January 31, 2012
This year I’m reading through a synopsis of the Gospels. Conveniently, the Gospels are divided into 367 passages, which makes it possible to read a passage a day and finish by the end of the year. I found one of my readings last week very interesting. The only way I could figure out how to show you was by taking a picture for you to see:
This passage is about the cleansing of the temple and is included in all four Gospels. On the far right side of the picture is Luke’s narrative, which in very few words explains that he (Jesus) went into the temple and began to cast out those selling goods. When you look at the middle column, it quickly becomes clear that the wording in Mark favors Luke in this part rather than Matthew: Mark and Luke both say in the exact same way that Jesus entered in the temple and began to cast out the sellers. Matthew’s language, however, is slightly different. The strange part is that after this introductory clause in which Mark and Luke are identical, Mark and Matthew then become identical, recounting how Jesus overturned the tables and the chairs.
The reason this is interesting to me is that it relates to the question of which Gospel was written first. Most would say that Mark was first. If that’s the case, then Luke and Matthew both borrowed from Mark in this passage. One can see, however, how things could be argued the other way; if Matthew was the first written, then Luke, and finally Mark, who pieced together segments from both Gospel.
One other point that is interesting about this passage (the above picture is from the next page, where the cleansing of the temple continues), is how each author tells the story from a slightly different angle. Notice that in Matthew, Jesus says “You are making it [the temple] a den of thieves.” Thus, Matthew emphasizes the present continuation of their (sinful) actions. In Mark, however, Jesus says, “you have made it a den of thieves,” emphasizing that their past action has results that continue in the present — i.e., because of what you did, it is still a den of thieves even now. Luke writes, “you made it a den of thieves,” viewing their action as a whole. Finally, John (whose passage could not fit in the above picture) writes, “stop making it a place of business.”
So, these are two simple observations I made while reading a synopsis of the Gospels. I hope to make many more while reading the Gospels this year.
January 28, 2012
Today I finished George Bailey’s Germans: Biography of an Obsession. There were so many excellent points, in fact I scribbled and underlined on nearly every page. I also found Bailey fascinating, especially his interest in languages. Bailey’s first exposure to the German language came at the age of 12 when he began spending summers in the wilderness of Washington state with his lumberjack German uncle. Then at the age of 16 Bailey began working in a kitchen on a midwestern train, where he was surrounded by Germans and Poles and Czechs and Russians. Bailey then got a scholarship to Columbia College in New York city. He chose to study Classics with a focus on Greek. During his studies, Bailey was drawn to the kitchen of a nearby Hebrew seminary, where again he was exposed to numerous languages, including Hebrew. Bailey exchanged lessons in German for lessons in Hebrew with one of the students. Then, during WWII Bailey served as an army translator, communicating primarily in German and Russian. After the war, Bailey chose to study at Magdalen College, Oxford, under the famous C. S. Lewis. Bailey recounts several stories of his encounter with Lewis, including the time when Lewis was forced to confess to Bailey that he could not read a German quote.
Here were some of my favorite takeaways from Bailey’s book:
“What attracted me to German from the first was its distinctness and clarity. It was hard, clear, and sharp. . . . It seemed to me the manliest of languages. There were those wonderful reinforced consonants: “Stumpf” instead of stump, “Schwert” instead of sword (where only the first and last consonants are pronounced)” (Germans, 16).
“The study of languages is an intellectual pursuit. But the pursuit does not make the intellectual; the intellectual makes the pursuit. In fact, in a curious way knowledge of a foreign language tends to inhibit one from reading widely. While the linguist is able to read the original text he often can do so only with the greatest difficulty. The ability coupled with the difficulty acts as a double deterrent: it rules out reading the work in translation and discourages struggling with the original text (Germans, 22; I had to chuckle when I read this, for I’ve often thought that I could have done a lot more reading if I hadn’t spent so many long hours trying to learn some new language).
“The chief significance of being at a university is the access to books” (Germans, 152).
January 24, 2012
Have you ever read the Epistle of James and wondered just what kind of a writing it is? Is it similar to Proverbs, offering miscellaneous wisdom sayings? Is it like one of Paul’s letters, helping a church work through a particular issue? I recently finished writing a thesis on the Epistle of James in which I concluded that James belongs to the genre “diaspora letter.” A diaspora letter is basically a type of ancient letter that: (1) is written by an authoritative leader, (2) the leader writes from Jerusalem, (3) the leader writes to those in the diaspora — who have been scattered outside of Jerusalem, and (4) the leader writes in order to help his audience address sin and live in a God-pleasing way despite their marginalized situation.
I have just finished reading through Karen Jobes’s Letters to the Church. Jobes devotes several chapters in her book to James. In her discussion of genre, she concludes that James should be read as a diaspora letter: “The prophets identified diaspora as the place of divine judgment for covenantal disobedience. For this reason they called God’s people to repentance while also offering the promise of divine deliverance from judgment” (Jobes, 165).
Jobes’s book is an excellent introduction to the general Epistles and will be very useful for students encountering these letters for the first time. And, while we’re on the topic of James, I thought I’d mention that in the next few days I hope to write a brief post explaining my views on James 5:13-18 — the passage that promises unconditional healing. The question is, what type of healing did James have in mind?
January 23, 2012
Eric brought out several excellent points in his sermon yesterday. I especially enjoyed how he used Horace’s Carpe Diem as a sermon illustration (Eric’s message will be available HERE).
I found it quite ironic that today while studying Latin I came across Horace’s quote again. As I looked up the meaning of carpere I discovered that it can be translated as “harvest,” or “pluck.” In fact, one grammarian explains that Horace’s phrase was likely “an agricultural metaphor, since carpere really means to pluck or harvest from the vine or stalk” (Wheelock and LaFleur, 146). Kind of gives the phrase carpe diem an interesting nuance, doesn’t it? Seize the day? or harvest (the fields) today?
Interestingly, check out the translation of Horace’s quote at THIS SITE:
Ask not—we cannot know—what end the gods have set for you, for me; nor attempt the Babylonian reckonings Leuconoë. How much better to endure whatever comes, whether Jupiter grants us additional winters or whether this is our last, which now wears out the Tuscan Sea upon the barrier of the cliffs! Be wise, strain the wine; and since life is brief, prune back far-reaching hopes! Even while we speak, envious time has passed: pluck the day, putting as little trust as possible in tomorrow.
Notice the other harvesting-allusions in the quote, which I have italicized.
January 21, 2012
I can totally relate with THIS video, which shows a dad sneezing and then his twin babies imitating his sneeze. My little Melody is quite the imitator, and unfortunately she doesn’t just imitate the good. Her mimicking has revealed several areas in which I need to work on my manners. For example, one of the biggest laughs I had lately was when we had just finished eating lunch. We were sitting around the table talking, Melody was in her high-chair. Suddenly I burped, and Melody proceeded to “burp” too. She was definitely imitating me. All of us, even Melody, were rolling in laughter. I’m not going to tell you about the time we were on a walk and I spit in the grass . . .
This principle emphasized a basic parenting lesson: children will imitate what they see in us, and not just things like our burps at the dinner table. Am I modelling patience and Christ-likeness?
For the most recent pictures of Melody, be sure to check HERE.
January 18, 2012
My wife and I aim to eat as healthily as possible while still not paying an arm and a leg at the grocery store. Let me share a few tips that we have found help useful:
1. Eat out as little as possible. Eating out is, quite simply, expensive. Sure it’s fun and convenient, but for us personally as a family, we cannot afford to both eat out and to eat healthily. For example, one meal at the waffle house could easily cost 1/4 of the amount we’ve budgeted for groceries for the week. So, if you want to afford eating well, the easiest way is to not eat out. All that money you would spend at the restaurant can now go towards healthy foods
2. For our meat, we primarily eat venison throughout the year. Lately I have not had time to shoot my own, but we have a hunting buddy that gets us as much as we want. But if you do not have a hunting buddy, you can still get wild game by contacting your local meat processor. Hunters bring in their game and often do not want it. So, you’ll simply have to pay the processing fee and then the meat is yours. The benefits? We never have to buy ground beef, roasts, tenderloin, steaks, etc. Also, wild game does not have the hormones and antibiotics that most store-bought does.
3. Become friends with farmers. By weekly visiting our local farmers market, we have gotten to know many of the farmers in town. Locally grown produce is fresher, plus you’re helping out someone in your community and making friends along the way. The benefits? Local produce from the farmer’s market is tons cheaper than stuff in the store.
5. Do it yourself. We are unable to garden in the house we currently live in due to too much shade. Our garden the first year simply didn’t produce, and what meager vegetables did grow were devoured by deer and rabbits. But, we have begun to grow our own Kombucha (you can read about the benefits of Kombucha HERE).The benefits? Rather than paying $ 4 for a small can of Kombucha in the health food store, we produce a gallon of our own each week. Plus you can then share your cultures with friends who may also be interested in a healthy elixir. By the way, if you’re interested, let me know and we’ll be glad to give you a starter batch.
What about you? What are some ways you’ve managed to eat healthily on a realistic budget?
January 11, 2012
Jonathan, an elder at the church I attend, has written a post explaining why he’s not mad at God for allowing his young daughter to endure leukemia. Jonathan writes,
Let there be no mistake, my daughter’s cancer, like every tragedy, is rooted in sin. We are fallen people who live in a broken world. Things don’t work the way they’re supposed to–though they will one day!
Jonathan also reflects on the problem of evil in his post. I’ve been reflecting on this issue a bit myself lately, primarily because of a recent discussion I had with another believer about healing. This brother believes that it is God’s will for everyone to be healed, and that if you pray with enough faith, the healing is yours.
Reflecting on these situations, I came across the story in Matthew’s Gospel regarding Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt with baby Jesus. As the story goes, they were warned by God to flee to Egypt since Herod was having the babies in Israel killed–hoping to kill the Messiah. How merciful for God to protect his Son by directing the family to Egypt! But, I can’t help but notice that God did not see fit to spare the other children of Israel. How could a loving God have allowed such a massacre of children? Couldn’t he have warned each family to flee to Egypt, with the result that each child would have been spared? But God in his providence allowed these children to die, but spared only the baby Jesus, at least as far as we know.
Why am I mentioning all of this? I guess my brother’s words are still echoing through my mind; and I guess I still struggle to fathom his position in total healing. Jonathan’s story illustrates to me how the godly endures sickness, and in the process demonstrates that a believer with robust faith still endures sickness. And the story of Herod’s slaughter of children is merely one example to my brother that God does indeed allow people to suffer, even to die, for seemingly inexplicable reasons. Yes, He is a loving Father, but no, that does not mean he will spare everyone from physical hardship.
January 11, 2012
I’ve been enjoying following the NFL playoffs this season. Wildcard weekend was pretty exciting last week with Tebow leading the Broncos over the Steelers, and the Giants eliminating the Falcons. Among the games this weeked, the 49ers will be playing the Saints. I do not follow the 49ers, but I really enjoyed reading THIS article about their kicker David Akers and the amazing turn around he’s had since last season. Oh, and in case you’re curious, I think the Saints will win the superbowl, although I would like to see the Gianst take on the Broncos.
January 6, 2012
It seems one can hardly mention the topic of language-learning without quickly encountering Rosetta Stone. In fact, I’ve recently met a couple of people who are trying to learn a new language and also bought Rosetta Stone, as if it were the magical key or the logical step along one’s way to learning a language. As one who is learning German and who has used Rosetta Stone, allow me to explain what I feel are some pros and cons of the program.
First, let me start with the cons:
- Rosetta Stone lists no grammatical rules or explanations. Many people see this as a benefit of the program, thinking, “oh good, I don’t have to memorize any tedious rules or endings to verbs.” I think this is actually a huge disadvantage: one is forced to have to figure out the endings by trial and error. And in the end, your still having to learn the rules, you’re simply stumbling about in the dark as you try to figure out the patterns on your own, rather than knowing the rules up front and then being able to practice them.
- Rosetta Stone is all about repetition on set topics and themes. Basically, there is very little creative thinking where you are having to devise your own sentences. Instead, you simply repeat the sentences you are given. This is very unrealistic compared to what one encounters in “live” conversation. The big disadvantage here is that Rosetta Stone can give one a false sense of confidence as one repeats the sentences and vocabulary words, but leaving one lacking in real conversational experience. Once one has completed all the levels of Rosetta Stone, one should realize that he is still a language beginner. Pick up a German newspaper or listen to the evening news and one will feel overwhelmed by the mass of unrecognizable vocabulary.
Now, let me list some of the pros of Rosetta Stone:
- Rosetta Stone helps you become familiar with everyday topics and vocabulary.
- Rosetta Stone is an excellent tool for reviewing one’s grammar. For example, I worked through Rosetta Stone after working through several German grammars. I found this extremely beneficial: the rules and principles from the grammars were solidified in my practice on Rosetta Stone. Instead of figuring out the rules on my own, Rosetta Stone offered lots of review of what I had already learned.
- Rosetta Stone offers lots of practice for hearing the language. I found this very helpful since most of my previous learning had been from books. Rosetta Stone allows one to hear native speakers, and this helps one learn how to better pronounce the language.
So, before you purchase a pricey language software such as Rosetta Stone, know what you’re getting. And let me encourage you to use Rosetta Stone, not as one’s first exposure to a language, but as a tool for reviewing and practicing a newly learned language. This, I think, is Rosetta Stone’s greatest benefit.
January 4, 2012
In a recent post I described several ways in which I am trying to prepare academically for studies in Germany. Now in this post let me share some ways that I am preparing spiritually.
- I am looking at my time in Germany not only as a 3 year academic stint, but also as a chance to live as a missionary in a foreign country. Sadly, many parts of Europe, including Germany, are very dark when it comes to the gospel. In fact, I read just this past week that nearly a third of Germans are atheists, with the other two-thirds being Catholic and Protestant — but most of these being “religious.” So living in Germany will mean living in a place that desperately needs to hear about Jesus. Sometimes being a missionary means reaching people who live in huts and work on primitive farms; being a missionary in Germany might mean reaching people who drive Mercedes and work as succesful professionals.
- Living as a missionary begins now, not just when I get across the ocean. We are seeking to be involved with our local church in every way possible. We as a family are continuing to pray for our neighbors and to reach out to them and to seek opportunities at our jobs and in our community. If we are not sharing the gospel now, why should we expect it to be any different when we get “over there”?
- As one who will study in a German University, I am bracing myself for several possibilities. Since I will be studying the New Testament with very conservative beliefs, I am expecting to have to defend my positions on these. For example, I expect to be challenged on my belief about the inerrancy of Scripture. Now, I’m not planning on going into the University broadcasting such a stance, but I’m sure it will eventually come up. I doubt that it will be a huge issue, however, if I have developed a reputation as a good student, a hard worker, and a careful reader of the New Testament.
- I intend to make time for spiritual growth while in Germany. It will be easy to get lost in studies and to neglect prayer and devotional reading. Therefore it will be important to get to know some other believers, to be involved in church, and to daily seek the Lord. I am also planning on reading my fair share of C. S. Lewis while studying. That may sound odd, since he was not a NT scholar. I think he models one, however, who was willing to take a bold stand for his faith within the context of a European University, even though it cost him in many ways. Having such an example will help, I think, during the times when I’ll feel challenged or out-of-place.