Month: February 2012

John Huss vs. Mary Magdalene (Lent Madness)

If you like both NCAA basketball and church history, here’s something to bring those two disparate worlds together: Lent Madness.  Click here: Lent Madness.  It’s a 32-team bracket competition between the Saints.  You decide.

Today’s match-up, John Huss (the Bohemian reformer) against Mary Magdalene (early follower of Jesus), who has the home court advantage.  Vegas says this one is a toss-up, but in the votes cast so far MM has a commanding lead.  I was really torn here, because I wrote a Church History paper on Huss (also spelled Hus) who actually was a precursor to the reformation movement pre-Luther and pioneered the Cross-over dribble pre-Allen Iverson.  (Huss is being burned in the image on the left.  Notice how his hair matches the flames.)

But I went with Mary because it’s hard to go against someone who was so devoted to Jesus.


Got ordinance lust? (Psalm 119:20)

My soul is consumed with longing
for your ordinances at all times (Psalm 119:20 NRSV).

This is my favorite verse in Psalm 119, and one of my favorites in all Scripture (the 4th verse in the Gimel section of the psalm).

I tell students,

“Fill in the blank in the following phrase (I don’t tell them where it’s from):

My soul is consumed with longing at all times for your what?”

Love?  Kiss?  Body?  (I tell them it’s PG, lest they get any ideas.)  I’ve done this dozens of times and no one has ever filled in the blank with “ordinances”.

“Consumed”, “with longing”, “at all times” – It’s tempting to tell the psalmist, “Get a room!”

What sorts of things cause your soul to be consumed with longing?  On 2nd thought, don’t answer that.  But I’d be willing to bet it’s not God’s commands.

The psalmist is lusting after God’s word.  Actually, not just God’s word, but God’s ordinances.  I discuss this in God Behaving Badly (p. 127-128).  Got ordinance lust?  Probably not.

What could cause this type of obsession with the word of God?  The psalmist understands that God’s commands are designed to connect people to God: “Love God with your whole heart, soul and might” (Deut. 6:5); “You shall love your neighbor.  I am YHWH” (Lev 19:18).  The psalmist desperately desires a deep relationship with God, so that means a wild pursuit of God’s ordinances.

God, deepen my obsession with your commands.

So, got ordinance lust?  Which is your favorite command in the Bible?

Kings Behaving Badly

In a few hours, after coaching my younger son’s basketball team (leaving at half-time; fortunately, I have great co-coaches, one of whom is my older son), I drive back to Lewisburg, PA to look at Kings Behaving Badly, specifically, Ahab.

I’ll be speaking to InterVarsity students from Northern PA schools (Albright, Alvernia, Bloomsburg, Bucknell, Lehigh, Penn State, Susquehanna) about Elijah, the Kings and the Idols.

We’ll be talking about idols and idolatry.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel struggled for hundreds of years with idolatry, despite God repeatedly sending them prophets like Elijah and Elisha.  The problem is, that even though Jeroboam I was a capable leader, he got the nation off to a bad start by setting up golden calves for the people to worship, one at the southern end of Judah at Bethel, and another at the northern end of Judah at Dan.  Golden calves?  Doesn’t that sound familiar?  Yeah, as in Exodus 32 and Aaron.  Over the course of the Northern Kingdoms several hundred year history, no Israelite king got rid of Jeroboam’s altars of golden calves, not even righteous Jehu.

When you’re starting something, a Bible Study, a class or a new nation, make sure you get off to a good start, otherwise you can mess things up for centuries.

Painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

ET phone home (Psalm 119:19)

I live as an alien in the land;
do not hide your commandments from me (Psalm 119:19 NRSV).

The first half of this verse could be translated as “Alien am I on earth”.  (NIV and NAS have “on earth” instead of “in the land.”)

Sounds like ET.  And in the 2nd half of the verse the psalmist is “phoning home”, telling God to not hide his commandments from the psalmist.

I continue my blogging pilgrimage through Psalm 119, one verse each Sunday.  This is the third verse in the Gimel section, where each verse begins with the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Gimel.  This verse begins with ger, translated as “alien” in NRSV (NIV has “stranger”, ESV “sojourner”).

The psalmist’s obsession with God’s word has resulted in foreign-ness from the world around.  A stranger in a strange land.  The psalmist’s total delight in God and his law seems bizarre to us, and it must have seemed strange to the psalmist that others did not share the obsession.

Elsewhere the psalmist is worried about God hiding his face from the psalmist (Psalm 10:1; 13:1; 27:9), but here the concern isn’t for God’s face, but God’s commandment.  That’s what makes the psalmist weird.

“God, make me more of an alien.”

What parts of God’s word seem most alien to you?