Friday, May 28, 2010

The Vanishing Diaeresis

This really has nothing to do with the Bible or theology but should be a matter of great concern for Americans.  In a day when great furor is made in an effort to preserve the environment, why is there no outcry?  Where is the clarion call?  Have we as a people become distracted by the trivial and lost sight of the grand vista?  Have we as a nation become so lax that we cannot raise the standard and not lose this once prominent diacritic mark.

So now you are asking to yourself, "What is a diacritic mark, and why do I care?"  Technically, it is an ancillary glyph added to a letter.  In layman's terms it is a mark above a letter to show a change in pronunciation.  The most common is the acute accent and is used in words like résumé and entrée.  The diaeresis is the double dot above a letter, as in coördinate and naïve, signifying that the two-vowel combination is not a diphthong but that the second letter is to be pronounced separately.

Why should you care?  Modern English usage simple removes the mark entirely expecting the reader to make the adjustment.  That might work for coördinate and naïve, but how do we pronounce other words?  For instance, how would one state that something had been evaluated again?  Is it a re-evaluation or a reëvaluation?  The former is far more common in modern usage, but the latter is quite correct and in my not so humble estimation preferred.  Older books—pre-twentieth century—use this convention, and I appreciate the effort linguists and publishers took to maintain it.

So, the next time you need to type or write something, remember the lowly and under-used diaeresis.  Use it with gusto.  Automated spell-checkers do not recognize it.  Standard keyboards do not automatically map to it.  Fear not.  Simply hold down the Alt key while keying a 4-position number on the keypad.  What could be easier?  (Actually, the Character Map program is rather easy, but we are trying to be "old school.")  Take up the cause.  Rise against the machine.  Stick it to the man.  Celebrate the personal victory.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Jesus Who Never Lived by H. Wayne House

This is a great popular-level book examining the many false ideas of who Jesus is that has been brought forth over two millenia.  Examining from ancient heresies to modern culture, Dr. House has captured the invalid teachings posited and shows how the resulting descriptions are inadequate.  He concludes in the final chapter by giving the biblical portrait of Jesus.

Do not let the fact that the author was my Systematic Theology professor sway your judgment.  Rather be swayed by his presentation of the material.

Hopelessly Devoted to You

Recently, my attention has been drawn to the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOP-KC) for various reasons, not least of which is that some in our church have been there and were greatly impressed.  With a gimmicky name like that I am skeptical.  (IHOP?  Excuse me, but couldn't somebody come up with something original? Cue yellow flags.) 

I was looking at their website a bit just now.  Their existence is premised on a faulty understanding of devotion to God presumably built around David's worship method in 1 Chronicles 15:1-17:27.  (Cue red flags.)  The article outlining the history of 24/7 prayer is filled with examples of the Desert Fathers and later ascetics who were given over wholly in their devotion of God.  (Cue red flags waving wildly and sirens blaring.)

Now this group does not have a monopoly on misplaced devotion.  One can walk into what has become a typical church meeting to find people with arms raised singing their lungs out to songs that have no meaning, but because Jesus is mentioned, they must be good.  I do believe that if the song leader started "Jesus Is Just All Right with Me" by the Doobie Brothers or George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," nobody would notice the difference.  The euphoria would carry the meeting.  (OK, maybe somebody would notice on the latter song when we got to "Hare Krishna, Hare, Hare" but certainly not before then.)

Why am I being sarcastic and skeptical of this attitude?  Because it espouses a devotion never found or intended in Scripture.  It is a devotion rightly directed to a spouse, but because of an ascetic lifestyle in church history and Roman Catholic doctrine, has been given up and transferred to God himself.  Protestants have decided this must be worthwhile, though it has no biblical basis.  Paul indicated that celibacy was appropriate for a few (1 Cor 7:7, 17), not an entire class of men and women.  As an aside, if you want to feel devotion like Olivia Newton John sang of in the title of this piece, find yourself someone of the opposite sex, marry, and be one flesh as God intended.

Previously, I had posted on what true love looks like as Moses discussed it in Deuteronomy. That has not changed between then and now.  Godward devotion is nothing more than doing those good deeds that he has prepared for us to walk in (Eph 2:10).  Is the walk passionate?  It can be.  Will Jesus be my lover?  Never in a million years.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Getting the House in Order

I have moved on to reading of Israel's return under Zerubbabel in the early chapters of Ezra.  Having posted on the revivals under Hezekiah and Josiah from reading 2 Chronicles, those previous scenes are fresh for making comparisons.

1.  The Jews had been away from the Lord, whoring after other gods and sacrificing on the high places.

2.  There was a small group willing to lead the people back to where they belonged spiritually and to clean up the vestiges of sin that remained.

3.  There was one person who served the people so that they might do the work.  This fact is easy to overlook.  The kings and governors were not simply lords over the people pushing them on.  They supplied materials for the work, opened avenues for the people to work unencumbered, offered protection, and interceded to God on the work's behalf.

4.  The people had a heart to worship.  Sacrifices were restored to the rightful God in the rightful place, though maybe not quite in the right way.

1.  Under the kings, Judah was still within the Promised Land.  In Ezra, God had disciplined severely by allowing them to be taken captive for 70 years.  The people had been mightily humbled and were now allowed to return to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:2-4).  This change in locale refined the people in two ways: never again would idolatry be a concern, and revitalized dedication would be demonstrated in those undertaking the arduous return to the land.

2. The first feast observed under the kings was Passover, on which I commented previously.  Later, the people observed the Feast of Booths (Ezra 3:1-5).  This could have been a matter of timing, but it seems instructive that a feast established to memorialize the wilderness wanderings is the first celebrated after a return from "wandering" for decades in a foreign land.

God's dwelling place

Lastly, besides the aforementioned desire for worship, the people had a desire to restore God's dwelling place.  The temple was in varying states of disrepair between the three occasions.  For Zerubbabel, this meant a complete rebuild.  God had given an explicit commend to worship him where he made his habitation (Deut 12:1-7).  For Judah, restoration and cleansing of the temple was paramount for the Lord's enduring presence.

I left this point as last to draw an application to the local church.  It is possible to understand that sin has done damage amongst the assembly and subsequently deal with it, yet leave God's habitation, the local church (1 Cor 3:16-17), in disrepair.  The context of this passage addresses multiple problems in the church at Corinth.  While several concerns are addressed in this epistle, Paul had to begin by addressing the root causes
divisions and immoralitybefore moving on to the questions they had original sent for advice.  If I might make allusion to 1 Peter 2:1-10, the foundation of the church was secure in Christ, but the living stones being used in the habitation were anything but holy with sacrifices carnal and unacceptable.

May each assembly remember that we can go about doing correct things but not deal with underlying problems, so that in the end all that remains is an empty edifice.  There will be bodies but no life within them.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Doing It God's Way

I have had some interesting occurrences around me recently: enough to spur some random thoughts in a unified direction.  The first was not long ago at work.  One of the software developers came over, and he described to me a concept that he and two others had for properly initiating a new system within our division.  The plan was to take the three who knew the system and use them as installers/teachers.  That way the new developers being trained would use the system correctly and efficiently.

The second happened today as I was reading a blog entry linking to John Piper questioning the value of a PhD for pastors.  The third also came today from a via a blog entry that asked how the church can use unconventional methods against seemingly overwhelming odds to “win the day” (my paraphrase).

How are these three even remotely related?
If you know your Bible, the first scenario is Discipleship 101.  I was astounded to hear this plan mainly because the three who formulated it are not Christians nor have any spiritual leanings in that direction.  The plan had an inherent suitability.  Predictably, management refused the plan and went with a typical shotgun approach.  All are trained the system rudiments and allowed to figure out their own uses and procedures however inefficient they might be in company-wide use.

The second was interesting because John Piper has a PhD.  He did not say such study was completely worthless but that in the long run pastors have enough to do without being required to read and study pointless material in order to be subject experts. They are better off studying their Bibles (again my paraphrase).

The last was interesting because the question was asked at the end: "I’m always fascinated by Gladwell’s sideways way of looking at the world.  Work beats out talent?  Who knew?  So what does it mean for the church?"

These gave me pause as one was added to another.  If the world, or a microcosm thereof, can figure out on its own how to properly train for quality and long-term growth based on a biblical model, why do many local churches use marketing schemes to draw people in and therapeutic answers to salve the sin nature working in us?  We believers seem to have taken on the ethos of the world and assumed it was from Christ because his name has been attached to it somewhere down the line.   I wonder what the church might do if it used its own prescribed methods rather than adapting or relying on the world's ingenuity.

Starting Over

Mere days after reading about the wonderful Passover Hezekiah had held, I read about the one under Josiah (2 Chr 35:1-19).  Two things caught my interest.  The first is its magnitude.
No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet.  None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah, and the priests and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 35:18)
That description is almost incredible in view of Israel's storied history and the two-week feast under Josiah's great-grandfather.

The second notable item item was the similarity in how the periods of repentance and revival were evidenced—both found their highest expression in keeping the Passover.  This is entirely fitting as the feast was the beginning of months for Israel.  Their entire future began and was to be memorialized in their deliverance from bondage through great and mighty works by the Lord's outstretched arm and mighty hand (Deut 11:2-7).  It was a natural restarting point.

It behooves us to remember that in the same way, when we as Christians have fallen into sin and wandered away that we be as the prodigal son in coming to our senses and returning to the place from where we first began and are welcome—the cross of Christ.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Evidences of Maturity

This past Sunday, Aaron spoke on Colossians 1:3-8, rightly emphasizing Paul's previously mentioned trio of godly attributes to be found in mature and maturing believers—faith, hope, and love. Because the apostle's language can often times be "run on" and wordy (this passage is actually one sentence in the Greek), I thought it worthwhile to diagram the sentence for some benefit.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
A. when we pray for you,
B. since we heard
1. of your faith in Christ Jesus and
2. of the love that you have
a. for all the saints,
b. because of the hope laid up for you in heaven
C. [which] you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you,
1. as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—
2. as it also does among you,
a. since the day you heard it and
b. understood the grace of God in truth,
c. just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant
1) [who] is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf
2) and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

It should come as no surprise that Paul was thanking God first above and before all else though not without reason. Here was a group of believers that had heard the gospel by Epaphras and were now being built up in the most holy faith once delivered to the saints.  The faith, hope, and love among this group was no mere passion or act of obligation but was the overflow of the Holy Spirit working through them to one another.

Real trust (faith) produces concrete actions (love) looking to sure promises (hope).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Do You Love God -- Really?

Christians will regularly say or sing about their love for God and Christ.  Sometimes I wonder if they understand how that should look.  Writing on Deuteronomy 6-8, Justin Fuhrmann gives a good solid answer to this question based on his study:

Deut 6:5 and what follows should be understood as an exposition on what it means to love Yahweh by keeping Yahweh's commandments, as demanded in the second commandment: "[for Yahweh shows] love to a thousand generations of those who love [Yahweh] and keep [Yahweh's] commandments" (Deut 5:10).   In this light, the term "love" carries connotations that transcend the typical understanding of love in our twenty-first-century world.  Love is more than emotion and feeling; rather, it concerns covenant faithfulness and loyalty to Yahweh through obedience to the commands, as is typical of expressions of love in Near Eastern treaty formulations.  When modified by the expressions "heart," "soul," and "might," [love] "emphasizes in the strongest possible terms the total commitment and wholehearted devotion to be shown towards YHWH" (MacDonald, Monotheism 99).  There is no time when the commands of Yahweh are not to be on the hearts and lips of Yahweh's children; they are to "talk about them" whether at home or on the road, from the time they wake in the morning to the time they lie down at night (Deut 6:7). . . . The covenant exclusivity demanded by the Decalogue and the shema demands drastic loyalty and love.
"Deuteronomy 6-8 and the History of Interpretation", Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 2010, Volume 53, No. 1, 57-58

After reading this, can you still say that you love God?  If the answer is affirmative, good.  If the answer is any other, take stock of where you lack in light of the glorious redemption that is found in the gospel of Christ and respond.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hezekiah's Passover

Every reader of Hezekiah's reform in Judah should be impressed by the steps taken to have all Israel and Judah celebrate the Passover.  Driven by a repentant heart for the people, Hezekiah implemented reforms to restore worship as God intended.  One reform mentioned specifically was the Passover.  The joint time of Passover/Unleavened Bread was one of three required events for Jewish men (Exo 23:14-17) and was to always be held on the 14th of Abib, the first month of the year.  Only in the event of uncleanness or distance could someone not respond, and then only to the second month.  Such was the case here.  Because of Judah's great sin and idolatry practiced by his father Ahaz (2 Chr 28:22-24), the temple and priesthood were in disarray and required cleansing, prompting Hezekiah to initiate action and call for the feast to be held at the later time.

Passover Observed

The Invitation – The chronicler records that Hezekiah sent word to both kingdoms of the great feast about to take place.  Ephraim and Manasseh are singled out as receiving letters most likely because of their relative size and importance in the north.  That the king invited the northern kingdom says a great deal about his desire for those wayward brethren.  Here was an opportunity for him to exalt the Lord while inviting the Northern Kingdom to worship together as one people.

The invitation's message was a call of repentance (2 Chr 30:6-9).  Hezekiah knows Israel has lived wickedly and needs to return to the God of their fathers.  He understands the goodness and mercy that can be extended to them by returning to the
Lord.  The king knows that if they only heed, not only will their generation be healed and blessed, but also their children will benefit.

The Response – Couriers delivered the message to the north, who were largely unreceptive, though some did respond and attend (2 Chr 30:11, 18).  In the south, the people were wholeheartedly given to the task of restoring God's rightful place among them (2 Chr 30:12).

The Feast – Because so much cleansing amongst the Levites had to be accomplished in order properly fulfill the feast requirements, the people came together in the second month.  Many of the non-priestly tribes still had not properly consecrated themselves but kept the feast anyway in view of Hezekiah's prayer that they be pardoned for this shortcoming—one divinely and willingly answered.

Hezekiah had so supplied the people with animals for offering that the people feasted not just for for the prescribed seven days but fourteen, even exceeding the required practice by sacrificing peace offerings each day and ending with a blessing of the people by the priests  (2 Chr 30:21-27).  The net result was great joy in Jerusalem and a resolve so that at the end of the feast, the people went home and destroyed the idolatrous things not just in Judah but in Ephraim and Manasseh as well (2 Chr 31:1).


1.  Above all things the Lord desires his people to worship before him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).  This does not allow for just any expression of worship.  Often people attempt to perform acts of worship that he does not condone and hope it is acceptable.  No, God had clearly articulated what was required from his people to be acceptable worship.  He was willing to make up what was lacking, because they had a mind to complete that lack in themselves.  God noted this, and they were made clean in order to offer with clean hands and pure heart.

2.  The Lord's commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).  He orchestrates all things to glorify himself and to be for our good.  How could he who is by nature good do any less?  We do well to follow by faith all he has told us through Christ.

Contemporvant Growtivation

I got an e-mail from a fellow blogger today making me aware of this video.  Both humorous and painfully honest, this cuts right to the heart of the cheesiness and emptiness of what many churches pass off as "worship."

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Contending for the Faith

The crew at White Horse Inn have been discussing the subject Contending for the Faith.  The broadcast is divided into part 1 and part 2 at approximately 30 minutes each.  I disagree on ecclesiological grounds with their contention that the primary proclamation of the gospel is to be from the pulpit—it should be you and me—but otherwise recommend these for listening.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More on God's Grace to Israel

In the first three chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses has related the goodness of the Lord in bringing the people through the wilderness in spite of their disobedience, defeating nations beyond the Jordan, and once again offering the land as promised.  After all that, Moses, in Deut 4:1-8, asks the people to obey what God has revealed as a reasonable response as recipients of overflowing goodness and grace.  He does this by combining two important concepts into one plea.

First, the people were to stop and understand how privileged they were to have and know God's will.  Some time ago, Daniel Block, mentioned three specific aspects from these verses.1
•  Torah is normative and canonical by definition (4:1–2)

•  Obedience to Torah was the key to life (4:3–4)
•  Knowledge of Torah was the highest privilege imaginable (4:5–8)

Second, interwoven into the text are phrases describing God's relationship with his people:
•  Land that Lord, the God of your fathers is giving you (1)
•  Word of Lord your God commanded to you (2)
•  Lord your God destroyed all who followed Baal (3)
•  Alive from holding fast to Lord your God (4)
•  Statutes and rules from Lord my God to you (5)
•  Lord your God is near (7)
Each of these describes a separate act or responsibility for the people based on a living relationship with
the Lord.

The response of the Christian today should be no less.  The promises and work of God are grand beyond description and his revelation as fulfilled in Christ and explained through his messengers, the apostolic writers, in the new covenant deserves faithful observance.

1 Daniel I. Block, “The Grace of Torah,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 162 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 2005; 2006): vnp.162.645.7-9.

Monday, May 3, 2010

There Am I

And do not let this also pass unobserved, that He did not say, where two or three are gathered together in My name, there “shall I be” in the midst of them, but “there am I,” not going to be, not delaying, but at the very moment of the concord being Himself found, and being in the midst of them.
Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Book XIV, cap 4

Somewhat in passing, Origen makes this comment on Matthew 18:20. Though the words are few the impact is great. He has been teaching on the harmonious relations found in marriage, the Trinity, and God's word between the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. He ends by turning our attention to Christ's harmonious relationship with the church. When believers are administering the Lord's discipline in the proper manner, Christ promises his presence, and by extension his blessing, on the action and outcome.

We should not take this passage to be applicable to any gathering of believers. To do so disrupts both the intent of this passage and Jesus' intent for believers to be regularly gathered together, functioning as a body. He never intended for splinters to form using this as a sanctioning verse as has been the case. Rather the unity of the body is to be pursued in love fortified by sound doctrine.