Month: September 2011

The Pursuit of God

“Tonight’s speaker is the sister-in-law of the author of that great book we were reading through as a fellowship this summer.”  This was how my wife Shannon was introduced yesterday before speaking at the InterVarsity chapter at Lehigh University.  The group had been reading The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends by my brother Rich Lamb (IVP, 2003).  (My entire life I’ve been known as the younger brother of Rich Lamb the celebrity and author.)

Have you ever noticed that Jesus almost never spent time with his disciples individually.  Jesus also didn’t focus on speaking and preaching to the crowds, but he focused on being with the twelve.  Not huge crowds, not one-on-one.  Rich argues that in the Bible discipleship happens in the context of community.  Unfortunately, we don’t really know how to do that in the church.

Here is what David Neff (Christianity Today editor) says, “Everybody complains about American individualism, but nobody does anything about it.  Rich Lamb is the rare writer who actually sketches a practical map of the path from solitary Christianity to the place where we meet God in the company of others.”  Other endorsers include Kelly Monroe, George Verwer, Brian McLaren, Gordon MacDonald, Os Guinness, Ron Sider, Tom Sine, Don Everts, Paul Tokunaga, Steve Hayner, Mary Ellen Ashcroft, Leighton Ford, David Gill, Richard Peace.  An impressed group.

Derek Cooper, one of my colleagues here a Biblical Seminary, told me a few weeks ago that he just met a student named Dan that was going start to take classes here soon.  Dan so excited about a book that he was reading and discussing with a group of Christian friends that he had to tell Derek about it.  (As Derek told me this story, I assumed the book was going to be God Behaving Badly.)  Dan shows Derek the book, and Derek then tells Dan, “If you like Rich Lamb’s book, you should come to Biblical and meet his brother Dave.”  Some things never change.

How do you pursue God in the company of friends? 

Sunday comics and 9/11

How do you make 9/11 funny?  It’s not possible.  It’s like good and evil.  They are mutually exclusive.

But of the 24 Sunday comics in The Philadelphia Inquirer almost half had some sort of reference to 9/11: Dustin, Doonesbury, Edge City, Blondie, Baby Blues, Beetle Bailey, Dennis the Menace, Hagar the Horrible, Zits, Family Circus?, and my favorite Lio–since it is simple, dark and relevant.

I understand both why a comic would want to make a timely allusion to 9/11, and why they wouldn’t.  It is risky to do it.  What if your attempt at remembering 9/11 alienates readers, seems inappropriate or comes across as sappy?

It is risky to not do it.  Wouldn’t it be bad if you were the only comic who decided to completely ignore the topic, or if your attempt at humor was interpreted as bad taste on 9/11?

But how do you make 9/11 funny?  You can’t.

The point of the comics is to be comedic, to entertain with humor.  9/11 isn’t funny.  It’s tragic.

But Qohelet, the author of Ecclesiastes, tells us, “there is…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4).  Today is definitely a time to weep and mourn, but is it also a time to laugh and dance?  I would like to think so, but I’m not sure.  I love to laugh (dancing, not so much), and sometimes laughter helps us in the midst of grief.

What do you think of Sunday comics and 9/11?  What was your favorite 9/11 comic? 

Bulls and Baals (Gideon 9)

YHWH decided it was time to smash the Baal and slaughter the Bull.  He picked Gideon for the task (Judg. 6:25).

Gideon’s father, Joash had a Baal altar and before Gideon was to gather troops to overthrown the Midianites, they needed to undertake some idol bashing.  They were supposed to worship YHWH only, so the Baal altar needed to get torn down.  Joash also had an Asherah, which was technically a sacred pole (like a totem pole), but the pole was dedicated to the goddess Asherah, Baal’s supposed wife or consort.  The Asherah also needed to get cut down.  To celebrate this idol bashing, Gideon was also supposed to take his dad’s prize bull and slaughter it, using the wood from the Asherah.

This task should be no problem for a “mighty” warrior like Gideon, but he knew his father and the townspeople might not endorse this undertaking, so Gideon does it at night.  The text tells us that Gideon did it then because he was afraid (Judg. 6:27).

How would you feel if your son took the car (a bit like a bull) and crashed into your HD TV (the closest thing we have to an altar–we devote a lot of time and energy to it–Andrew Luck on TV right now is making it hard to finish this blog…)?

Before God calls us to do something big like Gideon, he’s going to want us to make him first.  God commands us to not worship idols, and even though we’re not really bowing to Baal much (hopefully…), we’ve other things we devote too much time, energy and money to (cars, computers, TVs, houses).

So have you ever smashed a TV, or destroyed one of your idols? 

“Not yet a Christian”

Received this email yesterday…

Dear Dr. Lamb,

I just finished your book “God Behaving Badly”. I am not yet a Christian, but have been on a decade and a half progression from being in Dawkins/Hitchens mode to being presently a deist who is friendly and curious about the faith. I’ve even recently started attending a church and (gasp!) reading the Bible. A big obstacle (that I knew was coming) was the subject of your book. Thank you for helping me gain a better understanding of Yahweh. You’ve provided me with another nugget to chew on.

Upon finishing the Pentateuch, another very unexpected obstacle has gotten in my way. You came tantalizingly close to addressing it: the fact that God is quite often a person, even at times a mundane regular dude. To me, this wreaks havoc on my understanding of the Trinity. I thought the coming of Jesus, the Word made flesh, was a singular event in history that occurred for a singular purpose. I have been intrigued by this for years because this seemingly whacked, logically absurd idea of a God-Man also has parallels in scientific discoveries (the dual nature of light, for example). To see God popping up willy nilly all over the place in human form in my mind displaces this significance and undermines Jesus’ role and uniqueness in the Trinity. In my line of thinking now, Jesus’ coming was far less special since Yahweh (or was that Jesus?) was doing it all over the place in the OT. The disciples understood the jaw-dropping nature of Jesus as God post-resurrection, but in the OT most people who encountered him as a person didn’t think much of it.

I realize this is not a single, coherent question so here goes: Is there a resource you can direct me to for a way to reconcile my misunderstanding of the Trinity with the OT accounts?

Respectfully, Jon

I replied, affirming him for his honesty and his question, made a few other comments, then recommended Christopher Wright’s, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament (  I asked for his permission to post this, hoping that others might have helpful recommendations. 

What books would you recommend for Jon?