Tuesday, February 26, 2013


A great many Christians actually seem to think that all their Father in heaven wants is a chance to make them miserable, and to take away all their blessings, and they imagine, poor souls, that if they hold on to things in their own will, they can hinder Him from doing this.—Hannah Whitall Smith

A foregone conclusion

...documentary films aim to persuade the audience of a particular point of view through well ordered visual stimulation, supplemented by a sound track that interprets (through the role of the talking head and voice-of-God narrative) and arouses the viewer’s interest (through music). In many cases, a well argued and defensible thesis is not a top priority. Esthetically pleasing presentations outweigh the emphasis on scholarly content, for documentaries rarely have the luxury of slowing down to clarify argumentation or provide well-developed theses lest they lose their audience and disturb the flow of the storyline.—Archaeology, Bible, Politics, and the Media, page 116

<idle musing>
Sounds more like entertainment than documentary, doesn't it? And that's exactly what it is!
</idle musing>

Monday, February 25, 2013

Musings on Exodus...

Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the LORD; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses. (Exodus 9:33-35 TNIV)

<idle musing>
I've been reading through Exodus the last 2 -3 days and this jumped out at me. Not the passage itself, but the whole concept of God relenting and Pharaoh hardening his heart. Specifically, the whole concept of God relenting from a punishment/judgment and our response to it.

In Pharaoh's case, God tells him to do something; he refuses. God sends the promised results; Pharaoh “repents” and God relents. Pharaoh then decides not to follow through—in other words, he just wanted off the hook. His concern wasn't what God's will was, but what the results would be for him. Once the “ouch” of the results was removed, he kept on with the behavior.

I wonder if maybe we aren't the same? I think we might misinterpret God's relenting, in order to give us space to really act out our repentance, as his giving us permission to continue the behavior?

Pharaoh certainly kept up his behavior throughout—even after the death of the firstborn. He sent an army after the Israelites to bring them back even after the final plague. Do we do the same thing with our continued rebellion after becoming Christians?

Just an
</idle musing>

Friday, February 22, 2013


His will is the very most blessed thing that can come to us under all circumstances. I do not understand how it is that Satan has succeeded in blinding the eyes of the Church to this fact. But it really would seem as if God’s own children were more afraid of His will than of anything else in life; His lovely, lovable will, which only means loving-kindnesses and tender mercies, and blessings unspeakable to their souls. I wish I could only show to every one the unfathomable sweetness of the will of God. Heaven is a place of infinite bliss because His will is perfectly done there, and our lives share in this bliss just in proportion as His will is perfectly done in them. He loves us, and the will of love is always blessing for its loved one. —Hannah Whitalll Smith

One size fits all, doesn't it?

...the idea that documentary filmmakers only present their version of history is generally acknowledged (Toplin 1988; Eitzen 2005); filmmakers do not necessarily think they are presenting completely accurate history. The problem is that, whereas academic historians are armed with tools for presenting opposing interpretations of evidence, such as footnotes and peer review, the limitations of video as a medium (most importantly, time limits) means that the audience of a documentary film is often left unaware of alternative interpretations. The lack of competing historical interpretations in most popular documentary films leaves the audience with the false impression that "history is a tidy operation, that it involves little more than laying out the chronology and ‘getting the story straight’” (Toplin 1986: 1216).—Archaeology, Bible, Politics, and the Media, pages 97-98

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Salvation...from what?

Christians always commit the keeping of their souls for eternity to the Lord, because they know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they cannot keep these themselves. But the things of this present life they take into their own keeping, and try to carry on their own shoulders, with the perhaps unconfessed feeling that it is a great deal to ask of the Lord to carry them, and that they cannot think of asking Him to carry their burdens too.—Hannah Whitalll Smith

Different goals

Much of the tension between archaeologists and the media stems from our different goals. Archaeologists study the remains of material culture to understand the past. We are not treasure hunters and we are not allowed to keep what we find. In other words, we are not engaged in archaeology for personal profit, nor are most of us involved in it to validate personal faith and beliefs. On the other hand, because for them the bottom line is money, the media (especially television and film) capitalize on the public’s fascination with events mentioned in the Bible and the public’s desire to find tangible proof of these events. Most members of the media are interested not in scholarship for its own sake but rather in topics that will make a profit...the usual program formula consists of interviewing a nonspecialist who claims to have made a sensational find related to some biblical person or event, which a scholar is brought in to refute. Usually the nay-saying scholar comes across as a skeptic who is too narrow-minded to entertain the possibility that someone from outside the ivory tower of academia made a valid new discovery, or even more sinister, who denies the validity of the discovery in order to keep this important information from the public.—Archaeology, Bible, Politics, and the Media, pages 93, 94

<idle musing>
Ain't it the truth! I've had to play the nay-sayer far to many times. I'm glad that most of the times it has been with people who know me and my faith. I'd hate to have to do it in front of a camera, knowing they are going to cut all the qualifying words and go for a sound-bite...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Stocks or Art?

Kersel’s essay proves what Aristotle knew to be the case in the 4th century b.c.e. and what we, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, have painfully relearned: the financial market, as a mechanism for producing profit, is ethically problematic. Her argument for the complicity of the market in the theft of artifacts offers a refinement and a confirmation of a broad, well-established, popular suspicion of the art market. In February, 2009, National Public Radio sponsored a debate entitled “On Ethics: Is the Art Market Worse Than the Stock Market?” Before the debate the live audience was almost equally divided among those in favor of the motion, those opposed, and those undecided. At the end of the debate, the majority had been persuaded that the art market was indeed less ethical than the stock market.—Archaeology, Bible, Politics, and the Media, page 84

Lay your burden down...

Most Christians are like a man who was toiling along the road, bending under a heavy burden, when a wagon overtook him, and the driver kindly offered to help him on his journey. He joyfully accepted the offer, but when seated, continued to bend beneath his burden, which he still kept on his shoulders. “Why do you not lay down your burden?” asked the kind-hearted driver. “Oh!” replied the man, “I feel that it is almost too much to ask you to carry me, and I could not think of letting you carry my burden too.” And so Christians, who have given themselves into the care and keeping of the Lord Jesus, still continue to bend beneath the weight of their burden, and often go weary and heavy-laden throughout the whole length of their journey.—Hannah Whitalll Smith

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


A quaint old divine of the seventeenth century says: “There is nothing so contrary to God as sin, and God will not suffer sin always to rule his masterpiece, man. When we consider the infiniteness of God’s power for destroying that which is contrary to Him, who can believe that the devil must always stand and prevail? I believe it is inconsistent and disagreeable with true faith for people to be Christians, and yet to believe that Christ, the eternal Son of God, to whom all power in heaven and earth is given, will suffer sin and the devil to have dominion over them.
“But you will say no man by all the power he hath can redeem himself, and no man can live without sin. We will say, Amen, to it. But if men tell us, that when God’s power comes to help us and to redeem us out of sin, that it cannot be effected, then this doctrine we cannot away with; nor I hope you neither.—Hannah Whitalll Smith

A near total loss

When an object is stolen from a museum, at least its existence is known and its original context (where it was found and in association with what other objects, physical remains, and architectural features) recorded for future study and reconstruction. The looting of sites is far more detrimental to our ability to understand the past because neither the objects themselves nor their original contexts will ever be known. In addition, looters routinely discard those objects that are considered less saleable on the international market, such as fragments of cuneiform tablets, even though these fragments may contain significant historical and cultural information.—Archaeology, Bible, Politics, and the Media, page 18

<idle musing>
This is an important book that anyone interested in the ancient world should read. I'll be excerpting from it for the next week or two.

The saddest thing is that the locals who do the looting usually are only given a fraction of what the brokers get for the item. So the locals lose twice: once by not getting any significant cash. Second by making their history poorer. All for the sake of money...sad.
</idle musing>

Monday, February 18, 2013

What a convoluted mess...

The story of Balaam’s jenny exhibits a sophisticated literary structure. It is divided into three paragraphs (the first of which can be subdivided into three separate “encounters”). The first and second paragraphs employ role reversal as the primary literary convention. The third paragraph restores proper roles and reveals the purpose of the entire episode―to reinforce that Balaam may only speak YHWH’s words. Num 22:22–35 is outlined here as follows: I. Reversal A: The Jenny as Seer (vv. 22–27) First Encounter (vv. 22–23) Second Encounter (vv. 24–25) Third Encounter (vv. 26–27) II. Reversal B: The Jenny as YHWH’s Mouthpiece (vv. 28–30) III. Resolution: Balaam as Seer and Mouthpiece (vv. 31–35) The first paragraph (vv. 22–27) reverses the roles of the seer and the donkey. The role of the donkey (which is infamous for its stubbornness; see §§2.6.4, 4.2.3) is assigned to Balaam. The role of Balaam “whose eyes are opened” (Num 24:4b, 16b) is assigned to the donkey. —Donkeys in the Biblical World, page 184

Friday, February 15, 2013

Deliver us!

“Contemporary religious involvement with biblical texts easily devolves into the slavish application of norms derived from the religiously correct orthodoxy of our day: one accepts that which suits contemporary orthodox, one rejects what is disagreeable, and one simply ignores the many biblical texts that do not present themselves as being spiritually useful or politically relevant. In such a situation, studying the Bible contributes nothing to the formation of faith, community, or outlook; it is merely a matter of gaining a few proof texts for what we already value.”—Biblical Theology, page 24

<idle musing>
Lord deliver us from such short-sightedness! May the Holy Spirit break down the barriers and open our eyes to see new things and catch a new vision of you!
</idle musing>

Thursday, February 14, 2013


So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:14-19 TNIV)

<idle musing>
How many curses do you see there? Look again! How many curses do you see? Count carefully, because the results have huge ramifications for your theology of God.

OK, how many of you counted 3 or 4? Let's see those hands? That's what I thought, most of you. And so, you have a view that God cursed the woman and the man. And, consequently, you think God is mad at you and hates you. Admit it. God is an ogre looking over your shoulder, ready to bash you over the head at the least provocation.

But, how many times does the word "curse" actually appear? Twice. Yes, twice: once about the serpent and once about the ground.

Is the woman cursed?


Is the man cursed?


Does God hate us?


Is God mad at us?


If he hated us, then why does scripture tell us that he loves us? Why would he come in the form of humanity? As Michael Card said it so well, "His love would have held him there." The nails weren't necessary.

Isn't that freeing? God LOVES you. Go and rejoice in his love. Respond to his love in return. Love God and you will love life—no matter what the circumstances. Ask Valentine as he lost his head over his love for Christ...
</idle musing>


God as a Person in his relationships and communication focuses upon personal and not propositional truth. Love is the essence of the relationship and it is centred on the heart; therefore we should not expect or focus upon precision, exactitude, and rational systems.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 220

<idle musing>
Appropriate for a Valentine's day, eh?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The greatest is love

John Wesley is to be identified as a pastoral or practical theologian. The perspective from which he approached the task of theologising comes from his conviction that the essential nature of God is love and that all other facets of his nature, character and purposes are in harmony with this. Human beings are created in the image of God, and the interrelationship between God and his creation is characterised by a relationship of love. It is for this reason that Wesley can define the essential nature of Christianity as “the true, the scriptural, experimental religion” of the heart. God’s plan of salvation has to do with the restoration of a relationship of love based on trust, rather than the intellectual command of doctrines and conformity to rules and regulations. This makes personal and community transformation the critical test of correct theological reflection, formulation, and application.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 218

<idle musing>
Amen! Transformation is the outgrowth of the love of God being shed abroad in our hearts. May his tribe increase.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Thought for today

Another thing you do: You flood the Lord ’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made the two of you one? You belong to him in body and spirit. And why has he made you one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. (Malachi 2:13-15 TNIV).

<idle musing>
Instead of railing about the sins of the world, maybe we should turn our eyes internally...
</idle musing>

Spirit power

Wesley sees God alone as the single and sole authority and source for all theologising. He is then free to use all, some or no means at all in communicating through the Holy Spirit his love, desire, invitation to and nurturing of a mutual relationship with persons and communities; Wesley makes this point explicitly. Arguments over the primacy of Scripture, reason, experience or tradition are pointless, as none of the means can substitute for, or be equal to, the authority of God himself. Wesley firmly believes that God normally uses the various means of grace, but they have no merit in themselves; there is only instrumental value as they are energised by the presence of the Spirit in the life of the believer and the faith community.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, pages 216-217

<idle musing>
Amen! Without the Holy Spirit, nothing is effective, no matter how persuasive, emotional, or reasonable. It doesn't matter what scripture, reason, experience, or tradition endorse unless the Spirit breathes life into them.

Come, Holy Spirit, and breathe life into your people!
</idle musing>

Monday, February 11, 2013

Set free!

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38, 39 TNIV)

<idle musing>
"Set free from every sin!" Not just forgiven, but set free! that is the gospel, the Good News! That is what the law of Moses couldn't do...
</idle musing>

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Saturday's thought

And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. “ ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 7:8-13 TNIV)

Friday, February 08, 2013

Thought for a Friday

A quaint old divine of the seventeenth century says: “There is nothing so contrary to God as sin, and God will not suffer sin always to rule his masterpiece, man. When we consider the infiniteness of God’s power for destroying that which is contrary to Him, who can believe that the devil must always stand and prevail? I believe it is inconsistent and disagreeable with true faith for people to be Christians, and yet to believe that Christ, the eternal Son of God, to whom all power in heaven and earth is given, will suffer sin and the devil to have dominion over them.
“But you will say no man by all the power he hath can redeem himself, and no man can live without sin. We will say, Amen, to it. But if men tell us, that when God’s power comes to help us and to redeem us out of sin, that it cannot be effected, then this doctrine we cannot away with; nor I hope you neither.—Hannah Whitalll Smith

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

How to read the Bible

[For Wesley] The Bible sets the boundaries for what is and what is not acceptable in a relationship with God, since the whole content faithfully portrays God’s nature, character and purpose. Biblical truth was not to be found by isolating selected proof texts; it had to be read holistically (the analogy of faith) in the light of its intentions to initiate and develop a relationship of love. The central message of the Scripture was to be read in terms of love, trust and relationship, not propositions, assent and doctrinal systems.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 214

<idle musing>
Amen! Too many read the Bible looking for proof texts instead of transformation via the Holy Spirit.
</idle musing>

Monday, February 04, 2013

Deliverance, not just forgiveness

In the very outset, then, settle down on this one thing, that the Lord is able to save you fully, now, in this life, from the power and dominion of sin, and to deliver you altogether out of the hands of your enemies. If you do not think He is, search your Bible, and collect together every announcement or declaration concerning the purposes and object of His death on the cross. You will be astonished to find how full they are. Everywhere and always His work is said to be, to deliver us from our sins, from our bondage, from our defilement; and not a hint is given anywhere, that this deliverance was to be only the limited and partial one with which the Church so continually tries to be satisfied.—Hannah Whitalll Smith in The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life

Restatements of faith

He [Wesley] comes to affirm that it is the presence of God himself through the Spirit that is critical for the relationship to be experimentally real, and God has the ability to communicate directly with all persons through the Spirit. It is the Spirit himself who challenges all theological opinions and practices, approves and confirms experientially that the understanding and application are within the framework of an authentic heart experience of God. The Spirit is free to do this directly with the person or via the use of ‘means’ and this is the key to Wesley’s whole theological enterprise...Wesley initially identified these means as Scripture, reason, antiquity, the Church of England and experience. It is the Spirit’s use of these means of grace that enables Christians within their community of faith to avoid both enthusiasm (the absence of means) and rationalism (unaided human effort). In this evangelical understanding, the person/community doing the reading, interpretation and application of Scripture is never autonomous: it is always the role of the living Spirit to raise up ‘prophets’ to give fresh visions, new perspectives, and new insights; to recapture, renew, or refresh the soteriological beliefs and practices settled between the apostolic times and the early Fathers. There are no ‘new’ doctrines to be discovered, only re-statements and fresh applications.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 213

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Thoughts for a super bowl Sunday

Persons often get into such a state that they are greatly interested in some worldly matters, but not in spiritual religion. Their souls are all awake while worldly things are the subject; but suggest some spiritual subject, and their interest is gone at once.—Charles Finney


Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18, 19 TNIV)

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Thought for today

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit God’s love for them. (Jonah 2:8 TNIV)

<idle musing>
And idols come in different shapes and sizes...
</idle musing>

Friday, February 01, 2013

Getting it right

Wesley initially seemed to uphold the emerging Enlightenment view that defined belief in terms of intellectual comprehension and faith as assent to propositional truth. His own spiritual journey led him to question this approach and he returned to the earlier view of belief in the context of personal encounter and relationship, with faith defined primarily in terms of trust. During 1738 he personally experienced the critical difference between defining Christianity in intellectual and behavioural terms and the experimental reality of a personal relationship with God through the presence of the Holy Spirit. This brings a new perspective to the whole process of theologising, centring on love and relationship rather than propositional truth and behavioural conformity to rules and regulations. It makes the heart and not the head the primary locus of God’s gracious working; in this understanding, technical information is no substitute for actual lived experience.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 212

<idle musing>
The first leads to confessionalism, which easily degenerates to the church being nothing more than a social, do-good club instead of the redeemed people of God.
</idle musing>