Twix

DDFC98DD-975D-428F-AA77-8EC4A2E00DE9Dear Mars.com,

Since you began your right Twix vs left Twix campaign, this philosophical distinction has brought forth a serious question: what constitutes a Twix bar? Is it one candy bar made of two parts or two parts packaged together? If packaged for Halloween candy it is a single bar named Twix, but if it’s got two bars it is still Twix. This is a question with philosophical implications, so I come to the source! What is the real name of your candy bar and how should we refer to a single Twix candy bar? I humbly wait for your reply and will wait to rely on your expertise.

Sincerely,

Travis Long

Skittles are plural.  M and M’s are as well.  Twix carries with it an immense amount of ambiguity.  Is it one or two? (Or 4 in the case of King Size)?  If each side of Twix is going to obtain an individual personality, where does that leave us?  To sentient individuals or one scidzophrenic?

Where Resees seems to be uniting us (see the previous two posts); Twix seems content to drive a wedge in.  Let’s just say that in some instances Jesus brought the duct tape, but in others he brought a pry bar.

One key concept in the book of John is division.  John understands that sometimes discipleship is moved forward by people being added to the number, and other times it happens by others leaving.

John uses division as a iteray device.  The whole purpose of Johns book is found in chapter 20:

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (30-31)

Johns gospel brings the reader to the crossroad where a decision needs to be made about “who Jesus is?”  But throughout the book, people have been brought to the line of decision.

  • John 6, Jesus teaches on the life that he alone can give and the people divide (6.60,66)
  • The crowds and even his family don’t know what to do with his abscence at the festival. (7.12)
  • Jesus teaches from God’s authority and above Moses’ in the Temple and the people are divided. (7.30-31)
  • The Pharisees are up in arms and division I’ve how Jesus can heal blindness.  The real issue is Jesus place of origin. (9.16ff.)
  • Then the apex of the book, the antithesis of the thesis statement in chapter 12, “after Jesus has done all these  miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe…”(John 12.37-42)

Like Col. Travis or Jean Luc Picard drawing a line in the sand, Jesus has clearly declared the two sides. But there is an interesting dynamic at work here.

When a line is drawn, battle, political, or ideological, the image at the forefront of your mind is often of two sides, yelling at each other while encroaching upon the line.  They are two opposing forces bent over the line with bulging veins in their forheads and necks, screaming obscenities at one another.  That is not the case here.

Certainly, the battle over the identity of Jesus is as real and vital as it had ever been.  John’s excessive use of metaphor shows this.  Life and death; light and dark; the city of God and the World.  But it is not two sides attacking one another.

Instead, it is two lines that are not attacking each other but ignoring one another.  It’s like everyone is standing with their backs to the line.  The groups never really enter debate about Jesus’ identity, but instead ask searching questions.  With each inquiry, individuals on either side of the line step backward over it, switching positions, or stepping forward strengthening their position and allegiance.

This “cross-the-line” mentality is paramount for Johns gospel because of his stance on culture.  Of the New Testament authors, John’s position on how a follower of Christ should interact with the world around him is firmest and recessive.  Jokingly it’s hard to figure out whether John turned his back on the world, “Do not love the world or anything in it…”(1 John 2.15), or the world turned its back on him, he was “…on the island of Patmos beacause of the word of God.” (Rev. 1.9)  Johns attitude is withdrawal.

Paul takes a much softer position.  “I have become all things…” (1 Cor. 9.22); using his political position (Acts 22.22-30; 25.11-12); and quoting the philosophers of the day (Acts 17.28) and referencing their gods (Acts 17.23).  Paul utilizes culture in order to transform culture (Romans 12.1-2).  But this study is for another time and place (and one that I hope warrants time and discussion here).

Johns division is between the followers of Christ and the world that surrounds them.  John is certain that believers are to be seperate from the world in far not ways than where they spend 2 hours on Sunday morning.

It’s in the way we tallk;  the content of of our conversations.  Listened to two high school boys use the f-word 18 different times in 6 sentences and in four different parts of speech in 6 sentences, the other day.  I didn’t know whether to get me a dictionary so I really knew what the word meant, or to get them a thesaurus so the could learn a new word.

It’s the way we parent and serve in schools.  It bothers me that PTO is such poorly attended and how hard schools have too look when the numbers suggest how many Christian parents are connected to the school.  It is disconcerting as to how many single parents lack support from the church in raising their kids.  I struggle with how many parents feel like the are on an island in raising their kids.  Christians are called to be different.

It is in the books that are kept.  It’s the amazon accounts, credit card debt, Craigslist addiction, and Cabelas points.  “Stuff” is a currency all by itself now a days.  Followers of Christ, and their stuff, the amount, how it’s used, and how it is obtained, is one way that they are divided from the world.

Twix has it right, the followers need to be distinct from the world. We may be in the same package as the world, breathing the same oxygen, living in the same space, struggling with the same sins, but John knows we are not the same!

Ps.  Still no reply from Mars or Hershey!

Isaiah 53: John’s Metaphor

DSCN2889Bareback riders must have a terrible time finding tuxedo’s that fit.  It must be difficult to find a jacket that has one arm 6 inches longer than the other.  Bareback riders wedge their hand into a riggin’ and then hang on for dear life for 8 seconds as their body gets contorted into shapes that make Cirque du Sole seem like beginners yoga class.  When asked: “why do you fight bulls?” my answer is simple: “I wanted to be involved in Rodeo without harnessing my self to any large animals!”  Bareback riding is exactly what I was trying to avoid.  Bareback riders arms is how they make their money.  The bend in the elbow, the compression of the bicep, and the grip in the hand make their arm and their power pay off.  See it wasn’t just Isaiah who saw the importance of a powerful arm.

John uses Isaiah’s metaphor of God’s arm (aka. His power) to understand Jesus’ ministry to this world.

I have written about what this metaphor means elsewhere (here and here) but a short summary is needed to flesh out how John is using it.

The imagery of the arm of the Lord is used throughout the Old Testament.  It is in reference to God’s power to redeem his people (Deut. 4.34), as Creator (32.27), performer of the miraculous (Deut. 26.8), and Judge (Jer. 21.5).  The underlying message, however, is the power and the capability of God to accomplish his purposes.  Be it a showdown with Pharaoh or a conquering people, the Old Testament authors knew their God had the upper hand…or should I say arm.

As for Isaiah, the “arm of the Lord” was one of his favorite metaphors. Fourteen times from his pen, we find this imagery.  In every instance it is used in the context of salvation.  God will save his people!  Isaiah wants to make this overwhelmingly clear.  John would  later expand on one of his salvation passages (Isaiah 40.10-11), where Isaiah is describing the arms of the Lord like a shepherd looking after his sheep.  It is a metaphor Jesus would get great use of in John 10.  Isaiah uses the idea of “the arm of the Lord” as a description of the past and a prescription of the future.  A God who has done wonders for his people and a God who will some day bring back his people from exile.  He would accomplish this future mission by sending a servant with his power described in Isaiah 53.

But why does John use this verse on this occasion in John 12.38?

John 11.37-38 says: “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still did not believe in him.  This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'”

The reason, I think, is because it is in these few verses that all of the book of John comes to a head.  It is a convergence of sorts, where all the aspects of John’s testimony come together.

  • Jesus Ministry:  His worldly ministry began when he first changed the water to wine in chapter 2.  He then spent all of his time in the public eye, doing ministry in the world, but beginning in chapter 13, all of his time will be spent pouring into his disciples.  This quotation is an epilogue to his public ministry in John.
  • Division in John: John might be the only guy ever to center his narrative around division.  Throughout the entire gospel people are divided over the question: “Who is Jesus?”  In our text: “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him (37)….Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him (42).”  When Jesus arrives, people divide.
  • Signs in John: Jesus began his public ministry by turning the water to wine in Cana (John 2).  This was the first of seven signs that Jesus would perform in John’s gospel.  The last of the signs was Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11) in the prior chapter, thus concluding his public ministry as mentioned before.  Our text, John 12.37 mentions these “signs”.  John refers to them as signs, where as the other gospel writers use the term miracles.  As it pertains to our text, the word “miraculous” in the NIV does not appear in the greek text…just in case you were wondering.  The sign discussion leads me to the next point…
  • Belief in John:  “Even after he had done all these signs in their presence, they still would not believe…”(37)  Ninety-Eight times is the word translated “believe” (gk. pisteuo) used in John’s gospel.  That is nearly half of the times in the New Testament.  Belief is often used in connection with the signs that Jesus performed.  Jesus even sums it up in John 6, immediately after feeding the 5,000 (sign 4) and walking on the water (sign 5), when he answers the question: “What must we do to do the works God requires?”.  Jesus answered: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”  Belief is paramount.
  • The Purpose:  John’s purpose for writing is stated in John 20.30-31:  “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  Again, “miraculous” is added by the NIV and not in the greek, but still, the signs recorded here were meant to bring them to belief.  But what does our text say?  “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous sings in their presence, they still would not believe…”(12.37)  Diametrically opposite!

The Jewish leaders have found themselves in a collision of greatest importance.  Before them stands Jesus Christ, with all his signs, all his statements, all his accolades…and all his Power.  That is what this is really all about.  Jesus and his power.

In Hebrew prophecy and poetry, there is a literary device known as parallelism.  The second line, in our case “to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”, repeats the message of the first line.  This device equates the two ending clauses.  Therefore, the “arm of the Lord”, a metaphor extolling the “Power of God”, is equated with the “message” being preached in line 1.

If its been a while, you should go back and read John 1 and answer the question that has plagued us the entire book of John: “Who is Jesus?”  John 1 begins: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Jesus Christ was the message of God to the entire world and in him was the Power of God.  Isaiah 53.1 and John 12.38 is where the message of God, “For God so loved the world…” (John 3.16) and the power of God, “My Father, whom yo claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me” (John 8.54) stand before them in the person of Jesus; and it will soon be shown greater still in his death and resurrection, yet they could not bring themselves to believe.  So John lifts the question from Isaiah 53.1:

Who has believed our message; and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

 

A Look at the Cross: John

Sometimes colors run together.  Like a damp water color, John paints the crucifixion with many colors that converge to make one.  His point is “life” and how to gain it, but his colors are numerous.

…one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’s side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.  He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (John 19.34-35)

Thirty six times in his book, will John use the word zoe, or “life”.  For John, life wasn’t just a few more sunsets and it wasn’t just eternal, but a manner of life that can be lived today.  In John’s many years and many experiences, he found that life was to be lived all out on this earth.  The point of his gospel was to communicate that with his readers.  It is fitting that life for us can only come through the death of him (Jesus).  So how do we attain “life”?

The formula for John is fairly simple and can be summed up in one word “believe”.  Belief and life are inextricably linked.  You can’t have one without the other.  Within John’s gospel, it is easy to see that with simple glance at the places where “life” and “believe” occur in tandem.

  • “…everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (3.15-16)
  • “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life” (5.24)
  • “everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life” (6.40)
  • “he who believes has eternal life” (6.47)
  • “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (11.25-26)
  • “…by believing you might have life in his name.” (20.31)

The end result of belief, as attested to by John, is life.  Only through belief in Jesus does one find life.  What is fascinating about John’s book is how he lays out the case for belief.  At every major encounter, through all the 7 signs, and the 7 “I am statements” found in the words of Jesus, John is laying out a case for belief.  In the purpose statement of the book, found in John 20.30-31, John writes: “I have written these things so that you might believe…”  That is not the first time John used that phrase though.

Back one chapter, in John 19, John’s case for belief is solidified.  Sure the resurrection was the final argument for Jesus being the Son of God, but what he did for us was proved on that Friday.  A resurrection is only a resurrection if he was really dead so John writes:

…one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’s side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.  He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (John 19.34-35)

Believe in the testimony.  Over half the times this word [martureo] is used in the New Testament it is from the pen of John (47 times out of 76 total).  Thirty three times it is used in his gospel.  Jesus is doing what God sent him today and that work testifies his identity (John 5.36).  The miracles he performed (10.25) and the Scriptures (5.39) testify or give witness to who Jesus really is.  Do you believe?

Believe in the Truth.  At the end of their meeting, Jesus told Pilate: “I testify to the truth.” (18.37).  Pilate responded by asking: “what is truth?”  Truth is a big word for John.  Just over half of the time in the New Testament, when “truth” [alethia] or one of its cognates occur, it is in one of John’s writings (92/183).  John is awful preoccupied with truth, what is real, and what is “solid”.  Truth, first and foremost, comes from God (John 8.40).  Secondly, Jesus is full of it (John 1.14,17; 14.6; 17.3, 17).  Truth is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ, which is what John is trying to get through to his readers.  Twice in our text, John uses the word.  The first time it is of his words (“the testimony is true”) and the second is of the actions of Jesus (“he tells the truth”).  One is a nod to the account, the other a nod to the event.

Believe the water.  The spear thrust into Jesus side let forth a mixture of blood and water.  Nicodemus was told that he needed to be born of the water (3.5).  The woman at the well needed living water (4.7-14).  In both instances, Jesus was clear, through John’s words, that water was directly connected to life.  Belief, testimony, truth, and now water…all seem to connect back to the life John wants us to have.  Jesus says it in John 7.38: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  But when Jesus says “water” he doesn’t just mean “water”…sure he means “water” but this is other “water”.  The Spirit, who is also connected to truth, will reside within them.  This life giving Spirit, also sent from God, and also testifying to Jesus, will well up inside.  O how we need more water.

Believe in the Blood.  In all of John’s word-smithing, with his deep view of truth, his detailed testimony, his dual-meaning water, and the sheer volume of belief, when he says “blood”, he means it, kind of.  John 6 recalls Jesus talking to the crowds beside the lake.  He connects himself with the bread that the Lord sent down from heaven.  He is the bread of life.  The Jews began to argue because they didn’t understand how they could eat his flesh.  Understandable.  But Jesus replies that the only way to life is by drinking his blood. (6.54)  His flesh is “real” [alethia] and his blood is [alethia].  This is the same word for “truth”.  Life and truth is found in the blood of Jesus Christ…John did some work on this.

The question remains: Do you believe?  Jesus has been talking about belief since the beginning, but here, for the first time, John steps back from the narrative, and interjects the question.  It is implied but present.

…one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’s side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.  He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (John 19.34-35)

 

The Rest of God

282402_10100160606116021_17006450_45588034_4109272_nHay season means different things to different people. For those of us between the ages of 12 and a long 55, that means hot temps, hay hooks, sultry eves, and short water breaks. It’s the best stay in school lesson a boy can have. The short breaks are greatly welcomed. I am glad life is not lived at hay season’s pace. I learned this twice in the during a week in July.

The week began on the first day, Sunday, preaching at Hartford. We left there and drove to Greeley, Colorado and spent the night. The next morning we hung out in Greeley and visited some awesome people that I will write about at another time. My family reunion began Monday afternoon in Larkspur, so we headed down there after seeing all that Greeley had to offer. Wednesday night brought the Franklin County Christian Youth Rodeo where I needed to be at 5pm. I left Colorado Springs at 6:30 am to get to the rodeo. After a 9 hour drive, 2 stops, and 15 sermons on the iPod, I arrived at my destination where I fought bulls horribly. My performance that night has haunted me ever since. I came home around 3 and slept a short few hours before getting up to do some chores…I am still hazy on how I got home.

This nect Sunday morning (a day of encouragement) I preached in Hartford as well. We had left early, but a flat tire had delayed us. Thinking I would have plenty of time to get my head right before preaching, my down time was gone before I had to preach. As I stepped up on stage, my mind was racing and my thoughts garbled. As I began the message that morning, the rodeo and my current situation spun around my brain and I came to this realization: rest has got to be a bigger part of my life.

Sleep is not the issue. I have had plenty of sleep. Rest is not sleep. Rest is “time between”. It’s that time where you are doing things that fill your spirit, ease your mind, challenge your heart, and get energized. It is “time between” the tasks before you.

Much has been made of the term “between”. Some have called it “margin” or “fill”. God called it “Sabbath”. But until recently, I didn’t realize that God had practiced it on occasion.

Three times in Scripture, God “rested”. Not because of exhaustion or weariness, but because of accomplishment. When there is nothing left to do, no more on the list, with the finishing touches complete, the only thing to do is to rest, to enjoy the “time-between”.

At the end of Creation: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed [hb.-kala] in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished [hb.-kala] the work [hb.-mela’ka] he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested [hb. shabat] from all his work[hb.-mela’ka].” [Gen. 2.1-2] The first verbal form of k-l-h is in the pual stem which is intesive but passive, “heavens and earth were completed”; whereas the second form is in the piel stem which is intensive and active, “God finished”.   And when He finished, he rested. The hebrew verb shabat, which the NIV translates rested, is the same root as the hebrew noun Shabbat, which is transliterated as Sabbath. So when God finished, he took Sabbath; a “time between”. God would no longer be creating, but providing for His creation.   God will now be partnering with man to accomplish his purposes and plans.

At the Cross. “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19.30)    Tetelestai meaning “It is finished” or “complete”. It is a perfect verb. Not just a fitting verb for what is happening both locally meaning Jesus death on the cross, or cosmically the atonement of sins, but the tense of the verb is the “perfect” tense. In Greek the “perfect” tense showed a completed action with lasting consequences. Our current salvation is assured because of the completed action of Christ’s work on the cross. Our present state of “saved” is because of the finished work of Christ on that day. God rested on that day, but his work would continue on because of the “perfect” tense of Tetelestai.

The Inauguration of New Heaven and the New Earth. “He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (Rev. 21.6) Done is a fantastic word to hear. A few verses prior, God has said that He will dwell with man and he will live with them (3). God walked in the morning cool of the Garden, dwelt among men for 33 years in human form, and now will live amongst His people forever. The work may be done and God is resting, but God is still God. Just because the work is complete, doesn’t mean God has checked out.

What is fascinating about these three instances where God completes a task, be it creation, salvation, or complete redemption, is that though the work is done, he never leaves it behind. Make sense?   After creating it, He sustains it. After saving it, He guides it. After redeeming it, He dwells amongst it. The work is done, but not abandoned.

All to often tasks, once completed, are left to their own devices. God has never treated humanity that way. From creation to inauguration and beyond, God chose to partner with humanity, to be in relationship with us, in order to accomplish his purposes, namely to receive His due glory. In the midst of the struggle when God seems at His farthest, though we live in a completed action, it must never be thought of as an abandoned project.

Belief in the Age of Disbelief

rtr1v96d“We’ll get through this.”, “Rain will come.”, “It’s just a rough patch.”, “Prices will turn around.”; Sentiments that I have heard old ranchers say more than a few times. Belief is central to the way of an agrarian society. The crossing of the line between skepticism and belief was done for the men I know long ago. The close connection to the land has fostered a culture toward belief; a culture under fire today.

Joel Achenbach, science writer for the Washington Post, wrote the cover article in National Geographic this month entitled “Age of Disbelief”. The core of the article is the skepticism of Americans toward scientific and technological innovation and discovery. Citing issues like the presence of fluoride in water, the moon landing, creationism, climate change, genetically modified foods, and vaccinations, the article draws the lines dividing the debate, and then mocks one side or the other as uniformed. Achenbach is offering up a chance to live life unencumbered by the ignorance of skepticism (in place because of our primitive and native beliefs), by embracing the scientific methods and questioning everything as long as those things are the correct things. I did not appreciate his linking many Christians with those who despise vaccines, hated Galileo, and don’t believe in the Moon landing, but he was painting with a broad brush those who have trouble with beliefs the same as he has.

Belief in itself is honorable. It takes courage and vulnerability. Fear of persecution, being mistaken, or “not believing enough” makes skepticism a viable alternative as a worldview. In the end, skepticism may hurt less, but it offers nothing to this life. Skepticism is the easy way out; never having to defend a position, always questioning. Living in fog is always easier than trying to see through the mist. Those who believe in something (even if it is opposite of me) should be held in high regards, as belief is one of the toughest things to hold on to.

Belief, to some, is considered a crutch, a hindrance, and weakness. Today, in our technologically and scientifically charged and run generation, belief is something to rid you of, like lice or bed bugs. By whatever means necessary, belief is to be thrown off and removed.

Achenbach argues for belief based upon a journey of inquiry and discovery. John would agree.

John wrote his book for a very specific purpose: “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20.31)

John, from the first verses of his book, begins a trail of evidence pointing the person and works of Jesus, drawing a line in the sand begging a decision of belief.

What lines of evidence does he provide?

  • The Signs. He alluded to it in the aforementioned verse when he wrote: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs…” (John 20.30) Later he would write that the amount of things that Jesus had done would fill so many books the world could not contain them (John 21.25). But for John, the seven he recorded would be enough for a decision to cross the line or stay put (and an eighth that would put him over the line). The water to wine (John 2), healing the officials son (John 4), the healing at the pool (John 5), the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6), walking on the water (John 6), healing the man born blind (John 9), and the raising of Lazarus (John 11), like the highlight reel moments of Jesus ministry, are described to the reader. All in effort to help make a decision. Then of course the biggie, the empty tomb, where John saw and believed (John 20.8); the reason that he crossed the line, is depicted in line with the rest.
  • The Statements. Seven times Jesus is recorded making a profound statement about his character and identity. Beginning with the words “I Am…”, a reference to the self-disclosure of God to Moses in Exodus 3-4, Jesus tells anyone who will listen who he is. In contrast to Mark’s messianic secret, where Jesus keeps telling people to not tell who he is, Jesus in the book of John makes it quite clear about his identity. He is “the bread of life” (John 6); the “light of the world” (John 9.8); the “gate for the sheep” (John 10.7); the “good shepherd” (John 10.14); the “resurrection and the life” (John 11.25); the “way, the truth and the life” (John 14.6); and “the true vine” (John 15.1). John records these statements to bring us to the line of decision. He postures the question: Does Jesus words match who he was?
  • The People. Like a parade, people are marched through the pages of John’s gospel. Each one carrying a story about their interactions with Jesus. From John the Baptist, a prophet in the wilderness (John 1) to Pilate, the Roman Governor (John 18-19). In talks with the religious elite (John 3), a dishonorable woman (John 4), friends like Lazarus, Mary, and Martha (John 11) to complete strangers (John 9). He taught great crowds (John 6) and the three. He talked with Judas the betrayer, Peter the denier, and Thomas the doubter. John has each take the stand, give their testimony, their story, and lets us be the judge and jury. Each bringing us to the line of decision.
  • The Divisions. The line in the sand was not drawn for us first. It was for the disciples (John 6); three times the crowd of John 7 divided (v. 12-13, 30-31, 40-43); the Pharisees and others over the Sabbath (John 9.16); Jewish leaders (John 10.19-21); the Jewish leaders and crowd (John 11.36-37, 45-46), and the crowd after the signs (12.37-43). Each showdown, each division, is woven into the story by John, as a device to bring the conflict to the forefront in order to reveal our own. The line is brought before us.

As Mr. Achenbach chides this generation for their skepticism, as they refuse to cross the line of belief about vaccines or climate change, John, 2,000 years ago, begged, pleaded, and implored his readers to cross the line of skepticism about Jesus to belief. He has shown them the evidence to bring about the cognitive aspect of belief and now he asks for the volitional side of belief. He says “now you can believe with your head, will you believe with your feet?”

Runnin’ on all cylinders

195157I inherited an 8n tractor. Inherited is probably not the correct word. Dad upgraded and the 8n became yard art. It hasn’t ran since the upgrade and if I can drive it off its mine. The engine, a 4 cylinder, needs some work. I think it will run, but not fully. At least one of the cylinders has a compression problem (I think!). If you had to use it, it would probably work, but wouldn’t be able to do the things it’s supposed to be able to do; the things that made it the most popular tractor in American history. I wonder how many of us aren’t running on all cylinders.

The saying “running on all 6 cylinders” alludes to an engine where the injectors, spark plugs, pistons, and values, are working in proper timing and coordination to move the drive train, which inturn drives the transmission, which drives the car/truck/tractor. If just one of all the parts is ineffective, out of time, or out of commission, the whole system suffers and thought the machine may run, will prove to be lacking in performance. How often in life would you say you spend running on all 6 cylinders? Part of the problem is that we often don’t know what the cylinders are. Human beings, like legos, were created to be in relationship and community. In the same way that you can’t play with a single Lincoln log, lego, or eat a single Pringles chip, humans don’t do well in isolation.   We were made to have certain relationships. When one of our relationships goes bad, the entire system suffers. Though it may still work and run, it isn’t performing at peak performance. So these relationships help our lives run at peak performance:

  • Our relationship with God. When Adam and Eve sinned they hid from God (Gen 3.8-10) and we have been in hiding ever since. Sin and disobedience have clouded our relationship with God.
  • Our relationship with family. Adam and Eve…Cain and Able…James and Jesus. Nearly every page of Scripture save the first and the last is riddled with family strife. Sin took the family apart piece by piece. The same can be said for our own families.
  • Our relationship with self.  Shame entered the world with Adam and Eve. They sowed leaves together to hide their nakedness. Shame and pride are inward emotions. So sin distanced us from God, from others, and from ourselves.
  • Our relationship with others. The world has 6.8 billion people on it and there is more strife than ever before. With Babel in Genesis 11, the world was divided by thoughts, language and worldview. We are divided by oceans, continents, and seas, but our greatest divide is worldview.
  • Our relationship with Creation. Creation was God’s gift to us to explore, work and learn from. Now creation is marked with disasters, tragedies, and struggle. We fight it, use it up, and toil against it.
  • Our relationship with Culture. Society, music, media, and communication are areas that were taken captive after sin entered the world. Sin has tainted our relationship with the arts, creativity, and expression. Messages are lost, mistranslated, and under communicated because of the distance because of disobedience.

We went from a six cylinder fine ride, to a bike without pedals. From a high performance engine to a Fred Flintstone foot-powered mobile with a single decision of disobedience.

How do we get back to running full speed, full power, on all cylinders? Jesus says “…I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10.10b) John uses the greek word for life [zoe] thirty-six times in his book. The word is most often used in reference to the life given by a person’s proximity to Jesus. John writes the purpose of his book is: “these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20.31) Many times we thing about the life that Jesus offers is life after death, but with John it is so much more. Life, as described in the book of John, is not just a life like the one we have now with no end, but a quality of life that is promised. This is adventure; it is excitement, contentment, and joy. The life promised in John, as a gift from Jesus, is fulfilling and sustaining like bread (John 6.35-49), refreshing and quenching like water (John 4.14), illuminating and focusing like light (John 8.12), and directing and true (John 14.6).

My life needs some maintenance work. I have ran down a few cylinders for a while, mostly because I think I can solve and diagnose my own issues. Jesus promises the life that I want, the one I need. The beauty of Jesus words and his story is that no one is beyond restoration.