Friday, November 25, 2016

Start your day right – with a good gird

Each day ought to begin with a good gird. That's right. Girding is a great way to start your day. Not many people know it, because we don't use that word much, and modern translators of the Bible prefer to use descriptions of that word rather than the word itself, even though the Greek New Testament clearly says, "Gird."

In 1 Peter, the Apostle Peter has just explained how wonderfully God arranged for the grace and salvation of Jesus to be revealed to us through the prophets, and then he reaches this climatic application: "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13, NKJV). There it is: "Gird up the loins of your mind." Peter used Greek words for gird and loins, but hardly any English translations do, and that's because hardly anyone knows what such a phrase means anymore! But they're such descriptive and illustrative words that explain so much more than how they're commonly translated: "prepare your minds for action".

To gird (a very fun word to repeat out loud, by the way) means "to encircle or bind with a belt or band", and to gird up one's loins was like a man in Biblical times having to pull up his robe and tie it with a belt to prepare himself to run or to work. I saw men do this very thing with their robes in Sudan when we were working in the desert. So this is what Peter instructs us to do with our minds after we have received the salvation that was revealed to us: gird up the loins of your mind so that we can live our new lives in Christ in all the ways we are meant to (which Peter then goes on to describe).

But with what? With what should we gird up the loins of our mind? What comes to mind is that we might use Paul's "belt of truth" (Ephesians 6:14), but that's another context, and this is Peter's letter, not Paul's, so we ought to look to Peter's context to see how we're to prepare our minds for action (though I'm sure Peter wouldn't object to anyone using the belt of truth). Peter's context suggests that the grace of God be what we use. He says to "rest your hope fully upon the grace that is brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." In other words, put your hope totally in the great grace that we receive when we see and recognize Jesus for who He is in every situation. 

That is how we prepare our mind – each and every day – for whatever God has planned for us. That is how we gird up the loins of our mind so that nothing will take us out of action. We're ready. Our mind and our thoughts are completely encircled and bound up in the hope we have in the great grace we find in Jesus! Hope in the grace of God to see us through. Fill your thoughts with that. Gird your mind with it!

So then, why don't we begin each day with a good gird? After all, it's fun to say, and girding the loins of your mind so that our hope is totally and decisively focused on the grace we see and know in Jesus is truly the best way to start a day!

© 2016 by Ken Peters

Saturday, November 19, 2016

"Who is this Boy who Speaks such Things?" (A Poem about a Painting)

Boy Jesus in the Temple by Heinrich Hofmann (Luke 2:41-51)
At our son Nicholas' baby dedication, his grandfather, John Dean, presented us with a gift for Nicholas: a framed print of the above painting. As Nicholas grew, we kept the painting on display in our home, and to this day, I am still attracted to the earnest expressions of the five characters surrounding Jesus in the painting. Each one seems to be thinking something quite unique, and I have long wanted to attempt to write something about each of the subject's personal thoughts. Today I was so distracted by it, I felt driven to poetry! Below is my attempt to verbalize the expressions of those five men above. Each stanza is 30 lines long, and if you are intrigued enough by the painting to read the poem below, I encourage you to closely study and consider each man's face before reading the stanza about that man (you can click on the painting to enlarge it, and the stanzas begin with the man on the far-left).


I do not trust that boy.
How can a child so young
Speak of such things
As though he understands?
What trick is this?
How does he speak
As though he knows
Mysteries long hidden from
Our learned minds?
Surely he has been tutored
By someone
Hidden from us now;
Someone who has
Put these words upon his lips.
These words cannot be his,
As though he were our teacher.
Why do the others listen
With such rapt attention?
Do they not see through
This irreverent masquerade?
This boy pretends to be so holy
When truly he is nothing;
He must be some mere servant,

And he speaks his master's words
As though they were his own.
Why should I listen?
Why should I consider
What he has to say?
I do not wish to look upon him.
I do not trust that boy. 

I have never heard such a thing;
To hear a boy so young
Able to discuss such texts
With words of such clarity
Expressed with such certainty.
Who is this child?
What is his lineage?
Is his father here among us?
I must know how this lad
Will one day be employed,
For he could be of use to us.
But this is a thought
Too difficult to ascertain:
To know if this extraordinary boy
Could someday gather with us here

And somehow help us
Find our freedom 

From this wretched Roman rule.
Ah, but whatever be his fate,
I cannot help but feel
That I am but a shadow
Of the godly zeal I see in him.
I speak passionately of politics,
But he speaks so boldly
Of God's kingdom
That it causes me to ponder
If I have long been asking
The wrong questions,
And this boy knows the answers

That in my heart I truly seek.

Yes, yes,
This truly is a boy
After God's own heart.
He reminds me of David, who
As a brave young shepherd-boy
Must have been much like this.
I feel this boy's devotion,
His affection for his God,
His heart of tender worship.
What a delight to hear him
Speak of things of God.
I am blessed this day
To have heard him here,
And I cannot help but wonder
What our God may have
In store for him.
Will God choose to use him
To turn hearts
Back to Him?
Surely I wonder
How this boy,
Who is so wise 

And yet so humble,
Will be used of God
In these restless days.
Yes, yes,
Surely young David
Could not have been
Much different than
This son before me now. 

His questions are profound,
And then he gives the answers
That I have longed
To understand
Throughout a life of study.
He uncovers mysteries
As though they were
So simple;
Simple enough for
A mere child to understand.
I wish to discuss so much,
I have so many questions,
And am amazed at his understanding,
At the wisdom of this boy.
I have walked this earth
As though I thought
I was so wise;
As though I were
Some great counsellor,
A gift to God's children
Who esteem me so highly.
Yet now I feel
As though I am the child
In the presence of this boy,
And that he is my counsellor
Who teaches me so gladly.
He has awakened something
In my spirit,
And makes me hungry

To learn again.

I have read this book
From beginning to end
Many times over,
And I have not the insights
This boy possesses.
How did he come by
This knowledge?
Who is this lad?
He speaks as one who
Not only understands
These precious precepts
But knows the mighty One
Who spoke them
From the fire and the cloud
Upon the mountain.
And there is love and awe
For Him in his eyes
That remind me
Of a zeal I once had
In my youth.
His voice is a sweet melody
That I could listen to
For hours;
Like an ancient love song
That reaches into my heart
And calls me back
From dry and distant formalities
To affections I once felt,
And feel again in the presence
Of this mysterious child.

© 2016 by Ken Peters

Sunday, November 6, 2016

I want this superpower!

I came across a rare superpower in the Bible that I'd like to have. This valauble but often overlooked power has even been borrowed and adapted for some Marvel comic characters, though I much prefer the true-to-life Biblical version.

It's important to remind ourselves that any superpowers described in the Bible are quite different than the superpowers imagined as part of the hugely popular DC and Marvel Comics Universes. The musclebound fictional superheroes of these comics all operate according to powers inherent in them and controlled by them. The real-life superheroes of the Bible, though, all operated according to powers belonging solely to God and controlled by God, meaning that these men and women might've appeared as scrawny, humble types of no seeming consequence. But the vast army of superheroes in the Bible did things of great consequence, and were able to do so because of God's great power at work in or through them  whether it was Moses calling up cascades of water from desert rocks, or Elijah calling down devouring flames from the sky, or Daniel sleeping unharmed among hungry lions. God's superpowers at work in God's humble servants made mighty heroes of them all. Just check out Hebrews, chapter 11 for a list of what they achieved through faith in a great God of incalculable power!

But there is one superhero in the Bible whose superpower from God is often forgotten when celebrating the Heroes of the Faith, and it is this superpower that seems so appealing to me. The hero's name is Ezekiel, and his superpower is truly the stuff of legends. The Marvel Comic Universe wouldn't have created the indestructible Wolverine or the awesome power of Ultron if it weren't for this great power. I speak of the mythical adamant stone, from which is derived the fictional alloy of adamantium. Because God knew that Ezekiel would face great opposition due to the harsh and disappointing nature of the message God gave him to deliver to His people, God transformed Ezekiel's forehead into adamant stone, the hardest substance in all the earth. "Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house" (Ezekiel 3:9, NKJV). Other translations use the word "emery" or "flint" due to the unfamiliarity of the archaic term "adamant," but I prefer the strong and illustrative connotations of the adamant stone.

To us today, the word "adamant" is a descriptive word rather than an object. It means to be firm and unyielding, resolute and determined. A person who is adamant will not give in to anything. But before it was an adjective, "adamant" was a noun: a legendary stone of impenetrable hardness, its root meanings including untamable, unconquerable and unyielding. The Greek word adamas, from which it is derived, meant unbreakable or invincible. To have a forehead of adamant stone would enable a person to withstand anything that came against it, any opposition, any conflict, any warfare. (No wonder Marvel Comics latched onto it!) It is such meanings that give the word such force and make it such an excellent choice for the translators of Ezekiel's story. Ezekiel, with his super-powerful forehead of adamant stone, had been called by God to be unyielding and unwavering in the face of forceful opposition!

Ah, but of course, this is all meant to be understood in a figurative sense, and would be more accurately understood as God giving Ezekiel a resilient spirit in the face of stiff resistance, but I still love the graphic language God used to describe His equipping of His prophet Ezekiel. And it's a superpower from God that I often long for in the face of the many challenges life throws at me.

I think all of us would benefit from asking God for a forehead of adamant stone, so long as we used it wisely. I would want to use it to express my determination to trust God no matter what! But it's important to remember that it is only meant for those who are facing great resistance or strong opposition. Do I want that? Deep down, I suspect I have no choice if I want to follow Jesus. Following Jesus means entering a spiritual battle for which we need to be heavily armed with spiritual weapons that reflect God's divine enablement and protection. So I'm simply saying that having a superstrong forehead of adamant stone that reflects an unyielding, unshakable and absolutely indestructible faith in God is among my God-given superpowers of choice.

© 2016 by Ken Peters