When we don’t trust the unity that is in Christ

When we don’t trust the unity that is in Christ, we default into manipulation. We manipulate through legalism or hyper-spirituality. We need to trust the One in whom all things hold together.

16 So don’t let anyone judge you about eating or drinking or about a festival, a new moon observance, or sabbaths. 17 These religious practices are only a shadow of what was coming—the body that cast the shadow is Christ. 18 Don’t let anyone who wants to practice harsh self-denial and worship angels rob you of the prize. They go into detail about what they have seen in visions and have become unjustifiably arrogant by their selfish way of thinking. 19 They don’t stay connected to the head. The head nourishes and supports the whole body through the joints and ligaments, so the body grows with a growth that is from God. (Col. 2:16-19)

Common English Study Bible

Cokesbury had a huge sale last week and it included the Common English Study Bible. I was able to obtain this translation when it first came out through the generosity of the publisher, and I’ve found it to be a refreshing translation. It certainly has its “quirks,” but for common reading (and for me it’s so helpful in reading the Deuterocanonical books) it’s a nice translation. I have found myself using the CEB and NIV together the past year or so.

The Study Bible is a nice addition. I would compare it to the NIV Study Bible in purpose. It helps the reader read the Bible. I find the ESV Study Bible gets into some depth that stretches into study and theology. To this point (and it’s early for me) the CEB Study Bible has put together a tool to help the common believer simply read better.

I purchased the hardcover edition with the Apocrypha, so let me start out by saying this thing isn’t going into my briefcase! This picture has my first copy of the Common English Bible (with Apocrypha) on top of the CEB Study Bible. To put it bluntly… this thing is HUGE.

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The type font is not too small. There is color everywhere. Pictures are not overwhelming, but useful.

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The sidebars offer very helpful insights into definitions or cultural issues or textual issues of the particular passage.

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The maps are beautiful.

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Typically I am more of a fan of a plain text Bible, so I am grateful I have a black letter CEB with Apocrypha. But this study Bible, I think, is very helpful for those wanting just some basic insights into what is going on in the passage.

While this translation, like very translation these days, will fall victim to labeling (too “Reform,” too “Conservative,” too “liberal”) I think, as a “conservative” Christian, this translation is extremely helpful in reading the text well. I also think this study Bible will be helpful to open up passages a little more clearly, in the vein of the NIV Study Bible.

 

The Anticipation of the Season

32 “But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the angels in heaven and not the Son. Only the Father knows. 33  Watch out! Stay alert! You don’t know when the time is coming. 34  It is as if someone took a trip, left the household behind, and put the servants in charge, giving each one a job to do, and told the doorkeeper to stay alert.35  Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know when the head of the household will come, whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the early morning or at daybreak. 36  Don’t let him show up when you weren’t expecting and find you sleeping. 37  What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert!” (Mark 13:32-37)

The focus of the second coming is a part of Advent I love to dwell on as I learn more about the season. I want to have that anticipation stirred in me again. 

The disciples got into this discussion because they were so taken with the Temple mount and all its beauty. Jesus said it wouldn’t last and THEN they wanted to talk about the end times. 

I don’t want my life so caught up with the “stuff” of this life, the satisfaction I may have with what is going on in my life, that I get sleepy and miss anticipating his return. When I am about the Father’s business, that anticipation can remain high. I can be about his work and think, “If he comes for us now I can show him this! I want to show him this!” 

But if I’m satisfied with all the nice things around me and reach a place of complacency (not contentment, because contentment is different), then I begin to go to sleep and my anticipation slips. 

Lord, help me to be about your business today. Let me be in your activity today and as I am, let me think, “If you came right now for me, I would want to show you this!”

Longing to see my King…

 

Preparation in Advent is more than individual effort

16     Wash! Be clean!
Remove your ugly deeds from my sight.
Put an end to such evil;
17     learn to do good.
Seek justice:
help the oppressed;
defend the orphan;
plead for the widow.

18 Come now, and let’s settle this,
says the Lord.
Though your sins are like scarlet,
they will be white as snow.
If they are red as crimson,
they will become like wool.
19 If you agree and obey,
you will eat the best food of the land.
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.
The Lord has said this. (Isa. 1:16-20)

Salvation isn’t just about the individual. When we quote the verse about sins being like scarlet, but they can be white as snow… it’s about the community. God is addressing Israel.

Beyond that verse is the context. God is calling Israel back to faithfulness in their world. It is a matter of getting back to what the heart of Law asked for: to do right, to seek justice, to defend the oppressed.

I will not draw this out and ask how “America” is doing. That’s just not the right parallel, in my opinion. But for the people of God, how are we doing?

In this season of Advent, it is a good time to reflect on doing justice (which is far beyond the very narrow legal term we have made it today). How are we doing when it comes to the edges of our world?

The King came the first time to live out the example of how the Kingdom really should operate. He took in the margins. He cared for people at the edges.

Are we living in the example of our King? The Kingdom isn’t just about God taking care of my individual sins. It is about me living in this world in the power of the Spirit.

 

Dreaming about what IS possible

2 In the days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
will be the highest of the mountains.
It will be lifted above the hills;
peoples will stream to it.
3 Many nations will go and say,
“Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain,
to the house of Jacob’s God
so that he may teach us his ways
and we may walk in God’s paths.”
Instruction will come from Zion;
the Lord’s word from Jerusalem.
4 God will judge between the nations,
and settle disputes of mighty nations.
Then they will beat their swords into iron plows
and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation;
they will no longer learn how to make war.

5 Come, house of Jacob,
let’s walk by the Lord’s light. (Isa. 2:2-5)

This is a day of thanks. This is also the week leading us into the first Sunday of Advent. The Old Testament text is the one above from Isaiah.

As I meditate on these verses, and look back at Isaiah 1, I am mindful that in our day we can focus too closely on Isaiah 1 and the current headlines. There is MUCH to be upset about.

But Isaiah chose to SEE something different. He saw what was POSSIBLE. On this day I am so thankful for what I do have in my life that God has brought. I am content. He is so incredibly gracious to me.

And on this day I want to also continue dreaming about what IS possible. I don’t want to dream my own dreams. I want to dream God’s dreams. Isaiah SAW what God could do. This wasn’t HIS dream. It was GOD’S dream.

Dreaming God’s dream today. And being thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

The CEB Study Bible

Since the arrival of the Common English Bible, I have been intrigued by the simple approach to translation. It is designed to make the Bible clear.

For lifelong Christians, that isn’t easy. I have trouble still with calling Jesus “the Human One,” and calling the ark a box.

But where I see how the CEB excels is in the Apocrypha. I’m not familiar with the Apocrypha, so reading the CEB helps me flow in the text much easier than the NRSV. It’s actually a pleasure reading the Apocrypha with the CEB.

The CEB Study Bible is now out and I’ve had a copy of the Gospel of Mark for awhile. The sample CEB Study Bible reveals a simple study Bible. The notes are very simple. They do not try to push “doctrine.” They try to reveal clarity. There are sidebars in the main text that explore a subject a bit more deeply.

This isn’t the ESV Study Bible, to be sure. It’s not trying to overwhelm you with notes. It’s trying to get the reader a bit more engaged in the text.

The approach to Scripture is revealed in an intro article by Joel Green. It’s called “The Authority of Scripture,” and I thought it was well done.

Here is part of the last paragraph (using 2 Tim. 3:16-16 for the base):

This text is helpful for anyone thinking about scripture’s authority, for two reasons. First, it reminds us of the claim of our faith, that scripture has its origins in the aims and voice of God… Scripture beats witness to God because God enables speech about God and God’s activity in the world. Second, it reminds us of the purpose or direction of scripture’s authority. The role of scripture isn’t to teach us lessons about history, medicine, archaeology, architecture, science, geography, and so on… Instead, engagement with scripture should produce this: “that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.” We exhibit our best beliefs about the Bible not so much by what we say about the Bible but through scripture-shaped hearts and lives.

This is a Bible that might be considered as a good alternative to the NIV Study Bible.

I will still utilize the NIV far more, but the CEB continues to impress me with their aim in getting people INTO the Scriptures.