750,000 Words

There’s a saying in publishing that writers should take to heart: Edit to amplify. Editing is hard work, but it makes all the difference in the world. Too many unnecessary words dilute the message and cloud the story. As Mark Twain famously said to a friend, “I would have written you a short letter, but I didn’t have time, so I wrote you a long one instead.”

There’s no one who exemplifies the power of crisp editing better than God, the world’s all-time bestselling author. His written word, known by modern readers as the Bible, clocks in at an efficient 750,000 words.

You may be rolling your eyes at that number, thinking that three-quarters of a million is a lot of words. If so, consider this. William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets total 960,000 words. The Harry Potter books come in at just over a million. As Jon Bloom observed in his blog, “Numbers like these simply make us pause and wonder over God’s written word economy.

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We are what we worship

I was reading Psalm 135 and came across what appears to be a pretty provocative claim: 

"The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of man's hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears but they do not hear, nor is there any breadth at all in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, yes, everyone who trusts in them" (Psalm 135:15-18).

Idolators will become like what they worship - or, as in the title of this post, we are what we worship. I find this interesting. One of Jesus' most biting claims was that the religious leaders had eyes to see but could not see, and ears to hear, but could not hear - a classic use of the prophets language against idols which were formed with eyes and ears but no life in them. And yet the religious leaders were far from worshipping idols, at least in the classic sense, so what was he doing with that claim? 

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The Psalms and Sufi Poets

A while back, I encouraged readers to become more globally minded and one way of doing this is to read international authors. With this in mind, don't forget poets. Martin Luther came to a profound understanding of the gospel through reading not only Romans, but also the Psalms. And this part often gets overlooked. The impact of Romans 1:16-17 has become legendary and indeed, 'the just shall live by faith' is something that shouldn't be glossed over in its consequences. Yet, let's not gloss over the Psalms either.

The Psalms, often noted for their emotional impact, are often neglected in their theological importance. Yet, this is so often the case with poetry in general. Quite often, we reduce poetry to the fluff of greeting cards or relegate it to the darkness of bad days. Poetry is often seen as something for extreme days and more the exception than something that is quite instructive and a valid form of literature for reflection and redemption. Take for example, Psalm 23 and its almost universal appeal. The singular phrase, 'though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,' is perhaps not only a visceral note to us, but also a theologically rich truth that says as much or more than Romans 8:28 does, 'where all things work together for the good of those who love Him'. Now, set these texts side by side and you begin to see and experience what Luther did.

Poetry can be fluff, but it doesn't have to be. And certainly the Psalms are not fluff. In fact, I was reminded about this in a recentImage blog posting on Sufi poets. The article says that Sufi poetry can be both 'welcoming' but also 'mysterious.' In other words, the reader is often drawn in by an inviting image, but then the reader lingers and stays a while because that image or metaphor haunts and helps at the same time (the full link is here) The most famous Sufi poet in the West is simply named Rumi and his work is worth reading through at least once (though you'll get hooked on some of the pieces).

Sufi poetry is often utilized for devotional exercise as well, similar to that of the Psalms. And while the theological focus is distinct and different, reading Sufi poetry brings me back to the Psalms (after all they're both written in roughly the same part of the world) and the Psalms bring back to a God rich in mercy and steadfast in His love. And that God often brings me back to Romans 8 where there is now no condemnation for those in Christ. And that truth often brings me back to my knees, which is so often a good place from which to impact the world.

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5 Things Jesus Taught Me on the Cross (5 Days in 4 Gospels: Day 5)

The cross is more about life than death. Jesus teaches us how to live life in his last moments. He teaches us what it means to be godly—to love those who hate you, even in the most painful circumstances. Here are the five things Jesus taught me on the cross:

1. Forgiveness is about us, not them. Forgiveness is not dependent upon other people’s actions. Luke’s gospel records Jesus looking down on the men who beat him and crucified him, and saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus doesn’t ask God to forgive the men who crucified him, and the crowd who mocked and beat him, because they deserve mercy, but because they are ignorant. They are anything but deserving. Jesus forgiving those who killed him shows us more about him than it does them. He was right with God, even when people had done wrong by him. We should forgive others because God forgave us when we didn’t deserve it.

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When God Doesn't Answer

It’s easy to lose sight of an Infinite God. When God is everywhere, how can you find Him? If He already knows where you have been, what is there to tell Him?

In the midst of great tragedy, like the Haiti earthquake, it is easy to feel like God has abandoned us. It is easy to say, “Any prayer to God would be a waste of time.”

Our conversations with God can get lame— fast. “That thing you already know about, but have chosen not to fix, can you please fix it?” Lame, boring—I am not interested in that dialogue.

But what if our dialogue with God could be more? What if it meant more?

In the Psalms there is record after record of people screaming at God. That’s right, I said screaming. It’s in the Bible. And here’s the kicker, it’s not called “wrong.” Instead, it’s embraced and enforced—yelling at God was part of being an ancient Israelite.

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