Sunday, December 30, 2007

Answering Islam

I am currently reading the book Answering Islam for my upcoming Theology of World Religions class. So far I am only through the presentation of what Islam believes. While I think that becoming a Christian is much more than praying a prayer, it appears that it just takes one affirmation to become a Muslim. Apparently, all one has to do is affirm, "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the apostle of Allah." C'est tout!

I have found that there are many convenient things about how Islam views both Muhammad and the Qur'an. Muhammed had kind of a checkered history in getting his religion off the ground. What's convenient is that any persecution can be seen as the forces of evil at work rather than God telling you to stop it. The same goes for any Christian who claims to have some kind of direct revelation from God. Jesus certainly raised His share of rabble too, so the fact that Muhammed faced trouble is not that big of a deal. However, his stance on raiding caravans is kind of interesting.

What I find most fascinating is how the Qur'an evolved. It seems that later surah's can supercede earlier ones. That means that, while there appears to be internal contradictions, the faithul Muslim can get past this based on the rule of abrogation. Convenient, no?

I look forward to reading more of this book. I probably would not have got to it if it wasn't assigned for this class. Take a look at Amazon and note the ratings for the book. Think there is any bias?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Value of Liturgy

Check out this blog post by the author of my second-year Greek textbook. There is some stuff in there that got me to thinking.

I've read about some people who have "crossed the Tiber" and become Roman Catholics because they crave tradition in their worship services. The longer I spend at our megachurch, the more I understand that. However, I firmly believe that it is more important to be biblical than traditional. There is a part of me that wishes I didn't have to fight my mom so much about Catholicism. I wish I could embrace the tradition, the beauty, the pageantry, etc. But as I read the Bible I just can't do it.

What I do think about is the incredible murals painted on the ceiling of my mom's childhood church of St. Procop. I did a bit of digging and found that you can take a virtual tour of the windows and see one of the ceiling murals. St. Stanislaus is another beautiful church, but in the Gothic style. Going to Mass there makes you feel connected to something that has existed for centuries.

I've also had a sense of that from reading through my new Bible atlas and looking through the photos in it. So much art is based on Bible stories because they were so important to the artists. It's great to look at works of art like the windows at St. Procop and think about the stories they represent.

I understand the reason behind the austere buildings used by most Protestants. I understand that most people in America can read and they don't need a series of stained-glass windows to tell the gospel story. However, I also wonder if maybe there is something to be said for some of that today. It's pretty incredible to look at the baptistry in Florence and realize that Michaelangelo was baptized there as an infant. We just don't have stuff like that in America. Maybe it's something that we can work on. The question is -- do enough people care to work on it?

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I finished going through my Discipleship Journal reading plan yesterday. Today I read about half of Psalm 119. I realize that I need to spend some daily time in the Greek New Testament. I wrote the same thing last year around this time, but now I'm better equipped for it.

I'm looking forward to starting with a fresh reading plan, but I do think I'll wait until Jan 1. The question is whether I'll stick to the ESV or if I'll try to read my NIV Archaeological Study Bible that I know I'm getting for Christmas?

One thing that occurred to me yesterday was how incredible it is to live in a country where I can read whatever Bible I want whenever I want to read it. It's also kind of staggering to consider how many Bible resources I have in my house. I've written on this before, but if you want to do any year-end pondering of things, think about how it is so easy for us to read the Word with the kind of fervor described in Psalm 119.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Notes from Esther

We finished OT 501 with a quick discussion about Esther. As you may know, there was some question about its inclusion in the canon. Part of that was because of the lack of any mention of God's name. However, check this out:

You probably remember the Israelites' battle with the Amalekites where Aaron and Hur held up his hands. The passage ends with:

Exo 17:14-16 ESV
(14) Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven."
(15) And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD is my banner,
(16) saying, "A hand upon the throne of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation."

Moses makes mention of the Amalekites later on:

Deu 25:17-19 ESV
(17) "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt,
(18) how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God.
(19) Therefore when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.

So we know that the LORD was going to give the Amalekites into their hands once they had rest from their enemies. Note that they were to blot out the Amalekites. Saul had a chance to do this, but:

1Sa 15:7-11 ESV
(7) And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt.
(8) And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword.
(9) But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.
(10) The word of the LORD came to Samuel:
(11) "I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments." And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night.

So it looked like the Amalekites were spared and that was it, right? Not so. It turns out that:

Est 2:5 ESV
(5) Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite,

You may recall that King Saul was also a Benjamite and a son of Kish. What about his nemesis in the story of Esther?

Est 3:1 ESV
(1) After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him.

An "Agagite" means that he was from Agag. In other words, Haman was from the line that Saul spared. What ends up happening?

Est 7:10 ESV
(10) And the king said, "Hang him on that." So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated.


Est 9:13-14 ESV
(13) And Esther said, "If it please the king, let the Jews who are in Susa be allowed tomorrow also to do according to this day's edict. And let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows."
(14) So the king commanded this to be done. A decree was issued in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were hanged.

Basically, Mordecai got to finish what Saul wouldn't. We tend to think of God's hand in the book of Esther in how she saved the Jews, but I think this is pretty amazing when you consider the centuries that passed between Exodus and Esther.

Yet there are those who would maintain that man has a will that can resist God if He has chosen a man for election.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Value of Trials

I've been doing some thinking about where I'm going with this blog. I've decided that I want to primarily use it as kind of an online journal on my spiritual life. The family blog is a better place to go for news. I will still make some departures for funny stories at work or other miscellanea.

Here is today's Tozer:

Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord
came to me, saying, "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the
house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them
warning from Me." Ezekiel 3:16-17

I once heard a brother preach on the fact that the church should be
without spot or wrinkle. To get the wrinkles out of a sack, he said,
you fill it. To get a wrinkle out of a rug, you lay it down and walk
on it. God sometimes fills us, the preacher continued, but sometimes
He just puts us flat down so that everyone can walk on us!

King David long ago knew something of the latter method. He wrote,
"The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows"
(Psalm 129:3). I think David was talking about his enemies. And they
must have been wearing hobnail boots!

Ezekiel had just come to this kind of a low-ebbed, humbling
experience when God opened the heavens. In effect, God put His hand
on him and said, "Now I can use you. I have some words and some
plans that I want you to pass onto your country-men."
Men Who Met God, pp. 117-118

I realize that it is kind of trite, but the times of the most growth in my life came from trials. While I don't enjoy the times when I fall to temptation, I also know that they push me closer to God. I do not want to sin so that grace may increase, of course, but I do want to make sure that I let God use all the trials in my life to stretch me and get rid of the "scribbles" as Lily calls wrinkles in a sheet.

We're going through a mini-trial right now. Some sort of bug has made its rounds around the house. I felt a little off yesterday, though a nap in the middle of the day helped. Amanda has been stuffy and wonders if she has a sinus infection. Lily had a fever yesterday and woke up with it today. It's not been an easy few days. However, it has been great to just spend time with my family. It helps that I'm about done with classes too!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Something to Work On

One of my jobs at the bank is supporting the Blackberry environment. In fact, this is my primary job. We have ours set up so that if you enter your unlock password wrong 5 times the device will wipe itself out. This is a security measure in case you lose your device. As you might imagine, I spend a portion of each day helping users who have done this to themselves, despite all the warnings we give them.

One user is now on her fifth time doing this and I wasn't very nice to her to start with. She was clearly put out and rightly so. Then she went on to explain that she dreaded calling me because I was so condescending last time. That was news to me. I am not always as nice as I could be, but I really try to be positive with the users about the whole thing. I'll have to ask some of my other "frequent fliers" if they've noticed that with me. It certainly gave me something to think about.

That's about the extent of my navel-gazing on this, the 34th anniversary of my entry into the world.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Some Tozer

This was in my daily dose of Tozer:

For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will
of God, you may receive the promise.
--Hebrews 10:36

When God needs a person for His service-a good person, an effective
person, a humble person-why does He most often turn to a person in
deep trouble? Why does He seek out a person deep in the crucible of
suffering, a person who is not the jovial, "happy-happy" kind? I
can only say that this is the way of God with His human creation....

Ezekiel did not come out of pleasant and favorable circumstances.
The light had gone out in his heart. He probably thought that God
takes a long time to work out His will.

Does not this same view surface in much of our Christian
fellowship? We do not want to take the time to plow and to
cultivate. We want the fruit and the harvest right away! We do not
want to be engaged in any spiritual battle that takes us into the
long night. We want the morning light right now! We do not want to
go through the processes of planning and preparation and labor
pains. We want the baby this instant!

We do not want the cross. We are more interested in the crown.

The condition is not peculiar to our century. Thomas a Kempis
wrote long ago, "The Lord has many lovers of His crown but few
lovers of His cross." Men Who Met God, 115.

I think about how I live my life and this really resonates with me. I want to play the guitar, but I don't want to put the time into it. I want to know what is contained in so many great books, but I don't put the time into reading them. I want to understand Greek better, but I don't put the time into practicing it.

I am slowly starting to form some resolutions in my mind that I want to put down on paper (or at least a Palm Desktop memo). These would be similar to Jonathan Edwards' resolutions. I tried the Franklin Covey thing, but I think that resolutions might be more effective.

One resolution is to resolve to put in the time it takes to do what I have committed to do. Another is to maintain proficiency with anything that I have learned. I would hate to forget everything I've learned after 3 semesters of Greek.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Got Me Thinking

Take a read of this post from the Internet Monk. I feel pretty sure about nouthetic counseling. I really do believe that God's Word has the answers we need. I also am very wary of these mind-altering drugs because of their well-documented side-effects. However, it's hard to get away from the experiences that people share. Sometimes it feels so heartless to tell people that drugs are not the answer.

However, I realize that it is even more heartless to suggest that anything but Jesus is the answer. Nevertheless, I am glad for the challenge to my convictions. Perhaps they will soften over time.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Much Encouragement

I had an hour-long conversation with coworkers today about Jesus. This is a relatively new thing for me. It's something that I've spent much time praying for and now it seems to be happening. It turns out that most of my coworkers are basically relativists who are very ecumenical in their thinking. I like to think that I gave some cogent apologies for the gospel, but we'll see if any fruit comes of it. I'll also be interested to see if I get treated any differently.

My seminary dropped something of a bombshell on me with a letter I received yesterday. It turns out that they are moving toward day classes. Starting in the fall of 2009 they will offer first year classes during the day. Then in 2010 they will offer first and second year courses during the day. By 2011 just about everything will be in the daytime. It's good to finally know when this is going to happen since all I got before was vague rumors from the faculty.

However, this puts me in a bit of a bind. I realize that I now need to take 3 classes per semester instead of the 2 I've been doing. I'm going to start this next semester by taking Biblical Counseling along with the second semester of Old Testament and the fourth semester of Greek. I think I'll be OK, though I suspect I'll be spending more time in the library. I'm afraid of the strain that this will put on Amanda. Fortunately, my Thursday night class is only from 6-8 PM instead of 6-9. Hopefully I'll be home in time to put Lily to bed this way.

The good news about all of this is that I now have a real end in sight. If I get some credit for the work I have done with SCF I could theoretically be graduating in the spring of 2010 if not the spring of 2011. Of course, this also depends on what courses are offered in the summers. Not being able to take one of my required courses last summer hurt a little bit, but we were kinda busy once Noah was born. I think I made the right choice.

This also puts the specter of career change front and center. It's hard to believe that in 3 years I may have a completely different job. Speaking of my job, I've been more upbeat about it lately. More on that tomorrow.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Buying Time

Is anyone left out there? I feel badly leaving the blog for 3 weeks. First there was OSU-Michigan, which turned out well, but ate up a day. Then there was the long Thanksgiving week. Then there was the week of catching back up. Here we are now.

I've decided that I need to reclaim some of my time. One way I'm doing that is by reducing my workload with SCF. I'm now going to focus on The Lord's Table and mentoring there. It's tough because I always considered the purity course to be my "core competency," but I know that I have to let some things go. It's really been a pride thing, I think.

Speaking of purity, I know that at times I am on the edge with this. I have lost the fervent zeal that I once had. I think that I've become complacent in my freedom. By that I mean that I forgot what it was like to keep up the shields all the time. I can feel little chinks forming in the armor.

Also, speaking of time, I may very well be taking 3 classes next semester. My school is going to start transitioning to day classes starting in 2009, so I'd better get a move on with all my core classes. I hope that I can finish and keep working at the Bank.