Monday, September 30, 2013

This is going to hurt

Well, that's their decision [to not take a chance of being hurt in a relationship], but it's one that puts severe restrictions on their ability to give and receive love for the rest of their lives. Self-protection has some value, but it comes at a very high price. It limits love and makes them utterly miserable.

God made us relational beings. We were meant for love. Sure, it's a risk, but refusing to take a risk—with God and with people—eliminates the greatest source of joy and meaning in our lives.— Christianity Lite, page 156

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth?! Life and love open one up to hurt, but the alternative is death, despair, and depression. I'll take my chances with love. What about you?
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Good stuff

I've been woefully behind in mentioning a few books that I've received recently. I won't have time to read them for at least another month. Between the cabins, getting the garden ready for winter, and editing/proofreading work, and sneaking a hike or two in, there isn't much time left for reading.

Anyway, a long, long, long time ago (July, I think), Adrianna from InterVarsity Press sent me a copy of Atonement and a copy of Incarnation by T.F. Torrance. I'm really looking forward to reading these...look for snippets to begin appearing later this fall.

Much more recently—in fact, just last week—Bobby K. from Hendrickson Publishers sent me a copy of Unholy Allegiances by David deSilva. This looks really good. Here's part of the blurb on the book:

This is a truly unique book that studies Revelation by (1) stating the context in which it was written (Roman Asia in the first century), (2) noting why John wrote what he did to the church, and (3) powerfully applying John’s message to the church today. It is concisely written and carries a genuine spiritual message.
And, earlier this week, Jeremy from Baker Academic sent me a copy of Bonhoeffer the Assassin?. This one piqued my interest when I saw it in the Baker catalog earlier this year. Here's the blurb from the book:
Most of us think we know the moving story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life--a pacifist pastor turns anti-Hitler conspirator due to horrors encountered during World War II--but does the evidence really support this prevailing view? This pioneering work carefully examines the biographical and textual evidence and finds no support for the theory that Bonhoeffer abandoned his ethic of discipleship and was involved in plots to assassinate Hitler. In fact, Bonhoeffer consistently affirmed a strong stance of peacemaking from 1932 to the end of his life, and his commitment to peace was integrated with his theology as a whole.
We'll see...I'd love to believe them, being a person of nonresistance myself and liking Bonhoeffer's theology.

Oh, and much earlier, Jeremy also sent me a copy of Cook and Holmstedt's Beginning Biblical Hebrew which has an integrated reader. Well, actually the reader is more a graphic novel than anything. They use their insights from linguistics and second language acquisition studies and attempt to bring them to bear in teaching Biblical Hebrew. Good stuff...

Got friends?

Many of us give up on people if they hurt us. If that's the case, we won't have any meaningful relationships because sooner or later every human being will let you down.— Christianity Lite, page 154

<idle musing>
And we let ourselves down, as well. So, I guess there's no hope—under the sun, that is (to steal a phrase from Ecclesiastes). We need divine intervention!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Nursing offenses is one of the enemy's traps that keep us in bondage to old hurts. Forgiveness releases us from the trap. We don't wait until the person asks for forgiveness or promises to never hurt us again. We forgive the way Jesus forgave us. Author and pastor Lewis Smedes commented, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”— Christianity Lite, page 142

<idle musing>
Like the old saying, "Unforgiveness does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than that upon which it is poured." Unforgiveness eats away at you, poisoning everything you see or experience. Get rid of it! Real and imagined hurts are a trap you don't want to fall into. Walk in forgiveness!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Itching ears

Offenses are windows into our hearts. Disappointments can reveal our deepest desires and expectations. If our hopes line up with God's values and purposes, we'll handle suffering with calm assurance that God will work everything out for good according to His eternal purposes. If our hearts don't line up with God's, we'll complain, gripe, lash out, and run away. And we'll keep looking for somebody to tell us what we want to hear.— Christianity Lite, page 130

<idle musing>
And we'll deny that we could possibly be at fault in any way, right? It's always "the other guy" who is to blame; if only they had done things differently, then everything would be fine. NOT!
</idle musing>

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pardon me, but your biases are showing

When many of us read the Bible, we don't pay attention when we find God's requirements and demands. We only pay attention when it says things that benefit us and promise to make our lives easier and more fun.— Christianity Lite, pages 129-130

<idle musing>
Because fun and easy living are the goals in life, right? At least that's the american dream version of life...
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 19, 2013

More on the changes

When I changed the title of the blog yesterday, I also changed the description. The previous description mentioned what I did as a bookseller; I still wanted to include what I'm doing now, but wasn't quite sure how to say it.

Right now, I do freelance copyediting and proofreading of ancient Near Eastern and biblical studies monographs. I also edited a couple of DMin dissertations and I did some stuff for Baker for the Cook/Holmstedt grammar. Those all bring in money to live on, but most of my time right now is tied up in the cabins, which gives us a place to live, but no cash. So, how do I describe that?

I do a lot of different things: maintenance, repairs, painting (although Max does most of that), lawn mowing, laundry, housekeeping, and on and on it goes. But, the one thing that none of these really mention is that I clean toilets. Somebody has to, you know! Hi, I'm James and I clean toilets for a living!

But, if the creator can become human and stoop to washing the feet of his betrayer and denier, surely I can clean toilets and not let it define who I am. That shouldn't define who I am anymore than, "Hi, I'm James and I just copyedited a Dead Sea Scrolls Hebrew Grammar." Which one sounds better to our ears? But neither of them should define us. In God's eyes, the toilet cleaning is just as important as the book I'm editing. Both are what he has called me to do right now. Both should be done with rejoicing and to his praise and glory.

But I still would rather say, "Hi, I'm James and I copyedit academic books...!" Although, the "Hi, I'm James and I clean toilets" does have a nice shock value to it...

Self-centered or other-centered, that is the question

When we're easily upset about things going wrong in our lives, the cycle is self-feeding: We become even more self-absorbed and self-righteous. We play the role of victims, and we demand that everybody on the planet jump to make us happy—which, of course, doesn't work out very well, which causes the cycle of demands and despair to continue.— Christianity Lite, page 127

<idle musing>
Viktor Frankl said that the best cure for this kind of mental illness—and it is a mental illness!—was to get involved in helping others. Once you get involved in the lives of others, you realize that you aren't the center of the universe and that others have problems that are even worse than yours. Sounds like biblical advice, doesn't it?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


As you can see, the name of the blog has changed. My official employment with Eisenbrauns is now over—fourteen months after leaving Indiana. Not that I've done much since January anyway. In fact, in the whole of June-September, I only worked two hours and twenty minutes for them!

Now that I'm no longer employed by Eisenbrauns, I can share a story that I've wanted to share since it happened...get ready for some juicy gossip. NOT! This story reveals the character of Eisenbrauns as a company, and especially Jim as a person of integrity.

Last fall (2012), right around this time, I believe, a book went to press (I don't recall the title). I was reading through the PDF when I came across what looked like a lacuna; it appeared that a Hebrew word had dropped out of the text. The Hebrew was essential to the argument that was being made, so it wasn't a minor issue. This was on a Saturday morning.

I immediately sent Jim an e-mail, pointing out the possible error. I figured that maybe the book was still at the point where the press could make the correction before the book was printed. Jim responded within an hour or so, confirming my observation. He made the correction to the PDF and forwarded it to the press. Because it was a weekend, nothing more could be done until Monday.

Monday revealed that the book was already printed, but not yet bound. A choice had to be made. The book could be bound, as is, with the error. Or, at the cost of an additional 10%, that particular signature could be reprinted. It would also delay the delivery of the book—which also had repercussions for the cash flow. Tough decision; 10% may not sound like much, but on short-run academic books, that's very significant.

As you probably guessed (at least if you know anything about the quality of Eisenbrauns' books), Jim decided to reprint the signature and eat the cost...

That's just one of the many reasons I enjoyed working for Eisenbrauns for 10 years.


How do we act when we're trapped? The same way an animal responds when it's captured. We fight back, we wrestle, and we try to get out. Some animals have been known to chew their leg off to get free from a snare. I've seen people who blamed everybody in the world, including God, for their problems instead of learning the lessons God wanted to teach them through suffering. They were deeply offended that God didn't do what they expected Him to do.— Christianity Lite, page 126

<idle musing>
I guess it all boils down to our view of God. Do we see him as our butler, just waiting for our command? Or do we see him as an ogre, just waiting for us to step out of line? Both views are wrong. Both sell God far short of who he is.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

That can't be in the Bible!

We like the glowing promises, but we feel deeply offended by Jesus's demands. Deny ourselves? No, we'd rather indulge ourselves. Pick up our cross? We prefer to buy the newest gadgets, kick back and watch television, and go on nice vacations. Die daily? That can't be in the Bible, can it?— Christianity Lite, page 123

<idle musing>
It all comes back to our desire to be gods—no, our belief that we actually are god!
</idle musing>

Monday, September 16, 2013

The saccharin gospel

I'm not suggesting that we need to lay grace aside and impose oppressive rules on anyone. That's not the gospel, either! We need a full-orbed gospel message—the one Jesus taught, modeled, and imparted to His disciples. Anything else leaves us with a saccharin-sweet taste in our mouths but feeling empty. A lite version of the gospel simply can't satisfy the deepest needs and longings of the human heart. We can't be truly saved by a “Lite Savior.” We need the Lamb of God to die for us, but He's also the Lion of Judah who demands everything we have as we follow Him.— Christianity Lite, page 122

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! We have to hang onto grace while preaching a serious message of death to self. It we drop grace, we end up with empty legalism. But if we drop death to self, we end up with a cheap imitation of the gospel. The hymn Trust and Obey got it right: we have to trust, but we also have to obey. If try to do one without the other, you end up with a sorry caricature of the real thing...
</idle musing>

Friday, September 13, 2013

High calling

If we don't feel offended by God from time to time, it's not the real God we're following. If we don't feel confused by Him, we don't realize that His infinite wisdom is far beyond human comprehension. If we don't have spiritual anxiety at the demands of discipleship, we haven't really heard His clear command to follow Him into sacrifice and suffering. Jesus gave all, and He demands all. That's a chilling prospect, even for the bravest among us.— Christianity Lite, page 120

<idle musing>
But that doesn't preach very well, does it? Tough to fill the auditorium with a calling like that. Ask Jesus. When he preached about death to self and the cost of discipleship, the crowds just seemed to melt away. They loved the miracles and the love—but the cost was a bit tough to swallow for most of them.

The same with the early Christians. They had a great reputation—the emperor Julian used them as an example of conduct for his pagan priests!. But, the cost was martyrdom. A high calling indeed!
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Interesting little tidbit

Fill in the blank:

Christ Jesus our ________.

Did you answer "Lord?" That's my natural response, and the most common one in the epistles. Did you answer "Savior?" That's the second most common one in the epistles. But, how many of you answered "hope?"

Yep. "Christ Jesus our hope." It occurs but once, in 1 Timothy 1:1. I've read that hundreds of times over the years, but yesterday it hit me for the first time...

The gospel

Does the cost seem too high? Does following Jesus seem too demanding? If it doesn't, you don't understand what He requires. Following Him with your whole heart isn't hard; it's impossible! We can't do it by turning over a new leaf, trying harder, or gritting our teeth. To follow Jesus, we need a supernaturally transformed heart. We need the wonderful love, grace, and acceptance of God, and we need the power of the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us. Nothing else will do.— Christianity Lite, page 112

<idle musing>
And that, my friends, is the gospel. We can't do it! But God can and does! And we get to participate in it!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

There isn't any shortcut

Crucifixion is excruciating, but it's the only path to a resurrection.— Christianity Lite, page 111

<idle musing>
I'm reminded of Hebrews 12:2b-3, "For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (TNIV)

You have to die in order to really live. Death to self leads to the resurrection life of Jesus living inside us.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It's all a matter of perspective

The difficulty, of course, is that sin doesn't look evil and wrong—unless we see it in someone else. In our lives it appears to be benign, attractive, and even indispensable. How could we live without it? We're so familiar with our sins that they seem second nature. That's the problem!— Christianity Lite, pages 109-110

<idle musing>
Yep! He pegged it, didn't he?
</idle musing>

Monday, September 09, 2013

Who's in charge?

Christians today are soft. We complain at the slightest disappointment. We criticize God if we suffer any inconvenience.— Christianity Lite, page 105

<idle musing>
Because we all know that God exists to make our lives comfortable, right? I mean, after all, I'm the center of the universe, right? So, bow down and worship me and serve me! NOT!
</idle musing>

Friday, September 06, 2013

Who defines it?

When we write the definition of a disciple, we make it easy. We make the door really wide and the requirements simple. The concept, though, isn't ours to define. It's up to God to define the concept and establish the requirements. He has only one condition: We have to put Him above everything. No exceptions. Everything.— Christianity Lite, page 99

<idle musing>
What part of everything don't we understand? That's a high and lofty calling—but one that the Holy Spirit living within us enables us to fulfill.
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 05, 2013


If we're willing to sign on to put Him first, we'll have countless blessings thrown in. But if we focus primarily on the blessings, we'll get neither Jesus nor the blessings. There are a lot of people in churches today who come every Sunday, but only for the blessings. They don't really love Jesus more than anyone or anything else. They're consumers, not worshippers. They just want the blessings, and they're very disappointed in Him when He doesn't deliver.— Christianity Lite, page 91

<idle musing>
That is so true! We are a society of consumers—but the Holy Spirit is stronger than culture, if we let him transform us...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

What kind of god do you see?

Excellent post this weekend on Jesus Creed. It's actually a repost from another blog, but Scot posted it in full. I'll just pull out a snippet, but definitely read the whole thing.
God hates you. God’s fed up with you. God’s sick and tired of you. God’s suffered long enough with you.

God’s against you.

You would NEVER say that to someone else. Ever.

But here’s the thing- and maybe you do need to be a pastor know this:

There are plenty of you

who say things like that

to yourselves

all the time.

Not one of you would ever say things like that to someone else, but, consider it on the job knowledge, plenty of you say it to yourself every day...

But I wonder.

I wonder if we persist in imagining that God is angry and impatient and unforgiving and at the end of his rope- I wonder if we imagine God is like that because that’s what we’re like.

I wonder if we imagine God must be angry because we carry around so much anger with us?

I wonder if we imagine there are some things even God can’t forgive because there are things we won’t forgive?

I wonder if we imagine that God’s at the end of his rope because there are plenty of people with whom we’re at the end of ours?

<idle musing>
Go! Read the whole thing! And then revise your opinion of who God is. Let God be the Christian God, not a theological construct that reflects who you are.

I had a professor in seminary who said that we reason from the given to the divine. We look around us and figure God must just be a bigger version of what we see.

To an extent, that is true. But—and the but is huge—God is more than that. God revealed himself in Jesus. If your image of God is anything other than an image of Jesus, you've missed who God is...
</idle musing>

The easy life

We live in an age of softies and quitters. We want to eat chocolate cake without gaining weight. We expect to have lean bodies without the effort and discipline of exercise. We want new cars and houses without thinking about the ravages of debt. We demand easy love, sex, money, school, marriage, parenting, and everything else imaginable. We're sure life should be fun. When we have to put out some effort and exercise a modest amount of discipline, we soon quit because “it's just too hard.”

Christianity Lite follows the same lines. May people who claim to be believers are absolutely sure God exists to make their lives pleasant. They love promises of blessings, and they don't want to hear anything about struggle, pruning, testing, and the process of growth.

Jesus was under no such illusions.— Christianity Lite, pages 88-89

<idle musing>
People want a vending machine god—no, that's not it. A vending machine god would require us to put something in! They want a Santa Claus god—no, that's not right either! A Santa Claus god would have a list, checking to see if you've been naughty or nice. They want a butler god; a god who is standing there, just waiting for their next command.

The problem is that no such being exists. Life can be hard. Life can be full of troubles. Life can be, well, life. We live in a fallen world; troubles and trials are a part of it. But, we have the promise of a loving God that he will be with us—no, he will be in us—through it all. That's a promise worth getting excited about!
</idle musing>