Tummy Aches (Childish Things part 3)

I don’t feel nauseous often. And for that I’m thankful. As a kid, however, it seemed that I had stomach aches for various reasons with frequency. I’ve always hated them. I will say this though, anytime I get a stomach ache, be it from flu or food poisoning or something else, it’s always a time of deep personal reflection as I have nothing to do but lie there and wait for the feeling to subside. Any slight break in the queasiness is a welcome relief. And I feel like if I never ate anything at all, ever again for the rest of my life, that’d be fine. But inevitably, my appetite returns and things balance out and go back to normal. If only I could get that insulated and overly sensitive feeling that always accompanies a stomach ache—without the stomach ache. The “deep personal reflection” isn’t worth the pain.

This being said, there is a word that, if I think about it long enough, will produce something akin to nausea in me. I guess this is a good thing considering the word and its definition. But as I previously mentioned, nausea and I don’t abide well. I have yet to meet someone who enjoys the occasional tummy ache. The word in question is kerygma. If I think about this word long enough, repeating it over and over, I do feel the beginnings of a psychosomatic queasiness. It’s really weird. And kinda sad considering the word simply means “the Gospel of Jesus Christ”. You’d think that something as important as the Gospel would go down easy. Well, not necessarily. John had a similar thing happen:

Exiled to the island of Patmos off the coast of Asia Minor, John the beloved disciple received the message of Revelation there. He must have been in his nineties. In chapter ten, he sees “a mighty angel come down” (verse 1) with a little book. John asks the angel to give the book to him and the angel complies but tells him to “take it and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but” he says “it shall be in thy mouth as sweet as honey.” (verse 9, emphasis mine) So, I guess it does go down smooth, but maybe there’s something there that conflicts with our constitution. And could cause us to have an upset stomach.

Kerygma

. Kerygma. Kerygma. Ew…

“How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)

There’s a method of teaching language—a second language—that some teachers employ called “Total Physical Response”. It essentially means using the whole body as a means of conveying, not just a spoken command, but an accompanying action to the instruction. While it’s not universally recognized among educators, it has worked well in many classrooms. Dr. James Asher developed the process in the late sixties and it’s been gaining popularity ever since.

God is all about getting us back to a hundred percent. It isn’t just about tasting God, it’s about consuming Him, and in turn being consumed by Him. If the word of God, the Gospel of Jesus—in whole or part—doesn’t sit well with you, then continue to press on. “Commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still” (Psalm 4:4—deep personal reflection). Tell God the things about His word that make no sense to you and (figuratively) make you sick to your stomach. But don’t give up. That’s the principal thing. Don’t stop believing that God loves you enough to give you answers to your questions.

“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” (3 John 1:2)

“And I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

All of this points to our response to what God has already initiated. His action that calls for our “total physical (and spiritual, and mental) response”. God set the table and all we have to do is show up (not throw up). “That ye present your bodies a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) And instead of swallowing your pride, spit it out and then “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

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The Ring of Truth (Childish Things part 2)

Did you ever play that game in Kindergarten (that’s when I first remember playing it, anyway)? It’s called “Telephone” and the way it works is you sit in a circle and tell a story or say a statement and then say “pass it on”. The information, whatever it may be, makes its way around the class and eventually ends up back at the person who thought up said statement. The object of the game is to see just how different the statement ends up being when it finally makes its way back to the source.

There’s a common Italian phrase, “traduttore, tradittore” and it means “translator, traitor”. It refers to the fact that, since languages are so different in relation to one another, there can be no perfect translation of a body of work. And anyone undertaking the task of translating a work from one tongue to another necessarily ends up alienating the writer and the reader by default. Somehow not retaining the “author’s original intent” and passing it on to a foreign reader.

“And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined do.” (Genesis 11:6) Babel is Hebrew for “confusion”, by the way. And “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Most, if not all (though I haven’t checked myself), of our translations of the Bible into English have gone back to the original sources in order to maintain the integrity of the original texts. Hebrew (for the Old Testament), Aramaic and Greek were then translated over the centuries into Latin and slowly, carefully, made their way into our English vernacular and have changed alongside it. I’ve picked through numerous translations and one verse will stand out to me and speak to me in such a way as to endear the entire translation to me, even though other scriptures in the same translation seem to miss the mark. Again, it would seem there is no one perfect translation. But notice what Jesus says: “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63) The words that Jesus spoke over two-thousand years ago have not lost their potency through the centuries one whit. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16, emphasis mine). The words that Jesus speaks are for every ear and for every tongue. And the Holy Spirit is the one who causes what He said to come alive in our hearts and minds.

“For the word of God is quick (it means alive), and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

I used to take issue with certain translations of the Bible that I felt did the original Hebrew and Greek a disservice. I became somewhat of a “Bible snob”. The phrase “translator, traitor” resonated with me because I literally felt that there was something akin to a conspiracy regarding the translation of God’s word into a diluted and unreasonable facsimile thereof.  I shared my distaste with my dad one day and he gave me a very practical way of looking at the topic. He said that when you look at a word–say “mercy”–and you realize that every way that it’s translated in each of the disparate translations, is included within the original word, be it Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic. In other words, the Greek word translated “mercy” or “lovingkindness” or what-have-you is so dense as to include every subsequent English synonym. And in turn bless each individual reader based on preference of translation. And God says, “Here, it’s for you. Pass it on.”

The Holy Spirit translates our prayers to God: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself (really should read Himself) maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” In other words (literally), the Holy Spirit takes the prayers that we give to God in English and renders them in a more complete way to the Lord so as to plumb the depths that we cannot (yet) reach. This is why it’s important to talk to God and develop a conversational relationship with Him.

Countering Opposition (Childish Things part 1)

It’s not opposite day.

Actually, if it were opposite day, how would you ever know? So I say “today’s not opposite day!” andthere you have it. Truth. A simple statement. No reverse psychology, no subtle casuistry. The reason why I think this might end up being a problem is because, say it was opposite day. Follow me here. If I told you that it was opposite day, then it actually wouldn’t be opposite day. Because if it were indeed opposite day, as I just mentioned, then as the rule applies, it wouldn’t be opposite day. But if it truly wasn’t opposite day, then the rule wouldn’t apply. God help us. So, I guess the only way to truly play the game of “Opposite Day” is to start somewhere in the middle and just (not) go about your (non) business, never declaring the obvious (“today’s opposite day!”), because the more you reason it out, the more you’re bound to confuse and contradict.

Debate all you want. Multiply dimensions ad infinitum. Go ahead and tell me that there’s an alternate universe somewhere that is doing everything obversely to us. The point is, logically, semantically, it can never truly be opposite day.

Um, actually it can. Paul writes to Timothy: “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth”. (2 Timothy 2:24, emphasis mine)

And who might they be? “Those that oppose themselves”. Weird. This statement introduces self-duality into the equation. How in the worldthis worldcan you oppose yourself? Paul encountered it in his own life. When he says in his letter to the Romans how he struggled with dueling, dual natures within his body. Wanting to please God, aligning his will with the Will of God. Yet every time he wished to live it out in real-time, something deep down struggled against it. His flesh, as he refers to it in chapter 7, verse 18: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” If you find this struggle going on inside of you, as I and every other Christian will and has, then take heart! You’re not alone.

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:25)

The internal struggle between our own will versus God’s is going on all the time. The choice between selfish, self-service and the willingness to forsake that option in light of what God wants, is presented before us all the time. Each decision, leading the direct opposite direction from the other. God says through Moses in Deuteronomy (30:19), “I call Heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life“. Simple enough, right? How many of us realize the path down which all our bad decisions lead? “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished bringeth forth death.” Choose life, says God. Shouldn’t that appear on God’s commandment list? I suppose anytime we obey Him, we choose life. I like that. And the obverse, the opposite would be…? Figure it out.

Paul writes to the Galatians and says something very interesting. He says “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh (i.e. his physical body) I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Here, he’s saying that God, through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, has given him another life, another nature. And never the twain shall meet. David says “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) You can’t get more oppositional than that. And that is exactly what happens when we believe on and in Jesus.

So, with reference to “those that oppose themselves”, Paul is talking about Christians who have received God’s new nature at the very depth of their being and yet, somehow, are living in opposition to it. Guilty as charged. This is actually really good news. How many Christians walk around knowing and that “old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17)? Regardless of whether we realize it or not, we have been changed for the better. Notice the second part of the verse in 2 Timothy: “God will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” What truth? The truth that you are not who you used to be upon believing in Jesus.

Stop opposing yourself. Choose life.