The Man-Mountain: Gulliver #2

If you are following along in the Summer Read, this post was born of Chapters I-III of Gulliver’s Travels. If you happen to be reading the kiddos’ version, it would help if you’ve read through pg. 27. 

On Reading

Monday we sat down to read to the end of Chapter III. More accurately, I sat down to read aloud while my wife was painting the walls. It happens. We found ourselves laughing aloud for a few portions, offering a simple “Hmmm…” for others. Gulliver keeps you on your toes, and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of reading Swift’s extensive vocabulary out loud! The book is indeed challenging in that way. Swift demonstrates the unique gift of being able to place 18th century potty humor (Gulliver is not shy about his bathroom exploits) right next to stabbing, yet engaging, human commentary.

The nerd version features a number of footnotes that hint at the possible historical persons who show up in the various characters. Gulliver was a work of offense to Swift’s original audience, but I’ve quickly come to realize that the footnotes add nothing to the enjoyment of the story unless you are interested in finding out what they have to say. Is it helpful to know that Flimnap is “usually taken to represent Sir Robert Walpole, chancellor of the Exchequer and head of the Whig government from 1715-1717?” Maybe. But let’s be honest, if you don’t know, you’re not missing much. It’s a fun story.

On Time

I found the inventory of Gulliver’s pockets to be enjoyable. It is probably a comment on my own typical reading habits, but trying to decipher the contents of his clothing from the perspective of a man six inches tall, combined with the period in which the book was written proved to be a fun game! I found myself going back, after reading about the gunpowder demonstration, to realize that the pieces in his pockets were in fact pistols.

Most fascinating to me, though, was the pocket watch.

As I sat down to write this post, my son was watching intently over my shoulders – not because he cared to read dear ‘ol Dad’s words. He was watching the clock on my laptop. You see, 3:30 is snack time. He returned to my back three times in the ten minutes between 3:20 and 3:30. At 3:28, he was content to wait for the digital readout to change. Is it snack time yet? I’m sure by having a snack time at all, I am guilty of promoting this pattern, but it speaks to the Lilliputians viewpoint of time.

“And we conjecture it is either some unknown Animal, or the God that he worships: But we are more inclined to the latter Opinion, because he assured us… that he seldom did any thing without consulting it. He called it his Oracle, and said it pointed out the Time for every Action of his Life.”

The nearest reference (as I remember) to specific time in Lilliputian terms is the “fourth Day of the eighty ninth Moon of your Majesty’s auspicious reign.” They had apparently taken the time to record the length of their good fortune, but the notion of hourly tracking was unusual.

I’ve often heard it said that the obsession with linear time is an American trait. (For a rather lengthy article discussing the proposition, check this link. You will be redirected to Business Insider. Whether fact or no, the article addresses the idea.) From a biblical perspective, this is certainly true as well. For example, what day of the week was 9/11? Easy enough. What day of the week was the Last Supper? Scholarly folks are still arguing about that one. Today, we obsess over tracking every single minute of every single day – studying the trees. Other cultures, perhaps, pay more attention to the forest… or at least different trees!

As I’ve studied biblical Hebrew, one of the most fascinating differences is the treatment of linear time. Verbs in Hebrew do not retain, in and of themselves, a past/present/future voice. Rather they exist as perfect/imperfect with regard to completion. Linear timing is determined largely by context. If that notion confuses you, that’s OK. It confused me as well, at first. I’ve tried to learn from a non-linear expression of time the significance and spatial relationship of the event, rather than simply a timeline.

I am a time-tracker. I’ve not always been surrounded by time-trackers, though. This means I’ve spent unfortunate portions of my life waiting. Only in the current stage of living have I taken considerable time to pay less attention to the clock, or rather to be less controlled by it. Obviously, if I fail to show up to work or class on time, there are consequences. But while this may be true, it is all-too-easy to allow the clock to have a say in my mood or my view of others, or perhaps to dictate the actions of my day, including how I spend my time waiting.

I have been challenged over the past few years on how to strike a balance between honoring the time of others (particularly those who obsess over the clock more than I!), while also resisting the urge to watch the clock to the exclusion of the person or event in front of me. I’ve tried to “calculate” my day based on both time and the importance of the action. It’s not easy. A creature of habit, I am.

At the outset of this year, I spent considerable time (ironic?) considering how I would govern my time. I’ve never been able to maintain an accurate calendar for long, and I am no good with tech calendars. I prefer paper. I can’t help it. I came across a number of interesting resources, including one from Donald Miller called The StorylineWhile I did not adopt the planner as my day-to-day scheduling process, I found the premise to be fascinating, and I have visited the concepts from time to time. His aim is to combine time and significance to achieve productivity (and a hint of peace along the way). If nothing else, it’s an exercise in thinking differently about your time.

 

How much is the clock an Oracle for your life?

How do you react when the hours fail to follow the schedule?

How do you spend time waiting?

And what would the Lilliputians find in YOUR pockets?

 

There is another post coming today!

 

 

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Domain: In the Beginning (part 1)

(Excerpt from a recent sermon given on Genesis 1:1)

JK Rowling was in the news this week (she created the whole muggles & magical world of Harry Potter, right?) because of some tweeting with a fan. This fan questioned some of the decisions Rowling made when she was writing them Potter books. Rowling has faced criticism for a decade or more. One time Rowling was answering a question like this and I loved her answer. Essentially, she said, “I created the world, I can do what I like with it.”

You can agree with that, right? If you created some kind of universe, I’m pretty sure it’d be fair that you get to be the head honcho. The big cheese. It’s your world, after all.

What amazes me, though, is how folks seems to want control of worlds THEY didn’t create. People read the books, watch the movies, and figure they know better. Most people would think Bilbo Baggins went off the deep end if – instead of doing the whole hobbit ring thing – he spent his time questioning JRR Tolkien’s existence & publicly slamming Peter Jackson’s creative decisions?

We do this in fictional worlds. We also do this in God’s world. We question his existence, his every motive. I think this is why the angels rejoice when we finally turn to Jesus… this show has to be so boring while we walk around questioning what God designed to be obvious.

Creators create. Creators take the reins. That’s just the way it is.

Today I want to check out one of the most important verses in the Bible. It’s one almost everyone knows by heart. It was the first verse I taught my kids. Even God-haters have a loose idea of what Genesis 1:1 says. I mention this verse nearly every time I speak as a visiting pastor.

If this verse is true, then God’s domain, God’s area of sovereignty, includes the following:

Everything you see,
Everything you don’t see,
Everything you could possibly imagine,
The time in which you see, don’t see, and imagine.

And there’s some big news about Jesus on the back end.

I’m going to break this verse into pieces to unpack the size of God’s domain.

In the Beginning…

Genesis 1:1 says that God created “in the beginning.” This means that God must have existed before the beginning, before there was time, which then means God is independent of time. He created time. Time is God’s domain.

As such, time has no bearing on God. He distinguishes the beginning from the end from everything else in between as one who stands APART from time. OUTSIDE of time. God is timeLESS.

God doesn’t get older with time. His mind doesn’t start to slip as time goes on. God will not resign or retire from his job. He doesn’t intend to “hang it up.” God won’t collect social security. His beard won’t go gray ( *GASP*  he may not even have a beard) God’s reflexes don’t slow so he’ll never be caught off guard. His metabolism won’t slow, so he’ll never grow a gut from drinking Frappuccino & eating Dunkin Donuts.

God also won’t get more wise with time, because he is already the sum total of wisdom in all the universe. God’s hindsight is 20/20. His foresight is 20/20. His insight is 20/20. God doesn’t see things after they happen because time has no effect on God. Instead, God effects time. He’s not watching to see what happens next, because he is everywhere, all the time.

Sometimes we question him about things that happen – hard things – as if he wasn’t there. As if he isn’t sovereign over that moment and EVERY moment. There is nothing you have gone through, are going through, or will go through that he didn’t see coming – or specifically send your way to draw you near, to make you more like Jesus, to expose your sin, to taste something of what the Savior suffered, to equip you for ministry, or even to increase your longing for Christ’s perfect coming kingdom.

What, then, is God’s view on time? He created it, he must have done so for a reason.

There’s a verse in the New Testament book called Galatians. Fourth chapter. Fourth verse. It puts time in God’s perspective.

When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

When the fullness of time had come.

The fullness of time.

An interesting phrase. Notice it doesn’t say God sent Jesus at the right time, or the best time, or even on time. No, it says the fullness of time. There is a lot of geeky foreign language thought that goes into this, but suffice it to say the biblical term is different. Paul uses this term in Ephesians 1. Jesus used this expression to refer to his act of redemption in John 7.

Sometimes God works and explains time in order. Start to finish. LINEAR. But on another level altogether God also often expresses time in chiasm. EH?

The fullness of time means that God doesn’t simply look at time as a series of passing moments – moments from A to Z. Instead, time is a collection of moments that have a point of fullness, an apex from which you interpret all the rest. This apex, the point of fullness, doesn’t occur at the end. It occurs somewhere in the middle.

God’s domain. God’s rules.

He uses this approach all over the Bible. Books and chapters are arranged in chiasm. It also happens that the arc of human history as well as the big picture of the Bible, is chiastic. This does not downplay the importance of a linear view, but it casts a brighter light on the big picture of time.

With Galatians 4 in mind, we can say that Jesus came at the time for which time was created. When time was full, complete, at the apex, God sent his son to redeem sinners and make them saints. The reason time exists is for the revelation of Christ. Last week – holy week – we remembered and celebrated the fullness of time. The apex.

The year is 2015. Why? Because when the smart people of old measured time, they were thinking like God. There is no universally agreed upon born-on date for the universe to take a linear measure. Instead, they recognized that the hinge of time – the most significant event – is the life of Christ. This is God’s design – that every other event in history finds its place and its meaning by relating it to the most important event in all of God’s history. Ravi Zacharias said in his Easter Meditation that “the Cross of Christ is truly the crux of history. Without the Cross, history itself cannot be defined or corrected.”

Christ’s apprearance; his life, death, and resurrection, mark the significance and the crux of time.

If Genesis 1:1 is true, then time is God’s domain.
If Genesis 1:1 is true, then time was created by God, for God’s purpose.
If Genesis 1:1 is true, then time revolves around Jesus.