Error
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21
  • JFTP::connect: Could not connect to host "tlcraleigh.org" on port 21

Koine

Koine (κοινη) Greek is the language in which the New Testament was written. It was the dialect not of the empire or the academy, but of the common people. This blog endeavors to put insights from God's word into the language of today.

09
Nov
0

Living the Word

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

What do the people of the living word look like? This post continues the thought of the previous two posts, which began with a discussion of what it means to be the people of the living word, and then gave a Biblical basis for that idea. We now focus on how to bring those words to life by putting them into action.


There is no single answer to the question of the appearance of this special people. If we were to define it in precise terms our definition would immediately become useless--it is a life that is expressed in the image of God, not in the words of man. It is never attainable in perfection, but finds satisfaction only in striving for a deeper relationship with Him. Although it is made up of paradoxes and contradictions, it is grounded in one certain truth: "In the beginning was the Word... in him was life." (John 1:1-5) Jesus is that Word, and when he lives in us we become his people. Here are some indications of what that life looks like:

 

The People of the Living Word...


We have focused on the idea of words (what the Bible has to say) and on living (putting these things into action). As a final point, I will mention that all along we have been talking about people. This is a collective, communal term. To try to live this life in isolation is to set yourself up to fail. As human beings we all fail, but as a people we can help one another to overcome our faults. At TLC and many other churches around the world, Christians are working together to become the people of the living Word. If you are ever in the Raleigh area, please come visit. We'd like to hear your story.

 

Hits: 33005 Continue reading →
0 votes
09
Nov
0

A People of the Living Word

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

In the last post we identified our calling to be the people of the living word--not keeping our noses in the book or giving our souls over to the world. This post looks at where this idea can be found in Scripture, and the next post gives an idea of how this might play out in our lives.

 

In our men's Bible study this week we went off on a brief tangent about the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. In that account, the Spirit directs Philip to the chariot in which the official is riding, on his return home from Jerusalem. As he runs up alongside the chariot, he immediately asks the eunuch "Do you understand what you are reading?" How did Philip know what the eunuch was reading? Because he was reading out loud. This point may seem obvious to some, but in the ancient world there was no such thing as reading silently to yourself (as you are probably doing with this blog post). All reading was out loud--there were no capital letters or punctuation to signal the beginning or ends of sentences or even words. The only way that you could turn the written text into something meaningful was to literally sound it out. This is part of what makes translating ancient texts so difficult.

 

While this may seem ancient or unrelatable to us today, it does point to an important lesson. In the world of the first century, it would have been unthinkable to have "personal Bible study" the way many of us think of it today, reading silently first thing in the morning or just before bed. Reading was a more active activity, with not only the mind but also the body (or at least the vocal chords) involved. To read or study was quite literally to proclaim the word. Just think--sometimes we're even embarrassed to let people know that we're silently reading the Bible on our phones.

 

The practice of proclaiming the word was a good one, and one that we have lost. Consider the following passages that mention the value of hearing the word:

 

For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." 14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?...  17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10)

 

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. (John 8:47)


Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. (Acts 15:17)

 

"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." (Hebrews 4:7)

 

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3)

 

If we are to be a people of the Living Word, our first duty is to actually make the word come alive. Of course this happens in our hearts when we become Christians, but it can also be a part of our daily lives. The next time that you read the Bible personally, read it to yourself out loud. Think of the way that the words sound to your ear or feel as they come out of your mouth. When texts are read in church, think about listening to them rather than reading. Of course this practice of bringing the Word to life involves much more than just our study habits. We'll talk about that next time.

Hits: 111048 Continue reading →
0 votes
09
Nov
0

The Living Word

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

It is as unnatural to be a "people in the book" as it is to be a "people of the world." Neither of these is our calling as Christians. We are to be a people of the living Word.

 

What is a "people in the book"? If we're talking about the Good Book, wouldn't that be a good thing? At various times, many Christian groups that were breaking away from other religious movements have referred to themselves as the "people of the book" (see here). Ironically, the term isn't found in the Bible at all. However, it is commonly used to indicate that a group is intent on using the Bible as its guide. The problem comes when the people of the book becomes a people in the book--when they put more time and effort into word studies and doctrinal debates than they do into living the Gospel story. (see Ecclesiastes 12:12)

 

At the opposite extreme are the people of the world. In a familiar passage Paul tells the Corinthians to be a people that are in the world but not of the world. In other words, we don't abandon our communities, we reshape them. We don't quit our jobs, we do them better than non-Christians. We don't forsake our families, we love them despite our faults. Instead of following this calling however, many Christians today grow more and more comfortable living as people not just in the world but of it--concealing our differences rather than letting them be known.

 

These two extremes, though often in conflict, can find themselves in a truce. In fact, they are often melded together when people choose to live their Christianity only "in the book"--they know all the right answers in their head but prefer to live the way the world does. At times I have certainly been guilty of this myself. The challenge then, for me as well as you, is to be a people of the book who live in the world.

 

How do we do this? What do the people of the living word look like? That will be the subject of the next two posts.

Hits: 49724 Continue reading →
0 votes
07
Nov
0

Jesus our Tabernacle

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

photo-3Yesterday at TLC we had a very cool devotional around a Feast of Booths theme. As we learned, the Feast/Festival of Booths/Tabernacles is an autumn festival in Israel. Many of the elements of the celebrations closely parallel elements of Jesus's life. One part that really stuck with me was the description of Jesus as our tabernacle:

 

 

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tabernacle ( not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Heb 9:11-12)

 

We also discussed the water ceremony, where the priests would take a jar of water from the temple pool for each of the days of the festival, and pour it out along with wine on the last day. This closely parallels the pouring of water and blood from Jesus' body when his side was pierced. There were many more interesting parallels as well. I would encourage everyone to watch the video of our devotional once it is up, and to consider spending some time studying this topic on your own.

Hits: 90145 Continue reading →
0 votes
20
Oct
0

The Value of Honesty

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

We have talked before about living in reality and about acting in a way that is consistent with our values. One key guideline for acting in accordance with those two principles is honesty:

 

Being honest is simply being consistent with reality. To be dishonest is to be in conflict with reality, which is therefore self-defeating. A primary reason that individuals fail is because they become disconnected from reality, pretending that facts are other than they are.


To be honest does not require that we know everything. Knowledge is always contextual and man is not omniscient. However, we must be responsible for saying what we mean and meaning what we say.

 

Honesty is simple. The book of James is a letter about how to live a simple Christian life. In chapter 5, he echoes his brother's statement from the Sermon on the Mount: "Let your 'yes' be yes and your 'no' be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation." Honesty requires no exaggeration. This does not give us an excuse to be impolite, though: politeness is responding to the needs of the person you are talking to. But if we are not being honest with them, then we are not addressing their true needs.

 

Honesty is wise. One of the great things about honesty is that it frees you up to think about other things. If you are not always having to concern yourself with which story you told someone, you can invest your whole self into the conversation. Honesty is about more than just speech, too. It is about the way that we live our lives. As the quotation above says, dishonesty is disconnection with reality. It leads to the life of the "double-minded man" who cannot appreciate the true goodness of God and never makes progress in life.

 

Honesty is responsible. Being honest with ourselves is the most crucial step toward an honest life. It requires admitting that we are imperfect, broken, sinful creatures, and that this status is the result of our own actions. But rather than pretending that there is no problem or that there is nothing we can do about it, the honest soul looks for reprieve in the grace of God. Look at how James describes an honest response to the word of God:

 

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

 

The responsible thing for any honest sinner to do is not to put on a mask and pretend that everything is alright, but to unmask our failure so that we can confront it and allow God to work on us. At TLC we have a group that is involved in this process, confronting our failures and supporting one another as we do so. We would encourage you to find the blessing of honesty in your life too.

Tags: Untagged
Hits: 11518 Continue reading →
0 votes
18
Oct
0

Bible Sentiments Visualized

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

Via flowingdata, here is a visualization of positive and negative sentiments in the Bible over time. What do you think of its accuracy?

 

Bible-sentiment-analysis-625x625

 

Red is negative and black is positive.

Here's their version of the story:

 

Things start off well with creation, turn negative with Job and the patriarchs, improve again with Moses, dip with the period of the judges, recover with David, and have a mixed record (especially negative when Samaria is around) during the monarchy. The exilic period isn’t as negative as you might expect, nor the return period as positive. In the New Testament, things start off fine with Jesus, then quickly turn negative as opposition to his message grows. The story of the early church, especially in the epistles, is largely positive.

 

What might the positives during the era of the judges have been? The exile? If accurate, this is a reminder of Bebe's lesson two Sundays ago--as Christians we should be optimistic and hopeful even (or especially) in hard times.

Hits: 53925 Continue reading →
0 votes
13
Oct
0

The Waste of Worry

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

We have been talking about values recently, but today my friend Adam has some thoughts on how wasteful worrying can be:

 

Occupying Wall Street. Working long hours. Stressing ourselves sick over money.

 

What's the big deal?

 

The Lord says, "do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on" (Matthew 6:25). He says everything's gonna be just fine. He doesn't say we should be lazy, that we should forsake our jobs and responsibilities and not take care of our families. He doesn't say nothing bad will ever happen. And -- get this -- he doesn't say we will never be hungry or without clothing.

 

What he does say is this: it doesn't matter. "Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?"

 

Take care of the important stuff. Let's get our heart right and our priorities straight. Let's stop thinking about ourselves all the time. Let's stop worrying so much about losing everything in this world. There are weightier matters: justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23).

 

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness..." (Matthew 6:33).

 

-apl

 

How appropriate for our times (and all times, really). This past weekend was fall break at my school, and some of my classmates went out of town. One of them went to New York City, another to Washington D.C. Both of them encountered the various "Occupy __" protests, and were surprised at how small the groups of protestors actually were. The one who went to NYC said there were about 100 people on one city block, not even interfering with traffic. In DC the group was slightly larger, and the police were blocking off streets so that they could march. (I will leave the irony of police protecting protestos carrying signs like "We are Egypt" to the reader.)

 

The point is, these protests have been getting a lot of attention on the news and probably inciting the ire of many in middle America who have no idea how insignificant they truly are. We talked about the media in our Sunday morning class, and while I think blaming technology or journalism for the state of society is an all-too-common cop-out, we do need to be careful about how much attention we pay to them. Television and the internet have the ability to magnify very minor issues, making the unimportant seem urgent. They take a speck of sawdust in the world and poke it right into our eyes, making it seem like a 2-by-4. It is our job to make sure that we are seeing the world as it truly is, and focusing on the truly important.

Hits: 53313 Continue reading →
0 votes
12
Oct
0

The Value of Productivity

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

It is a little bit harder to relate John Allison's thoughts on productivity to a spiritual application than it has been so far. What lessons can we draw from what he has to say?

 

We are committed to being producers of wealth and well-being by taking the actions necessary to accomplish our mission. The tangible evidence of our productivity is that we have rationally allocated capital through our lending and investment process, and that we have provided needed services to our clients in an efficient manner resulting in superior profitability.

 
Profitability is a measure of the differences in the economic value of the products/services we produce and the cost of producing these products/services. In a long-term context and in a free market, the bigger the profit, the better. This is true not only from our shareholders' perspective (which would be enough justification), but also in terms of the impact of our work on society as a whole. Healthy profits represent productive work.


I see two principles underlying what John has said here. First, productive work deserves a reward. "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." (2 Thes 3:10) Daily bread is the just reward for daily labor. If bread is the gift of God, this also means that labor is a gift from God. Many see work as something to avoid, not recognizing the value that a person can derive from the act of work. Others are constantly working but have no ultimate goal and cannot see how their work benefits others, which is also frustrating. I think this is why the Bible emphasizes the phrase "working with your hands" (1 Thes 4:11) over and over again--it is intimately linked with creative effort. It is very easy, though, for the work of our hands to become an idol (Psa 28:4-5).


This leads to our second principle: the possibility of a reward is a valid reason to pursue a course of action. This does not mean that we should always go after the biggest reward available, whether physical or spiritual. But it does suggest that keeping a reward in mind can help us to direct our efforts. As Christians, we should keep in mind that all of our efforts are directed at one final destination--heaven. This allows us to judge possible courses of action and ask, will this bring me closer to heaven or steer me away from it? Will doing ___ help others get to heaven or not? We cannot be certain of the outcome of every effort, but keeping our ultimate purpose in mind is a good guide. An eternal reward is the only true satisfaction for an eternal soul.

Hits: 16190 Continue reading →
0 votes
11
Oct
0

The Value of Independent Thinking

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

So far, we have discuss the values of reality and reason. Today we discuss independent thinking, which applies reason to the particular situation in which you find yourself:

 

We learn a great deal from each other. Teamwork is important…. However, each of us thinks alone. Our minds are not physically connected. In this regard, each of us must be willing to make an independent judgment of the facts based on our capacity to think logically. Just because the "crowd" says it is so, does not make it so.

 

In this context, each of us is responsible for our own actions. Each of us is responsible for our personal success or failure….

 

All human progress by definition is based on creativity, because creativity is the source of positive change. Creativity is only possible to an independent thinker.

 

Creativity is not about just doing something different. It is about doing something better. To be better, the new method/process must be judged by its impact on the whole organization, and as to whether it contributes to the accomplishment of our mission.

 

There is an infinite opportunity for each of us to do whatever we do better. A significant aspect of the self-fulfillment which work can provide comes from creative thought and action.

 

In churches, and at TLC in particular, we spend a lot of time discussing our ideas. If that discussion is not done correctly, we may not make any progress or grow any closer. However, we should not judge the value of our discussions just by whether they make us agree: we may still genuinely disagree, but if we learn to appreciate one another's opinions then the discussion can be valuable. But it requires creativity to chart a course of action for a group of people who disagree. For this, we need independent thinking--not just in our leaders, but in every member of the group.


This does not mean that we will take every suggestion: on Sunday morning we studied Korah's rebellion, when some members of the Israelite nation had done some "independent thinking" about how to lead the congregation. The problem, though, was that people were only following because they were popular and vocal complainers. True, godly, realistic independent thinking requires offering a positive solution in light of God's word. We will discuss how to turn these solutions into reality tomorrow.

Hits: 54998 Continue reading →
0 votes
07
Oct
0

More on the Value of Reason

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

I didn't see until after yesterday's post that a New York Times blogger had a recent post on reason, and its role in making legitimate arguments: 

 

But what counts as "legitimate"? There's the rub. A legitimate challenge is presumably a rational challenge. Disagreements over epistemic principles are disagreements over which methods and sources to trust. And there we have the problem. We can't decide on what counts as a legitimate reason to doubt my epistemic principles unless we've already settled on our principles—and that is the very issue in question. The problem that skepticism about reason raises is not about whether I have good evidence by my principles for my principles. Presumably I do. The problem is whether I can give a more objective defense of them. That is, whether I can give reasons for them that can be appreciated from what Hume called a "common point of view" — reasons that can "move some universal principle of the human frame, and touch a string, to which all mankind have an accord and symphony."

 

I think that we ignore this problem — the problem of defending our epistemic principles from a common point of view — at our peril.

 

More to the point of the discussion I raised about Alexander Campbell, here is Douglas Baker:

 

Locke's desire was to make Christianity more "reasonable." Authoring a work by that very name—The Reasonableness of Christianity in 1695—and beginning his Second Treatise of Government (1689) with an overt denial of many widely accepted Bible doctrines that served, in his opinion, as barriers to personal freedom, he explicitly argued that the "state all men are naturally in" is one of perfect freedom without need for further help in any way for humankind to learn the proper exercise of that freedom. The goal of nature's law is an abiding state of liberty, but not an "uncontroleable liberty, to dispose of his person or possessions" in ways which harm himself or others. He believed "the state of nature has a law of nature to govern it." 

 

While I disagree with the larger point of Baker's article, I agree with him that Locke's thinking (which is closely related to the Scottish Enlightenment that I mentioned yesterday) has had a profound influence on American Christianity. 

Tags: Untagged
Hits: 40823 Continue reading →
0 votes
06
Oct
0

The Value of Reason

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

"Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand." Philippians 4:5 (ESV)

 

Today's thoughts:

Mankind has a specific means of survival, which is his ability to think, i.e., his capacity to reason logically from the facts of reality as presented to his five senses. A lion has claws to hunt. A deer has swiftness to avoid the hunter. Man has his ability to think. There is only one "natural resource" - the human mind.

Clear thinking is not automatic. It requires intellectual discipline and begins with sound premises based on observed facts. You must be able to draw general conclusions in a rational manner from specific examples (induction) and be able to apply general principles to the solution of specific problems (deduction). You must be able to think in an integrated way, thereby avoiding logical contradictions.

We cannot all be geniuses, but each of us can develop the mental habits which ensure that when making decisions we carefully examine the facts and think logically without contradiction in deriving a conclusion. We must learn to think in terms of what is essential, i.e., about what is important. Our goal is to objectively make the best decision to accomplish our purpose.

Rational thinking is a learned skill which requires mental focus and a fundamental commitment to consistently improving the clarity of our mental processes. 

 

Although you may not have thought of it in this way before, members of the churches of Christ tradition tend to have the reason thing down pretty well. Our "command, example, necessary inference" method of interpreting the Bible ("hermeneutic") come to us from what Ed Harrell called the Baconian Enlightenment--the historical period in which thinkers in Western Europe began to work from the assumption that reason was the key to unlocking all knowledge. Alexander Campbell was exposed to this teaching during a year at the University of Glasgow, before he emigrated to the US. (See here and here for more.)

 

What I want to challenge you to consider today is, what is the limit to this kind of thinking? Is there ever a time where we can lose people's interest in the message of the gospel by the way that we "reason" from the Bible? How do we balance our desire to approach the Scriptures through reason with the need for an appreciation for and awe of who God is and what He has done? 

 

Comments welcome.

Tags: Untagged
Hits: 21456 Continue reading →
0 votes
04
Oct
0

The Value of Reality

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

Today's value from John Allison is reality. He writes,

 

What is, is. If we want to be better, we must act within the context of reality (the facts). Businesses and individuals often make serious mistakes by making decisions based on what they "wish was so," or based on theories which are disconnected from reality. The foundation for quality decision making is a careful understanding of the facts.


There is a fundamental difference between the laws of nature (reality), which are immutable, and the man made. The law of gravity is the law of gravity. The existence of the law of gravity does not mean man can not create an airplane. However, an airplane must be created within the context of the law of gravity. At BB&T, we believe in being "reality grounded."

 

The world consists of facts. Postmodernism would have us believe that there is no such thing as reality. Yet, a large part of the message of the Bible is convincing us of the need to see the world as it truly is. If we do not believe that there are certain conditions that cannot change simply by wishing them away, then there is no need for a Savior.

 

Christians are a people grounded in reality. Christians are people who acknowledge the reality of sin and the need for salvation through Jesus. There are other ways that we can be even more grounded in reality. One of those we discussed in our Sunday morning class at TLC this week: the need to be yourself. God knows who you really are. If you choose not to accept that reality, or to deceive others about it, then you are not living in reality. Without knowing where the starting point is, how can you ever grow or improve? 

 

There are facts that we have yet to uncover. John's point about "the law of gravity" is interesting, because until Isaac Newton people did not know about it. Apples had been falling since the time of Adam and Even, but Newton was the first to discern a principle underlying it (or so the story goes). There are many seemingly isolated events, both in our own lives and in those recorded in Scripture, that are in reality part of a larger story. One of the great joys of Bible study is to relate stories from the Old Testament to the life and work of Christ. That can give us practice connecting events in our own life to the gospel story. If you want to live the gospel message, you have to first believe in its reality and its power to change your life. 

Tags: Untagged
Hits: 19016 Continue reading →
0 votes
03
Oct
0

Values for an Active Live

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

I heard an interview over the weekend with John Allision, the CEO of North Carolina-based BB&T. He listed 10 values that the company operates by. Many of these have Christian foundations. I will discuss these values individually in several upcoming posts.

 

First, here's what John had to say about values:

 

The great Greek philosophers saw values as guides to excellence in thinking and action. In this context, values are standards which we strive to achieve. Values are practical habits that enable us as individuals to live, be successful and achieve happiness. For BB&T, our values enable us to achieve our mission and corporate purpose.

 

To be useful, values must be consciously held and be consistent (non-contradictory). Many people have conflicting values which prevent them from acting with clarity and self-confidence.

 

Values and Actions He clearly connects values with actions when he says that they are "standards which we strive to achieve." By default, what you are striving to achieve is what you value. You can say that you value something else, but you are not being true to yourself. One way to get a sense of what you truly value is to look at how you spend your time. What will you be disappointed if you don't achieve in the next year? Does that goal have anything to do with who God wants you to be as a person?

 

Values and Reality John also makes a link between values and reality when he says that they are "practical habits." A real system of values, then, is put to the test in the way we live our lives. If we hold and follow a system of values but continual fail to achieve our goals, then we are doing something wrong. Todd has called this the "sin cycle," which I think is right. Holding yourself to an unrealistic standard is to set yourself up for disappointment. God expects improvement, not perfection.

 

Values and Clarity The last overall aspect of values to look at today is John's suggestion that they "must be consciously held and be consistent." That sounds a lot easier than it is. His description of "many people" who "have conflicting values" seems accurate to me, and is another way of describing the double-minded man that James talked about. When our values conflict not just with our own desires or the values of others but even with themselves, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We will look like the waves of the sea, going back and forth but never making progress. We will have no message that the world thinks is worth listening to. 

 

To summarize, holding values that are consistent is the only way to let them motivate you toward action. It is also important that your values fit with reality. We will talk more about this tomorrow.

Tags: Untagged
Hits: 47901 Continue reading →
02
Oct
0

Work, Wants, and Needs

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

Bebe had a great lesson this morning on being a light in dark times, which is directly related to the current recession. It coincided well with something I was listening to yesterday on the American standard of living. Our lives have gotten objectively more prosperous (note that I do not say better) over the past century. We are living in the most luxurious time and place in the history of the world. Why, then, are we dissatisfied?

 

I would suggest that it has something to do with the need for an inherent motive to work. Some might call this "greed," but I refrain from doing so because I think greed is only this innate desire carried out in an improper manner in the same way that lust is only love applied to improper contexts. This innate desire--let's call it "work ethic" for lack of a better term--can get off track in other ways too. One way that this can happen is when we confuse the desire to be wanted and needed (relationship) with work ethic. This is related to pride and dishonesty: we work hard so that what we are seen to do by others (our reputation) is confused for who we really our (our character, known mainly to God). C.S. Lewis once spoke on this matter (thanks to Gary Box for the link):

 

Often the desire conceals itself so well that we hardly recognize the pleasures of fruition. Men tell not only their wives but themselves that it is a hardship to stay late at the office or the school on some bit of important extra work which they have been let in for because they and So-and-so and the two others are the only people left in the place who really know how things are run. But it is not quite true. It is a terrible bore, of course, when old Fatty Smithson draws you aside and whispers, “Look here, we’ve got to get you in on this examination somehow” or “Charles and I saw at once that you’ve got to be on this committee.” A terrible bore… ah, but how much more terrible if you were left out! It is tiring and unhealthy to lose your Saturday afternoons: but to have them free because you don’t matter, that is much worse....


We are told in Scripture that those who ask get. That is true, in senses I can’t now explore. But in another sense there is much truth in the schoolboy’s principle “them as asks shan’t have.” To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of “insides,” full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no “inside” that is worth reaching. The true road lies in quite another direction.

 

The whole thing is worth reading. It also connects to our conversation in last week's men's study, where we discussed the difficulty of finding good leadership. It is more important to be going in the right direction than to have a lot of people following you. 

Hits: 14535 Continue reading →
0 votes
29
Sep
0

Nehemiah and Rosh Hashanah

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

Happy Rosh Hashanah. Over at my other blog, I responded to Jill Jacobs' article in honor of the holiday: 


 

There is no better time than Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for rabbis to speak about the pressing issues of the moment. Troy characterizes these days as a time "to bring forth a universal message about the unity of the Jewish people, the importance of our shared religious tradition, and the need to rededicate ourselves to observance of the Torah in the year to come."

But I prefer the traditional summary of the focus of these days: Tefilah (prayer), Teshuvah(repentance/return) and Tzedakah (acts of justice). Through tefilah we reflect on our year and find spiritual connection to the Divine and to the community with whom we pray. Through teshuvah we repair our relationships with God and with one another. And through tzedakah we turn outward and devote ourselves to creating a more just world in the year that has just begun. 

How can we as Christians incorporate tefilah, teshuvah, and tzedakah into what we do? While it is not the same new year that we often ascribe to, we are still relatively early in the school year. This was the theme of our singing at TLC Raleigh a few weeks ago. Consider briefly how Jacobs' article can give us advice for the school year.

Prayer: Yesterday was the 21st annual "Global Student Day of Prayer" which encourages students to engage in group prayer outside their school. Praying as an individual is always possible. Last night in the men's study we discussed Nehemiah, who prayed almost instantaneously to God when the king asked him a question. But praying in groups can give strength in other ways. You learn the concerns of your peers, you see how they relate to God, and you grow closer in your relationships to one another.

Repentance: Another lesson from Nehemiah is how quick he was to confess his sins to God. This wasn't just self-flagellation, though: he confessed in order to bring about change. We often miss this in our discussions with one another--we either end up saying how we dislike a situation but not what we did to cause it (complaining) or saying how angry we our with ourselves but not what we want to change (self-criticism). True confession doesn't get mired down in either complaint or criticism. It is a group activity that focusing on connecting where we are with where we want to be.

Acts of Justice: Once we know where we want to be, we can start to figure out how to get there. This doesn't mean that it will all happen at once. Nehemiah was a very prepared, practical man, but he still had to do some surveying of Jerusalem before he knew where to begin. When he saw the task to do, however, he didn't despair: he got some godly men together and started to work. Rebuilding Jerusalem's wall took vision and courage, but it also took the simple effort of putting one stone on top of another. That is how we bring justice into the world: one step at a time.

Rosh Hashanah offers Jewish believers the chance to reflect on a new year. Many Americans often do this around January 1. As Christians, however, we are living the new life. It is never too late, or too soon, to put these practices into action. 

Hits: 58384 Continue reading →
0 votes
25
Sep
0

Roll Away Your Stone

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

The metaphor of death is used powerfully throughout the New Testament, particularly in the sense of being “dead to sin.” Jesus spoke of the value of new life through death in John 12:24 when he said, “ unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Often this dying to sin is mistaken for a passive act, that we somehow simply become numb to the desires and temptations that assail us. However, there is also an active component to this process that manifests itself in new life. 


The fact that death to sin is an active and ongoing process can be seen from the second clause of Romans 6:11: “you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” This new life is an ongoing battle, a declaration that we not only resist Satan’s ways but that we pledge to bring grace and truth into the world through Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:17).


On the day of his resurrection, the disciples were made aware that Jesus was still alive when the stone was rolled away by the angel (Matthew 28:2). If the stone had remained in place, the good news would not have gone out to the world. Similarly, King Nebuchadnezzar became aware of Daniel’s survival when the stone was rolled away from the lions’ den (Daniel 6:17, 23). It is the removal of these stones that allowed witnesses to see life preserved (in Daniel’s case) or restored (in Jesus’ case) by God.

 

Similarly, our new life in Christ begins in a likeness of death: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5) We cannot just be dead to sin, though. We are also called to be alive in Christ. Moreover, our new life cannot be lived in a tomb, keeping our Christianity a secret (Matthew 5:15).

 


After we die to sin, there is another step: to ask God to roll away the stone that keeps others from seeing who we are as new creatures in Christ. Even those who have been Christians for many years may feel the dark presence of this stone, whether it comes from shame, embarrassment, pride, or simply a lack of attention given to spiritual things. Let us remember not only Jesus’ death and resurrection, but also what a powerful message was sent when the stone was rolled away. As the angel said, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen…. Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead.” (Matthew 28:4-7) Roll away whatever stone is standing in the way of the world seeing your new life in Christ.  Do not be afraid.

 

Tags: Untagged
Hits: 80739 Continue reading →
08
Sep
0

Four Hindrances to Knowing Jesus

Posted by Matt Dickenson
Matt Dickenson
Excited to be working with the group here at TLC Raleigh. I am also a graduate s
User is currently offline
in Koine

Three days after Jesus’s death, two of his disciples were walking to Emmaus. As they walked, they were discussing what had happened earlier that morning. Some of the women from their group had gone to the tomb, but had seen only an angel. When Peter and John went, they too found it empty. What really happened? Were the Romans right to fear someone stealing the body? As the men struggle with these questions, a stranger joins them on their walk. He seems to know nothing about what has been going on in Jerusalem.

Tags: Untagged
Hits: 51190 Continue reading →
0 votes