Month: September 2011

“With this collar I thee own”

Tiglath-pileser, the dog, not the ancient Assyrian emperor (745-727 BC), sleeps in our bedroom with us.  Because his collar has dog tags (surprise!), we take off his collar at night so that every time he shakes his head it doesn’t wake us up.  We say that our naked, collar-less dog is wearing his “pajamas”.

But Tig likes wearing his collar.  Embarrassingly for him, sometimes he’s still wearing his pajamas at noon.  He’s willing to forgo his collar at night, but wherever he is in the house in the morning if he hears his dog tags jingle, he’ll coming running because he’d much rather not go around in his pajamas.

A few mornings ago, as I was putting on Tig’s collar, Shannon was watching and said, “With this collar I thee own”.  I thought, “That works.”

Tig likes his collar because it means we own him, it connects him to us.  Like Wallace says to Gromit as he puts on the dog’s new collar, “It looks like somebody owns you.”  (You have to say that while waving both hands sideways.)  Recently, after Shannon came back from being gone for a few days, Tig wouldn’t leave her side.

Dogs are not only our best friend, but they have profound spiritual lessons to teach us about our relationship with God.  They like the symbol of their connection to their master and they love to be with their master.  They don’t want independence, and would certainly never declare it.

For me, it’s hard to find time to spend with God, and I love my independence.  I need to be more canine.

What spiritual lessons do your pets teach you? 

Even more shameless marketing (God Behaving Badly)

OK, I haven’t practiced shameless marketing for a long time on my blog, so I have a few things stored up.

First, for those of you who live in the Philadelphia area, a recorded interview about God Behaving Badly will be broadcast on WFIL (AM 560; http://www.wfil.com/) tomorrow (Thurs) sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 pm.  The interview will probably last about 20 minutes.

Second, I received an email from George, a board member of Biblical Seminary, where I work, that I wanted to share:

Greetings David in the Wonderful Name of Our Lord!  I just wanted to write about your new book, “God Behaving Badly.”  You know that it was given to us at our last trustee meeting.  Quite frankly, the title kind of scarred me off.  My initial reaction was that I didn’t really need to read that and I put it aside; sort of.  However, for whatever reason, I kept it in the pile of books I had recently accumulated and decided reluctantly to delve into it.  Once started, I couldn’t put it down.  You hit on many of the seemingly more difficult passages and you nailed them correctly and fascinatingly.  I enjoyed it very much and I thank you for your efforts to craft it.  To God be the glory!  Many thanks!  With warm regards in Christ, George

(I get regular emails that express similar sentiments to George’s, basically, “better than expected”.  I feel a bit like Ron, who says to Hermione, “Always the tone of surprise…”)

In case you couldn’t tell, George is a few years older than me.  I’ve really enjoyed interacting with members of my seminary’s board.  They love God and have no problems expressing it passionately.

Some authors may not need to hear this sort of encouragement, but I eat it up.  You spend a lot of time on a book, and it helps to know that people appreciate it.  I want to find out how GBB is helping people understand God and God’s word better.

Moneyball

After seeing The Blind Side last year, I went on a Michael Lewis kick, reading The Blind Side, Liar’s Poker (about his life as a bond salesman in the late 1980’s) and finally Moneyball.  As much as I enjoyed his two other books, I thought Moneyball was the best.

We saw Moneyball the film, as a family on Saturday night.  It’s not only a great flick, but also a great story, a story largely about second chances.  The Oakland A’s just lost in the playoffs the previous year (2001), and had three stars (Giambi, Damon and Isringhausen) taken by other teams in free agent bidding–so now they were MLB’s version of “the island of misfit toys”.  Scott Hatteberg, the catcher with a blown-out arm, is attempting a comeback as a 1st baseman.  Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, is attempting to succeed as a general manager in the sport that he never found success as a player, despite enormous potential.  (Curiously, the young Billy Beane looks nothing like the middle-aged version played by Pitt.)

Ironically,  or perhaps appropriately, the scouting system that predicted stardom for Beane, is the target of Beane’s radical new paradigm shift.  The “Prophets” of this new emphasis on statistics are Bill James, who we never met in the movie, and “Peter Brand” (based on Paul DePodesta, Beane’s real life assistant/statistical wizard).  As is the case for any new understanding of reality, there’s conflict between the old (scouts) and the new (statistics).

As a Bible teacher, at this point I should probably try to offer a profound spiritual insight combining baseball, statistics, new paradigms and the gospel, but nothing comes to mind.  Sorry.

We’re not really a baseball  family.  I played a lot growing up, but we lived in England when the boys were young, so we played more cricket than baseball.  None one plays baseball now, but we all loved the film.

Predictions: Oscars for best picture and script (Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian), oscar nominations only for Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill (Peter Brand).

What profound spiritual insight do you have to offer about Moneyball (whether you’ve seen it or not)? 

How blameless are you? (Psalm 119:1)

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD” (Psalm 119:1).

So, I’m blessed as long as I can keep my way blameless.  It doesn’t sound like I’ll be experiencing much blessing.

Thus begins the Aleph section of Psalm 119 (all eight verses in the Hebrew begin with the letter Aleph).

While blamelessness may seem like a high bar, walking in the law of the LORD (or “Torah of YHWH”) sounds a little easier.  Hebrew poetry uses parallelism, where the 2nd line echoes the 1st, so blamelessness and walking in God’s law are roughly synonymous here.

The word translated as “blameless” (tamim) could also be rendered as “with integrity” or “with honesty”.

Walking in God’s laws with integrity still may not seem like as easy task, but as we’ll discover later in Psalm 119, the psalmist frequently asks for divine assistance.  It’s not meant to be done on our own.

What’s the motivation for walking in integrity in the way of Torah?  Blessing.  While we’re not exactly sure what the blessing will involve, the rest of the psalm will flesh that out for us.

I hope you’ll come back each Sunday as we discuss one more verse from this longest chapter in the Bible, and find out more about the blessings in store for those who walk in God’s laws.

How do you walk in God’s laws?