Month: March 2012

The Hunger Games- Why?

The biggest opening weekend of a non-sequel ever.  And not even during the Summer.

The top four books on Amazon as of 8:30 am, March 28, 2012  (they can change hourly):
#1.  The Hunger Games (book 1)
#2. The Hunger Games Trilogy (boxed set)
#3. Catching Fire (book 2)
#4. Mockingjay (book 3)

What makes The Hunger Games so popular?

Here’s a post from Ellen Painter Dollar reflecting on The Hunger Games and Justice.  You can buy the ebook from Julie Clawson, The Hunger Games and the Gospel.  

I’m still hoping someone writes a book entitled, God Behaving Badly and the Gospel.  You know you’re big when that happens.

Half my family has finished the trilogy and I’m battling my younger son right now for reading rights to Mockingjay.

So, why is this story so popular?  Thoughts? 

I’d rather go to the dentist

I don’t like grading papers.  I’d rather go to the dentist (and my dentist’s name is Dr Au–pronounced “Owww”, as in the sound one makes while grimacing in pain).

Unfortunately, my life is dominated by grading right now (I’m procrastinating by writing this blog post).  So, it’s nice to know that my savior, Jesus, who was incarnational in almost every way imaginable, was also involved in grading (sort of).  He understands my pain.

Last week in one of my classes we studied the Parable of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37).  A lawyer comes to test Jesus, asking him a question, ironically addressing Jesus as “Teacher” (“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”).  Typically teachers give the tests, not students.

But Jesus usurps the lawyer’s role as teacher and responds to the question in his typical manner–with a question (2 actually: “What is written in the law?  What do you read there?”)

The lawyer’s answer combines Deuteronomy 6:5 (“Love God…”) and Leviticus 19:18 (“Love neighbor…”).  It doesn’t take Jesus long to mark the lawyer’s oral examination (much quicker turnaround time than me): “You have answered correctly.”  Basically, an “A-plus.”

But the lawyer apparently wants extra credit, so he asks a follow-up question: “Who is my neighbor?” which prompts Jesus to tell the parable.  Afterwards, Jesus asks a follow-up question, “Who proved to be a neighbor?”  Tough question.  Probably not the priest or the Levite who both ignore the half-dead guy.  “The other guy?”  Apparently, this was the right answer, although Jesus doesn’t grade his answer.  (Jesus must not give extra credit either.  Or perhaps he’s just tired of grading?)

Interestingly, Jesus didn’t seem to be offended by the lawyer’s test, perhaps he sensed that the lawyer was genuinely curious about the question.

If you have a tough questions, ask Jesus, either in prayer or in the context in his body here on earth, the church.  In return, don’t be surprised if you get another question (the lawyer got 3), a story or a command (“Go and do likewise”).  Your response will be graded.

For a longer discussion of the parable, check out God Behaving Badly, pages 87-90.

What do you think–did Jesus like the lawyer’s question, or was he offended? 

Need a shrink? (Psalm 119:24)

Your decrees are my delight,
they are my counselors (Psalm 119:24 NRSV).

Once again the psalmist “delights” in the commands of God.  The word “delight” appears ten times in English versions of Psalm 119 (verses 14, 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174; although several different Hebrew words are used for “delight”).  Previously, it was a greedy delight in God’s laws, like a rich person over their wealth (119:14; see  Here the delight takes a different form.

Now the psalmist delights in divine decrees because they serve as counselors.  Not just telling us how to live, but giving advice and counseling like a real person (“they are my counselors”).

When I teach the Gimel section of 119 (verses 17-24) to the counseling cohort at Biblical, I ask for observations about the text.  It usually takes awhile to really notice verse 24, but then one of the students says something like, “God’s law acts as a counselor, and that makes the psalmist happy.”  Their choice of a vocation in counseling is given further validation from Scripture.

So, do you need a shrink?  Reading Scripture doesn’t cost $100 / hour.  Some of us can afford to pay a counselor.  All of us can afford a Bible.  That sounds delightful.

Don’t get me wrong.  If someone needs professional help, naively recommending that they just read their Bible instead could be seriously damaging on a variety of levels.  But we underestimate the power of God’s word to help us, to heal us and to guide us.

We’ve now finished the Gimel section of the Psalm.  That’s 24 Psalm 119 posts, only 152 left.  So, we’re off for April Fools, then start with Dalet in 2 weeks.

Lord, counsel me, advice me as I delight in your decrees. 

Prince plot protection (Psalm 119:23)

Even though princes sit plotting against me,
your servant will meditate on your statutes (Psalm 119:23 NRSV).

Enemies have gathered together against their common foe.  You.  They are scheming and plotting to bring about your downfall.  You have become aware of their conspiracy.  What do you do?

If you’re the psalmist, you meditate you God’s law.   How’s that going to help you?

The psalmist figures that the best thing to do in any situation is to focus on God.  It worked for Gideon against the coalition of the Midianites, the Amalekites and the Amorites (Judg. 6-7).

While I’ve never been in a situation where I’m literally surrounded, I still struggle to reflect on Scripture in the midst of crisis.  This verse offers a new perspective.  Even if one’s life is in danger, the safest thing to do is to read, study and reflect on God’s word.  Scripture offers the best prince plot protection.

This verse is the seventh in the Gimel section of the psalm (verses 17-24), beginning with gam (“even” or “also”).

God, keep us focused on your word when danger surrounds and life feels threatened.

How does meditating on God’s word help deal with threats? 

Here’s my highlighted version of the Gimel section.