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Reflection


Taste Map Myth

I was looking up some facts regarding taste, and found this nugget. The idea that different areas of the toungue detect different tastes is a myth. WHAT!!! I know I was taught this in school. Wikipedia, see it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taste-map_myth says that the myth was disproven in 1974. That was two years before I was born.

This just goes to show the problems with getting your science from textbooks and popularizers. This is one of my biggest pet peaves. By the time real science trickles down to the regular people, it is often misinterpreted and/or outdated. This is true whether you get it from textbooks, popular books, or so-called experts who are usually too old to be doing real science anymore. Their scholarship is usually at least two decades old.

If you have never read Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions, do yourself a favor. Science is real. Science is important, but it is a social enterprise and therefore flawed at many levels.

If you want real science, talk to graduate students.

Losing Influence Over You Children

I have been thinking lately about how the relationship between parents and children changes over time. It seems that I have noticed that some parents panic as they noticed they are losing influence over their children and clamp down over all areas of freedom the child has. It seems to me that when this happens, a parent exchanges a long term influence over the child as they grow and discover their freedom for a small time of complete control.

For me, it makes me think about being deliberate about the set of things I designate as within the child's freedom and those things that I regulate. Finally, there is another category for me: areas under observation. Using these three categories, I can talk to my kids about their authority, responsibility, and freedom. It also helps them understand that there are some areas that I give them provisional freedom because I fully intend to release them to full freedom if they prove they can use it wisely. Then, I don't take back ones they have proven just to punish them for failing in the provisional areas.

Design and Waste

I have gone through long stretches of being an avid FastCompany blog reader. I have read more than enough to see that many in the design industry see design see design with a messiah-like quality. Design will solve all problems. The other day I was contemplating our consumer-oriented culture and happened on a problem for the design community.

Design causes waste. How is this? If we weren't seeing better designed gadgets so often we might care if things lasted. Since we want to replace our stuff so that we can get better designs, we want our stuff to be cheap and even disposable. Can you imagine a mother saving her kitchen utensils to pass down to her daughter or grand-daughter? They wouldn't want them because the ubiquitous peeler had been through 7 design cycles by then. It is even questionable whether or not one would pass down china or silver since there is so often a new design. The same goes for furniture and just about everything those smart little designers get their sharpened pencils on.

I am not saying I like poorly designed objects, I just thing this reveals a principle in the current situation our world is in. It has been cursed. Because of man, God introduced a frustration into the relationship between man and creation. No matter how hard we try to escape sin and its curse, we seem to entangle ourselves in its web. Redemption is our only hope.

Cleverness and Facebook as the Public Square

I recently held back my finger from the trackpad to avoid posting a comment on someone's Facebook post. It was an old friend who made a comment on how prevalent stories of dragons are in all cultures. He asked, "What is the deal with dragons?" I was going to say, "Don't you know they are just projections of a father figure." A typical cryptic attempt to be clever.

I decided not to post because I realized that I was only posting to be clever. Being clever is one of those things I have taken on as part of my persona. I do it relatively well, and take pride in it even when my cleverness is taken for obtuseness. I was caught this time because I had never posted a comment on this friends status. And, this friend had recently had a scare with a serious illness that turned out to be unfounded. I thought, "How can I use his comment as a springboard for my own cleverness, while I completely ignored his real problems just two weeks ago." While I did say a prayer for him, I did not say anything to him. Holy Spirit had caught me prostrate before my idol.

Back in my seminary days, we once bemoaned the loss of the public square. With the privatization of all things and the complete individualization of Americans as a result of technology, selfishness, and other socio-cultural influences, America has generally lost the sense of a shared public life. One reason is the loss of a shared public space. The public square was once a level playing field where ideas of all kinds could be found.

Perhaps at one time mass media was more on the side of Christians or at least cultural conservatives, so the loss of the public square was not such a loss. However, with Christianity and religion in general increasingly alienated from public discourse, people of faith began to be keenly aware of this loss.

Christmas Books

I received some really good books for Christmas from various people, and I am really excited about reading this year. I also bought Courtney a couple of good books.

Here is the list:

I receive a particular satisfaction and joy when I actually do the things I say I think are valuable. Reading is one of those things where I often miss this particular satisfaction. Nevertheless, with this new selection, you should be seeing a particular kind of smile on my face.

Resident Aliens is my first read, and I am already half way through it. I'll reading Parenting Without Perfection next for Courtney. I am not sure what is next.

If you read this and see me in person, ask me about how my books are going if you want to get into a long conversation.

Acts 1 and Holy Spirit

Reading Acts 1, I can't help but notice Luke's emphasis on the activity of Holy Spirit. I specifically noticed two things. First, he would give power to the disciples when he came. It makes me think of Paul's comment to the Thessalonians that the Gospel came to the in power and the Holy Spirit. It is hard not to ask the questions, "Exactly what kind of power is he talking about?" and "Is that kind of power present today?" and "Is that kind of power to be the norm for Christians today?" I am really interested in BIBLICAL answers to these questions. I know I kind of danced around these specific questions in our small group's study of the Holy Spirit. I do think that people err either on the side of ignoring these questions or focusing on these questions. I'd rather be neither.

My second observation is that in Acts 1:16 Peter claims that the Psalms are a record of what Holy Spirit speaks through the mouth of the writer. I had never noticed this specific attribution of scripture to the Holy Spirit's work.

M'Cheyne Readings

Here is the Bible reading plan that I am going to try to follow this year. Some in my small group are trying to follow it with me so that we can encourage one another both in our reading scripture and with the scripture we are reading.

http://www.edginet.org/mcheyne/

It has two "family" readings and two "secret" readings per day. The "family" readings to to be read with your family, and the "secret" readings are to be part of your personal devotions. I think they are probably set up to be one of each for the morning and evening.

Our family is going to read the New Testament family reading for the day at night together before the kids go to bed. The rest we are going to read as "secret" readings for now.

I am going to be writing entries with reflections as often as possible.

Love and Choice

"If God did not give us free will, how can it really be love that God requires. Love can only take place in an environment of free choice. Since God does demand love, he must have given each person free will so that he can exercise his will and choose to love God."

Any Calvinist has heard this argument. Hopefully, he has been somewhat frustrated as to how to respond because essentially it is an emotional argument that largely ignores scripture. Predictably a Calvinist would happily lose the argument. He would rather stand his ground on scripture rather than descend to engage in such emotional blather.

However, as we as brothers and sisters are to care for the faithful in error, we should consider how to respond to such a claim on its own terms. These brothers and sisters are eager to maintain the integrity and authenticity of our relationship to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. While they may be appealing to emotion, which is fallen like every faculty of man (including reason) our experience of emotions is part of our being in the image of God.

Recently as I was pondering the nature of love, I hit on what I believe to be a large flaw in the above stated argument. Frankly, that it does not reflect the true nature of love. From my own experience, romantic love, which God patterned after his relationship to his people, is not a relationship that is most ideally characterized by choice. I would venture to say that if one interviewed most young couples in love or old couples about their best experiences of love with a spouse is more about being internally compelled toward another rather than a pure exercise of will.

A Holy Law

I taught Sunday School this past week. It turned about to be an excellent lesson. The past year or so, I have been slowly working my way through the Old Testament in order. I particularly enjoyed reading the Pentateuch. I found so many verses that really shocked me. I just wasn't prepared for the far-reaching holiness of God.

I decided to fuse this with a little covenant theology and the Gospel. Whenever I teach, I have a really hard time not wanting to just read passages of scripture the whole time. God has so much good to say, and I lack eleqence. However, I do have to say something, so the main body of the lesson was me reading passages from Leviticus and Deuteronomy and adding a sentence or two to explain or apply the principle. No doubt several lessons could cover the same material more in depth, but this was just an overview.

My main goal was to show how God's law is so much more all-encompassing than the typical fundamentalist conceives. God governs all of live from how you prepare your food to how you conduct war to how you treat strangers to how you participate in the environment to how you have sex. After reading Leviticus and Deuteronomy together in one sitting, I took one more step in understanding what it means for God to be holy. No one, not the powerful, not the weak, not the smart, not the stupid, not the conservative, not the liberal gets off the hook. All men are deflated before the holy triune God.

Here is the scripture and my comments (forgive the formatting please):
• You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD." (Lev 19:14.)
Did you know that your God is against taking advantage of people for your own pleasure and entertainment. God is against practical jokes that make people feel small.
Lev. 5:1 “If anyone sins in that he hears a public eadjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall fbear his iniquity
Did you know that your God requires you to be concerned about justice in the world, even when it does not directly involve you?
Lev. 11:20 “All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you. 21 Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to hop on the ground. 22 Of them you may eat: jthe locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind. 23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.
Did you know that God thinks it is OK to eat grasshoppers? Boy, this was written to people in a different world.
Lev. 19:17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but qyou shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you rincur sin because of him. 18 sYou shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but tyou shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
Did you know that loving your neighbor as yourself is not a New Testament concept? A good summary of this is being as interested in your brothers happiness as your own.
Lev 19:28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.
What you do to your body matters. It reflects your values, your idols.
Lev. 19:29 Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity. 30 You shall keep my Sabbaths and ereverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
These are strange bedfellows. BTW, did you know that there are thousands being sold into prostitution in an international sex-slave trade?
Lev. 19:32 g“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.
Honor your elders and fear God in the same command. Interesting.
Lev. 19:33 i“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 jYou shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and kyou shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
You thought loving your neighbor as yourself was hard. Now love the stranger that way. And why? So you can share the Gospel with them? No, because you're no different.
Lev. 25:23 “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for sthe land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.
God is showing hospitality to us by allowing us to live in his land. See, we are to treat the strangers like we are being treated by God. in fact, that is what enables us. We are just sojourners with them.
Lev. 25:35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 aTake no interest from him or profit, but bfear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 aYou shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 cI am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.
What do we do with the poor in our society? We take advantage of them with rent-to-own programs. We coax them into spending more than they can with easy credit. We deceive them with sub-prime loans, home equity loans, tote-your-note loans and then take their houses and cars.

We despise them and give them empty advice. We send their children to low quality schools. We give them pitiful handouts and that encourage them not to work and then criticize them when they don't. All the while we don't even take the time to get to know them and their real plight.
Lev. 26:34 Then the land shall enjoy* its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it.
There is a certain order to things that God will maintain even at the cost of his people. God cares about the earth.
Deut. 25:4 “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.
• zYou shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
God even cares about justice for the animals. We are not free to treat them any way we want. Do you know what goes on on feed lots and in chicken farms?
Deut. 22:1 “You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. 2 And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. 3 And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. 4 You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again.
You must love your brother enough to sacrifice when no one is looking. This is obedience from the heart.
• 15 For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.
Deut. 16:11 And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there.
• God likes parties.
• New Moon - first of every month
• Pentacost - 50th day after barley harvest
• Passover - seven days
• Feast of Tabernacles or Booths - seven days
• Feast of Trumpets - first day of 7th month
• Sabbaths - rest every week
▼ Sabbatical Year - rest for a year every seven years
• no field work
• debts canceled
▼ Jubilee
• no field work
• debts canceled
• land goes back to ancestral owner
Deut. 17:14 “When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you awhom the LORD your God will choose. One bfrom among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many chorses for himself or cause the people dto return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, e‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
King is equal. Another human called by God.
Deut. 17:18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by* the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he lmay not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, mso that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.
King to be holy. David, Christ.
• Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Is there any man who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. 6 And is there any man who has planted a vineyard and has not menjoyed its fruit? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man enjoy its fruit. 7 nAnd is there any man who has betrothed a wife and has not taken her? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man take her.’ 8 And the officers shall speak further to the people, and say, o‘Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own.’ 9 And when the officers have finished speaking to the people, then commanders shall be appointed at the head of the people.
God does not like tragedy, so he avoids it. He is in control anyway.
Deut. 20:19 “When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, yyou shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you? 20 Only the trees that you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, that you may build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it falls.
Environmental waste does not please God. The resources of the earth are his and are to be used in accordance with his law.
Deut. 21:18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. nSo you shall purge the evil from your midst, oand all Israel shall hear, and fear.
If that doesn't get your attention, I don't know what will. God is serious about this. He is holy. Discipline your children if you love them.
Deut. 22:8 “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.
Graciously, God commands us to be responsible for our own consciences. Negligence is a crime.
Deut. 23:15 “You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. 16 He shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place that he shall choose within one of your towns, wherever it suits him. You shall not wrong him.
God doesn't really like slavery. He watches out for even slaves. He seeks their freedom and restoration.
Deut. 24:6 No one shall take a mill or an upper millstone in pledge, for that would be taking a life in pledge.
Taking advantage of people who need money is oppression.
Deut. 25:13 “You nshall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. 14 You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. 15 A full and fair* weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, othat your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 16 For pall who do such things, all who act dishonestly, qare an abomination to the LORD your God.
Can anyone remember the word Leviticus uses to describe homosexual acts? That's right. It is the same. Sexuality and oppression and dishonesty in business are not that far apart in God's eyes.
Deut. 26:16 “This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul.
God wants deep obedience.
• Any observations about any of the commandments?
• Finally, someone read Matt 11:28-30 !!!BY 10:30!!!
How can this be? Do you feel like it is light? Aha! You bunch of religious idolaters! Do you think that by your ability to keep the law you can gain the upper hand on God and earn one smidgen of his favor? It is by Grace we are saved and it is by grace we live and grow from grace to grace.

Christ's life and death for us buys us life in spite of our constant failures to live up to this incredible, but impossible standard. Now, don't you want to know such a God. Don't you want to know what he is like. Don't you want to know what showing your love for him looks like. Then get to know his law and fulfill it out of love and not out of religious idolatry.

What happened to community?

I have been in pretty much two kinds of churches. I grew up in many small town churches, but since I was about 17 I have been in what you might call niche churches. Either the whole church was a niche, such as upper-middle class educated white people, or a church that was structured around smaller market niches such as college and career or single parents.

Looking back, I can see that the small-town churches, though theologically less sophisticated or correct, more accurately manifested biblical community. It was organized according to one principle, geography. Though there were ministries specific to the women or children, they were integrated with the rest of church life. It was a lively church life in which most participated. Some of my favorite memories of that time in my life are at church during services, Royal Rangers, church suppers, weddings, or just playing with the other children young and old while parents talked.

Unlike the church of my youth, both types of niche churches isolate me so that it is very easy to remain only around people like me. In my position at least, as a father of young children, leaves me seeing the world such that I have relatively little to offer and gain by community. The people with which I associate are have many of the same problems and capabilities that I have. This impedes the feeling of interdependence that fosters real community. When I depend on you and you depend on me, there is a real bond.

The mere fact that I would think in terms of what I have to gain and offer shows how much I have been influenced by the world. People in another time might have thought about their relationship with the church in terms of obligation and responsibility. Here to the church has given way to the world. Many churches tout their programs as ways to obtain fulfillment either through socializing, learning, or serving. Instead, scripture considers these things a spiritual act of worship. It is a worship that on one had God demands, and on the other hand, his subjects offer freely. It is not for us to decided what is best for us, it is only for us to repent and obey.

One way the multi-market niche church philosophy fails is that most of us are not purely one niche. I am a man (men's ministry), a father (children's ministry), a husband (young married class), and a learner-type (deep bible studies). It seems that many times people get involved with too many groups. One can only maintain a certain number of relationships so community is shallow. Conflicting schedules also contribute to inconsistency in attendance which also deteriorates community. Still some, overwhelmed or confused by the choices never get involved at all. People are so busy with all their existing relationships that they forget that one of the purposes of our being here is to gather more worshipers into God's growing kingdom.

The final impediment to real community has nothing to do with church structure. It is the lack of strong preaching of the Gospel. Without any structural help at all, the message of our redemption through the alien righteousness of Christ breaks down our selfishness, our pretensions, our shame, and our pride. It is then easy for us to love those around us in such a provocative way that we realize not only our interdependence but our mutual dependence on Christ. We are equal brothers and sisters. Our identity is no long in what differentiates us from others so that we can judge them, but our identity comes from our union with Christ and with each other.