August 30, 2011
My wife has been writing some great stuff on her blog. You can read it HERE. How in the world she manages to teach part-time, be a full-time wife and mother, and blog is beyond me!
August 25, 2011
This summer we took a trip to Kerr lake for an afternoon swim. My wife, baby, sister, two labrador retrievers, and I were crammed into our little Buick. Needless to say, we were packed! We had a great afternoon swimming. As the lazy hours at the lake rolled by, we enjoyed watching a group that was swimming a few yards away. It was a church group, and all throughout the afternoon I remember hearing the kids trying to get pastor Eric’s attention: “pastor Eric, look! Pastor Eric.” As the sun began to set, we decided it was time to pile into the car and head home. All the dogs were situated and our gear squeezed in, but we had a problem. Our car would not start! Now it was 7:00 in the evening, and Henderson is not known for being a very friendly town. But I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that we were broken down near a church group. Here is a chance to see brotherly love at work! I approached the church group, who were still splashing in the water, and hollered for a jump-start. They paused, and then replied that none of them had jumper cables in their cars. They continued playing in the water.
Now, I’m not telling this story because I am bitter or to embarrass this church group. I’ve simply been challenged as I’ve thought about their reaction. Here was a perfect opportunity for them to be the good Samaritan, to go out of their way to help someone in need. I understand that this would have meant ending their swimming early for the night, and probably also driving to a nearby gas station to borrow some jumper cables. But the group did not lift a finger or show even an ounce of concern.
But then came the good Samaritan, in the form of a park ranger. This park ranger was exceedingly patient. He drove me a couple of miles down the road to fetch help, he stayed with me as long as I needed, and he ended up solving the problem. One of our battery cables had become slightly loose. He had a wrench and tightened it for me. As we got in the car to go merrily on our way, the park ranger handed us a prized cantaloupe that he had in the cab of his truck. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the kindness of that park ranger.
Now, some may say that the park ranger was doing his job, and that’s true. But, I still can’t help but feel like the church group missed an opportunity. And that makes me ask myself a few questions: Do I help others even when it is inconvenient. Am I willing to interrupt my leisure to love my neighbor? Do I unknowingly miss opportunities to show the extravagant love of Christ?
I was telling a friend this story last week, and he had a very similar story he shared with me. He and his family broke down on the side of the road within eyesight of a church. It was a Sunday night and the church just so happened to be having a business meeting. My friend walked in and asked for some help. The church instructed him to walk down the hallway, take a left, and there would be a phone that he could use. They continued their business meeting.
Sadly, a lot of believers miss opportunities to love their neighbors. May I always be ready to love someone in need — even when I least expect to do so.
August 25, 2011
I hope you get as much pleasure out of this quote as I did today, and that it motivates you to continue writing:
“Reading alound . . . is the nourishment of style; for we imitate most beautifully when our mind has been stamped by beautiful examples. And who would not take pleasure in reading aloud, readily taking in what has been created by the toil of others? Just as it is no help for painters to admire the works of great ones unless they themselves put their hand to painting, so neither the words of older writers nor the multitude of their thoughts nor their purity of language nor harmonious composition, are useful to those who are going to engage in rhetoric unless each student exercises himself everyday in writing” (The Exercises of Aelius Theon, quoted in Kennedy, Progymnasmata, 5-6).
Some thoughts I take away from this:
- Good writers are good readers
- Good writers read good authors, or, as the quote so eloquently says, good writers nourish their minds with beautiful examples
- Good writers read old authors
- Good writers imitate, whether consciously or subconsciously, those whom they read
- Good writers write regularly
August 24, 2011
If you happen to live on the east coast and experienced yesterday’s quake, what were your thoughts? I was at home, quietly typing in my study. Sophie, my black lab, was lying at my feet (her usual spot). When I felt the shaking, I ignored it, thinking Sophie was violently itching herself as she sometimes does. But she was lying still! Immediately I checked on the washing machine to see if it was seriously off track. But it was turned off! Instantly I knew what was happening–earthquake. I grabbed my wife and baby and stood in a doorway as we watched the house quiver(sorry Sophie, you’re on your own). My wife’s tea-pot collection clattered rhythmically. As we waited, my pulse racing, my thoughts wandered to Scripture. I thought of Matthew 24, where Jesus warns that earthquakes are one of the labor pains before his return. As I thought about this, I even wondered if this could be His return, or perhaps my exit.
Now, a day later, I have heard not a few Christians in my area loudly proclaiming that this IS Christ’s return. Our earthquake means Christ will appear on the scene any minute. I STRONGLY DISAGREE! Let me explain why.
You see, earthquakes have been happening for thousands of years. You and I have seen pictures of devastating California quakes, and those pictures have often remained lifeless tales from far away lands. Interestingly, not only was there an earth quake on the east coast yesterday, there was one in Colorado the day before. When the earthquake happened in Colorado, I did not hear a single one of my east coast friends proclaiming THE END. But, when the quakes hit the east coast, now the world is ending.
Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here. There is a temptation to interpret Scripture based on our own relatively small experience of the world. In other words, there is the temptation to proclaim THE END when earthquakes hit our state, but not when they hit the midwest or California. Was the world not ending on those quakes? Or does the world’s end begin in my neighborhood?
I feel I’m not being very clear, and for good reason, since I’m rambling. What I’m trying to say is this: Beware of the danger of reading your immediate circumstances into Scripture, or of interpreting Scripture based on the happenings of your local neighborhood. Earthquakes have been happening and will continue to occur. There will be wars and rumors of war. These are just the birth pains, and things are happening exactly as they were predicted, and all in God’s good timing. Does our earthquake mean the world is ending? No! Christ might come tomorrow, or he might come in another thousand years.
As an example of what I’m saying, let me use Hitler as an illustration. During his evil reign in WWII, many christians confidently said he was the antichrist. But he wasn’t, of course. We know that now, looking back on the scene and with history as an aid. But during the pressures of his reign, those during that time interpreted history based on their immediate circumstances. THEY were experiencing a tyrannical leader, so, in all likelihood, THEY were in the end times and Hitler was the antichrist.
August 23, 2011
So, nothing profound to say right now except that we lived through the earthquake. We are located near Raleigh NC and all of a sudden felt the whole house shaking. We quickly got in a doorway (isn’t that what you are supposed to do?). I am eagerly waiting to hear the official news about what happened with this earthquake. Oh, and it looks like there might be a hurricane coming this way on Saturday. Looks like it’ll be an exciting week!
August 21, 2011
How has your summer reading been going? I’ve enjoyed some pretty good ones so far. Most of my reading has been related to my thesis in James. It’s amazing, with each new article and book I read about the Epistle, I gain another insight into already familiar territory. Outside of my thesis, I’m currently enjoying Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus and Wright’s The New Testament and the People of God. Waiting for me on the shelf are some works by Kierkegaard, Old Testament Theology by Sailhammer, and some on the language of the NT. In my personal devotions, I’m currently reading through Acts and Genesis. I’m also trying to read through Augustine’s The City of God to keep up with Latin. With my 8 month old daughter, I’ve been reading God must really love shapes and God must really love colors.
On a related note, I noticed THIS article this morning about the president’s summer reading list. Looks like he’s been into some fiction lately.
August 13, 2011
I’ve been meditating on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:23 (“But we are preaching Christ crucified”) and have come away with a couple of thoughts:
- Paul continually preached Christ. Is the same true in my life? I’m struck how many times the book of Acts reports that Paul “continued preaching the gospel.” Am I continually preaching the gospel?
- Paul preached the gospel, never as a lone ranger, but always with others. Paul surrounded himself with others who shared the same passion for preaching Christ. I think of the words of Acts 15:35: “But Paul and Barnabas along with many others remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of God.” Shortly afterwards, when Paul and Barnabas split, the first thing Paul did was find someone else to accompany him (Acts 15:40). Am I surrounded by people who preach the gospel? Beware of lone gospel rangers.
- Paul deliberately preached a difficult message — “Christ crucified.” Think with me for a minute about what Paul was doing in Corinth when he says, “but we are preaching Christ crucified.” Paul was focusing on the part of the gospel that the Corinthian culture least wanted to hear: “Jews seeks signs, Greeks seek wisdom . . . but we preach Christ crucified.” Oftentimes there is pressure on those preaching the gospel to contextualize it or to make it palatable to the audience and culture. But think about what Paul was doing. He was choosing to focus on the specific aspect of the gospel that least appealed to the Corinthians. They did not want to hear about some man who died a criminal’s death on the cross. That is so elementary, so foolish! Give us some profundity. Give us something spectacular, then we’ll listen to you. Christ remained the core of Paul’s preaching, no matter what his audience wanted to hear. Am I watering down the gospel message in an attempt to make it appealing to my culture?
August 10, 2011
Bruce Longnecker offers these insights about reading Scripture as it relates to Galatians:
At the most basic level, problems have arisen in Galatia due to a defect on the part of those whose Christian character was being compromised . . . This defect of Christian character has resulted in a compromise of the gospel itself, fuelled first and foremost by an unwise handling of Scripture. In Paul’s view, the ‘hermeneutical debate’ between himself and the agitators was not simply about which scriptural passages are normative and which are not, but about Christian character. The agitators read Scripture incorrectly not simply because they prefer some passages of Scripture that differ from those preferred by Paul. Instead, their errant interpretation arises from a perversion within their character, a character that has not been continuously nurtured by the Spirit. The compromise of Christian character jeopardises reading Scripture for Christian edification . . . The development of Christian character through the power of the Spirit is the prerequisite for the proper reading of Scripture in the Galatian communities. Without a mature, Christian character nurtured by the Spirit, Paul knows that Scripture can be read to support and justify ways of life that oppose the gospel . . . For this reason, his hermeneutical programme is rooted in the more fundamental issue of character, with Christ-like, cruciform character as a presupposition for proper reading of Scripture (The Triumph of Abraham’s God, 170).
August 9, 2011
I’m no economist, but I try to keep somewhat informed about the news. And, while I’m no expert on the economy, I find the topic very interesting. Now, you should know that when it comes to the economy, I’m VERY pessimistic; pessimistic to the point of thinking that America will never recover, and that any supposed good news is simply a spin to try to instill consumer optimism. I think this statement captures my thoughts, “When are we going to wake up and smell the coffee? We can not sustain this way of living as a nation. It is absolutely ludicrous to think that we can. Can you imagine what George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson would say if they could see us now. . . ? We will never be able to pay off our debt, nor will we ever have politicians in our current system of government willing to do so.”
So, now that I’ve told you that I’m pessimistic when it comes to the economy, let me also say that I am very skeptical. I’ve felt skeptical about the economy for a while, but recently I watched the movie Inside Job. Talk about an eye opener! This academy award-winning documentary traces the demise of the economy back in 2008. If you haven’t seen it, you should. One of the things I found most interesting in the movie was its report of the Plunge Protection Team. According to the film, President Reagan formed this team in the ’80′s to protect against a devastating stock plunge. The Team has authority to step in and tweak the market to keep it from bottoming out — and it has done so numerous times.
With this in mind, I kept an eye on the stocks yesterday as they were crashing, wondering if they would mysteriously rally (thanks to the Team?) by the end of the day. They did not. Today, however, was another story. And I am very skeptical that the Fed’s announcement about keeping the interest rates low was enough to cause such a huge rally. I encourage you to google the “Plunge Protection Team.” One interesting article about it can be read HERE.
My thoughts about the recent developments in the economy would by no means be complete without me sharing one last word with you. As I’ve said, I am an economic pessimist who thinks America will never get back to “normal” financially. But as a believer in Christ, I am a Kingdom optimist. You see, my hope, security, and happiness are found, not in the status of the stocks, but in God. I can live in absolute peace knowing and trusting in Him. Ultimately, I anticipate an eternity of pleasure forevermore in his presence. I’m not looking for financial security in this life. My hope is in Him. And I encourage you to look to Him as well, especially more than ever in these unstable economic times.
August 3, 2011
We had a great time at the beach this week. Granddaddy rented a beach house big enough to fit all 25 family members. We celebrated Granddaddy’s 80th birthday, he and Grandma Janice’s 15th anniversary, Grandma Janice’s birthday, Uncle Craig’s birthday, and Kim’s birthday. Melody got to see the ocean for the first time and loved it! HJ and I were so sad to have to come home today. Why can’t beach trips last forever?