Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fourth of July Hiatus

As you can tell, I'm taking a little hiatus because I'm on vacation to see my family back in Columbus, Ohio for the 4th of July and to be in one of my best friend's wedding.

I'm keeping up the reading (always do), but I'll post later to sort of wrap up (maybe after Acts is finished...) some of what I didn't post on in detail. I suppose that by doing this I'm trying to illustrate a proper balance of the Bible's teaching of vocation, which is basically that each of us are called to serve God with our lives in a variety of different callings (husband, student, brother, worker, etc.) which God gives us wisdom and guidance to balance, and it has NOTHING to do with being lazy, of course...

May God bless your reading as well! And I might post an article or two if something of note occurs...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Is Jesus' Kingdom Political?

Joel at Unsettled Christianity made a great post about the political implications of our Baptism and the Eucharist:

Now, I of course wouldn't limit Baptism the Eucharist to what he states there (nor do I think he would, either). However, as he's getting at, I think too often there's been this tendency in Christianity today to think, "God's up there in heaven doing his thing and preparing a place for me while I'm down trying to get as many people to come with me as possible."

Friday, June 24, 2011

It Was Necessary For the Messiah to Suffer And to Rise From the Dead - Acts 17 & 18

Today we see Paul's Second Journey continue, and we see the variety of responses and effects his work had. He's received well by some, not by others. Even though many Jews do believe, a group of Jews nearly everywhere impedes his work and causes him hardship. And nevertheless, the good news spreads, and leadership is established and re-visited later on. And behind the scenes (and sometimes on the scene), we see Jesus working things out so that Acts 1:8 will come true, all the way to Rome (by the end of Acts), and beyond.

Overall, I think it's important to notice this variety, because it's not like only certain types of cities received him well, or only Jews or only Gentiles or only the poor or only the influential. No. Christianity is God's new way of life in the Messiah for everyone.

Various Opinions on the NIV2011

If you want some more voices on the new NIV, check out the following:



I've attached here the pdf of a PowerPoint I presented on the NIV 2011. You may not get everything out of this from just the document, but for what it's worth:

Overall, I see the NIV2011 as a slight improvement over the NIV1984. However, change, when it comes to Bible translations, is always painful.

I do have to say though, even since I made the decision back in 2003 to (for personal use) read the Bible nearly exclusively in the original languages, I find it hard not to laugh deep down inside when people harshly condemn or intensely praise any one translation, because any translation leaves so much out. As I've put it before, translating the Bible is like getting only a backpack to take treasure from a great storehouse. Any translation HAS to leave something out.  But of course, I understand the need for an accurate and understandable vernacular translation.

By the way, I think the esteemed former bishop of Durham would agree...

How Long? - Psalms 13 & 14

How long? A question any Christian has asks in times of trouble. What strikes me about Psalm 13 is that it's ok to ask God questions, to pour out what you're thinking. And I shouldn't say it's ok, but also good. David does it here in the Bible! I think of Jeremiah doing the same thing (Jeremiah 12:1-4, 20:7-10) during his hardships for the sake of following God's Word, and the saints awaiting justice in Revelation 6:9-11.

When we ask this, when we feel forgotten by God, we remember God's past mercy (חֶסֶד). And this gives us joy and confidence since we know that through it all, God's accomplishing his purposes. Think of David's hardships during the conspiracies of Absalom and Adonijah. It corrected David, showed him the consequence for sin, and prepared the throne to be passed on to Solomon who completed the construction of the temple. This Psalm is a prayer for patience and trust.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How Long Were Manuscripts in Use?

If you've ever wondered how long manuscripts continued to be read and studied after they were written, you might find this short essay interesting.

It's a question I've often wondered, and if what Professor Evans says is true, then this could, as he says, quite easily bridge the gap between when the autographs and the earliest copies we have available for study today, (though I'm not sure if it's even correct to talk of each "book of the Bible" as having only one autograph [original which was then copied]).

Trust In The Lord Jesus and You'll Be Saved, and Your Household - Acts 15 &16

Acts is such a high powered narrative, that all you can do sometimes is immerse yourself in what's happening and take a look around.

Tension and anticipation must have been running high at the "Jerusalem Council." In a way, Paul's first missionary journey and Peter's episode with Cornelius all prepare us for dealing with the issue of whether or new converts must also embrace Jewish identity markers (food laws, Sabbath, circumcision, etc.). Interestingly, Jesus must not have made it a point during his public ministry (if we don't include Acts as his ministry :) ) to sort this out since it was apparently such a widespread and contentious issue. To be sure, Jesus showed how he and his people are forming the "new temple" of God where God's Spirit dwells, and by implication making the temple redundant and trust in him the new identity marker over Torah observance. Some scholars have pointed on that this shows evidence for a 1st century date for the Gospels since issues that were nearly irrelevant in the 2nd century, to be sure 3rd century, are addressed in them, whereas other issues more pertinent to the early Church are not. But that's a post for another day...

Yahweh, Your Throne Is In The Heavens - Psalms 11-12

Psalm 11 is so fitting when a Christian feels like society and its values are just dominating so hard that many feel like throwing in the towel. The center verse says, "Yahweh is in his holy temple. Yahweh, his throne is in the heavens." Remember, heaven is primarily seen as God's command center, and as our gracious and sovereign ruler, nothing escapes his attention as he is interested in what's going on below. I think of Hebrew 4:13. 

Psalm 12 has the theme of proud words versus pure words. There were so times in David's life for which this Psalm would've been quite appropriate. I think of the Ziphites while David was fleeing Saul (1 Samuel 23) or deceitful traitors like Ahithophel during Absalom's coup (2 Samuel 16-17). 

Smooth lies include times when we try rationalize or explain away sin saying, "Everybody's doing it." Or "it just feels right." And of course, God's Word is the antidote to such thoughts, and the Lord will protect and guard us as we guard and protect his Word. I imagine this Psalm was so appropriate, comforting, and treasured by the early Christians as they faced persecution form the sake of God's Word and confessing Jesus as Lord. 

I'm really enjoying making the Psalms the basis of my prayer life...it should've been obvious, but that's how it goes sometimes. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's Necessary For Us To Enter Into God's Kingdom Through Many Hardships - Acts 13-14

One of the first things Jesus said about the converted Saul was, "It is I who'll show him how much it's necessary to suffer for my name" (Acts 9:16). We saw it previewed in Damascus, and now it's beginning.

As I said yesterday, starting here in chapter 13 we see the explosive spread of the good news about Jesus on its way to "the ends of the earth" as the Spirit picks Barnabas and Saul out for this work.

Frankfurt Bible Museum!

If you happen anywhere near Frankfurt, this might tickle your fancy...

They have displays on life as a desert nomad, life in the volatile word of 1st cenutry Palestine, Herod's temple, money from the time of Jesus, and manuscript preparation. It'd be neat to see this stuff! I've always had dreams of one day making a grand Bible museum (of software?) in which you'd be immersed into the history, culture, and language of the Bible.

Why, Yahweh, Do You Stand Far Off? - Psalms 10

As I said yesterday, this Psalm is closely linked to Psalm 9. He's complaining mostly about the prosperity of the wicked, and God's seeming indifference since nothing is done about it.

The Psalm starts out with the great, "why?" Why does injustice seem to reign? Why are the corrupt and jerks making the big bucks and I'm struggling to make an honest living? It's a fitting prayer or meditation for times when it seems that evil wins and good loses.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

But God’s Word Kept On Growing And Increasing - Acts 11-12

So the issue we see here in Acts 11 is whether or not non-Jewish believers in the Messiah need to first become Jews in order to join the Church. So Peter tells his experience from the top in the detail, and really nothing else needs to be said. It’s almost bizarre that Luke tells the whole story in such detail, but maybe he’s trying to make a point. The admission of Gentiles into God’s people without taking on Jewish identity was central to the spread of the good news about Jesus.

Though a few significant details are added here. “Being saved” would be the result of Peter’s message, so Peter’s message wasn’t some addendum to a salvation Cornelius’ already had. Peter says the Holy Spirit fell “as he began to speak.” The Spirit is surprising and sovereign. And Peter mentions Jesus’ words about Spirit-baptism.

Yahweh Makes Himself Known By The Justice He Makes – Psalm 9

Many consider Psalm 9 and 10 to be one Psalm, or at least a two parter. Both, at least, have similar themes and verbiage, and perhaps a loose acrostic structure. However, the focus in 9 is thanking God for righteous judgement, whereas 10 is a prayer against wicked rulers.

So onto Psalm 9. It sort of picks up where 7 left off. Once again, God is the judge of the world who will vindicate his people by punishing evil. And we see here how David speaks of past judgements made to show the basis of his trust for future judgements. As opposed to many of David’s psalms, this one focuses more on Israel’s national enemies, it seems, than David’s personal ones. And any attempt to drive Israel from their land was an attack on God’s plan, and therefore an attack against God. This Psalm reminds me of the end of Moses’ song in Deuteronomy 32:40-43, or Romans 12:19 and Revelation 19:2. Revenge or repayment from a just and fair God is not evil. In fact, it reflects his holiness because he can’t leave sin unpunished.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Go! Because This Man Is My Chosen Vessel For Bearing My Name In The Sight of Both Gentiles and Kings, and The Children of Israel - Acts 9-10

This section with Paul and Peter shows them being hit with just a total reversal of their former ways, yet not at the same time. Everything is confirmed, yet overturned dramatically. The old ways finish their role, and all promises find their "yes" in the person of Jesus. The implications of Jesus replacing and fulfilling what Torah couldn't do begin to be shown as God's Spirit is more and more freely given.

I can't imagine the mind-job Saul must've had on the way to Damascus. A glory appears to him, and he gets his chance to see at least a glimpse of the glory of the Lord he had perhaps meditated on and imagined countless times, and it turns out to be the face of Jesus, whom he's persecuting by persecuting Jesus' "body" (all Christians). Just try to image all the stories and Psalms and prophecies swirling in his mind and as they come together in a way that's obvious, yet unexpected. And very soon the man who kept the Torah as zealous as anyone and sought to destroy those who "defiled" it is transformed, in a way only the gracious God can do, into God's chosen instrument for sharing the Torah's fulfillment with those who never even knew of it! Does God have a sense of humor? An overly passionate ends-justify-the-means fanatical super-orthodox ultra-nationalistic Pharisee will bring the good news to the nations? God can work with anyone, and that's part of the point! This reminds me that someday I’ll stand before Jesus and go, "Oh…”

Something interesting struck me as I read about Ananias. Here we have a bit of biblical Inception, a vision in a vision. Ananias has a vision in which he's told about Saul having a vision of Ananias coming...a bit of a neat mind-bender.

Yahweh, our Lord. How Majestic is Your Name in all the Land! - Psalm 8

This Psalm is a calm interlude from the ones surrounding it which talk of the attacks and sufferings enemies are bringing.

We see the simple praise which God receives from even infants contrasted with the defiance of terrible people. Jesus quotes it in Matthew 21:16 to demonstrate the trust (or faith) infants and children have in him.

And this praise is for God’s creation in all its vast array (akin to Romans 1:20). It’s a very fitting Psalm for me today considering that yesterday at church for Trinity Sunday we focused on how in Creation God created humanity to bear his image, with the humility (8:4-5) and responsibility that this all entails in ruling over God’s world (8:6-9) in a benevolent way, the way Christ rules over the Church.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Naive Epistemology of the "New Atheist" Movement

I saw this graphic a few days ago on http://www.atheistrev.com/2011/06/why-i-am-atheist.html and felt compelled to just mention a few things because I've heard this type of argument in one way or another for quite some time now by prominent figures in the New Atheist Movement (just never this concise and direct!).

I'm focusing mainly on the comment, "If you propose the existence of something, you must follow the scientific method in your defense of its existence."

Now, lots could obviously be said and this is of course the subject of much debate. However, I want to just define a few terms very roughly and say what I think is missing in much contemporary debate.
Religion is a very loose term. How we often define "religion" today in popular Western media (at least) wouldn't even be recognizable to those who launched a fresh new “movement” or “lifestyle” in first century Jerusalem because they believed a man named Jesus from Nazareth was the promised Jewish Messiah who became the world’s Lord when he lived, died, and rose from the dead, a.k.a. Christianity (look at my posts on the Book of Acts, among others, to see why!). Let’s be clear on that, first.

Friday, June 17, 2011

So On That Day a Severe Persecution Occurred - Acts 6:8-8:40

Acts 6 reminds me of how certain people have the tendency to throw around “stock charges” at people who say things about the Bible they don’t expect or not in the way they’re used to hearing them…even if the sentence doesn’t have to do with the charges themselves, the tendency of many is to jump to that conclusion without hearing them. I feel this is what’s happening to Stephen. “This guy’s saying slanderous things against Moses and God! He’s saying Jesus will destroy the temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us!” Yes, we need to be weary of ferocious wolves who want to devour God’s flock, but we also need to humble be the Bereans who check the Scriptures to verify the truth. Instead of knocking down straw-men and using parodies of debate, we need careful and thoughtful listening and humble speaking.

Now, Stephen’s speech reminds me that primarily in the Bible God is giving us a story, not just abstract principles about how to get to heaven. 

Save Me From All My Persecutors And Rescue Me - Psalm 7

First off, the heading. A Benjamite named Cush isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Maybe he was involved in one of the rebellions, or loyal to Saul? Maybe it’s a different name for Saul?

Psalm 7 has similar content to Psalm 6 (protecting from enemies), but the focus is significantly different. Psalm 6 has confession of guilt, but Psalm 7 talks of protesting innocence before people. David can do this because we see through the Psalm that God is a god of justice, and he will bring about justice. Paul, for example, speaks the same way in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7. I think of Haman reaping what he sowed (Esther 7). And so this moves us to thank God for his justice (5:18)!

I think of how David had not done harm to Saul’s family, as was common when nations switched dynasties. David passed up chance after chance to kill Saul (1 Samuel 24, 26), he praised the people who buried Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 2:4-5), he punished those who murdered Ish-Bosheth (2 Samuel 4), and he welcomed and befriended Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9). I mean, look at 7:5. David is saying it’s wrong to plunder your enemy for no good reason.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

If it’s from God, you won’t be able to put an end to them - Acts 5:1-6:7

The more I read Acts, the more compelling it is. I say this because here we see the first signs that the growth of the Church was pervasive, but it definitely wasn’t trouble free. There was persecution from without, and corruption from within.

From within we see the account of Ananias and his wife Sapphira testing and Holy Spirit by lying, and receiving swift judgment. Now, contrary to perhaps popular media opinion, this kind of swift judgment is quite rare in the Bible. Judgment is usually enacted against nations after long periods of time who have become hardened in their ways (Genesis 15:16 among others).

And from within we see the Hellenistic Greek speaking widows receiving different treatment that the native Palestinian Aramaic speaking ones. I’m reminded that the church is to be a single family. So yes, they share everything in common, and yes, they treat each other all with the same respect and love. Plus, this incident is a glaring hint to church leaders that two things are essential, giving people God’s Word and prayer.

But as for me, because of the greatness of your mercy I will come to your house - Psalms 5 & 6

This struck me with I began delving into this Psalm, God wants to empathize with us, and he CAN! He wants us to go to him with our struggles, our groans, our cries for help when no solutions or answers are in sight.

And this is especially interesting considering God’s holiness presented here. Holy in the Bible means, “set apart for a special purpose.” God is holy, so he can’t be around evil (5:4). This is why it’s only because of his mercy (5:7), that is, his undeserved favor that we can approach him (a love fully revealed in Jesus). And it’s in view of this mercy that God leads us to in turn lead a holy life (5:8)

It’s such a paradox. “God hates sinners, but he loves sinners.” And I love paradoxes (and things that are the same), and the Bible has a lot of them. This paradox is what Lutheran`s distinguish as “Law and Gospel” and is central to Lutheran theology (the picture in this post is a Cranach painting depicting Law and Gospel. You got to love medieval German art sometimes...).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It’s necessary for heaven to receive [Jesus] until times of restoration for all the things God spoke about through the mouth of his holy prophets of long ago. - Acts 3 & 4

This part of Acts seems to move energetically and purposely through what transpired in Jerusalem before corruption from within and persecution from without forced many Christians out and thus ignited the explosion of Christian missionary work and the spread of the apostle's message. I get pumped just reading through it.

When you look at Peter’s words to the people and the temple authorities, you don’t see dry speeches. He doesn’t give doctrinal dissertations, though teachings are certainly contained in them. And he doesn’t give motivational speeches intended to encourage people to just be more socially active and live moral lives while quoting “Old Testament examples” here and there, though living a holy life is part of it. In Peter’s words you see him telling the climactic event of the grand epic that Moses and the Prophets were all leading up to, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead! Peter heals this man born crippled so that he can focus (the healing is called a sign) on telling the people and the temple authorities about what Jesus has done to restore all things (as he did this born crippled) and bring about promised the time of restoration.

Know that Yahweh has set apart the holy for himself! - Psalms 3 & 4

Both of these Psalms talk of God relieving his set apart people from their enemies, and both Psalms make very fitting and applicable evening prayers before going to bed, especially during times for Christians dealing with difficult people who are opposing God’s purposes.

Now, the setting of Psalm 3 is apparently during the attempted coup d'état of David’s son Absalom. The events surrounding this period are in roughly 2 Samuel 15-17, which sheds light on David’s feelings and the pressure facing him. David knows from God’s promise to establish his dynasty and have him rest with his fathers (2 Samuel 7) that this coup won’t succeed, right? This is why his confidence is in Yahweh to protect him and why he can boldly ask him to “Arise and rescue.” Yahweh is faithful to his promises. He is who he is (hence the name). This is why David can sleep secure, even if uncountable enemies surround him and seem to have the upper hand (as Absalom seemed to have had). 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

God made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you all crucified! - Acts 2

Here it is, the biblical Pentecost. Now, this shouldn’t go without saying. Pentecost comes from the Greek word for 50, and is another one of the names for the “Feast of Weeks” (Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:10), or Feast of Ingathering/Harvest/Reaping. This harvest was celebrated 49 days (7 weeks) after Passover (Easter), hence the 50. It celebrated the spring harvest as God’s people thanked him for his goodness for giving them the land as their inheritance, and as they didn't abuse what they had, but instead gave their first-fruits to the Lord in Jerusalem. The whole intricate system of Mosaic sacrifices is something I want to know more about. I agree with the venerable N.T. Wright (http://www.altervideomagazine.com/2011/06/08/old-testament-sacrifices/) that they were about more than just “penal substitutionary atonement,” though that's certainly a key element in at least some of them 

It just blows my mind sometimes when I consider how God worked out all the regulations and festivals in the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) to prepare his people for Jesus the Messiah and illustrate beautifully what Jesus came to accomplish. The Pentecost festival itself was a “party-time” where people feasted and celebrated. How fitting is it that God chose in his plan and foreknowledge (2:23) to institute this festival and use it to harvest souls and start this multi-national (the list of nationalities shows there were people from all over that known world) explosion of getting the good news out about Jesus’ resurrection! And like I wrote on Sunday, Pentecost means Jesus rules, and he’s calling the world to acknowledge it and act accordingly by changing their ways (repenting) and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins so they can, too, become part of the people of God.

Why Are the Nations Restless, and the People Muttering in Vain? - Psalm 2

The first two Psalms form such a fitting introduction to the whole series of Psalms. Psalm 1, of course, deals with your attitude toward God’s Word. This Psalm deals with your attitude towards God’s Anointed One, which is, of course, the meaning of the word Messiah and Christ (which come from Hebrew and Greek, respectively). Certain important and God-chosen figures in Israel such as prophets, priests, and kings were anointed when they were installed into office. Anointing meant having oil like olive oil poured over your head. This is akin to how for much of world history kings were crowned, or how knights in England are knighted with a sword by the queen (right?).

With the Psalms especially, it’s important for Christians to keep the different “Acts” of the Bible’s purposes in mind (see my page “About the Bible”). What I mean is, to understand them fully, you need to first ponder what it meant for the original audience. Only then can you fully appreciate and properly apply to the current time of the renewed covenant, and to Jesus the Messiah/Christ/Anointed One.

Monday, June 13, 2011

You Will Be My Witnesses - Acts 1

As we roll into the book of Acts we see the beginning of these last days. We see the beginning of the age we're in. In grandiose scope, this book shows us how Jesus has begun his rule, his kingdom, over the world through his Spirit whom he has poured on his followers (call them Christians, members of The Way, Jews who trust in Jesus, believers, etc.).

Yahweh Knows the Way of the Just - Psalm 1

I have to say, this has to be one of my favorite Psalms. Opening up to it for me is like entering Cedar Point, and checking out the large main map which is my guide for the park. These rides lead to fun, those rides lead to lame. Anyways...We had to memorize this Psalm for Hebrew class at Martin Luther College, and recite it to the class at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. The Hebrew is elegant, concise, and holds nothing back. And it’s very Jewish (not to say this Middle English here isn't, but...yea...). Now, you might be saying, “Duh, it’s in the Bible.” But let me explain.

It reminds me of the beginning the Didache, which is the earliest Christian “church order.” Jewish catechetical instruction (teaching-centered instruction) characteristically started off with two ways of life, one leading to death, the other to life. And the one you followed depended on your response to God’s Word. And so it is here. Now, of course here in the Psalms God’s Word is primarily his “Torah,” which means his instruction, which is something God has revealed. If anyone ever said meditation is a quirky “Buddhist” or “Eastern” thing, look no farther than Psalm 1:2. The Hebrew יֶהְגֶּ֗ה often refers to muttering…Now, I should say that meditation here is outward focused on God’s Word, and not our own feelings or thoughts.

I like how most translations say, “Blessed…” The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible [though there is some Aramaic…]) uses the same word (Μακάριος) Jesus does in Matthew 5 in his so called “Beatitudes” to start off his Sermon on the Mount where he calls for Israel to be Israel. Quite woodenly literal the word אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי means “Happinesses of...”

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Heaven's Power Poured Out on Earth!

Happy Birthday Christian Church and here we go with the blog!

In our Lutheran liturgy the Prayer of the Day was the following:
Holy Spirit, God and Lord, come to us this joyful day with your sevenfold gift of grace. Rekindle in our hearts the holy fire of your love that in a true and living faith we may tell abroad the glory of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Father, one God, now and forever. 

One thing I love about liturgical worship is all the rich content and meat that just fills every line said. I led this prayer today, and praying it felt like the proverbial drinking from a fire hose because there's so much to meditate on and appreciate from this prayer. 

But one thing that especially struck me today was, "What are we asking God for when we pray for the Spirit?I think the prayer is well-worded, and maybe more could be elaborated on. 

Reformation True

Reformation True
Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura