Tag Archives: Repentence

Inflection Points

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.” Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. Nehemiah 8:9-12

Along life’s journey I’ve grown increasingly fascinated with words. Words, in and of themselves, are creative expression. At the root level they are metaphors. A series of squiggles on a page that correspond to a series of vowels and consonants which mean something to any who can read or understand the language. Words come in and out of fashion. Words you never heard before suddenly become “buzzwords.”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard the words “inflection point” used a lot in business. It’s become a bit of a buzzword in some circles. It’s a great little term from the world of calculus. It describes the point at which a curve moves from being concave (downward) to convex (upward), or vice versa. Businesses have adopted the term to describe the point at which a trend (in sales, for example) stops rising and starts declining, or vice versa. The inflection point is the point of change. It’s a change of direction.

I think the term “inflection point” has strong spiritual connotations, as well. God’s Message repeatedly calls people to make a sudden change of direction. Turn from darkness towards the Light. Turn from evil ways and embrace that which is good. Turn away from hatred and pursue Love. Turn from sin and pursue God. Spiritual journeys are all about inflection points.

In today’s chapter, the walls of Jerusalem have been rebuilt. The gates are back in place. As a way of celebrating, Ezra brings out the scrolls with the law of Moses. It’s likely that the words of the law of Moses had not been widely read or heard publicly since Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple had been destroyed some 150 years earlier. Many who lived in Jerusalem may never have heard it. Perhaps no one in their families had heard it since the days of their great-great grandparents.

The reading of God’s story and the law of Moses becomes a spiritual inflection point. The people realize how far they have spiritually wandered away from God’s path. They weep. They grieve. Their hearts turn towards God.

I love the response of the Levites to the people. “Don’t grieve. Feast. This is a moment of joy!” I can’t help but think of the prodigal son returning to his father in humility and shame, and the father’s contrasting expression of joy. That’s the way spiritual inflection points work. They are a moment when grief and turn to joy.

This morning I’m thinking about all of the different metaphorical ways the term “inflection point” applies to life. I’m thinking about the inflection points I’ve experienced, both positively and negatively. Fiscal inflection points, relational inflection points, vocational inflection points, and spiritual inflection points. I’m meditating on the inflection points that still need to occur in my spiritual journey. Followers of Jesus often talk about their conversion as the inflection point of their life. While I certainly look back on that moment as monumental, I’ve found that following Jesus is a never ending series of inflection points. I don’t mature or progress unless I experience them.

Inflection point. Good words.

Chapter-a-Day Luke 5

Jesus and Saint Peter, Gospel of Matthew 4.18-20
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Simon Peter, when he saw [the miracle], fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” Luke 5:8 (MSG)

Wendy and I were talking last week on our drive home from the lake. We were listening to the radio and a guy mentioned that he considered himself such bad person that God couldn’t possibly love or forgive him.

“I think that’s pride,” Wendy said. As I thought about it, I had to agree with her. There is an insidious side to pride. “I’m so terrible that God couldn’t possibly forgive me” is really just the dark side of “I’m so great God will surely accept me.”

We then talked about our own experiences with shame and guilt. On our conversational journey we came to discover that we had similar experiences. We each experienced periods of life when we pushed God away, but it wasn’t about feeling too guilty or too much shame. Our reticence to accept God’s forgiveness came out of the knowledge that to accept God’s gift of grace and forgiveness would incur a debt of gratitude and a call to walk away from the illicit behaviors to which we clung (and enjoyed).

Sometimes we push God away because, like Peter, we just want to be left alone. We don’t want to change.

Thankfully, God is tenacious in pursuit.

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Chapter-a-day 2 Kings 24


In God's opinion he also was an evil king, no different from his father

. 2 Kings 24:9 (MSG)

It's funny to watch certain behavioral traits pass down through generations. If you grew up in my family and found yourself in the bathroom when everyone else was at the table ready to eat, you were labeled "Uncle Garrett" because some old guy a few generations before had a habit of always being on the pot at meal time. When a person in my wife's family behaves in an authoritatively stubborn way, they are said to have inherited the Vander Hart gene.

Sometimes these behavioral patterns that flow through families are silly and the source of lots of ribbing and laughter. Sometimes they are simply annoying and you roll your eyes when they surface. Other times, however, they can be spiritually unhealthy and destructive. One of the themes that sticks out like a sore thumb in our journey through the Book of Kings is the perpetuation of sin and evil across generations. Time after time I read a verse like the one above from today's chapter. "Chip off the ol' block" is not always a good thing.

Today, I'm reminded that I am responsible for my own behavior and following God may require me to take a clearly different path than the well-worn trail that was blazed by earlier generations in my family. Following in Jesus' footsteps is a journey that leads us to change in ways that force to be more like Him, and less like those on the path behind us.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and collylogic

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 15

Cleaning house is making room for new things. Asa conducted himself well before God, reviving the ways of his ancestor David. He cleaned house: He got rid of the sacred prostitutes and threw out all the idols his predecessors had made. Asa spared nothing and no one; he went so far as to remove Queen Maacah from her position because she had built a shockingly obscene memorial to the whore goddess Asherah. Asa tore it down and burned it up in the Kidron Valley. 1 Kings 15:11-13 (MSG)

There is something about "cleaning house" that brings a fresh start. Cleaning house means purging old and worthless things that take up room, demand time attention and distract me from more important things. I might "rearrange house" so that there is a sense that things are fresh and new, but it is not the same thing as cleaning house. The old and worthless things are still there. They may be tucked away for the moment, out of sight, so I can fool myself to believing that things are clean. But, nothing has really changed.

"Cleaning house" requires uncomfortable decisions. I'm sure Asa's decision to remove grandma from power had tremendous ramifications in his life, his household, in his family, and in his community. She had been holding "position" within the family, the royal household, and therefore, the government, for multiple generations. The removal of something or someone that holds an old, secure position within any kind of system tends to throw that system into conflict and confusion for a while. That's why we avoid it.

"Cleaning house" is a requisite part of the process for anyone who wants to follow Jesus. You don't get far in the journey if you keep accumulating and never purge. A journey requires mobility and you can't move if you're loaded down. "Old things pass away, new things come," God's message tells us. But, there's no room for new things in our backpack if it's still full of our old stuff.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and questioneverything