A Call for Presidential Repentance

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, I wrote an “Appeal to Christians Regarding President-Elect Donald Trump,” which local and nationally known faith leaders, scholars, and ministers co-signed.

The petition began with an expression of concern about Trump’s character:

President-elect Donald Trump has bragged about sexual assault and berated his female accusers. He has repeatedly disparaged African Americans, Latinos, and other communities. He has denied what is true and promoted what is not. He has threatened political opponents, called for torture of U.S. enemies, and has failed to quickly and unequivocally denounce and distance himself from race-based crimes committed in his name.

Character matters, and a position of power brings out more of what is already there. People can change, yes—that’s the power of the Gospel! But Trump has expressed no interest in asking for forgiveness of wrongdoing, as he famously said in 2015.

My concerns about Trump’s character have only grown—perhaps a post for another time. Today, I simply want to say that more than ever, I stand by the five commitments in that “Appeal to Christians” petition:

  1. We will pray for President Trump, elected officials, our nation, our churches, and each other.
  2. Rooted in the teachings of Jesus and the prophets, we will tell the truth about the world around us, and we will speak up for those who have been marginalized and taken advantage of.
  3. We will actively resist the temptation to overlook or normalize values, speech, and behavior that are in conflict with what Scripture calls us to.
  4. In the name of Jesus, we call President Trump to repentance for dishonoring the image of God in others.
  5. We will fix our eyes on Jesus and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, redouble our efforts to honor the image of God in all people and to love all our neighbors as ourselves.

I’ve prayed for this presidential administration more than for any other. But the third commitment has been more difficult for me. Saying nothing or ignoring the news is easier. We can easily be desensitized, or lose our sense of shock. But it’s important that we keep our moral bearings.

Trump knew the other night that he would say in his State of the Union address: “We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution.” Those words themselves are right. Did he mean them?

I don’t think so. Earlier that same day he is reported to have called Chuck Schumer a “son of a b*tch.” He called Omarasa “that dog” after she published a book about working for the Trump administration. He referred to the pornographic film actress he cheated with on his then pregnant wife as “Horseface.” The list goes on.

Trump doesn’t “reject the politics of revenge,” as his SOTU address called for. By his own admission practicing “politics of revenge” is, for him, a way of life. In a previous speech in which he shared advice for achieving success, he said: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.”

So why is he pretending he believes otherwise? And are we being discerning in putting his words to the test?

Monday night’s talk of putting away revenge is not Trump turning over a new leaf (though we wish it were!)—it’s disingenuous lying (and gaslighting). In other contexts we would readily identify this as an abuser’s means of keeping control: he wants to keep others from pushing back on him while he continues to say whatever vindictive thing he wants to say.

Just as we would want our children to stand up to bullies at school, I hope the media and citizens alike point this discrepancy out—because as Marilyn Chandler McEntyre writes, we have “the responsibility not to tolerate lies.”

Frank Bruni was right on the money the morning after the address:

He pretends to care about matters that don’t move him in the least. He feigns blamelessness in situations where he’s entirely culpable and takes credit in circumstances where he has more to apologize for. He presents himself in a positive light, as one kind of person, when his actions paint him in a negative light, as a different character altogether. Many of his biggest lies are to himself.

Jeremiah warned the people about false prophets who said, “Peace, peace,” where there was no peace. So let’s acknowledge that Trump’s own words—about himself and directed to others—testify against him: he does not want to move beyond revenge politics. He just wants to quiet any who oppose him. That is not “peace.”

Consider this short post, then, one citizen’s small effort to make good on the third and fourth commitments from the petition above: to “actively resist the temptation to overlook or normalize values, speech, and behavior that are in conflict with what Scripture calls us to,” and “to call President Trump to repentance for dishonoring the image of God in others.”

Those are commitments that those who voted for Trump and those who voted for Hillary (and those who voted for Evan and those who voted for Jill!) can all get behind.

In his State of the Union address, Trump called on America to “choose greatness.”

I call on him to repent, come clean, begin telling the truth, and choose the greatness that he will only know when he asks God for forgiveness and begins to walk, as Scripture says, in the light of the Lord.

“Who Am I… that You Have Loved Me Forever?” Another Reason to Love the Septuagint

I’m already finding Will Ross’s LXX Reading plan rewarding. My Greek is improving again, and it’s been a rich devotional practice.

Here’s another reason to love the Septuagint: a beautiful, praise-inducing textual variant one would never see when reading the Hebrew text or its English translations.

This comes in a passage where David responds to God’s promise of an eternal throne, a message given through the prophet Nathan.

Here is 1 Chronicles 17:16, in the Masoretic text and the NRSV:

מִֽי־אֲנִ֞י יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהִים֙ וּמִ֣י בֵיתִ֔י כִּ֥י הֲבִיאֹתַ֖נִי עַד־הֲלֹֽם
“Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?”
Here it is in the Septuagint, with the New English Translation of the Septuagint:
Τίς εἰμι ἐγώ, κύριε ὁ θεός, καὶ τίς ὁ οἶκός μου, ὅτι ἠγάπησάς με ἕως αἰῶνος;
Who am I, Lord God, and what is my house, that you have loved me forever?

“You have brought me thus far” (Hebrew) vs. “you have loved me forever” (Greek). Both beautiful, but the latter is simply arresting.

Okay, so you would learn about this if you were reading the Hebrew with the BHS and its apparatus, which notes the variant by back-translating the Greek into the Hebrew the translator might have been looking at:

𝔊 ἠγάπησάς με ἕως αἰῶνος = אֲהַבְתַּנִי עַד־עוֹלָם

In other words, the Greek translator could have been looking at the same Hebrew and just transposed a few letters.

Interestingly, the Tov/Polak MT-LXX parallel picks up the difference between “thus far” (MT) and “forever” (LXX) but not “brought me” (MT) vs. “loved me” (LXX). Even the parallel 2 Samuel 7:18 (LXX) doesn’t fully mirror this Chronicles verse. It has instead:

ὅτι ἠγάπηκάς με ἕως τούτων = that you have loved me thus far (lit., until these)

Regardless of which reading has the most support (and I just don’t have access to original manuscripts!), the LXX of 1 Chronicles 17:16 is certainly beautiful!

Who am I, Lord God, and what is my house, that you have loved me forever?

Memorize Weekly Verses in 2019

Open Bible by Petr Kratochvil

I’ve made a plan for memorizing verses of Scripture each week in 2019.

I intend, with God’s help, to follow this weekly plan. So far, so good! I have shared it with my congregation and wanted to share it here, in case any others have interest in joining me, or would otherwise find it helpful.

Each week there is a suggested verse or verses, spanning the whole sweep of the Old and New Testaments. There are never more than three verses to learn per week, except for the Psalm 23 week and the 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 week. Many weeks suggest memorizing a single verse.

You can find a printable/downloadable PDF of the plan right here. You’ll also find (on the first page) some notes about reading in context, as well as “16 Ways to Memorize” that could be helpful, should you choose to take this on.

Let me know if you’ll be memorizing (or reading) along!

One Year Graded Septuagint Reading Plan

Check out this excellent plan from Will Ross for reading through selections of the Septuagint in 2019. I plan to follow it, using the Reader’s LXX I’m grateful exists in our lifetime.

Septuaginta &c.

It’s the time of year when conscientious types start thinking ahead about their next year of bible reading (and how it’s going to be better than this year). With that in mind, it seems appropriate to post a reading plan of my own design. One for the Septuagint, of course.

Like many of my recent side projects, this plan grew out of my work with Greg Lanier on Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition (Hendrickson 2018).

We have been really pleased over the past several weeks to see the enthusiastic reception of the Reader‘s Edition. It’s garnered a lot of positive attention in various outlets in terms of both production and content. Here are some examples from around the blogosphere:

Zwinglius Redivivus
Abram K-J
Exegetical Tools
Evangelical Textual Criticism
theLAB
Books At a Glance
There is even a pretty lengthy unboxing video and a shorter one.

Amidst all this discussion…

View original post 305 more words

My Sermon This Morning: The Light Shines in Our Hearts

It’s been a while since I posted one of my Sunday sermons here. Below is what I preached this morning, the Second Sunday of Advent, on 2 Corinthians 4:1-6.


 

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_4044
This photo taken at 4:14 p.m.

Until recently I’d forgotten that the sun could even set before 5:00. Last night the sunset was at 4:08 p.m. 4:08! 

My six-year-old asked me this week if it was true that there were only four hours of daylight each day in December. 

Not quite, but it feels like it. 

These short, dark, cold days seem to linger on. We await a later sunset, the buds of spring, and warmer days. 

What are we to do with all of this in-between time? 

That’s the question of Advent. Christ has broken into our world, but so much remains untransformed by his power. We are waiting. We are hoping. We are longing for Jesus to come again and make everything right.

The stand-up comic Mitch Hedberg once disparaged instant oatmeal. He said:

I get up in the morning, and I make myself a bowl of instant oatmeal, and then I don’t do anything for an hour… which makes me wonder why I need the instant oatmeal… I could get the regular oatmeal and feel productive!

Advent calls for our patience in dark days where God’s kingdom (still) isn’t here. It doesn’t come in an instant. 

But it’s not a passive waiting that we do. And there’s nothing hopeless about Advent. It’s not a season where we throw up our hands and say, “Welp, I guess we just hang out until Jesus comes back.” 

On the contrary, in Advent we remember and re-activate that hope within us that believes—that knows—Christ will come again. We proclaim with Zechariah:

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.

In these dark, cold, in-between days, “the light shines in the darkness.”

And the light shines right into our inmost beings.

That’s what Paul says to the Christians in the city of Corinth: 

The [same] God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

There’s the miracle of God’s love… the all-powerful creator of the universe who could bring light from darkness, has sent his light right into our hearts, so that we could know Jesus. The one who created worlds could be bothered to shine light into my dark heart, and yours. God even delights in shining light into our hearts. 

 

What does the light do?

The light shines in the darkness, and that includes the darkness of our inner world. 

I think Paul has something in common with us. None of us wants to just talk in platitudes or generalities. The light shines in our hearts, yes, so now we want to know: what exactly is the light doing in us? What does the light-of-Christ-in-our-hearts do?

Paul suggests a few things. As it shines in your heart, here is what the light does. 

First, he says, the light illuminates what is hidden. 

Here is the first part of verse 2: “We have renounced the shameful things that one hides.”

That’s because Paul and his fellow believers have the light of Christ in their hearts. That light has illuminated what is hidden—shameful things. 

Paul models a response to the shameful things the light has shown him in his heart. “I renounce them.” 

It’s a line you’ll hear in the baptismal liturgy: “I renounce them.” The light illuminates my hidden, shameful things, shows me what and where they are… and I renounce them.

evolving_google_identity_shareI’ve always been glad no technology exists to Google our brains. Think about what that would be like. All our memories, experiences, hopes, wayward desires, and hurts. Your search for envious thoughts toward others returned 13,849 results.

Thank God we can’t Google our brains. But in a sense, that’s what the light of Jesus does. As the Psalmist David put it, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. 

The light of Christ in us illuminates what is hidden.

Second, Paul says the light of Jesus is a floodlight on lies. The light of Christ shows lies for what they are. 

After verse 2 says, “We have renounced the shameful things that one hides,” it goes on: “we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word.” 

Because the light of Christ shines in his inmost being, Paul and his co-laborers in ministry commit to be truthful, especially when it comes to the revealed word of God. “We refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word.” 

The light shines on lies in the darkness. It points at them and calls them what they are. Where the light of Christ shines, there can be no lies. 

 

image
TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

 

I’m reading a book right now by James Clear called Atomic Habits. The author describes a process that train conductors in Tokyo practice. It’s called “Pointing-and-Calling.” He says:

As each operator runs the train, they proceed through a ritual of pointing at different objects and calling out commands. When the train approaches a signal, the operator will point at it and say, “Signal is green.” As the train pulls into and out of each station, the operator will point at the speedometer and call out the exact speed. When it’s time to leave, the operator will point at the timetable and state the time. Out on the platform, other employees are performing similar actions. Before each train departs, staff members will point along the edge of the platform and declare, “All clear!” Every detail is identified, pointed at, and named aloud.

The author concludes: 

Pointing-and-Calling is so effective because it raises the level of awareness from a nonconscious habit to a more conscious level. Because the train operators must use their eyes, hands, mouth, and ears, they are more likely to notice problems before something goes wrong. 

This is great for habit development. But good habits aside, here is the light of Christ, practicing the same method of Pointing-and-Calling in us! That’s what the light of Jesus does!

The light of Christ illuminates what is hidden, even shameful things. And it’s a floodlight that shows lies for what they are. The light of Jesus points-and-calls in our hearts.

Eugene Peterson translates verse 2 this way:

We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.

Paul also says more generally: the light of Jesus guides our inner life. 

The word Paul uses for light is more expansively defined as “illumination for the inner life.”

Are you confused, or torn up inside? The light of Christ can guide you. 

Are you anxious, scared, uncertain of what the coming days and weeks will hold? The light of Christ doesn’t make all your problems go away, but it will illuminate your inner thought life, as you try to make sense of it all. 

Things become more visible, clearer by the light God gives us. 

The light of Jesus guides our inner life. 

Finally, and most important, the light that God shines in our hearts reveals “God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

This is more than just your run-of-the-mill illumination. Verse 4 says it’s the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. Verse 6 says the light God shines in our hearts is the light of the knowledge of his glory. 

Paul is not talking about “the light within” or whatever light or goodness or hope you can generate yourself. 

There may be a place for that, but it will only take you so far. 

The Episcopal preacher Fleming Rutledge says, “(I)f Christian faith is going to have any guts, it simply cannot be satisfied with exclusively human hope.” 

This isn’t just any light. It’s Jesus light. 

One poet put it like this: 

It gets so dark it stays dark,
Even when I turn on the light.

We need more than ourselves to turn on the light. We’re prone to error, prone to despair, prone to exhaustion if we try to face and fight the darkness all on our own. 

Thank God, we don’t have to. 

The [same] God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

For light to truly shine in our hearts and illuminate our paths, it needs to come from an external, inexhaustible source. 

That light source is Jesus. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all people.”

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer waited in prison for a release that would never come, he wrote, “Only the coming Lord can prepare the way… the end (goal) of all preparing the way for Christ must be the recognition that we ourselves can never prepare the way.” 

To that let’s add: we ourselves never shine enough light to dispel the darkness.

 

The light persists

Paul begins this passage thus: “Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.”

Paul and company knew deep in their bones that the mercy and love of God were essential to their doing ministry. 

We show mercy, he would say, “just as we have received mercy.” 

And that’s how the light works—it’s received, it’s given, just like grace. It’s not all up to you to do the shining.

You know that your light alone, will burn out. Maybe it already has. 

Your batteries will expire. 

The flame will extinguish. 

The wick will run out. 

And you’re not just contending with yourself here: Satan will try to keep you from living in the light. 

But as Paul says, “the god of this world” may try to keep people from “seeing the light of the gospel,” but he can’t actually touch the light itself. The so-called god of this world can’t stop or prevent or even reduce the shining of the light of Jesus. 

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_4012Jesus’s light is eternal… limitless; it forever burns bright. 

And that light is yours. It’s ours. 

So with the beleaguered apostle Paul, “we do not lose heart.” We wait in hope; we wait in power. 

We have the light of Christ already in part, and lean forward, eagerly awaiting the day when we’ll have Christ’s light in full. 

God has shined the light of Christ in us. 

NOTHING can darken the light of Christ. 

May God shine that light, brighter and stronger and warmer, in our hearts this Advent season.

A Running Journal

I’m keeping one now. And it’s fun! The heart and soul of this pre-made journal I’m using is the two-page weekly spread:

 

running log

 

running log 2

 

It’s the Believe Training Journal from Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas. My wife was probably not wrong when she said its teal cover and graphics could have earned it a spot at a junior high girls retreat, but I’m okay with that. The journal itself is great. It’s got:

  • the above shown two-page (undated!) spread for tracking run details each week
  • “this week’s focus” for each week: such a helpful exercise to think this through before running
  • a week-end “rundown”–an act of reflection I haven’t otherwise been doing with my running apps
  • quotes from various runners to inspire
  • a guided goal-setting section
  • race logs
  • short articles on various topics throughout: e.g., racing, recovery, community, setbacks, and more

This is easily the best running journal there is, if a pre-made/lightly guided running log is what you’re after. Check out some more of the inside:

 

race reviews

 

(Click/tap on any of the three below to enlarge)

 

 

There are “check-in” pages throughout:

 

check-in

 

Here’s an article:

 

article

 

The whole thing is undated (a year’s worth of pages) and includes an annual calendar. I was going to start in 2019 but couldn’t wait, so for me this is a November 2018-October 2019 journal.

 

annual calendar

 

The cover is “flexi-bound synthetic,” which is a little stronger than softcover, but still can easily get banged up in a backpack (if you just toss it in, as I have been):

 

cover bend

 

There certainly are simpler journals on the market, but the articles here have drawn me in, so that this is kind of a souped-up, one-stop shop for my year’s running annals. The size is just about perfect (6″ x 7 ½”), and the included ribbon marker can go in at my current week.

You can find the journal here, with other color options available, as well.

 


 

Thanks to the great folks at VeloPress for the review copy.

Canvas Classic Backpack, by Baron Fig

I have tried for three years to like the Command TSA-Friendly Messenger Bag from Timbuk2, which I (used to) use most days for work. It has a lot going for it, but the metallic hook and loop closing system just bugs me. Plus, it’s kind of bulky, and I’d rather have a backpack.

Within one day of using Baron Fig’s new Canvas Classic Backpack, I’d found a new bag, and haven’t changed since.

Baron Fig really nailed its goal of “minimal design focus[ing] on the basic essentials.” It’s got:

  • a padded pocket for a laptop and/or iPad (I easily fit both at once)
  • a big main pouch
  • two side pockets for water bottles, granola bars, apples, coffee mugs, etc. (and they’re not too small to actually hold a good-sized travel mug!)
  • a couple little pouches inside for notebooks, etc.
  • two external pockets, for easy access to pens, wallet, phone, etc.

Check it out:

 

1_Outside View

 

2_Inside View

 

Front View

 

The zippers are high quality and easy to grab without looking.

 

Zippers

 

Bonus: the branding on the back is minimal and not obtrusive.

 

x_Branding

 

I didn’t realize this until recently re-watching Season 1 of Stranger Things, but the backpack could be straight out of 1984 Hawkins, Indiana! Compare.

I was concerned at first that lack of padding on the shoulder straps would either make it uncomfortable or not able to handle heavy loads. No concerns here after a fair amount of use. (Although I still might like to see padded straps on future iterations… I’m guessing those were skipped this time to keep things simple and lower cost.)

 

4a_Straps

 

4b_Strap Closeup

 

The straps are easy to adjust for a good fit. And this is one of my biggest water bottles, fitting just fine in the side pocket:

 

Water Bottle

 

Quality-wise, everything looks great, except I just the other day (after using this for two weeks) noticed a fabric flaw. I’m not sure if this is wear (pilling?) or if it was like this when it came.

 

5_Fabric Flaw

 

What’s in my backpack right now?

And, somehow, it all fits really well without compromising the light and slim profile of the backpack.

I love it, especially in the blue slate color. Baron Fig has really knocked it out of the park with this backpack.

The backpack is $68. You can find it here.

AND… if you shop at Baron Fig (for anything!) through this affiliate link, you get $10 off a purchase of $20 or more, which would apply to this backpack.

 


 

Thanks to Baron Fig for sending the backpack so I could review it! This did not influence the objectivity of this review. This review will also be cross-posted at Words on the Goods.