Monday, September 21, 2015

The Importance of Prayer

I have a crazy proposition. The number one important thing in the life of any Christian is not how kind he is, how much he spreads the gospel, or how involved he is with church. No, I believe that the most important part of a Christian's life is prayer.

(Now I know that's not that radical. But let me pretend it is.) Here's my argument. Jesus made it clear in the gospels what the greatest commandment is. And there were lots of good ones to choose from. But he chose this one,
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind."

 So, it's a strange thing to me to say, but one of the best express love or to generate love is to communicate! And we communicate of course through prayer. My love for God only stands strong when I am praying constantly and readily for the sake.

I could also make the argument (because it's true) that we can do none of the service that we are required to do, absent God. And we get that help via prayer.

So prayer is important and you should probably do it every day. More than just once. Here's some thoughts on how to make that happened (ironed out with help from two amazing friends of mine):
1. Plan an extra long time to pray in the morning, or whenever you do your devotions. Make sure you don't have to rush through your prayer.
2. In that time, pray with purpose. Consider creating a prayer journal. Document your requests, and God's answers, in an organized way. My prayer journal is set up like this:
Date          Request                          Date          Answer
9/20/15     Blog Post Idea                9/20/15      Prayer
3. Ask people if they have anything you could pray about. This gives you further things to bring to God and helps make your prayer less self-oriented. It also helps you fulfill the second greatest commandment - love one another.
4. If you have time alone, don't just talk to yourself. Talk to God. It will fill your time nicely.
5. Put up something that will remind you to pray in a place that you frequent often. Whether that be an office or your bedroom, or a car. Whether the reminder be worship music, verses on a whiteboard, or a prayer wall. Put up a reminder. We're carnal creatures. We're going to forget. So let's make it harder for ourselves to do so.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Background on the Book of Daniel

There's an interesting book of the Bible out there. It's called Daniel, and I think we should begin at the beginning of this book and see what some it might mean. What could the theme of this book be?

Well, let's first look at the context. When was this book written? It seems pretty clear that the book was written around the time of the deportation into Babylon. The first chapter covers indeed the historical background of that very time, as "Daniel and his fellows" are taken into the king's court.

Dr. Miller in my OT class last year explained this context decently well. In Old Testament times, it was commonly accepted that there was a supernatural force in the world. Indeed there are many gods in the world. And these gods are incredibly nationalist and tied to military strength.

The gods are further most powerful closest to their own temple, according to the theology of the day. So the Babylonian god is going to have its weakest sphere of influence near Jerusalem, while the actual God would have been thought to be at His strongest when the Babylonians took the Temple.

This means that public perception in Babylon is that their gods at their weakest are stronger than the God of Israel at His strongest.

We of course know this not to be true, and that God let the Babylonians take the Israelites into his hand because the Israelites needed to be punished. But that sentiment is not exactly easy to get across to the Israelites or the Babylonian people. And that is where the book of Daniel comes in.

This is not just a reading based on history either. It is pretty clear from the text of Daniel that the theme of the book is simply the sovereignty of God. And that is obvious from the very first few verses, which read simply,
"In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god."

Before we even begin to get into the narrative text, the book of Daniel confirms that the Lord "gave" Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. It was not that he was outgunned by a stronger force. The rest of the book, with the visions, the miraculous deliveries, and the miraculous desire of teenagers to eat vegetables, all point to that same theme.

And as I decide to embark on an exposition journey with you - a pseudo-series on the book of Daniel, we will see how all of these accounts point to the fact that God alone is sovereign over world affairs.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Immigration Crisis: What You Need to Know

Refugees from Syria are walking on foot to get to Germany because Germany is the one European state that seems excited for more immigrants. This is perhaps because their population is currently declining while the population of many other European nations is rising.

England offered up asylum for 20,000 people. Germany laughed and said they were ready for 500,000 every year for several years. Well done, UK. Your number looks kinda small. Apparently Germany doesn't need any help.

Hungary has offered police escort for the migrants on their border to help them get to Germany and Austria.

Perhaps what you really need to know is that these migrants have been travelling for a while, even though the media has just reported it. (Thank you photojournalists for making this a news story in the first place.) They are running from Syria and the unrest there for their very lives.

What they desire is peace, protection, and security. Maybe even a chance to start a new life outside of a civil war. And that's what you need to know.

In other news, I said the words "Civil War," so now I'm thinking of Captain America 3.

Also, how about them Bengals? Then again, it was the Raiders. Time will tell.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Interviewing the Bible

My apologies for the tardiness of this post. I am still a very responsible person, I swear.

So what is the focus today? I guess I could talk about what the Lord showed me about how He intends to speak with me.

I must admit to having a very interesting time in my devotions for the past few months. Reading and never getting much to write down in my journal at all. Feeling like it was simply part of a routine and nothing more. All through this time, I was thinking I should probably go deeper than just reading the words, but I never acted on this.

So, I was reading the first chapter of Acts to prepare for a Bible Study Discussion in my hall here, and I realized something I did differently when I read for the Bible Study as opposed to my devotion. I interrogated the text. I asked why the author felt the need to include that information at that given time.

And I had things to write down and things to apply to my life. The text meant something, and it was all because of a few questions here and there to be more than just reading the Bible. Astonishing! Truly astonishing!

Ok, maybe it's not astonishing, but it is pretty cool, so you know what I realized at that time. That if I really wanted the Lord to show me something through my daily devotions, I probably ought to prepare myself to see it by actively searching for it. So I have. And that has been stellar. Why I ever stopped doing this is beyond me in the first place.

Needless to say, you'll probably get more true biblical exposition in the near future on this blog.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Cake, Pseudoevents, and Songs

What is the meaning of birthdays? When I turn 20, am I suddenly more mature than when I was 19? After all, at the end of the day, I am no longer a teenager. So that must mean something.

I guess birthdays are what communication theorists (and probably some other discipline too, since communication is so interdisciplinary) call pseudoevents. Events that don't actually change a person, but that changes the status of a person.

A wedding does not change a person, but two people start single and leave a married couple. On Saturday, I was a teenager and now I am not. I have a change of status, but I myself have not changed overly much over the last few days.

Of course, I guess I am just really enjoying the fact that my birthday brings me certain attention and things, and also getting embarrassed at it as well. My Sunday School class sang to me. I don't remember the last time my Sunday School class sang to someone... That's weird.

But that's ok. I got some cake and generally simulated the economy. My sister finished her series of birthday/Christmas gifts with The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: Special Extended Edition. 

And I'm a year older. I love the opportunity to celebrate and everything, but can we just acknowledge again how weird it is to celebrate the day of one's birth? Hey, this is the day that you were emancipated from the womb. Have some cake! Yeah...

But I like cake, so it's all good. Also, people set off fireworks today, just for my birthday. (and that random holiday that today actually is). Hey, happy labor day, everyone!

Friday, September 4, 2015

What am I to do with My Life?

Sometimes, you just get overwhelmed with schoolwork, obligations that keep you from sitting to work on it, and a nice little illness that makes you feel so incredibly weak. At that moment, what exactly would you do?

Well, let's see. I seem to be pushing on here in the honors lounge trying to finish up schoolwork that is needed to be done before tomorrow because it still needs to be done. Also struggling to find a reason to stay awake. And enjoying my new Chromebook that I bought because I couldn't wait for my laptop anymore. Of course, that time without my laptop would be another reason why I am overwhelmed with working.

I'm kinda having a bad night, and this from someone that is usually so far ahead on schoolwork that he never has any problems. But I guess the Lord is making me helpless and weak at this point so I can learn to rely on him. So what am I going to do? Right now, I am going to pray. And then pray some more.

And then I will get to work and do things and make sure that I survive. And then go to bed.