Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Gentle Answer

The F Market streetcar joins the Embarcadero to the rest of Market street. Brianna and I rode one with Abby after a strenuous day of walking the streets of San Francisco; it wasn’t the city itself that we found exhausting; rather, my kid was throwing up, it was raining, and we forgot to pack an umbrella. Or jackets. There was little else on our minds except to get back to our hotel and pass out.

Out of the corner of my eye, two older women began raising their voices,

“Excuse me. Yeah, you!” she shouted to the driver as he was transferring shifts.

“What?”

“You shortchanged me a dollar, and thought I would forget! But I’ve been keeping track and I want it back before you get off this car.”

The last thing I needed: a flare-up next to me. I suppose if Abby isn’t vomiting on one of us, it might as well be a tourist. At the same time, another driver (I will call him Dale) hopped up the steps of the streetcar to change shifts with the driver who by now was getting chastised by these two women over a dollar.

“What’s the problem?” Dale asked as the other driver turned his back, clearly wanting to clock out and head over to a pub.

“Well that young man right there told me that the price was such-and-such and I gave him gibba-gibba-gibba and he said this-and-that and he just needs to refund me the amount of blah-blah-blah….OH!!! Nevermind, just go. I’m done with this. Get out of here! Just go. Go go go!”

(Crickets)

Brianna and I looked at each other and exchanged sympathetic grins. People may think city dwellers are snippy, but tourists can have a fierce bite of their own. The original driver stepped off the bus at the nearest stop, leaving Dale with the two jolly guests in the front row. As we all continued down the Embarcadero, the awkwardness of the silly conflict began to dwindle, until the daughter got up before their stop-off and approached him to gently explain the situation. Dale turned around with a big smile on his face, and pulled cash out of lockbox. As the grandmother began to storm off the car, Dale stopped her, cupping her hands in his, and implored: “I don’t want you to be mad; here’s your dollar back, ok!” They soon exchanged laughs, and the two women left the car with smiles. As the streetcar began to move up Market Street, Dale whipped his head around, and shot a grin our way; Brianna smiled back. This guy was contagious.

I couldn’t help but think of Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away anger” (HCSB).

Soon a new slew of tourists filled the car, and another obnoxious rider began to bark orders at Dale with his head glued to the side of a smartphone. “I’ll call you back; I just hopped on the bus, and will be there in a minute.”

“Bus???” Dale exclaimed. “You call this is a bus??” The streetcar roared with unexpected laughter.

“I’m sorry, Sam, apparently it’s not a ‘bus.” I’m on the trolley and I’ll be with you shortly.”

“TROLLEY????”

(More laughter) Read the rest of this entry

James Abbreviated: Chapter 1

This is the first in our series, James Abbreviated, blogging through every chapter in James to determine the overarching themes of this wonderful book.

Since every book of the Bible has a point, we should start by identifying a basic flow, argument, or exhortation as we read along. Don’t worry about finding the meaning behind every verse yet, but do use key verses to help you put together that flow. A key verse is an emphatic point or crux buried in the chapter, supported by a lot of the surrounding paragraph. To use another example, news articles and blogs often emphasized their main points in bold lettering above the rest of the text.

Here are the two main points that stand out in James chapter one (in bold), followed by what I think is the supporting passage, with the key verse in italics.

Christians trust God in difficulties

vv.2-6 “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. 5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.”

Do you see how I developed a short, five-word point (Christians trust God in difficulties) from an otherwise sweeping paragraph? I’ll show you my train of thought…

  1. The Christian’s trials can result in an endurance that makes us “complete” (v 2-4)
  2. For this completion to happen, one must ask God for wisdom (v.5)
  3. Faith–which in biblical terms often refers to trust–defines the wisdom we receive.
  • These three points show us that we must ask God for wisdom in difficult situations, while responding to that wisdom with faith in God! This is what separates those who know God, as shown in verses 5-8: the person who trusts in God (“asking in faith”) is saved, and the person who does not (“an indecisive man”), will “not receive anything from the Lord.” (v. 7)

Woo! Let’s move on to the next emphatic point that James makes (I will be gliding over many supporting verses)… Read the rest of this entry

James abbreviated: an introduction

Last week’s blog was about our need for orthodoxy.

A privatized understanding of Scripture presents a common problem: we interpret passages individualistically, without any sensitivity to what the author originally intended.

You’ve heard it said in a Bible study: “What does this verse mean to you?” But that’s the wrong question to ask. If it is the objective meaning of the text that God inspired (2 Tim 3:16) and not our subjective interpretations of it, then a better question to ask is, “What did the author mean?” So while reading Bible verses does not make you orthodox, reading Bible verses in their proper relationship to the rest of the Bible is at least a first step in aligning you with the orthodox views of the ancient church. Some like to call this “when Scripture interprets Scripture.” Let the whole thing speak for itself.

Here’s another way of thinking about it: You would never read one line from an urgent email without reading it in its entirety, because each part only makes sense in its relationship to the whole. The “whole” part of Scripture is often referred to by the Apostle Paul as “sound doctrine” (1 Tim 4:6) or “sound words” (1 Tim 6:3; 2 Tim 1:13). To really grasp the depth of each verse, you need to know what the chapter means. And what the letter means. And what the Bible means…well, you get it. Here’s where I’m going with this…

For the next few weeks I’m going to blog through every chapter of the epistle of James!

James is a great place to think about broad themes, because it seems to present itself as a disjointed grouping of proverbial statements. Our propensity is to treat James like a fortune cookie wrapper—a proof-text that we can apply to whatever situation we’re dealing with at the moment and according to our own personal interpretation—sometimes we do this without any context for what the author was originally intending. Case in point,

James 1:17, “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.”

How often have we used this verse in general terms, like this:

If anything good comes my way, it’s because God is blessing me; after all, every perfect gift comes from the Father! And I’m always gonna be blessed, because with Him there is no variation. God always makes good things happen to me!

But when something bad happens to us, as it inevitably will, we never quote that particular verse, do we! Perhaps we search for another general verse or passage that sounds a little more inspirational. But James 1:17 is not an arbitrary or general proverb. The “perfect gift” that the Apostle James refers to is more like a special empowerment that the Father sends to strengthen us in times of suffering. Good exegesis allows the Christian to make direct applications of God’s Word to dire situations, knowing that it will not return empty (Is. 55:11), as opposed to guessing widely and shooting blindly. Here’s some examples of what I mean…

  • Are you feeling depressed? Read Philippians, which is largely a book about joy in any circumstance. As you read it with intentionality, God will speak to you through each of Paul’s words.
  • Are you going on a long, difficult journey or calling? Read the Psalm of Ascents (Psalm 120-134), which is what the Jews have done for centuries in their tumultuous travels.
  • Are you suffering? Read Job.
  • Hopeless? Read the Gospels.
  • Feeling dirty and unwanted? Read Hosea.
  • Feel unqualified? Read Ruth.
  • Feel overwhelmed by the world? Read Romans.
  • Want to read the Cliff Notes version of all time? Read Revelation.
  • (I adapted this list from my post, Religious Sensory Override)

Make sense? So what is James about? How can we begin to apply it to real situations? Well… you’ll just have to discover that with me!

Here’s the plan…

Instead of spending too much time unpacking every verse, I will summarize each chapter by looking at the relationship these verses all have with one another.

I will also include what I think is the key verse of the chapter, and show how the overall theme is being developed in each chapter. When we’re done with all five chapters, the summary of the epistle of James should sit before us in a few, brief sentences! When we know what the book is about, all the details (verses) will become more vivid, more relevant, more exciting. Instead of arbitrarily applying verses to our lives and hoping they fit, we will know what life situation to which James wrote, and how our situations are directly addressed by Scripture. At least, that’s my hope; perhaps I’m aiming too high, haha.

I am not able to bare every detail of the text here, so you are more than welcome to do some exegeting of your own in the comment section or on Facebook.

Bible study is best done in community, so perhaps we can cultivate some meaningful conversations. In case you’re wondering, I will be using the HCSB translation of the Bible. Please join me as we study to show ourselves “approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB)

Britt Merrick | The Person Of The Holy Spirit

The first sermon of our much anticipated Summer series!

Romans 8:1-6

Doctrine on Tap

A blog’s name deserves an explanation.

This blog was ChristopherLazo.com (a URL that still directs here), but I changed the name to give it more focus.

I love describing how God’s Word intersects with and transforms our view of the world.

I’m fascinated by the passages that armchair theologians quibble over too; now, we owe a great debt to the work of Bible scholars, without which, we would still fall prey to ancient heresies; but theology does us no practical good unless we know what it means and how it affects our lives and our view of the world. We must study Scripture, yes, but we must also obey the Word of God. And the aligning of our worldview to the storyline of Scripture is God’s initial means of renewal (Rom 12:2).

So let your mind wander through the thickest truths, while scouring the sweetest simplicity!  When the Word of God baffles your mind while drawing you to search for more, exegesis becomes very exciting!

What has this to do with the blog name? Well, none of the content I create is exclusively attached to who I am as a person. Any Christian can and should study the Word of God and conform their worldview to it in loving obedience. So calling my blog after my name doesn’t help anyone, nor does it further its purpose. So I changed it from ChristopherLazo.com to DoctrineOnTap.com.

I want to connect our lives with the doctrines of Scripture like a spigot does for liquid; to see doctrine made accessible, not by dilution, but by showing its practical application. Because at the end of the day, you don’t go into a tavern to discuss algorithms—you go to quench your thirst.

God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water (Ps 63:1, HCSB).

An orthodoxy that breathes

In the book, The Millennials, Thomas and Jess Rainer give a detailed look at the priorities of this generation after surveying 1,200 young people, born between 1980 and 2000. They discovered that only 6 percent of these Millennials could affirm basic statements of Christian orthodoxy, such as believing in the divine origin of Scripture, salvation through grace alone, the sinlessness of Jesus, and the sovereignty of God (p.232). In other words:

94 percent of Millennials surveyed do not consider orthodoxy important.

Now, I know that statistics do not account for every Millennial on the planet. Or even in Santa Barbara for that matter. In fact, I feel as if that percentage increases for the best in the circle of college students I know. But that is not normative. Often good statistics can give us a bird’s-eye view of a generation’s spiritual condition. And the verdict is in: orthodoxy is out.

But why?

Read the rest of this entry

Chris Lazo | Alcohol & The Christian

Ephesians 5:18 (Sermon notes)

Book Review ~ Bad Religion, by Ross Douthat

“America’s problem isn’t too much religion, or too little of it. It’s bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional Christianity and the rise of a variety of destructive pseudo-Christianities in it’s place.”

This introductory remark encapsulates the main theme in Ross Douthat’s book, “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics,” that the undermining of Christianity in America today is due to a deep chasm of cafeteria spirituality left over by mainline churches in decades past.

This thesis comes through two sections:

  1. Christianity in Crisis
  2. The Age of Heresy.

Introducing the first section, the New York Times columnist prepares a rather exciting taste of the Church’s glory days through the beginning of the twenty-first century before issuing a scathing diagnosis on mainline churches for botching everything up. Douthat argues that the church typically wavered between accommodation and resistance when faced with cultural difficulties. A single, albeit notorious, example of this were the tired arguments over biological evolution and the book of Genesis which helped excuse the church to the margins of the scientific community. Conservatives and Evangelicals came out swinging on a variety of similar issues, but left a lot to be desired. In the end, the fundamentalism that emerged from the fight was Read the rest of this entry

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