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I caught up on my blog reading this morning and was reminded of the loss many people feel, with his visit to this planet finished, of the death of Larry Norman.  Over at IVP they are remembering the loss of David Wright.

I would not normally make comments about either person and combined they would seem to have no real connection.  Larry Norman was a musician, who I met, saw perform, purchased his recordings and even have a sweatshirt with a design by him on it.  His and Keith Green’s music were the first two LPs I simultaneously purchased when “Jesus accepted me” as someone else recently put it.

One of the earliest academic books which I treasure was one David Wright edited, The New Dictionary of Theology. It is a great overview of basic controversies in theology and I should use it for my students more than what I do.  Similarly, another book I use In Understanding Be Men, a book originally by an Australian TC Hammond, was edited by Wright to be the version I am used to today.

The point is while I met one of these people, and the other I read, they have impacted me in what they did.  I am a theologian today from reading works  like Wright’s.  I still have Larry on the ipod sometime.

So who do you allow to impact your life and would be sad to say farewell to?

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I re-read my post from yesterday about the inner logic of relationships and decided I wanted to reflect on what our relationship with Jesus looks like.  I heard one of my coworkers preach yesterday and I thought “I am not in that league”.  This is not a new thought for me – I never claim to be a great preacher.  It is one thing that was preached which I want to reflect on.  “We should be asking what is our relationship with Jesus like?”

Augustine, in his introduction to “On Christian Doctrine” (I think) talks about the need to be taught how to read the word of God.  He also wants this reading not to be for the sake of reading and knowledge but to love Jesus more.

There are so many activities we do as Christians that may or may not help us love Jesus more.  What is worse is that even good activities like Bible reading may not help us love God more if we do not have the right attitude.  The inner logic of our relationship with Jesus needs to be obvious to us.  Whether it is obvious to others will vary.  I think there are times in our humanity what we say or do does not reflect whether we love Jesus – the inner logic will elude us and others as there is none there.  There are other times when we will go through all the motions and others will think we have a great relationship with Jesus but that is now the outer logic and not the inner relationship.  The vice versa will also occur when we will have a great relationship with God and yet the outward manifestations of that relationship are somehow muted – possibly because of the (tragic) situation that is causing the deepening of our relationship.

In the end we are the only ones who know what the inner logic of our relationship with Jesus is like.  Are we trusting him more or less each day?  Is he more Lord of our life at the end of the year than the beginning?  Have I grown more in love with him over the last decade?  I’ll let you answer for yourself.

Do you ever have moments when things just click and now make sense?  When you have been wondering why your secretary is late each morning, looking green around the gills and suddenly announces she is pregnant.  You suddenly go “ah now it makes sense “.  You knew there was just something you were missing but could not figure out what it was.

I have these a lot.  Recently my wonderful wife told me something about someone we knew, she thought I knew it and I went “ah now it makes  sense.”

My systematic theology professor Ray Anderson used to talk about the inner logic of relationship.  From the outside you could not see what attracted two people together but obviously from the inside there was attraction.  There was a logic inside the relationship that was not so obvious outside it.

I think for some relationships we get glimpses of the inner logic and then go “ah now it makes sense”.  Other times we don’t see the inner logic because there is not any.  Other times we don’t see the inner logic because we can not see it.

Oh by the way I have never had a secretary so to be perfectly clear the above is all theoretical.

Anyway with that disclaimer what relationships make more sense to you today than yesterday?

It seems to me always interesting to consider the view of Scripture when someone who interprets it.  If the person has a low view of Scripture “it is just a human communication” the interpretation usually goes one way.  If the person has a high view of Scripture “it is a divine revelation” then there is another direction the interpretation takes.

In Pentecostal hermeneutics there is a discussion of  “pneumatic exegeis” or something similar.  If I could find the paper I would.  The idea is that we are lead by the Spirit as we explore the meaning of a text.  Now this seems to me both good and bad.  If we do not rely on the Spirit for understanding the meaning then we are relying completely on human understanding, and we go back to a low view of Scripture.  Yet our interpretation is from a high view o Scripture.  If we rely totally on the Spirit then we go back to “divine revelation”, but it again seems to me to be without much content or context but just some principle or idea dropped from heaven.

It seems like often said that we need to walk the radical middle, neither too high a view of Scripture nor too low, neither too much Spirit nor too little.

So how do you interpret Scripture with the help of the Spirit?

Within the Australian educational scene there are two worlds.  Vocational or competency based education and higher education.  These really are different worlds.

Except when it comes to setting assignments.  Both worlds believe that students should be able to receive feedback on what they have done.  At the same time the lecturer and institution should receive feedback as well.  The problem is not the process – it is the same – the problem is the level.  Many institutions which work in both fields can not simplify the vocational material if they are based on higher education material and the vocational people have troubles moving towards what is called professional judgment in higher education where marking is more relative than competent or not competent.

This does not mean that setting assessment is easy.  It does mean that time is needed to work out how to give students feedback, what feedback they need and how to do it well.

All institutions  I know of struggle in this area as the lecturers want the best experience for all their students and to allow the institution to shine.

So with it being week one and me working on assessment – pray I help the students learn well.

John Grisham is a church goer and as far a I know a committed Christian.  I still think Grisham’s, according to one interview I read semi-autobiographical,  The Testament is one of the best Christian novels I have read.

Then along comes The Appeal. This is an interesting book because while the outcome is obvious the route to it is not.  Grisham’s characters in this book are sympathetic for the lovable ones and horribly vindictive for those you are to loath.  This is fiction based on some ideas and situations of real life.

The plot revolves around three groups of people, the small people, big business and the legal fraternal who has to interact on behalf of both. The small people are from the South and have small town lawyers and churches on their side.  Big business is, of course, New York based and deliberately woos other churches to its side. The legal profession is in between and is shown to be at the mercy more of big business than not.  This is Grisham’s point and he is quite obvious in the author’s notes how he wants things to change in the legal profession.

As I said the outcome is expected but the route is not and the suspense towards the end when one of the characters starts to change sides – like the old American joke – “What’s a republican?  A democrat who has been mugged” – makes you wonder how things will turn out.

The use of churches as part of the backdrop is an interesting reflection of how churches can get co-opted, by either side in a debate, to causes they themselves do not understand well enough.   It continues to make me think about how as churches we need discernment.

Overall a satisfying read and a reminder “what does it profit a man if he has the whole world and loses his soul?”

I know this sounds convoluted but please bear with me. Someone recently told someone else who then told me that I was moving to a “better job.” Ignoring the whispering monkeys that this involves, it reminded me of Stanley Hauerwas’ comment when he was named America’s “best theologian”. Hauerwas said “Best is not a theological category! Faithful or unfaithful are the right categories. The last thing in the world I’d want to be is the best.”

In a similar way I think in Christian service it is unfair to say one job is better or worse than another in terms of the job itself. As one nurse once said, “Every job has its bedpans.” Each job has its joys and trials.

The Christian difference is the same issue Hauerwas raises. A job where I can be more faithful to who God has called me to be, is a better fit, not a better job. The good, better best of jobs is decided not by the position but by God’s call on our life.

So are you being faithful to what God has called you to?

It seems odd to realise a week ago I was still posting regularly and now I am in a new state, a new job, sitting at a new(ish) computer working with people who are new to me and it all feels good.  This really means I can start posting again in some measure.

I have lots of work to do and I think I have my head around it now.  Just not how to do it as I  am still getting used to a few things.  But I am getting there.

So I am back for whatever that means.

One of the hardest things for me to learn has been good boundaries.  As I have intimated elsewhere my parent’s were not real concerned with what I did as long as it did not hurt anyone.  This is not an unusual response for those who are not believers.  However as a believer I am called to set my heart on what is above and to love others even when it might be uncomfortable.  The psychologist types talk about this as boundaries, I think of it sometimes as tact, and remember my reputation in my younger days for being tactless.

You see I have gained some wisdom by realising I need to respect boundaries and not step over them.  The problem is I have had little training in this and every so often if I am not listening to God well or not sleeping enough or any other myriad of excuses I could give, I blow it. I have seen this in different areas of life over years where I have walked into a situation with hob nailed boots and accidentally hurt people.  My super son and some of his little friends have the same habit of steam rolling or accidentally hitting their mother.  It is never intended and often is in a moment where they are trying to do something nice for someone.

Now don’t worry – I don’t knowingly do this everyday.  Yet I will admit I am still growing in realising not so much my boundaries but other peoples so I don’t encroach.

So how do you respond to boundaries?

I have found a new devotional “tool” that I find really great. It is the Bible online in a different order to what I am used. It breaks the Bible down by genre and you read a section each day from a different genre. The version I am using is http://www.bible-reading.com/daily-reading-niv-quiet.htm but others are available.  When I was reading Romans 15 last week I was somehow reminded that all of God’s wisdom is Jesus Christ.

This has me reflecting on all sorts of issues.  How does this blog glorify Jesus? Does it do so all the time?  Is it too easy for me to sit in judgement in a way that Jesus does not?  I don’t have easy answers to these questions but the obvious of “I hope so”, “No”, “Yes”.  The question for me is how to make these better answers.  For if Jesus is the centre of my life all areas of my life must focus more on him.

In other words I am gaining wisdom on focusing on Jesus.

So where is your focus?