The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 12

This week, as we continue our study of Ezekiel, we get to see God confront the society of His people. He keeps proclaiming that destruction is coming, while knowing that the people do not believe Him. Sometimes this can be true for us as well. Ezekiel performs as he always does, knowing that the people will not understand.

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Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal

Ever since the discovery of fire, technology has had some impact upon our society. Sometime it can be good, like the wheel, or bad, like the nuclear bomb. Technology has been made to make incredible advancements in our world, like life saving treatments for disease, while also being produced to end even more lives than it saves. The first book for this month is called Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal by Craig M Gay, published by InterVarsity Press in December of 2018. In this book, Gay looks at the current environment of mondern technology and asks, “Is this good for us?” By looking at the worldview that comes with modern technology, Gay argues that it is incompatiable with orthodox Christian theology.

“it has been observed that for every additional hour of television beyond the recommended limit a child watches at age twenty-nine months, the odds increase the the child will be more detached and unengaged as a fourth-grade student”

Like other critics of technology, Gay is concerned that the modern advancement of technology is actually diminishing humanity as persons. One of the most significant places he points to is our ability to “outsource” our thinking to machines. Machines are not trained to look at every nuance like the human mind does, they are simply meant to find the most logical and efficient solution. Because of this, humanity checks itself out of the process of thinking altogether. Our modern workplaces have even changed to show this happening. When at first computers were used to help us at our jobs, there are now entire workforces who’s job it is to input data into a computer so it can work with the data. This leads towards having a more unskilled workforce, as most people are merely inputting data or relying on machines to do the work for them. Referenceing Nicholas Carr’s book The Glass Cage, Gay points to it being “determined that human pilots, having become so used to computer control, [have] basically forgotten how to fly their aircraft.”

“We’re going to need to begin to imagine what the implications of biblical religion are for the development and use of modern technology and then to begin to live out of these implications.”

The crux of the argument, for Gay, is that technology is asking us to live more and more outside of ourselves. We no longer think for ourselves and we no longer have face-to-face interactions with our social circles. Our lives are being transformed to be lived in “cyberspace.” Gay says that this does not work for orthodox Christian theology. He argues that we must recognize that God made us to be material beings, living in a material plane of existence, and interacting with other material beings. He says that God makes this point obvious in that He became human flesh, but even beyond that, Jesus’ physical body was resurrected. Our material being has importance in the plan of God.

“Apparently people can live quite happily on bread alone, so it has turned out, as long as they are comfortable, healthy, suitably entertained, and distracted from asking troublesome religious questions.”

As someone who works in a technological field professionally, and adds to the over abundance of content by writing a blog, I am honestly unsure how I feel about Gay’s commentary. He makes a strong argument that, at the very leasts, Christians ought to be careful about what technology they choose to employ. We must continue to recognize that people are created human beings and not representations of data. We can track statistics, web traffic, and behavior patterns as much as we like, but this never tells us a thing about our neighbor down the street. God created us to be people in community, not connected over social media. Personally, there are aspects of modern technology that I still really love. I am able to maintain a 22 year old relationship with a friend that has lived across the country for 10 years. I am employable based on my skills, that would not exist if it were not for modern technology. But there needs to be some level of discipline involved in our use of technology. We are not made to “feed the server,” but are made to be in communion with people and with God.

I recommend this book for no other reason than that it makes you think. It exposes potential idolatry in our lives by asking if modern technology is good for us. I enjoyed the read and have already passed it on to others. Pick yourself up a copy today and join the conversation about our use of technology.

The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 11

Editorial note: I apologize that I have not kept up very well with my schedule during the last couple of months. Unfortunately life keeps getting in the way and I have not been able to plan and write like I want to. I have allowed this to keep me from writing anyway, which is a disservice to anyone who actually reads this blog. Here lately I have been talking a lot about spiritual practices, and this seems to be an area that I am lacking development. I will re-double my efforts to write reliably, but any prayers for me would be greatly appreciated.

As we have seen in the past couple of chapter, Ezekiel experiences several visions in his ministry to the people. In this chapter, Ezekiel is prophesying directly to the people. He still sees visions, but here he is declaring the words of God that have been given to him to say. Unfortunately, this is not a good message for the people, however, there is a slight bit of hope given. God never wants to abandon His people, but sometimes they make Him do it.

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The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 10

In this chapter, we are still continuing the vision Ezekiel receives in chapter 8. After all the death of the previous chapter, we see the scribe return to receive new orders from God. This chapter also behaves as a type of transition between the beginning of this vision, and the next part of it. This is where studying the prophets becomes difficult as we must be reading allegorically to see what is happening. We far too often desire to read Scripture literally, and as I pointed out last time, this may not always be helpful. This chapter still requires us to behave in this manner.

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New Testament Christological Hymns: Exploring Texts, Contexts, and Significance

I was recently having a conversation with someone over how much place academics have within the realm of Christianity. Personally, I believe that in order for us to be disciples of Jesus Christ, today, there has to be a level of constant academic work in order for us to connect with our roots. Then I realized, it has been a while since the Heart Man Blog Book Reviews took on an academic work. So for this month the book is New Testament Christological Hymns: Exploring Texts, Contexts, and Significance by Matthew E Gordley published by InterVarsity Press in August of last year. Gordley seeks to look at several passages that have been recognized as possible hymns and helps us to re-connect with our faith’s past and beginnings.

“The prophets promised an outpouring of joy when God began to fulfill his promises of restoration (Joel 2:26-27; Zeph 3:14-15; Zech 9:9-10; Is 66:7-11). Mary’s praise thus begins the joyous symphony that follows. In this respect Mary may be considered a model for early Christian worship.”

Matthew Gordley

Gordley seeks to argue that there is a significant usage of hymns within the New Testament. Though it is impossible to know if the hymnic passages are original to author or assimilated from hymns being used, the study of these hymns is important for understanding the worship practices of the Early Church. After chapters that set the reasoning for this type of study, and an overview of hymns that are used elsewhere during the same period (Greek hymns, Jewish psalms, and others), he turns to engage with particular passages. The major passages under his lense are Phillipians 2:6-11, Collosians 1:15-20, and John 1:1-18. The sixth chapter of this book is a survey of several other passages found within the New Testament, but he does not spend as much time with these has he does with the previous three passages. His final chapter is the summation of this entire study where he declares that “worship is, in its broadest scope, an intentional practice of affirming, proclaiming, and confessing an allegiance to God that, among other things, enables the worshiper to see himself or herself as part of a reality that is larger than the visible reality on offer within the world in which the worshiper lives.” Meaning that worship is a truly cosmic event where the worshiper must be able to recognize their place and glorifying God in their submission to Him.

“For who is ignorant of the books of Irenaeus, Melito, and the rest who proclaim Christ as God and man, and how many psalms and odes, written from the beginning by brothers in the faith, hymn Christ, the word of God, proclaiming his as a god?”

Eusebius of Caesarea, Histoire Ecclésiastique

Personally, I found this book very interesting. I’m fairly certain it is because I am an academic that also serves as a worship leader within my church. I find it interesting to look to the Christians that have come before us to see how it is they worshiped God in “spirit and truth.” Gordley does a fantastic job to setting the stage of the thought world of Paul, John, and the early Christians as they are writing these passages. It shows that the Church worked really hard to insure that Jesus was lifted up as the name above every other name and to which every knee will bow. However, I’m finding it hard to figure out who to recommend this book to. I think it has tremendous academic value for someone looking to study these types of passages, yet I am not convinced there are many non-academics that would find this book appealing. Yet, I personally find it extremely helpful in my worship ministry as I seek to understand worship practices and convey them to the congregation I serve. At times this book gets very scholarly, but I do not feel that this is a detrement to the work. Maybe if you are in one of the schools that have a worship ministry program, this might be a great supplimental book to add to your reading. I can also see where this book works well as a text book for a course. Either way, pick yourself up a copy by clicking the link below and learn about these special passages of Scripture this month.

The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 9

If you are reading this book a chapter at a time, this is where it might be important to remember that chapters and verses are editorial editions added much later to Scripture. This is important to note, because normally when we see chapters in our contemporary reading, that means we are on a whole new topic. Often within Scripture that is not the case. In this week’s chapter, we see a continuation of the vision that started in the previous chapter. Without that information, you may be prone to ask a lot of wrong questions about what is happening in chapter 9.

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The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 8

Six years into his ministry, Ezekiel is shown another vision of the Lord. This vision is of the same awe inspiring glory that Ezekiel has now already seen twice (in chapters 1 and 6). God picks him up and carries him to various places in Jerusalem, so he can see the terrible things being done by God’s people. God asks the prophet, “Young man, do you see what they’re doing, great offensive things that Yisra’el’s household are doing here, so that I shall go far from my sanctuary?” (Ezekiel 8:6, Goldingay). These things are mostly forms of idol worship: images and professing other gods. Yet after showing him the “inflammatory image, at the entrance” (Ezekiel 8:5, Goldingay), God invites Ezekiel to come in, even deeper, to see more of the evil being done.

“As the world is weary of me so am I of it”

John Knox

Six times in this chapter, God asks Ezekiel if he has seen or invites him to see the evils that are in the Temple. Unfortunately, we cannot truly know or understand the problems that exist in our world without seeing them. This is not because we are unaware of the issues, but without seeing them, we have no real way of feeling them. In this chapter, Ezekiel has been on his mission for six years. I imagine that he was beginning to get weary, so God chooses to show him the evils that he and God are fighting against. God invites Ezekiel to actually look at these people. Does he see what they are doing? After he sees, what is it that he does?

Going Forward

In Steven Garber’s book Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good, he asks a question over and over again “Knowing what I now know about the way the world is, what am I going to do?” This is the same question that God is asking of Ezekiel in this chapter. It is far to easy for us (the Church) to only be looking into our Bibles and thinking about God theologically. We often miss what is happening just down the street. I often find people within my own church that do not know of ways that we can interact with the world to show God’s love to it, when there is a strip club just a block away from the building. My church is even situated in an area that as one of the highest proportions of drug use in the state! Is it spiritual blindness that causes people to not see the evils of the world, or is it apatheia? When God shows you the evil things happening around you, how are you going to act? Jesus got into the mud, and walked into the most sinful places in order to love people. If we are seeking to be true disciples of Jesus, ought we do the same thing?

What I’ve Been Up To

Man, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything on here (outside of that book review last week). Mostly this is because of school. I got very busy over the last couple of weeks trying to get all the work done I needed to, that I just didn’t have the brain space to write for this blog, for that, I apologize. Now that the school year is over, and I have a small break before my summer class begins, I think I have the opportunity to reflect on some of the ideas I have been wrestling with this past semester. Continue reading “What I’ve Been Up To”

The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction

4560Most people (especially Americans) live incredibly busy lives. With so many demands on our time, is it really any surprise that our spiritual lives tend to suffer? This month’s book seeks to combat that. It is The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distration by Justin Whithel Earley from InterVarsity Press. This book was published in February of 2019, and I chose to take a look at it and practice during this past season of Lent. Earley is a lawyer by training, but has experience as a missionary in China. He leans heavily on his experience of living a busy lifestyle, and overcoming that with a concious decision of living his life so he did not miss the things that were most important to him. He writes this book very similiarly to how you may find a rule for a monastic lifestyle, such as The Rule of St Benedict. He takes this style and presents it with a contemporary setting so it can make sense to the average reader of how this applies to your life today. You do not have to move to a monastery or a convent to practice the rule that Earley suggests.

“Since we’re too tired to make any good decisions, we’re extremely susceptible to letting other people — from manipulative bosses to invisible smartphone programmers — make our decisions for us.”

The Common Rule is broken up into eight different habits: four daily and four weekly. All of these habits are designed to help you realize you are not God and cannot possible accomplish everything, while also focusing you on the things that matter in life. The habits are: kneeling prayer three times a day (daily), one meal with others (daily), on hour with phone off (daily), Scripture before phone (daily), conversaition with a friend (weekly), curate media (weekly), fast from something for 24 hours (weekly), and Sabbath (weekly). Earley writes chapters that explain each habit, why they are important, and how he practices it in his own busy life. However, the warning with adopting rules and habits, is that we not become legalistic. Humanity is to quick to make ideas into laws that we must live by. Earley suggests that we keep our focus on Christ and love for others, then the habits will naturally fit. He also includes and epilogue where he talks about what happens when you fail your practice.  Here he shows how easy it is to slip into a mentality of giving up, but it is important to keep that focus of Christ.

“Those are the kind of habits with cultivating — little habits of love, not carried out for success, not carried out to prove who you are, but cultivated because of a longing to love God and neighbor.”

I essentially have 2.5 full time jobs, while also trying to blog, raise three childen and love my wife. I know many people probably just exlaimed and the crazy person that is writing this review, but honestly I found this book so helpful. Like other rules, you find having a set liturgy and pace to your life makes everything feel much more managable. I enjoyed the way that Earley writes about these spiritual disciplines he has been cultivating within the lives of his family and his community. The thing that I found most helpful was the Resources section at the end of the book. This is designed to be a reference guide to remind yourself of the habits, while also helping you implement them into your life. I found myself often turning to it for help in trying to figure out how to put these habits into my day. I think that this is a good book for any busy person to spend a week with. I found the content easy to get through in a week, but it can lead to a lifetime of closeness with God. Pick it by clicking on this link, and learn how to break through your busyness and lean on God.

The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 7

The last couple of chapters have been discussing the oncoming punishment that the people of Israel are to recieve. This week is no different. It is rough to read about this because it seems that we may have no hope. Chapter 4-24 of Ezekiel are all about the terrible sin of the people and the punishment that is coming because of it. However, in chapter 25 hope does come. Just like our own lives, we do not know what to do when it is bad, then we find hope. This week further’s the conversation about the punishment of sin, but I think there may be a deeper lesson in this section. Continue reading “The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 7”