Making Disciples

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we, the church, should go about making disciples as instructed to by Jesus.

My thinking has come around to the ages-old concept of living life together. As Jesus lived life with his close followers, we must approximate the same thing if we hope to make disciples for Jesus.

Obviously, we won’t live and travel together (most of us, anyway) but if our church is truly the community that God means for it to be, we can still, in some way, do life together.

Do life together. That is the mantra of Jeff, one of the most successful group leaders at our church. And his group has all the earmarks of just such a community.

Somehow we need to surrender the busyness of our family and work lives and become a community that does life together.

How is it going?

That’s the question people ask me all the time: How’s it going? or How you doing?

Well, I guess I’m doing alright.

My own bone marrow has suffered an almost total failure, so I’m not producing and red blood cells or platelets. Red cells carry oxygen out to the cells in the body and carbon dioxide back out to the lungs to be exhaled. Platelets are part of the complicated system of blood clotting.

The lack of red cell production means that I am not replacing cells that die off, as they do. This means I have less capacity to carry oxygen to the cells to burn carbs, and thus I have very low energy levels.

The lack of platelet production means that I bruise easily and a lot, sometimes for no reason at all that we know of. So far most of these bruises have stayed away from my face. If I get a big bruise on my face I’ll probably have to avoid public for a couple weeks.

So I’m losing—and not replacing—red cells at a rate of about one unit a week. A unit is the amount of blood they collect when you donate blood. Platelets are at a very low level, and there isn’t much to be done about that.

While I can’t produce these cells, I am blessed by many people who can and who are willing to share. Every two weeks I go to the hospital and get a unit of platelets and two units of red cells. The platelets only last a few days, but the red cells keep me alive for another two weeks. Not at normal levels, but alive.

If you ever feel like your blood donations are taken for granted, let me assure you that all donations are appreciated and your blood is always used by someone who needs it.

My frequency of needing red cells had accelerated for the last five years until I got to this current rate of a unit a week. That has been surprisingly regular for over a year. No one can guess how long this regimen will last. In fact, it’s rather unexpected that it has been stable this long. I praise God that this is available, even though I’ve been known to grouse around a bit on my hospital days. Shame after me.

My dear wife Carol is the best helper you could ever ask for. One of my earlier unsuccessful treatments made my cataracts pretty bad, so she has to do almost all the driving for us. The little convertible sports car seems to help with her enthusiasm for driving, though. I’ve lost my taste for a lot of foods that I used to enjoy, and she is faithful to make lunches that are always my very favorite things. She has to stay home more than she would like, but she hardly ever complains about it, and she will watch Gunsmoke and First 48 with me until the cows come home.

Since I got sick, and maybe somewhat even before that, I unplugged from the news. I took this step for my mental health. Some people think I have “gone liberal” since I got sick, and they probably think my head is weak. But the truth is that I just don’t care much about politics and I have learned to see things from more than just the right side. The far right makes me just as sick as the far left, and maybe even sicker. I don’t really care who gets elected as the governor of Virginia—hey, I don’t live in Virginia. Any Christian who cares more about that than the study of scripture deserves what they get.

I have grown closer to my Father through this unending time of sickness. I know the time of my death will not be too long into the future. I don’t know anything at all about what happens after death, but I know for sure that when Christ returns I will be raised bodily from the grave and will live in his perfect kingdom on earth for the rest of eternity. That’s worth waiting for, and it is far from the best part of being a Christian.

Thanks for indulging me in this little update. I’d really rather not write about myself, but people always ask.

My Biggest Hurdle

The hardest thing for me to do is to let someone else go on being wrong.

I’ve often said that people who think they know everything are a pain in the neck to those of us who really do.

So today, my challenge is to live by the phorism that says silence is golden.

Discipleship

I’m thinking a lot about discipleship; specifically, I’m thinking about what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus in today’s world. In fact, I’m committed to writing sort of a white paper on the subject for our group ministry at church. Maybe “white paper” sounds too fancy; it’s probably more like an article for the use of group leaders.

Jobs like this are way big in my mind. The perpetual weariness that comes with my disease makes the task seem almost overwhelming. I’m hoping for some moments of clarity and mental energy.

My study right now is in Zechariah, which doesn’t really seem like a book about discipleship, but in a way it is. Zechariah is a post-exilic prophet and he is urging the people who have come to Jerusalem to not only rebuild the temple, but also to rebuild their relationship to Yahweh. That’s discipleship, isn’t it?

Anyway, one of my commentaries this morning hit the right note:

Faith in God’s sovereignty is essential to the walk of faithfulness as we await the return of Christ. The words of the apostles in Acts powerfully express such faith for us as Christians. Fresh from persecution they “raised their voices together in prayer to God” and began with the simple cry: “Sovereign Lord” (Acts 4:23–30). May that also be our cry as the people of God.

Mark J. Boda, Haggai, Zechariah, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2004), 208. [Emphasis mine]

I love that phrase, the walk of faithfulness. I tend to say “the walk of faith”, rather than faithfulness, but Boda is right to put the emphasis on the way we live.

That, too, is discipleship, isn’t it?

macOS

Are you upgrading to Monterey? I think I’ll wait for Bakersfield.

Truly, this is a big IT day for me. Three Monterey installations. Three iOS/iPadOS installations. Two watchOS installations. Whew. I’ll be ready for bed.

Historical Adam

At a recent dinner meeting with friends, Tom asked me if I thought Job was a historical figure or not. We discussed the possibilities for a while, and agreed that a good interpretation of the biblical documents did not necessarily require a historical Job, but neither did they preclude Job being a real human being and his story being historical.

Then Tom asked if I thought there was a historical Adam. We agreed that this was an entirely different type of question. I said I hadn’t thought too much about it. Tom came down on the side of a historical man and woman who were the progenitors of all humans.

I just finished reading Craig, William Lane. In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2021.

First of all, it was a fascinating read for someone like me with a decided technical bent. Probably it would be difficult for someone who little technical background. For a guy whose background is theology and philosophy, Craig has played a pretty robust technical game with this book.

Now, Tom will be pleased to know that Craig favors a historical Adam and Eve. Not only will this please Tom, but most people who treat the early Genesis material as historical, as well. But it will not please the young earth creationists at all.

The reason for this is that Craig has to place the historical Adam at over half a million years ago, probably between a million and three-quarters of a million years ago. That will not fit with Bishop Ussher’s chronology by any stretch of the imagination.

Furthermore, the surprising upshot of this is that Adam and Eve were not Homo sapiens. Rather, they were of the species that is the common ancestor of both Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalis, along with some other extinct species of modern man.

This scenario requires that Neanderthals were fully human, made in the image of God. But of course they became extinct, but not before passing a lot of genetic material to us through interbreeding with sapiens.

It also requires that the large majority of the precursor species (Homo heidelburgensis) was not human. That is, members of that species had great rational abilities, but did not have a soul and did not know right from wrong. They were beasts.

But something happened and a single pair of them had a genetic switch turned on (a physical change) and at the same time were given souls (a spiritual change). The physical change was probably not a chance event, but was caused by an intervention by God, a bit of divine genetic engineering.

This is a perfectly acceptable idea to most evolutionary creationists. Adam and Eve were the original GMOs.

Then Adam and Eve and their progeny had to be isolated sexually from non-human homonins, probably because their self-awareness made them so different that they went to some place to be alone and build their family. Eventually, the other species all died out.

In the end, you’d have to say that Craig is saying that there is a possibility that all people today descend from a single pair. Most geneticists say that we came from a population of a few thousand, at the least. Craig has studied the statistical genetics and sees another way of interpreting the data.

As I say, this book is a fascinating read. Craig himself says that the quest for the historical Adam will never end. But this is a delightful addition to the literature of the quest.

Me? I’m not sure yet that Craig is reading Genesis 1-11 in the right way. I’m also not sure that he isn’t. I will be eager to hear what Tom thinks.

Writing

I haven’t written here for a couple weeks. I’ve been thinking hard about that. A dozen times I’ve said to myself, “That deserves a blog post”, but I have held back.

It turns out that there are people who think I’ve gone liberal or something because of some of my posts. Most of these people have their politics so mixed up with their religion that they can’t tell the difference. That is a big problem to me.

So, I stopped writing.

I will try to figure out a path for the future of my writing. One thing I know for sure: this will be the last time I crosspost to Facebook. In the future, if you want to read what I write, you will have to check here on my website. I’d suggest getting some sort of RSS feed reader to let you know when there is something new.

For those of you who like what I write, thank you. That means a lot.

Inspirational

The Bible is inspired, but not everything in it is inspirational.

I’ve never been inspired by the long lists of genealogies in various places in the Old Testament. I’ve never been inspired by the minutiae of law in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Just two examples.

Some people read the Bible only to be inspired. They must either be disappointed sometimes, or else they must really stretch to pretend to be inspired. I’m reading a commentary on Ezra-Nehemiah that goes out of its way to provide inspirational applications of the current passage. They generally fall flat, to me at least.

I’d encourage people to read the Bible for more than being inspired to get through another day. Read it to grow your noodle and your commitment to the one who inspired the book.

Interpretation and Metaphor

Many people interpret the Bible without noticing the metaphors in what they are reading. They think they are doing a literal reading, but really they are ignoring the plain meaning of the text.

What we read is what the author wrote.

The next step is to figure out why the author wrote it the way it is written, what the author meant to communicate, and how the author expected readers to receive it.

That step is where the problems often come in. For example, let’s look at Proverbs 5:15-20 (this is the NRSV):

15 Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for sharing with strangers.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
May her breasts satisfy you at all times;
may you be intoxicated always by her love.
20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, by another woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress

It is not a literal reading to see this passage as discussing the water supply and fauna and alcoholic stupor.

The advice is for a man to stick to his wife less she decide to be unfaithful herself. Let the marriage remain pure for life. Don’t let it become stale. Keep it spicy.

This one is easy. Not too many people will misread this one unless they are simply obtuse. But the same principle applies to the rest of the Bible too.

Biblical literacy includes the ability to read properly and not be stupid.