[Link] The Missionary Life

The Missionary Life: No Shortcuts, post by Evan Burns at the Gospel Coalition is a short little read but it’s a good one. He lists out two main things he would tell any missionary candidate entering the field.

1. Theological Education
I don’t think he necessarily means a formal education, he is speaking against a theological minimalism. I often hear that churches have to work together much more on the field than they do in the States. I can’t speak to that, but there is a way in which that is good – when we align and focus on the majors. But when churches add secondary or even tertiary doctrine up to first level doctrine, this is where I think the line has to be drawn. I think Evan agrees with that assessment. We need to know what Christianity is, what a church is, what theology is, if we can effectively be of any use.

2. Learning to Suffer
I haven’t been a missionary yet. I’d have to have someone else comment on this, but I think this applies to any Christian service, stateside or abroad. There is suffering involved with Christian ministry. But nonetheless it is wise words to remember that this isn’t a chance just to live abroad but service to Christ and the expansion of his Kingdom, which comes at a cost.

I also wanted to shamelessly steal his quote that he shares from Eckhard Schnabel’s Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies, and Methods 

Missionaries, evangelists, and teachers who have understood both the scandal of the cross and the irreplaceable and foundational significance of the news of Jesus the crucified and risen Messiah and Savior will not rely on strategies, models, methods, or techniques. They rely on the presence of God when they proclaim Jesus Christ, and on the effective power of the Holy Spirit. This dependence on God rather than on methods liberates them from following every new fad, from using only one particular method, from using always the same techniques, and from copying methods and techniques from others whose ministry is deemed successful.

Parents Survival Guide

I don’t know why I like posting about resources so much, but I do. Live with it (or don’t; please don’t go!). I recently obtained my MA in Theological Studies and with that came a decent bit of pride. During my studies I remember thinking – surely I can do my own devotions. Never mind the myriad of things that demand my time and that would likely make these poorly thought out devotions.

But as Christian parents our main objective, pastorate, mission field, whatever, is that we raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. The good news is that parents with real faith, acted out in their home, tend to pass that along to their children (see this article by Kevin DeYoung which I have seen confirmed in other sources). So let us not neglect our primary duty as parents.

A quick list of resources I like:

Long Story Short / Old Story New by Marty Machowski are just simply excellent. They can be easily read and discussed with no prior reading. We use these on and off and this is just simply one of the easiest ways to do devotions in your house. My minor complaint is that the praying a prayer or decision based evangelicalism is present in the book and so I’ll just rework the prayers at the end (when that crops up, this is a personal preference and a different in emphasis between myself and the author, a minor point in other words).

The ARP Psalter: we use this at night to read before bed. The ARP Psalter, which is really just the RPCNA’s Psalter (The Book of Psalms for Worship) with our added Bible songs (so sue me, I’m an ARP, I like the ARP Psalter). Any Psalter will do, the Trinity has one as well. But this is a way to just experience the Psalms (and hymnody and poetry) that I think is good for a child. It is good for me to read the psalms in a slightly different setting than straight from the Bible – it reminds us that they are songs.

The First Catechism: this is a simplified and expanded version of the Westminster Shorter Catechism for children. I don’t think it can be stressed enough how important it is to give our kids a theological vocabulary. Like learning grammar our children need to learn what are the important words/concepts of our faith (like justification, covenant, etc). And one thing I actually like about the First Catechism over the Shorter is that it has a question directly on covenant:

Q. 24. What is a covenant?
A. A relationship that God establishes with us and guarantees by his word.

Brilliant!

In Conclusion:

We don’t do all of these things all the time. We are most consistent with reading the Psalter at night. My son enjoys doing it. He also now picks one at random after we read the next one in consecutive order each night.

The main thing I think as a parent, which I struggle with, is to have a living faith, fueled by the Word of God that allows you to pour into your kids. That’s the place to start, these resources are just to help us with busy schedules, not neglect the teaching that we need to do. May our children know that we love them and God loves them.

Got any others that are worth it, let me know in the comments.

National Adoption Day

NAD-Logo-Color

I was unaware that this day actually existed. But hey, it does. So I thought I would post a bit about it. As some of you may know, I was adopted (and for those of you who didn’t, now you do). Thirty-one years ago my parents (the ones who adopted me) made the choice to bring me into their lives. I wanted to say thank you to them for doing that. I’m also thankful for my biological parents who believed abortion to be what it is – an unthinkable option. To my biological parents, thanks for putting me up for adoption.

To those who have put children up for adoption, hopefully I’m an example of what can be done when you can’t care for a child at that time. To those who have adopted, I love my adoptive parents as my real parents (because they are). People often ask why I haven’t searched out my parents (by that they mean my birth parents) – I usually respond with, why? I know who my parents are, they are the ones who have raised me.

Thank you to all the families out their who have adopted and made millions of children’s lives better.

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation. So Sing praises to Him!
Ps. 68:5, 4 ESV

The Parable of the Unjust Steward and Fundraising

The parable ends “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9 ESV)

I will on the outset say that this is probably not what the parable is about. At least I’m honest about this (unlike other sermonettes I’ve heard). I can’t help but read this parable in Luke 16:1-9 and chuckle in the wisdom in having a lot of friends (and making more) in order to raise funds to do mission work.

For us to get to Spain it will only be through the love, care, and sacrifice of God’s saints. It will be because these people believe in God, and in a small part, in us. So, for starters, thank you to all who are (and who will) support us. I will never be able to repay your kindness and your trust.

For all of those who want to head into foreign mission service, take this parable to heart and make friends. Make many friends because it will take a small army to send you off into the world to further God’s Kingdom.

Luther’s Theology of the Cross and Ender’s Game

If you haven’t read Ender’s Game stop reading this post. You’ve been warned. If you haven’t read about Luther’s Theology of the Cross, you’ll be fine. But you may want to read his Heidelberg Disputations to get an idea of what I am basing this off of. To sum it up, read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. There is a way the world works (Theology of Glory) and the way God works (Theology of the Cross). God’s ways often seem counter-intuitive to our ways. Who would have conquered sin, Satan, and death – by dying? Who would have ransomed a people to himself not by conquering, but by taking their place? This isn’t how the world thinks – the world is concerned with a theology of glory.

Reading Ender’s Game, now for a second time, I think that in a way the story lays out clearly the way of the world and the way of God. Throughout the story Ender is shown that the way to win the battle is to destroy his opponent in the fight. He not only wins the fight, but the battle. This culminates in his destroying the entire Bugger race. The story seems to end on that note that this theory, this idea, is true. You should always make sure your opponent is so beaten that he can never retaliate.

Then in nearly the last moment we realize that the bugger race spoke throught a hive mind, unable to speak to humans. They also did not understand why a few humans destroyed here and there mattered. So it is that the wisdom of the world, destroying your opponent so completely he cannot retaliate, is actually false. The right answer would have been (in the story mind you) to try and force a way to communicate. Ender’s final decision was not the correct one. His wisdom, the world’s wisdom, turned out to be false. It was completely and absolutely wrong and cost the lives of an entire race.

Comparative studies I find to be silly sometimes, but yes I just engaged in one. Let me know what you think, am I grasping at straws?

Also, head over to the Mythguard Institute for their class on Ender’s Game (which was what got me thinking about this). If you are interesting in Luther’s Theology of the Cross, check out Alistar McGrath’s book on the subject, Luther’s Theology of the Cross.

A Poor Man’s Seminary Library (3): The Interwebs and Free Stuff

Finally, the free stuff, right? There are a lot of great resources on the web for the Bible. I’ll give you a breakdown on some of the stuff I use and some other stuff that’s just cool.

ESVBible.org – I store all of my notes here which allows me to access them from any computer I log onto. On top of that if you have an ESV Study Bible or ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, you can have the notes for them loaded into your account. The folks at ESV are really working to make this a platform; sadly their iPhone/iPad app has really suffered.

NET.bible.org – the NET Bible and all it’s glorious notes. Seriously, why aren’t you already bookmarking this and devouring them. (See my previous post on why you should have a NET Bible).

Latin Vulgate and Douy-Rheims parallel Bible – I find the more I work with the early church, the more I need to reference the Latin Vulgate. The Douy-Rheims Bible is a translation of the Vulgate, if I’m not mistaken.

BibleWebApp.com – the crowning acheivement of Bible applications on the web (hence the rather accurate name). It is was it is. A place to study the Bible. While it can’t compete with Accordance or BibleWorks, those programs costing $100s (if not $1,000) of dollars it does a fantastic job for what it is.

CCEL.org – The Christian Classics Etheral Library. I primarily use this website to read Calvin’s Commentaries (like a good Presbyterian), Schaff’s Church Fathers, and Josephus’s complete works. That alone would make it worth it, but CCEL has tons more works than that.

The Online Critical Psuedepigrapha – I couldn’t believe that this existed. It’s the motherload. With the exception of not being able to read Syriac, this allows me to see the original languages behind my translations of the Pseudepigrapha. This should be a bookmark, you’ll never know when you’ll need it. English translations of the texts abound online – just search for it.

Codex Sinaiticus Online – sadly Codex Sinaiticus was split a part and sent to a lot of international libaries (think of the ending to National Treasure). Fortunately these libaries joined together to digitize the entire work. Now it’s available online. You can actually see the pages to Sinaiticus (along with the various additions).

In terms of online Bibles I know there are some other services (Bible Gateway and Blue Letter Bible) but they aren’t terrible useful to me. I don’t really need to know what so-and-so translation said. I tend to stick with the ESV and the NET and then the Greek and Hebrew.

But if you have any awesome resources free resources, leave a comment.

In Praise of the lectionary

Grammatically speaking the title should be “in praise of a lectionary” but titles sound better with more authority. There are a couple of lectionaries that one can find. Our church uses the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) and for my devotions I use the Daily Office Lectionary, from the Book of Common Prayer.

With that, what is good about a lectionary?
Lot’s-o-Scripture. Carl Trueman wrote a piercing article titled “What the Hijab Witnessed, and What She Did Not” which speaks to the dearth of Scripture reading in many modern evangelical churches.

In our church we use the gospel readings from the RCL to add a second reading of Scripture to our service. This is obviously in addition to the Scripture passages being read for the sermon. On top of that we use the lectionary reading as the basis for the children’s sermon. This means in effect we have two sermons and two blocks of Scripture being read.

Less fuss. Many people start the new year trying a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. All good intentions, but usually trying to go through a chronological (or the likes) type of plan once you miss a day it all goes to pot.

I’ve found that using the Daily Office Lectionary on the ESV’s website to be just the ticket. It focuses heavily on the Psalms (giving you 2 a day), Old Testament reading, New Testament reading, and a gospel reading – every day. But for me, if I miss a day I just move on and skip it. The point for me is not to read the Bible in a year but to be saturated by Scripture every day.

In each case the lectionary provides an easy way to add more Scripture – whether privately or publically. If the Bible is the Word of God, living and active, then we should let it confront us every day. The lectionary is a great tool for that.

Are the Old Testament Saints in heaven… (Part 2)

You’ll need to see Part 1 of the argument. Were I discuss the Old Testament. This time I wanted to cover what Jews though about the intermediary state in the Pseudepigrapha. This is the body of writing from around 200 BC – AD 200. It gives us a window into what they were thinking at the time. It’s not unamious in its theology but there are some consistent strands that I want to highlight.

One of the most fun books of the Pseudepigrapha is 1 Enoch. In 51:1-2 reads:

In those days, Sheol will return all the deposits which she had received and hell will give back all that which it owes. And he shall choose the righteous and the holy ones from among (the risen dead), for the day when they shall be selected and saved has arrived.

This sounds like Revelation 21:13-15, doesn’t it? In 1 Enoch, all the souls, both good and bad, await judgment in Sheol. They are not in heaven but their cries reach up to heaven (1 Enoch 22:3-6). Here, the righteous cannot touch the tree of life (25:4). In chapter 102, we read: “But you, souls of the righteous, fear not; and be hopeful, you souls that died in righteousness! Be not sad because your souls have gone down into Sheol in sorrow, or (because) your flesh fared not well the earthly existence…” (vv.4-5). The righteous souls have “descended into Sheol” (11). The point here is that the righteous await the day of judgment, to be vindicated by God — which they are not presently (103:4, 7-8).

The book of Sirach (190 to 175 BC) treats Hades as the place where the dead go, you can take nothing there (Sir. 14:16). Like the Psalms, no one praises God in Hades (Sir. 17:27; cf., Is 38:18; Ps. 88:10-12). When commenting on Elijah bringing someone back to life (see 1 Kings 17:17-24) it says that he raised the boy “from death and from Hades” (Sir. 48:5 NRSV).

Baruch (somewhere between 150 and 60 BC) in a few places says much the same, that the spirits of the dead are in Hades, where they cannot praise God (Bar. 2:17).

4 Ezra (another composite work, in that it has Christian redaction on top of Jewish). In 2:16 (The Christian redaction) it speaks of resurrection, bringing the righteous out of tombs, God will save them from Gehenna (2:29). In the Jewish original, 4:33-43, The souls wait in chambers in Hades, (42) waiting for the new age. How long do they remain here, “Ezra” asks? Until their number is complete (Rev. 6:9-11) In 7:36 after everyone is brought back, Hell and Paradise (Rev. 9:2) are set before everyone at the final judgment.

There are quite a few works that I haven’t mentioned here, but the gist of the above shows that there is a strand of Judaism that believes in Sheol as a waiting place for both the righteous and the wicked – which is something that the Old Testament *could* confirm. But let’s let one other person speak, Josephus the Jewish Historian (c. 100 AD):

Now, for the Pharisees, … They also believe that souls have an immortal rigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again; … (In Antiquities of the Jews 18.1.3).

Josephus actually says more or less what the New Testament says, that the Pharisees believe in resurrection, against the Sadduccees who don’t (see Matt. 22:23; Acts 23:6, 8). The above works say that at least one strand of Pharisees did believe that.

Some of the Jews during the time Jesus was here on the earth believed that everyone went to Hades-Sheol awaiting resurrection, in fact this was the dominate view, see for instance Charles Hill’s Regnum Caelorum, p. 51 and Everett Ferguson’s Backgrounds of Early Christianity p. 544. (By the way, just head to a search engine and type in any of the works if you’d like to read them, there are freely available English translations. I’m using the revised two volume by Charlesworth that I highly recommend).

A Poor Man Seminary Library (2): Specialty Bibles

Languages getting you down? Would you like to learn Hebrew and Greek but don’t have the time or money to take classes? Well you live at a great time because there are some resources that can help with that.

The Comprehensive New Testament (CNT)
There are a couple of reasons why this Bible is *awesome*. The major selling point is that it is a translation of the Greek New Testament (GNT) put out by the United Bible Society (UBS). All modern translations make use of this the GNT in making their translations but they will make judgment calls, in terms of which reading in different manuscripts to use. 

A brief aside: for the New Testament every translation (back even to the days of King Jimmy and before) is translated from the various Greek manuscripts. We have tons of these manuscripts. So we have to determine what is the likely reading. Modern translations and semi-ancient translations must make informed choices.

So no modern translaitons completely matches the GNT’s put out by the UBS. Except the CNT. That is selling point #1. Second, all of those different options in the manuscripts are put in the GNT’s, called an apparatus. If you thought reading Greek was hard, reading these apparatuses is even harder. Well the CNT simplifies this and translates it into English so you know where the differences in translations are coming from – incredibly helpful to anyone in ministry to quickly see where Bible translations will differ.

Lastly, what I think is the most awesome part of this Bible is that it contains a mammoth cross reference system. This cross reference is not limited to the Bible. It often goes into the Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, early church, and Nag Hammadi. Again, *awesome*. I actually can’t figure out why you haven’t bought this yet?

Purchase: [Amazon

New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS)
Moving along with good translations we come to the NETS, not to be confused with the NET (New English Translation – my favorite all around translation). The NETS is just what it says it is, a translations of the Greek Old Testament. Why do you care?

Well it seems that a majority of the NT authors actually worked from the LXX (the short name for the Septuagint). This matters because the LXX diverges from the main Hebrew text (called the Masoretic Text, or MT for short). So it can be helpful in places, like Job, Isaiah, and the Psalms to see differences in the text since a lot of early church fathers used the LXX as well. Augustine was unable to read Hebrew for instance.

The Septuagint is the most important translation that there is. Plane and simple and so it would be helpful to have a translation of it because the Greek in the LXX is miles above the Greek in the NT (languages change and often simplify over their lifetime, I was told that since Latin died so young it stayed very complex – while modern day Greek is vastly simplier compared to the NT and Homer).

Purchase: [Amazon

Conclusion
Not knowing the original languages is hardly an excuse now for deep indepth study. These resources above are just a part of the amazing blessings that we, especially as English speakers, have. The hard part is not being able to study well, but making sure you are using these gifts well. Are you?

Genealogical Conundrum: Rahab (2)

Previously I laid out some issues with Rahab being in the genealogy of Matthew (Matt. 1:5). See it here. Well I don’t know if this is the solution (it has some problems I think in terms of inerrancy) but it is novel and I think at least interesting. It’s from Richard Bauckham’s article “Tamar’s Ancestry and Rahab’s Marriage: Two Problems in the Matthean Genealogy” in Novum Testamentum 37, 4 (1995): 313-329. If you are a seminary student you have free access to it and it’s a good read.

In the genealogies of 1 Chronicles 2, we note something interesting. There are two Salma’s, the Hebrew reading of Salmon’s – which is the Greek translation of the name (the Septuagint). In 2:11 we read the genealogy of Salma that is in Matthew, Salma the father of Boaz. But in 2:54-55 we read of another Salma not related to the one in 2:11.

1Chr. 2:54 The sons of Salma: Bethlehem, the Netophathites, Atroth-beth-joab and half of the Manahathites, the Zorites. 55 The clans also of the scribes who lived at Jabez: the Tirathites, the Shimeathites and the Sucathites. These are the Kenites who came from Hammath, the father of the house of Rechab.

Note the last line, from the house of Rechab. As I noted in the first post, Matthew uses a strange spelling of Rahab whereas the Septuagint and the rest of the NT uses a different spelling. This wouldn’t be so odd if Matthew used the Hebrew spelling of Salma, but he uses the Septuagint spelling Salmon. The difference in the spelling of those households is an “e” vs. and “a” and so Bauckham proposes that these two are conflated. He’s argument is longer than what I presented here but it looks plausible doesn’t it?

I’m not sure what I think, since that then brings up questions on inerrancy. But I guess there seems some interesting questions regardless of which option you take.