February 28, 2011
I’m struck by Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:7, “But when you all pray, do not babble on and on like most people, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.” Several things about this verse caught my attention:
1) I often (mistakenly) evaluate the quality of my personal prayer-time by length, wordiness, and eloquence.
2) This often keeps me from praying because honestly I do not feel like stringing together “fine” prayers.
3) Jesus teaches that my notion of prayer is different than his — according to him, effective prayer is often short, to the point, direct, and brief.
4) Jesus often modeled this in his own life. Most of his recorded prayers (excluding John 17, which may be considered an exception since he says he prayed this for the benefit of those who were listening) were extremely short, often only a sentence.
5) It seems that the brevity of the Lord’s prayer is often overlooked and down-played. In Matthew the prayer seems to occur in the context of Jesus’ teaching about the brevity of prayer. Context shows that Jesus has just told his disciples to pray without using many words (6:7) and to pray briefly since God already knows their requests (6:8). He then speaks the prayer (6:9-13), and in a matter of 5 verses seems to model the kind of “short prayer” about which he has just taught.
6) There will, at times, be the need for long, all night prayer sessions. The Gospels often mention Jesus having such prayer times, but do not tell us the content of his prayers on these occasions (wouldn’t you love to know what Jesus prayed on such nights? Sometimes it seems the content is hinted at, such as when he prayed all night and then immediately selected his disciples).
When I take Jesus’ words about prayer to heart, I find my own prayer life strengthened. No longer do I judge the effectiveness of my prayers by their length or verboseness, and this God-blessed simplicity fuels my prayer life. I can simply talk to God, and when I’ve told him what is on my heart — even if it is only a few short sentences — that is okay.
February 26, 2011
18 Continue praying for us; we are confident that we have kept our conscience clean and acted nobly. 19 Pray fervently, so that I may be at your side even sooner. 20-21 And now, may you be strengthened by God himself, the very same one who raised our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, out of death’s clutches since Jesus’ blood enacted an eternal covenant. Yes, may you be strengthened by Him in every good work so that you may always do His will, as God continues helping you to please Him through the aid of Jesus, to whom is the glory forever and ever.
22 I challenge you, brothers and sisters, put up with this word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter. 23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released, and as soon as he comes we hope to visit you together. 24 Greet all your leaders and the whole church. Those here in Italy send you their greetings. 25 May grace be with you all, amen (This was written to the Hebrews from Italy through Timothy).
18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
22 Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.
23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.
24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.
25 Grace be with you all.
18-21 Pray for us. We have no doubts about what we’re doing or why, but it’s hard going and we need your prayers. All we care about is living well before God. Pray that we may be together soon.
May God, who puts all things together,
makes all things whole,
Who made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus,
the sacrifice of blood that sealed the eternal covenant,
Who led Jesus, our Great Shepherd,
up and alive from the dead,
Now put you together, provide you
with everything you need to please him,
Make us into what gives him most pleasure,
by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah.
All glory to Jesus forever and always!
Oh, yes, yes, yes.
22-23 Friends, please take what I’ve written most seriously. I’ve kept this as brief as possible; I haven’t piled on a lot of extras. You’ll be glad to know that Timothy has been let out of prison. If he leaves soon, I’ll come with him and get to see you myself.
24 Say hello to your pastoral leaders and all the congregations. Everyone here in Italy wants to be remembered to you.
25 Grace be with you, every one.
February 23, 2011
“The gospel is not simply about meeting people’s needs. The gospel is also a critique of our needs, and attempt to give us needs worth having” (Willimon, 95, quoted by Tidball, Ministry by the Book, 65).
February 22, 2011
Das Brot ißt das Kind.
What is the subject here and how do you know?
February 22, 2011
A friend on Facebook writes,
Just in case there was any doubt……this is not the day and age where going door to door selling cleaning products, vacuum cleaners, pictures, books, meat or socks to women who are home alone is the acceptable thing to do. If I wanted those items, I feel pretty confident I know where to find them. Please take your unmarked vehicles and whatever you are selling, elsewhere. Thanks!
In addition to the items listed by my friend, I can think of how her thoughts might carry implications for some of our tactics as believers, can’t you?
February 20, 2011
John Piper has written a book entitled Brothers, We are Not Professionals. I’ve never read it, but the title got me thinking that another book could be written, Brothers, We are Not Apostles. You see, I often find scriptural passages that describe the apostles applied today towards pastors. For instance, if you read the book of Acts and the appointing of servants to wait on tables, you will often hear that that means pastors should not neglect the word and prayer. But Acts said that the apostles, not pastors, did that. Or, if you read commentaries on 2 Cor 5 where Paul writes, “We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were making his appeal through us . . . ” you will find that many, many commentators conclude the “we” refered only to Paul and the apostles. So in discussing that passage, commentators often find its application only for pastors and professional ministers.
So where do we get the notion that pastors fill the role of apostles? Tidball writes that apostles “are not shown to be congregational leaders except in the sense of leading first congregations in Jerusalem for a brief time. . . . The apostles often appear to be ‘after the event’ people rather than the sorts of proactive strategic leaders so prized today. Furthermore, they are not shown as holders of an office that has to be transmitted to succeeding generations” (Tidball, Ministry by the Book, 91). Similarly, Bartlett writes, “They represent the circle of unique, irreplaceable witnesses to the ministry and resurrection of Jesus. With their death, apostleship ceases in the church” (Bartlett, Ministry, 115).
Perhaps, then, we are wrong in assuming Apostolic functions are transferred to pastors and elders. What would happen if, when reading of the appointing of servants to wait on tables in Acts 6, we assumed that role was passed to pastor/elders. Bartlett writes, “It may also be that the responsibilities assigned to the seven in Acts 6 here have passed on to the elders as well” (Bartlett, Ministry, 133). And Tidball concludes, “There seems great wisdom in the growing consensus that rather than occupying an office, elders were simply those older men [hence the word "elder"] in the congregation who were respected and recognized for their experience and wisdom” (Tidball, 94).
So brothers, we are not apostles. Never have been, never will be.
February 19, 2011
I am compiling a list of NT professors currently teaching in Germany and Switzerland, hoping to put together a list similar to Dunelm’s for the UK. Please offer corrections when I place someone at the wrong institution, and please let me know if you come across any blogs by these professors. Also, this list is a work in progress and will be regularly expanded and added to.
Publications (see above)
Focus: Romans, Catholic Epistles, Theology and Exegesis
This link has moved to the top of my web page. Please click the permanent link at the heading of the website entitled “NT Profs in Germany”
February 17, 2011
I attended my first German conversation meetup last night. I have mixed feelings about how it went. For one thing, it got off to a little bit of a rocky start. Since I was quickly recognized as the “new guy,” I was asked to tell a little bit about myself. When I was asked whether or not I had been to Germany, I responded, “No, but I’m hoping to go in a month or two.” They asked, “Where will you be going?” I said, “Heidelberg, Tübingen, and a few other places.” They asked, “Are you going for studies?” I said, “Yes.” They asked, “What kind of studies?” I said, “Neutestamentliche Wissenshaft.” There was brief silence, then one lady loudly said, “Neutestamentliche Wissenshaft? That is not a Wissenshaft! Wissenshaft is science. No, that is not Wissenshaft.” Not prepared for such a confrontation, I tried to explain that the Germans consider it to be. I was then asked where I could possibly perform such studies. I reminded them of what I had originally said, “Heidelberg, Tübingen, Bonn, etc.” This caused a lively debate around the table, some of the native Germans spoke up on my behalf, explaining that, yes, in Germany, there is such a field of Wissenshaft. They explained that my confrontor was confusing Wissenshaft with Natur Wissenshaft.
So much for making a quiet entrance. So much for my grand hopes of listening and observing and scoping things out. Other than this incident, there was some conversation to be had. Of the 10 or 11 people in attendance, I think 3 were native speakers. The facilitator spoke with a strong Southern twang (it was almost comical, like someone who is deliberately trying to sound like a foreigner, or even jesting at the language).
Sadly, there was just as much English heard last night as there was German. I think such a club should have a no English policy, especially since some of us have an hour-long drive. Somehow, I managed to get the last available seat at the table, right in between the native speakers. Perhaps we’ll be able to connect outside of scheduled club meetings.
February 15, 2011
I found these instructions for typing in French extremely useful (click HERE). Note that you must enable the international English keyboard.
February 15, 2011
1 Don’t stop loving each other. 2 Never tire of welcoming people into your home, for some have opened their doors to angels. 3 Be so concerned for those in prison, as if you shared jail cells together, and for those suffering wrong, as if your very body ached.
4 Keep your marriage vows impeccably and your marriage bed immaculate, for the immoral and unfaithful will be judged by God. 5 Don’t get cozy with your cash, be satisfied with the balance in your bank account, Knowing that God said,
“As long as you live
Never, absolutely never,
would I even think about leaving you in a lurch
or forsaking you.”
6 This emboldens us to declare,
“God is my help,
I will not be timid,
what will man do to me?”
7 Remember those leaders who spoke the word of God to you. imitate their faith by considering how they lived their lives. 8 Yesterday and today Jesus is the same, and forever! 9 Don’t be fooled by various obscure teachings — be enriched by grace, not by ritualistic, valueless rules about meats. 10 We have an altar — the cross — from which those looking for salvation in Jewish sacrifices have no part. 11 The high priest brings animal blood to sacrifice in the Holy of Holies (the animal itself is considered unclean and is taken outside the camp where it is completely burned up). 12 Like those sacrifices of the old covenant, Jesus also suffered outside the city in order to bring about holiness for a people by his own blood. 13 Let us go to him outside the camp, bearing the same disgrace he bore. 14 For we are not concerned about the transient city of this life, but are filled with anticipation for the city that awaits us.
15 Let’s never stop praising God through Jesus, confessing his name no matter the cost. This is the type of sacrifice we offer. 16 And speaking of sacrifices, let me remind you to do good and to share life with each other.
17 Express confidence towards those who lead you and have submissive attitudes towards them, since they will give an account for how they watched you. Do this so that their job will be pleasant rather than toilsome, and to avoid bringing harm upon yourselves.
1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
6 So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”
7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
1-4 Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you. Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.
5-6 Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote,
God is there, ready to help;
I’m fearless no matter what.
Who or what can get to me?
7-8 Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness. There should be a consistency that runs through us all. For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.
9 Don’t be lured away from him by the latest speculations about him. The grace of Christ is the only good ground for life. Products named after Christ don’t seem to do much for those who buy them.
10-12 The altar from which God gives us the gift of himself is not for exploitation by insiders who grab and loot. In the old system, the animals are killed and the bodies disposed of outside the camp. The blood is then brought inside to the altar as a sacrifice for sin. It’s the same with Jesus. He was crucified outside the city gates—that is where he poured out the sacrificial blood that was brought to God’s altar to cleanse his people.
13-15 So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This “insider world” is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let’s take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus’ name.
16 Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.
17 Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?