Hey!

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Commentary

On my way to church this morning, I was listening to “A Way With Words” on the car radio. One caller was asking about the interjections “Say!” and “Hey!” It dawned on me that my imagination has always shut down when someone says “Hay is for horses.” In my mind’s eye, I spelled out the homonyms: “hay” and “hey.” That’s when this poem was born.

(background image based on one by “12019” on Pixabay… with a little generative fill behind the horse)

Song of the God-Danglers

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Commentary

This morning, after I awoke, and long before I got out of bed, I began imagining a travel guide for people visiting my island. In this guide, I would introduce travelers to three groups of people they’re likely to encounter: God-deniers, God-fearers, and God-danglers.

You’ve probably never heard of God-danglers. These people may or may not utter the curse “God dangle it!” In fact, many of them would be far too proper for something so close to profanity. The term “God-dangler” originally* referred to people who wear a chain with some form of religious pendant. And—this is important—they wear it AS a talisman. In other words, they think of God as their magic charm.

But a pendant is close to the heart, and it’s important to understand that God isn’t really close to the heart of God-danglers. That’s when it occurred to me that God-danglers sometimes dangle swords at their sides. Swords, like talismans, are something people rely on to get their way.

So there you have the complete history of the term “God-danglers.” These are people who don’t technically DENY God. They also don’t really FEAR God. Rather, they see God as someone they’d better dangle along to insure they get their way while getting’s to be got.

_____________

*meaning five minutes into my flight of fancy

Dear Sloth

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Commentary

Slow music, even slow dance
Are sometimes great
But I’m sure you can relate:
They’re not for me
When I get up early
And the night before,
I stayed up late.

(background image by Eddy Camejo on Pixabay)

#slowmusic #sloth #dance #worship

Ding Dong Lunatics

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Commentary

Once, long ago a hospital chaplain told me that the hospital is extra busy when there’s a full moon. I believe it. That’s why I looked up the moon phase when I wrote this poem. I was seriously thinking that maybe there was a full moon out there. But there wasn’t. So that’s not it!

Here’s a confession. That first line–My brain’s on patrol–is a clue that the real problem is in my mind. I went to work today dreading the return of a difficult patron. I’ll spare you the details so as to keep my job. Don’t worry…. I maintained my professionalism… on the outside.

It’s a good thing that Monday is a federal holiday, and that I work at a place that observes all holidays….

#learningpatience #dingdongs #lunacy #waxingcrescent #waxingpoetic

(background image by Robert Karkowski on Pixabay)

Rescue

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Commentary

I am exploring the idea that man was created for God’s approval, and nothing short of that will satisfy.

Approval seems like a low bar… until you contemplate the alternative. Now imagine an eternal “Yes!” when all you’ve heard is “No.”

#glory #approval #esteem #maslow #hierarchy

(background image based on a painting by Martina Bulková on Pixabay)

To Be Published

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To Be Published

I could become inscrutable,
I suppose…
Disclose despair
By ripping off 
The clothes of grammar
I have warmly worn
Since I could dress myself.

A fugitive in Philistines’
Protection,
I could let the spittle
Punctuate my unkempt beard,
’Til readers feel
They’re not alone
As long they may have feared.

But what’s the point
In publishing
Some other poets’ lives?
Better just to be
My properly appointed,
Boring self,
A prude in others’ eyes.

— Brad Hepp, 12/29/2023

Commentary

I force myself to read poems that I don’t understand. It seems I’d need a decoding key to cipher why poets sometimes mangle grammar, and why they choose really odd line breaks.

I read these poems and don’t understand them at all, despite having been an English major, and despite having done almost seven years of graduate work after college. The poems make me feel stupid, and inadequate.

Maybe I should stop worrying about it, and concentrate on what God means for ME to do!

UPDATE
What I’m grumbling about here is my sense that poetry seems to be honored in some circles only insofar as it obfuscates or even DENIES meaning. If you read the following short article about “Postmodernism Poetry,” you’ll recognize what bothers me. You may also be comforted—as I am—that it’s not that *WE* aren’t smart enough to understand those bizarre so-called poems, but that the POETS have abandoned reason. They really don’t think there’s anything TO be understood.

https://libguides.ferrum.edu/nationalpoetry…/postmodernism

God’s Love Reaches Lystra

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Commentary

In my crawl through Acts, I’m still camping in Chapter 14. As always, I’m looking for how God works and how he thinks of things.

In this chapter, Paul and Barnabas get to Lystra. Right off the bat, Paul demonstrates God’s powerful kindness by healing a man who was lame from birth. The people of Lystra think that the apostles must be gods, come down in human form. They set out to worship them. But Paul and Barnabas set them straight.

WHAT’S THE CONTRAST?
I’ve learned to look for contrasts in Luke’s story-telling. What’s he contrasting in this story? Most of us probably see him contrasting the fake gods of Olympus with the real God who created everything. That’s definitely there. But I think there’s something else.

A note in the NET Bible alerted me to a contrast between how fake gods leverage FEAR and how the living God operates out of KINDNESS.

Here’s the note: “In this region there was a story of Zeus and Hermes visiting the area (Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.611-725). The locals failed to acknowledge them, so judgment followed. The present crowd was determined not to make the mistake a second time.”

This business of the Lystrans trying to worship Paul and Barnabas as though they were Hermes and Zeus…. It’s out of FEAR. In contrast, everything that Paul does and says in this passage points to God’s KINDNESS.

REFLECT AND APPLY
Read the passage with God’s kindness in mind. Then think about where God’s kindness is highlighted elsewhere in Scripture. Also think about where men oppose God’s kindness. Sometimes it’s people on “our side.” I think of Jonah, who should have known better. He didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he just knew God would be kind to Israel’s mortal enemies in Assyria (see Jonah, Chapter 4).

Now look at your life with God’s kindness in mind. What does that change? Can you see God’s kindness in your own circumstances? Are there opportunities to reflect God’s kindness in how you interact with others?

#acts14 #acts14v33 #netbible #fakegods #fear #livinggod #kindness #goodnews #jonah4

(background image based on one by “eommina” on Pixabay)

Whose Acts?

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Commentary

This is one of those poems that seemed pretty good in the morning, but not so good later in the day. Oh well. I think its goodness–if any–is felt most keenly when you’re seriously contemplating the long wait for Jesus’ return. Below is what I wrote when I had just penned the poem:

In my crawl through Acts, I got to chapter 14. Here, Luke surprised me with one of his occasional references to Jesus’ direct participation in the “Acts of the Apostles.” The fact that I registered surprise got me thinking about this long period now where we’re waiting for Jesus’ return. How are we to think of his seeming absence? I know the usual answer; is there more?

Please notice something…. I don’t usually capitalize “divine pronouns.” In this poem, it seemed useful for exploring relationships.

Seeking Approval

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Commentary

These days, I’m trying to get my head around Paul’s letter to the Romans. In the process, I’m trying to figure out how seeking glory is appropriate. What is glory? And what’s it like to attain glory? Is it “merely” God’s approval? It seems that would fall short of what we think of as glory. Or would it?

I know how horrible it feels to be accused, reproved, rejected. Can I imagine the opposite? This poem explores that notion. In short, I’m wondering if perhaps we all have a deep yearning for approval, and those who seek to satisfy that yearning by obtaining God’s approval are the ones Paul speaks of as seeking glory.

Consider these three verses from Romans 2:

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

Romans 2:7

[there will be] glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Romans 2:10

No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

Romans 2:29

(background image by “2211438” on Pixabay)

Poetry Extremes

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Commentary

Let me get this out of the way…. I’m probably just not smart enough to understand a great deal of poetry. So this little poem of complaint may say more about me than about those poets I don’t “get.”

On the other hand, I really wonder sometimes if poets want to be understood. I DO want to be understood. That’s why I read my poems out loud, and write these commentaries. Does this mean everything I write is intelligible? Not yet, but that’s where I’m headed.

(background illustration based on a photo by Rene Rauschenberger on Pixabay)

Inhospitality, 2023

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Commentary

I read somewhere that mental health experts have noticed a pandemic of loneliness in 2023. What happens in society happens to us. We’re not exempt. I certainly feel a sharp loneliness at times. Where does this come from? Can I fix it in my own life?

As I look around for answers, I am determined to be more strategic about friendships. There is just so much energy and time. I must work on what’s valuable, and resist what merely sucks.

(background image adapted from a photo by Peter H on Pixabay)

loneliness #inhospitality #isolation #exhaustion #newyear #resolution #2023 #2024

Collaboration

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Commentary

I was inspired to write this by a Facebook friend’s comment on my rambling, “thinking-out-loud” post about Acts 13:46, Romans, and how saving faith must surely be a faith that is thankful for eternal life. I’m telling you, the post was as rambling as that last sentence. But the Facebook friend bent her mind to my rambling and said, “Brad, I see what you’re doing here….” She went on to offer some tight restatements.

I sometimes think that God has given me exceptional eyes for beauty, and wants me to develop exceptional means to describe that beauty. Poetry and photography have been my go-to in fulfilling God’s purpose for me. But I recognize that my thinking is muddy. I don’t remember things. My vision of beauty is blurry. I need friends who can help me develop my descriptions of the beauty I see.

As I wrote this poem, I thought of two local friends, in addition to the Facebook friend. I texted them about how thankful I am for their collaboration. And I wrote the following to accompany the poem on Facebook:

I’m not sure there’s anything more beautiful than one person bending his or her mind to think WITH another person. The product may be all wrong, but the process is all right!

Beyond a State of Decay

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Commentary

Here’s a little perspective on my rate of physical decay and spiritual growth. It was prompted by one of those slightly worried self-examinations: “Am I making any progress in becoming more like Jesus, or am I just fooling myself?” The answer–my answer, for what it’s worth–was this comforting poem.

AN EXCHANGE WITH SOMEONE VERY CLOSE TO ME HINTS AT THE CONTEXT:

THEM (regarding the poem): “Gut wrenching and amazing.”

ME: “Thanks. There’s something I really want to explore from my crawl through Acts. In giving his audience a summary of God’s dealing with Israel (Acts 13), Paul refers to Jesus’ resurrection as the fulfillment of His promise of a Son, who—unlike the first “son,” Adam—is no longer subject to decay. That, and any number of other reversals is what I look forward to in Eternity for myself and those I love.”

A closely-related poem (and one of my first): “Celebrate What Is.”

#acts13v34 #psalm1 #2corinthians4v14 #2corinthians4v16 #resurrection #decay #growth #spiritualgrowth #abiding #rootofjesse #mashup

(background image by Sergio Cerrato on Pixabay)


Mixed Drink Confusion

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Commentary

Recently, I have been reading or listening through Romans repeatedly. I’m trying to understand this epistle independently, largely ignoring all I have been taught by others. I DID purchase a book* that surveys views of Romans across the centuries, but I’m hopeful that reading that book will leave me still capable of honest, independent thinking. Don’t be alarmed… I have a conservative hermeneutic, so I’ll almost certainly land on orthodox ground.

Paul gives us a severe assessment of man. But he also acknowledges those “who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality.” We know such people. Some—perhaps many—of them are not followers of Jesus Christ. Yet they outshine many Christians in their goodness. How does this reality affect our understanding of Romans and the power of salvation?


[Note] Below is a stanza I thought of after signing this poem. It’s a poet looking for a sharper metaphor. There’s a slim chance I’ll try to fit it in some day:

Sipping whiskey and vermouth,
A liar cries out,
“Liars, tell the truth!”

#blackandwhite #gray #hypocrisy #condemnation #romans1v16 #gospel #powerthatbringssalvation #romans2v7 #persistenceindoinggood

(background based on image by Yao Charlen on Pixabay)

*Romans in Full Circle: A History of Interpretation (by Mark Reasoner)

Liberating on Passover

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Commentary

First of all, forgive the big word at the end. “Ignominiously” means something like “with no honor,” or–more to the point–“without a great name.”

This poem is based on connections I am exploring between the story of Peter’s release from prison at the hands of Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12) and Israel’s release from slavery in Egypt (Exodus).

Luke points out that the events of Acts 12 occurred around the time of the Passover Festival.* In fact, it looks like Peter’s release from prison happened on the culminating night of Passover. That may not mean much to us, but it would have meant a lot to Peter’s contemporaries.

Maybe it should mean more to us….

(background image by Somchai Sumnow on Pixabay)

*OOPS. When I wrote this, I was assuming that Passover came at the end of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I had it backwards. The saving grace for me is that the whole week was also called Passover. Here’s a helpful web page on the subject: https://www.lehigh.edu/~gdb0/simcha/firstf00.htm

On The Sabbath

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Commentary

I’m going to lean heavily on the words of a theologian friend for this. Apparently, there are two words for “rest” that are often used in the Old Testament. One of those words is “nuach.” It was used in Genesis 2:15, where

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 2:15

The words “put him” are that Hebrew verb nuach. (וַיִּקַּ֛ח יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיַּנִּחֵ֣הוּ בְגַן־עֵ֔דֶן לְעָבְדָ֖הּ וּלְשָׁמְרָֽהּ׃).

The point my friend makes is that there is a difference between work–the kind of work that Adam did in the Garden before the Fall–and toil–the kind of work he did after the Fall.

The reference to sweat in this poem is misleading. As I understand it, we may sweat even when we’re celebrating God’s provision in Sabbath. Over the last several years, I did sweat a whole lot on the frequent long hikes that I took. But those hikes were as close as I’ve ever come to celebrating God’s provision in Sabbath. Because God had provided financially–was providing, and would provide–I was able to rest, to spend hours walking, thinking, listening through the Bible repeatedly, listening to many other edifying books, observing nature, and recording my observations. That’s when I began writing poetry… in those Sabbath hikes.

You can view my friend’s discussion of Sabbath here:

The background image for my poem is is a painting by 18th century artist Johann Wenzel Peter.

An Easy Chair of Boxes

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Commentary

THIS IS ACTUALLY A SERIOUS POEM

Let’s see if I can explain it as well as I did to my wife….

I’m aware of a tendency to arrange the facts as I perceive them in a self-serving way. This is dangerous when it comes to Bible interpretation. It leads to distortions. For example, consider how a white, slave-holding Christian(?) man in the antebellum South interpreted Scripture. Naturally, he interpreted Scripture in a way that justified his evil ways. We are constantly in danger of doing the same thing, not about slavery, but in other ways where we elevate ourselves at others’ expense.

So, whenever my Bible interpretation has me smelling like a rose—or sitting pretty in an easy chair—I ask if I may be arranging the boxes to my own advantage. That’s the theory; God make it fully so!

#selfseeking#hermeneutics#myadvantage#mortonsalt#grandsaline

(background image by “falco” on Pixabay)

Charcuterie With Friends

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Commentary

Last Sunday evening, Susan and I had supper with two friends we both had known since back when we were all singles (the 1980s). I was best man in the husband’s wedding, and he was best man in mine. Over the years, he and I have climbed dozens of mountains together. For that and other reasons, my friend has gone from best man to even better man. Once, I was more mature than him. I’m pretty sure that has flipped… and I couldn’t be more happy!

(background image by Ricardo Dominguez on Pixabay)

To The Guide

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Commentary

The idea behind this poem still needs a lot of work. In the meantime, maybe it will make sense to you and even resonate….

When I was young, I sometimes dreamed of being a mountaineering guide. And I had definite ideas about how kind and understanding a guide should be to the slowest and weakest of his clients.

Just now, I had a vision  (not literal, but almost so) of myself as that slowest and weakest one on the trail. Is there comfort in my perception of the Good Guide?

The trail is real, and physical, and hard. But there is a reality just out of sight, a realm of rest and realization. It parallels the trail, but is permanent, and more real than the trail. The Good Guide will transfer me to that realm at the perfect time. Not too soon, and not too late.

Dear God

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Commentary

By the end of his long life as a theologian, my father had concluded–like John Stott–that the Bible teaches what’s called “conditional immortality.” The comforting implication of conditional immortality is that men and women who do not accept God’s offer of salvation may suffer briefly at the Resurrection, but will not suffer for all Eternity. If you ask me, I’ll point you to his paper on the subject. I know how committed Dad was to the authority of Scripture, and to being intellectually honest. His paper on the subject is worth considering.

What Dad could not arrive at is Universalism–the eventual salvation of ALL people. That’s a position I and more than one of my best friends wish we could honestly arrive at. It’s what one of my main heroes in the faith, George MacDonald espoused.

This poem is an actual prayer. I have learned that poems in the form of prayer are read by God, if by nobody else. He knows how I struggle with this doctrine!

Jesus’ Generosity

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Commentary

My crawl through Acts is very slow these days. Sometimes I only make it a verse or two before something blows my mind. This morning it was Acts 10:38, where Peter is talking with Cornelius about the widely-known good report about Jesus. What God did for Jesus, in enabling that ministry, Jesus secured for his followers as well. Thus, He turned servants into friends and family. I consider Jesus’ sharing of status and power an incomparable generosity.

Look at Acts 10:38, and then recall Luke 24:49. I’m bolding the words that popped out for me.‬

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

Acts 10:38

I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Luke 24:49

Cornelius To Peter at the Feast

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Commentary

In this poem, I imagine how Cornelius (Acts 10) may one day tie together the promises to Abraham (Genesis 17-21) with how he himself came to be part of Abraham’s promised lineage.

THE FEAST:
Here’s one of the passages that was in my mind when I was reading Acts 10:

I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 8:11 (NIV)

“Soar” in the last line has two meanings: take flight and increase.

#thefeast #acts10 #matthew8v11 #genesis17-21 #cornelius #peter #threemen #italiancohort #gentiles #nations

(background tree image is adapted from one by guentherlig on Pixabay)

Not What He Meant

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Commentary

I posted this on social media without any commentary, and there was absolutely NO response. How appropriate! It’s a lament about the loneliness I sometimes feel as a poet. My efforts to find a poetry writers group have thus far failed. I was part of a superb writers group a few years ago. Back then, though, I didn’t have enough confidence to make use of their generous and keen criticism. And meeting with that group became overly inconvenient.

So now, I’m living out what my father experienced much of his life: writing for an audience that never responds.

Dorcas

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Commentary

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH DORCAS?

In my crawl through Acts, I just made it through chapter 9. Here we encounter the story of a generous disciple named Tabitha. Her name is Dorcas (meaning deer or gazelle) in Greek. She dies, and her fellow disciples send for Peter, who successfully petitions the Lord to raise her back to life.

I suspect part of Luke’s point in telling this story is to highlight God’s pleasure in disciples’ generosity. Earlier in Acts, we saw the Ananias and Sapphira story, where greed resulted in death. In their case, there was no resuscitation. Peter played a part in that story as well.

By the way, my doggerel notwithstanding, I see evidence that Dorcas’ generosity was not limited to fellow believers, to those in the Lord’s “fellowship.”

In A Basket At Dawn

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Commentary

In my crawl through Acts, I’m to chapter 9. Paul had gone to Damascus to capture believers, but new plans were revealed by a blinding light. In a great reversal, he left Damascus* in the darkness of night, lowered out the city wall in a basket to avoid being captured. This was the dawn of his exciting and unexpected new life mission.

My observation of parallels with the conquest of Jericho probably doesn’t mean much. But it’s there to consider. We should always be asking, “Where have I seen this before?” God’s kingdom (realm and rule) has a long history.

SERENDIPITY (BASKET-FLAX-LINEN)
I’m thinking about what kind of basket would be large enough to hold Paul when he was lowered from the wall…. I’m guessing such a basket would generally carry something light. What could that be? Grain? Flax? Naturally, the Joshua 2 account of the spies hidden under flax stalks(?) comes to mind. So I looked up flax, and found this fascinating article (is it good scholarship?): https://blog.fabrics-store.com/2022/12/25/biblical-accounts-of-linen-and-flax-seed/

(background image adapted from one by “M W” on Pixabay)

*I hate to break it to myself, but in the Luke 9 account Luke may have left out Paul’s time in the wilderness. Apparently, Paul entered Damascus blind from his conversion encounter with Jesus. He started preaching, but also went out into the wilderness for a period of three(?) years, and then returned to Damascus. It was after the return to Damascus that this escape happened. That’s what happens when you read a passage AS IT IS WRITTEN, and don’t try to bring in information from other passages (Galatians, in this case). The upside is great, but occasionally I have to backtrack. Oh well…

Reading Her Diary

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Commentary

I wrote this poem as I was finally reading Anne Frank’s diary. This reading coincided with a time in my life when I was–am–very deliberately re-forming my theology. I am reading Scripture with the assumption that it is authoritative, but also with the assumption that everything I have grown up thinking may be wrong. I want desperately to understand how a God who loves people infinitely more than I do, and calls me to forgive… how this God will deal with feeble, fragile men and women in Eternity.

I have friends, beautifully kind and loving friends–oh, I wish you knew them–who are committed Calvinists. I know how hard they must work at honoring God as they understand Him. I have another friend, an elderly lady, who grew up in Bible churches. She recently sent me a letter stating her deep struggle with God’s wrath, and eternal punishment. So, I don’t write this poem lightly, or judgmentally.

Simon the Exploiter

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Commentary

In my crawl through Acts, I have just about made it through chapter 8. Once again, Luke is telling a story that contrasts GENEROSITY (God’s generosity, reflected in selfless servants) with GREED (here it is Simon the Magician’s apparent desire to exploit God’s generosity).

Question: is it possible Simon was a true believer? Was he saved in Luke’s account? Does Luke actually want us to struggle with this question? He leaves off with Simon declining to do the one thing Peter requires of him: personally repent and pray for God’s forgiveness.

#acts8 #simonmagus #simony #greed #exploitation #repentance

Good News, Good Faith

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Commentary

Halfway through my second year in college, I went through a period of questioning my faith. Actually, I was questioning “my inherited faith,” since Christianity was what I grew up with. The questioning was a healthy process. I came out of it with a recognition that I could not–and need not–prove anything about God definitively.

One book that I read at that time was In two minds: The dilemma of doubt & how to resolve it by Oz Guinness. Since it has been over forty years since I read the book, I can’t swear to this, but I seem to recall Guinness suggesting that doubt often arises from ingratitude. Over the years, that seems to have been borne out in my own life: stop thanking God for all He supplies, and soon I’m struggling with doubt.

With that background, you’ll understand why, when I recently tried to throw out all my presuppositions about Romans and come to my own fresh understanding, there’s one presupposition I wasn’t willing to throw out just yet: that the kind of faith Paul is talking about could be characterized as “grateful reliance.” That’s really what this poem is about. When I posted the poem on Facebook, here’s what I wrote:

My flight through the Bible has my little plane struggling for elevation to clear the mountain range called Romans.

This little poem is me thinking “out loud” about how Abraham’s exemplary(?)* saving faith may have differed from the faith of his descendants.

*Caution: the QUALITY of Abraham’s faith may not be Paul’s point. I look at it because many of those whose condemnation Paul mentions surely had their own measure of faith. Was it different? Is that important? I don’t know yet.

(the background image combines a night sky photo by Chemnitz/Deutschland on Pixabay; a desert scene by Greg Montani, also on Pixabay; and Genesis 15:5 in Hebrew)

Through Clouds

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Commentary

Someday I’ll learn how to ask thought-provoking questions. I want people to join me in a quest for answers, to brainstorm with me.

Unfortunately, prompting thoughtful responses is a tricky thing. My father was a seminary professor in Mexico. He got in trouble with fellow professors for provoking students to think. Apparently he didn’t get the memo that he was only supposed to spoon-feed those poor, defenseless students. The really good ones loved him. He set them up for a life of productive thinking.

Romans. Really?

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Commentary

Well, this is embarrassing! This is probably a lousy poem. I wrote it as flow of consciousness while studying Romans. And now, I don’t recall what I was thinking. Wow. That’s lame.

I do recognize a perennial lament of mine: that there’s always someone out there interpreting our efforts in the worst possible light.

Here, for what it’s worth, is what I wrote when I first posted the poem:

Sometime it would be nice to ask of Jesus, “Are we really friends? When you look straight through me, do you see anything of yourself?”

Morning Not Mourning

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Commentary

When morning comes, I can’t hold on to my dreams, or get them back.

Why write a dumb little poem like this? Honestly, as I woke up, I was trying to come up with an analogy for that frustrating time of morning when dreamworld yields to waking day. You’ve made it through your slice of watermelon, and all that’s left now is rind.

(background image adapted from one by NoName_13 on Pixabay)

Bitter End

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Commentary

Some conversations serve as a warning: “Make sure you’re not on this path!”

This poem was inspired by a conversation I had with an elderly patron at the library where I work. Ever since that conversation, I have avoided him. Otherwise, I’d have to deflect his political jibes, misogyny, and racism. It would be terrible if other patrons thought I agree with him!

#quickwitted #bitingtongue #bitterness #losing #vanishingnow

Needless and Heedless

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SERMON TO SELF

This morning, I was writing a preachy little piece about how many of us think of judges only in terms of punishment, and not in terms of protection. I was exploring what this may say about us.

Then I turned from cleverness to the mirror. If I don’t grieve for the oppressed, what does that make me?

You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

Psalms 18:27 (NIV)

Dos and Dont’s

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Commentary

GOD’S LOVE AND KINDNESS IS BEFORE AND ABOVE ALL

I have a deepening impression that our obedience and disobedience to God are the result of whether or not we believe that God is reliably loving and kind.

Most recently, this impression was strengthened as I contemplated Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7. As I see it, he’s recounting a history of Israel rejecting God’s promises and provisions.

I also think of the Sabbath. God tells Israel that they can take it easy on the seventh day, and seventh year and in the jubilee year. He will provide! Keeping the sabbath was first and foremost a matter of believing God’s amazing promise and provision. But almost immediately, Israel turned the delightful provision into a duty.* 

Just now, I looked back at Genesis chapter 1. God’s first action toward man is to bless and give.

GOD IS GOOD, but large swaths of Christianity concentrate more on dos and don’ts than on God’s goodness.

*[I must confess that I understand how that could happen when the first thing out of the gate was a disobedient Israelite getting killed for picking up sticks on the Sabbath…. I’m trusting God will enable me to understand this some day]

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#dosanddonts #godsgoodness #acts7 #genesis1 #blessing #sabbath

(background image by Jan Mesaros on Pixabay)

Pool-Jumping Sermon

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Commentary

I FEEL SORRY FOR PREACHERS

Imagine studying Scripture for many hours during the week, and then having to preach a sensible, unified, nice and tidy sermon on Sunday.

So much of what you saw in the Word, what intrigued you, what reminded you that God is much bigger than your comprehension, that God’s ways are not yet your ways…. So much that you admire in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…. So much of what drove you to be a preacher… must be left behind. You may not understand it yet, although you’re intrigued. It may not fit what you carved out as the sermon’s “big idea.”

And so is born another good but unsatisfying sermon.

SERMON SIDENOTES

I have long thought that preachers should at least make room in their sermons for sidenotes. They might sound like this:

“SIDENOTE! There was something in this verse that really caught my eye. I don’t know what to do with it yet, or even if it’s all that significant. It goes like this….”

“Now, back to the main point….”

By using such sidenotes, a preacher could model a healthy, humble amazement at God’s revelation.

#homiletics #preachingmethod #sermon #sidenotes