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.

Continue reading “The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 11”
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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.

Continue reading “The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 10”

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”

The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 6

Continuing on the same theme as the last chapter, God is declaring punishment to Israel in the week’s chapter. It’s hard to imagine why God is spending so much time on the idea of punishment for sin, but how often do we consider what sin is? Many people may feel that because of Jesus, there is no need to dwell on sin any longer. Maybe, sin is far more damaging than we really think it is. Continue reading “The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 6”

Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt

This month’s book was one that I was truly happy to have read. This book came across my desk at a time when I was really down and had trouble keeping up with my faith. God seemed so far away that I felt that He truly did not care about me. Then I read this month’s book, Faith in the Shadows by Austin Fischer from InterVarsity Press. This book came out in 2018 and is designed with discussion questions in the back so you can have a small group discuss the content of this book. But what is the content?

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This month’s book was one that I was truly happy to have read. This book came across my desk at a time when I was really down and had trouble keeping up with my faith. God seemed so far away that I felt that He truly did not care about me. Then I read this month’s book, Faith in the Shadows by Austin Fischer from InterVarsity Press. This book came out in 2018 and is designed with discussion questions in the back so you can have a small group discuss the content of this book. But what is the content? Continue reading “Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt”