“You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out—perhaps a little at a time.’

And how long is that going to take?’
I don’t know. As long as you live, perhaps.’
That could be a long time.’
I will tell you a further mystery,’ he said. ‘It may take longer.

- Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Feb 25

Communion in a Corral

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Near Bamburg, Germany, Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945 This story about my father was written many years ago by Bob King, a World War II veteran. The Rev. Rowland A. Koskamp volunteered to be a chaplain in 1943 so that when the men in his

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Near Bamburg, Germany, Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945

This story about my father was written many years ago by Bob King, a World War II veteran. The Rev. Rowland A. Koskamp volunteered to be a chaplain in 1943 so that when the men in his congregation came home from war, he would understand what they had gone through. He was captured in France in December, 1943 when he stayed behind to assist some injured soldiers as his unit retreated. He was taken to a prisoner of war camp in Hammelburg, Germany. In April of 1945 the camp was liberated.  Because there were not enough trucks, most of the men began walking the 90 miles to Nurnberg accompanied by German troops. Here is Bob’s story.  

Rowland Koskamp was “every man’s preacher.” He was the sort of person who gave courage and confidence to his friends and all others who came into contact with him during our time as POW’s. He calmed the griper, supported the downer, let it be known that our present circumstance was only a temporary setback, and that there is a caring God who is concerned and offers eternity to those who call upon him.

Easter morning!  We were on our trek for about a week with early mornings on the road.  Usually we were placed in barns where we would spend the night.  Rowland had requested that Easter morning be spent at the same farm in which we had spent the night before so that those who wished to could attend an early morning worship service.

Those of us who wanted to attend a service were taken by the guards to a nearby corral. I was one of the last into the corral, and I was standing at the rear of the group. Just before Rowland’s first words, the German Colonel in charge of the group of 300 prisoners entered the corral, closed the gate and stood next to me.  He did not establish eye contact, and I thought that, perhaps, he had come for security purposes.

Rowland’s message was first about the meaning of Easter, the historical event and its meaning to Christians.  Then he delivered a powerful sermon on man’s inhumanity to man and the need for people to overcome petty human concerns and to serve God and one another.  The Colonel, standing beside me, was in nearly constant movement as he almost imperceptibly twitched and dug his toes into the mud of the corral.

Always a very innovative and thoughtful man, Rowland had saved his bread ration for a few days and had somehow obtained a bottle of wine in the war-torn countryside.  So after the sermon he led us in a communion service.  First after the words of institution, he passed part of a loaf of dark bread.  Each broke off a piece and passed the bread along. The Colonel accepted the bread from me, broke off a piece, and passed it along.  When all had been served, we took partook of the bread together.  Then the bottle of wine was passed and each of us, including the Colonel, took a sip and passed the bottle along.  To me it was an extremely meaningful time, especially as I shared the loaf and the wine with a man who was our enemy.

This deeply moving experience occurred on the last Sunday on earth for Rowland and the Colonel.  They were both killed the following Thursday by American B-17 fighter planes who, unaware of the movements of the liberated POW’s bombed a near-by railroad station.  The bodies of the chaplain and the colonel were found not far from each other.

Another soldier reported seeing the German colonel standing at attention during the bombing. An American chaplain was sent to secure the dog tags from the bodies of the dead and came to one that read Rowland A. Koskamp. He says he quickly dropped the tag, reached for the soldier’s shirt collar, saw his chaplain’s cross, and said a prayer for his wife and little daughter. My father was 29 when he died in service to his God and his country.  I was 3.

Although Rowland Koskamp is buried in France, his chaplain’s cross was sent to my mother.  She had it made into a ring which she wore it for dozens of years and then gave to me.  I also wore it for dozens of years. It now lives in the box that contains his bronze star and purple heart, a tarnished relic (in the religious sense of the word) of a life that was lived in the unshakable Kingdom of God here and coming, and the influence that sacrificed life had on hundreds of soldiers – and on the daughter he only knew as an infant.*

A Response to this story from James Bryan Smith

I really loved reading this moving story submitted by our dear fellow apprentice, Karen Bables.  I was deeply touched by the part about “enemies” taking communion together.  It reminded me anew how the Cross and Resurrection unites a community that cannot be divided.  As I wrote about in The Good and Beautiful Community, we are peculiar people because we are people in whom Christ dwells and delight, and that unity in Christ is the tie that binds us all in Christian love.  So often we struggle to stay together in our communities because of minor disagreements; we so easily divide over trivial differences of opinion.   This story reminded me that “in Christ there is no Jew nor Greek, barbarian or Scythian, German or American, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

 

Karen Bables is a wife, mother, and grandmother living in Holland, Michigan.  Recently retired, she now spends her time writing.  She blogs at www.livingasapprentices.com.

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Feb 20

IS STUDYING THE OLD TESTAMENT WORTH THE TIME AND EFFORT? (Part Two)

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Scripture

(This is the second blog of a three part blog on the Old Testament and Christian Spiritual Formation by Dr. Stan Harstine, Professor of Religion at Friends University – read his first blog here) Learning to think like Jesus thought is a difficult task. It is made more

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Scripture

(This is the second blog of a three part blog on the Old Testament and Christian Spiritual Formation by Dr. Stan Harstine, Professor of Religion at Friends University – read his first blog here)

Learning to think like Jesus thought is a difficult task. It is made more difficult if we are unfamiliar with the Scripture of Jesus!! The Old Testament has much to share with us in the challenges to following God, both the positive outcomes and the negative consequences. Jesus’ thinking was shaped by these writings about his ancestors’ covenant relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

How does the Old Testament help us live as Jesus lived?

For all the attention given in various Christian circles to returning to the “New Testament period” or to following the teachings of Jesus, too often little attention is paid to the source of those teachings. Remaining in the Gospel of Luke for examples, we find in the Temptation account three quotations by Jesus of Old Testament passages, and two more by the tempter: from Deuteronomy by Jesus and Psalms by the tempter. Later in the same chapter, the Gospel records the passage in Isaiah 61:1-2 read by Jesus, which he then describes as being fulfilled in their hearing. (Luke 4:4-12 and 18-21) Yet despite these clues many followers of Jesus profess ignorance of, or else devalue, the Old Testament while seeking in their own life to “have the mind of Christ.” As the song Old Time Religion” goes, “it was good for [Jesus] and it’s good enough for me.”

So, how does the Old Testament help us live as Jesus lived? I would propose two main thoughts for consideration: It helps transform and shape our narrative about God’s character and God’s purpose.

God’s character

There is probably no greater narrative that can negatively affect our apprenticeship with Jesus than our narrative concerning God’s character. The first of the Apprentice series, The Good and Beautiful God, wrestles with many of those. Our modern world often has a schizophrenic perspective on the God of the Bible, viewing the Old Testament and New Testament as portraying two distinct deities. Yet it is the God of the Old Testament whom Jesus calls Father and urges his audience to follow and love! The word schizophrenia comes from the same Greek word Paul uses in encouraging his audience to have, not a mind divided from Christ but rather, a mind united with Christ. So what does the Old Testament teach us about the character of God?

One of the key attributes of God in the OT is that of hesed, frequently translated as “lovingkindness” or “steadfast love.” It appears over 200 times in the text. The first appears within the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the words of Lot.

Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your lovingkindness, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, for the disaster will overtake me and I will die; (Gen 19:19, NAS95)

Over half the total appearances of this word are in the Book of Psalms. This “hymnbook” of the people of God returns time and again to the theme of God’s character.

For the king trusts in the LORD, And through the lovingkindness of the Most High he will not be shaken. (Psalm 21:8, NAS95)

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. (Psalm 36:7, NAS95)

Yet, the word is also translated as “righteousness” as in Psalm 5:8. O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; Make Your way straight before me. (NAS95) Interestingly, the next verse of the psalm is referenced by Paul in Romans 3 as he demonstrates that there is none righteous, no not one! There is nothing reliable in what they say; Their inward part is destruction itself. Their throat is an open grave; They flatter with their tongue. (Psalm 5:9, NAS95)

Who is the God Jesus proclaims if not the God described in the “Writings?” One of the favorite texts to utilize in reshaping narratives–indeed that is what Jesus was doing at the time!–is the beatitude section of Matthew 5. If we think Jesus found his teaching within the Old Testament, we would be right. The central portion of the Beatitudes, 5:4-8, consists of Jesus rephrasing teachings from His Scriptures.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, (Isaiah 61:2)

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

But the humble will inherit the land, And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. (Psalm 37:11)

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk, Without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David. (Isaiah 55:1-3)

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

The merciful man does himself good, But the cruel man does himself harm. (Proverb 11:17)

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, And has not sworn deceitfully. (Psalm 24:3-4)

One trap followers of Jesus are prone to stumble into is the trap of substitution. We consciously or subconsciously replace Yahweh, God the Father with Jesus, God the Son, and remove God the Father from our world of thinking. This is easy to do based on some statements of Jesus.

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19)

Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)

Yet John’s Prologue ends with No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:18) This, and every other reference to “God” in the New Testament writing references the God presented in the Old Testament. Jesus is portrayed throughout John’s Gospel as explaining this God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Greek word used for “explain” is the word lying behind the preaching word, hermeneutics. Jesus is presenting the God of the Old Testament in a way that those around him might see the truth of God’s character and experience the steadfast love of this very same God. The stories found within the Old Testament testify to the hesed of God, the lovingkindness, the steadfast love dependent not on the actions and attitudes of the humans but on the character of God! One example will suffice.

Due to a famine throughout the regions of Egypt and Canaan, the descendants of Abraham leave the land they were given and go to Egypt for nourishment. They become comfortable in that new place and remain several generations, prospering on their personal connections to a previously important individual, now deceased. Their political fortunes change, as do their financial affairs. Soon, their physical freedoms are removed and they are situated at the bottom rung of the social ladder. After many decades of seeming forgetfulness, the Old Testament records that they “cried out” and their cry “rose up to God” and “God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Exodus 2:23-24, NAS95) It does not say that they cried out to God, only that they cried out because of their bondage and God heard their groaning.

Many are familiar with the stories of Moses, that God called him out of the wilderness and sent him to confront the ruler of the land and to rescue His people. God’s hesed does not permit leaving his people in suffering. The book of Judges repeats this cycle, but makes clear that when the generation that knew the deliverance of God died, their progeny forgot and turned away from God. Yet, when they cry out in their suffering, God delivers them through one he sends. What a different narrative than one that reads, “unless I am really good and do everything I am supposed to do, God will not help me at all.”

In the next post I will explain a second element of Jesus’ thinking we can learn in the Old Testament, that of God’s purpose.

 

Feature Image Photo Credit: Rachel Titriga


 

harstine

An educator since 1984, Stan Harstine is convinced that his career consists of “teaching students to think.” He has engaged in this career since 2002 at Friends University using biblical studies as his medium. His greatest accomplishment for 2014 was having 3 sons graduated from college, gainfully employed and not living at home.

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Feb 17

Heavenly Reverie – Cultivating the Mind of Christ Jesus

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Part One – Scarcity and Abundance I was recently at one of my favorite coffee shops, named Reverie.  On one of the walls they have written, in large letters: REVERIE:  A STATE OF BEING PLEASANTLY LOST IN ONE’S THOUGHTS My first thought was, “I don’t

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Part One – Scarcity and Abundance

I was recently at one of my favorite coffee shops, named Reverie.  On one of the walls they have written, in large letters:

REVERIE:  A STATE OF BEING PLEASANTLY LOST IN ONE’S THOUGHTS

My first thought was, “I don’t want to be lost in my thoughts, I want to be pleasantly lost in the thoughts of Jesus.”  I have come to believe that the primary work in Christian spiritual formation is seeing and knowing the world (God, creation, ourselves, life’s meaning, etc.) as Jesus saw it.  The scholarly way of saying it is “living in the noetic environment of Jesus” (Mark McIntosh).  The simple way to say it is, “To know reality as Jesus understood it.”

Dallas Willard put it this way:  “The process of spiritual formation in Christ is one of progressively replacing . . . destructive images and ideas with the images and ideas that filled the mind of Jesus himself.  Spiritual formation in Christ moves toward a total interchange of our ideas and images for his.”  It is clear from Paul’s epistles that what we think about, what we set our minds on, is crucial in our formation.  The two verses that best describe this are these:

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Col. 3:2)

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5)

What does it mean to set our minds on “things above,” or to have the “mind” of Jesus?  It is a new way of perception.  It means to see reality as Jesus does.  Paul uses the word “above” to contrast that which is “below,” which is to see reality from a human perspective “being conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2).

So how does this world think?  And how does Jesus think?  That is what I hope to write about in this blog, and in several to follow.  Today I want to write about the scarcity narrative of this world, and the abundance narrative of Jesus, and how the decisive shift in thinking come from the Cross.

In the mind of the world, there is a limited amount of the things we need.  Think of a pie.  There are only so many pieces to a given pie, so if you take a piece I have less for me.  If you and others take several pieces of the pie, I may not get any.  Thus, I will need to scratch and claw and fight to make sure I get my share of the pie.  This is the mentality that is at the core of warfare.  It is also at the core of all sin.  The early church theologian Evagrius Ponticus (345-399 AD) taught that the scarcity narrative was at the root of all the 8 Deadly Sins (pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, lust and vainglory).  For example, because of scarcity, I will be envious of someone who has something that I do not, or more of something that I do.

In contrast, when we examine the gospel stories we see Jesus living from entirely different view of reality.  In them we see Jesus behaving as if he were from another world.  Which he actually is.  But it is a world accessible to us.  It is the reality of the Kingdom of God in our midst.  Jesus knew that the world is actually God-bathed.  He had a clear vision of a good and beautiful God who is right here with us, able to provide what we need when we need it.  In the economy of the Kingdom of the heavens, resources do not diminish upon their bestowal.  There is more than one pie.  In fact, pies are in endless supply in the Kingdom of God.

This is why Jesus told us not to worry.  He knew that for the person who loves and lives with his heavenly Father, the world is a perfectly safe place to be.  Heaven is here, now.  God is with us.  Of course, we cannot see it in the literal sense, but the most essential aspect of our lives are almost always invisible.  For Jesus, as Dr. Willard has written, we live in “a world filled with a glorious reality, . . . a world that is beautiful and good because of God and because God is always in it.”  Jesus knew this with absolute certainty, and he demonstrated it in his actions.

When the wedding celebration in Cana has ran out of wine it looked like the party was over.  Not to Jesus.  He turns water into wine and the revelry continues (John 2:1-10).  Oh, and it is the very best wine anyone had ever had.  One day when Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee he looks behind him to see 5,000 hungry stalkers.  Jesus tells his disciples to feed them.  They (thinking from below), say, “We don’t have the resources.”  Jesus said, “Tell them to sit down.  What do we have?”  “A few loaves and fishes,” the disciples replied.  So Jesus takes what they have, gives thanks, and feeds the entire lot.  Oh, and there’s leftovers (John 6:1-13).

The wonderful opportunity to which we are invited as apprentices of Jesus is to have the mind of Jesus.  We are invited to see reality as he does.  Jesus saw clearly that the power of the heavenly realm was easily accessible.  In order to make this shift we will need the Holy Spirit to assist us: “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” (1 Cor. 2:10).  In our current condition, dominated by the below thinking to which have grown accustomed, our minds have been enslaved to the narrative of scarcity.

In the realm of scarcity our isolated selves will have to extract our needs from others because we do not know how to receive them from God.  Jesus never thought in terms of scarcity, limitation, fear, or lack.  He thought in terms of provision, abundance, and excess.  So, if we are to put on the mind of Jesus we need to engage in some heavenly reverie.  Think on these things:

With Jesus, we can do anything that is right and good, no matter how seemingly impossible.

With Jesus, we will never run out of what we need.

With Jesus, we simply cannot lose.

With Jesus, we will never die.

I challenge you to take ten minutes and simply think about these four realities.  Get lost in these thoughts.  Ruminate, contemplate, and reflect on them.  This is how Jesus saw reality.  And so can we.  We just need to practice heavenly reverie.  Instead of being pleasantly lost, you will become pleasantly found.

 


 

Dr. JaView More: http://jillnicole.pass.us/apprentice-teammes Bryan Smith (M.Div., Yale University Divinity School; DMin Fuller Seminary) is the Executive Director of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith is currently a theology professor at Friends University, in Wichita, Kansas, and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He is the author of eight books, most notably The Apprentice Series (InterVarsity Press), which continue to shape the work of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith’s other titles include Devotional Classics (with Richard J. Foster), Embracing the Love of God, Room of Marvels, and Hidden in Christ.

Posted in A Good and Beautiful Life, Apprenticeship, Blog, Kingdom of God, Uncategorized | Tags: / / / / /

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Feb 13

Is Studying the Old Testament Worth the Time and Effort?

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(Part one of a three part series on the Old Testament and Christian Spiritual Formation) I had a conversation recently with an individual reading a 20th century foreign author. In essence he said, this guy’s writing is really dense. The voice inflections were those of

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(Part one of a three part series on the Old Testament and Christian Spiritual Formation)

I had a conversation recently with an individual reading a 20th century foreign author. In essence he said, this guy’s writing is really dense. The voice inflections were those of one exasperated by the inability to easily master the thoughts of this writer placed on the printed page. Yet, behind the exasperation was steely determination to keep at it until those thoughts had been mastered. Both the exasperation and determination are common for those who attempt to understand the Old Testament. Is it really worth the time and effort?

Some writings tell us stories; some of those stories cause us to think differently. Other writings seek to instruct us and improve us in some particular area; cookbooks immediately come to mind. From these writings we tend to pick and choose, we grab what we can immediately and then place it on the shelf. Are instructional writings worth the time and effort?

The answer to this question is found in our motivation for picking them up and reading them. If I just want to add trivia to a collection kept in my brain, then they are probably not. If I want to become better at something, then definitely!

The question for this blog, “Is studying the Old Testament worth the time and effort?,” likewise depends on our motivation. As followers of Jesus, hopefully the answer would be a strong and solid, “YES!” One of the first attributes for any apprentice is to study what the skilled craftsman does. The relationship between doing and thinking is much like that of the chicken and the egg.

In his letter to the believers in Rome Paul provides many instructions on what his listeners should do.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13, NAS95)

Yet, before telling them to do anything, he encourages them to submit to God and have their mind changed.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2, NAS95)

The word translated as “prove” is identified in classical Greek as meaning “to think fit to do.” Paul thus links the transformation of our thinking as a step toward understanding God’s will directs us to actions that are actually good for us to do. In other words, as our thinking changes so too do our actions. Paul uses this same word for thinking/understanding in 26 different verses throughout his letters. Although this word appears five times in Romans 12, perhaps Paul’s most famous use of the concept is developed in Philippians 2 where he introduces his grand statement about Jesus’ humanity with “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,” (NAS95) or more literally, “You (all) are to think just like Jesus thought.” (Philippians 2:5)

For those who wish to follow Jesus as an apprentice these words provide excellent guidance. At the Apprentice Institute we refer to the way we think in life about the various situations in our lives as our narratives. Our goal as apprentices of Jesus is to replace a False Narrative with a True Narrative based on the truth of God. Where then do we get these true narratives? How do we come to understand the false narratives in our life?

Fortunately, these answers need not go unanswered. Paul provides us the answer; we are to take on the narratives of Jesus himself! It is such a simple answer, but the question remains for many who would wish to be apprentices of Jesus, how is that even possible since Jesus is God?

Fortunately, reading the New Testament with “ears to hear” opens the door for these narratives of Jesus. Matthew 21 reports Jesus visit to the Temple during the week before his crucifixion. It is a relative short account. And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. (21:12 NAS95) This action of Jesus seems out of character with the teacher of parables. What could have motivated Jesus to do what he did? Perhaps it was his understanding of the Old Testament!!! Matthew continues And He said to them, “It is written,‘ MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” (21:13)

Direct quotations in the New Testament are intended to call to mind a larger passage from the Old that provide context for understanding their usage. In the case of the first here, Isaiah 56 is the context.

      “Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,

      To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD,

      To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath

      And holds fast My covenant;

      Even those I will bring to My holy mountain

      And make them joyful in My house of prayer.

      Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar;

      For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

      The Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares,

      “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.” (56:6-8, NAS95)

This context tells us that behind Jesus’ action of clearing the Temple lies an understanding of the purpose of God: to bring others to his House. His action is against a practice that is preventing “others” from coming to the House of the Lord. Jesus’ action is motivated by His thinking, which is based on His understanding of the Old Testament.

The second passage from Jeremiah 7 is even more descriptive. The basis of Jeremiah 7 is a call to repentance, a call to change their behavior patterns. Jeremiah proclaims that those who come to the House of the Lord do so with unclean deeds in their past and future, yet think that this Holy location will somehow prevent them from facing punishment. This action of Jesus, which precipitates his arrest and death, is based firmly on the Old Testament teaching. A follower of Jesus should take Jesus’ Bible seriously!

 In the next two posts I will discuss two topics where the Old Testament can help us build True Narratives about God the Father.

 


harstineAn educator since 1984, Stan Harstine is convinced that his career consists of “teaching students to think.” He has engaged in this career since 2002 at Friends University using biblical studies as his medium. His greatest accomplishment for 2014 was having 3 sons graduated from college, gainfully employed and not living at home.

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Feb 10

Risky Business

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While recently watching a football game on TV, I saw an ad for an insurance company.  The premise of the commercial was based on creating a safe and secure existence.  Protecting what you value most is something we all strive to do – and there’s

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While recently watching a football game on TV, I saw an ad for an insurance company.  The premise of the commercial was based on creating a safe and secure existence.  Protecting what you value most is something we all strive to do – and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Whether it’s our family, our home, our earthly lives, those are all very important.  But it got me thinking about the idea of “risk” and how it connects to our Christian faith.

Americans look for any way to create safety and comfort.  I would also add that we work really hard to ensure our lives are as easy as possible.  Can you think of any examples of this?  A few come to my mind.  Technology, such as the smart phone, has eliminated the need to stop and ask for directions (men rejoice!).   We also rest in the safety of gated communities and putting a little extra into our savings account.  I also think we reside in the familiarity of our lives because it’s comfortable.  After all, change is painful, right?

For the record, I think most of those things are great.  They have their purpose and some are even necessary, at times.  I’m just concerned that our priority on safety and comfort often creeps into our Christian living.  Our false narratives inform us that we should not do anything risky.

Where did we develop those false narratives?  Perhaps years of hearing messages such as, “Don’t talk to strangers,” “A penny saved is a penny earned,” and “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do” have kept us from helping people on the margins, generously giving, and trying something new.

Apprenticeship to Jesus doesn’t mean we always settle for the safe and familiar.  As we know, Jesus wasn’t afraid to take risks.  He ate with tax collectors (Matthew 9:10), talked to the “enemy” (John 4:7-9), and healed on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-14).  All of these risks drew criticism, yet we find the stories to be sources of inspiration because they pushed against the oppressive norms of the time and ultimately changed the world forever.

Jacques Ellul, a French theologian, aptly said, “Christians were never meant to be normal.  We’ve always been holy troublemakers, we’ve always been creators of uncertainty, agents of dimension that’s incompatible with the status quo; we do not accept the world as it is, but we insist on the world becoming the way that God wants it to be.  And the Kingdom of God is different from the patterns of this world.”

So if Jesus is our rabbi, our master instructor, the one we look to for wisdom and leadership…if we’re truly apprenticing Jesus, what does it look like for us to be risky with our faith too?  I think the answer depends on the person.  For some people, it may mean going on an international mission trip.  For others, it may mean trusting God with a tenth of their annual income or simply joining a small group at church.  The thing to remember is that they all require a certain degree of risk.  Changing the false narratives and adopting the Jesus narratives is not an easy task – it’s risky business.  But those changes will have an eternal impact on your life in the Kingdom.

Reflection

What does risk look like for you?  How can you test the boundaries of your Christian comfort zone? 

What are some false narratives that you feel are holding you back?  What Jesus narratives help you live a riskier life? 

 Start by doing something small and reflect on the experience.  See what kind of affect it has on you and others.

 

JohnJohn Carroll oversees the Apprentice Experience, a two-year certification experience in Christian Spiritual Formation for clergy and laity.  With a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, John brings a unique blend of experience (11 years in corporate recruiting, 4 years in the local church) to the Apprentice Institute.  He is happily married to his wife, Amber, and together they have two children, Aidan and Amelia. In his free time, John enjoys reading, watching football and spending time with family and friends.

For more information about the Apprentice Experience, contact John at john.carroll@apprenticeinstitute.org.

Posted in Apprenticeship, Blog, Narrative, Spiritural Growth, Uncategorized | Tags: / /

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