Monday, January 31, 2011

Genesis 39 Passage Map

I thought this was kind of interesting. For my hermeneutics class, my professor wants us to "map" passages that we exegete. The process basically consists of breaking a text into "scenes" (figuring out where new ideas / actions / dialogues start and stop) and then chart how the "tension" builds and is resolved in the text. Here's my map for Genesis 39, from the Joseph narrative. The numbers represent the verses that make up each scene. The purpose of an exercise like this is to be able to see the smaller parts that make up a whole and to be able to identify any themes or main ideas that might exist within the passage.

Scene 1: Background Information – 1.
Scene 2: The Lord Favors Joseph – 2-6.
Scene 3: Joseph is Pursued by Potiphar’s Wife – 6-7.
Scene 4: Joseph Refuses to Sin Against God – 8-9.
Scene 5: Joseph is Continuously Pursued by Potiphar’s Wife – 10.
Scene 6: Joseph Flees from Potiphar’s Wife – 11-12.
Scene 7: Joseph is Falsely Accused – 13-18.
Scene 8: Joseph is Imprisoned – 19-20.
Scene 9: The Lord Favors Joseph in Prison – 21-23.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cross-Cultural Definition of Sin

For those of you who have attended Riverview's "Multicultural Kingdom" Sunday School class this past month, here's a copy of T. Wayne Dye's article "Toward a Cross-Cultural Definition of Sin." After thinking about the class today, I don't think I did a good job of representing the ideas that Dye addresses in his article. For example, I think it's safe to say that Dye is certainly not a relativist, nor does he advocate relativism in the article, so if I gave anyone the impression that the article was promoting relativism, then I certainly didn't represent Dye's position well. So you may be better served to just read the article for yourself. I recommend it. And I hope Dye can explain his position better than I did!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

This Too Shall Pass

Long day today. Actually every Thursday is a long day. It's my marathon school day. This quarter, I'm at Bethel every Thursday for approximately 11 hours. It's one of the busiest times of my life, and it's not only hard because the schedule is full and difficult, but also because my time to be with my family is significantly reduced.

After today's craziness, I decided I want to write out my schedule for today so some day I can look back on it and see how God brought me through it (assuming I don't die from it!).

6:36 AM - Wake up. For some reason, I wake up to Jamie right next to me in bed - naked. I don't know where his pajamas or night time diaper are or why he isn't wearing either of them. Thankfully, the bed's dry. But now that I'm up, so is he.

6:37 - Get ready as fast as I can. I need to be out the door by 7:00.

6:55 - My mom shows up to begin her marathon day of babysitting. Beetz has conferences tonight, so my mom will end up having the kids for about 12 1/2 hours. She's a trooper. It kills me that I won't see my kids until right before they go to bed with them tonight. I keep telling them that someday, they'll have a dad.

7:05 - I'm out the door and on my way to Bethel Seminary.

7:25 - Traffic on the exchange from 35E to 694 West. Apparently the weave hasn't been sufficiently "unweaved." Each time I've been out to the seminary early in the morning, there's been significant slowdowns at that exchange. Today was no different

7:45 - Stop at the local Holiday gas station for a breakfast burrito and a large coffee. I don't usually drink coffee because it tends to upset my stomach, but the early morning and long day ahead of me seem to warrant one.

7:55 - Get to my classroom, pull my computer out, and get ready for class.

8:00 - Class starts.

10:00 - First break of the morning - a 15 minute break, which I spend pacing back and forth in the class room. My back tends to tighten up from sitting in the classroom chairs. Walking seems to help.

11::00 - Break #2, this one's a only a five minute break, which I again spend standing, trying to work out the issues in my back.

12:00 PM - First class of the day ends, and I sprint out to my car (which is parked in the commuter lot, which seems like it's a half-mile away). Once in the car, I begin the five minute drive to leave the Bethel grounds and make my way to Holiday (the same one I went to for breakfast). I get a beef and potato burrito and hop back in the car. I eat the burrito on the way back to campus.

1:00 - Second class of the day begins, more long hours of sitting, and more back pain.

3:00 - First break of this class, a 15 minute one. More walking and staring out the window.

4:05 - Second break of the class, another five minute one, spent standing.

5:00 - Second class of the day ends, and I walk briskly to the vending machines in the lower campus center. I get my "supper" which consists of a bag of Funyuns, two Pop Tarts, and a Dr. Pepper. I sit at a small table and eat. I've only got about five minutes to get to my next and final class of the day: Greek.

5:10 - Get to Greek class and get called on to translate a sentence as soon as I sit down.

7:00 - Greek, the last class of the day, is over. I go and get my coat, and begin the long cold trek back to the commuter lot.

7:35 - I pick up the kids at my mom's and bring them home.

8:00 - I get the kids ready for bed, and let them stay up a little later since we haven't seen each other all day.

9:00 - Relaxing on the computer and blogging about my day. I just keeping telling myself, "After this term, and the next term, and the term after that, there're only two terms left!" Oh goody.

This too shall pass. Someday I'll look back on a day like this and smile. Maybe.

Monday, January 24, 2011

John 1 (JSV - Joel Standard Version)

OK, here's John 1 in my Greek translation process. See this post and this post for info on the translation processes. I had previously posted John 14 and 15. Why do those before John 1? Because my teacher assigned me those chapters first. So I figured I'd now start at the beginning of the book. As before, sentences that I am not sure of regarding my own translation I have linked to the NASB rendering. Enjoy.

In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and God was the word. He was in the beginning with God. All things through him became, and apart from him became nothing. That which became in him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. And the light in the darkness brought forth, and the darkness did not lay hold.

A man came from God. The name of him was John. This man came in, testifying, in order to be a witness about the light, in order that all believe on account of him. He was not that light, but in order that he might be a witness about the light. That light was the truth, which gave light to all men, came into the world. In the world, he was, and the world through him was made, and the world did not know him. Into his own he came, and his own did not receive him. But as many as took him, he gave them authority to become children of God, those believing in the name of him, who not from blood, not from the will of flesh, not from the will of a man were born, but born from God.

And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we beheld the glory of him, glory as of begotten from the Father, filled with grace and truth.

John bore witness about him and cried out and said, “This is he of whom is said, ‘After me, coming one is greater than me; he became earlier than me.” But because the filling of him we have all partaken, and grace against grace, because the law, through Moses, was given, the grace and the truth through Jesus Christ became. No one has ever seen God, the begotten God, which is in the bosom of the father, that he has explained.

And this is the testimony of John, when sent to him – the Jews from Jerusalem – priests and Levites in order to question him, “Who are you?”

And he agreed and did not deny, and agreed that “I am not the Christ.”

And they questioned him, “Who, therefore? You are Elijah?”

And he said, “I am not.”

“You are the prophet?”

And he answered, “No.”

Therefore they said to him, “Who are [you]? In order that an answer we can give the ones who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

He said, “I, a voice, crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the road of the Lord, even as he said – Isaiah the prophet.’”

And they were sent from the Pharisees. And they questioned him and said to him, “Why, therefore, are you baptizing if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

John answered them, saying, “I baptize in water. In the midst of you is standing one you do not know. Behind me is coming one which not I am weighing, in order that loose of him the sandal unbound. These things, in Bethany became, beyond the Jordan where John was baptizing.

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, the one who takes up the sins of the world. This is he in behalf of whom I said, “Behind me is coming a man who in front of me became, because before me he was. And I did not recognize him, but in order that he be made manifest to Israel through this coming, I, in water, am baptizing.

And John bore witness, saying that, “I have seen the Spirit come down as a dove from heaven, and abide on him, and I did not recognize him, but the one who sent me to baptize in water, that one to me said, “Upon he whom you see the Spirit come down and abide upon him, this is one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit. As you see, and bear witness that this is the Son of God.”

On the next day again, John was standing and with two disciples of him, and he looked to Jesus as he was walking. He said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” And they heard, the two disciples of him, what was said, and they followed Jesus.

But Jesus turned and looked upon them following, and he said to them, “Who are you seeking?”

They said to him, “Rabbi (which is to say, teacher), where are you abiding?”

He said to them, “Come and see.”

They came, therefore, and saw where he was abiding, and beside him they abided that day. It was the tenth hour.

Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter – one of the two who heard from John – and followed him. He found this one earlier than his brother Simon, and he said to him, “We have found the Messiah (that is, which means, Christ). He took him to Jesus. Jesus looked to him, and he said, “You are Simon, the son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated, Peter).

The next day he desired to go out into Galilee, and he came upon Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”

But Philip was from Bethsaida, from the city of Andrew and of Peter. Philip came upon Nathanael and he said to him, “He whom Moses wrote in the law and the prophets we find, Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

And Nathanael said to him, “Is anything good able to come from Nazareth?”

Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him and said about him, “Behold, a true Israelite in whom deceit, there is none.”

Nathanael said to him, “From where do you know me?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, you were by the fig tree. I saw you.”

Nathanael said to him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God. You are the king of Israel.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said that I saw you under the fig tree, you believe? Greater than this you will see.”

And he said to him, “Truly, truly I say to you, you will see the sky open and the angels of God go up and come down upon the Son of Man.”

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thoughts On Jeremiah 33.3

The most popular song in our house at the moment, (and for the past two years, actually) is "Call to Me," a song put out by Seeds Family Worship. It's a very catchy tune that has for its lyrics the NIV rendering of Jeremiah 33.3: "Call to me and I will answer you, and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."

My kids love this song. I've taken to singing with them on my guitar every night before bed, and this is the first song they ask to sing every night. Even Han tries her best to sing the words, and it gets especially cute when she tries to say, "Jeremiah 33.3."

I've been thinking about this verse more in-depth recently, and actually the whole idea of learning verses through songs. While helpful with memory work, learning a verse in the form of a song can tend to rip the verse out of context and make a person think that it means something that the context never even remotely hints at. For example, I hope my kids won't grow up thinking that God will give them great and unsearchable test answers that they do not know! Don't get me wrong - I probably know at least 50 verses by heart from listening to G.T. & the Halo Express when I was a kid, and I really value the fact that I was able to learn those verses through song.

So what are these "great and unsearchable things" God promises to reveal to those who call on him? The seven habits of highly successful people? How to strike it rich? Vast scientific knowledge? Nope. You have to read the verse in context for Jeremiah 33.3 to really make sense.

In chapter 32 Jeremiah relives God's faithfulness to the nation of Israel throughout the ages. This reminiscing is in stark contrast to the fact that God is in the process of meting out severe judgement against Judah. But while this just judgment is taking place, God is talking about restoration: the restoration of his people and their land, and the bringing of both back into his good graces. So then, what are the great and unsearchable things you do not know?" God's plan of salvation through repentance and faith.

But this is something the sinner under judgment can't "know." If you think about it, the sinner - only concerned with himself - has no need for forgiveness or restoration, because he doesn't believe he has done anything wrong. In fact, the sinner is not able to "know" salvation through repentance and faith because the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing. Presumably, those in Judah didn't "know" about these things because they were so blinded by their own sins that they couldn't see the will of God (although they certainly saw enough of it to justify their punishment).

Sometimes it takes judgment to be able to see these things. God's goodness contrasted against man's sinfulness can prove to be a serious wake up call. In most cases, it takes judgment (or knowledge of impending judgment) for sinners to call out to God. It's only when a person realizes how worthy they are of God's judgment that they are open to hearing about how to escape judgment and be restored. Put simply, you won't care about a Savior unless you know you need to be saved.

God was telling the people of Judah to call out to him while they were in sin so he could tell them great and unsearchable things they did not know: restoration and forgiveness. They certainly had no knowledge of these things while they were in sin. In order to learn about them, they had to call out to God.

It's so cool that God has put this verse in the hearts of my kids, and that they love it so much. They have no idea what it means at this point in their lives, but I pray they will. It's so vitally essential. My kids, like the people of Judah, are in sin and need to call out to God, and he will be faithful to tell them of the way of salvation - the "great and unsearchable things" they do not know.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Breath of Fresh Air

Last week I whined about some aspects of my seminary experience thus far. There have been good points and bad points. I also said how I transferred out of my advanced placement hermeneutics class. Well, the class I transferred into has been great (after a grand total of 2 hours of class time)! I think the difference has to do with my professor. Thanks, Dr. Vogt, for your balanced, fair way of presenting the material. And thanks, Dr. Moritz, for telling me that Dr. Vogt was probably the most conservative teacher in the hermeneutics department.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Psalm 16

This psalm seems appropriate for today (or any day, for that matter, but especially today):

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you." As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my(H) lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being[e] rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Our Exciting Day

It's 9:36 PM right now, and it's been a long day. Last night at about 7:30 PM, our Bible study group was just leaving our house. Our kids really look forward to Fridays because all of our friends come over with all their kids, and a lot of playing and craziness ensues. By the time everyone was leaving, Betsy was holding the Hanburger as we were starting to get ready for bed, and Betsy noticed that Hannah seemed warm. She took her temperature and it came back at 101. We didn't think that much of it (Ferg had been just a little sick during the week). That night, about 2:00 AM, Hannah woke up crying and coughing. Betsy went into her room, and Hannah proceeded to cough/throw up a lot of phlegm. Betsy gave her a nebulizer treatment, and she fell right back to sleep. At about 6:00 AM, Hannah woke up again doing the same thing, except this time her cough was a lot worse. She coughed up a lot of phlegm again. What was happening was she was coughing up a lot of phlegm into her throat which caused her to gag, and she ended up kind of gagging out a lot of gross yellow stuff. It was not a pleasant thing to watch or listen to as it happened.

By 9:00 AM this morning, Beetz and I felt she should be seen, so Betsy took her to an urgent care center. They said she probably had croup, and maybe pneumonia. They prescribed steroids for the croup and an antibiotic for the supposed pneumonia (I say "supposed" because it turns out she doesn't have pneumonia, which makes me wonder why they would prescribe her medicine without knowing what she had).

Anyway, I went to get some things done at the church while the kids were down for nap (1:00 PM). I had quite a bit to do today to get ready for the "big show" on Sunday. Also, we had arranged to buy 1/4 of a cow and I was scheduled to pick up my share of the beef this afternoon. By 1:30, Betsy called me and said she was ready to call 911. Han's breathing had become very irregular and labored. I could actually hear her wheezing in the background as I talked to Betsy on the phone. I told Betsy not call 911 yet, and that I was coming home, and that we could take her to the ER. So I left the beef and started driving home. On my way home, Betsy called me again and said she really thought we should call 911. Hannah's breathing was very labored, and she couldn't seem to get any breath. So we called 911 and the ambulances came right away.

By the time they arrived, Jamie had awoken from his nap. I tried to reassure him by telling him to look at the cool trucks that had come to our house. We just told him that Hannah was sick and needed to see the doctor, which he seemed to be OK with. The paramedics wanted to bring Hannah to the hospital to get her some treatment, and we agreed. As Betsy and Hannah got into the ambulance, I had Jamie look out the window to watch the trucks. At some point, he caught on to the seriousness of the situation, because as Betsy and Han were getting into one of the ambulances, he watched and screamed "Hannah! Hannah Jane!" It was incredibly touching to see how much he cared for his little sister and was concerned for her well-being. What a great big brother.

The hospital confirmed the diagnosis of croup, and added that it was a pretty serious case. Each time they medicated her for the croup her breathing improved, but once the medicine wore off it became labored again. The doctors decided that Hannah needed to stay at the hospital to be monitored. The medication wasn't "sticking," so keeping her in the hospital seemed the smart thing to do.

So that's where she is right now. Betsy is with her at the hospital, and Jamie and I are at home. I was able to tell him that Mom and Han are having a sleepover at the hospital, and he seemed OK with that. I wish we could have taken him to see her, but the hospital doesn't allow visitors under five years old for fear of spreading germs, which is understandable.

Han's cough is still really bad, and she's still gagging on a lot of phlegm. She's pretty uncomfortable. Every time she coughs you can tell she's in a lot of pain. It sounds as if someone has replaced her throat with two pieces of 60 grit sandpaper and they're rubbing together every time she coughs (in fact, when the doctor came into the room for the first time, Han coughed, and she said, "That's a croup cough! Where are my med students? They should be here, because that's a textbook croup cough.")

All in all, it's been an interesting day. I've never had to take one of my kids to the hospital in an emergency situation before. I've never had to watch one of them struggle to breath before. It makes a parent feel powerless, but it turns out that's the perfect place to be.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Ready to be Done

OK, I've been in seminary for three years now, and I'm ready to be done. Today marked my first full day of classes for the winter quarter at Bethel Seminary. For this term, I'm continuing on in my Greek studies (with the same professor I had last quarter), I started an advanced placement hermeneutics class (advanced placement because I've already done graduate level hermeneutics, but Bethel won't acknowledge my credits from Sioux Falls seminary as being satisfactory in this area), and an Old Testament History course (which I've also already done at Sioux Falls, but the same thing applies in this area as well - not full credit). It's been a long, challenging road, and I think I'm beginning to see the pinhole that is the light at the end of my seminary tunnel. It can't come quick enough.

There have been many reasons why seminary has been challenging. The biggest one has been the effect it's had on my family. Going to school requires a lot of time away from family spent studying and going to classes. When I was going to school at Sioux Falls this was less of an issue because I was taking classes online. Now that I'm at Bethel, I'm gone for 3 hours one night of the week, and all day on another day of the week (which happens to be my day off from work!). Then pretty much every night after the kids go to bed I'm either doing school work or catching up on my regular work until I go to bed. It's a grueling schedule. Throw into the mix trying to maintain a marriage, and it gets even more difficult.

The reason for having to transfer from Sioux Falls to Bethel was because the Association of Theological Schools (the organization that accredits schools like Sioux Falls and Bethel) requires students to take a certain number of credits in an on-campus setting, all for the sake of establishing community. I think this is a bogus reason, though, and it should be re-examined by the ATS. For someone in my situation (working full time in ministry, married with kids, etc.) I've got all the community I need. I'm connected with the people at my church; I'm connected with my family and close friends. I don't need yet another network of people to interact with and get to know. That sounds rude, but consider this: in forcing me to take classes on-campus for the sake of the "community of learning" that exists there, I am forced to sacrifice the community relationships I already have (family, church, etc.). So in insisting on their community, these restrictions do damage to the existing communities I'm already a part of. Kind of ironic.

Another reason I'm ready to be done with seminary is that I am beginning to become disenfranchised with the academic establishment. Higher education should be a free marketplace of ideas, where all views and ideas are given equal consideration. And in my experience at Sioux Falls and Bethel, both schools have confessed an ideology such as this one. The reality has been significantly different, however. I have found that most professors are more interested in a closed marketplace of ideas that consists of the his or her ideas and not much else. But still, these same professors claim to be open to anything. It's rather dishonest. In many cases, the actual classroom environment that exists is one of condemning the traditional (and often times conservative) view and belittling those who adhere to it.

This was the case in my advanced placement hermeneutics course I just started yesterday. I couldn't have felt any lower, sitting in that class. I was basically told that everything I think is wrong, and that I don't care about hermeneutics or good methods of interpretation. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have good reason to believe the things that I believe, and I think I can provide an adequate case for the validity of my beliefs. And if one of my views is challenged and found wanting, I'm willing to change it or adopt a different view. But the professor presented my views in such an uneven-handed way, and he made people who subscribe to those views look so ignorant, that I just kept my mouth shut (for the most part - I did comment at a few junctures). The difficult thing for students who find themselves with a different view than the professor's is that the professor has had years and years to study and perfect his view, while the student has probably only thought about the matters superficially at the least, or maybe done a small amount of study on the matter at the most. This makes for a pretty unfair intellectual fight. So the student usually submits to the professor's superior knowledge on the subject, and thus the closed marketplace of ideas takes over.

In the case of my hermeneutics class, after the class was over, I left the room and walked straight to the registrar's office and dropped the class. I can't take it. It's not that I can't take the opposing viewpoints or arguments, or that I can't handle the academic demands of the course, but rather that I can't stomach the idea of sitting in that kind of environment for the next 10 weeks.

I'm also sick of a lot of professors whose theology and/or ecclesiology turns into liberal social commentary, and then insisting that such theology/sociology is the norm of Christians and/or scripture, and then basing grades on the students' conformity to those beliefs. While I was at Sioux Falls, I respectfully refused to complete an assignment because I couldn't do it in good conscience. The assignment had to do with conforming the student's ministry to that of Shane Claiborn, which I could not do in good conscience. Thankfully the professor acknowledged my objection and let me complete the assignment using different material. But the problem remains: don't base my grades on your own political ideologies.

Don't get me wrong: I have no problem with spirited debate or disagreement. In fact, some times its necessary. But those exchanges need to be done respectfully and with open minds - on both sides of the argument. The students and professors need to approach disagreements in the same way.

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the very positive parts of my seminary experience too. Along with all the bad professors and bad experiences I've had, I've also had a lot of good ones. My current Greek prof is maybe the best professor I've had in seminary so far. He's a great guy, he loves what he's teaching, and he loves what he's doing. It's a real pleasure to be learning from him. My systematic theology prof at Sioux Falls was also a great guy. He and I had a number of significant theological disagreements, but we were able to treat each other with respect and friendship. I talked to him on the phone before I left Sioux Falls (he was also my faculty advisor) and he told me that our relationship had "ministered" to him. That's what the educational experience in a Christian institution should be like: our disagreements with and challenges to one another should result in edification. Some profs get this, and some don't. Actually, most don't (at least in my experience).

Vladimir Kharlamov was also a great teacher. He gave you nothing but straight up lectures, but he was good. And he was open. The most fascinating lecture I've ever heard (about the Counter Reformation) was in his class. My New Testament prof at Sioux Falls was also a great encouragement to me.

I think the key to a successful and enjoyable seminary experience is humility, and humility all around. Professors need to humble themselves; they don't know everything. And just because they're really smart doesn't mean they're always right. Students need to humble themselves. They will encounter new ideas that seem strange and wrong, but intellectual honesty requires a sincere examination of opposing points of view.

The theme of the rest of my seminary experience is going to be Philippians 4.13. I'm not in literal chains, but sometimes it feels like it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lecrae and Trip Lee Interview

“…with this resurgence of reformed teaching and thinking…there hasn’t been very many genres of music that articulated the robust theology and passion for Jesus, and hip hop has been a perfect vehicle for it.”

Amen to that.

If you don't know who these guys are, they're worth taking a listen to here, and then go buy there stuff on iTunes. It's innovative music, and it's preaching the gospel with no punches pulled. Really good stuff. Even if hip hop's not your thing (it isn't really my thing, but these guys are really good).

Justin Taylor Interview: Lecrae Moore and Trip Lee from Crossway on Vimeo.

Trusting God

I had the opportunity to preach the message at this morning's worship service at Riverview. Pastor Wick was out of town, and I was happy to fill in for him.

The text I chose to preach on was Joshua 11.1-9. I've posted about this text before, but I've been thinking about it a lot, and hence decided to preach on it when I got the chance.

I think the main message of the narrative is to trust God, and that we don't need things in life like horses and chariots because we have God. One of the points in my sermon is that we tend to trust God only to an extent, and we usually have a backup plan just in case God doesn't come through for us. The only problem with this line of thinking is that having a backup plan is not complete and absolute trust. It's only partial trust. We sometimes don't trust God to provide for us, so we tend to take matters into our own hands...just in case.

My biblical example of this was 1 Chronicles 18.4. David acquires 1,000 horses and chariots by way of winning a battle, and he decides that he trusts God enough to hamstring 900 of the horses and leave 100 horses to be used with chariots...just in case. Why not hamstring all 1,000 horses? Why leave 100 left over? I think it was so he had an insurance plan, just in case God didn't come through for him. Did David trust God? Yes, but not totally. For whatever reason, David felt that he needed a backup plan.

Now, I've been thinking about something that didn't make it into my sermon (I didn't include it in the sermon because I didn't want to cause confusion, or leave any matters unresolved): if we are supposed to trust God for everything, how do Christians justify things like insurance or retirement accounts? Why don't we say, "I am trusting God to keep me healthy. And if I do get sick, I will trust God to find a way to cover my medical costs." And why don't we ever say, "I am not going to save or invest for retirement. I will trust God to give me what I need to live, and I will invest the money I would have saved for retirement into the kingdom now." If we believe that God will provide and care for us, and supply all our needs according to his riches in glory, then couldn't someone suggest that the same should apply for things like insurance and retirement savings?

There are two answers to this question, I think. Here's what I would say: 1) Yes. We should trust God with things like our health, covering health care costs, and retirement savings. For some, it could definitely be a matter of conviction, and they should do as the Spirit leads. I know a couple from our church who recently canceled their health insurance for this very reason. They felt convicted that having health insurance was detracting from their total dependence upon God. For them, canceling their health insurance was the right thing to do. I totally support them in their decision. In fact, their faith is an encouragement to me.

2) The second way I would answer this is that we could say that things like insurance and investing for retirement are God's means of providing for us. In this sense, we trust God by using the methods that he has so graciously provided to us.

Either way you look at it, it's got to be a personal decision that comes as a result of much prayer and searching of the scriptures. For some, it would be a sin to depend on insurance and retirement saving. For others, not so much. I, myself hold a life insurance policy worth a significant amount of money. I feel that God has provided my family with this policy as a way of providing for my family if I were to die. That being said, I am not currently saving for retirement, nor do I plan to start, unless God were to change my thinking dramatically (Is there a conflict there? Maybe. After all, what is saving for retirement if not an insurance policy? I need to ask God to show me what to do with that.). Personally, I feel that doing so would violate my trust in God's provision. I also think there are much better things I could be doing with my money besides putting it away for a period of my life that is far from guaranteed. I may not even live to retirement, so why save money for something I don't even know is going to happen (I think there's some biblical support for this line of thinking, too)? But that's just me. And I don't think that I can universally apply that line of thinking to all Christians. Nor can my friends at church tell other people that they need to cancel their medical insurance or they're not trusting God. God is a personal God, who deals with all people individually where they're at.

What it really boils down to is all Christians humbling themselves, searching the scriptures, and determining for themselves - with the Spirit's guidance - what trusting God looks like for them. For some people it may be no medical insurance; for others it may mean not saving for retirement; for some it might mean giving half of their paycheck to the church; for still others it might mean having a mother quit her job to stay home and homeschool her kids while her husband goes to work to provide. Who knows? If you want to know how you can trust God more, just ask him, and be open to how he will lead. It might not be easy, but it will definitely be worth it. And God is certainly trustworthy enough for you to cast your cares on him.

Monday, January 3, 2011

John 15 (JSV - Joel Standard Version)

Here's another installment in my Greek translation adventures. One interesting thing about translating is that the translator gets to decide where to put the periods and paragraph breaks. This is true with my translation as well. The translator tries to follow the flow of the author's thought and then translate it accordingly.

Also, I tried something a bit different this time. I've linked sentences or phrases where I was unsure of a good translation to the NASB rendering of the verse or sentence. I didn't use an English translation as a guide at all on this chapter, so some sections are undoubtedly a little rough (hopefully not heretical!).

One final comment: my classmates and I have joked about how a literal translation makes it sound as if Yoda from Star Wars was doing the talking. While this is kind of funny, I actually find it to be helpful in my translation process. The order in which words are placed in a sentence does not matter in the Greek language (at least to some extent), so a literal English translation usually sounds like Yoda (see this post for more on the Yoda-speak).


“I myself am the true vine and the Father of me is the vinedresser. Every branch in me not bearing fruit, he removes it, and every fruit that is bearing, he prunes it in order that more fruit it may bear. Already clean, you are, through the word which I have spoken to you. You abide in me and I in you. Even as the branch is not able to bear fruit of itself when it does not dwell in the vine, so neither you, when not in me you are dwelling. I myself am the vine, you are the branches. The one who dwells in me and I in him, this one bears much fruit, since apart from me you are not able to do anything. If anyone does not abide in me he is cast outside, as the branch is withered and they are gathered and in the fire are thrown and are burned. If you dwell in me and the words of me in you abide, whatever you want, you will ask, and it will be done to you. In this is glorified the Father of me, in order that fruit – much you will bear – and you will become my disciples. As you loved the Father of me, and I you loved, abide in the love of me. If the commandments of me you are keeping, you will abide in the love of me, as I the Father’s commandments have kept and I abide in him in his love.

“These things I spoke to you in order that joy in you is, and the joy of you may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I loved you. Greater than this love no one has, that someone, the life of him he lay down in behalf of the friends of him. You are the friends of me if you do that which I command you to. No longer I say you are servants, since the servant does not know what he is doing – the master. But you I have called friends, because all things which I heard about the Father of me I made known to you.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and I appointed you in order that you should go and bear fruit, and the fruit of you may remain, that anything you may ask the Father in the name of me he may give to you. These things I am commanding to you, in order that you love one another.

“If the world is hating you, you know that me first of you it has hated. If out of the world you were, the world would love its own, but since out of the world you are not, I chose you from the world. On account of this the world hates you.

“Remember the word that I myself said to you: a servant is not greater than the master of him. If me they persecuted, also you they will persecute. If the word of me they kept, also yours they will keep. But all these things they will do to you on account of the name of me, because they do not know the one who sent me. If not I came and spoke to them, sin not they have. But now an excuse not they have about the sins of them. The one who hates me, also the Father of me he hates. If the works not I did in them which no one else has done, sin not they have. But now they have seen and have hated both me and the Father of me. But in order that the word may be fulfilled in the law of them that is written that they have hated me without cause.

“When comes the helper whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth from the Father proceeds. That one will testify about me. And you also testify, because from the beginning with me you are.”

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Prayer for 2011

The Valley of Vision offers this prayer as a way of looking back to what God has done in the past year, and what he will do in the year to come.

O Love Beyond Compare, thou art good when thou givest, when thou takest away, when the sun shines upon me, and when night gathers over me. Thou hast loved me before the foundation ofthe world, and in love didst redeem my soul. Thou dost love me still, in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, and distrust. Thy goodness has been with me during another year, leading my through a twisting wilderness, in retreat helping me to advance, when beaten back making sure headway.

Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead; I hoist sail and draw up anchor, with thee as the blessed pilot of my future as of my past. I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead. If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation, thou wilt be with me in them. If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation, I shall not drown. If I am to die, I shall see thy face the sooner. If a painful end is to be my lot, grant me grace that my faith fail not. If I am to be cast aside from the service I love, I can make no stipulation. Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial, as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use.