Monday, January 16, 2012

A Great Poem, and a Good Critique

This poem by Jefferson Bethke has gone viral on youtube. Over 12 million have viewed it. It's on the difference between Jesus and religion.

It's very good. Have a look at it. If you're a Christian you'll probably agree with his sentiments. And if you're not a Christian, you'll probably by sympathetic with his critique of "religion."

Of course, poems paint with broad strokes. They are intended to evoke an emotion or two and elicit some kind of gut response. They are not usually intended to be sliced and diced at the most minute level. So we need to be careful not to make too much of them--"to make them walk on all fours," as one of my professors put it.

Still, at risk of engaging in a little "conservative over-analysis and reaction," I think Kevin DeYoung does a [generally] helpful job of digging a little bit deeper in his exploration of the poem:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Devotion to Christ the Word, and His words

One of the challenges in my devotional life is the tension (or balance) between consistency and variety. Too much variety, and my discipline with the spiritual disciplines becomes decidedly undisciplined. Too little variety, and the freshness is gone.

The last six months or so, I've been really enjoying incorporating's Youversion app into my devotional rhythm. Ten million downloads must count for something (three of those downloads were mine).

What I particularly like is the 'Plan' component of the app. I used it a number of months ago to devour the book of James repeatedly, and am doing the same with Matthew's Gospel. The nice thing is you can read Scripture (in multiple versions) and listen to it (in multiple versions, with multiple voices and even music accompaniment when the editors think something dramatic is coming up). This is good stuff that St. Jerome and Luther would have drooled over.

The Matthew readings are two chapters a day which gets me through the Gospel in two weeks, according to my calculator. While I generally prefer to read and ponder a single paragraph, this new rhythm has proven kind of cool. I read (or usually listen) to two chapters, and then open up the text and pick a couple of verses, or a verse or a paragraph that has leapt out at me. I jot the verse(s) in my trusty little Moleskine notebook (so portable, I never have an excuse not to have it close by) and a few related observations or questions or applications or a prayer reflecting the truth of the passage.

Since I keep cycling through the whole Gospel over and over (and will be for many months), there's a unity to the unpredictability. Each time I'm in that two-chapter section, there's familiarity, yet new things to pick and ponder.

This morning I was reading in Matthew 23 & 24.
In chapter 24:35, Jesus says:
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." 
I know Jesus said it, cause the words in red. That's what I love about studying the Gospels: there's an awful lot of red. Straight from Jesus lips to my ears or my eye.

(Ok, technically the progression is from Jesus' Aramaic statements to their rendering in the Greek of the Gospels to the English translation I'm using. But here's the amazing thing. . . Jesus (and the apostles) used multiple translations and languages (the Hebrew Massoretic text; the Greek Septuagint; the Aramaic Targums), and revered them all as the Word of God. This English ESV or NIV or NLT I love to hold in my hands, or read in vivid pixels on my Android's Amoled screen, or listen to via digital recording (with sound effects), is the Word of God. Wowser!

And in this one little statement above, Jesus says something not just profound, but astonishing. The physical stuff (the earth) will pass away. Even some of the spiritual realities, like heaven, will pass away as they currently are or perhaps change (don't ask me to explain what Jesus has in view here; ask him). But one thing that will remain for all eternity is Jesus' words. Including that sentence above, that verse.

His words (in red, in English, in Aramaic, in Greek, in Tagalog and Urdu) are so momentous and significant that they will NEVER pass away.

I guess I'd better pay close attention to the red stuff. I guess the words of Jesus in the Word of God are a precious gift--to be studied and pondered and treasured and loved.

But not so I can become a bibliolater--a worshiper of Scripture. After all, the Pharisees specialized in that and they were the spiritual walking dead. No, I love these words of Jesus because they lead me to know and experience Him, the Word of God in flesh (John 1:1,14). To know and experience Him, my only Sovereign. My only Savior.