MVOTW!

A crazy new word has entered my vocabulary this summer – MVOTW. It stands for “Memory Verse of the Week.” I have learned that elementary kids and preteens love weird words. They also love doing silly motions to spell out or act out something. So each week at camp this summer, I have taught the kids a MVOTW. It usually goes along with the camp theme or the Bible Study for the week. At Mt. Lebanon Camp in Dallas it was Psalm 127:1. At Highland Lakes Camp this past week it was Hebrews 12:1. I have the kids stand up and slowly move their hands to their head to form the letter “M” over their heads. While we do that we are slowly crescendoing into saying “MAAAAVOTWA!” Then the guys act like bodybuilders and the girls act like cheerleaders (and some kids just do either one if they feel like it).

Then we simply act out the memory verse using motions for each word. It is an easy and effective way to teach kids how to memorize God’s Word. I had kids come up to me this summer and do the memory verse from two summers ago. They had remembered it because they had silly motions to go along with it.

Often I get a chance to teach kids the “why” behind memory verses. It is not just a meaningless memory game. It is a chance to hide God’s Word in our hearts. And that comes in handy when we are tempted to sin (among other benefits of memorizing Scripture). I teach them about the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil (Matthew 4). Three times the devil tempted Jesus and three times Jesus responded to the temptations by saying “It is written…” He was quoting memory verses to the devil and eventually fended him off because each temptation was struck down with a passage from God’s Word. Jesus memorized Scripture (he probably did so as a boy growing up in the Jewish school system of his day). So I challenge the kids to memorize God’s Word so they can wield that “sword of the Spirit” when Satan tempts them.

Just the Outer Qatza


“Qatza” is the transliterated Hebrew term for “fringe”. I’m reading through the book of Job right now and something struck me in Job’s discourse in chapter 26. This is quoted from the NIV, Job 26:7-14, bold lettering mine:

7 He spreads out the northern [skies] over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.
8 He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.
9 He covers the face of the full moon, spreading his clouds over it.
10 He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness.
11 The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at his rebuke.
12 By his power he churned up the sea; by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces.
13 By his breath the skies became fair; his hand pierced the gliding serpent.
14 And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”

Wow. All the magnificent creation around us – that is just the “outer fringe” of the works of God. What we see is just a whisper of his power and glory.

I love this passage because it reminds us of the unfathomable mystery of God – much like the end of Romans 11 in the New Testament, where Paul discusses how “unsearchable” is the mind and judgement of God.

This gives me comfort that I don’t have to have all the answers about God. I don’t have to fully understand Him in order to confess my faith in Him. I don’t have to scientifically prove Him to believe in His grace and power. What I see is just the outer fringe of His fullness.

According to What Scriptures?

Image: “The Burial of Christ” by Gustave Dore, woodcut (19th Century)

This is the season of Lent, where Christians remember the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ during the 40 days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. This morning, I read the first recorded Christian creed of the resurrection, which was written by Paul of Tarsus in the middle of the first century in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth: “…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Cor 15:3b-4).

This begs a question: Which “Scriptures” attested to this death, burial, and resurrection? Paul grew up as a very devout Jew, and knew his Jewish Scriptures very well, so he is certainly speaking of those sacred texts, which is what Christians today regard as the Old Testament. The New Testament was far from its final form (indeed, some texts were not yet written) as of Paul writing this creed. So Paul is not referring to the death, burial, and resurrection accounts found in the first century biographies of Jesus written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

While the “suffering servant” songs of Isaiah (i.e. Isaiah 53) and Psalm 22 foreshadow the death and suffering of Christ, there is still the question as to which Jewish texts point to the resurrection of Christ. There are few particular passages to which Paul could be referring:

1. Psalm 16:10-11: “because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (this is especially interesting when you read Peter’s sermon in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:22-36).

2. Isaiah 53:11: “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied” (interestingly enough, the phrase “of life” is not found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the phrase “light of life” is not found in the Masoretic Text).

3. Hosea 6:2: “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence” (remarkably, early Jewish rabbinical teachings from the 2nd Century view this passage as referring to resurrection; see also 2 Kings 20:5 for another “third day” restoration).

4. Jonah 1:17: “But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights” (this should be seen as prophetic only as it relates to what Jesus says in Matthew 12:40: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”).

According to Gordon Fee, the most plausible explanation for Paul claiming that the Jewish Scriptures foreshadow the resurrection of Christ is that “‘on the third day’ was probably seen in terms of the variety of OT texts in which salvation or vindication took place on the third day” (Fee, NICNT: 1 Corinthians, 727f.).

I would like to reference two commentaries that helped in compiling this information: John N. Oswalt’s The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah (2003, p. 587) and Gordon D. Fee’s The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (1987, pp. 727f.).

The Disconnect Between the New Testament and Today

If we really read the stories of the New Testament and look around today…does anybody else see a completely different world, even a vastly different form of Christianity? Jesus and his followers administered physical healings, demon exorcisms, prophetic utterances, prayers in unknown languages, etc, etc. They lived communally – sharing their resources among themselves (at least the community described in Acts 2 did so). I wonder how much of the New Testament we should expect to live out as Christians today and how much of it is “cultural” and “only pertinent to that time.” This is a discussion that has already split churches into denominations, but it is still a relevant topic on which I wish to ponder (and seek the Lord’s guidance on). There’s gotta be more to Christianity than what appears to be “Christianity” today. On the journey, humbly…Jesse.

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