Tag Archives: Old

Out with the Old, In with the New

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)

A couple of weeks ago Wendy and I went through a process of going through ever article of clothing we own. All the closets were emptied along with the drawers, boxes, bins, and racks. We went through everything and then had discussions about keeping, selling, pitching, and giving. It took a few hours on two different Saturdays, but it was well worth the time. What was left was manageable and organized. Having taken a thoughtful inventory,  it became clear in the process where there are opportunities to update and improve.

In today’s chapter, Paul mentions a similar process of spiritual inventory and life change. As you break it down in the English translation, there are three distinct steps in the process:

  1. Put off your old self. What old habits am I hanging on to, even though they haven’t served me well? Why do I cling to behaviors that only cause me and my loved ones pain and problems? What immature appetites do I continue to indulge when nothing good or worthwhile comes of it?
  2. Be made new in the attitude of the mind. The word “repent” has gotten a bad rap in our culture, conjuring up images of fire-and-brimstone preachers spewing condemnation. It’s a good word, however, and Jesus was clear that following Him required decision and change. Paul tells me in that the process of old-to-new life change starts with my mind and attitude. Willingness, desire, and openness to change coupled with a conscious decision to act.
  3. Put on a new self. When I empty out the old, I find myself all of a sudden with room. If I don’t consciously make wise choices of what to do with the time and space, then I’m only going to find myself cluttering up with the same old junk. Then I’m back to where I began. Once I’ve cleaned up the old, I need to intentionally change how I fill up the Life-space.

I continue to be pleasantly surprised how much better I feel about something as simple and silly as my wardrobe and closet after working through what ended up being a very simple process. I’m reminded by today’s chapter that the same process works more meaningful and worthwhile things in life.

I write this on a Monday morning. The beginning of a new work week is a good morning to meditate on things that I need to “put off,” decisions that need to be made, and new things that I need to “put on” in life.

The Wisdom of Those Who’ve Gone Before

But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.
2 Chronicles 10:8 (NIV)

Like most young people, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my life. As a young man I’d heard God’s calling to be a Messenger and  I made a young man’s naive assumption that this necessitated some kind of full-time vocational ministry. For whatever reason, I decided to go to a handful of my elders who were in pastoral ministry and ask them a question: “If you had the ability to go back and do college all over again, what would you do differently?

I found it fascinating that the answers I received from different people were eerily similar. They told me that they found much of their their Biblical studies in undergraduate and graduate school to be wasted repetition. “When you go to college, study something you love. Follow your passion and your gifts,” they told me. I listened, and majored in Communication with an emphasis in Theatre. It was one of the best decisions of my life.

One of the great life lessons I learned in that experience was that seeking the advice of those who have gone before me is a wise thing to do.

Solomon’s son Rehoboam had enjoyed a charmed life. He was heir to the throne and was afforded all of the privileges that came with the wealth, opulence, and deference that came with being the one who would succeed his successful father. We can assume that he and his frat-boy buddies grew up getting everything they wanted and being denied little or nothing they desired. In his very first political crisis, Rehoboam makes a classic young person’s mistake. Like me, he received the advice of his elders, but he chose to listen to his homies instead.  He foolishly chose the path of power instead of the path of mercy. He chose pride over humility. It cost him the kingdom and ranks as one of the most memorable and epic fails in recorded history.

This morning I’m looking back at my life and feeling gratitude for the grace that was afforded me to seek and heed wise counsel as a young man. As I transition to a new position of leadership in business this year I realize that seeking the wise counsel of those who’ve gone before me on this path is now almost second nature. I’ve learned that the journey goes much smoother when I seek the wisdom of those who’ve already traversed the section of life’s road I currently find myself trekking.

“This Changes Everything”

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
Hebrews 8:13 (NIV)

Have you stopped to think how radically technology has changed in our lifetime? How clunky does a first generation iPhone seem to most of us today? Or a flip-phone? The first iPhone was just ten years ago. Think about your first personal computer. How different was it from what you use today? My first computer was an IBM PS1 and it didn’t even have a hard drive. I had to buy and install a 300 Mb hard drive and I thought that was all I would ever need! Oh my, how the landscape has changed on this life journey.

Yesterday over breakfast Wendy admitted to me that she doesn’t enjoy the book of Hebrews that we’re wading through on this chapter-a-day journey. Her sentiment is shared by many, I’m guessing. I understand it. We tend to love books like Proverbs with its simple wisdom, Psalms with its emotional poetry, or the Gospels with their fascinating take on Jesus’ story. Hebrews, however, rarely gets mentioned as a “favorite,” even by me. Perhaps that’s why it’s been five years since the last time I blogged through it.

One of the reasons I think we struggle with Hebrews is that the letter was written to a very specific audience for a very specific purpose. The author was writing to first century Jews in an effort to unpack the tectonic, theological paradigm shift  they were experiencing. For the original readers, this was life changing stuff. This was a rotary-dial, chorded phone to an iPhone 8 kind of shift in thinking about God. It’s hard for us to appreciate just how radical of a change this was for them.

In Jewish thought, the concept of “covenant” was/is an important one. Covenant means agreement, like an official binding contract. Throughout the Great Story there are a number of important covenants God makes with humanity. The most important of these covenants to the original readers of Hebrews was the covenant God made through Moses that included the ten commandments, the “law” along with an entire system of sacrifices, offerings, and feasts.

Jesus was a Hebrew as were all twelve of his inner circle. The early Christians were known simply as a Hebrew/Jewish sect before the teachings of Jesus spread through the Greco-Roman empire and “turned the world upside down.” Now, the author of Hebrews argues, God fulfilled what was prophetically foretold by Jeremiah 600 years prior. Like emerging technology is to us today, this was emerging theology for first century Hebrew believers. It’s just as the Apple ad for the first iPhone said: “This changes everything!” God is making a new covenant through Jesus that makes the covenant of Moses obsolete.

One of the overarching themes in the Great Story is rebirth, regeneration, renewal, and resurrection. Old things pass away, new things come. Death leads to life. The old covenant has given way to a new covenant. That’s the point the author of Hebrews is getting at.

This morning I’m sitting and pondering the many things that have “passed away” in my life across my own personal journey. I’m thinking about the many new things that I’ve experienced which were unthinkable to me in my earlier years. This is part of the fabric of creation. It’s part of any good story line. Few of us would read a book or watch a movie in which nothing happens.

In the quiet I find myself expressing to God my openness to embracing wherever it is this journey is leading. This includes being open to things that may need to pass away, and new things that may emerge unexpectedly…whatever those things may be.

Btw, I’m not talking about the iPhone 8 😉

 

The Recurring Theme of “Old and New”

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On this last weekday of 2016 it seems to me a bit of divine synchronicity that I should read these words from the ancient prophet, Isaiah:

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!”
Isaiah 43:18-19a (NIV)

Old gives way to new. Growth. Metamorphosis. Transformation. As I have journeyed through God’s Message these many years I find this to be one of the basic, recurring themes in all of God’s Message to us. In fact, it’s a recurring theme in all that God has created. God is all about transformation:

“Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
– Jesus (Matthew 9:17)

 “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
– Jesus (Matthew 13:52)

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.”
– Jesus (Mark 2:21)

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Romans 7:6

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:1,4

Another year draws to a close. Once again I am prompted to reflect on where I’ve been, recognize where I am, and set course for where I’m going. I can’t do anything about yesterday. I am not guaranteed tomorrow. But I can choose what I think, say, and do today. I will set my trajectory. I can make a course correction. I can let go of that which has brought death. I can reach out and choose Life.

This morning, I find my spirit whispering (once again):

God,
Grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

chapter a day banner 2015

Character Arc

scriptworkThis means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

Writers, actors and playwrights will often talk about “arcs” in a story or a particular character. When preparing for a role, I think through where my character is (as a person, in relation to himself, to other characters in the play, to God, and etc.) as the play opens and where he ends up at the end of the play. The real work of the play is to discover the thoughts, actions, conflicts, and obstacles that occur between the two.

Art imitates life. The same questions I ask myself as a character in a play are worthy of being asked in my every day life. Those who profess a relationship with Jesus are living out a spiritual character arc and should quickly be able to describe the following:

  • This is who I was before I entered into a relationship with Jesus
  • This is who I have become in my journey of following Jesus
  • This is who I am becoming and and ever hope to be as I am transformed by Jesus

Of course, like all good plays, we don’t know the end of the story until the final curtain. And, like all good stories and plays, if I cannot point out and see my own character development then something is dreadfully amiss (and critics will likely rip me a part).

Personal transformation and and character arc are evidence of those who truly follow after Jesus. As God works in us, our lives become a living, compelling story.

What’s your story?

The Old Man in the Crowd

"If you want to feel young, hang around with young people. If you want to die young, try to keep up with them." - Carl Bales
“If you want to feel young, hang around with young people. If you want to die young, try to keep up with them.” – Carl Bales

Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
    they will remain vital and green.
Psalm 92:14 (NLT)

Most people that I find myself around are younger than me. Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of friends who are my age or older. Most of the time, however, I find myself around younger people and I am the unmistaken “old man” in the room. Because my hair started to gray at an early age and I inherited the hearing loss gene from the Vander Well side of the family, it sort of puts the proverbial frosting on the cake. “Who’s that gray haired, deaf guy hanging out with those young people?” 

I’m exaggerating, but the truth is that sometimes I feel it acutely.

When I was young I often felt marginalized and dismissed by older people because of my youth. I memorized a verse from Paul’s letter to a young Timothy: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” I worked hard to earn people’s respect and trust.

Now that I am older, I find that young people can just as easily marginalize and be dismissive of those who are older. I now look back at my younger self and realize that while I was feeling dismissed by older generations I was just as dismissive of them for being “out of touch” with my generation and the times.

Age is a funny thing. I’ve come to the conclusion that the suspicious dismissing of the young by the old, and the suspicious dismissing of the old by the young is a natural part of life. It will never change. The bottom line is that I want to cultivate life and produce good fruit every step of my earthly journey until I cross the finish line. Every generation has much to contribute and much to teach me if I’m willing to listen (and if I have my hearing aids in) and engage in life giving conversation. I can’t do anything about what other generations think of me other than be an example in my love and life. I can, however, act to appreciate and honor the generations that came before me and the generations that are coming up behind me.

I’m sorry. What was that you said?

Doing the Harlem Shake with Theatre Central

When my fellow cast members told me we were going to do the Harlem Shake, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. As Carl Bales used to tell me: “If you want to feel young, hang around with young people. If you want to die young, try and keep up with them.”