of it) is less than strong.

As another aside, for me, ‘debate’ is not a dirty word, and I lament that levels of respect and relationship/trust are often not high enough for constructive debate to take place as much as I think it ought to.

Which leads me to my point. If we take on board the truth in the above verse (the truth that we ‘know in part’) it doesn’t mean that we are so ignorant that we shouldn’t bother debating with one another, but rather we ought to do so with appropriate humility. This humility can guard against someone thinking for a moment that their knowledge is anything more than ‘in part’…

Furthermore, I would desperately like to see more (to coin a phrase) ‘interpretive humility’ in Christian circles. I am weary of people saying ‘this verse clearly says’… or ‘it is obvious from this verse’… etc. If it were so ‘clear’ or ‘obvious’ then why have so many people seen it in different ways? I’m not talking about pagans or atheists either! I’m talking about people that love the Lord and want to be faithful to Him in all of their lives! We simply need to be less arrogant in the assertion our interpretations.

In my experience, the most dogmatic ‘scholars’ end up being far less credible than those whose qualifications would justify them being dogmatic, but who still choose not to be.

In closing, there is a certain amount of urgency needed in the pursuit of this humility. When Christians are unable to debate respectfully, they become more and more isolated from one another. This is bad. We end up only talking to those whom we agree with, which simply results in the exchange of a few ‘high-fives’ and produces absolutely no growth or sharpening.

If iron is to sharpen iron, then both pieces of iron must agree that they merely know in part.

Happy sharpening.

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humble pie inc.

It’s interesting how various Bible verses have their ‘day in the sun.’ A very popular verse recently has been 2 Chronicles 7:14. This verse has made it’s way into many articles, books and songs. It goes like this:

“If my people, called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

I’ve heard lots of talk about what this verse says about prayer, seeking God’s face, and turning from sin, but I’ve not heard a lot about humility. If you look at the verse, humility is listed first.

What is the opposite of humility? Pride. I believe that pride comes from having confidence or assurance in anything other than Christ. Boasting is prideful. Paul said that he would not boast in anything except in the Lord. Paul’s confidence and assurance was not in himself, but in God. This exemplifies the kind of humility alluded to in our featured verse.

Humility means more than boasting only in the Lord. It also means that we must not ignore the way things really are. By this, I mean that we must admit when things are not as they should be. After all, is there really ever a time when we have it all together? Is there ever a time when we don’t need God? Is there ever a time when we can truly depend on ourselves?

In Christian circles, we learn all too quickly how to speak Christian-ese. We are taught to always be happy, positive and enthusiastic. Happiness comes and goes. Joy, however, lasts through even the tough times. Joy admits it when things just aren’t going well, and Joy isn’t shaken because Joy comes from confidence and assurance in Christ.

God uses tough times and allows ‘negative’ circumstances in our lives to cause us to be more dependent on Him! It was at times like this Paul said that when he was weak, then he was very strong! Weakness in yourself = strength in the Lord! Humility about yourself = boasting in the Lord!

According to the featured verse, we can pray, seek God and try to turn from sin, but unless we are humble, it doesn’t matter.

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” – James 4:10

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