Amplified Echoes 2014 now available

Revised_cover“Amplified Echoes” is now available in PDF format.

This 60-page compilation of 2014 Literate Lyoness blog posts are formatted to be read in Adobe Acrobat Reader’s 2-page view. Enjoy!

Possibly coming in 2015: “My Favorite Prophet Ezekiel.”  Subscribe to this blog to get updates. In the meantime, you can contact me at thelyoness@literatelyoness.com.

Discrepant Events

Lazarus of Bethany icon

Christ Raising Lazarus, Athens, 12-13th century icon.

From atop the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Galileo simultaneously dropped a massive canon ball alongside a much smaller musket ball. As they struck the the ground below with a single thud (more or less), a commonly held misconception was shattered. Shockingly, the erudite Aristotle had been erroneous in his assumption that two objects of different weights would drop at different rates. A simple demonstration to the contrary shook loose this faulty notion and plunged thinking minds forward into a new understanding of the natural world.

In the field of science education, such occasions are called “discrepant events.” Simple observations that fly in the face of what we expect, thereby necessitating the development of new explanations to make sense of it all.  Unnoticed weeds that have spread their roots through our minds are suddenly spotted and uprooted from our cognitive landscape — leaving a place for new ideas to grow.

In the New Testament we find that Jesus was often addressed as “Teacher.” And that he was. Scripture records his skillful questioning techniques, powerful illustrations, instructive metaphors and, yes, perfectly timed discrepant events. Perhaps no story better displays Jesus’ pedagogical prowess in the use of this particular technique than the story of Lazarus  in John 11.

In this well known account, Jesus is notified that his beloved friend Lazarus is sick. Nevertheless, he waits for a couple of days before going to visit. When he finally arrives, Lazarus has died and Jesus is met by the grieving sisters, Mary and Martha. Each sister approaches Jesus with the same faulty “if, then” statement: “If you have been here, then our brother would not have died.” Their hypothesis revealed misconceptions that would need to be unlearned before relearning could take place. They knew Jesus had healed others who were complete strangers, so why now did he not rush to the aid of his close friends? Why had he lingered with the Twelve, speaking in puzzling metaphors?

Jesus had tried to prepare his disciples in advance, but this lesson was going to be beyond words. It would need to permeate through them, beyond their minds and into their hearts and souls. And this discrepant event would not only generate cognitive dissonance, but emotional dissonance. The fabric of Mary and Martha’s thoughts and feelings would unravel into a mass of confused and disparate strands in order to be rewoven into a new garment of praise. (Isaiah 61:3) His precious  friends would be devastated, though only temporarily. But Jesus was himself so embedded into their lives that he entered into their grief with them. Alongside them, he wept.

Throughout the Gospels we find that Jesus met people where they they were before taking them where he knew they could be. For instance, the centurion already understood that time and space were not problematic for one with the authority and power to heal. (Matt. 8: 13) In that case, Jesus confirmed the man’s faith and moved on. But not in this case. Jesus didn’t answer questions directly and didn’t act immediately. Rather, he disoriented these folks enough that they started to reframe their questions.

And this Instructor had skillfully used proofs before. At least a few of his skeptics had learned not to challenge him about his ability to forgive sin. (Matt. 9:1-8) Now he extended his claims further and provided a sufficient miracle to back it up. With this event, he would declare that he was the Resurrection and the Life. By bringing Lazarus back to temporal life, he would prepare his friends and followers to understand something of eternal life.

Eventually Christ’s own resurrection would be declared a non-negotiable tenet of the Christian faith as spoken by believers throughout the world in the Apostles Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

When recited, the Creed sounds quite reverent and dignified. But make no mistake. The Father’s kingdom belongs to those of simple, child-like faith. (Matt. 18:1-6) Perhaps the most fundamental creed of every Christ-follower is captured in this most recognizable of songs:

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but He is strong

trackMake your own tracks…Carefully examine Jesus’ instructional techniques as he speaks with both a rich, young man (Matt. 19:16-26) and a rich, old man (John 3:1-21) about how to obtain eternal life.

Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.

Amplified Echoes

image“An echo is a reflection of sound, arriving at the listener some time after the direct sound.” (Wikipedia, June 16, 2014)

I plan to soon complete a post that will conclude a compilation titled “Amplified Echoes.” The title of the work reflects its intent: to speak again with clarity the words and ideas of ancient, holy scriptures — hopefully in ways that are fresh and compelling to contemporary readers. Featured icons, quotes, and lyrics are intended to evoke thankful reflection on the influence and work of saints around us, as well as those who have gone before.

“Amplified Echoes” will be dedicated to (at least) two saints influential in my own life, both who have recently completed their earthly journeys:

Virginia Ruth Fagan Lyon • January 20, 1936 – June 11, 2013

Carl C. Waggoner, Jr. • July 19, 1942 – July 30, 2013

They now are part of the “great cloud of witnesses” that cheer us on to the end of our own race. (Hebrews 12:1-3) May the Author who penned Bible stories through his servants of old continue to tell new stories of his greatness through our lives as we seek to follow Christ today.

***

“I’m an empty page;
I’m an open book.
Write Your story on my heart;
Come on and make Your mark!”

“Author of my hope.
Maker of the stars,
let me be Your work of art!
Won’t You write Your story on my heart?”*

*From “Write Your Story,” on the album If We’re Honest.
Written by Battistelli, Francesca; Garcia, David; Glover, Benjamin Michael.

***

Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.

Your Place in History

One of my favorite speakers and authors, Ravi Zacharias, often quotes Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990). Muggeridge was an English journalist as well as a soldier and spy during World War II. It was later in life that he began to write about Christianity and his personal faith.  His fascinating life story is summarized on Wikipedia, but his own synopsis of the times is provided below. As we consider his words, may we also consider our own place in history.

“We look back upon history and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions, wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed, one nation dominant and then another. Shakespeare speaks of ‘the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.’”

“I look back on my own fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that, ‘God who’s made the mighty would make them mightier yet.’ I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian announce to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last a thousand years; an Italian clown announce that he would restart the calendar to begin his own ascension to power. I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as a wiser than Solomon, more humane than Marcus Aurelius, more enlightened than Ashoka. I’ve seen America wealthier and in terms of weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that had the American people wished, could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests.”

“All in one lifetime. All in one lifetime. All gone with the wind. England part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keep her motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixotes of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate.”

“All in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind.”

–Malcolm Muggeridge, 1980*

Zacharias seamlessly appends this quote with the following words:

“Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ…The more I look at the saviors of man, the more beautiful the Lamb of God looks to me.”**

*Malcom Muggeridge, “But Not of Christ,” Seeing Through the Eye: Malcolm Muggeridge on Faith, ed. Cecil Kuhne (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005), 29-30.

**Ravi Zacharias, Let My People Think, “Absolute Truth in Relative Terms.”

Unholy Traffic

490px-Traffic_Jam,1953The roadways of the U.S. transportation system are a marvel of the modern, industrialized world. In a simple, pragmatic elegance, individuals daily execute complex patterns of motion to maintain their own particular life rhythms, operating their vehicles as part of a larger and interconnected symphony of mass motoring. To achieve this phenomenon, numerous factors have been carefully considered: mapping of routes, paving of roads, posting of signs and symbols, timing of traffic lights, manufacturing of vehicles to meet specifications, fueling of vehicles, allocation of parking, testing of drivers, lighting of thoroughfares, and the list goes on. And it all works beautifully…when it works. But when it doesn’t, an ordinary day can turn into a frustrating or even tragic day at a moment’s notice. For even in this most precisely planned of systems, there are variables. They are called drivers. Some drivers are largely ignorant of how the system is intended to work. Some drivers think the rules don’t really matter or just don’t apply to them. Others are distracted and oblivious to what is going on around them. Regardless of their state of mind, however, all these folks are wielding powerful machines and can easily become dangerous to themselves or others.

And so it is with sin. Sin creates traffic snarls in the patterns of our lives and those around us. God acts as a transcendent civil engineer to specify patterns that optimize movement. Not only with physical safety in mind, but with concern for our emotional and spiritual health as well. And his  prescribed patterns for safe travel on life’s journeys are born out of holiness, a divine trait foreign to mere mortals.

Holiness is different than goodness. Sometimes a term is best understood by learning what it is not. For example, “clean” can be described as “not dirty”; “dry” can be described as “not wet.” Some ideas are difficult to grasp without referencing a contrasting state that has been experienced by the reader. We have not experienced holiness, at least not in its fullness. This is a significant limitation, for the pure and unadulterated nature of the trait must be conveyed to comprehend the term. We have, however, experienced what it is not. We have experienced its generalized absence as “falleness” and its corruption or violation as “sin.”

Much like Jude (v. 3-4), I wish that I could only discuss pleasant concepts and beautiful thoughts, yet the bitter topic of sin must be addressed to remain true to the goal of promoting biblical literacy. And to be true to harsher realities that we all experience. It must especially be addressed during this time of year. For there is no spring without winter. There is no Easter without Good Friday. Yep, I just had to bring up the “s” word. And as soon as a Christian does so, non-Christians immediately begin to cry “hypocrite.” And indeed, there are hypocrites. And even if we are not deserving of the label, we probably at least sporadically demonstrate the characteristic of hypocrisy. But an accurate view of sin and holiness does not naturally lead to this end. Rather, it leads to humility. Authentic Christ-followers know that they are not devoid of sin, but are being saved from it. (1 John 1:8) Faith and obedience then follow out of love and gratitude rather than an effort to achieve a state of sinlessness.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.*

Like Paul, we find that it is better not to kick against the goads. (Acts 26:12-18) Or perhaps you more closely identify with barnyard animals…

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” (Psalm 32:8-9)

Try as we might, we don’t get to redefine holiness based on what we believe that we might be able to achieve. We are better off to just go ahead and confess what we might prefer to deny. When you are lost, stop and ask for directions. Get into the flow of traffic with corrected navigation and discover your part in the grand redemptive score — a holiness remix. (1 John 1:9)

*From lyrics at­trib­ut­ed to Ber­nard of Clair­vaux, 1153 (Sal­ve ca­put cru­en­ta­tum); trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Ger­man by Paul Ger­hardt, 1656 (O Haupt voll Blut und Wund­en), and from La­tin to Eng­lish James W. Al­ex­and­er, 1830.

Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.

trackMake your own tracks…Arrangement of choice for this week is “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” on Beginnings by Fernando Ortega.

Hungry Royals

EstherMany Christians around the world are currently observing Lent. I rarely do. Left to my own devices, I tend to feel that life produces enough hardship to make additional self-imposed suffering or discomfort seem unnecessary. Just being honest. But fasting is a spiritual discipline mentioned sporadically throughout Holy Scripture, and it is particularly evident in Esther — the only book of the Bible where God’s presence is made conspicuous by the absence of any direct reference to him. Beyond fasting, the more prominently featured characters carry out some other activities that seem bizarre to those of us who live in a different time, culture, and hemisphere. We read that Queen Esther, Mordecai, and the Jews in Persia do things like tear their clothes, wear burlap-like rags, cover themselves in ashes, and wail aloud. All these acts fervently externalize the grief and terror within as they face the prospect of annihilation. The twists and turns of interwoven plot strands contained in this little book all come together to fashion one of the most fascinating and compelling narratives ever told. A story complete with wild parties, seduction and romance, an assassination  plot, a genocidal maniac, a temperamental king, an orphan turned queen, a short war, the pronouncement of a new holiday celebration (still observed to this day), and some very satisfying poetic justice. Even some divinely ordained insomnia.

But back to fasting…why would anyone do it? In the case of Esther, it appears to be a physical manifestation of weakness and unworthiness in approaching God during a time of dire need. But I think there must be more to it. I found that John Piper offers some noteworthy commentary in his book “A Hunger for God”:

Bread magnifies Christ in two ways: by being eaten with gratitude for his goodness, and by being forfeited out of hunger for God himself…

In the heart of the saint both eating and fasting are worship…Each has it’s appointed place and each has it’s danger. The danger of eating is that we fall in love with the gift; the danger of fasting is that we belittle the gift and glory in our willpower…

[Fasting] is an intensifier of spiritual desire. It is a faithful enemy of fatal bondage to innocent things. It is the physical exclamation point at the end of the sentence: “This much, O God, I long for You and for the manifestation of Your glory in the world!”

At the end of Esther’s story we find that God indeed honors the prayers and fasting of the Jewish people. Fasting finally leads to feasting. And Queen Esther has played more than just a royal role. She has intervened on behalf of her people to save them from destruction. As Beth Moore points out in her women’s study on Esther, in a sense, this Jewish queen has also served a priestly role.

The book of Esther begins with Queen Vashti, who does not come before the king when summoned. But then enters Queen Esther, who risks her life by approaching the king though she has not been summoned. In doing so, she reconciles the Jewish people to the king and people of a foreign land. Likewise, we find in 1 Peter 2:9 that we to are to serve as royal priests (and priestesses), interceding and intervening for those around us in efforts to reconcile them to our Bridegroom and King. But unlike Esther, we are ever entreated to approach his throne with confidence. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.

trackMake your own tracks…This week’s music pick is “Dance with the King” on Joy by Beckah Shae. Enjoy!

Reverent Roars

Little Drummer Boy_revised

A random search yielded this week’s image and the recommended song arrangement provided in Make Your Own Tracks. Both were found on a homeschool mom’s blog. Click the photo to visit her site.

Then I (Ezra) set apart twelve of the leading priests, together with Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their brothers, and I weighed out to them the offering of silver and gold and the articles that the king, his advisers, his officials and all Israel present there had donated for the house of our God.  I weighed out to them 650 talents of silver, silver articles weighing 100 talents, 100 talents of gold, 20 bowls of gold valued at 1,000 darics, and 2 fine articles of polished bronze, as precious as gold. I said to them, “You, as well as these articles, are consecrated to the LORD.” Ezra 8:24-28

she-cub69:  Today I stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what He will say to me. (Habakkuk 2:1)  O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. (Psalm 5:3) Yet, what can this poor, wounded soul give to a mighty King? Can He who holds the world in place have anything of need?*

LoJαΩ:  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, [I] will not despise. (Psalm 51:17) For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’ (Isaiah 57:15)  For my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

she-cub69:  I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of [this]…But I strain toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to which [You have] called me. (Philippians 3:12-14) For [you say] our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

LoJαΩ:  [Yes,] “this is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it, not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.” (C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce)

she-cub69: So this is why you often don’t answer “why”? For even if you tried to explain, in ignorance we might conclude that your desired outcome is not worth the cost of the plan to achieve it?

LoJαΩ:  And that would break my heart. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30) I have shown you what is good and what I require of you: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

she-cub69:  [So let] my soul [now] never cease to offer gifts of praise; I kneel in Spirit at your feet, a sinner saved by grace.*

And when [the Lamb] had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before [Him], each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:8-10)

*Lyrics from “Hosanna,” Beyond Imagination, a youth song collection. Additional reference information to be added, as possible.

Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.

trackMake your own tracks…A modern arrangement of “Little Drummer Boy” by Pentatonix can be experienced on YouTube. According to the lyrics of the song, what did the young musician learn about bringing gifts to a king? If you prefer a retro arrangement, check out “Little Drummer Boy,” by 4Him, Season of Love, 1993.