Sunday, December 31, 2006

Catching up

Life is getting back to normal now. Over Christmas we had our 7 month pregnant daughter Renee, our son-in-law Joel, Joshua (their 21 month old), and our son Ryan visiting us. And on Christmas Eve, Debbie's parents came over. So, there were 8 of us around a 42 inch round table. Well, really only 7, because Joshua sat off to the side on a booster chair with a tray. Still, quite a few people around a table designed for 4. We had a grand time, though.

After dinner, we had a time of worship with Joel on the guitar and Ryan and Renee on the hand drums, some sharing of what God has done in our lives, and then communion. One of the joys of having adult children is being able to see and share in what God is doing in their lives. We rejoice in His goodness to us. The verse that I have always torn out of context (hey, eisegesis is good sometimes!) and asked God for in my children is III John 3 "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth." (RSV) God has answered that prayer abundantly and we praise him for it.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The continuing saga of programmers who can't spell

After a quiet few weeks, Travis is at it again. This time, though, it is a cry for help. Yesterday he posted this flyer on his door:

Since he has declared himself an independent state, he can't use company funds, I guess. Anyway, I did my part, I gave him a 10 cent Euro piece. So now he only needs $98.77. I doubt that a one day seminar is going to teach him to spell and write, though...

Why Bonhoeffer?

Why Bonhoeffer?
<idle musing>
That is the question some of us were discussing the other day. Why not Brunner, or Barth, or Moltmann, or…the list could go on ad infinitum. They are all good modern theologians, but why does Bonhoeffer seem to have something a bit different?

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but there is something about Bonhoeffer that is unique and grabs me in a way that the other ones don’t. He seems more alive, more in touch with everyday life; his faith made a difference in the way he lived. I think that is why I like him. There is a passion that shines through in his writings; a conviction that ignites the soul and makes it feel alive.

As you read Bonhoeffer, you can sense that he had an encounter with the living God that was still alive in him. You see the difference in his writings after 1932. As Bethge (one of his students and his biographer) said of him: Before 1932 he was a good theologian, but once he encountered God, he became a Christian theologian.
</idle musing>

That’s my view anyway, anyone care to comment?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

New CAD volumes arrived

Finally, after over 6 weeks delay at the printer, The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary volume T and Tet just arrived.

Chicago Assyrian Dictionary T
Chicago Assyrian Dictionary - CAD 18
Edited by Martha T. Roth
Oriental Institute-Chicago, 2006
510 pages, English
ISBN: 1885923422
Your Price: $145.00

Chicago Assyrian Dictionary T. [Tet)
Chicago Assyrian Dictionary - CAD 19
Edited by Martha T. Roth
Oriental Institute-Chicago, Forthcoming December 22, 2006
170 pages, English
ISBN: 1885923430
Your Price: $105.00

Update: It appears that I had the wrong prices! I have corrected them downwards!

Quote for today

“If Jesus is not the Lord of every part of my life, then He is not Lord of any of it. This is true salvation—true faith—true obedience. Yes I must die to my life, my interests, my will in order to abide in Him. However, I will make a greater exchange—my life for His. I will acquire a greater prize; for He is faithful to return to me more than I have given Him.” Marilyn Howshall, The Mystery of the Gospel

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Quote for today

“Not I, but Christ. This is the rest of faith in which a man rests from his works. With the unconverted man it Not Christ, but I. With the feeble and slothful Christian, I and Christ: I first and Christ to fill up what is wanting. With increasing earnestness it becomes Christ and I: Christ first, but still I second. With the man who dies with Christ it is, Not I, but Christ: Christ alone and Christ all. He has ceased from his work: Christ lives in him. This is the rest of faith.” Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Quote for today

“The point of departure for Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s concrete ethics is the theological question of how the reality of God revealed in Jesus Christ can take form in human life in the world. Bonhoeffer’s ethical reflection tries to understand God’s will and the world’s reality here and now, together, the one not without the other. Rather than treating the reality of the world as a matter of indifference—it is in fact disclosed completely anew—and rather than eclipsing it in some fashion, Bonhoeffer confronts the reality of the world with the Yes and No that God’s presence means for it.”—Editors’ Afterword to the German Edition of Bonhoeffer’s Ethics, page 409 of English edition.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Quote for today

“The church does not have a twofold word, the one general, rational, and grounded in natural law and the other Christian—that is, it does not have one word for unbelievers and another for believers. Only a pharisaical arrogance can lead the church to withhold the proclamation of Christ from some but not from others. The word of the church is justified and authorized solely by the commission of Jesus Christ. Therefore any of its words that fail to take this authorization into account must be just empty chatter…Only by fulfilling its own mandate can it legitimately question the government about fulfilling its mandate.” —Bonhoeffer, Ethics, page 399

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Quote for the day

“Where private confession and church discipline have been lost, there God’s commandment in the sermon is merely understood as a proclamation of general moral principles, which as such are void of any concrete claim.” —Bonhoeffer, Ethics, page 395

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ethics for today

“Even a master has a Master, and this fact alone makes him a master and authorizes and legitimizes him vis-à-vis the servant. Master and servant owe one another the respect that springs from their respective participation in God’s mandate.” —Bonhoeffer, Ethics, page 391

Monday, December 18, 2006

Quote for the day

A Chinese house church leader once visited some major mega-churches in Los Angeles, California and when asked, “What do you think?” he responded with, ‘It’s amazing what your American Churches can do without the Holy Spirit.”

Bonhoeffer's 4 mandates

“The commandment of God revealed in Jesus Christ embraces in its unity all of human life. Its claim on human beings and the world through the reconciling love of God is all-encompassing. This commandment encounters us concretely in four different forms that find their unity only in the commandment itself, namely, in the church, marriage and family, culture, and government.” —Bonhoeffer, Ethics, page 388

Sunday, December 17, 2006


<idle musing>
Ouch! It hurt, but it had to be done.

Saturday I was frustrated. How can people be so dense? I try so hard, but it just doesn't seem to happen. I don't seem to get anywhere. I, I, I, I...

That should have been my first clue. As I am so fond of telling others, you can tell a lot about a person by the subject of the sentence. But, no, I went on bullheadedly and let my frustration rule me instead of the love of Christ.

So, if I am running the show, what do you think will come out? Yep, me, self-righteous, Pharisaical, proud, arrogant, the list goes on. Sure, it might contain truth, but is it the truth, spoken in love? That is the true test. It is only as I function in the love of Christ that anything will ever be accomplished.

A good Christian brother pointed out the problem to me, but I only saw half the problem. Even after I posted the Bonhoeffer quote, and mused on it, I didn't realize the extent of my sin. Only now, two days after, and who knows how many people hurt, did it become evident to me.

What am I talking about? I made some posts that I should not have—probably not the first time—but these were different; they weren't just frivolous. These were mean-spirited; they reflected the worst of me, my pride and desire to be right at all costs. Self-vindication is a cruel task master and loves to eat its victims up, all the while making them think they are justified in their actions. But, the light of God shines brighter and shone through, setting me free once again.

So, I did something I've never done before, I took down some posts. They were posted in arrogance and pride, and if anyone was hurt, I ask your forgiveness.

I am not given to this kind of public confession. But, the sin was public, therefore the confession should also be public.
</idle musing>

Quote for today

“The commandment of God as the commandment revealed in Jesus Christ is always a concrete speaking to someone, and never an abstract speaking about something or someone. It always addresses and claims the hearer in such a comprehensive and at the same time definitive way that it no longer permits the freedom of interpretation and application, but only the freedom of obedience or disobedience.”—Bonhoeffer, Ethics, page 381

<idle musing>
Ouch! I don't know how many times I've heard something and instantly applied it to someone else's life. Yes, even—no, especially—when it was very relevant to my own life. Or, just as bad, I've explained my sin away, justifying it in my own eyes. Or, worse yet, set myself up as judge of someone else's situation...Lord! Deliver me from myself! Oh, wait he has! "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:2 RSV
</idle musing>

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Bonhoeffer for a Saturday

“God’s commandment is God’s speech to human beings. Both in its content and in its form, it is concrete speech to concrete human beings. God’s commandment leaves human beings no room for application and interpretation, but only for obedience or disobedience. God’s commandment cannot be found and known apart from time and place; indeed, it can only be heard by one who is bound to a specific place and time. God’s commandment is either utterly specific, clear, and concrete or it is not God’s commandment.”—Bonhoeffer, Ethics, pages 378-379

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ethics again

"Jesus’ demand that the rich young man give up one of his rights makes clear that his ‘keeping of the Ten Commandments since his youth’ was not obedience to God, but ignoring the living God in the midst of keeping the so-called divine orders. The Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount are thus not two different ethical ideals, but the one call to concrete obedience to the God and Father of Jesus Christ. Responsibly affirming property rights is no different from giving up one’s property, when done out of faith in God. Neither ‘fighting for rights’ nor ‘giving up rights’ is essential as such, as if it were a particular subject of the church’s proclamation. However, when done in faith either stance amounts to a submission to the right of God alone." —Bonhoeffer, Ethics, page 359 (emphasis his)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wish list is live at Eisenbrauns!

We've been working diligently (well, Travis and Andy have, all I did was try to break it!) on this for quite a while now, but it is finally ready for prime-time. You can now create a wish list and publish it (if you wish). Perfect timing, right? You just finished that final and need to relax. What better way than creating a wish list for next semester/quarter? Or, to take your mind off all the grading that you need to do (ugh!), why not create a wish list at Eisenbrauns?

You can see mine here.

If you are feeling generous, the large BHS would be very nice. My eyes can't always tell the difference between a resh and a dahlet anymore in my small BHS, even with reading glasses :(

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Around the blogosphere

Some very good posts today and yesterday that are worth reading.

Yesterday, over at the The M Blog there is a very good post about Church Planting, Baptists & Charismatics together:

I have been told 80% of evangelicals in Ecuador are either charismatics or pentecostals. To ignore and disassociate ourselves from them is not only unbiblical, it is ministry suicide, and quite clearly sin if you ask me.

He goes on for quite a while, well worth the read.

Meantime, here in the States, Jim Martin has a good post on The Wonderful World of Self:

Years ago, I was the minister to a church that met on the campus of a Bible college. The school and the church were their own separate entities. Yet, there was some overlap. After all, I taught part-time at the college (a senior level ministry class each semester). One Sunday, a man employed by the school was in our assembly. He approached me afterward and said that he was scheduled to preach in chapel that week and would like to use much of what I had just said in that morning’s sermon. I said something like "sure" and went on. As I recall, I felt encouraged that he wanted to use much of that material for his own message.

That week, I was in chapel and heard his message. It was very familiar — very, very familiar. Maybe I just wanted him to acknowledge that he heard much of this last Sunday morning in our assembly. Yet, not one word.

This bothered me.

This bothered me — a lot.

You really should read it all. One commenter on the blog said it is the "Somebody didn’t push my ‘I’m important!’ button." Well put. Definitely worth the read.

And Ted Gossard has an excellent post as well on Living out life

This is why, though rules have their place, they really do not have a kind of prior place in the living out of this life. For example, as one in Jesus, I don't refuse to steal, simply because it's a rule from God I must keep, and because it's part of a choice, among the many choices I must make along the way. No. But I refuse to steal, or fight any temptation I may have to do so, because I have this life in Jesus. And having this life, I want to live it out. And I have the dynamic in God to do so.

I was brought up with a form of legalism that made how one dresses (especially women), or what one does (and doesn't do) to be of prior importance in living out Christianity, in being a Christian. Fortunately there were those who knew better. But by and large Christianity was seen more for what we do and don't do, rather than who we are and "the life" that we have in Jesus. When I finally became a Christian, the new life in Jesus was at the forefront of my experience. I overflowed with this new love and grace I had found. But I gradually receded back into a kind of orientation, that, while not surrendering "the life" aspect entirely, nevertheless relegated it to a status that put the onus on me. As if living out this life, and remaining in it, depends on me

He continues on, worth the read.

More from Bonhoeffer

"Jesus is hardly ever involved in solving worldly problems; whenever he is requested to do so, he is strangely evasive (Matt. 22:15; Luke 12:13), just as generally he almost never answers people’s questions directly, but from a completely different plain. His word is not an answer to human questions and problems, but the divine answer to the divine question addressed to human beings. His word is essentially determined not from below, but from above; it is not a solution but redemption. His word does not spring from the human problematic of the disunity of good and evil, but from the complete unity of the Son with the will of the Father. He stands beyond the human problematic. This is the first thing that must be understood. Since Jesus brings the redemption of human beings, rather than the solution to problems, he indeed brings the solution to all human problems—”all these things will be given”—though from a completely different vantage point.” —Bonhoeffer, Ethics, page 354 (emphasis his)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Yeah, right!

John Cook, our acquisitions editor, forwarded the following graphic to all of us today. He told us the underlining was not his. (You might have to click on it to make it big enough to read.)

All I can say is that I wouldn't want to be married to a woman like that. It sure would be boring.

Best books of 2006

I was delighted to see that some of Eisenbrauns' finest publications were recently nominated for best books of 2006 by Biblische Ausbildung. You can see which ones I mean by clicking here

Barth for today

"In 1932 I did not know the Fundamentalists so well. The Fundamentalist says he knows the Bible, but he must have become master over the Bible, which means master over revelation… I consider it just another kind of natural theology: a view of the modern man who wants to control revelation."—Karl Barth

Quote for the day

“Only that which participates in Christ can endure and overcome. Christ is the center and power of the Bible, of the church, of theology, but also of humanity, reason, justice, and culture. To Christ everything must return; only under Christ’s protection can it live.”—Bonhoeffer, Ethics, page 341

Monday, December 11, 2006

Eisenbrauns 2 week sale

For the next 2 weeks (December 11-26), Eisenbrauns is offering 30% off on volumes 1-9 of the Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archaeologie. Details here

Call it an early Christmas present for Assyriologists!

Reflecting on The Great Giveaway

I just finished The Great Giveaway by David Fitch, published by Baker Books. I found it a very stimulating book. His basic thesis is that the Evangelical Church has given away the formation of disciples of Jesus Christ to popular culture. Specifically, we allow the values of capitalism, consumerism, democracy, self-actualization, materialism, and patriotism as found in popular culture to influence our life more than we do the Christ in the Bible.

We form our churches on the model of big business, with our pastors expected to be CEOs, without even thinking about how that changes the focus of the church (as an aside, I know of one church that justifies the multi-million dollar per year salary of their head pastor on the basis of the pay for the CEO of a similar size business!). We give away counseling to psychotherapists, even Christian ones, who are trained to focus on the self as the source of solutions instead of taking the necessary time to see if the problems are sin issues, economic issues, etc., in stark contrast to Christ’s command to die to self. Seems that listening to the voice of someone/thing other than God is what got us into this whole mess in the first place (Genesis 3). The list goes on.

I basically agree with his analysis of the situation, but his solution is equally problematic. He wants to return to liturgy, catechesis, etc. He freely admits that his answers are not necessarily the best, but they are the ones he is using in the church he pastors. He also has some other suggestions, some good, some not as good. I think in some cases he goes too far; in others, not far enough.

<soap box alert>
For example, he wants to change the sermon to make it more relevant and less spoon feeding of propositional truths to hearers. I agree, we should change it, but the best change is to abolish it! We need to have teaching as interaction, not teaching as lecture!

Think about the last conversation you had. Do you remember more clearly what you said, or what the other person said? Exactly! The Socratic Method needs to be brought back into the church (DIALOGOS, in its best Greek meaning).
</soap box alert>

There are a few nitpicky things that bothered me about this otherwise very worthwhile read:
1. Use footnotes, not endnotes! The notes are essential to forwarding the argument of the book in many places. Don’t relegate them to the back of the book.
2. Edit out the department of redundancy department phrases. The book could have benefited dramatically from a heavier editing. The book could easily have lost 50 pages if the editor had made him clarify his thoughts. Of course, that same editor would probably have made him incorporate some of the notes into the text, so the end result would be a book of the same length. : )

But, the book is definitely worth the read. I have already offered it to 2 people, and no, Eisenbrauns doesn’t sell it!

I was catching up on a blog whose RSS feed doesn't work, and ran across this:

Alternatives to monologue preaching
Both the New Testament and church planting movements offer very effective alternatives to the monologue. As mentors of emerging leaders of new congregations, we should be able to train others in these alternatives.

Dialogue. (Acts 17:2; 20:7; 17:11; 24:25) The apostles preferred to “dialogue” with both seekers and believers, both individuals and groups. Dialogue, conversations with a purpose, allow a teacher to answer folk’s questions, allay their fears, inform their ignorance, appeal to their conscience, and help them choose what they will do. Believers are to teach and instruct “one another” (Col. 3:16; Rom 15:14). Dialogue is easier to do in small groups than in big congregations. Since most folks already know how to dialogue with their friends and relatives, doing so is a superior way to share about Jesus and the way of life that He calls everyone to follow.

You should read the rest.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Hmmm...there has been a bit of noise around the blogs this week about the emerging church. It appears that a well known radio preacher has sent out a fund-raising letter blasting the emerging church as heretical, or at least dangerous, doctrinally. Nice response here by Dan Kimball, and another one here from Leighton Tebay. Very nice responses, so I won't add to them.

<idle musing>
This does raise a very interesting question, though. What is the biblical basis for fund raising letters for oneself/one's own ministry?

I know that Paul writes about money a good deal, and we would do well to take it to heart. But, does Paul ever ask for money for his own stuff? I don't recall it. He asks on behalf of the church in Jerusalem, which is loaded with theological significance to him, since it is the first fruits of the inflow of the gentiles described in the prophets. But, does he ever ask for it on his own behalf?

Maybe I am wrong (wouldn't be the first time), but I tend to think the model shown by George Mueller and Hudson Taylor is more scriptural. They made their requests known to God, and he supplied their needs.

In fact, if you read Hudson Taylor's biography, you will see that he was more concerned that God would send the right people than he was with money. At one point he had more money than missionaries to use it, which caused him to opine that he always figured that when God sent the person, the money would follow and that money was of secondary importance.

Perhaps our current obsession with fund raising letters is a result of how we view the church. Is the church the organic body of Christ, or is it just another organization to be run on American business principles? How we answer that question is foundational to how we act. Are "decisions for Christ" what the church is all about? Is spoon feeding hearers propositional truth what the church is all about? If so, then business principles might apply. If, however, the church is about relationships between people and between people and God, then we need to seriously reexamine how we "do church." To run a church (or ministry) on business principles, complete with surveys and 5 year plans and mass mailings and logo-ed charge cards(!!! don't get me started on that one) is to do violence to the concept of the kingdom of God present in an assembled body of believers.

How can we expect to bring about the kingdom of God by fleshly effort and methods? Well, the subject of that sentence says it all, doesn't it? Anytime the subject of the sentence is anything other than the triune God, results are, at best, poor substitutes for the presence of the living God in the church as a body of believers (2 or more!).

Now there is a radical thought—two or more. That means that when I am with my wife, or my kids, or co-workers, or friends, we are "doing church." Kinda blows the mind, doesn't it? Drop the dichotomy of secular-sacred and walk in the presence of God all the time! Wow! Sounds so—well, scriptural!

OK, enough rambling for one day...
</idle musing>

Friday, December 08, 2006

Inside Eisenbrauns, update

For those of you following the continuing saga, I present the evidence. Below is Travis' declaration of independence, complete with bad grammar.

Poor, misguided young lad! He doesn't know how much he needs our assistance. Those of us who are part of the coalition to re-annex the Independent Office of Travis Spangle are committed to doing so peacefully, if possible.

As a show of good will on our part, we translated our Petition into Wingding, the official language of said office. Since there is no Google Language tool or Babelfish for Wingding, We enlisted the skills of our resident linguist, John Cook. John put forth significant effort, the results of which are below.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Inside Eisenbrauns

As you probably know, we hired a programmer last Spring. He has assisted us greatly in bringing such things as the RSS feeds to life. He does have a problem: he can't spell and his English grammar sometimes needs a bit of help.

In the interest of assisting him, some of us began editing his e-mails and returning them to him, in the hopes that he would take to heart our assistance. Sorry to say, he did not appreciate our attempts. In fact, he issued a statement of secession! He posted it on his office door, complete with bad grammar and spelling mistakes. It has remained there for over a month.

Today, in an attempt to help him see the error of his ways, a petition was posted on his office door, encouraging him to return to the Eisenbiz.

I will keep you updated as the situation escalates :)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Used books on sale all December

I almost forgot to post this...I must be too busy.

For the entire month of December, Eisenbrauns is offering 15% off the price on all used books. Be sure to take advantage of this chance to save even more on the already low cost of our used books. Complete details can be found here

Pride redivus

Monday night I was going through some archived data, trying to find something that Debbie needed. In the process, I came across some stuff I had written back 6 years ago, and some stuff from 3 years ago. What an arrogant jerk I was! I couldn't believe the pride that emanated from the writing.

Well, maybe I can, because it opened a door in my soul that stuck with me throughout Tuesday. I found myself acting in a way and saying things that were arrogant, inconsiderate, uncaring, and unloving. It wasn't until last night that I realized how I had been acting all day. I had to spend a bit of time with God, allowing him to once again crucify what I had thought was dead—and it was/is dead according to scripture. I just chose to live outside of what Christ has already done, and once you do that...well it ain't pretty.

Quote for the day

“The New Testament answers quite unambiguously the question about what love is by pointing exclusively to Jesus Christ. Christ is the sole definition of love. But everything would be misunderstood once more if a general definition of love were to be derived from looking at Jesus Christ and Christ’s doing and suffering. Love is not what Christ does and suffers, but what Christ does and suffers. Love is always Jesus Christ himself. Love is always God himself. Love is always God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.” —Bonhoeffer, Ethics, page 335.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

OK, I fell for it

I just couldn't resist...

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Book Snob
Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Hmm, the colors didn't seem to come through. Just so you know: The very top one is at about 85-90%. Of the five below it, the top two are at about 75%, the third one at 50%, and the other two have nothing.

No surprise, is there?

HT: Rick Mansfield

Quote for the day

Thus says the Lord:
Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
and make mere flesh their strength,
whose hearts turn away from the Lord.
They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see when relief comes.
They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.
The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse—
who can understand it?
I the Lord test the mind
and search the heart,
to give to all according to their ways,
according to the fruit of their doings.

Jeremiah 17:5-10 RSV


“It is evident that the only appropriate attitude of human beings toward God is doing God’s will. The purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is to do it (see the ending of Matthew 7!). Only in doing does submission to the will of God happen. In doing the will of God, human beings completely relinquish any right of their own, nay justification of their own; in doing, they humbly subject themselves to the gracious judge. Holy Scripture insists so emphatically on our doing because it intends to deprive us of any self-justification before God that is grounded in our won knowledge of good and evil. It seeks to prevent human beings’ own deeds from being placed side by side with God’s deed, even if as thanksgiving or as sacrifice. Instead, Holy Scripture puts human beings completely within God’s doing, and subjects human doing completely to the doing of God. The mistake of the Pharisees was not their adamant insistence on the necessity of doing, but rather that they themselves did not get around to doing actual deeds. ‘They say and do not do it.’

“In demanding the deed, scripture actually does not point people to their own capacities but to Jesus Christ himself. ‘Without me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). This sentence must be understood in the strictest sense. There really is no doing without Jesus Christ. All the multiple activities that otherwise have the appearance of doing, all the countless tasks, are considered in Jesus’ judgment as if nothing had been done.”—Bonhoeffer, Ethics, pages 326-327

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ethics for a Monday

“The freedom of Jesus is not arbitrary choice of one among countless possibilities. Instead, it consists precisely in the complete simplicity of his action, for which there are never several possibilities, conflicts, or alternatives, but always only one. Jesus call this one option the will of God. He calls it his food to do this wil. This ill of God is his life. He lives and acts not out of the knowledge of good and evil, but out of the will of God. There is only one will of God. In it, the origin of everything is regained. It is the source of freedom and simplicity in everything that is done” —Bonhoeffer, Ethics, page 313

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ethics for December 3

“It is the encounter of Jesus with the Pharisees that most clearly highlights the contrast of the old and the new. The proper understanding of this encounter is very important for understanding the gospel as such; the Pharisees are not an accidental historical phenomenon of Jesus’ time, but human beings for whom nothing but the knowledge of good and evil has come to be important for their entire lives. The Pharisee is the epitome of the human being in the state of disunion. Any caricature of the Pharisees takes away the seriousness and importance of Jesus’ confrontation with them. Pharisees are those human beings, admirable to the highest degree, who subject their entire lives to the knowledge of good and evil and who judge themselves as sternly as their neighbors—and all to the glory of God, whom they humbly thank for this knowledge. For Pharisees, every moment of life turns into a situation of conflict in which they have to choose between good and evil. In order to avoid wrongdoing, all their thought day and night are intensely focused on the unfathomable number of possible conflicts in order to think them trough in advance, come to a decision, and determine their own choice. Innumerable facts have to be taken into account, weighed, and distinguished. The more minute the distinctions, the more indisputable the correct decision. Life in all its variety is certainly taken into account.”—Bonhoeffer, Ethics, pages 309-310

<idle musing>
Wow, talk about an impossible task! But, that seems to be what a lot of christians do. They want to make sure that God is pleased, so every possible scenario is examined under a microscope…Bonhoeffer is calling us to freedom. The freedom of surrendering all decisions to the grace of God. Listening to the Spirit and walking in true freedom. I’ll take that any day over hyper-analyzing every decision.
</idle musing>

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Revival thoughts

Over at The Heresy Leighton Tebay has some good thoughts Reconsidering Revival. The post is about a week old now, but I have been digesting his thoughts since last weekend.

It is thought that if we pray the right way, or have the right anointed leader, or have attained enough spiritual authority revival will come.

Spiritual authority is a concept that shifts from group to group. Some believe that there is a hierarchical governing authority to everything flowing down from apostles to prophets to pastors to elders to men to women and finally children. Others also believe that through a spiritual process individuals or groups gain more authority to break down oppressive spiritual strongholds. For revival to come they must go through a continual process of empowerment and refinement. Leaders must strive to achieve a level of prophetic clarity so they can hear God accurately and speak powerful words. When they reach a certain level they will be able to pull down the spiritual strongholds that hold a particular geographic area captive. The strategy employed to do this is called spiritual mapping. When this is successful the spiritual bonds that keep people from Christ are broken, the Holy Spirit floods out and people flood back in to the church.

How this looks in the real world is sometimes far from the ideal. In all my years of observing such groups the spiritual breakthrough has never arrived. Some maintain that it is still coming...

I think the overwhelming message of the Spirit these days is "clean up your act and get your show on the road". It is a terrible mistake to hide behind safe walls in sheltered enclaves waiting for something to happen. I think the impetus behind an obsessive focus on intercession and spiritual warfare could be a terrible deception designed to keep spiritually empowered Christians away from the rest of the world.

I believe the most powerful vehicle for building the kingdom of God that we can employ is the local church. As a simple church advocate I'd say the local church can be something very small and relatively unstructured and still be a church. I've lost a lot of faith in independent ministries and para-church organizations. It feels odd for me to say this because the best influences in the first 10 years of my Christian life were para-church ministries. I really think all these smart gifted people that are frustrated with the inaction of the church need to find their way back. Things like evangelism, teaching and discipleship work best in a community of believers that are actually committed to each other.

Some might think I would oppose a revival if one actually occurred. I'm not against it because a true revival will be the work of God. I believe it has become an idol in some elements of the Christian church. Our focus on what we want God to do (through us usually) has distracted us from stepping out in faith and doing what we know we are supposed to do. I don't believe God would bring a flood of people in to a church that is already full of people indistinguishable from the world.

<idle musing>
I come from a revivalist background. I firmly believe in revival. But, Leighton's comments are right on. Some of us have idolized revival and made it the answer instead of Jesus. Jesus is always the source of any revival that there might be. The surest way to experience revival is to surrender our will to his and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us.

Obedience, not manifestations or experiences, is the evidence of revival. As long as there is no difference between those in the church and those outside the church, don't look for a revival in the land. The revival must begin in the church. I read once that the best way to pray for revival was to get down on your knees on the floor, draw a circle around yourself and start praying for revival within the circle! And that revival will be a fresh realization of who Jesus is and what he demands from us–not a feel-good experience that allows us to continue to wallow in our sins.
</idle musing>

Bonhoeffer's Ethics returns

“Only by the call of grace heard in Jesus Christ, by which I am claimed, may I live justified before God as slave or free, married or single. From Christ’s perspective this life is now my vocation; from my own perspective it is my responsibility.

“This rules out two disastrous misunderstandings, that of cultural Protestantism and that of monasticism. People do not fulfill the responsibility laid on them by faithfully performing their earthly vocational obligations as citizens, workers, and parents, but by hearing the call of Jesus Christ that, although it leads them also into earthly obligations, is never synonymous with these, but instead always transcends them as a reality standing before and behind them. Vocation in the New Testament sense is never a sanctioning of the worldly orders as such. Its Yes always includes at the same time the sharpest No, the sharpest protest against the world…Vocation is the place at which one responds to the call of Christ and thus lives responsibly. The task given to me by my vocation is thus limited; but my responsibility to the call of Jesus Christ knows no bounds.”—Bonhoeffer, Ethics, pages 290-291

Friday, December 01, 2006

Biblical Studies Carnival

Jim West has posted the latest Biblical Studies Carnival, and what a carnival it is. AAR/SBL makes the sideshow...

With the expansion of blogdom, I find these helpful in keeping track of what is happening and where. Thanks, Jim, for an entertaining update.