Non-linear life

The back side of goals and right side of doors

As I savor the last bits of the Christmas holiday I have begun to look forward to the New Year. A year ago I jotted down a few goals for the arrival of 2015. Looking back, I can say that each of them has made a difference in my life. Here’s the list from this time last year:

1. Start a blog (check). I did, you read it, and we are all better for it, mostly. Seriously, the Bearded Acorn went further, and wider, than I had anticipated. Thank you kind readers.

As an aside, when you start a blog you will attract a few interesting folks and receive an occasional odd comment or two. The award for the out-of-left-field comment of the year goes to the fellow who emailed and stated that if I would change the font and layout of my blog them I would see more people converted to Christ. I didn’t change the font and layout — I am not sure how to do so and maintain what I was shooting for, and because I value content over cosmetics — which means that by not doing so some poor souls remain unconverted. I trust God’s sovereignty in saving sinners more than the razzamatazz of my blog’s font. To wit,  I had no idea that when the blog’s outdoor light was turned on that one of the moths would inspect the font of the lettering on the bulb. Who knew that one could spot such details with so much light shining in his tiny moth face?

2. Read more, and read better (check). While the idea of reading more is obvious, by “reading better” I meant that I wanted to read with a “writer’s eye” and learn from the pros.  I used a rotation system — which I learned in August was similar to that of Douglas Wilson — of reading a few pages per day in a book on Bible study/Christian exhortation (Douglas Wilson, John Piper, etc.), on the craft and art of writing, in a biography, and in a book of specific interest (humor, poetry, history, etc.). Of course, I read the Bible each day as well, which brings me to the third goal.

3. Read the Bible differently (check). By this I intended to read the Bible as an imaginative exegete, or as an exegetical imaginative. My tool for accomplishing this was Crossway’s ESV Reader’s Bible. The ESV Reader’s Bible is a remarkable Bible that is worth every denarii. It removes the verse numbers, references, and footnotes from the text (which were not in the manuscripts anyway). This lends to reading the Bible as a flowing narrative, much like the original readers would have encountered. The Reader’s Bible has a simple layout with a reader-friendly font. Maybe the moth-guy got to them as well. Oh well, if you do not have a goal for your Bible reading for next year, I would encourage you to read through the New Testament several times in the ESV Reader’s Bible in 2016.

4. Improve my fiber intake (check). This was not a spiritual goal; it was a gastrointestinal one. In case you are wondering — or, if you are not, then you can skip down to number five — fiber intake does improve overall health, reduce the risk of GI cancer, and increase the stock prices of Cracklin’ Oat Bran and Bush’s Beans.

5. Exercise three times per week (swing and a miss). While I did exercise more, I didn’t meet my goal, unless you count reading as aerobic activity (I read pretty hard) or preparing beans and peas several nights per week.

6. Watch less TV (check). This one had to occur in order for me to accomplish number two (not to be confused with the fiber goal) of reading more.

7. Write more (check). Writing blog posts, a book manuscript, and poetry kept both my mind and keyboard busy.

It goes without saying that spending more time with family, doing well at work, etc. were goals as well. They were, and will be next year also.

 

As I peek over the fence into 2016 here is a list of some goals that might make the cut for next year:

1. Use one lunch break at work per week as time for reading and writing.

2. Teach the entire United States of America how to correctly enter and exit a business that has a double-doored entrance. Stay to the right folks. Choose the door on the right hand side when you enter, and — for the love of all that is decent and obvious — choose the door on the right when you exit. The doors did not change sides once you entered the store, and your hands didn’t switch sides either.

3. Reduce TV time even further. I watched less than ever before this past year, even during college football season, and plan to watch even less next year.

4. Double my fiber intake. Just kidding. One’s percentage of the recommneded daily fiber intake does not need to reach four digits, for lots of reasons.

5. Continue to read more, read better, and write more, and better.

6. Post on the Bearded Acorn more frequently.

7. Exercise regularly.

 

I hope that you had a good 2015, and that your 2016 will be even better. Stay tuned, I will share my final goals for the New Year and offer some challenges for you that will make your 2016 deeper and broader, and more sarcastic.

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Bible study, Uncategorized

Simeon’s example…

With Christmas speeding down the rails, let’s take a moment and look back at an often over-looked scene of Jesus’ arrival.  Please take a moment and read Luke 2:22-35; really, go ahead, read slowly. Read it out loud — use your indoor Bible-reading voice please — and soak it in. There, now that you have read it, let’s take the narrative apart so that it can assemble for us an up-close portrait of the Christ-child. Here are some of the notables of the narrative that will guide you as you study through this stirring passage.

 

In Luke 2:25 we meet an older fellow named Simeon. He is found nowhere else in the New Testament. His single inclusion in Scripture is brief, but it is one that will moisten your eyes.

 

First, Simeon was a fellow who knew God. Many know about God; Simeon knew Him. The introduction to Simeon shows this in verse 25. He was a resident of Jerusalem who greatly anticipated the arrival of the Messiah, was led by the Spirit of God, and was godly and devout. It’s worth noting that the folks to whom God revealed the birth and identity of Jesus were not mainline religious folks. The on-the-fringe folks — magi from the East, shepherds, Joseph and Mary (carpenter and his young wife), Simeon, and a very unique 84 year old lady named Anna — were the ones who received Jesus’ birth announcement.

 

The point here — a serrated point nonetheless — is that the folks who should have been ready to recognize Jesus didn’t, not at all. They swung and missed. They were busy steeping in self-righteousness and marinating in man-made rules. To bring it to the present, almost all “good church folk” nowadays would have missed Jesus due to thier serving on committees, crafting new bylaws of behavior for others to follow, and congratulating one another on their own acumen in doing both. Instead, some farmers, a handful of foreigners (somehow they made it made it over Donald Trump’s “wall.”), an old fellow, and a very Pentecostal-like 84 year old would have recognized Jesus first. Ouch.

 

Second, and to advance the previous point, Simeon had ears to hear what God had said and was saying (verse 26). Jesus frequently stated, “he who has ears to hear (God’s Word), let him hear.” There is a reason that he said that, and said it a lot of times to lots of people. Simeon had ears to hear God. He listened; he heard; he believed. It goes in that order.

 

Third, Simeon had eyes to see what God was doing (verse 27-28). He had listened, heard God, and believed Him. Then, he saw. It goes in that order. When he saw Jesus he knew who and what He was. He did so instantly. How? Simeon ears were perked to hear and his eyes were focused to see through sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Notice that Simeon went to the temple “in the Spirit.” This was his normal practice. Verse 25 states that “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” This was his usual spiritual state.  In what “spirit” do you go to worship? What is your usual spiritual state? We tend to think that going to church will help us to become Spirit-filled, and it can, but shouldn’t we first arrive there packed-to-the-gills full of the Spirit? We know the painful answer, don’t we.

 

Fourth, Simeon’s faith finally held its long-awaited object. When by enduring faith he received God’s promise worship welled up and poured out publicly. His faith had been based on God’s Word to him. His peace (verse 29) had been based upon God’s promise to him. At last his faith and peace were woven together in realization through recognition of the Messiah. And, he got to hold the Messian with his owns hands.

 

Lastly, Simeon’s worship of Jesus introduced others to Him. Notice the roles of and titles for Jesus that Simeon revealed to others: Savior (verse 30), Light for revelation to the Gentiles (32), Glory for Israel (32), Messiah (32). He recognized Jesus and aptly told others about him through praise. This passage is referred to as “Simeon’s Psalm.” In light of that, the question must be asked … if Simeon’s words and worship revealed Jesus, then what do our words of public worship reveal? Honestly, much of our worship highlights how we feel, what we think, and what we like about God. It focuses on God through the lens of our thoughts and feelings toward Him. Re-read that. Once more, please. We are not good lenses. Scripture is the perfect lens. Simeon’s worship was Scripture-dense and Spirit-loaded. Ours is often experience-based and situation-soaked. Here’s a quick test:  recall and think through the words of songs that you sing at church and the lyrics of your favorite Christian songs. Do those lyrics burst with Scripture or bleat out about feelings? Count the use of “I, me, and my” in them and that will distill out the answer.

 

In closing, this short just-after-Christmas story found in Luke 2 shows that your personal spiritual walk must be Scripture-filled if you are to truly know God and see Him at work. Then, it should fuel your worship so that the spotlight rests on Jesus and His greatness, not on your thoughts or feelings — both of which may be non-Scriptural — about Him.

 

Over his lifetime Simeon listened to God’s Word; he heard; he believed; he saw; he worshiped rightly. It goes in that order. Let this order our celebration of Christmas and the upcoming new year as well.

 

Merry Christmas!

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