Monthly Archives: September 2009

Have you found Jesus? I didn’t know he was missing….

Have you found Jesus? I didn’t know he was missing…. is a cool quote from the movie Forest Gump. I’ve been doing some thinking on this.

In some communities, the focus is on the poor and the least of these to a huge extent… in some cases, Jesus is rarely mentioned if at all.

In some communities, the focus is on uber orthodoxy, and its so easy to get wound up in the “right way” that Jesus doesn’t takes a second chair to policy and procedure, or in other cases, He doesn’t get mentioned at all.

In some communities, the focus is on so much scholarship and wisdom, somewhere, somehow Jesus sort of pales in comparison, or current psychology dominates so much of the environment, Jesus doesn’t get mentioned at all.

In some communities, the focus is on sex, hetero or homosexuality to such an extent, that the talk of sex is much more prevalent than Jesus. In some cases, he doesn’t get mentioned at all.

In some communities, the focus is on wealth and personal growth to such an extent, that talk of Jesus pales in comparison.

In some communities, adherence to political ideology is so great, that if a homeless and hungry immigrant happened by, he would be unwelcome, as would Jesus.

In some communities, the fear of sexual stumbling is so great, that folks run from those with minimal clothing and they are unwelcome. Jesus would not get clothes.

In some communities, imprisoning folks and throwing away the key as a penal solution, and not attending to their medical needs as it costs too much is common practice. Jesus would be left alone to suffer in his cell.

In some communities, the injured man along side the road is walked on by, because ministry is too important. Jesus would also be walked on by, but in fairness, folks would pray that Caesar or a Samaritan would come to Jesus rescue.

In some communities, the focus is on abortion to such an extent, that the talk of the unborn is much more prevalent than Jesus. In some cases, he doesn’t get mentioned at all.

The deal is…. Jesus is not missing, Forest is right in that. Yet when Jesus stands at the door and knocks, and the community keeps the door shut and lets other, even things that could be good keep them from opening the door, a serious problem exists. What good can come from a community to upholds Jesus in name, and yet keeps him from entering?

Lest I be a rock thrower, I’ll fess up to botching the above list in its entirety at one time or another. Its very easy to get on what one thinks is the right path, only to end up shutting the door, and not letting Jesus in.

Ecclesiastes 7 presents a lot of wisdom in this, verse 16 pretty much nails it. Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise—why destroy yourself?

When we get caught up in “good things” to the exception of Christ, we should be asking… Why do we put Jesus outside the door? Why is this “good thing” so important that our savior is not even mentioned?

Against Scripture Memorization in Youth Programs, a Counterpoint

@MattCleaver wrote a post a couple days ago on why he is against memorizing scripture in youth programs. He said he had his flame suit on… but as of yet, no one has really flamed him. Thus, I’ll give it a shot 🙂 <cool looking flame thrower icon goes here>

Some positive aspects of scripture memorization:
Rightly handling the word of truth… if scripture is memorized, life is easier. Its not that one needs a photographic memory of the Bible, but being able to recall specific narratives certainly makes life simpler.

Testifying as to what one believes… who has more authenticity, the one who speaks from his/her heart, or the one who has to pause, look things up, and then read them?

Some scriptural admonitions

Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Proverbs 7:1-3 My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

The underlying problem: Lame youth programming misses the point of nearly all aspects of scripture memorization, as it emphasizes head knowledge over heart knowledge, and competition over community.

Matt presented his objections to scripture memorization in youth programs in a series of 6 premises. While I disagree with his conclusion, ie I am for scripture memorization in youth programs, I do whole heartedly agree with his objections. I’ve categorized them into the following categories.

Head knowledge vs heart knowledge.

  • Memorization does not equal maturity or discipleship.
  • Memorization is not equivalent to “hiding your word in my heart.”
  • Memorization removes scripture from historical tradition and literary context.
  • Memorization is not a historical spiritual discipline.

Competition vs Community

  • Most memorization programs are reward-driven competitions.
  • Memorization elevates certain kinds of students over and above other.

The Challenge

How do we redo/tweek programming to accentuate the positive aspects of memorization, while minimizing the counterproductive nature of current programming.

A few things which we know from educational psychology:

  • Short term memory, ie cram for the exam doesn’t lead to long term retention, nor does it impact the heart.
  • Memorization of facts without relevant application doesn’t lead to very efficient use of time, nor retention, nor an impact on the heart.
  • Some residual retention, even from exam crams, or theoretical non-application, almost always shows up, even in ones heart… but its a very tiny amount. Thus, even a minor tweak to “lame programming” may prove hugely beneficial.
  • Evaluation and feedback is needed for learning, but whether its individual, competitive, or group wise is subject to controversy. Ultimately one size fits all doesn’t work, just as a single method of evaluation for all doesn’t work out too well either.
  • Intrinsic Motivation almost always produces better outcomes than extrinsic.
  • Rote retention of isolated facts, without understanding can and often does lead to errant application.

A few bits from scripture:

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

1 Cor 3: 18-23 18Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”[a]; 20and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”[b] 21So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas[c] or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

Romans 11:17-20 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root [1] of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.

Proverbs 1:2-6 To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; 4 to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— 5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, 6 to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.

Some ideas for change:

  • Competition has to go, we don’t need varsity level competition in scripture memorization
  • Focus on application of scripture, not just rote knowledge
  • Community of faith involvement
  • Need to shift more towards intrinsic motivation, rather than mostly extrinsic rewards… don’t throw all the little sticky stars away, they were cool 🙂 but lets not just focus on the sticky stars.
  • Provide for different methods of feedback
  • The self directed concept may have value, albeit implementation is tricky… but if we can do it in flight training, by golly it should mostly certainly fit within Christian education.

Sabbath Mode

@TragicPizza Aug 30th Sermon is pretty cool. He talks about a chasm of differences that far too often get in the way of loving God and loving one’s neighbor. It could be rigious adherence to laws, or rigorous adherence to social practices. Either way, we need to challenge ourselves to see how our actions, or lack of actions line up with loving God and one’s neighbor.

One of the things he stated was the following in reference to the Pharisees during Jesus time.

The Pharisees had taken the Law of Moses and, over the years, had reduced its overarching tenets to minutiae:  how far it was permissible to walk on the Sabbath, how much you could carry, what things and people and activities were to be considered ceremonially clean and unclean. In theory, it was a good idea, because if one could not work on the Sabbath, then it was important to know how, exactly, to define “work,” wasn’t it?

Many of todays very orthodox Jewish people have very detailed criteria of what is ok, and what is not. Unlike the Pharisee’s of Jesus time, the orthodox Jewish folks I know are very humble. Rather than looking down on less orthdox folks as not being truly Jewish, they more so adhere to their orthdoxy in an exceedingly cool way of showing reverence to God, and their love for Him. The thought of looking down on ones neighbor is beyond uncool for them. Granted, just as in Christianity, I am sure there are a few jerks here or there who do look down on others.

That being said, I look at some of their lists, and go wow, its not for me, but I still think its pretty cool. One of the more interesting criteria is Sabbath mode. Here are a few examples.

Elevators can be programmed to automatically enter and leave Sabbath mode. In a nutshell, pushing elevator buttons is considered a form of work, and is prohibited. As a result Sabbath mode runs the elevator continuously circulating top to bottom and stopping at every floor. It may take a while to go up and down of course, but I think its pretty cool to have such a feature available.

Another option available in ovens provides for a bypass of the automatic 12 hour shut down interval. As a result, orthodox Jewish folks can cook their food the day before the Sabbath, and the oven will enter into a keep warm cycle, and thus prevent the need for any type of manual intervention.

By the same token, there are some fairly extreme situations that seem more a workaround than perhaps showing reverence. I guess it depends on the person, some might show their love this way, albeit I would find it sort of like a person who tithes but doesn’t really want to.

The halachic authorities have determined that electricity used as heat or light is considered fire. Therefore by turning on the burner one is creating a new fire. This action could just as well have been done before Yom Tov and is prohibited because of molid. Turning the dial on your electric stovetop may also initiate a light or icon on a control panel which would otherwise be off. This may be a transgression of kosev, writing, as well as molid. Even when the electric burner was left on from before Yom Tov, if one wishes to adjust the temperature of the burner there is also reason for concern. This is because, as a rule, one does not know if there is electric current running to the element at the time they wish to make the adjustment. Even when there is an indicator light showing that a burner is on, this may not be an indication that electricity is flowing to the burner at that moment.

I dont know that the above shows love to God, shows loving my neighbor, or is mans way to try and rationalize around a given situations. Either way, its probably the sort of thing that becomes near impossible to keep over a period of time, albeit I can think of cooktop design changes which could do so automatically.

Ultimately, I think Christians have to search their heart and pray for wisdom for such issues after consulting the scriptures. Even more so, for actions called out by the law and/or its extensions. Does one revere God with joy and love, or does it become a matter of drudgerous duty? Does such an action show loves for ones neighbor, or aggravate them?

We dont want to make the Pharisee’s mistake which tragic_pizza stated so well What Jesus is confronting is theological purity turned putrid: where the details of doctrine overwhelm and become the focus of faith. Where justice and mercy apply only to those who think, act, and look like us. Where being right is more important than righteousness. Where law smothers love.

Nor do we want to throw works as relative to our neighbor totally aside. We must not spend so much time messing with the stove to remain pure, such that we never cook the food, and the hungry homeless man remains unfed.