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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Prayer Request

This week I started training for my upcoming job as part-time Secretary at the church. One day I happened to be in the office alone [reading equipment manuals :( ] and answered the phone when it rang. The gentleman was seeking a Pastor to help him.

Now I have been laboring along with the Pulpit Committee since January in our search for a new Pastor. We have an interim Pastor, but he is only available for Sunday preaching, and we have a single non-Staff Elder who also has a full time job, a family and a higher education commitment, yet who also has been trying to do all he can to shepherd the flock in this interim between full time Pastors.

But being the new secretary gave me greater insight into the magnitude of our not having a full time Pastor. There are people outside of our congregation who call desperately seeking pastoral help - but we have none. I find myself automatically wanting to respond in my "biblical counseling mode", only to be caught up short when I remember that I am in the position of being a Secretary - they want a Pastor. You have no idea how much it hurts me to have to tell them we don't currently have a Pastor available and then refer them elsewhere.

So now I have an even greater sense of urgency in my prayer for a new Pastor. Please join me in earnestly praying that God would send us the man of His choosing.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Simple Math




Injuries: some bruising & two small cuts.
Car Loss: $1,000,000
Mileage: 9 miles
Waiting List for New One: 2 years
Still Alive: Priceless
When can I drive Dad's car again?: Nuclear Half Life

Another "Christianism" Discovered

In the course of my Christian walk I have become increasingly aware of what I call "Christianisms". A "Christianism" is a saying or way of thinking that is prevalent among believers, but which has no biblical basis. Sometimes it may even be antithetical to biblical teaching! We often pick up these sayings/ideas from our culture and then pass them on to one another without even realizing what we're doing. One of the reasons I am so dedicated to studying the Bible is that as I am exposed to God's Truth, I find areas where I need to change not only my own thinking, but also how I communicate God's Truth to others.

I am also thankful to the authors I read. They often point out "Christianisms" I had not previously thought about. Right now I'm reading Graeme Goldsworthy's "Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture". I don't necessarily agree with all of his views, particularly concerning prophecy, but he does an excellent job breaking down many conclusions I do share.

In explaining how Existential Philosophy has had an impact upon Christian thought, he writes about how the issue of the historicity of the biblical account became secondary to the question of how the "story" aided SELF-understanding. Rudolph Bultman typified this when he wrote, "the meaning of history lies always in the present, and when the present is conceived as the eschatalogical present by Christian faith the meaning in history is realized." It doesn't matter whether the Bible is Truth or Myth, what matters is how it helps me understand ME.

Goldsworthy goes on to write, "Thus, 'Jesus in my heart' theology not only distorts the Trinitarian perspective of the New Testament, it comes very close to the internalized gospel of medieval Catholicism [i.e. grace redefined as a spiritual influence in the heart of the individual believer]. The doctrine of the new birth is often thought of as an evangelical distinctive, but when 'you must be born again' is made to be the gospel, the real objective and historical nature of the biblical gospel is compromised."

Wow! Is 'Jesus in my heart' a true representation of biblical truth? In looking at what the Bible has to say about salvation I find it involving things like repentance of sin/rebellion against God, turning from idols to the living God, that salvation results in a believer no longer serving sin, but serving God, that an individual becomes united with Christ and becomes a member of a corporate body serving as His ministers on earth. I don't see 'inviting Jesus into my heart' anywhere. While it's true that the believer is sealed with the HS until the day of his ultimate redemption, it's equally true that the Trinity embodies BOTH unity AND distinction. Members of the Trinity are not interchangeable!

Let's not be sloppy with our terminology. Let's not get our theology from songs and "Christianisms". Let's keep reading and studying the Truth and let's be careful how we represent it to others. Let's make God's Truth our blueprint for reality.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Truth in Advertising. . . and Love

In poetry there is a particular style which intimately itemizes a lover's beauty by using hyperbole and simile. It's called "blazon" or "blason". We certainly find a bit of this in Song of Solomon, but it develops into a particular style in the "romances" of the Middle Ages and on into the Renaissance.

Many of you are probably quite familiar with Shakespeare's marvelous sonnets. . . sigh. . . BUT chances are you never came across Sonnet 130, which parodies this "blazon" form of love poetry. I wouldn't recommend sending this to your "beloved", but enjoy the chuckle. . .

"My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:

And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How God's People Handle Despair: Psalm 77

We often have the mistaken notion that the man of God never despairs, never experiences deep pain or anguish, never suffers. So when it inevitably DOES enter our lives, we are shocked. We don't know how to deal with it and, in fact, we feel rather guilty for having experienced it in the first place! But that's a modern concept, NOT one we find in Scripture. Have you ever studied the Individual Psalms of Lament? Let's look at Psalm 77.

vv.1-9 God's People DO Cry Out with Anguish and Doubt

The key point here is that their cry is directed towards God. Asaph, the Psalmist, doesn't HIDE his anguish or DENY its existence. He cries out to God - repeatedly. He writes, "My soul refused to be comforted. When I remember God, then I am disturbed; When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint." In vv.4-6 he talks about his sleepless nights. He tries to muse on better times, but that offers no help. The end result is that his heart unceasingly broods and he sinks deeper and deeper into despair.

In vv.7-9, he asks the BIG QUESTIONS:

Has God rejected and forgotten me?
Has His unfailing love ended and its all anger now?
Have His promises failed?
Where is His mercy/grace?
Does God really care?

The REAL issue at the bottom of his despair is Doubt. Here is my pain. There is my God. This is my voice. Where is His answer?

vv.10-15 God's People Move On to Clarify Their Perspective

God's people cry out in anguish from time to time, but they ALSO move on to clarify their perspective. Verse 10 is the Pivot Point: "THEN I said, "It is my grief, that the right hand of the Most High has changed." Asaph realizes his perspective of grief is skewing his understanding of reality and he makes an appeal to the stability of God, rather than relying upon his own skewed perspective.

What action does he therefore take? "I will REMEMBER the deeds of the LORD... I will REMEMBER Your wonders of old." "I will MEDITATE on all Your work and MUSE on Your deeds." The focus of his thoughts change. No longer is he focusing on his pain and turmoil. Now He is focusing on God. He realizes that relief can only be found by deliberately fighting to remember God - FIRST and FOREMOST.

And what is the result of this change in focus? Notice the change in the pronouns. In vv.1-6 primarily 1st person pronouns are used [I, my] and after v.13 God dominates [You, Your]. Asaph demonstrates the Biblical process by which the believer escapes despair of the soul. He remembers God. He reviews God's works. He worships Him. He adjusts his view to God's eternal perspective.

vv.16-19 God's People Remember Their Redemption

As a result of his now clarified perspective, Asaph remembers God's past actions on behalf of His people [specifically, His deliverance at the Red Sea]. God's past actions on behalf of His people give Asaph HOPE that his own present and future are ALSO in God's hands.

Has God rejected and forgotten me? - No!
What about His love? - It's real!
Has His unfailing love ended and its all anger now? - Don't be silly!
What about His Promises? - They are true!
What about his Mercy? - Depend on it!
Does God really care? - Absolutely!

The pain is still there. The circumstances are still there. But God DOES care and He is NOT powerless. He WILL sustain and deliver. Asaph's immediate problem is DWARFED by a Greater Reality.

v. 20 God's People Express Their Ultimate Confidence

Just as God delivered Israel by the hand of Moses and Aaron, God will ultimately deliver Asaph ... and the man of God. Pain is not the sum total of our journey. "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?... Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." [Romans 8:31 ff]

So when you find yourself, or a fellow believer, in the "slough of Despond", don't say, "buck up" or "get over it". Christians do not embrace Stoic philosophy. They turn to their God. Go back to Psalm 77 and study it.

[Based upon Rev. Dr. Dorrington Little's outline, Hamilton, MA, 2001]
Related Posts: To the Soul in Despair - "Don't Listen to Your Self" (Psalm 42)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Disciplined Life: Proverbs 19:16-23

As Christian mothers, we've all heard Prov.19:18 taught, but usually it has been completely excised from it's greater context, and as a result, is less than useful. It's a great idea, but there are no specifics about how to implement it. So instead, many draw from man-centered wisdom to fill that gap of application ... or they just start making things up! Too much teaching tends to jump from Book to Book, verse to verse. There's no connection, other than theme perhaps, and no "big picture". I'm learning to primarily STAY within a particular passage and glean what is being taught in that context.

Read through Prov.19:16-23 a few times and pay attention to the FORM it takes. Recognizing its form helps you get the whole picture. These verses are in the form of a Chiasm (k-eye'-asm), which is significant to Hebrew poetry. Instead of rhyming, as our poetry often does, Hebrew poetry utilizes parallel forms, comparisons/contrasts, repetition of thought, lots of play on words [oooh... I REALLY need to learn Hebrew one of these days!]. A Chiasm is made up of verses mirroring thoughts. Follow the Chiastic pattern with me in this passage, and see if you don't get more out of it...

First note that A (v.16) and A1 (v.23) "bookend" the passage with similar thoughts - These are the KEYS to "The Disciplined Life": Obedience to God (v.16) and Reverent Fear of God (v.23). Now see how the rest fits in - it gives a beautiful illustration of WHAT we teach, HOW we teach and WHY we teach our children "The Disciplined Life".

A (16) Obedience to God's Way of Life Has Eternal Consequences [WHY]
B (17) Teach them to Have Compassion for the Poor, the Needy [WHAT]
C (18) Discipline your Children When They are Young [HOW]
C1 (19) Allow consequences for their actions [HOW]
D (20) Teach them to Submit to Instruction [WHAT]
D1 (21) Teach them to Acknowledge the Providence of God [WHAT]
B1 (22) Teach them Honesty: Better to be poor & honest [WHAT]
A1 (23) Reverent Fear of God Has Eternal Consequences [WHY]

So the Chiastic Pattern is: A - B - C - C1 - D - D1 - B1 - A1. [It would help if this format allowed me to Indent, but it doesn't.] Basically 16 & 23 are a couplet, 17 & 22 are a couplet, 18 & 19 are a couplet and 20 & 21 are a couplet and all are built around the same Theme - The Disciplined Life. Cool, huh?

Now there's passage to build a lesson... and a life around!!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The World of Joel

Today we had the 1st & 2nd graders at our VBS site. I have to share with you one young boy's outlook on the lesson. It helps if you happen to know this child, so apologies to those of you who don't. Let me just say that some day there will be a bestseller entitled "The Sayings of Joel".

In the first half of the class I was teaching the lesson [Luke 5:1-11]. I always try to have the children use their Bibles, so we allowed extra time to make sure everyone had a Bible and that it was open to the correct page. [NOT an easy task with this age group, I might add!] As I told them what happened I would stop and have them read a section out of their Bible and answer my questions. I called on Joel to read and he informed me that he didn't read, so I quickly passed on to another child. During the second half of the class, Sarah St. J. was teaching them the memory verse and had written it out on a large poster. After reading it together a few times Joel eagerly raised his hand, saying, "Excuse me. [note politeness: he has a VERY good mother!] May I say the verse by myself?" He then proceeded to READ the verse from the poster. Sarah looked amazed and said to him, "Joel, I thought you said you didn't read?" To which he replied, "Oh, I can read. I just don't read the Bible. My parents do it for me." [YOU try keeping a straight face after a comment like that!]

At the very end, Sarah called on the kids one at a time to say the verse without reading the poster. Joel did very well...till the end. Instead of saying, "They left everything and followed him", he said, "They left all their stuff and followed him." Now isn't that more memorable phrasing? I'd love to see his translation of the Bible!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"Great Ideas!"

You may have noticed I've been rather "blog-lax" lately. I've been busy developing two FUN classes - both rather labor intensive. The Lord has handed me my dream on a platter with all the trimmings - I've been hired to teach "Beginning Koine" twice a week to a group of elementary-grade homeschoolers and their Moms, starting this Fall. There's also the possibility of teaching a second group at the HS level. Once my mind was headed in this direction... the ideas began to flood in!

I would like to make the classes interdisciplinary by integrating Ancient Literature, History, Geography, Bible, Archaeology, Creative Writing, Art and my travels along with the language - a little at a time, of course. ;) The beauty is that such knowledge will be infinitely useful. This is learning that can be applied to NT Bible Study! The advantage of teaching the Moms along with their children is that THEY can learn it, which will enable them to practice it with their children the other 3 days of the week. [I'm working on Lesson Plans for them to accompany our Koine lessons.] AND they will be able to learn at a slower, less painful pace. Of course, it is entirely possible that at some point they may want to advance more rapidly...which should just fit in to the time 1st year Koine will again be offered at NSTM. What can I say... it's "win/win"!

The second class I have been working on is based upon another request. Many of the women in our Ladies' classes would like to have a class on how to teach the Bible- from exegesis to application. One advantage of putting this material together is that I will become a better teacher! I've been doing a lot of reading, studying and preparation. This could also take the rest of the summer. I have considered sharing some of the points in this blog as I progress. Such info will be old hat to some, but perhaps useful to others!

So, I am happily working away and should be forgiven my "temporary" laxity in blogging. Just don't give me any more FUN ideas... for a while anyway. ;)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Proverbial Sayings

When we consider modern English language, many idioms and proverbial sayings come to mind. For a person raised in THIS culture and time period, such figurative language presents no obstacle to understanding. But if you are an immigrant to whom English is a second language, it can cause a great deal of confusion. I have a friend from Taiwan who showed me a book she had brought with her to the US, entitled "American Idioms", written by a man whose primary language was Chinese. There were many, many errors in his book, some of which would have been incredibly embarrassing to have repeated in public! I suggested that she throw the book away and just learn them as she comes across them. Even within the United States there are various regional idioms and proverbial sayings unknown to the general population.

Now consider the Bible. We are removed 2000+ years from the time and thousands of miles from the cultures. Yet we often forget to take that into consideration when studying our Bibles. I find myself expecting that everything written in the Bible is totally unique apart from its time and cultures. Yet if we think about it, we should realize that time and culture were just as much used by the HS as each author's individual writing style and vocabulary were.

This can take on particular significance when applying the Grammatical-Historical method of interpretation. This literal method of interpretation takes into account the use of figurative language - metaphors, poetry, idioms, proverbial sayings, etc. But if you don't recognize something as figurative, you could easily misinterpret it literally.

For example, if I became frustrated trying to work on a project and laughingly said, "I think I'll just shoot myself", you would know that I'm laughing at my frustration. But if you didn't HEAR my laugh or tone of voice and you didn't pay attention to the CONTEXT in which I used the phrase, you might become concerned that I was threatening suicide. You can see how easy it can be to misunderstand the figurative use of language.

One of the advantages of reading "old stuff" is that in ancient writings I am always coming across material in non-biblical sources that I had previously assumed to be completely unique to the Bible. Suddenly a light bulb will come on and I'll understand that the biblical author was using a common proverbial saying or idiom from his time and culture to clarify his biblical point. If I don't understand that in my interpretation of the passage, I may erroneously put the emphasis in the wrong place - and miss the REAL point all together.

Recently I've been reading Plato. [It's another "Greek summer"! ;)] Today I came across two proverbial sayings that sounded very, very familiar to me and resulted in my reconsidering the biblical passages where they are used.

For example, Mark 9:43, 45 says:
Mar 9:43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.
Mar 9:45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell.

Now if I interpreted that literally, I would be handless and footless by now! Fortunately, for most of us, common sense would tell us that Jesus is not teaching that we are to literally cut off a hand or foot, but he is using figurative language to teach the point of the heinousness of sin. I'm relieved that I have interpreted it this way, because I just happened to come across the very same proverbial saying in Plato's (431BC-351BC) "Symposium":
"And they will cut off their own hands and feet and cast them away, if they are evil"

What do you know? Jesus was repeating an ancient Mediterranean proverb to teach a point!! [Good thing I held off on the self mutilation!]

Here's another, less drastic, proverbial saying:
Mat 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

Plato, in "The Republic", in reference to the education of the Philosopher-King, writes:
"For wherewith shall it be salted if the salt have lost its savor?" The point is ... if something lacks its purpose, it's good for nothing. The context of Mt.5:13-16 makes it easy to now understand Jesus' meaning. If a follower of Christ doesn't have good works that glorify the Father, then they are worthless ... like salt that doesn't taste salty or a light that doesn't shine.

I guess the moral is to constantly remind ourselves that such figurative language, as well as possible quotes from works familiar to the original readers, existed. I think I will start keeping a list of them as I read through ancient writings. In the meantime, probably the best thing we can do to avoid major errors in interpretation is to -

(1) Be humble in realizing there is more to Bible interpretation than we may at first consider

(2) Read the Bible slowly, thoughfully and repeatedly


(4) Try to determine the MAIN POINT the author is making, rather than getting too bogged down in the figurative language or even with a specific cultural practice that is only reflecting that main point

(5) Read more "old stuff"

Friday, June 08, 2007

Preparing for a "Literary Vacation"

Beth, Nehemiah and I are about to take a little "literary vacation" to the Berkshires this weekend. This kind of trip has become a tradition with my family and friends. The last two summers I have dragged numerous friends to Concord, Mass. to visit Hawthorne's home and his grave on Authors' Ridge, after forcing them to read some of his work first, of course. [Hey... the lunch at the Concord Inn makes it all worthwhile!] Hawthorne has become a favorite of mine in recent years and I marvel at how I am now able to understand and thoroughly enjoy his writing... which seemed so cold and distant to me when in I was in HS. I heard Beth recently voice one of my own observations - great literature is often wasted on the young. Partly I think a good teacher can make a huge difference in learning to understand and appreciate a work. What a difference Tim's prof in a Milton course made in his enjoyment of "Paradise Lost", a work few would willingly choose to read. Ah... if only we ALL had such teachers introduce us to great works!

But I also think we are better able to appreciate really great writing the more we are exposed to it, and the LESS we expose ourselves to bad writing. I'm always amazed at the depth of my friend Heather's knowledge in literature. She was raised in a home that enjoyed poetry and good literature, particularly English lit. I wish I could have had as much of an influence on my own children, but I didn't really begin to enjoy classic books until they were grown and gone.

One thing I like to do on "Literary" trips is buy a classic work at the author's home. They usually give out a nice bookplate to paste in the front, saying where the book was purchased. Some of my favorites include copies of "Little Women" from Louisa May Alcott's house in Concord, Mass., "The Old Man and the Sea" from Hemingway's house in Key West and Hawthorne's "Tales and Sketches" [which includes: "Mosses from an Old Manse", "Twice-Told Tales", "The Wonder Book for Boys and Girls" and "Tanglewood Tales"] from his home in Concord. I also cherish two books I got at the Huntington Library while visiting Tim in Cali - A replica of "The Ellesmere Manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales" and "Shakespeare at the Huntington".

In preparation for our trip, Beth and I are reading "Moby Dick", as we're planning to go to Melville's House, and I'm also reading Edith Wharton's "A Backward Glance", her autobiography, in preparation for visiting her home, The Mount. I plan to buy a copy of "The Age of Innocence" at The Mount and two of Melville's early books based upon his own experiences as a South Seas sailor, "Typee" and "Omoo". After avoiding "Moby Dick" all these years, I have to say it's a surprisingly easy book to read. I am even enjoying his digressions into history and descriptions of whales and sailing. I've been quite surprised to find so much humor. I never would have expected that from Melville, but he makes me chuckle quite often. The book IS quite long, but who's in a hurry?

Wharton's autobiography has been so much fun I'm considering reconvening a Literary Luncheon Group just so we can enjoy discussing it. This summer I'm also determined to host my "Paddington Bear Tea" for several little girls who are friends of mine... before they are too old to appreciate it. I dragged a stuffed Paddington all the way home from London on one trip, holding him on my lap on the plane so his hat wouldn't be crushed. I've bought them all copies of the first Paddington Bear book. My idea is to have a "Tea" with my stuffed Paddington as our honored guest and then read a few chapters of the book to them, before giving them copies to bring home. Summer is meant for fun... and what could be MORE fun than reading?!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Believer's View of God's Word

I'm not sure where the saying originated, but I hear it quoted from time to time. It's a warning that we should be "worshiping Christ and not the Bible". On one level it sounds quite logical and godly, but behind it is the idea that the two are mutually exclusive. That's not what I see when I read Scripture. Scripture itself tells me that it is "God-breathed" [2Tim3:16-17], that it contains "the oracles", the very words, of God [1Pet.4:11] and that I am to crave it as a newborn baby craves milk [1Pet.2:2]. God's Word reveals God. If we are worshiping Christ, we need to be doing so in Truth, as He has revealed Himself to us. Otherwise we're worshiping a false Christ, an idol of our own making.

John 4:23 "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him."

How then should we view Scripture? Dr. Mayhue's book ["How to Interpret the Bible for Yourself"] gives an edifying summary:

1. A Commitment to Receive It
1Th 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

Paul preached an eternal message. Scripture contains the mind and the word and the will of God. It's eternal, non-negotiable, never-changing and absolute. It "is at work in...believers". Those who are "in Christ" need to receive it for what it truly is.

2. A Commitment to Feed On It
Job 23:8-12 "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food."

Job finds himself in circumstances he doesn't understand. He thought he had a good understanding of God, but now he finds himself groping in the darkness. He's trying to find the reality of God in the midst of horrendous circumstances. Where does He turn? He trusts in God's words - and the KEY is that this has been Job's lifelong experience. He didn't wait for disaster to strike. He had received and been consistently and continuously feeding on "the words of his mouth". It was MORE important to him than his daily nourishment! May our souls be satisfied because they've fed on that which is spiritually healthful and worth more than gold. We also need to be consistently and continuously FEEDING on God's Word.

Psa 19:7-10 "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb."

3. A Commitment to Obey It
Num 14:24 But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.

Moses sent 12 men into the land. They all viewed the same scenery, they all experienced the same feelings, they all came back with the same report - there was a tough road ahead. But they were divided in their advice concerning what to do next. Ten concluded it was too difficult and they had better not go. Two, Joshua and Caleb, knew it wouldn't be easy... but concluded that they needed to go because God had said He would be with them.

What does God say about Caleb in the above verse? He calls him "MY servant". The servant of God "has a different spirit" and follows Him fully. God doesn't want a 70% follower, or a 90% follower....He wants a 100% follower! How can we be that? By knowing His Word and obeying it.

1John 2:4-6 Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

4. A Commitment to Honor It
Neh 8:4-6 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose... And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, "Amen, Amen," lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

After the return from the Captivity Ezra read the Scripture to the people. How did they respond to it? They worshiped God. Our response, every time the Word of God is opened, should be worship, for in the pages of Scripture are seen the majesty and the greatness of God. There is only one right response to the living God, and that is to bow down and worship Him. Scripture reveals God! It's a privilege to have it, to know it and understand it, to receive it, to feed on it, and obey it. And one day, God will hold us responsible for it.

2Tim.2:15 "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Psalm 3: Readjusting Our Point of View

We can learn a lot from Psalm 3. David wrote it during the time he was trying to escape from his son Absalom, a tragic situation both as a father and as King.

Vv. 1-2 concern the circumstances David currently finds himself in. It is "the Seen", the reality of the situation from his earthly point of view. His circumstances don't look good - his adversaries have increased, many are rising up against him and many are saying God has either abandoned him or is unable to deliver him from this situation.

But in vv.3-5 David is reminded of how things REALLY are, "the Unseen" - the reality of the situation from God's point of view. God is his shield [protecting him], his glory ["kabod", the same Hebrew word used of God's glory in Exodus, etc. In this context he's probably talking about his "honor/dignity/reputation" being God-ward. God's opinion, not man's is what ultimately counts!] God is the One who hears him and sustains him! God is the One who makes sure David is even able to awake in the morning!

In v.6 David then readjusts his thinking in light of God's Truth- the Unseen Reality. He comes to understand that his circumstances aren't what he initially thought they were and he responds by readjusting HIS own view to that of God's. NOW he looks at the situation through the lens of God's truth/ultimate reality, instead of through his own limited point of view. Are his immediate circumstances any better? No! But his reaction to them has completely changed.

Finally, in vv.7-8 David reinforces what he has just learned. He reminds himself how God has delivered in the past. He reminds himself of God's sovereignty and power. He reminds himself that God is the One who will bring ultimate deliverance - in spite of how things may currently appear.

May we learn from David! How encouraging God's Word is!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Truth and Theory

I've been reading C.S. Lewis' "The Discarded Image", an introduction to Medieval and Renaissance literature. Now don't glaze over on me here... stay with me. Lewis does a wonderful job explaining the Medieval World View. They especially had a love for the written word...ANY written word. If something was written in a book, it was considered to be true. At the same time, they believed that ALL this disparate information must somehow fit coherently into one, complex and harmonious mental "Model of the Universe". Any apparent contradictions, therefore, must be harmonized.

In constructing a theory for such a "Model", a few basic rules became established:
1) It was necessary "to save the phenomena/appearance", which meant that a Scientific Theory must "save" or "preserve" the appearances, the phenomena, it deals with - in the sense of getting them all in, doing justice to them.

2) Occam's Law/Occam's Razor added a 2nd Rule - Any theory of the "Model" should be able to do so with the fewest possible assumptions. The simplest theory is the most likely. For example, reading Shakespeare we discover that some plays are not written as well as other plays. Two possible "theories" might arise to explain this. Either (a) the bad plays were all put in by later adapters, or (b) Shakespeare wrote them when he was not at his best. Both Theories "save the phenomena/appearance", but Occam's Law would make us choose the one with the fewest possible assumptions. We know that there really was a writer named Shakespeare and that writers are not always at their best. We must, therefore, provisionally accept the 2nd Theory. If we can explain the bad plays without the assumption of a later adapter, then that is the better theory. [By contrast, today the "newness" of a theory often carries intrinsic weight!]

3) The third point is that any Theory is just that, a theory- which COULD be replaced in the future by a better theory. So, on the highest level, then, any theory concerning the "Model" was recognized as provisional.

Why am I bothering to go into all this? Because I can't help but compare it to the modern World View. Lewis writes, "In our age...the ease with which a scientific theory assumes the dignity and rigidity of fact varies inversely with the individual's scientific education." Ouch! How true! [Ever listened to talk radio? Read about "science" on the Internet?]

Two of Lewis' points particularly strike me:
(1) In our age people easily mistake "theory" with "fact"... and do so rigidly! [Ever heard of the theory of evolution?]

(2) Those with the least scientific knowledge are often the most dogmatic concerning what is true. [Ever consider the inadmissibility of "experiential evidence"?] And I certainly wouldn't limit this phenomenon to the field of science! [Consider Bible interpretation!]

Lewis brings out one further point. "The mass media which have in our time created a popular scientism, a caricature of the true sciences, did not then exist. The ignorant were more aware of their ignorance then than now." Ouch! How true!

We've actually institutionalized the notion that all opinions are equally valid. The idea of an "informed opinion" is archaic. Some of you may recall my mentioning the HS girl who critiqued Homer on I kid you not...this young lady felt fully qualified to tell Homer how "The Illiad" could have been improved! She knew absolutely nothing about Bronze Age Greek culture, she knew absolutely nothing about the literary structure, and she had read the book ONCE ... but she felt completely qualified to offer her criticism. As the ancient Greeks would have said..."What hubris!"

And we thought we had advanced since the Middle Ages?! Observations? Comments?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Herod's Tomb

By now you've likely heard about the recent discovery in Herodium of what is thought to be the tomb of Herod the Great. The archaeological world has been expecting it to be found at this site...they just didn't know exactly WHERE. Herod built a fortress-palace in Herodium, one of his many amazing building projects. He also built a city, Lower Herodium, at the bottom of the hill. Sections of the city have previously been excavated, including a synagogue and mikveh for ritual bathing.

Ehud Netzer has been working at this site for over 35 years. Herod's probable tomb was found on the side of the hill, quite low down. Netzer speculates that the podium [approx. 32' x 32'] once supported a Mauseleum, with the actual tomb located beneath. Architectural elements of such a Mauseleum, dated to Herod's time and of "kingly" quality, were found.

The sarcophagus inside the tomb was found smashed into pieces. Any identifying inscriptions did not survive the desecration. Vengeful participants in the First Jewish Revolt against Rome were known to have destroyed the tomb and sarcophagus about 70 years after Herod's death.

The chances of now finding definitive evidence to positively link the tomb to Herod the Great are pretty unlikely. But the probability is quite high that this was indeed where he was buried. I came across some of Netzer's pictures and thought you might like to see some "close-ups" of the find. Most shots I've seen in the media have been archive footage of Herodium. Enjoy this sneak peek of the actual find!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Biblical Stewardship

In the current edition of Mission to the Military's "Messenger", there's an article by my good friends, the Hammons, missionaries at Ft. Bragg. I was particularly struck by a quote from one young Christian soldier they have been working with concerning his own ministry as a steward of God's grace. He said "His current task is an unexpected deployment to Iraq".

He's absolutely right! That IS "his current task" from's NOT an "interruption" of his plans or an "unforeseen circumstance" or a "tragedy" that he was deployed to Iraq! It was the "current task" God had given him to do. I was reminded of the Apostle Paul presenting the same point of view in Phil.1:12-14, and its background in Acts 28:17-31.

Paul was under "house arrest" in Rome, with rotating Roman soldiers perpetually guarding him as he awaited the hearing of his case before the Emperor. But Paul didn't look at it as "a tragedy" or as "an interruption" to his evangelistic efforts. He saw it for what it truly WAS - God's current plan for his life. He writes:

"I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole Imperial Guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear." [Probably because they had been observing Paul's actions and attitude!]

Paul didn't sit around downcast, "waiting for the trial to pass". He viewed the situation for what it REALLY was - his next assignment from God! When he settled in at Rome, Acts 28 tells us:

"After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews...When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets...He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness..."

Paul, and that young soldier from Ft. Bragg, understood something so many believers do not - Stewardship concerns properly using what God has graciously given every believer - our faith... our resources... our spiritual gifts... our entire lives. THAT glorifies Him!

Monday, April 30, 2007

epichorēgeō Your Faith

2Peter 1:3-7 gives us another Biblical example of the partnership involved in the Christian walk. [Also see Phil.2:12-13] After being informed of what God has supplied, the believer is then exhorted to "add to/furnish" his faith. The verb translated "add to/furnish" is epichoregeo. This fine old Greek word introduces the metaphor of the Choregos of Classical Athens.

The ancient world was totally alien from our modern view of culture, religion and politics. That sounds almost simplistic, but it's amazing how we tend to forget this when reading our Bibles! Civic, cultural and religious life were inextricably linked. There was no separation of church and state. There was no sense of "individualism" or "self determination". Membership in a particular city-state was the key component of their lives. Greek drama was presented as a part of the religious celebrations during various festivals. Wealthy patrons would be the ones to finance these endeavors. Such acts of generosity were viewed as an important factor in being a citizen of a particular polis. The Choregos was the patron who donated the money to finance the chorus. [The purpose of the chorus was to explain things to the audience and interact with various characters. They were a vital element in a Greek play.] In recognition of such magnanimous behavior, the Choregos was often honored with a monument, bearing appropriate inscriptions. This is a picture of such a monument in Athens. It's located just below the Acropolis, on the sides of which were the two primary theaters of Classical Athens.

The word eventually came to mean "generous and costly co-operation". Peter uses it to exhort the believer to engage in a cooperative effort with God that will result in a Christian life that glorifies Him. Do we view OUR Christian walk in this manner? Are we "generous" and making a "costly cooperative effort" to display a Christian walk that glorifies God? I think understanding the meaning and history of this one verb adds an important element to our understanding of Scripture!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Cheap Attempt to Get Comments

I know I haven't been posting much lately. It's not that I'm not thinking. It's not that I'm not reading. It's not that I'm not studying my Bible. It's not even that I'm not writing...I'm just not writing HERE. But you may have noticed that in my previous offerings, I have not had a single comment in ages. That leads me to believe that either no one is READING my blog any more or it's just that no one is writing comments. If I'm really writing only for myself, that's OK. I like to write! ;) But I am curious about which is true.

Sooo..I am posting a story guaranteed to get at least ONE comment. Here are pictures of scenes from LOST as portrayed in LEGOS!! Ehhh? I'm on to something, aren't I?! A crowd pleaser for sure...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Man's Response to Tragedy

There are a few special places in the world where I love to be. Places that draw me back again and again. Places that welcome me and and make me feel as if I belong. One of those places is where Beth did her undergraduate work - Virginia Tech. I love that campus! I love the natural beauty of the area. I love the incredibly friendly, outgoing people there. I love their over-the-top school spirit - where they actually WEAR the school colors and logo every day! I love the Hokie stone architecture with all those great archways and courtyards. I love interacting with perfect strangers who smile at you and are kind and who apparently had Moms who taught them basic manners. I love going into a store or a restaurant where they seem GLAD to serve me! And I especially love Va. Tech football games where they taught me how to be fan. I just love BEING there.

Today in the news I saw what one deranged person can do to such a wonderful place. Seeing the bodies of those crazy students who were pushing Springtime by wearing their maroon "Hokie" shorts being carried out of classrooms, covered in blood, just made me fall apart. I feel as if those are MY if that gunman came into MY home. I want to hug the families and cry with the students and pray with the faculty and townspeople.

On-line I found a "Comments" section at one of the major East Coast News sites, where people could write down their thoughts. I went to it hoping to find comfort. But instead I found mean-spirited vitriol and a rabid discussion concerning gun-control. Is this how we in America respond to tragedy? By giving our own self-exalting position on an "issue"? Is the opportunity to make a political point more important than feeling grief and sympathy and loss? People died! A university and a community have suffered an extraordinary loss! And there are people who look upon that as just another opportunity to voice their opinion and political agenda? It's just not right.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Just the Facts, Maam"

I've been reading "Associations, Synagogues and Congregations" by Philip Harland, Asst. Prof. of Christian Origins at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. It's a secular book examining the sociological aspects of 1st/2nd Century AD Graeco-Roman society in the East [primarily Asia Minor], via inscriptions and literature from that period. In general, I have avoided such sociological interpretations, mainly because of my educational background in Sociology. I find much of Sociology is based upon sheer speculation, rather than hard evidence. There's also an annoying tendency by modern sociologists to incorrectly apply modern sociological models to ancient societies. On the other hand, most of what is considered "Christian" literature is seldom backed up by any actual evidence either. Rather, there's a propensity to quote other Christian authors (who in turn are quoting still other Christian authors) as evidence, rather than looking for primary sources [archaeological, epigraphical, inscriptional, etc.] - such information ultimately ends up in Commentaries and study Bible notes, resulting in the perpetuation of false analyses from pulpits and in Bible studies. And that, unfortunately, greatly hinders an accurate understanding of the Bible.

An example of this would be a "proof" frequently cited concerning the corruption of 1st Century AD Corinth - the alleged practice of widespread temple prostitution connected to the Temple of Aphrodite on Corinth's acropolis [the Acrocorinth - see picture]. I've run across this in numerous Commentaries and study Bibles... but it's just not true! This assertion turns out to be based upon ONE sentence in ONE ancient writing - by Strabo (writing in the 1st Century AD) about a story he HEARD from someone concerning an alleged practice which supposedly occurred during archaic times in Greek Corinth. Ancient writers like Strabo and Herodotus didn't write "history" in the manner of modern historians. They included every story anyone ever told them - some of which may have been true or partly true, but much of which was fictional, or at least mythologized.

Even IF there had been such a practice in archaic times, which would have been contrary to practices everywhere else in archaic Greece, it certainly wasn't true by the 1st Century AD. The Romans under Lucius Mummius completely destroyed Greek Corinth in 146 BC. The city lay in ruins until Rome, under Julius Caesar, rebuilt it in 44 BC (102 years later!) and repopulated it with Roman veteran military colonists (as they also did in Philippi, btw). Greeks, Jews and Asiatics also settled there, but 1st Century AD Corinth was primarily a Roman city (as was Philippi). There was still a Temple of Aphrodite on the Acrocorinth in Paul's time, but it was much, much smaller [10 x 16 meters] and much less significant than in archaic times. The Roman colonists built temples more important to them - to Apollo, Athena Chalinitis, Poseidon, Herakles, Hermes, Venus-Fortuna (a very Roman version of Aphrodite) and Asklepios.

Were there prostitutes in Corinth? Absolutely. Paul speaks of it in 1Corinthians. Every Roman city had brothels, whether on Italian soil [Pompeii] or Provincial soil [Ephesus]. Nor was it unusual for men to use one of their own slaves in this capacity. [Some of whom actually ended up marrying their masters! We know that because of funereal inscriptions, giving considerable detail about the deceased's personal life.] But there is absolutely NO proof that there was temple prostitution in 1st Century AD Corinth. Not even Strabo suggested that! There are indications in some cities that particular temples may have owned slaves used as prostitutes as money-makers for the temple, but these slaves were NEVER involved in temple worship as priestesses, etc. It's just like the Roman Catholic church owned the brothels on the Left Bank of Paris at one time, as a fund-raising mechanism. [later replaced by Bingo... ;)]

There are some other issues that I'd like to write about, but this post has already exceeded the blogging attention span. So I'll save them for another time. I DO want to encourage you to read discerningly and make sure the author has primary evidence to back up his assertions. And if you ever have to write a paper about the ancient world, I hope you will dig a little deeper for factual information and not just quote another author as "proof".

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Redefining Words

Language evolves. That's true of any language - modern or ancient. But I've noticed there's been an acceleration of the process. I'm not referring to all the new words that have been added to our language [nobody knew what a pixel was when I was born!], nor do I refer to trendy, short-lived changes in definition [such as "bad" meaning "good"]. I'm thinking about changes in definition that reflect a change in the way we look at or think about something.

In today's paper there was an article about Patrick Kennedy recently being in drug rehab for his addiction to OxyContin. [The Kennedys are always considered good fodder for a story here in New England!] In an interview on the Today Show he said "he felt great as he continued his recovery from substance abuse and was determined not to let the disease 'take its toll on me ever again' ". Did you get that? He was determined not to let "the disease" of substance abuse ever take its toll on him again. Substance abuse is now a "disease"? Did Patrick wake up one morning and "come down with substance abuse"? Did he "catch" it from someone? Are researchers trying to develop a vaccine to immunize people against the disease of substance abuse? The thinking behind all of this, of course, is that he is a VICTIM, and thus NOT RESPONSIBLE for his actions. Do you see the change in thinking that prompts the change in definition? I appreciate all the pain he had to go through in rehab, but we shouldn't loose sight of the fact that HE put the OxyContin in his mouth and swallowed...again...and again...and again. He is not the only one who becomes addicted to OxyContin. So does everyone who ingests it in the same manner Patrick did. He's not special. There ARE consequences to certain actions.

Isn't this just another way to avoid calling sin what it really is? [Sin!] This reminds me of a question that came up in 5th/6th grade SS class last week. Exodus 9:27 says "Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "I have sinned this time; the LORD is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones." The KJV, NKJV, NASB, ASV and LITV (Literal Version) ALL translate it as "wicked ones" or "wicked". The NET uses "guilty". But one of my kids had an NIV that used the word "wrong". The kids thought that took a lot of the punch out! They asked me to look it up and get back to them with the definition for the Hebrew word. The BDB definition says it means "wicked, criminal", "one guilty of crime", "guilty of sin", "wicked, hostile to God".

And "wrong" means what? "Oh... guess I was wrong." Somehow I just don't see the intended Hebrew meaning there. I vote with the kids.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Archaeological Tidbits

I just received my quarterly issue of "Artifax", which gives an interesting overview of current archaeological stories in the news. Here's a sampling:

In Luxor [think Karnak & Valley of the Kings] they recently discovered facilities belonging to Cemetery Workers, near the Rameseum [the Mortuary Temple of Rameses II; see picture]. It includes kitchens, ovens and a school for children, as well as their own nearby cemetery. [Yes...a cemetery for Cemetery workers... ;)] I always find it interesting when they find something dealing with the average guy.

At Qumran a dig by the Univ. of N.C. at Charlotte has discovered a latrine site that would seem to backup the suggestion that Essenes lived in this community. [There's been a lot of debate about this. Recently a group has suggested Qumran was a pottery factory.] According to Josephus & others, the Essenes made it a practice to locate their latrines at a distance from and out of site of the village. [It makes you feel bad for the guy who had to go in the middle of the night! I wonder if they used chamber pots?] Anyway, this latrine site meets those requirements. And you'll be thrilled to hear that they found intestinal round worms, tapeworms, whipworms and pinworms. Apparently the Essenes, in their desire for cleanliness, required human waste be covered (little shovels provided to all), which actually contributed to the survival of intestinal worms...and their spread. Medieval Arabs, on the other hand, did not bury their waste, leaving it out in the open, where the worms quickly died. That's ironic, don't you think?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"The Reformed Pastor", Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter [1615-1691] was a Puritan pastor known for his shepherd's heart. His best known work is The Reformed Pastor, which I have been absolutely enjoying to the max. What a great book! Once you get beyond the Puritan propensity for repetition [not a bad thing in making sure a point sticks], this book is a gem. I was surprised to find out "reformed" did not mean what I thought it did - he's really talking about "the regenerate pastor", to whom the book is addressed.

Though not a pastor, I am finding his exhortations are applicable to all believers to a certain extent. That is the spirit in which I have been going through the book - with a big finger pointed back at ME. I am most convicted about what he has to say about evangelism and most encouraged by what he has to say about the seriousness and effort one must take in studying God's Word. Here's an excerpt:

"So great a God, whose message we deliver, should be honoured by our delivery of it...Do not reason and conscience tell you, that if you dare venture on so high a work as this, you should spare no pains to be qualified for the performance of it? It is not now and then an idle snatch or taste of studies that will serve to make an able and sound divine. I know that laziness hath learned to allege the vanity of all our studies, and how entirely the Spirit must qualify us for, and assist us in our work; as if God commanded us the use of means, and then warranted us to neglect them; as if it were his way to cause us to thrive in a course of idleness, and to bring us to knowledge by dreams when we are asleep, or to take us up into heaven, and show us his counsels, while we think of no such matter, but are idling away our time on earth! O, that men should dare, by their laziness, to 'quench the Spirit,' and then pretend the Spirit for the doing of it!...God hath required us, that we be 'not slothful in business,' but 'fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.' Such we must provoke our hearers to be, and such we must be ourselves. O, therefore, brethren, lose no time! Study, and pray, and confer, and practise; for in these four ways your abilities must be increased. Take heed to yourselves, lest you are weak through your own negligence, and lest you mar the work of God by your weakness."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Food of My Dreams

Just before waking this AM I had a dream in which I was supposed to write an essay about peanut butter. In the dream my main problems were finding things to write on and trying to finish the essay before the time was up. I actually composed and edited the essay in my dream! When I awoke I felt compelled to quickly write it down. Now what are blogs for if not to share compelling dream essays? [Do you ever compose in your dreams or is this something unique to me? Is this how "War and Peace" was written? ... lots of naps?] Here's as far as I got with the essay before waking up:

What I love most about peanut butter is how it assails your senses. As you grab for that jar with the familiar red, blue and yellow logo you wonder how ANYONE could choose another brand. If we call products "Kleenex" and "Bandaids" and "Fluff", why don't we call peanut butter "Skippy"? As you unscrew the blue lid the strong peanuty aroma transports you back to the endless days of childhood, full of fresh air and sunshine. Then you slowly, precisely spread it onto your white bread, careful not to tear that precious commodity, and fold the bread in half - the perfect meal held in one hand. The first bite has to come from the middle, of course. The resulting overabundance of peanut butter in your mouth thickens your tongue, forcing you to use a finger to pry cheek from teeth.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes

On the humorous side - Kids are notorious for getting the words to songs & verses messed up, as well as for being brutally honest. Here are a few good ones. [Thanks, Jane!]

3-year-old Reese:
"Our Father, Who does art in heaven,
Harold is His name. Amen."

After the christening of his baby brother in church,
Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car.
His father asked him three times what was wrong.
Finally, the boy replied,
"The pastor said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home,
and I wanted to stay with you guys."

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3.
The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake.
Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson.
"If Jesus were sitting here, He would say,
'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'
Kevin turned to his younger brother and said,
"Ryan, you be Jesus!"

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Cameron Plays Science

These two articles say more than I could about James Cameron, et. al. [Thanks to Todd Bolen for bringing them to my attention on his blog...] I love the line, "Television is not in the business of education... they're in the business of making money." Let's not forget that! [Btw, this is a shot of the ossuary of Joseph son of Caiaphas, also found in Jerusalem.]

From Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Modern architects of fantastic finds try to provide an air of legitimacy by invoking scientific jargon, said Garrett G. Fagan, a classics professor at Penn State University and author of, "Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public" (RoutledgeFalmer, $46.95).
"They're not scientists, but they need to dress themselves in the clothes of science to pass muster," Fagan said. Some choose prestigious channels that style themselves as vehicles for public education, he said. "Television is not in the business of education, even with the so-called educational channels like Discovery," Fagan said. "Ultimately, they're in the business of making money."

And when critics pounce on the discoveries, Fagan said it's often too late.
"By the time the rebuttals come out, the mass media would have moved on to the next sensation," Fagan said, "and people will have this vague notion that they have found the tomb of Jesus." Fagan said he expects more fantastic archaeological discoveries to be announced in the near future.
"Someone is going to say they've discovered Moses' beard," he said.

From the Washington Post:
Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, expressed irritation that the claims were made at a news conference rather than in a peer-reviewed scientific article. By going directly to the media, she said, the filmmakers "have set it up as if it's a legitimate academic debate, when the vast majority of scholars who specialize in archaeology of this period have flatly rejected this,'' she said. Magness noted that at the time of Jesus, wealthy families buried their dead in tombs cut by hand from solid rock, putting the bones in niches in the walls and then, later, transferring them to ossuaries. She said Jesus came from a poor family that, like most Jews of the time, probably buried their dead in ordinary graves. "If Jesus' family had been wealthy enough to afford a rock-cut tomb, it would have been in Nazareth, not Jerusalem,'' she said. 

Magness also said the names on the Talpiyot ossuaries indicate that the tomb belonged to a family from Judea, the area around Jerusalem, where people were known by their first name and father's name. As Galileans, Jesus and his family members would have used their first name and home town, she said. "This whole case (for the tomb of Jesus) is flawed from beginning to end,'' she said.

Speculations & Philosophies of False Teachers

Screwtape to Wormwood: "Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside of his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily 'true' or 'false,' but as 'academic,' or 'practical.' Jargon, not argument is your best ally..."

1 Timothy has quite a lot to say about the danger of false teachers. Timothy was to charge "certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith." (1:3) These people had "swerved" from "a sincere faith" and "wandered away into vain discussions, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions." (1:6-7) Such a one is "puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth..." (6:3-5)

The word for "teach a different doctrine" (1:3, 6:3) is one word in the Greek, a combination of "another of a DIFFERENT kind" and "to teach". This is doctrine "different in kind" from that taught by Jesus via the Apostles, and now written as Scripture. It's not just "another opinion" or "another point of view"; it stands in opposition to biblical teaching.

How often have you heard doctrinal truth being dissed? "Doctrine divides." "I don't bother with minor issues (i.e. doctrines)." "I just love people. I don't beat them over the head with doctrine." Are we even hearing/reading about doctrinal truth... or are we being told "stories", "narratives", "fresh, new meanings"? When foolish men claim they can "prove" Jesus never resurrected, do we think we can "live with" such false accusations without it affecting our "Christianity"?

2Co 10:3-5 "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God..."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Weapon of Choice

Anyone who knows me will appreciate the irony of this story...

Preparing the guestroom for Christmas, I was putting away extraneous "junk" and tidying up a bit, trying to make space for the soon-to-be arriving "guest" and her luggage. In a little nook in one corner of the room I keep a stack of Concordances and other reference books on the floor. I give them out to the SS kids, who earn them by consistently doing their Quiet Times every week. It's cheaper to buy them in a 5-pack from CBD, so I often have a nice little pile patiently awaiting their future owners. As I cruised around the room picking up I happened to notice this pile was not flush with the wall, so using the side of my foot I gave it a quick smack to push them out of the way.

After the holidays we noticed an unpleasant smell coming from the guest room, which we attributed to gases from the septic system backing up into the house. We have had a similar smell over the years, usually when it gets really cold out, and for years had decided this must be the source of the odor.

Time passes on...the smell goes away.

Recently Beth and Niam came to visit. Beth, who turned into "Super-Smell Woman" with her pregnancy, picked up the scent, though we were no longer able to smell it. She tracked it down - to the pile of reference books on the floor in the nook. After carefully moving the books away from the wall she discovered an extremely thin, extremely dead mouse with bulging eyes - smooshed up against the wall! Yes, was death by Concordance! MY weapon of choice!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

News of My Demise Greatly Exaggerated

I received an interesting call yesterday. A friend I had not spoken with for some time is currently attending Seminary with Tim - out there on the other coast. He had called to ask me how I was. Now, I found that to be quite considerate. Believing he was asking about my long-term cerebral dysfunction, I was pleased to tell him that I have had fewer sensory seizures and migraines since we had last discussed it. At this point I'm thinking..."What a good friend! I haven't emailed or called HIM in months and here he is, busier than I can imagine, calling me all the way from the other coast to inquire into my health." Guilt would have set in, except that we were soon chatting away about various subjects, just like we always used to do. [I even got a good book recommendation out of it!]

After his free phone minutes must have certainly expired [I can't get used to keeping track of how long you talk to people!], it finally came out WHY he had called me. It seems that in a chapel service for the entire Seminary, prayer was requested for Tim's mother, who was seriously ill and in need of saving faith! This was certainly news to ME ... and I'm the only mother he's got, as far as I know. My friend later went up to the man who had requested the prayer to be sure the gentleman had correct information, but the guy insisted he was in a class with Tim and had personally heard it straight from him! conclusion is either:

1. Tim has had a vision and I am apparently NOT in the place I had thought I was.

2. Tim has not seen a recent entry on my blog and has concluded the worst.

3. The gentleman did not write the request down clearly enough - it was really for Tim's GRANDmother.

I can hardly wait for the reception I will receive from those Seminarians when I go out for graduation in a few months. They will be thrilled to see their prayers have been answered...and to discover it was retroactive by 27 years!

Friday, January 26, 2007

THAT'S What I Meant to Say

In recent years there have certainly been plenty of options for books concerning Ministry Models. Works promoting The Emerging Church, The Purpose Driven Church, and pop psychology models which stress meeting the "felt needs", rather than the "spiritual needs" of people, have left a bad taste in my mouth. They are just NOT biblically based, NOR do they have a biblical view of God. I have often attempted to articulate this to enthusiasts of such models, but usually feel I just haven't made the point well enough. Thankfully, Mark Dever and Paul Alexander have articulated my concerns quite nicely in their recent book, "The Deliberate Church". I haven't finished reading it yet, but so far I find myself jumping up and down and yelling, "YES! YES!" Thanks, guys, for saying what I have been thinking for some time! Let me give you their 4 "P's" for a strong, vital, godly local assembly.

1. Preaching
"God's Word has always been His chosen instrument to create, convict, convert, and conform His people...Pastors must give themselves over to preaching, not programs...because God's power for building His people is in His Word. God's Word builds His church."

"...My word...will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire..." Isa.55:10-11
"...the the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." Rom.1:16
"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ" Rom.10:17
"...the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe" I Thes.2:13
"In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth" James 1:18

2. Praying
"Prayer shows our dependence on God. It honors Him as the source of all blessing, and it reminds us that converting individuals and growing churches are [ultimately] His works, not ours." 1 Cor.2:14-16; 3:6-7

a. Let Paul's prayers for the churches he planted be an example to us.
b. Pray that the preaching of the Gospel would be faithful, accurate & clear.
c. Pray for the increasing spiritual maturity of the local assembly.
d. Pray for growth in corporate love, holiness and unity.
e. Pray for opportunities to engage in personal evangelism.

3. Personal Discipleship
"and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. " 2Tim.2:2

4. Patience
'Make sure the changes you want to implement are biblical; then patiently teach people about them from God's Word before you expect them to embrace the changes you're encouraging."

"preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching." 2Tim.4:2

"If [Pastor/Elders] define success in terms of size, their desire for numerical growth will probably outrun their patience with the congregation, and perhaps even their fidelity to biblical methods...They will trip over their own ambition. But if they define success in terms of faithfulness, then they are in a position to persevere... Confidence in the Christian ministry does not come from personal competence, charisma, or experience; nor does it come from having the right programs in place, or jumping on the bandwagon of the latest ministry fad... Much like Joshua, our confidence is to be in the presence, power, and promises of God." Joshua 1:9

Amen, brothers! Thanks for saying it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Cause and Effect

"What is the major error of Christianity through the centuries? Confusing cause with what is effect. You have to get these two straight or you will drift into moralism." Dr. John Hannah

This has been a concern of mine for some time. I believe a recent contributor to this error has been the promotion of Christian "self-help" books & out-of-context Bible studies, which put a heavy emphasis on application and outer "doing", instead of having the focus be on dealing with our inner, heart attitude. I can feel good about my "progress" if I can check off a list of outward actions. It's a lot harder to consistently deal with the sin in my heart.

I've also noticed a trend in some conservative Christian Internet sites placing more and more stress on the outward "dos" and "do nots" of being a good Christian, instead of on our inward sin attitude. These are becoming increasingly vitriolic, and while I admire the desire to be godly and to be holy, I don't admire the spirit in which they are presented, nor the over-emphasis on extrabiblical notions of what makes you godly or ungodly. There's enough of a challenge obeying everything in God's revealed Word, without adding our own extra list of "dos" and "do nots"!

Jesus taught that sin begins in the heart [Mt.15:19]. And that's where we need to deal with it FIRST. When we do that, then godliness is the EFFECT of having a right heart. In Jesus' day the Pharisees were tithing down to the least spice, but their hearts weren't right. [Mt.15:8]

Eph.6:6 says we are to be "...DOING the will of God FROM THE HEART". If I focus on repenting and turning from pride, impatience and an unloving attitude (changing my heart's attitude) - then righteous acts will be the natural EFFECT of having gotten my heart right. But if I focus on outward actions, "dos" and "do nots", thinking they will CAUSE me to be more righteous, then I will be continually frustrated at my inability, and I will fall short.

As Paul reminded Timothy in 1Tim.1:5, "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Loss of Words = Loss of Thought?

I was pretty zonked out on New Years Day after making a very, very, veeeery early airport run. So after watching The Rose Bowl Parade [yes... all entry and exit ramps particular to my offspring's life were duly noted, as was his city's float entry], I watched (off & on) a day long "Twilight Zone" retrospective on SciFi.

I was pretty excited to see a few episodes that had loomed large in my childhood. I had loooved this show as a child! My friends and I used to actually sit around "story-telling" favorite episodes. [Do kids "story-tell" with each other any more?] We were forever writing and producing plays, "story-telling" and publishing newspapers constructed from our own stories. We were "wordy" kids. We played with language.

Anyway, after a while I caught myself beginning to squirm half way through an episode. I would become impatient and want them to "get on with it". I began to analyze WHAT was making me so squirmy. And then it hit me - it was the abundance of words and the absence of action and visual stimulation!

What incredibly dense, wordy scripts were written back then! They were full of questions and ideas to get you thinking - which is why I think my friends and I spent so much time discussing them. I realized that after years of having been exposed to "action" movies, special effects and witty one-liner TV comedies, I couldn't hold still any more to listen... to consider... to imagine... to think.