6.29.2009

The practice of communion (or Eucharist) in The Didache.

praying today's psalm: psa 127


Unless the LORD builds the house,
Its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
The watchmen stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise early
And stay up late,
Toiling for food to eat—
For he grants sleep to those he loves.

(Psa 127:1-2, NIV)

Lord, forgive us for our lack of belief—out lack of trust. I do not believe we believe this. I do not believe we believe that we utterly dependent upon your will. I do not believe we believe that our kingdoms cannot stand in the face of yours. We evidence that unbelief by our lack of prayer. We evidence that unbelief by our trust in formulas and strategies. We evidence that unbelief by our anxiety. May we not foolishly work in vain doing work that is not yours—that you are not in. Amen.

peta: more christian than christians?

Political conservatives and Christians often dismiss PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) as more than a little loony—and maybe they are. There is no doubt that they have taken the love for animals to a new level, which at times seems idolatrous or pagan. I think that if it came down to it, many of its members would choose to save an animal over a human ten out of ten times. Nevertheless, I wonder if PETA’s excess has blinded Christians from the fact that their name—at least—is something Christians should advocate for as well.

I often hear Christians shirk their responsibility to care for animals based on a notion that animals are soulless creatures given for man to rule over. However, it is clear from the Genesis accounts of creation that this is not so. I think our translations obscure this point.

In the second account of creation, it says that Elohim formed man with the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a nephesh chayim (a living soul/being) (Gen 2:7). Many Christians generally speak of this as the act that distinguishes humans from animals and that this nephesh chayim is the mark distinguishing human nature from that of the animals. Nephesh is the word our English translations translate soul, being, or life. Gen 2:7 is translated nephesh chayim living being or living soul (KJV).

What is obscured, however, is that this phrase, nephesh chayim has already occurred three times (Gen 1:20, 24, 30) in the creation account and will occur once more (Gen 2:19). In each of these occurrences, animals are the reference. However, rather than showing continuity in our translations, the major translations translate nephesh chayim as living creature(s). (Actually, the ESV does show continuity by translating the description of man as a living creature in Gen 2:7.)

So, what is the distinction between man and animal? Is it nephesh (soul)? No, not according to Genesis. Is it intelligence? In degree only, because monkeys have shown the ability to learn language and many animals including rats and birds demonstrate remarkable problem-solving abilities. Is it emotion? No, animals are clearly emotional creatures demonstrating happiness, sadness, depression, fear, and love (?). Is it sentience (consciousness or perception)? No, animals clearly prefer to live and avoid pain. In the face of the predator, prey either flee, fight, or organize to protect themselves and their kind. Is it relationships or social networks? No, just watch Meerkat Manor on Animal Planet.

According to Genesis, the difference between humankind and the animal kingdom is the image of God, which bears with it a responsibility to reign over the other nephesh chayim (Gen 1:28) and cultivate the ground (Gen 2:5). The image of God, I believe, is to be a visible representation of God in the creation. This may include some abilities more advanced than animals, but many of these things are in degree only. Rather, the image of God seems to be a position in the created order—a responsibility. The sovereign God, grants a share of that sovereignty to humans. However, this reign is not an excuse to abuse, mistreat, and exploit the creation. If we are to reflect God in the world, one has to ask if we would want God exercise his over us in the same way we have exercised ours over animals (e.g., hunt us for sport, abuse us, subject us to deplorable conditions)?

6.27.2009

michael jackson

As if the world needs more commentary on the life and death of Michael Jackson, I will, nevertheless, give more commentary. Poor Farrah Fawcett. Her long struggle with cancer, which ended on the same day, was totally eclipsed by Michael Jackson's death. We tuned into Farah's Story last night to find that it had been replaced with Ann Curry telling Michael Jackson's. With all of this, I have had a few recurring thoughts.

(1) Americans really don't like death. Actually, Americans really don't like to think about anything painful. Actually, Americans are hell-bent on avoiding pain altogether. This pattern of emotional repression where we will choose not to grieve someone's death and only celebrate their life, rings with a twinge of dishonesty for me. It is not that I think celebration of someone's life is inappropriate, it is the act of repressing pain and grief that bothers me. And Americans have no tolerance for pain. Look at everything we are doing technologically, medically, economically, and I believe you will find the avoidance of pain underlying it all. But pain is a part of the human condition and it needs to be faced and persevered through. Actually, Michael is almost a perfect symbol of a life devoted to ignoring, avoiding, and medicating pain.

(2) The cost of greatness is great. I am happy to see that this has not been completely ignored in the coverage, but Michael Jackson was a severely dysfunctional and unhappy human being. This is a common pattern in the lives of those we deem "great." In fact, it is so common that I would almost dare to say it is necessary. I don't know whether it is their genius or their drive (or both), but I challenge you to find an example of one of these transformative personalities for whom this hasn't been true. As I understand it, even Gandhi had a terrible relationship with his own children.

(3) Apart from the "crotch grab to pelvic thrust" move, Michael Jackson's dance moves were sick...in the good sense...in the sense that it is sickening how good they were.

(4) We are very selective in our moral outrage. Have you ever heard stories about people in complete denial about loved ones' sins? "I don't believe he (or she) is capable that!" "There is no way!" or "You just don't understand, he (or she) is really good." That is what the whole world is doing for Michael Jackson. What crime evokes more outrage than pedophilia, and yet over and over I hear people in complete denial of the his capacity to do such a thing (even though he is a textbook candidate), or even worse, the plea for people let him off the hook because of all the great things he has done. Maybe he didn't do it, but it is not because Michael Jackson could never do that.

Not that it matters, but those are my thoughts on the matter.

6.22.2009

from 1902

These words were written by G.K. Chesterton in 1902. If he thought this then, I wonder what he would think about us today.

Civilization has run on ahead of the soul of man, and is producing faster than he can think and give thanks.
Baptizing, Fasting, and Praying with the early church. More on The Didache.

praying today's psalm: psa 120


Too long have I lived
Among those who hate peace.
I am a man of peace;
But when I speak, they are for war.

(Psa 120:6-7, NIV)

Lord, I think that in certain times and in certain places this kind of tension has not been felt adequately among those who profess your name. May your people in this time and in this place be able to say this with integrity. Amen

6.19.2009

Another Post on The Didache with a connection to Paul's teaching in 1 Cor 8-10.

praying today's psalm: psa 119


Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
To observe your righteous ordinances.
I am severely afflicted;
Give me life, O LORD, according to your word.

Your decrees are my heritage forever;
They are the joy of my heart.
I incline my heart to perform your statutes
Forever, to the end.

(Ps 119:105-107, 111-112 NRSV)

Lord, you give us enough light for the next step, and you have asked us to make that step in faith—trusting you. Give us the courage to do so. May your words give us life. May we eat it like bread and still hunger for more. Forgive us for treating your word as a burden. Restore to us the joy; may we delight it in it. May we delight in you. May we want your presence more than any earthly delights. Amen

6.18.2009

more contributors at read mor ded peepl

Yea! John DelHousaye has joined the cause at Read Mor Ded Peepl. I am very excited and honored that he wanted join in the fun since he is a major reason for my commitment to reading the ded. See his first post, which is about the earliest church fathers' views on "end times".

Also, coming soon. Rob Oliverio, who was a faithful servant at Harmony Baptist when I was interim pastor there, has returned to AZ after a year studying philosophy at Purdue. He is looking to contribute as well.

6.15.2009

marital roles

Some of the most difficult passages for the modern mind to understand and trust are those about marital roles, specifically the command for submission of wives to their husbands. The idea that there are any clearly defined roles or duties for each of the spouses to fulfill is generally unacceptable for the modern mind. Equality trumps any notions of authority or difference. Application of roles in destructive and demeaning ways has only amplified the resistance. On the other hand, it seems the resulting gender confusion and a failure to fulfill these roles contributes to much of the pain being experienced within our marriages. Men do not know how to act like men, and women do not make them feel like men. In the vacuum, women must step up to act like men, and men do not know how to make them feel like women.

If there are roles, what are they? What aren’t they? Ephesians 5 contains probably the most frequently cited teaching on the subject, and seems to be the springboard for most discussions on the subject, and so some analysis could be helpful.

Submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.

Wives, to their own husbands as to the Lord. Because a husband is head of his wife as also Christ is head of the church. He is savior of the body. But as the church submits to Christ, in this way also wives to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives just as also Christ loved the church and gave himself over for her. In order that he might sanctify her, by cleansing by the washing of the water in word. In order that he might present her, the church, as glorious not having a stain or wrinkle or anything such as these, but in order that she might be holy and blameless. In this way, husbands are obligated to love their own wives as their own bodies. The one, who loves his own wife, loves himself. For no one at any time hated his own flesh but nourishes and cares for it. Just as also Christ [does for] the church. Because a body part is his body. “On account of this, a man will leave father and mother and he will be united to his wife, and the two will be as one flesh.” This mystery is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, you, one after the other, let each [man] love his wife as himself, and the wife, let her revere her husband.
(Eph 5:21-3, BAB)

Important observations:
(1) v. 21 “submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ” is the fourth of four supplementary statements describing what accompanies being filled with the spirit (v. 18). In other words, it is very clearly connected to what precedes, in contrast to some who interpret that as the introduction to what follows. However, the discussion that follows is concrete application of the principle.


(2) Each has the relationship between Christ and his church as the paradigm for understanding how they ought to act toward the other. Christ is ground for and example of how one ought to live. In this case, the marriage relationship embodies the gospel. Male headship means embodying Christ’s sacrifice in the provision of love and honor. Female submission means embodying the church’s faith in the provision of respect and trust.


(3) These can still qualify has mutual submission in that each is called to sacrifice themselves for the other. If the woman sacrifices in respecting and trusting her husband, the husband sacrifices in exercising his headship in service of her (not him).

(4) These roles say nothing really about things like who works, who makes decisions, who controls the finances, and so on. When Paul describes Christ as the head of the church (4:15-16), he describes him as the one who holds the body together. In that way, I think the idea of roles has very little to do with some of the ways they are traditionally defined. Rather it means that the responsibility for holding the family together as a healthy, functional, and growing body rests squarely on his shoulders. The wife’s submission means that she will not do things that undermine his attempts to do that. I think the details on how this is lived out may be more fluid are typically taught.

praying today's psalm: psa 119


How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart;
Do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
That I might not sin against you.

(Psa 119:9-11, NIV)

Father, forgive us for our waywardness. Forgive us when we listen to every voice except yours. Forgive us for failing to treasure your word. Give us the strength and courage to seek it, and empower our attempts to obey it. May you have more of our hearts. Amen.

6.14.2009

sanctifying effect of marriage

Nate's post on marriage is a great reflection on why marriage is difficult but sanctifying

6.13.2009

moral outrage

Ben Myers posted this reflection on a recent uproar in Australia. I think it is interesting to think about. I am sure you can see the parallels in our society.

6.10.2009

free lectures

It really is amazing what is available out there through resources like iTunes U and so on. There are top quality lectures from some of the best schools and professors out there for free. Here is another resource, Academic Earth. It may be better if you're into matters of science, economics, politics, etc (as opposed to matters of religion), but if you like to exercise your inner nerd like me, then have at it.

in praise of pastors

In Praise of Pastors by GCTS professor Jeffrey Arthurs. A little word of encouragement for the over-worked and under-appreciated, who walk around with a big fat burden on their shoulders everyday.

6.05.2009

a parable

Here is another great parable by Ben Myers.

6.04.2009

business

Here is a lecture on business (from a theological perspective) that I can honestly say, I wish everyone - business person or consumer - would listen to. His biblical interpretation may be a little strained at points, but the business model is solid.

How Business Contributes To Human Flourishing
Jeff Van Duzer, Dean of the School of Business & Economics at SPU, discusses the role of business and the way that business should run to further God's purpose in the world.

(at iTunes U so iTunes is necessary for downloading)

6.01.2009

following jesus: the temptation

We pray lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (or the evil one). Jesus was led into temptation that we might be delivered from evil (or the evil one. I have read the temptation story any number of times, and I have heard it preached and teached (or is it praught and taught) even more times. I think I got it in a general sense. Usually the moral of the sermon is “Know your scripture because the Devil will twist it!” or “Don’t worship Satan!”

I have never—at least any time I was paying attention—heard a teacher or pastor draw out the parallels with Israel’s wilderness experience. This is surprising given that all of Jesus’ answers to the temptation can be found in the context of Israel’s exhortation before entering the land. Consider the following allusions:

JesusIsrael
Lk 4:1-13; Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12-13 → Dt 8:1-20; 6:10-16
In the wilderness 40 days → In the wilderness 40 years
Before beginning his ministry → Before beginning their conquest
Temptation 1 – Bread → Dt 8:1-10 – You shall not live on bread alone
Temptation 2 – Kingdoms → Dt 8:11-20 – You shall worship the LORD alone
Temptation 3 – Temple → Dt 6:10-16 – You shall not put the LORD to the test
Faithful → Unfaithful

Where Israel was disciplined in the wilderness as a father disciplines a son, Jesus is likewise tested in the wilderness. Where Israel was not able to remain faithful, Jesus proves himself faithful. Jesus is found to be the only faithful son of God, where all others have failed.

The temptations seem to me to fall along these lines:
Self-preservation – Israel (Dt 8:1-10) was to remember that they depended upon God for their bread (i.e. Manna), and their hunger was to remind them of their dependence. Jesus was tempted to take it upon himself to provide satisfaction for his hunger rather than remaining utterly dependent upon God for his provision. His answer is to humbly trust in God’s provision.

Self-exaltation – Israel (Dt 8:11-20) was warned not to think that their prosperity and success in the land had anything to do with them. Rather they were to remain humbly faithful to God and to not follow other gods. Jesus was tempted to exalt himself by forsaking his allegiance to God. His answer is to humbly trust in God’s way (and time) of exaltation. (Ironically, it was when Jesus was faithful to the point of crucifixion that God raised him and he could say to his disciples “All authority has been given to me.” The very thing the Devil was offering him.)

Self-deification – Israel (Dt 6:10-16) is reminded that they are to trust and serve God. They are not to put him to the test as they did at Massah (v. 16). What did they do at Massah? In Ex 17:1-7, we see that they grumbled to Moses about the lack of water, which God then provided from a stone. The place is named Massah (testing) because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” Why do I say this is the temptation of self-deification? Not because one consciously sets themselves up as a god, but because one demands that God prove himself to them. In other words, they make God serve them. Jesus was tempted to make God prove his relationship to him. Jesus’ answer is to humbly trust that he serves God on God’s terms.

the double-sided coin of temptation

James makes it clear that we should not blame God for tempting us because God does not tempt (Jas 1:13-14). However, there is a close relationship between temptation and something God does do: test (e.g. Heb 11:17). In fact, the relationship is so close that the same word is used. The Greek word translated “tempt”, “test”, and “trial” is one and the same: peirazo (verb) and peirasmos (noun). What is the difference between the two ideas? The answer is in the goal.

TEST → Prove faithfulness, Perfection
TEMPTATION → Fall into sin, Failure

This can be seen in Jesus’ temptation (Lk 4:1-13; Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12-13; and of course see also Job 1-2). Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. Both God and Satan are agents in this trial. Satan is trying to get him to fall in order to kill his mission. God, on the other hand, has given Jesus over to this trial in order to prove his faithfulness. As Hebrews says, he was perfected through suffering.

When we encounter temptation or trial, we are often tempted to attribute it solely to “dark forces” out to do us harm, but that might only be one side of the situation. Every temptation is equally a test in which God is proving our faithfulness. Each temptation provides a crisis point where one can either fall in sin or stand in faith. (This is not to say that both ideas are necessarily in mind in any given use of peirazo or peirasmos. Context is the clue to which is the most appropriate translation.)

How is it that James can say God does not tempt? James addresses our temptation to blame God for our failure. James is quick to remind us that when we are tempted (leading to a fall), we can only blame our own sinfulness.