Monday, November 30, 2015

Christian Authors: Resurrecting Aborted Writing Projects

On Easter Sunday in 33AD, the good news came forth: He's alive! In a much, much lesser way, I have news related to my blog article Christian Authors: Dealing With Aborted Writing Projects dated November 2, 2015: It's alive!

That may not be big news for you but it's big for me. It all began on Thanksgiving morning. If you are interested, please click on the above link where I've added comments about how the Holy Spirit resurrected this project.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Christian Authors: Dealing With Aborted Writing Projects

Updates on November 30, 2015 are shown in red
If you are a Christian author, or any other type of author for that matter, you may understand the emotion behind a decision to abandon a work before it is completed. Please allow me to confirm your thoughts: it does bring out a strong emotional response.

In 2010, I received an email from a missionary in Spain asking about A Topical Treasury of Proverbs, "Would you like your book in Spanish?" I responded that I needed to pray about it, hoping to get a direction from the Lord.

In 2011, I sensed the Lord's plans included not just a Spanish version but also versions in several other languages. A significant re-write was needed. I received permission from a well-known publisher that has produced various Bible translations in multiple languages. I began immediately.

The Preparation Effort
After two years effort including thousands of hours of toiling labor, I gave up. Here are the reasons why:
  • The Input of Others – With the work probably 85% complete and a series of books under way, I began showing portions to others. Did you know that your comments, when combined with those of others, can really take the wind out of a person's sail? They did for me.
    At 5:30am on Thanksgiving morning, I was drawn back to this effort. The Lord showed me that I have been lured into putting too much emphasis on man's approval and not enough on His. I began again.

  • Technology Issues – My approach was different than most writers. I used Microsoft Access to categorize Proverbs into roughly eighty topics and subtopics. My goal was to completely bypass Microsoft Word, going directly from the database to a PDF. While I used this technique for A Topical Treasury of Proverbs, the effort to include multiple languages with various fonts (think Russian and Chinese) was overwhelming to me. I also began thinking about the marketing effort to these countries. What words do I include on my webpages when marketing to the Spanish or French?
    The Lord basically instructed me to take one step at a time. For now, concentrate on the English version. There is much to be done, get on with my work. Therefore, I put on hold another more ambitious project that I was working on.

  • Retribution – Proverbs includes many verses that discuss punishment and penalties for the disobedient person. Are you perfectly obedient? I'm not. In the New Testament sense, God gives grace to the sinner who believes in Him. He does not demand perfection, He is looking for faith and love. Proverbs does not provide the assurance of grace, faith, and love. I was not able to find a way to include that sense in the manuscript.
    The Lord drew me back to my most recent (2012) revisions about retribution. He had given me some understanding at that time; my sense is that He will complete this. So, there is hope in this after all.

  • God's No Longer In This Project – I have written two other books, Joshua's Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Chiasms of Joshua and A Garden of Love. In both of those books, I experienced the strong presence of the Lord as the Holy Spirit inspired one portion of the manuscript after another. In this Proverbs re-write, the work became drudgery. During those times, I had some divine inspirations but they were definitely not as frequent.
    As I started working on the description of the topics, the Lord modified my understanding of the major theme over a three-day period. Now I was inspired once again. I suppose the three year hiatus was necessary so that I could remove my old understanding as He revealed it more completely.

Dealing With Discouragement
Should I have given up? I don't know, but I will say that I have no desire to resurrect that project. The last time I really worked on it was in 2012.

Honestly, I no longer enjoy Proverbs as I do other books of the Bible. Maybe that is the heart issue that I'm dealing with. Or maybe it is deeper.

If I don't enjoy this re-write, why the discouragement? Because I am such a task-oriented fellow.

Yesterday, November 1, 2015, was the last day of a four-year period that I could have used that Bible translation in English. Today I am writing that Bible publisher a letter thanking them for that opportunity. I need to tell them that I was not successful.

Successful authors must be self-motivated and must complete their work. Readers do not buy incomplete works. I didn't complete it. So the enemy the devil then began to make me believe I am not successful. "No finished work, therefore not successful. God is not in it, stop writing." Can you see that train of thought?

The truth is that I gained a great deal of theological insight during the period when I wrote this. Through this and other venues at the same time, God was teaching me a greater understanding of grace. He was showing me the value of overlooking the high values I placed on myself and others.

God wants relationships, not perfection. Grace is then the vehicle for a relaxed view of perfection. Honestly, I'm still learning that but I believe I am much further than where I was.

How about you? Are there lessons you learned through your failures? What is the Holy Spirit attempting to have you receive?

If you have a large screen monitor, can you see the flower on the right side of the screen? That is the awesome blossom from a relatively unknown plant called Gaura. I placed that photo on this blog in 2011 or 2012. To me, this flower is a symbolic picture of Lady Wisdom – she is a key component to understanding this book of Proverbs.

So now the Holy Spirit has changed my plans. I'm enthused and I'm once again in pursuit. I need to contact that Bible translator for their permission once again. I wonder, do other authors give up, only to find they are led to resurrect a "dead" project?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Beauty of the Chiastic Structure in Matthew 6:25-34

Do you read multiple books at the same time? I do and while it sometimes drives me crazy, I enjoy picking up what strikes my fancy based on my mood, time available, and the book's content. Recently I picked up Robert C. Tannehill's The Sword of His Mouth – I am just completing the first third of that text.

The stated purpose of Professor Tannehill's rhetorical and poetic study of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) is to awaken the reader to new insight and move him to new action. I find the approach in The Sword of His Mouth to be encouraging in that it brings to light the beauty of the gospels by revealing the poetic effect of the gospel narrative. In the portion that I've read, the description of tension and patterns is refreshing to me. At the same time, I had to overlook the author's assumptions about redaction (see Chiasm Hint #3 - Use the Entire Passage) because I believe them to be erroneous.

Chiasms are unfortunately known by a number of different names – Professor Tannehill uses the name ′envelope structure.′ Some people call them ′inverted parallelism′ and others use names such as ′ring structure′, ′concentric symmetry′, and ′chiasmus′ – the concept remains the same, just the name changes.

On pages 59-67, Tannehill analyzes Matthew 6:25-33, noting that Luke 12:22-31 is essentially the same passage. These two passages quote Jesus' warning about anxiety: a comparison of our behavior with that of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.

Again, this book is a look at the beauty of the Bible – the author uses the ′envelope structure′ to develop his point. This book is not an analysis of chiastic structures.

Noting the power of the chiasm, he instead focused on the beautiful comparison of the ′birds of the air′ with the ′lilies of the field′, and then the contrast to ourselves. This richly colorful text is seen as using common birds and a common flower to move us in an uncommon way with fresh insight and a call for action. The beauty is seen in these two analogies.

Here is my (not Tannehill's) analysis of the chiastic structure of Matthew 6:25-32. Tannehill's analysis primarily concentrated on the B and B′ levels:

A    Do not be anxious about your life  (v6:25)
B    Consider the birds of the air  (v6:26)
C    And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  (v6:27)
C′   And why are you anxious about clothing?  (v6:28a)
B′ Consider the lilies of the field  (v6:28b-30)
A′ Therefore do not be anxious  (v6:31,32)

Tannehill's purpose is not to analyze the chiastic structure nor its center point (′And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?′ (Matthew 6:27 ESV). He simply observes the envelope structure (again, think ′chiasms′) while noting the Bible's inherent beauty. I agree, it is beautiful.

I believe it is through this poetic beauty that God can speak to us more effectively. In this, we hear in a profoundly more subtle way because the rhythm states to our inner spirit, ″Pay attention.″ And in this, we understand the profound conclusion to the center point of the message: ′But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.′ (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

And then we read a second and even more moving message – a message that concludes the entire chiasm together: ′Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.′ (Matthew 6:34 ESV)

I hope it touches you in the same way:

25 ″Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,
29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ′What shall we eat?′ or ′What shall we drink?′ or ′What shall we wear?′
32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.″
(Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)