Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

Good morning. Today is Saturday, February 16, 2013.

Today is Do A Grouch A Favor Day. Is there a “Mr. Wilson” in your life? (For all you young people, he was Dennis the Menace’s neighbor.) Do something nice for him. See what happens. “What if I’m the grouch??” Well…stop being grouchy, K?

Well. It has been a rather strange few days around here. Over the last few days, there has been a frantic manhunt in the DFW area after a couple of Miami cops were blithering idiots made a small mistake and let a convicted killer get away, while sitting in a Wal-Mart parking lot in a rental car. I don’t have time to talk about how many things were wrong with this entire scenario. This guy was being transported from Miami to Las Vegas, and it was wrong from the beginning. He was on the loose for several days, while local schools were on high security alert. According to reports from Stephanie (and she should know, she’s been tracking this thing since it started), he was shot and killed last night at Grapevine Lake.

In the meantime, the entire world was watch an asteroid that flew by the Earth, close enough to give a friendly wave (somewhere around 12,000 miles away, I think). That’s pretty close. BUT…while everyone was watching the asteroid

Some “experts” are saying that the meteor explosion was twenty times more powerful than the atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima. At first,I had a serious problem believing this. 45,000 people were killed on the day of the Hiroshima blast. 1000 people were injured yesterday in the meteor explosion, and none killed. However, there is something to consider. The Hiroshima bomb was detonated at around 2000 feet. The meteor exploded miles above the surface. It was one of those days where you feel like you’re living in a science fiction movie.

Christi and I, as promised in yesterday’s entry, went out to Hoffbrau Steak House last night, but we were unable to have prime rib. It seems that they had temporarily run out. We got there around 6pm, and were told that they were out of prime rib, “until 7:30.” Okay. What happens at 7:30? Does the meteor drop prime rib from the sky? Do they kill the fatted calf? More likely, the next batch is defrosted, is what I’m guessing. But it was okay. We both had a Rib-eye steak, and it was delicious! How will this affect my weight loss journey? Meh. I only gained .4 pound this morning, so I’m not worried about it. Sometimes, you just gotta have steak.

Today, Rachel and Justin are coming over for a visit. Who knows what we will do? I’m sure we will have either lunch or dinner, and maybe play a game, and likely sit around and watch some TV. Should be good times.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1940, “a British destroyer operating under Admiralty instructions intercepted a German supply ship making her way home along the coast of Norway.” The HMS Cossack chased the Altmark into a fjord where she ran aground. The cargo that was rescued consisted of “300 sailors of the British Merchant Navy, the capture drews of nine merchant vessels sunk the previous autumn.” Norway, being neutral, protested the violation of her waters, but to no avail.

Today’s birthday is Edgar Bergen, born on this date in 1903. Bergen was famous for his ventriloquism act with his “partner” Charlie McCarthy. He passed away in 1978. Here’s a clip of the two of them at an AFI tribute Orson Welles.

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. Psalm 107:8-9
Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Psalm 5:1
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
Father, I pray for a glimpse of you during this time of devotion and meditation.

Today I’m reading Isaiah 28:11-13.
11 For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the LORD will speak to this people,
12 to whom he has said, “This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose”; yet they would not hear.
13 And the word of the LORD will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

In this passage, Isaiah throws the taunts of the religious leaders right back in their faces. In Hebrew, these words, “precept upon precept, line upon line” appear as “sav lasav, sav lasav, kav lakav, kav lakav.” It almost looks like a children’s taunt. I can easily see the faces of people throwing that taunt at Isaiah in the passage I read yesterday (verse 10), and then Isaiah turns it right back on them in verse 13. In essence, the word of God meant nothing to the religious leaders of the day. It was nothing more than “blah, blah, blah.” In fact, Eugene Peterson translates verse,
So God will start over with the simple basics
and address them in baby talk, one syllable at a time—
“Da, da, da, da,
blah, blah, blah, blah.
That’s a good little girl,
that’s a good little boy.”
And like toddlers, they will get up and fall down,
get bruised and confused and lost.

Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Directions for Living.” The scripture reference is Deuteronomy 17:18-20.
18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.
19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them,
20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

This passage is part of God’s instructions for the king that Israel will ask to have over them. The law that is referred to, “approved by the Levitical priests,” was that which gave the Israelites their instructions for living. They were to keep God’s laws, exhibit his love, and express his righteousness.” Even the king was required to read the Word of God regularly, and keep it close to his heart. The king must know “his proper place before God. He must fear the Lord, demonstrating that he knows he is a creature and has power only at God’s discretion. We would do well to seek the same understanding.” As I begin the study of my selected scripture passage (see yesterday’s entry), I am challenged to begin with this prayer:
Father God, you have provided Scripture as “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). Help me to make the most of this precious gift. Give me the gift of understanding and the discipline to return to your word again and again, for my flesh is so weak and easily distracted or frustrated when the task grows difficult. I ask that you kindle in me a desire for learning more of you, so that I may come to your word with the joy and delight of the psalmists. In your name I pray. Amen.
The passage that I have chosen for the next ten days is the book of 1 John. Five brief chapters, able to be read in a single sitting of just a few minutes.

Father, I pray that, as I read the book of 1 John over the next couple of weeks, you would grant me a fresh understanding of the words therein. Give me a new vision for life, “directions for living,” from you word, as I read and study it. I have always believed that your word is ever-living, and brings new insight to me every time I read it. I don’t expect to be disappointed in this instance, either. As I read each day, may my eyes and spirit be open to what you have to say to me, and may it work its way deep down into my soul. Kindle that desire for me to learn more of you. Give me delight and joy in finding you in your word. Give me focus and guard me against the things that so often distract me.

I pray for the rest of this day. I pray for travel safety for Rachel and Justin as the make their way to us. Give us a good visit this afternoon, and may we get good rest over this weekend. As I practice for the worship celebration later today, may my fingers move smoothly over the keys, producing beautiful music to your ears, and prepare my heart and soul to worship you with the rest of the body at The Exchange tomorrow morning.

The Bible gives us “directions for living,” drawing us closer to God as it teaches us about him. In fact, an old acronym for it used to be “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”

Grace and peace, friends.


6 thoughts on “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

  1. Jeff, one of your best! I don’t know why exactly but this entire post ‘hangs together’ so well. My only comment – Peterson’s THE MESSAGE is a wonderful read, but it is not a translation; rather it is a paraphrase. Now, I know you know that but just in case others don’t… it’s an important distinction. Many blessings, your friend, Carley

    1. Thank you so much for the compliment!

      I agree that it is an important distinction. However, I respectfully disagree that The Message is a paraphrase. By definitions that I learned long ago, what makes a translation a translation is that it was taken from the original languages, which Eugene Peterson labored long and hard to do. A paraphrase is taken from a version already translated and re-worded. The only true paraphrase that I know of is The Living Bible. While I do not always like Peterson’s translation, I hate to see it mistakenly put in a category with the awfulness that is The Living Bible. Just because it is not a strict word for word translation does not mean that it is not a translation. By that standard, even the NIV is a paraphrase.

      Of course, this debate is going to go on and on, with intelligent and thoughtful people on both sides. I just had a discussion on it with my pastor, this morning. I will always say that The Message is a translation. In all honesty, it is impossible to translate with paraphrasing to some degree. A literal, word for word translation from Hebrew to English would not make sense to us. I’ve seen an “interlinear” Old Testament. Even the idol of “fundamentalists” everywhere, the KJV, must have some paraphrasing in it.

      Just as with my pastor, we will probably have to agree to disagree on this one. 🙂

      1. Jeff,

        I own the MESSAGE and I’ve enjoyed reading it. My understanding is that Peterson in the MESSAGE attempts to put the Word into everyday language. Perhaps I misunderstood the introduction to his book, but I thought he took his own understanding of the original texts and expanded it so that his congregation might understand it better – his expansions are what I would consider “paraphrasing.”

        I do agree that the Living Bible is a true “horror.”

        Many blessings, Carley

      2. I guess the definition of “paraphrase” has evolved since my college days, which was when my understanding of the difference between paraphrase and translation was formed. Perhaps it could be said that Peterson translated and then paraphrased. I think I can live with that.

        I’m not sure why I’m so defensive about Peterson’s work. I’ve read a lot of his books, and am very fond of him. I don’t love everything about The Message, but I know that it’s his “love child,” so to speak. The work he did on the Psalms is pretty much unequaled.

        Blessings, my friend!

  2. Jeff, I understand completely. He put an amazing amount of work into THE MESSAGE and it is valuable in and of itself. I imagine you are a bit defensive about it because – if your experience is anything like mine – you find his work dismissed by religious leaders. I used his translation/paraphrase of a verse in Hebrews once, and got a comment from a pastor that “it was a horrible translation” of that verse. Carley

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