One of the interesting categories in Scripture is the array of metaphors used to describe sin. Both sin against God and sin against one another. The dominant metaphor in the New Testament material is debt. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see NT authors use debt, obligation, payment in their material.
The verb “to owe” in the New Testament Greek (opheilo) “conveys an idea of being in debt or under obligation and best be translated as… ‘ought.'” (Mounce)
Obligation is used both as a positive arrangement (e.g. Paul’s obligation to the Greeks and non-Greeks [Rom. 1:14]) and as a negative arrangement (e.g. Paul suggests that circumcision makes one obligated to keep the whole law that doesn’t provide freedom [Gal. 5:3]).
Debt and obligation meet together in a wonderful admonition to the church in Rome:
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)
I listened to a summary of Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Formula earlier this week. A couple of key points from the book have lingered with me. One of which I shared with someone during a counseling appointment this week. So, I thought I’d share it here, too.
When faced with a difficult moment, Elrod suggests setting a 5:00 timer and allowing yourself to feel the weight, difficulty, and grief of the situation. Experience the real, raw emotions for that timeframe.
After the 5:00 timeframe, a couple of things are apparent:
– we live in reality rather than denial
– we have the time to figure out what we can and cannot control. We gain a realistic view of the path ahead.
How about this one from NT Wright’s “Big Red,” The New Testament and the People of God:
Jesus seems to have believed himself to be the focal point of the real returning-from-exile people, the true kingdom-people; but that kingdom, that people and this Messiah did not look like what the majority of Jews expected. Jesus was summoning his hearers to a different way of being Israel. We now have to come to terms with the fact that he believed himself called to go that different way himself as Israel’s anointed representative and to do for Israel – and hence for the world – what Israel could not or would not do for herself.
The New Testament word for “guarantee” (Greek arrabon) has a peculiar meaning. I’m not sure what you think of when someone gives you a guarantee, but it is usually a verbal promise of some sort.
In the biblical world, a guarantee would usually be accompanied by a pledge, or a token, portion of the whole of the item promised. In the OT, a pledge was given by Judah (in a really *cough* complicated story in Genesis 38:17-20). Judah provided his seal and staff to Tamar as a promise that he’d send a young goat from his flock after he returned home.
The guarantee was supported by a tangible pledge, an item pointing towards the whole.
This idea is used by Paul in Ephesians 1. In speaking of the Ephesian’s hope for salvation, Paul said,
“When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.” (Eph. 1:13-14)
A common anxiety I hear as a pastor is, “How do I know that I belong to God?” Paul’s answer is that the Spirit is given to us in order to point towards God’s renewed world, that we get to both to anticipate later and to participate in today.
While reading David Brooks’ The Second Mountain, he shared (in an off-handed comment) a device that he uses for making personal decisions.
In the most significant decisions in his life, Brooks employs a 10, 10, 10 filtering system.
Let’s give it a try. Think of your most pressing decision that you have in front of you. Think of what decision you think you should make.
Imagine what life will be like in:
Do you like what you can imagine with the limited knowledge that you have? If so, take your leap. If not, you might pick another option and perform the same exercise.
Here’s another ditty from Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy. Willard is giving reference to the provocative appeal that Jesus and his early followers gave to the watching world around them.
The life and words that Jesus brought into the world came in the form of information and reality. He and his early associates overwhelmed the ancient world because they brought into it a stream of life at its deepest, along with the best information possible on the most important matters. These were matters with which the human mind had already been seriously struggling for a millennium or more without much success. The early message was, accordingly, not experienced as something its hearers had to believe or do because otherwise something bad – something with no essential connection with real life – would happen to them. The people initially impacted by that message generally concluded that they would be fools to disregard it. That was the basis of their conversion.
I am away from my office desk and without Mounce’s text for this week’s Text Tuesday post. Instead, I am working on sermons for the remainder of our Jonah series this month.
As I work through Jonah 2, I’m struck by the language in Jonah’s prayer. Verse 5 says,
“The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.”
Jonah uses a familiar term “engulfed” (Hebrew: afafuni) to describe his experience after being hurled into the ocean. This word is used by the psalmists to describe drowning, which fits the theme of the first part of Jonah: descent. Jonah goes “down, down, down,” to Joppa, to the bottom of the ship, to the depths of the ocean, and into the depths of the fish.
Perhaps you’ve experienced the panic of being under water longer than you anticipated, how the immediate dread spills over one’s mind when the air runs out. Jonah felt this on a couple of different levels: physical and emotional, I’d expect. He was surrounded; there was no way out.
In that place, he poured his heart out to God in what is, for the most part, a penitent and thoughtful prayer. When we are surrounded, we tend to say the most honest prayers.
Here is my daughter, Avery (10), crushing Latin homework on a Thursday morning and enjoying the “Pink Drink” from Starbucks.
On a visit to Starbucks, Avery usually gets one of three drinks, the Pink Drink being one of them.
From the backseat of the car, Avery exclaimed, “This is the best Pink Drink I’ve had!”
She would know. She gets them all of the time.
The next thing she did stunned me. Avery asked her brother and I if we’d like to have some.
Instead of hoarding the best stuff, Avery felt compelled to share it.
Deep down, we know we ought to share the best stuff.
Thursday’s are for practical, pragmatic, techniques for everyday living. Today, I wanted to share about an app that is keeping me on track: Streaks.
Streaks keeps track of any goal, any frequency that I have. Currently, I have 5 goals in Streaks and it gives me the daily reminder to continue what I started.
It might be my personality, but I like a scoreboard and I like to keep adding to a score if I can. Streaks gives me that extra motivation to add to the progress that I made yesterday.
Check it out. It might be just what you need to get over the hump on that challenging task or discipline.