Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wealth & Poverty Are Relative

From one of the prayers in The Valley of Vision (106):

May I never think I prosper unless my soul prospers,
                                    or that I am rich unless rich toward thee,
                                    or that I am wise unless wise unto salvation….

May I be poor, afflicted, despised and have thy blessing,
                        rather than be successful in enterprise,
                                    or have more than my heart can wish,
            or be admired by my fellow-men,
                                    if thereby these things make me forget thee.

Kids Break Acorn Banks

Every year at our church the kids break the acorn banks, banks that have been filled with change throughout the year.  The money goes toward the education of children of overseas missionaries.  While hammers are fun, our own Mr. Diller has devised other ways to break banks. 

This year our total was just under $1100.

The last video is sideways, and I do not know how to rectify that.

Aza uses the traditional mallet.

Anna uses a bigger mallet.

Sydney uses the acorn bank smashing contraption.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Basement Renovation in Progress

With a new bedroom, the girls will be able to spread out.  Caty will get her own room, and Anna and Callie will be left to themselves.  Andrew also gets a new room as he shifts into the girls' old room and Caty moves into his old room.  With a new half bath, we envision less "potty dances" outside the bathroom door.

My brother-in-law Shane is overseeing and doing the lion's share of the renovation, but we have enjoyed the help of various relatives and neighbors, including my dad, Sara's dad, Andrew, Dennis, David, Dylan, Anna, Michelle, and Callie, not to mention the tireless energy of my wife who is driving this whole project and exhausting herself with countless trips to Lowe's and Menards.

 framing in Anna & Callie's new bedroom

 my dad and Shane hang drywall in the girls' new room

 the new half bath getting framed

 lunch for the hard-at-work

 around the table, beginning on the left: Shane, Andrew, David, Stan, Ralph

Andrew muds the ceiling (and no, he's not on a step stool)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I Have Been Both the Pharisee and the Woman

my growing-up church on Evans St., with the broad, gravel, circle drive around it

On one occasion during his public ministry, a Pharisee invited Jesus to his home for a meal.  A woman with apparently an ill reputation showed up and anointed Jesus' feet with perfume, even cleaning his feet with her hair and kissing them, dirty and dusty though they must have been (since the Pharisee had not offered Jesus water to clean his feet).

Jesus explained that the person who has been forgiven much will love the Lord much, while the person who has been forgiven little will not love the Lord as much.  (See Luke 7:36-50.)

I remember sitting in the church of my childhood and youth, Eastwood Chapel, southeast side of Fort Wayne.  It was a small building housing a small congregation--maybe 30 people.  I was a college student at the time, and on this particular Sunday I was sitting on the right side, about a third of the way back.

At that time, in that pew, I asked the Lord to help me understand his grace.  Memories are imperfect, especially mine, but I was wrestling with how decent I was.  All my life people had praised me for this achievement and that virtue.  And I hadn't dived deep into the condition of my heart.  So basically I had drunk the Kool-aid of people's praise.  But I had seen other people praise God for his grace and cling to the grace of the Lord because they were bad people.

I knew grace was important, and yet I didn't feel I appreciated it.  So I asked the Lord to help me understand it.

Over the years the Lord has answered that prayer.  He has highlighted his grace by highlighting my sin.  He has highlighted my sin in at least two ways.  First, he has shown me my sinfulness by allowing some of the sins of my mind to become sins of practice.  Second, he has taken me more deeply into my own heart to behold the variety of evils there.

In seeing my own wickedness I have come to cling much more to Christ and appreciate much more his grace and mercy.

The critical difference between the Pharisee and the woman is not degree of sinfulness.  The critical difference is that one is blind to his own sinfulness and the other is eyes wide open to hers.  And that critical difference leads to different responses to Jesus.

If you think you're a pretty decent bloke, ask the Lord to show you the truth.

Friday, June 24, 2011

An Illustration of Error-Creep in the NT and Recovering the Originals

Yesterday I posted about the transmission of the Bible. 

Some verses are "missing" in our modern translations (verses like Matthew 18:11 and Luke 17:36, for example).  Following is an example of how some verses came to be relegated to the footnotes.

            The time for the dinner arrived, and so did Aaron.  Aaron knocked, and Jack the butler escorted Aaron into the dining hall where he was seated next to the archer and opposite the prophet.  Aaron wore a red shirt.
            Though they had not yet been introduced, the prophet pointed at Aaron and stated in a loud voice for all to hear, “This man will cause the suffering of many.”

                                                                                 explanatory note in margin
                        Aaron wore a red skirt….             Red is the symbol of royalty.

                        Aaron tore his red shirt….


            Aaron wore a red skirt.  Red is the symbol of royalty.
[The explanatory note has become a part of the Scripture in a later copy.]


            8The time for the dinner arrived, and so did Aaron.  9Aaron knocked, and Jack the butler escorted Aaron into the dining hall where he was seated next to the archer and opposite the prophet.  Aaron wore his red skirt.  10Red is the symbol of royalty.
            11Though they had not yet been introduced, the prophet pointed at Aaron and stated in a loud voice for all to hear, “This man will cause the suffering of many.”

            The time for the dinner arrived, and so did Aaron.  Aaron knocked, and Jack the butler escorted Aaron into the dining hall where he was seated next to the archer and opposite the prophet.  Aaron wore a red shirt.
            Though they had not yet been introduced, the prophet pointed at Aaron and stated in a loud voice for all to hear, “This man will cause the suffering of many.”

            8The time for the dinner arrived, and so did Aaron.  9Aaron knocked, and Jack the butler escorted Aaron into the dining hall where he was seated next to the archer and opposite the prophet.  Aaron wore a red shirt.a
            11Though they had not yet been introduced, the prophet pointed at Aaron and stated in a loud voice for all to hear, “This man will cause the suffering of many.”

a Some manuscripts red skirt.  10Red is the symbol of royalty.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Haven't errors creeped into the New Testament as it's been copied and recopied?

How do we know that our New Testament is accurate?  We have none of the original documents (like the actual letter Paul penned to the Romans or the actual document that Matthew labored over).

Here's how the transmission of the New Testament took place.

First there were the original documents (called "autographs").  They were perfect, inerrant.

Copies were made of the autographs.  They were accurate, but not always perfect, because they weren't perfectly copied.

The autographs disappeared.

More copies were made (copies of the copies, then copies of the copies of the copies, and so on).

The oldest copies disappeared.

As copies were made, variations appeared. 
--For example, in one verse one copy might say "Jesus" while another says "the Lord Jesus." 
--Another example: in some copies the Lord's prayer in Luke 11 looks exactly like the Lord's prayer in Matthew 6, while in other copies Luke's rendition is shorter.
These variations appear for a variety of reasons.

Fast forward to the early 1600s.  The King James Version was translated, and it was based on a large body of copies that agreed with one another.

More copies were discovered, copies that were older than the copies on which the KJV is based.  These older copies agreed with one another as well as some more recent copies.  For a variety of reasons, they are believed to be more reliable than the copies the KJV is based on (the Byzantine, or Syrian, family of texts).

Most modern translations are based on this more ancient family of copies (the Alexandrian family of texts).

That's a brief history.  With all these copies at their disposal, scholars have applied certain rules in comparing the various texts with one another in order to produce what they believe to be a New Testament that is virtually identical to the original 27 documents (Matthew-Revelation).

The first thing to note about the thousands of ancient copies in existence today is that, despite all the variations, there is a predominant unity and overlap.

The second thing to note is that of the thousands of variations, they are all relatively minor.  When scholar J. A. Bengel devoted his life to the study of the variations, his conclusion was "that the thousands of textual variants did not bring into question any article of evangelical doctrine" (George Eldon Ladd, The New Testament and Criticism 78).  In other words, the variants were all minor (like "the Father" vs. "God the Father").

"It is a seldom disputed fact that critical science has to all intents and purposes recovered the original text of the New Testament" (Ladd 80).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jael, Ancient Jewish Heroine

When Deborah and Barak defeated the Canaanite army, whose commander was Sisera, they composed and sang a song reciting the victorious events of the day.  At one point they sing of the woman Jael's singular accomplishment of befriending the enemy Sisera and then killing him.  There's something beautiful in this simple poetic description of such a grisly, though necessary, act.

He asked water and she gave him milk,
   she brough him curds in a lordly bowl.

She put her hand to the tent peg
   and her right hand to the workmen's mallet;
she struck Sisera a blow,
   she crushed his head,
   she shattered and pierced his temple.

He sank, he fell,
   he lay still at her feet;
at her feet he sank, he fell;
   where he sank, there he fell dead.

(Judges 5:25-27 NRSV.  You can read the narrative of Jael and Sisera in Judges 4:17-22.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How Long Should a Pastor Stay?

I had a conversation with a gentleman recently.  As we talked, he felt obliged to share some of his views on the ways a church should be run (church polity).

As I asked him about pastors he had sat under at a church he had attended in the past, he mentioned a few names.  Then he smiled a little and said, "Preachers used to rotate from church to church every few years or so."  Pause.  He continued, "You're probably not going to like what I say, but I think that's a good thing."

He proceeded to tell me that it used to be that deacons ran the church, not the preacher.  "Yes," I said, "different churches are run in different fashions."

"How's it here?" he asked.

"Well, the pastor is the chairman of the board."

"That's not good," was his quick remark.

Interrupted by someone else, I did not get a chance to explain that the congregation has voted the pastor chairman of the board year after year.  Nor did I get to explain that the pastor has repeatedly, year after year, told the nominating committee, with utmost sincerity, that they may nominate someone else to be the chairman of the board.

As it happens, I disagree with this brother-in-Christ's take on church polity.  Before I was in the ministry I had already formed my strong belief, that, generally speaking, long-term ministry at one church is a good thing, better than moving from church to church every 4 or 5 years.

The ironic thing was this discussion took place on the 16th anniversary of my ministry at Northside.  I didn't mention that little detail in our conversation.

Christ Has Changed Everything for Me

Thy cross was upraised to be my refuge,
Thy blood streamed forth to wash me clean,
Thy death occurred to give me a surety,
Thy name is my property to save me,
By thee all heaven is poured into my heart,
     but it is too narrow to comprehend thy love.
I was a stranger, an outcast, a slave, a rebel,
     but thy cross has brought me near,
                             has softened my heart,
                             has made me thy Father's child,
                             has admitted me to thy family,
                             has made me joint-heir with thyself.

--The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, ed. Arthur Bennett, 102

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Daughter's Amazing Weight Loss Results

She went from this ...

to this!

From this ... 

to this!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Does Jesus Still Suffer?

Commenting on Joseph of Arimathea's loving care for Jesus' body, one scholar writes, "Never again will He be the object of human mockery, humiliation and violence.  He had already finished all (John xix. 30), and His honourable burial in the new rock-hewn tomb of the noble Joseph of Arimathea, is the prologue to His exaltation and glorification."  (Norval Geldenhuys, The Gospel of Luke, 618-19)

At one level, the one Geldenhuys was commenting on, that is a lovely thought.

At another level, it's wholly inaccurate.

Because Jesus so closely identifies with his church, he continues to experience "mockery, humiliation and violence." 

When Saul of Tarsus was persecuting Christians, the Lord Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and questioned, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4, emphasis added)

When Jesus talked about the sheep and the goats, he explained to the righteous that whenever they met the needs "of the least of these brothers of mine," they did so unto Jesus.  Many scholars believe "the least of these brothers of mine" refers specifically to his followers who are needy (and not generally to all the world's needy).  So when Jesus' followers feel deprivation, so does Jesus.

One of the New Testament metaphors for the church is the body of Christ.  What the Church feels, he feels.  What the Church endures, he endures.

Jesus radically identifies with his followers.  He can say "I feel your pain" in a far, far more truthful way than President Clinton ever could.

When Coptic Christians are harrassed by Muslim thugs while police look on, Jesus is harrassed.
When Uzbek Christians are imprisoned on false charges in order to neutralize their witness, Jesus is falsely accused and falsely imprisoned.
When you are mocked or marginalized for your faith, Jesus is also mocked and marginalized.

So at one level, Jesus' suffering is done.  At another level, however, he continues to suffer.
He no longer suffers for his people; "it is finished."  He does, however, continue to suffer with his people.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

If Nature Is Awesome Now, What about Then?!

Sunday afternoon found me driving to Archbold, Ohio, along the U.S. 24.  The sun was out in full strength, and my windows were down.

I was treated to the beauty of God's creation, and I worshipped the Creator as a result.  I marveled at all the flat fields stretching away from me in all directions, many of them tamed and patterned by tractors.  Houses and other structures, as well as stands of trees, occasionally broke up the landscape and added to the beauty of the whole scene that was splayed before me for miles.

In Defiance, Ohio, I turned north onto state route 66.  I stopped at Meijer for gas and a couple doughnuts.  Then I continued my pleasurable drive until I reached Archbold, almost too soon.

The Scriptures teach that nature is fallen.  It fell when mankind fell in the Garden, and it is out-of-sorts even as humanity is.

If that is the case--and it is--and still it is beautiful and awesome and glorious, what will it be like when everything is restored?  If we are in awe of sunrises and sunsets now, of majestic mountains and the Grand Canyon and flat fields on sunny days, when creation is frustrated and decaying and erratic, how much more overcome with awe will we be in the new heavens and new earth!?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Arminians and Calvinists Can Work Together, Wrote Prominent Calvinist

When it comes to Calvinist-Arminian relations, my dad said something to me once that summed up my experience.  He commented that Arminians can get along with Calvinists, but Calvinists have a hard time getting along with Arminians.  They often seem up-in-arms.

That has been my experience in my reading.  My favorite Calvinist authors--Spurgeon, Packer, Piper--seem unable to avoid strong language at times when it comes to Arminians.

In all fairness, I'm sure my dad's statement is not a universal rule.  In fact, I know it's not.  My senior pastor is a Calvinist, and we've worked well together for 16 years.

But boy did I get a blessing when I came across this comment of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, quoted in his biography:

"I have always asserted and argued as strongly as I could that evangelicals should not separate on the question of Calvinism and Arminianism."

Fantastic!  Lloyd-Jones was a great preacher of the last century and a strong Calvinist.

He went on to write, "In the IVF [Inter Varsity Fellowship], both here in Great Britain and on the international level, Arminians and Calvinists work most happily and harmoniously together, and it is my privilege to co-operate with all such ..."  (Iain H. Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Fight of Faith 1939-1981, 230).

I completely agree that we can work together.  As my senior pastor and I have discussed it, if someone is not walking with Christ, we may disagree about whether that person was ever saved, but we both have the same goal and prayer, that s/he will walk with Christ now.

Motivation to Exercise

What if you had to exercise before your alarm clock would shut off?  Now that's motivation.  The wake up work out alarm clock won't shut off until you've curled it 30 times.

Now that's disturbing.

It's $34.95.

HT: bookofjoe

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Helpfulness of the Piper - Warren Video

I recently posted a video of John Piper interviewing Rick Warren.  When someone asked me what I thought about the video, I emailed back to her a response that included the following:

Do I think Warren's perfect? No. Is he a heretic? I don't think so. Is he burdened for the lost? Absolutely! Is he faithful to the gospel. Yes!

What the video does is this:

1) It allows Rick to speak for himself.

2) It makes very clear his doctrinal positions. (That's what Piper wanted to uncover.) And his doctrinal positions are well within orthodoxy.

3) It makes clear his passion for the lost. He wants to see people saved, to enter into a faith-based relationship with Jesus Christ.

4) It makes clear the connection between his "social gospel" and his "spiritual gospel" (probably not the best way to put it). In other words, he desires to meet people's physical needs SO THAT he will be in a better position to address people's spiritual needs.

5) It makes clear why he has been involved in some political things (w/ Obama, McCain, etc.). Very interesting point.

6) It gives Rick a chance to respond to critics of his book. Some criticisms he definitely takes to heart, especially in the section about how he would write the book differently if he would write it today.

7) It makes clear that he's definitely not part of the Emergent Church.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Good Advice on Time Management

Want to be productive?
Feel like you're too busy to be productive?

Me, too.

Douglas Wilson posted a well-written piece on time management, "Seven Thoughts on Time Management." 

By reading his post you may learn something about both time management and good writing.  I think my favorite line in the whole piece is, "I typed the outline for this with my thumbs while sitting in a comfy chair at the mall while my wife was being a merchant ship that brings goods from afar."  No comment as to why that might be my favorite line.