I can’t tell you how many times I’ve chucked the intro for today’s post. What’s worth saying? What words are going to be of actual benefit to you, the reader, and what words are just vacuous self-indulgence? Why even bother? I don’t know. Due to logistical necessities, we are back in the God’s Little Deconstruction Book series, and there’s nothing to do but move forward.
As Jesus Christ begins his ministry in his hometown of Nazareth, he’s about as popular as John the Baptist. Initially they’re amazed at the authority with which he speaks and comports himself, but their attitude sours as he continues to preach. Eventually they run him out of town, and he leaves for Capernaum. But what invoked the wrath of the masses? Let’s take a look.
The psalms repeat themselves. Psalms 118 and 136 begin with the same couplet, word-for-word: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (118:1, 136:1). I could cite more psalms that feature the same line throughout themselves like a chorus or that borrow lines from other psalms like remixes, but I’d be repeating myself. And while Psalm 136 repeats its hook “For His lovingkindness is everlasting” in every single verse, the point of the psalm isn’t repetition. It’s gratitude.
I didn’t expect Habakkuk to open as it did, especially just coming from Nahum. Nahum’s prophecy begins with forceful, evocative statements of God’s strength and righteous judgment. Habakkuk, however, begins with a question, and he follows it with further questions. Where Nahum confidently asserts God’s strength against his enemies, Habakkuk asks: don’t you hear me, God? Why won’t you save us? What are you doing?
The last time we saw the Sad Zone–also known as the Cry Hole–it was on an individual level, yet it was the subject of a song to be performed in a communal religious context. Today, though, the prophet Joel begins his message to Israel by calling for a nationwide Sad Zone.
Hebrews chapter 11 has been a particularly compelling passage throughout my life. In college, my sophomore essay on faith investigated it in-depth, and I’ve read and re-read it countless times both before and after I wrote that essay. It’s encouraged me to investigate what merits my trust and to place my trust in the sources that merit it without hesitation. In the twelfth chapter, there are a few verses that have similarly stuck with me in life–which should come as no surprise to you, considering that the author’s primary topic here is my favorite food, discipline.
Will you look at that. Before us today is another letter from Paul to Timothy. Let’s roll up our sleeves and (nervous laughter) hope Paul doesn’t start talking about slavery again.
Wow, that’s a wake-up call. I opened up my Bible this morning expecting Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians to start off similar to the first one–a little “grace and peace to you,” gratitude to God for the letter’s recipients, a pat on the back and a little “Hey, goin’ good, you guys!” And instead, Paul goes off with all the intensity of Jonathan Edwards rapping over an NF beat. Dang, son.
This is a pretty straightforward chapter. In a sentence: Paul is glad to hear from Timothy that the Thessalonians have stood by their faith even under trial and tribulation. Once again, he thanks God for the joy he receives from hearing the good report about the Thessalonian church, and he looks forward to seeing them in person today. But I wanted to zero in on one particular verse, and one particular verb, because once again Paul is reminding us: you’re gonna have to suffer.
The first eight verses of Philippians 2 loom large in my high school memories. I loved the passage, memorizing the third and fourth verses, committing to its ethic of unselfishness–or at least advocating for it. I knew my attempts to live up to Jesus Christ’s standard of sacrificial giving would inevitably fall short, but I made his example my goal anyway. Eighteen years of adult experience have opened my eyes to how hard it can be to give yourself to others, and part of me wants to remark on my high-school self’s idealistic naiveté. But I gotta give the kid credit: at least he tried. I’ve had periods in my adult life, like years, where I did as much living for self as I could hide.