I can remember my grandmother showing me how to bait a hook, and my grandfather teaching me how to distinguish the tension in the line that is caused by a river’s current from the pull of a snagged trout. I don’t mean I remember the idea. I mean I can see in my head some clear pictures of them teaching me – of a silver fish in the bottom of a gray bucket, of a yellow kernel of corn in my hand next to the hook, of Granddad smoking his pipe on the bank. That was almost 40 years ago. 40 years ago, I had thousands of experiences each day, but that one I can still picture.
I can remember my youth pastor teaching me how to read the Bible. We were having a Bible study in a dusty upper room of a church, back when churches still had libraries, and we sat on the floor in a circle, and he showed me how to think through the biblical text. We were reading Isaiah. The carpet was green. I can see us sitting there.
I can remember a leader in my college ministry at church teaching me how to articulate a rational defense of the Christian faith. We sat in the basement of his house watching VHS tapes of William Lane Craig debating other scholars. We would pause the tape to debate the points that he made, and also to talk about our girlfriends and our desired careers and the news. I can remember the very intense look my friend would get when he mulled over philosophical questions. He’s now a philosophy professor who teaches at the same school as Craig. I picked up a book in a theological library the other day because I saw my friend had written one of the chapters, and he had written about a subject I remember us arguing about one night.
Mentoring is not the act of an expert passing on a field of expertise. It’s the moment that someone who is passionate about one of their interests stops to show why it matters to someone else. What matters in that transaction is not that someone with a professional certification educates someone else. What matters is that a memory is made when two hearts and minds gather around a topic of a similar interest.
Imagine what would happen if everyone who is passionate about Jesus took just a moment this week to talk with someone else about what Jesus has done for their marriage, their morals, the meaning of their lives, their parenting, their friendships, their prayer life, or their inner peace. Imagine if all they did was share a question they wondered about concerning Jesus so that two people could wonder it together. Mentoring is making memories that Jesus can use for the rest of someone’s life, and everyone who follows Jesus ought to be a mentor.
This week can pass by forgotten, or it can live on in someone’s memories for the next 40 years.
Did you ever wonder whether the Bible was written close to the events it describes or much later? I’ve heard people dismiss the Bible as a later, legendary account composed many generations after the life of Jesus. The manuscript evidence gives us a hint.
The oldest piece of a manuscript that we have is a tiny little piece of paper that’s only about 3″ long and 2″ wide, which is now in a museum in England. It has text from John’s gospel on the front and on the back, and scholars who study ancient manuscripts say that the handwriting dates to between 100 and 150 AD. This piece was found in Egypt, which suggests an earlier original, allowing time for the story to have travelled over 400 miles.
However, Ignatius Theophorus of Antioch, who lived from around 35AD – 117AD, wrote seven letters in which he quotes from at least 17 of the 27 New Testament letters, suggesting that they were in circulation even earlier, in the first century. Clement of Rome, who died in 99AD, left behind a letter which quotes or refers to at least 9 letters of the New Testament, making their first century authorship undeniable. These include a quote from Jesus, making the gospel stories unquestionably first century. An early Christian document called the Didache, which scholars date to the end of the first century or beginning of the second, refers to Jesus’ teachings in the gospels, particularly Matthew.
Credible scholars now date the New Testament entirely to the first century. Since the date of Jesus’ death falls in the 30s, that means the whole of the New Testament was written within 60 years of his death, which means during the lifetime of his contemporaries.
Those who try to push the dates later must do so by controverting the obvious historical testimonies of both the biblical accounts and non-biblical witnesses. Their agenda-laden activism does little to confuse the open-minded and clear-sighted, but it tends to empower those who are looking for loopholes and who don’t want to do real research. The story of Jesus cannot be discredited as a later legend scripted by people of another generation. It was written in his day by people who knew him and his disciples.
“We all know that Eve came from the side of Adam himself. Scripture has told this plainly, that God put Adam into a deep sleep and took one of his ribs, and fashioned the woman. But how can we show that the Church also came from the side of Christ? Scripture explains this too. When Christ was lifted up on the cross, after He had been nailed to it and had died, one of the soldiers pierced His side and there came out blood and water. From that blood and water the whole Church has arisen. …We receive birth from the water of baptism, and we are nourished by His blood. …Just as the woman was fashioned while Adam slept, so also, when Christ had died, the Church was formed from His Side.” -John Chrysostom, “How to Choose a Wife”
If I could study any of the biblical cities, I’d study Ephesus. I’d study it because it was a burgeoning, multi-ethnic, religiously diverse metropolis. I’d study it because it’s the best preserved of the ancient cities, having been vacated by a majority of the population after a wicked bout of malaria. And I’d study it because, through it, a couple of Christians changed the world.
Imagine that if you decided to teach the faith to one person, you would create out of your city a hub of Christian teaching, writing, and thinking for the next hundred years. Imagine that if you decided to teach the faith to one person, one day people would talk about your city the way they talk about Salt Lake City – you know, “it’s ok to visit, but there sure are a lot of Mormons there.” Substitute “Christians” – that’s what a single mentoring relationship can do.
At Ephesus, Paul went and preached, staying 3 years and beginning a church. He appointed Elders and empowered saints. Then he left. But while he was there, he mentored Timothy, his “son” in the faith, to whom he passed on the best of what he knew.
John, the disciple of Jesus, settle there and became a pastor. He led the church, continuing to pass the faith on. We know of just a few names of individuals who moved from rural and distant parts to the big city, and that changed the city.
Ephesus became one of the centers of the Christian church in the centuries to come. By the 5th century, when the Roman Emperor wanted to call together a council of the bishops of the church, he called them to Ephesus.
It’s not inconceivable that any American city could have such a legacy. It only took one or two people gathering, engaging, loving, and teaching. Anyone can do that, in any city. Why can’t it be your city? Why can’t it be mine?
A snow-capped couple used to sit next to me in a café, clucking away with each other and passing friends. The first time I noticed them, I was trying to read Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation,” but couldn’t pay attention. I was privately amused at the way they loved each other, giggling as they finished each other’s sentences and offering to get up one for another, because at their age, it was too much of a commitment for them both to stand up.
I was conscious of my eavesdropping, but not of the effect they were having on me. They became part of the aesthetic of the café – the warm, sun-filled widows, the robust, walnut-toned coffee, and the happy old couple as familiar as the furniture. They were always there.
Until one day I saw her alone. When I stopped to ask, I withered to hear of his passing. She was thereafter different than she had been before, as was the café.
That couple for me is a better metaphor for the Trinitarian God than most of the go-to illustrations. St. Patrick notably used the three leaf clover to explain the Trinity to the pagan Irish, but his metaphor was flawed, because if you pull a leaf off of it, you still have a deformed clover, but a clover nonetheless. A widow is something fundamentally different than a spouse. One does not merely lose a spouse, one loses spousehood. When we love and are beloved, to lose love changes our identity.
Imagine the Trinity not as a mechanical philosophical concept requiring technical definitions of “substance” and “nature,” but rather a being who is so infused with and exuding love that the Father, Son, and Spirit are giddy at finishing each other’s sentences, that within the nature of the one God is a love so overwhelming that it must be reciprocated. Trinity is love immune the frailties of human love. It’s love made perfect, love like the first time a baby laughs, love like a wedding, love like a hero dying to save someone else. Imagine a love so urgent it can’t resist exposing itself to the risk of betrayal and brutality. It will pay the cost if only to love one more. Imagine a kind of love that promises a day when inseparable lovers are reunited, because that’s how a good story is supposed to end.
A friend of mine who is a missionary in a Muslim country tells me that she sometimes tells Muslims that there is “love if,” “love because,” and “love despite” – you can love someone if they will do something for you, because they have done something for you, or despite anything that they do for you. She has been told more than once by the people to whom she ministers that “love despite” isn’t real.
Imagine love despite. That’s a better description of Trinity that most of our metaphors.
Posted on the ECO blog….
“Pastor Ken Fong spoke at our Session retreat about the power of change and innovation. He described how his father took part in the initial designs of those computers that we’ve all heard of which took up an entire room and could do little more than function as a calculator. But for their day, those computers were anamazing innovation. Pastor Ken then shared how late in life his father didn’t even own a computer and didn’t care to own one. “Something happened,” Ken said, “and what happened was that reality exceeded his dreams.”
My sense is that….” Read the rest here.
When my daughter was born, 10 years ago, my wife and I talked intentionally about what exposure we did and didn’t want her to have to TV. In the first two or three years, we didn’t really let her watch it at all. After that, we decided we would let our kids watch to a limited degree on the weekends, but not on week days. It’s now been 10 years in our house of limited TV.
Yesterday, after their sports camps, my kids spent a good part of the day reading. At one point, my wife caught them arguing over who owned which book and got to read it next.
For all the damage done through my parenting foibles (we’re starting one fund for college, one for therapy), this may be one of the best decisions we ever made. And I have to admit, it was my wife’s idea. To this day, the kids usually don’t even ask to watch during the week, because they know our family’s habit – no TV, video, or internet during the week.
If you’ve got a young one in the family, or if you’re a grandparent or uncle or aunt who can be a part of the conversation, staving off video addiction may be the healthiest thing you can do for your kids.
- Most programming isn’t of any educational or moral value in the first place
- Most programming isn’t even that entertaining
- The brain’s adaptive ability, “neuroplasticity,” will condition your kids to have sudden, jerky attention spans if that is the input they get for hours each day
- Time spent reading is going to better prepare them for school
- Time spent playing with other kids is going to better prepare them for relationships
- Time spent in exercise will make them healthier, which will in turn make them happier
It’s neither too soon nor too late to start. And giving in to a child’s tantrum to get them to stop is nowhere near as rewarding as having your child in their adult years thank you for being a good parent.
See: “Media and Children,” the American Academy of Pediatrics, http://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx
I’ve spent a fair amount of time decrying the decline of the Church in America, particularly so much as it is a consequence of a lazy Christianity that just assumed lost neighbors would find their way to church without any effort from the converted. But if you asked me if I was afraid if the Church in the world was going to pass away, I would have to admit I’m not afraid of that at all. My reason for that confidence is not a strident declaration about the gates of hell never prevailing. It’s far more amusing than that.
It’s because we live in a haunted house.
By house, I mean the planet Earth, and by haunted, I mean haunted. The free-wheeling secularist cannot suppress the cathartic tears at sunset and at the symphony. She can’t muster up a plausible grounding for all of the passionate ethical positions for which she tirades and votes and argues. She will never sufficiently suppress nor rewrite a history that is filled with church-going grandmothers who find her life a shame. And to be honest, one out of every ten people I talk to has actually seen a ghost. The world is haunted, or to use Charles Taylor’s more pleasant term, enchanted. The hard-nosed laboratory researcher who claims to have dissected away the enchantment doesn’t come off as a genius. He comes off as one in denial, like a captain who keeps insisting the leak isn’t that bad.
I’m happy to say there will always be a Church, because the world will always be haunted. The intrusiveness of its ghosts can be dodged by denial no more than a bee sting can be avoided by closing your eyes. They will keep poking us. My worries for the Church in America have far less to do with anything about metaphysical reality and far more to do with the fact that my son and my daughter will likely marry and raise kids in this generation, and they will be surrounded by blind captains sailing sinking ships.
Published on the ECO blog – it’s time to talk about why we’re changing denominations.
A friend of mine recently told me that he wanted his church to join ECO, but, he admitted, “We haven’t even started talking about it yet.”
I’m noticing how fast my life is going by. A day ago my daughter was born, and today she’s ten. She’s more than half way to being out of the house. I still remember how to change diapers. I remember the rubbery skin of a pacifier. I remember waking her to have breakfast with me, us both wearing large, flowery hats at the table and eating chocolate for breakfast, because Mom wasn’t up yet, and because that’s what French people do, I told her. Now she’s old enough to
Read the rest here….