Archive for June, 2011

Guts and Butts

Thursday, June 30th, 2011
I want to fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith.
I belong to a weight reduction, health accountability group at my YMCA called Guts and Butts (G&B) (I am not making this up). I am the youngest member (58).  Our group is the main competitor of the YMCA perennial favorites, Silver Sneakers (SSs)who are fortunate enough to have Medicare and Blue Cross and Blue Shield Insurance with no deductable.  We G & B have hybrid high deductable insurance plans of dubious quality.
We have periodic contests with the Silver Sneakers.  So far they have beat us every time.  Last Christmas we had a contest to see how many pounds each group could lose between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The SS champs lost 150 pounds.  We gained a net 9 pounds.  They received gift certificates at Subway©.  We gave ourselves a party.
Last Easter we competed in the swim-the-most miles contest.  Each person was on an honor code and wrote his daily mileage on a poster board behind the life guard, who very carefully scrutinized both pool performance and log in totals.  Once I logged a mile.  The life guard scowled at me.
“Well if you consider the back strokes, it was a mile,” I sheepishly offered.  Of course it took me about half the life span of the teen age life guard sitting on his exalted lifeguard throne, to accomplish it, but I did it. Really.
The G&Bs logged 150 miles.  The SSs soared at 350. They got free coupons to the local Subway.  We had a party.
Well, another contest is in the works this year.  We are led by a fairly aggressive 75 year old, Amazon, Margaret.
“This is our year,” she prophesies.
The SSs all have little red roses embroidered on their swimming suits.  Wheezing B&G High Pockets —we call him that because that is how he breaths after even the most moderate exercise and he wears his pants up too high above his ample stomach–has a USMC symbol on his left forearm.  That is the best swimming motif we can sport.

I want to fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith. I belong to a weight reduction, health accountability group at my YMCA called Guts and Butts (G&B) (I am not making this up). I am the youngest member (58).  Our group is the main competitor of the YMCA perennial favorites, Silver Sneakers (SSs)who are fortunate enough to have Medicare and Blue Cross and Blue Shield Insurance with no deductable.  We G & B have hybrid high deductable insurance plans of dubious quality. We have periodic contests with the Silver Sneakers.  So far they have beat us every time.  Last Christmas we had a contest to see how many pounds each group could lose between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The SS champs lost 150 pounds.  We gained a net 9 pounds.  They received gift certificates at Subway©.  We gave ourselves a party. Last Easter we competed in the swim-the-most miles contest.  Each person was on an honor code and wrote his daily mileage on a poster board behind the life guard, who very carefully scrutinized both pool performance and log in totals.  Once I logged a mile.  The life guard scowled at me.   “Well if you consider the back strokes, it was a mile,” I sheepishly offered.  Of course it took me about half the life span of the teen age life guard sitting on his exalted lifeguard throne, to accomplish it, but I did it. Really. The G&Bs logged 150 miles.  The SSs soared at 350. They got free coupons to the local Subway.  We had a party.  Well, another contest is in the works this year.  We are led by a fairly aggressive 75 year old, Amazon, Margaret.   “This is our year,” she prophesies. The SSs all have little red roses embroidered on their swimming suits.  Wheezing B&G High Pockets —we call him that because that is how he breaths after even the most moderate exercise and he wears his pants up too high above his ample stomach–has a USMC symbol on his left forearm.  That is the best swimming motif we can sport.

The SSs have the newest rental lockers sporting top-of-the-line master combination locks.  The G&Bs can’t be sure we can remember or combinations, so we try another approach. We put our stuff in the broken lockers hoping that potential brigands will ignore our depositories.

I am an inveterate G & B.  I like to swim my laps and pray and take my time.  I have no destination, no pressure to perform.  I love my swimming and I love my God.  And in that pool, with other G&Bs, I find my way again, to the sublime perpendicular line that tells me again, for one more Christmas, good and faithful servant, you have reached the end and need to turn around. I don’t know how to flip over like the SSs, but I know how to turn around and go back in the other direction when I meet the wall.  And that is enough.

Not that I will win any coupons to Wendys this Christmas.  But this I know—I will enjoy my time with brothers and sisters, old and infirm, faithful and unpretentious, who, if we can’t win a contest, still have fun along the way. And sometimes, when I am in that surreal pool lap life, I just enjoy my God so much.  I can feel His presence.  I can feel his pleasure.  And that, is enough winning for me.

And I know, no matter what happens, at the end of the great swim, I am going to party with my brothers and sisters—and no doubt a few SSs too– at the end of the long swim. The God of history is faithful and true.

What is Truth?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:38) Jesus Christ was concerned about the truth. “I tell you the truth,”  Jesus said, “until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matt. 5:18). And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42). And so forth. For over a hundred times Jesus punctuated his aphorisms with this phrase, I tell you the truth. .  .
You should be concerned about the truth.
The pursuit of truth is older even than our Lord’s bodily presence on this earth. Besides the Old Testament dialogues about truth (e.g., Proverbs, et al.), secular philosophers were also discussing truth 1000s of years before Christ the man walked the earth. For example, the Greek philosopher Plato (a contemporary of Daniel) was discussing truth 500 years before Christ was born. In a long, long, time ago, in a place far, far away, Plato was discussing things like truth, politics, justice, and beauty. To Plato the pursuit of truth was the beginning and ending of all things. Plato was convinced, for instance, that if people knew the truth they would obey the truth. Plato argued that if people knew the right thing to do they would do it. In other words, immorality was nothing more than ignorance. Were is so, students!  Were it so!
Of course, we who live on the backside of Auschwitz, The Great Leap Forward, and September 11, 2001, know that that is absurd. People are quite capable of knowing the truth and acting immorally. In fact they do it all the time. Sometimes really smart people can make very bad choices.

“What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:38) Jesus Christ was concerned about the truth. “I tell you the truth,”  Jesus said, “until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matt. 5:18). And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42). And so forth. For over a hundred times Jesus punctuated his aphorisms with this phrase, I tell you the truth. .  . You should be concerned about the truth. The pursuit of truth is older even than our Lord’s bodily presence on this earth. Besides the Old Testament dialogues about truth (e.g., Proverbs, et al.), secular philosophers were also discussing truth 1000s of years before Christ the man walked the earth. For example, the Greek philosopher Plato (a contemporary of Daniel) was discussing truth 500 years before Christ was born. In a long, long, time ago, in a place far, far away, Plato was discussing things like truth, politics, justice, and beauty. To Plato the pursuit of truth was the beginning and ending of all things. Plato was convinced, for instance, that if people knew the truth they would obey the truth. Plato argued that if people knew the right thing to do they would do it. In other words, immorality was nothing more than ignorance. Were is so, students!  Were it so! Of course, we who live on the backside of Auschwitz, The Great Leap Forward, and September 11, 2001, know that that is absurd. People are quite capable of knowing the truth and acting immorally. In fact they do it all the time. Sometimes really smart people can make very bad choices.

We all know that “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10b-12) Everyone sins. Smart people also make bad choices. Indeed. We have to be more than smart. We have to be redeemed! And redemption is not dependent upon what we know; it is dependent upon whom we know.

While I was a graduate student at Harvard I lived outside Harvard Yard. New to the area, while I was traveling to class one day, I found myself hopelessly lost. Seeing some august, famous professors traveling at deliberate speed toward their destination I was sure that they knew the way to the Promised Land (i.e., Danforth Hall gate at the Yard). The truth was, I doubted for a few moments?in fact as I foollowed these capable, sagacious professors I remembered a better way. But, no, what did I know! These were the world’s smartest men? But I was very late to my history class! They were more lost than I!

Young people, let me make myself very clear.  We are not on a search for the truth.  This is not an inquiry into the cosmos.  No, there is only one Truth and His name is Jesus Christ.  And we know His name and we know Him personally.  Hallelujah!

The Way, The Truth, The Life

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
The British author G. K. Chesterton writes “The madman’s explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory.”  While this author agrees that absolute objectivity has yet to be attained, it is not the same for absolute truth. In any event, the idea of objectivity as a guiding principle is too valuable to be abandoned. Without it, the pursuit of knowledge is indeed hopelessly lost.  As Aristotle argues in his seminal work Nicomachean Ethics, “. . . the great majority of mankind are agreed about this; for both the multitude and persons of refinement speak of it as Happiness, and conceive ‘the good life’ or ‘doing well’ to be the same thing as ‘being happy.’ But what constitutes happiness is a matter of dispute; and the popular account of it is not the same as that given by the philosophers.” Objectivity is as allusive as happiness, but truth is real. Are people better at making observations, discoveries, and decisions if they remain neutral and impartial? Only if they pursue truth.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Alice in Wonderland falls into the rabbit hole and knows that she is lost.  “Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction,” the doorknob tells Alice.  She has lost all objectivity.  She is in trouble.  She knows it.  But she still has truth—the doorknob has given her truth.  Read the directions!  Alice is not neutral, and in her crisis, is making observations and decisions galore.  She has lost her objectivity, though.  She wants to go home.  The truth will lead her home.  Impartiality, then, is immaterial.  She has a need, a stated objective, and she can have the truth.  The truth will lead her home.  Objectivity is as allusive as happiness, but truth is real. Are people better at making observations, discoveries, and decisions if they remain neutral and impartial? Only if they pursue truth.
Young people, this ACT preparation course is not on a search for the truth.  Most assuredly, we know the Truth.  Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

The British author G. K. Chesterton writes “The madman’s explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory.”  While this author agrees that absolute objectivity has yet to be attained, it is not the same for absolute truth. In any event, the idea of objectivity as a guiding principle is too valuable to be abandoned. Without it, the pursuit of knowledge is indeed hopelessly lost.  As Aristotle argues in his seminal work Nicomachean Ethics, “. . . the great majority of mankind are agreed about this; for both the multitude and persons of refinement speak of it as Happiness, and conceive ‘the good life’ or ‘doing well’ to be the same thing as ‘being happy.’ But what constitutes happiness is a matter of dispute; and the popular account of it is not the same as that given by the philosophers.” Objectivity is as allusive as happiness, but truth is real. Are people better at making observations, discoveries, and decisions if they remain neutral and impartial? Only if they pursue truth. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Alice in Wonderland falls into the rabbit hole and knows that she is lost.  “Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction,” the doorknob tells Alice.  She has lost all objectivity.  She is in trouble.  She knows it.  But she still has truth—the doorknob has given her truth.  Read the directions!  Alice is not neutral, and in her crisis, is making observations and decisions galore.  She has lost her objectivity, though.  She wants to go home.  The truth will lead her home.  Impartiality, then, is immaterial.  She has a need, a stated objective, and she can have the truth.  The truth will lead her home.  Objectivity is as allusive as happiness, but truth is real. Are people better at making observations, discoveries, and decisions if they remain neutral and impartial? Only if they pursue truth. Young people, this ACT preparation course is not on a search for the truth.  Most assuredly, we know the Truth.  Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Loss of Transcendence

Monday, June 27th, 2011
There is a moment in the life of Henry Fleming, protagonist in Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, when he has to plumb the depths of his world view and decide, once and for all, if he believes in a personal, caring God. As you remember, Fleming is a Union soldier fighting at the Battle of Chancellorsville, May, 1863. His unit is under attack. At first he holds firm. While he is hardly brave, he draws strength from the crowd. But the crowd thins. And as a second attack occurs, he runs. He runs from his friends, from his enemy, from his duty, and from his God. From that moment forward he rejects the transcendent, omniscient, “friendly” Judeo-God. He replaces this God with a naturalistic, uncaring, utilitarian deity who cares nothing about Fleming or the world in general. Fleming ultimately returns to duty a new man. While this new revelation causes Fleming to be “courageous,” the reader knows that Fleming is more “cynical” than courageous.
In Henry Fleming’s world there is no courage because there is no transcendence. Everything is instinctive. People make decisions out of what is best for them, not out of anything noble.
From the beginning of this ACT preparation it is important that you decide if this is a frantic rush to a high score or is it a measured, intentional time to prepare for the ACT, for college, and most importantly, to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.  Think and pray about it.

There is a moment in the life of Henry Fleming, protagonist in Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, when he has to plumb the depths of his world view and decide, once and for all, if he believes in a personal, caring God. As you remember, Fleming is a Union soldier fighting at the Battle of Chancellorsville, May, 1863. His unit is under attack. At first he holds firm. While he is hardly brave, he draws strength from the crowd. But the crowd thins. And as a second attack occurs, he runs. He runs from his friends, from his enemy, from his duty, and from his God. From that moment forward he rejects the transcendent, omniscient, “friendly” Judeo-God. He replaces this God with a naturalistic, uncaring, utilitarian deity who cares nothing about Fleming or the world in general. Fleming ultimately returns to duty a new man. While this new revelation causes Fleming to be “courageous,” the reader knows that Fleming is more “cynical” than courageous. In Henry Fleming’s world there is no courage because there is no transcendence. Everything is instinctive. People make decisions out of what is best for them, not out of anything noble. It is important that you decide if this is a frantic rush to a high score or is it a measured, intentional time to prepare for the ACT, for college, and most importantly, to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.  Think and pray about it.

ACT Test Preparation

Friday, June 24th, 2011

From my new ACT PREP BOOK coming out in January–

The ACT Test
The ACT test assesses high school students’ general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work.  It does this by assessing students’ performance in high school, and, therefore, it is more a measure of college readiness than it is a prediction of college performance.  The converse is true for the SAT.
The ACT is an achievement verses aptitude test.  An achievement test is based upon a corpus of information. The multiple-choice tests cover four skill areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science. If students are competent in these areas, if they know enough information related to these disciplines, and can apply this information to cognitive challenges, then they will receive a high score. In that sense, the ACT is of the same genre as an Iowa Basic or Stanford Achievement test.
The SAT, on the other hand is an IQ type test.  It is not based upon epistemology; it is based upon critical thinking.  In other words, the SAT measures students ability to problem solve. The ACT measures students knowledge acquisition.
Therefore, the SAT preparation ideally needs a commitment of 1-3 years. Students cannot raise their IQ scores nor improve critical thinking skills overnight, or even in two months.  But students can raise ACT scores in 50 days.
The Writing Test, which is optional test on the ACT (but not on the SAT), measures skill in planning and writing a short essay.
For a long time, the SAT was by far the most popular college entrance exam in the United States. Even though a high percentage of high school students who hope to go on to a university still rely on the SAT to show their academic prowess, the ACT has gained a lot of ground over the years.
What is it?
Like the SAT, the ACT is a standardized test. With the exception of the optional writing section, all of the questions are multiple choice. There are 215 questions in all, and the exam takes about three hours to complete. The questions focus on four core academic subject areas: math, English, reading, and science, and scores range between 1 and 36.
What does the ACT Measure?
ACT questions focus upon academic knowledge that high school seniors should already have acquired. Since the four sections of the ACT correspond with introductory courses most students will be required to complete during their freshman year, the ACT is a good indication of whether or not students are adequately prepared for the academic challenges of the university.  In my opinion, the SAT is a better predictor of college performance; the ACT is a better evaluation of high school performance.  If then, the SAT is like an IQ test, the ACT is like a national achievement test
When was the ACT First Administered?
The first group of students were tested on the ACT in 1959. From the very beginning, the ACT was intended to be a competitor to the SAT. Today, the test is administered and overseen by ACT, Inc. It is more popular than ever before and, in 2007, a little over 40% of U.S. high school graduates opted to take the ACT in lieu of the SAT. Part of the reason for this preference is the belief among many educators that the SAT is culturally biased and therefore an unfair assessment tool.

The ACT Test
The ACT test assesses high school students’ general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work.  It does this by assessing students’ performance in high school, and, therefore, it is more a measure of college readiness than it is a prediction of college performance.  The converse is true for the SAT. The ACT is an achievement verses aptitude test.  An achievement test is based upon a corpus of information. The multiple-choice tests cover four skill areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science. If students are competent in these areas, if they know enough information related to these disciplines, and can apply this information to cognitive challenges, then they will receive a high score. In that sense, the ACT is of the same genre as an Iowa Basic or Stanford Achievement test. The SAT, on the other hand is an IQ type test.  It is not based upon epistemology; it is based upon critical thinking.  In other words, the SAT measures students ability to problem solve. The ACT measures students knowledge acquisition. Therefore, the SAT preparation ideally needs a commitment of 1-3 years. Students cannot raise their IQ scores nor improve critical thinking skills overnight, or even in two months.  But students can raise ACT scores in 50 days. The Writing Test, which is optional test on the ACT (but not on the SAT), measures skill in planning and writing a short essay. For a long time, the SAT was by far the most popular college entrance exam in the United States. Even though a high percentage of high school students who hope to go on to a university still rely on the SAT to show their academic prowess, the ACT has gained a lot of ground over the years.
What is it?  Like the SAT, the ACT is a standardized test. With the exception of the optional writing section, all of the questions are multiple choice. There are 215 questions in all, and the exam takes about three hours to complete. The questions focus on four core academic subject areas: math, English, reading, and science, and scores range between 1 and 36.
What does the ACT Measure?  ACT questions focus upon academic knowledge that high school seniors should already have acquired. Since the four sections of the ACT correspond with introductory courses most students will be required to complete during their freshman year, the ACT is a good indication of whether or not students are adequately prepared for the academic challenges of the university.  In my opinion, the SAT is a better predictor of college performance; the ACT is a better evaluation of high school performance.  If then, the SAT is like an IQ test, the ACT is like a national achievement test
When was the ACT First Administered?  The first group of students were tested on the ACT in 1959. From the very beginning, the ACT was intended to be a competitor to the SAT. Today, the test is administered and overseen by ACT, Inc. It is more popular than ever before and, in 2007, a little over 40% of U.S. high school graduates opted to take the ACT in lieu of the SAT. Part of the reason for this preference is the belief among many educators that the SAT is culturally biased and therefore an unfair assessment tool.
How are ACT scores used by colleges?

Exactly how a student’s ACT scores will be used by a college varies from school to school. In some schools, a student’s ACT score, along with their GPA, is the chief criteria upon which acceptance decisions are made. At other schools, ACT scores play only a minor role in determining acceptance, and an applicant’s GPA, class rank, and community background may be viewed as more important. In the case of home schoolers, for obvious reasons, a standardized test—in this case the ACT—is significantly more important than grades, recommendations, or any other admission criteria.

In any case, a strong ACT score will boost a student’s chances of being accepted to the program of his choice. Along with using ACT scores to make acceptance decisions, colleges can use a student’s test results in other ways as well. Some colleges offer different course sections – there may be a regular and an advanced course in English literature, for example. Looking at a student’s scores on the English and reading sections of the ACT can help college officials choose which course selections would be more suitable to that student’s skill level. Colleges that grant scholarships and loans may also consider ACT scores (Adapted from the Official ACT website).

Come to Mt. Moriah 2

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
We need to stand on nothing less than the character of God.  The promises are good and true, but we know God.  We know his character first and then His power.  I think Abraham believed in the resurrection.  I think he thought he was going to have to kill Isaac.  He was willing to do it because he knew God would bring a Godly resolution.  He did so as a covenanted follower of God in obedience to His revealed Word.
Abraham knew that God is not safe, not to be controlled, not to be mocked or tampered with.  He knew that God was God.  And he intended to treat him that way.
This faith to which Abraham is called and for which he is celebrated–particularly in the New Testament–means the acknowledgement of a particular God.  A God who means business.  Who calls us to Mt. Moriah . . .Abraham trusts in a God who can violate religious conventions, shatter normal definitions of reality, and can bring about newness.  Isaac–long anticipated, finally given, is suddenly demanded back–and he is the embodiment of the newness god can bring to us.  To us.  To a people who know only three cars and two color TV’s and affluence.  To a people who really know only barrenness.  This God who calls us to Mt. Moriah has no parallel, no analogy.  This God we serve is not predictable, not safe, and not controllable.  He loves whom He wants to love–even those whom we cannot forgive.  He saves those whom He chooses.  He is a God who cannot be controlled by our minds, by our political situations, or by our religions.
On Mt. Moriah God brings something new–a young ram.  He does not merely patch up what is old.  He makes something entirely new.  And, on Mt. Moriah, we find that all that we once believed, all that once demanded our allegiance has come in question.
The theologian Walter Brueggemann, in his exposition of this passage, challenges us to embrace the God on Mt. Moriah.  The modern world that so celebrates freedom also believes that present life is closed and self-contained in known natural laws just waiting to be uncovered.  In this world there can be no real change, no newness.  But our world is not after all a human artifact; it is created by God.  And He shall not be thwarted by our puny efforts to control Him.  Abraham knew that our world needs more than a faith whose only claim is that its god can be served without cost.  No!  The God on Mt. Moriah wants everything we have . . .This God we serve is determined to have His own way with us–no matter what the cost.
When Abraham comes down from Mt. Moriah he is a new man.  God has demanded all and Abraham has delivered.  God provides a substitute but that is incidental.  This faith of Abraham is replicated throughout history.  Moses foolishly stands before Pharaoh and demands that he let God’s people go.  Moses has been to his Moriah.  Shadrach, Meshak, and Abednego have been to Moriah too.  During the Babylonian captivity they are told to worship the Persian King.  They refuse.  They will be burned alive in the fire.  ”God will deliver us.  But if He does not, we shall still refuse to worship you,” they defiantly tell the king.  They have met a God who demands everything and then more.  They have been to Moriah.
My prayer is that these 50 review lessons will take you to Mt. Moriah, so, that when you do well on the ACT—and I believe you will—and you do well in college, that you remember that you serve a mighty, an awesome, a loving God.  The God who calls us to Mt. Moriah.

We need to stand on nothing less than the character of God.  The promises are good and true, but we know God.  We know his character first and then His power.  I think Abraham believed in the resurrection.  I think he thought he was going to have to kill Isaac.  He was willing to do it because he knew God would bring a Godly resolution.  He did so as a covenanted follower of God in obedience to His revealed Word. Abraham knew that God is not safe, not to be controlled, not to be mocked or tampered with.  He knew that God was God.  And he intended to treat him that way. This faith to which Abraham is called and for which he is celebrated–particularly in the New Testament–means the acknowledgement of a particular God.  A God who means business.  Who calls us to Mt. Moriah . . .Abraham trusts in a God who can violate religious conventions, shatter normal definitions of reality, and can bring about newness.  Isaac–long anticipated, finally given, is suddenly demanded back–and he is the embodiment of the newness god can bring to us.  To us.  To a people who know only three cars and two color TV’s and affluence.  To a people who really know only barrenness.  This God who calls us to Mt. Moriah has no parallel, no analogy.  This God we serve is not predictable, not safe, and not controllable.  He loves whom He wants to love–even those whom we cannot forgive.  He saves those whom He chooses.  He is a God who cannot be controlled by our minds, by our political situations, or by our religions.   On Mt. Moriah God brings something new–a young ram.  He does not merely patch up what is old.  He makes something entirely new.  And, on Mt. Moriah, we find that all that we once believed, all that once demanded our allegiance has come in question. The theologian Walter Brueggemann, in his exposition of this passage, challenges us to embrace the God on Mt. Moriah.  The modern world that so celebrates freedom also believes that present life is closed and self-contained in known natural laws just waiting to be uncovered.  In this world there can be no real change, no newness.  But our world is not after all a human artifact; it is created by God.  And He shall not be thwarted by our puny efforts to control Him.  Abraham knew that our world needs more than a faith whose only claim is that its god can be served without cost.  No!  The God on Mt. Moriah wants everything we have . . .This God we serve is determined to have His own way with us–no matter what the cost. When Abraham comes down from Mt. Moriah he is a new man.  God has demanded all and Abraham has delivered.  God provides a substitute but that is incidental.  This faith of Abraham is replicated throughout history.  Moses foolishly stands before Pharaoh and demands that he let God’s people go.  Moses has been to his Moriah.  Shadrach, Meshak, and Abednego have been to Moriah too.  During the Babylonian captivity they are told to worship the Persian King.  They refuse.  They will be burned alive in the fire.  ”God will deliver us.  But if He does not, we shall still refuse to worship you,” they defiantly tell the king.  They have met a God who demands everything and then more.  They have been to Moriah. My prayer is that these 50 review lessons will take you to Mt. Moriah, so, that when you do well on the ACT—and I believe you will—and you do well in college, that you remember that you serve a mighty, an awesome, a loving God.  The God who calls us to Mt. Moriah.

Come to Mt. Moriah

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
Come to Mt. Moriah, young people, where God demands everything and nothing must be taken for granted . .
Hebrews 11:17 (the first commentary on this passages) says, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son.”  This man Abraham was called by God into the Promised Land.  And he went.  He was promised many descendants.  And he waited–even into his nineties.  And God gave him a son . . . but now he must go to Mt. Moriah.
William Willimon, a United Methodist Bishop, tells of a congregant who said to him one day, “I am looking for another church because when I look at that God, the God of Abraham, I feel I’m near a real God, not the sort of dignified businesslike, milk toast god we chatter about here on Sunday mornings . . . Abraham’s God could blow a man to bits, give and then take a child, ask for everything from a person and then want more.  I want to know that God.”
Do you know that God?  A God who means business?  Not some existential reality grounded in warm fuzzy feelings but a God who brings chills on your spine.  Not the God whom we meet on the silver screen, full of maudlin aphorisms and sentimentality who can barely manage happy endings.  Not the God of popular fiction whose idea of justice doing the best that one can do for the most amount of people.
No, the God on Mt.  Moriah is the God Abraham meets in Genesis 22,  Isaiah meets in Isa.  6 “Woe is me, a man of unclean lips!”  Or the God Moses meets in Exodus 3 in the bush that is on fire but does not burn, the God who does not make polite conversation.  This is the God who struck Annais and Shappirah dead for their lying and intrigue.  This is the God that Abraham meets this day.  This is the God who is leading you in this new century, in this post-Christian world.
This is the God you will meet in 2011.
How much does your God demand of you?  Come to Mt. Moriah, where God demands everything . . .
This is even a different God from the one Abraham thought he knew.  God had called him into the wilderness and he had gone.  And God took care of him.  He had come through with a child when none seemed available.  But this was something new, this command of God to go to Mt.  Moriah. Perhaps we, too, have known God to be our savior, our friend, our companion–and He is all these–But I wonder if we have known a God who demands everything from us.  He does you know–demand everything from us.
Abraham risked everything he owned and loved and relied upon the character of God and found him to be a God of resurrection.
We need to realize that God is Lord of our lives.  We are not our own.  We belong to him. After God had tested Abraham’s obedience, by oath (22:1-6) he repeated and confirmed elements of his covenant (22:17-18a). Of fundamental importance is God’s statement “because you have obeyed me” (22:18b). This stress on obedience is strong evidence that the covenant with Abraham should not be considered basically as a covenant of promise with the response of faith. Important as promise and faith are, they should not be used to minimize the emphasis on stipulations: leave, go, fear not, walk before me, be blameless, circumcise, offer your son. Abraham was never given options that he could choose to accept or reject. As a “vassal” he was given commandments, laws, orders, regulations, requirements, and decrees (26:4). Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham was characterized by promise and law. As these were not to be separated, so faith and obedience were not to be either.

Come to Mt. Moriah, young people, where God demands everything and nothing must be taken for granted . .  Hebrews 11:17 (the first commentary on this passages) says, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son.”  This man Abraham was called by God into the Promised Land.  And he went.  He was promised many descendants.  And he waited–even into his nineties.  And God gave him a son . . . but now he must go to Mt. Moriah. William Willimon, a United Methodist Bishop, tells of a congregant who said to him one day, “I am looking for another church because when I look at that God, the God of Abraham, I feel I’m near a real God, not the sort of dignified businesslike, milk toast god we chatter about here on Sunday mornings . . . Abraham’s God could blow a man to bits, give and then take a child, ask for everything from a person and then want more.  I want to know that God.”   Do you know that God?  A God who means business?  Not some existential reality grounded in warm fuzzy feelings but a God who brings chills on your spine.  Not the God whom we meet on the silver screen, full of maudlin aphorisms and sentimentality who can barely manage happy endings.  Not the God of popular fiction whose idea of justice doing the best that one can do for the most amount of people. No, the God on Mt.  Moriah is the God Abraham meets in Genesis 22,  Isaiah meets in Isa.  6 “Woe is me, a man of unclean lips!”  Or the God Moses meets in Exodus 3 in the bush that is on fire but does not burn, the God who does not make polite conversation.  This is the God who struck Annais and Shappirah dead for their lying and intrigue.  This is the God that Abraham meets this day.  This is the God who is leading you in this new century, in this post-Christian world. This is the God you will meet in this ACT Review book. How much does your God demand of you?  Come to Mt. Moriah, where God demands everything . . . This is even a different God from the one Abraham thought he knew.  God had called him into the wilderness and he had gone.  And God took care of him.  He had come through with a child when none seemed available.  But this was something new, this command of God to go to Mt.  Moriah. Perhaps we, too, have known God to be our savior, our friend, our companion–and He is all these–But I wonder if we have known a God who demands everything from us.  He does you know–demand everything from us.Abraham risked everything he owned and loved and relied upon the character of God and found him to be a God of resurrection.  We need to realize that God is Lord of our lives.  We are not our own.  We belong to him. After God had tested Abraham’s obedience, by oath (22:1-6) he repeated and confirmed elements of his covenant (22:17-18a). Of fundamental importance is God’s statement “because you have obeyed me” (22:18b). This stress on obedience is strong evidence that the covenant with Abraham should not be considered basically as a covenant of promise with the response of faith. Important as promise and faith are, they should not be used to minimize the emphasis on stipulations: leave, go, fear not, walk before me, be blameless, circumcise, offer your son. Abraham was never given options that he could choose to accept or reject. As a “vassal” he was given commandments, laws, orders, regulations, requirements, and decrees (26:4). Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham was characterized by promise and law. As these were not to be separated, so faith and obedience were not to be either.