Friday, December 31, 2010

A virtual cafeteria of gods

I'm in a new book now, God in New Testament Theology by Larry Hurtado. Here's the first excerpt. I'm not sure how much I will be able to excerpt, though; so much of the stuff depends on more than a short excerpt.

“But in the ancient world of the first Christians (and in large parts of the current world as well), the words for god (e.g., the Greek word theos) designated one of many kinds of divine beings. There was neither one deity nor even one genus or definition of deity. Instead, there was a veritable cafeteria of divine beings of various orders, attributes, and functions. Not only the Roman Empire as a whole but also individual nations and peoples were rather richly supplied with deities. So, in that setting, when one spoke of a “god” it was not automatically clear who or what the referent was. It could be one of the numerous traditional deities of the many cities or various peoples, or it could be new or imported ones. Indeed, in a number of settings one could even refer to the ruler as a 'god'.

“Moreover, the common view was that all deities were entitled to receive appropriate worship. A city or a people might well have their particular patron-deity—and might well have thought of one deity as holding pre-eminence among the gods—to whom a city or people might give special reverence. But it was understood that other cities and peoples had their deities too and that they were just as worthy of worship. Indeed, when people traveled to another city or country, ordinarily they would freely participate in the worship of the local deities, if invited, with no sense of unfaithfulness to their own deities. To be sure, philosophers of the day sometimes urged the idea that there was really one deity behind or above all the particular traditional deities, the latter sometimes thought of as manifestations of the one deity. But even those proposing such a view (sometimes referred to by scholars today as a 'pagan monotheism') did not really question giving worship to all the many deities of the religious environment. That is, their philosophical musings in general had little impact on popular religious behavior, not even their own.”—God in New Testament Theology, pages 27-28

<idle musing>
I can't emphasize too much the importance of this for understanding the ancient world and the persecution of Christians. If you don't get this, it makes no sense. I guess the closest to it today is when some people (such as myself) believe that saying the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag is compromising their commitment to God. Heresy! I can hear you crying; but it is true, if you but stop and think about it. No? Then I have a question for you: does a fish know it is wet?
</idle musing>

Musings at the end of a year

Yesterday we had a 3.8 earthquake (downgraded from 4.2); today we had a thunderstorm and it is 50º F. What's going on?

Simple; I'm becoming a senior citizen tomorrow! Yep, in only 15 more years I can retire. Of course, by then they will have raised the retirement age to 80, but no worries. As long as I can ride my bike to work, I'm fine for another 30 years :)

Seriously, though. May you have a blessed and happy year in 2011. May God make the fullness of his glory known to you through Christ. And may you learn to rest more fully in his love.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The real issue

“'First,' Gordon [Cosby] says, 'a person must come to that place where he knows that the real issue is always an internal one.' this is a difficult lesson to learn. The temptation of the natural man is to focus on what is wrong 'out there.' Leaders want to blame circumstances and other people for struggles and failures, but it is crucial that leaders begin with the only person they have the authority to change or control: themselves.” Missional Small Groups, page 165

<idle musing>
Amen! This is a tough one to admit; it's so much easier to blame "somebody else" for everything. Hey, we've been doing it since Genesis 3, so why should it be a surprise?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How-to versus who

“...we often look for leadership training that focuses on skills development. The questions asked in such training always focuses on the how question. The reality, however, is that leading a missional group is more about the who question. I have written this book as an invitation to be and live differently. Being missional will not result from a list of how-tos we can follow; developing the skills to lead a missional group will not occur when a person simply abandons one set of leadership techniques and adopts another.

“Leading missional groups occurs as leaders are formed and shaped for mission. We have to think and lead differently when the purpose of the group moves from simply getting churched people to attend groups to moving our experience of community back into the neighborhoods. And this us especially true when we realize that those in our neighborhoods are not that interested in coming to church as it has traditionally been conceived.” Missional Small Groups, page 163

<idle musing>
This is very true. Leadership training will never be effective by itself; the who is far more important than the how.
</idle musing>

Join the flat-earth society

Robin Parry has a nice thought about cosmology today:

I want to say that God did not reveal himself in spite of the ancient cosmology but through the ancient cosmology. Whilst it is impossible for us to inhabit the cosmos in the way that we did (it is scientifically naive) we can still inhabit the cosmos in a way that is deeply informed by their cosmology.

Ancient cosmologies were very much to do with the meaning, purpose, and function of the cosmos. Their ways of thinking of the universe saw it as "enchanted" and meaning-full. I tentatively suggest that God is actually affirming the meanings embedded in their naive cosmology. Thus whilst we cannot affirm biblical cosmology at a scientific level we can affirm it at the level of meaning...

I am suggesting that our job as Bible readers is not to say what the apostles and prophets said (that would require us to join the flat earth society). Rather, echoing Barth, we must say what we must say in light of what the apostles and prophets said. We must not simply cast aside ther [sic] husk of biblical cosmologies but rather learn from them how to reenchant the cosmos and how to inhabit "our" cosmos biblically.

<idle musing>
It is nice to see people interacting with the biblical text on its terms instead of our terms. Would that more people did! It sure would eliminate a lot of the senseless arguments I hear.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We're back

We just got back from 2-plus weeks with our kids. The drive up was in the middle of the biggest snow storm in December's Minnesota history; some areas we drove through ended up with 23 inches. It was a blast!

We spent the first week with our son, Ryan, and his wife and child (Emily and Evelyn). Their basement had flooded in the rains that the Minneapolis area got earlier this fall; Ryan wanted to get rid of the damaged paneling and Styrofoam™ insulation as soon as possible to avoid mold growth. So, we spent the first few days tearing out old paneling and insulation. We found the spots where the wall had leaked and plugged them with Portland cement, then we painted the whole basement wall with Drylock™. Then we put up drywall and stuff. We also added a new room which will eventually become a bedroom. I'd say we got about half-done by the end of the week.

We spent the second week with our daughter, Renee, and her family (Joel, Joshua, Rachel, Madeline, and Beansprout, who is about to be born). We had a grand time playing, talking, cooking, singing, etc. We even got to go on a sleigh ride on Christmas day! Good times!

I sure enjoyed the snow while we were there, but it is good to be back home again—even though there isn't much snow here...

No easy answers

“The nature of injustice in neighborhoods varies from one place to the next. It is easy to make this about poor neighborhoods and rich neighborhoods, proclaiming that justice is about those classified as rich doing something nice for those classified as poor. As a result, justice becomes about being good deed doers. With this mind-set, groups might think they are following Jesus in righting wrongs by attending the church's monthly outreach night or doing a periodic service project for the community. But facing injustice is not something we can check off our monthly to-do list so that we can feel proud of our good deeds.

“Treating people as a project reinforces the injustice. Instead, we are called to engage people relationally to discover who they are as people. Jesus instructs his people to face injustice personally and to do so by treating those in need as equals.” Missional Small Groups, pages 154-155

<idle musing>
Treating people as people is the beginning of evangelism. Treating them as projects is demeaning and does no one any good.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Business is not missional

“After working with churches for nearly two decades, I have seen one consistent problem with people actually doing this practice. Some of the people who have the most to offer neighborhoods are also the busiest at keeping the organization of the church going All of their volunteer time is spent working in committees, singing in the choir, leading youth events for kids in the church, teaching Sunday school, and attending up to three services per week. Sometimes it seems like the more committed to God a person becomes, the less he or she is involved with the neighborhood. This seems especially true of those who are paid employees of local churches.

“To enter into Missional Engagement with the neighborhood is not synonymous with maintaining the organization of the church and all of its trappings.”— Missional Small Groups, page 140

<idle musing>
I've seen the same thing. Sad isn't it, that we have confused activities to keep the organization going with the heart of God for the world?
</idle musing>

Friday, December 10, 2010


We are leaving today and won't be back until December 27. I don't know if I will have Internet access consistently enough to post or not. I suspect not. Besides, I'll be spending time with the kids and grandkids :) So, merry Christmas to all and check out this post from last year about Christmas.

The mission field

"Our mission field is ripe for God's people to live consistently with one another in a certain way and in a certain place. We no longer need a haphazard gospel sharing that is not supported by visible community. We need much more than good sermons, big buildings, and professional video presentations. We need a people committed to specific places who are called to bring redemption to those places."— Missional Small Groups, page 139

<idle musing>
Amen! The hard part, of course, is living it...and that can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit, living within us and empowering us.
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The neighborhood

"When we practice presence in the neighborhood, we give people the opportunity to feel the life of the gospel and not just hear it. If we are not present in the neighborhood, we have no credibility to do some of the more proactive rhythms identified in the next few chapters. And if we are not present, we have no right to expect people to take the message of the gospel seriously. Presence establishes us as people who live in this world and as people who have a God who can do something about what is going on in this world."— Missional Small Groups, page 135

<idle musing>
The incarnation is a perfect example. As Roger Olson put it the other day: "For God so loved the world…that He couldn’t stay away. Yes, to academics and scholars it sounds simplistic and even smacks of folk religion. But if you strip from it any connotation of God being “lonely” or absent it’s an apt statement of the gospel itself."
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

New Interpreter's Dictionary on sale!

Here it is the 8th of December already, and I haven't mentioned the Eisenbrauns December sale! Good thing this isn't an official Eisenbrauns blog :)

This is a great sale, if I have to say so myself; it isn't every day you can get an $800.00 set for $240. Here's the BookNews announcement:

December brings many things for many people. If your inbox is anything like mine, you are being inundated by marketing e-mails screaming for attention. At Eisenbrauns, we like to be a bit more low key. As a company that was started (and still run and owned) by a scholar for the benefit of other scholars, we try to get you the tools you need every day of the year at a reasonable price. We are extremely grateful for your 35 years of support and hope that we can continue to serve you in the future.

While I was attending SBL, I received permission to run a sale on the New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, with the CD-ROM. This is an unprecedented offer which I hope you take advantage of. To add to the dictionary, Eisenbrauns is offering a 40% savings on individual volumes of the New Interpreter's Bible commentary.

If you are looking for gift ideas, we encourage you to visit our gift page by clicking on Rex, the Eisenbrauns' Ibex on our home page--the one with the blinking nose, that is. We offer t-shirts, mugs, brass bookmarks, and gift certificates. You can also create a wish list for yourself, or search the wish list for others.

As always, all sales on this web sale are final; no returns will be permitted. Offer good only on orders placed at through December 31, 2010.

To easily access all the sale items, please visit:

"New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible,
all five volumes plus CD-ROM"
Edited by Pheme Perkins, et al.
New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible - NIDB
Abingdon, 2010. English.
List Price: $800.00 Your Price: $240.00

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 1: General and
Old Testament Articles; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus"
by Terence E. Fretheim, Walter Brueggemann, and Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 1
Abingdon, 1994. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278145
List Price: $74.00 Your Price: $44.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 2: Numbers, Deuteronomy,
Introduction to Narrative Literature, Joshua, Judges, Ruth,
1 and 2 Samuel"
by Thomas B. Dozeman, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 2
Abingdon, 1998. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278152
List Price: $74.00 Your Price: $44.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 3: 1 and 2 Kings,
1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, Additions to Esther,
Tobit, Judith"
by Choon-Leong Seow, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 3
Abingdon, 1996. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278169
List Price: $74.00 Your Price: $44.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 4: 1 and 2 Macabees,
Introduction to Hebrew Poetry, Job, Psalms"
by Robert Doran, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 4
Abingdon, 1996. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278176
List Price: $74.00 Your Price: $44.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 5: Introduction to
Wisdom Literature, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles,
Book of Wisdom, Sirach"
by Richard J. Clifford, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 5
Abingdon, 1997. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278183
List Price: $64.00 Your Price: $38.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume 6: Introduction to
Prophetic Literature; Isaiah; Jeremiah; Baruch; Letter to
Jeremiah; Lamentations; Ezekiel"
by David L. Petersen, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 6
Abingdon, 2001. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278190
List Price: $74.00 Your Price: $44.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 7: Introduction to
Apocalyptic Literature, Daniel, Twelve Prophets"
by Frederick J. Murphy, Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, and Gale A. Yee
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 7
Abingdon, 1996. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278206
List Price: $64.00 Your Price: $38.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 8: General Articles
on the New Testament, Matthew, Mark"
by M. Eugene Boring and Pheme Perkins
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 8
Abingdon, 1995. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278213
List Price: $64.00 Your Price: $38.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 9: Luke; John"
by R. Alan Culpepper
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 9
Abingdon, 1995. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278220
List Price: $64.00 Your Price: $38.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume 10: Acts, Introduction to
Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 Corinthians"
by Robert W. Wall, N. T. Wright, and J. Paul Sampley
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 10
Abingdon, 2002. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278237
List Price: $74.00 Your Price: $44.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 11: 2 Corinthians, Galatians,
Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians"
by Richard B. Hays, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 11
Abingdon, 2000. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278244
List Price: $62.00 Your Price: $37.20

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 12: Hebrews, James,
1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation"
by Clifton Black, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 12
Abingdon, 1998. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278251
List Price: $64.00 Your Price: $38.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible Index"
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB
Abingdon, 2004. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687039166
List Price: $44.00 Your Price: $26.40

Kids in small groups

"Oftentimes, group members see the children in a way that is counterproductive. Some of these ways include these false beliefs:

* Kids are a nuisance to group life.
* Small groups are for adults, and the kids are not group members until they can participate in the discussion.
* Bible study is the purpose of the meeting and it is an intellectual activity.
* Kids are not old enough to be used by the Spirit."
Missional Small Groups, page 124

<idle musing>
Wow! The last one floored me! I have seen God use kids in a way adults would never let him! To say that kids aren't old enough is just plain insane.

That being said, dealing with kids in a small group/house church setting isn't simple. He spends the better part of the next 2 pages expanding on it. I've also read chapters-long ideas on how to handle kids in a small group/house church setting. There really isn't an "easy" answer, but they are definitely not to be viewed as second-class citizens!
</idle musing>

This is rare

It is very rare that I agree with anything Al Mohler says. But, I do agree with him about yoga. Our of Ur has a nice post summarizing the mess. Read the whole thing, but here's a taste of it:

Many of the responses Al Mohler received to his original column were from people who do yoga stretches while forgoing any of yoga’s religious elements. Mohler took issue with this bifurcation. "My response to that would be simple and straightforward: You're just not doing yoga.”

Mohler received support for his view from a surprising source—a Hindu. Rajiv Malhotra wrote a column for The Huffington Post on the question of “Christian yoga.” He said:

While yoga is not a "religion" in the sense that the Abrahamic religions are, it is a well-established spiritual path. Its physical postures are only the tip of an iceberg, beneath which is a distinct metaphysics with profound depth and breadth. Its spiritual benefits are undoubtedly available to anyone regardless of religion. However, the assumptions and consequences of yoga do run counter to much of Christianity as understood today. This is why, as a Hindu yoga practitioner and scholar, I agree with the Southern Baptist Seminary President, Albert Mohler, when he speaks of the incompatibility between Christianity and yoga, arguing that "the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine" is fundamentally at odds with Christian teaching.

With the popularity of yoga among all people, including Christians, getting a better understanding of the issue is important for pastors responsible for giving spiritual guidance. What Mohler, Driscoll, and even Malhotra agree on is that the philosophical/religious origins of yoga are incompatible with Christian belief, AND if those elements of yoga are stripped away what remains (the stretches and breathing practices) cannot be rightly called “yoga.”

<idle musing>
Yep. It isn't compatible with Christianity. I do take issue with Mohler's statement about reaching divinity; it seems incompatible with theosis, which I strongly believe in (just do a search on this blog for the term to see how much I believe in it!). But, that could just be a misuse of terminology.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

As the snow blows

Time for a garden update, as the snow flies and the temperature hovers around 20º F. Friday night I got home, after a cold, snowy ride, and walked into the greenhouse. It was dark (it gets dark at about 5:30 now), but still warm, so I picked some spinach, a head of romaine lettuce, and pulled two carrots. Oh, I grabbed some beet greens, too.

The outer leaves of the romaine were a bit frost bitten, but the rest were fine. I hadn't put a second layer of protection over them yet. The carrots were very nice and sweet—the cold converts the starches in carrots into sugar, and the spinach was excellent. I washed them, cut them up, added home made pickle relish and yogurt for a dressing, and enjoyed a wonderful salad. Not bad for December 3 in northern Indiana, is it?

Saturday, I put a second layer over the stuff in the greenhouse. The temperatures had gotten into the low teens, Fahrenheit, which is a bit cold for an unheated greenhouse. The second layer keeps the stuff from freezing. A few of my radishes, which are very small right now (I'm hoping for a January crop), had gotten frostbit. I put them under a cold frame to keep them warmer.

I pulled a couple of nice sized beets for supper. They went well with the potatoes that we have stored in the basement. I finished up the romaine lettuce, too. The rest of the spinach had been consumed on the pizza we made Friday night.

Yep. I can make pizza again. The bandage on my right hand is small enough I can knead the small amount of dough we need for a pizza. I still can't knead a regular loaf of bread, though :(

I do have a problem with the greenhouse door, though. I forgot that it is very humid inside; the wood on the frames swelled and now the door sticks at the bottom. I'll need to fix that come spring...I just hope I can continue to get inside to harvest the bounty!

Leisure time

“Leisure rest differs from Sabbath rest. In leisure rest we escape from the world into mindless numbness. We go to the theatre to escape the pressure cooker of this world. We watch TV or attend a football game in order to enter an alternative experience than the stresses of our everyday lives.

“In the Sabbath rest we set aside a day for two reasons. First, it is a day of not working or not producing goods or services for the sake of personal gain or sustenance. We have six days for production; this day is about trusting God for our sustenance. Second, it is a day for asking to see what God is up to in my life, the life of my community and in my neighborhood. On this day we look at what God is doing in our world and take in God's creation by reflecting on the previous week and offering the next week to God. Missional Small Groups, page 98

<idle musing>
OK. The first paragraph makes sense. But, the second one seems to perpetuate the idea of a dichotomy between secular and sacred. If God redeemed me and bought me, that means he owns me—and all of my time—not just Sundays! Sure, I agree we need to take a day off; it isn't good to work 7 days a week. But, the true rest of God as described in Hebrews 3-4 is allowing Christ to live in you all the time. Circumstances are irrelevant to whether you can rest in Christ or not.

Just an
</idle musing>

Monday, December 06, 2010

Monday's quotation

"It is okay to talk about spiritual things in the church. We can talk about prayer, living morally upright, 'getting saved,' God's love for us, and other topics that fit nicely into a sixty- to ninety-minute spiritual escape on Sunday morning. But it is not okay to talk about the spiritual implications of how we spend our money or our time. Those are private matters that should be left to individual choices.

“But the Bible actually speaks quite a lot about these very practical, mundane matters of life. Things like greed, anxiety, self-promotion, and priorities in life fill the pages of God's Word. To limit God to a box labeled 'Spiritual' is to miss the point of biblical spirituality. The way we do life in mundane things—like how we handle our money and manage our time—directly impacts our life with God. We often fail to realize how the little decisions we make every day about seemingly insignificant things can actually undermine the rhythms that God has called us to play in this world. Missional Small Groups, page 89

Friday, December 03, 2010

More thoughts on the gods

About 2 weeks ago, I posted some thoughts on the gods as represented in ancient literature. After discussing it further with Debbie (my wife), it became obvious to both of us that I didn't adequately express what I was trying to say. So, let's try it again...

First off, a confession: I believe in the gods (and goddesses). Yes, all of them, Ba`al, 'El, Zeus, Jupiter, Apollo, etc. OK, you can get up off the floor now and let me finish. I believe that they are divine beings, but that they are created ones, under the thumb, so to speak, of YHWH. I suspect I am in the minority in the Western world, bordering on insane, but in the 2/3 world, I would be considered sane and reasonable.

Further, I believe this is the worldview of the Bible and the Church Fathers, in fact most everyone up until the "enlightenment" happened. Now, there are some corollaries to this that have important ramifications. For our purposes here, only one is important:

If the gods are real, then spells have power. The ancients thought so. In fact, in the 2/3 world even today, they will cancel soccer matches because of supposed witchcraft by the opposing team. Why, unless they saw evidence that the spells were effective?

OK, I've probably been written off by most of you, but let's go a bit further here...Why is the biblical text so adamant about not consulting horoscopes? Our 21st century Western mind says, "Because they don't work." Wrong answer! It is because they are based on the belief that the stars are deities (see The Standard Babylonian Creation Myth for details). They are exalting someone other than YHWH as in charge.

Why is witchcraft condemned? Same reason. Why is divination wrong? Again, because only YHWH should be the holder of the future.

By now you are probably wondering where all this is going. Bottom line: I created a mug that has an incantation on it. That was wrong! It was a sin against YHWH because it gave glory to someone other than YHWH. Even if nobody who reads it believes it, that doesn't change that fact. If I could, I would destroy them. But, I can't, they aren't mine...


"In many ways we live in a culture in which people are afraid to be truly alone, because in such an experience, we don't like what we see. We are afraid to be with ourselves, to sit and reflect, to listen to what is going on in our hearts. As a result, we cling to activity, to conversations, to noise, and ultimately to others. Often we cling to people in groups in order to survive life, but this can actually steal life from the community and suck it dry."— Missional Small Groups, page 80

<idle musing>
Bonhoeffer in Life Together says that if a person can't stand to be alone, they shouldn't be allowed to be in a group; it will simply disguise their need. Our society is terrified of aloneness and of quiet. And it is getting worse; the music in the stores is getting louder, people are carrying their MP3 players everywhere, they are continually on their cellphones, mobile Internet access never leaves us alone. But, we are bankrupt! Without alone time, our wells are shallow and we have nothing to offer each other. We can't hear God speaking to us unless we are listening; all the noise keeps us distracted from his call. He yearns for intimacy with us, and we settle for a catchy tune or a fleeting tweet or text message. He beckons and we answer our cell phone. How sad.
</idle musing>

Bookselling in perspective

I ran across this in my wanderings today:

According to Orwell, "the real reason why I should not like to be in the book trade for life is that while I was in it I lost my love of books. A bookseller has to tell lies about books, and that gives him a distaste for them."

He was wrong. A great bookseller doesn't have to tell lies about books. A great bookseller is an interpreter who sometimes lets the books speak for themselves.--Robert Gray in Shelf Awareness, an e-letter for booksellers.

<idle musing>
I agree with Robert Gray, not Orwell! I point people to the books that they are looking for; the books—especially Eisenbrauns books—sell themselves.
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Which questions?

"There is a lot of talk about how to do small groups and little actual talk about the God who desires to show up at those small groups. How can we talk about spiritual gifts if our small group imagination is primarily shaped by sociological principles, small group structures, and Bible study questions. Through the Internet and published resources, we have more small group tools at our disposal today than during any other era in church history. I hope these resources are helpful. but if our imagination about small group life is primarily shaped by questions about sociological principles, small group structures, and small group study materials, then I wonder if we are asking the right questions."— Missional Small Groups, page 76

<idle musing>
Agreed. Not that the resources are bad, but if they cause us to ask the wrong questions, they are pointless. If the purpose of a small group is to encounter God, then everything should lead to that end. If the purpose of a small group is to have friends, then that is a different matter all together. Personally, I prefer the first option :)
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters

The Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters has a blog.

Subscribe to the RSS feed, but be sure to check out Mike Bird's introductions—both of them! I like this one the best:

The presence of God

"When I read most books on small groups, little is said in them about God's presence. They contain a lot of tactical information and practical skill training. I read articles on group leadership and it is easy to find information on how to ask good questions, ideas for creative study materials, and instructions on what leaders do in order to be effective. I would rather be part of a group that gets all of the tactical stuff wrong but yet encounters Jesus on a regular basis than miss out on the presence of God while getting the technical steps to group leadership right."— Missional Small Groups, page 70

<idle musing>
Amen! Preach it brother! There is nothing wrong with the techniques in and of themselves, but unless they lead to an encounter with the living God, they are worthless.
</idle musing>

More links

I can type a bit better today, so watch for more posting (you were warned!). Meanwhile, a few more links.

Joel muses on whether or not we are all atheists. Sound like a familiar refrain? Here's a snippet:

I think that the notion of separating our faith into a private realm and forgoing any and all public expression of it in an effort not to offend anyone helps us to forget the immanent God. I think that for us, we have forgotten to live our faith, and instead shield it, suffocating it until it is gone all the while pretending we still have it.

<idle musing>
He's singing from the same hymnal I am. We have stripped the divine of all mystery; all that is left is a shadow not worth worshiping. But, God is bigger than that! We just need to open ourselves up to his proddings.
</idle musing>

On a somewhat related note, the newest Biblical Studies carnival is up. I don't know where he found the time to chase all those links; there is something there to make everyone mad, from fundamentalists to atheists and everywhere in between!

Shifting gears to bookselling, I just discovered this site today. It was started by the bookseller at 57th Street Books in Chicago—one of my favorite bookstores. When I was in graduate school, we would go there as a family and read the books in the kid's section. It is a part of the Seminary Coop Bookstore and I spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars there in the three years we were in the area. Great store! Anyway, give the site a read and bookmark or RSS it.

One of today's gems from the site is Books After Amazon. Please read the whole thing, but here is a short snippet:

For decades the publishing world has been anxious about the end of books. Industry consolidation has led to a much-lamented shift to a business-oriented ethos, particularly at some of the larger conglomerates. With corporate ownership came a demand for profit margins that the book-publishing world had never seen. Yet even if new management is nothing like that of the past—gentlemen with large fortunes who became gentlemen with small fortunes—publishing remains an intensely people-driven business, the kind where folks meet face-to-face. Even today most people involved in publishing are there because they love good books.

<idle musing>
You don't go into bookselling or publishing to get rich. Well, unless you are the founder of Amazon, that is.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I went to the doctor today and got the huge bandage removed. He liked what he saw, told me I could get it wet–just not soak it–then he put a bandage on it. Cool! Now I don't feel like I have a finger that is a foot long :) But, it is still difficult to type; the bandage (and the large scab) prevent it. So, rather than typing a long passage, I will content myself—and hopefully you—with two links for your enjoyment:

A nice summary of the ETS sessions with NT Wright. Note especially the last paragraph:

Church and parachurch groups that make sweeping prohibitions against their members imbibing anything of the new perspective at best simply don’t understand it and at worst are quenching the Spirit’s work in their midst. In fact, the more likely danger for most evangelicals, especially those who most severely criticize the new perspective, is that they will miss the necessary applications of Paul’s warnings to their own proclivities to draw theological boundaries too narrowly between insiders and outsiders, to overly elevate their cultures, nationalities, and tribalisms to a place for inappropriate boasting, and to invoke mandates as to what people must do or believe to be insiders far beyond anything demonstrably biblical, and thus unwittingly mirror precisely a majority of first-century Palestinian Jews (and so-called Jewish Christians), whose views Paul in turn anathematizes!

<idle musing>
Ironic, isn't it?
</idle musing>

And, Roger Olson is doing a good job of articulating classic Arminianism. May his tribe increase! Read the whole thing; I can't really excerpt from it without losing the flow of thought necessary. In the words of Augustine Tolle! Lege! "Pick it up! Read it!"

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thoughts on a Monday after SBL

I didn't have Internet access from Tuesday AM until Wednesday PM, and then I didn't have my computer until this morning, so no updates on the book I'm reading now. With my finger still in a huge bandage, typing is slow. Hopefully I can post again tomorrow from it.

Other thoughts: Driving 1300 miles round trip for SBL saved us substantial money in drayage charges, but it left me quite tired. Traveling in a big truck with books bounces one around a good bit and the noise level leaves one a bit deaf. Just so you get an idea, the fees we pay for shipping books to and from conferences are significant. But, the frustrating part is that the charge for shipping them is usually significantly less than the fee we pay to have them transported to the hotel; that fee is called drayage and is a monopoly. In right-to-work states, you can bring your own stuff in, which is what I did this year in Atlanta.

I had many good conversations at SBL. It is always nice to put a face to names and renew acquaintances. I was especially encouraged by the number of younger scholars who purchased from us and complimented us on the quality of our books.

I didn't take any pictures of tear-down; I was too busy tearing down so I could get the truck loaded and get on the road. I had a 7.5 hour drive ahead of me. The drive was very pretty; I have always enjoyed driving through Tennessee and Kentucky. I took I-75 on the way home, stopping in Cleveland, TN to pick up some books.

I arrived back in Warsaw on Wednesday around noon, unloaded the truck, returned it, and checked e-mail briefly. After that I rode my bike home in freezing rain; quite different from the 72º F weather I had just left!

Thursday morning, I headed back to Louisville, where I had left Debbie while I was at SBL. She stayed with her aunt and cousin; I joined them for the weekend. Nothing like another 500 miles of driving on top of the 1300 I had just done. We had a grand time with them and arrived home late last night.

Monday, November 22, 2010

On with the show

“By nature I am a type-A, get-it-done, make-something-happen person. But through the years I have found that if we want to see things in a different light, we must first of all slow down and reflect, talk with one another, and listen to God and others about what needs to change. We are not simply talking about surface-level change that can be done by adopting a few how-to tactics. We are talking about changing how we we do life and begin to play new music This only happens as people talk about that which lies bneath the surface.”—Missional Small Groups, page 65

<idle musing>
Me too; I have learned to slowdown and let God speak and direct. This is in large part due to Debbie's influence on me; I am so thankful for the 32 years that we have been married now. God knew what he was doing when he gave me to her.
</idle musing>

Sunday, November 21, 2010

SBL day 2

Wow! Today flew by! The first half-hour was totally dead; I had flashbacks to the 2008 AAR conference in Chicago where you could have done cartwheels in the aisles. But, thankfully, it got busy shortly thereafter and the next thing I knew, it was 1:00 in the afternoon. I had just spend 4 hours talking to countless people, directing them to other vendor's booths for stuff we didn't have that they were looking for, helping people find the right book, etc. It was a blast. I also had a good time talking to all kinds of people; please don't get offended that I don't mention you by name. There are just so many people.

This afternoon, Hendrickson Publishing did a special presentation to the people involved in the production of the Codex Sinaiticus project. Very nice. The book itself is beautiful; it is definitely worth the $500 they are selling it for at the conference.

This evening, I finally managed to get to a bibliobloggers dinner. I met lots of people for the first time ever, got to put names to faces on others, and renewed acquaintance with others. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation—and the food was pretty good too :) I had a Reuben, and you know they know how to make a Reuben when they ask if you want pastrami instead of corn beef! Chris Tilling was aghast that I would eat sauerkraut, cheese, and meat in a swirled bread, but you know those Brits and good food. He told me that English food was underrated; I'm not convinced :)

I was late getting to the bibliobloggers' affair because I ran into Joseph Kelly and John Anderson (a soon-to-be Eisenauthor) outside the book exhibit. We talked for a good while and suddenly realized we were late to the dinner. I guess in a way we were already there :)

Enough for today. I need to read some and I have a 7:00 breakfast engagement tomorrow with Bobby from Hendrickson. We always have good time together, so I am looking forward to it. I'll do a workout first, of course. Oh, that reminds me, I haven't told you about the workout facilities here, have I? Well, they are adequate; they have two treadmills, an elliptical, and a stationary bike, but it is in a tiny room. The bike is a Life Fitness—a good enough piece of equipment. But, the software has the intervals divided into 10 seconds; that is too short. The interval is too short to get a good workout; it should be at least 30 seconds. My average heart rate working out was about 25-30 BPM less that normal.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

SBL set-up

OK, I'm a day late posting this; I should have done it last night. But, I was having too many good discussions after the IBR lecture last night and didn't get in until late.

Now that the excuses are out of the way, here's the traditional pictures of set-up. We did things a bit differently this year. I drove a U-Haul™ with all our stuff this year. No, I wasn't trying to avoid the airport security!

Here's the back of the truck. No, the soda isn't mine!

About this time, we feel like it will never get done.

But, we do

We're trying something new this year. How's your Luwian?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Insder trading

“Being missional is about who we are, not just what we do. Therefore, missional life is not simply about the body of Christ having hands and feet so we do something for the world. Living missionally depends on how we relate to God and how we relate to one another as much as on how we relate to those outside the church.

“We can easily miss this point. Typically we divide up various aspects of church life into categories of what is done for insiders and what we do for outsiders. Therefore, insiders experience God's presence. Insiders practice love for one another. Then the insiders go and share a message or perform a service project for outsiders. Missional then is construed as what is done for outsiders.”—Missional Small Groups, page 63

<idle musing>
The good old dichotomy rears its ugly head again...
</idle musing>

Thought on the gods

I have been musing (and praying) a good bit the last few days about the "ilu mug we made. Here are two sections of scripture that came to mind:

Isiah 44:12 The ironsmith fashions it and works it over the coals, shaping it with hammers, and forging it with his strong arm; he becomes hungry and his strength fails, he drinks no water and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches a line, marks it out with a stylus, fashions it with planes, and marks it with a compass; he makes it in human form, with human beauty, to be set up in a shrine. 14 He cuts down cedars or chooses a holm tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it can be used as fuel. Part of it he takes and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Then he makes a god and worships it, makes it a carved image and bows down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he roasts meat, eats it and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Ah, I am warm, I can feel the fire!” 17 The rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, bows down to it and worships it; he prays to it and says, “Save me, for you are my god!”
Is. 44:18   They do not know, nor do they comprehend; for their eyes are shut, so that they cannot see, and their minds as well, so that they cannot understand. 19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals, I roasted meat and have eaten. Now shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” 20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot save himself or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a fraud?—Isaiah 44:12-20 NRSV


Hab. 2:18    What use is an idol
once its maker has shaped it—
a cast image, a teacher of lies?
For its maker trusts in what has been made,
though the product is only an idol that cannot speak!
19 Alas for you who say to the wood, “Wake up!”
to silent stone, “Rouse yourself!”
Can it teach?
See, it is gold and silver plated,
and there is no breath in it at all.
Hab. 2:20    But the LORD is in his holy temple;
let all the earth keep silence before him!—Habakkuk 2:18-20 NRSV

<idle musing>
Isaiah and Habakkuk are having fun here, but are very serious at the same time. Socrates, the Greek philosopher, used to say that the gods corrupted the morals of the Greeks—he earned the death penalty for that one...

But, think about the scene in the mug. 'Ilu, the head god, gets drop-dead drunk; Yariḥu, the moon god, is so drunk he acts like a dog! These scenes seem to beg for mockery. But, instead, they set the stage for a hang-over cure! No wonder Isaiah says they are blind!

Before we wax eloquent about how much better we are, let's stop and think for a minute. It seems pretty obvious to me, and you can disagree if you wish, that the main god in the US is money. Right now, we need more of it to keep the economy running. So, the economic wizards are working their magic, trying to restart everything. And what are they doing? More of the same things that got us in this mess to begin with! (I know that is a simplification, but the simile works).

We still have our spells; we still have our wizards. But, the creator still reigns and calls us to faithfulness to him.
</idle musing>

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Watch the tense

“I find it interesting that Jesus told his disciples, 'You are salt,...light...a city on a hill.' He did not say, 'You should be...,' 'You would be if...,' or 'You could be if...' He declared who they were and equipped them to live in a way that fit this declaration. He does the same for us today. God has put his Spirit within us and given us a new nature. He invites us to learn his ways and discover what it means to live in a way that lines up with whom he made us to be.”—Missional Small Groups, pages 45-46

<idle musing>
If only we grasped that more often. We are so many things in Christ, and we keep on striving to arrive at what we already are. The irony.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Medical update

Well, it has been 10 days since the lawnmower ate part of my fingers. Yesterday, I went to the doctor to have the bandage changed. I was warned to take a few Ibuprofen™ and a Vicodin™ before arriving. They were going to remove the stitches and push and prod it. Are you wincing just thinking about it?

Debbie drove me; I'm not good at driving under medication. Sure enough, they removed the stitches and poked and prodded the flesh. The doctor has my style of humor, so we get along. He used a highly technical medical term to describe how my finger looked: "juicy." The Physician's Assistant used an equally technical term: "soupy." But, they were pleased with what they saw.

The doctor explained that lawnmower cuts are especially susceptible to infection because of the high velocity blade pushing junk into the cut, so he prescribed more anti-biotics. Then they rebandaged the finger. It still looks huge, but at least I can move it now. The previous bandage had so much dried blood on it that it felt like a cast.

That's the update. So, if you see me at SBL, the first thing you will probably notice is this huge white bandage on my right hand. At least I can ride my bike again and take a shower solo. But I still can't type or knead bread :(

How we do church

Guy Muse has a two part post on getting from Mega Church to Meta Church. Here's a few that jumped out at me:

6.Replace professional music with believers speaking to each other in psalms and spiritual songs, making melody in their hearts to the Lord. OT worship required the sacrifice of four-footed beasts, the NT celebrates by offering two legged Gentiles as a living sacrifice. The meta church is a discipling hub and not a singing club. Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Rom. 15:16

7.Shift from spectator-oriented church to ‘metastasizing’ interactive, participatory, prophetic church. Empower men, women and youth, to get the dragon off the driver’s seat. We, the seed of Abraham are blessed, “with multiplying I will multiply you and your seed will possess the gates of the enemy”. 1 Cor.14:26-31; Acts 13:13;18:4; Gen. 22:17,18

13. Resurrect from being a dead organization to a living organism. Eliminate all extra-biblical cosmetic titles like Director, Chairman, CEO, and Secretary, by appointing five-fold ministry-gifted Elders, like apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, as equippers. By feeding, leading and keeping the flock healthy and reproductive, they must reach those who are outside the fold. Eph. 4:11; Tit.1:5-9; John 10:16

18.Reorient your own personal paradigm. Your business, workplace or home, wherever you spend most of your time, is your ‘primary nuclear church’. It matters little whether you are the CEO, or the janitor or the kitchen queen, you are a full-time minister there and accountable. Adam and Eve were accountable for the Garden of Eden and failed.

<idle musing>
They are all worth reading. By the way, the person who formulated them isn't just some theoretician. Look at his credentials:

Victor Choudhrie is a cancer surgeon by profession. He is a Senior Fellow of the American and British Colleges of Surgeons. He left his position as Director and CEO of the Christian Medical college, Ludhiana, Punjab, India, in 1992, to take up a full-time Church planting ministry in central India. His wife, Bindu, is also in a full-time church planting ministry, equipping women to be house-church leaders and trainers. They now have disciples making disciples in some forty countries. Theirs is presently amongst the fastest growing movements deploying volunteers with no paid workers in the field. God has blessed this ministry abundantly. In the year from Pentecost 2009 to Pentecost 2010, over one million underwent a ‘holy dip’ through their ministry partners. Large numbers of grassroots level leaders have been trained, who, subsequently, have planted tens of thousands of house churches across India and abroad.

When he speaks, we should listen, don't you think?
</idle musing>

There must be more

“Most people live according to the rhythms that have been shaped by the broader culture. Even in our churches this is the case, although most of us don't want to think that we live like those who don't know Jesus. But the reality is that churched people work just as many hours per week, watch just as much television, spend their money in similar ways, and have just as many family struggles as the unchurched.

“...If we don't live in a way that is distinctive from our culture, then why not? If we are going to be satisfied with living our lives like the rest of the world and adding a weekly sermon and a small group Bible study on top, then what exactly are we up to in the church? Isn't there more?”—Missional Small Groups, page 45

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! That's what I've been arguing on this blog for 5 years now; there is more to Christianity than most realize. Let's see what he offers in the days ahead.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Jim Martin, at A Place for the God-Hungry has a guest post exploring the issue of “troubles”:

In the West the philosophical and religious responses to trouble or adversity vary widely along a continuum from trouble as punishment to trouble as completely absurd. Even going so far as to deny the very existence of trouble as something real (it’s just a figment of human imagination) is one proposed answer to the issue. I tend to place this approach into the irresponsible or even irrational column even though a great deal of humanity takes this view in professing some form of Buddhist, Taoist or Hindu faith. And millions spend their lives at least giving lip service to denying or trying to deny this simple, common sense observation that—to be human is to be pressed by troubles.

We ignore troubles to our own peril. We redefine them supposedly out of existence, again to our own peril. We drown them with chemicals to our own peril. We defy them as absurd with existential hubris to our own peril. In this world you will have trouble, Jesus said. No denial or defiance here. His answer was simple: Take heart for I have overcome the world.

<idle musing>
So simple. We will have trouble, but Jesus says he has already overcome it. We participate by faith; how absurd in the world's eyes. Typical of God, isn't it? He takes the despised things and makes them his.

I have always like the line in the Lord of the Rings (the books!) where Gandalf says something like, “Who of the wise would have foreseen it? Or, if they are truly wise would have expected to.” But, human hubris knows no bounds; the Not invented here (NIH) syndrome blinds us and makes us dumb.
</idle musing>

New book I'm reading

I started a new book over the weekend: Missional Small Groups published by Baker (thanks, Steve!). I'm going to try to post excerpts, but not sure how consistent I will be for the next two weeks; I leave for SBL tomorrow...

Meanwhile, enjoy today's snippet:

“I have encountered too many groups who want to perform some kind of missional act for God and impact the world, but they don't see the need to embody the kind of love that will actually impact the world. Being relational and being missional are intricately connected. We cannot divide the two. The church has nothing to offer the world if it does not embody the message of Good News that it aims to share.”—M. Scott Boren, Missional Small Groups, page 35

<idle musing>
So like us, isn't it? We put the cart before the horse. We confuse the end with the method.
</idle musing>

Ethics? What are they?

Students cheating has become fairly common. There are programs that sniff out plagiarism in papers. But, what about the paid professional who writes papers for a living?

There is a long article in today's Chronicle of Higher Education by a paid ghost writer. It is very disheartening, but this paragraph especially so:

I do a lot of work for seminary students. I like seminary students. They seem so blissfully unaware of the inherent contradiction in paying somebody to help them cheat in courses that are largely about walking in the light of God and providing an ethical model for others to follow. I have been commissioned to write many a passionate condemnation of America's moral decay as exemplified by abortion, gay marriage, or the teaching of evolution. All in all, we may presume that clerical authorities see these as a greater threat than the plagiarism committed by the future frocked.

<idle musing>
Ethics! Who needs them, right? Come on people! It is because of this hypocrisy and inconsistency that Christianity is being scorned. What did Paul say in Romans? Oh, yeah, "On account of you my name is blasphemed among the Gentiles." As Nathan told David, "You are the man!" You can't claim to serve a holy God and not live a holy life.
</idle musing>

Monday, November 15, 2010

Give and take

Roger Olson is pushing back, and I think he's right. He is asked for biblical passages to defend his stand and his response is, well, scriptural:

To those who ask where the Bible commands us to “take” rather than “give,” I ask: Where does the Bible command us to do many of the things we do routinely (and claim are “biblical”)? Where does the Bible command us to create denominations? Where does the Bible command us to protest at abortion clinics? Where does the Bible command us to promote constitutional amendments banning gay marriage? Where does the Bible even mention ordination of ministers? Where does the Bible….? The list could go on forever. It’s a specious argument from silence and fallacious insofar as we Christians all do and support things that are not specifically commanded in Scripture.

For better or worse, he is on the money. But, as long as it agrees with our preconceptions, we don't object, do we? He goes on to explain what the real issue is:

The real question is about justice. Scripture clearly commands God’s people to show compassion for the poor. Now that many of God’s people have political power insofar as they do not use it to show compassion for the poor they are disobeying God...

...redistribution of wealth does not have to mean taking money from some people and simply handing it unconditionally to others. It can (and should) mean taking money from the wealthy to create social systems that create real equal opportunity and that meet basic human needs for everyone. The best redistribution of wealth is job creation.

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! May his tribe increase.
</idle musing>

Serving and being served

Over the course of the last week I have been served many times. It is simply amazing to me how much not being able to use one finger on a hand changes your abilities. I'm thankful for the opposable thumb, but this week, I am even more thankful for fingers! Things that I normally would do without thinking have become a major undertaking, or even impossible in some cases. Typing, for example, is not easy. I took for granted my typing abilities. Not anymore! I've never seen so many typos in my stuff. And, even worse, it takes three times as long.

The timing wasn't what I would have chosen, either. We had two books come in this week. I had to make room in the warehouse for them and then help unload the truck. Normally, I wouldn't have a problem moving boxes around; after all, I've worked in warehouses most of my adult life. But, now I have to be careful or I will be almost screaming in pain. One misjudgment in placing the box results in a few minutes of pain—I don't like medications, so I take the minimum I can bear.

Additionally, it is the week before SBL. Anybody who has worked for a publisher that exhibits there can tell you what I mean. No matter how carefully you plan, there are always last minute things. This year seems worse than most for some reason. I've been behind on getting things done, which has put others in a bad spot.

I didn't get the order forms done on time for various reasons. That resulted in a special plea to the printer. He said he would do what he could, but no guarantees. I received a call Saturday morning from him; he was working on them on his day off and had a short question! I was truly humbled; he took his day off to serve me—and it was my fault that we were late! Later on Saturday, in the early evening, I received a call from Andy. I had screwed up on one of the poster layouts and he was redoing it. On Saturday evening!

As I think of these things, I am truly amazed at how much I take for granted in my daily life. I haven't even mentioned how much more Debbie has had to do this week. I can't even take a shower without her help; I can't help with the dishes, or the laundry, or...the list goes on. Talk about humbling...

I am truly grateful for all the people who have served me. I thank God for them; may I never forget how blessed I am.

One final thought: please, don't count the number of typos you found in this post! I used to dislike the squiggly lines in word processors under words it didn't recognize—not this week!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Root beer floats

We got the new mugs in yesterday and to celebrate, the business bought the makings for root beer floats (thanks, Dave!). Here's some pictures for your enjoyment:

Dave, washing the mugs:

The waiting crowd:

One scoop or two?

Satisfied customers

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Journal

Eisenbrauns is delighted to announce a new journal. Yes, another journal—but this one is affordable! Here's the blurb on our web page:

Introducing the Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters

The Apostle Paul stands as an incredibly important figure within the religious and intellectual history of Christianity and Judaism in the first century. The study of Paul (the historical person, author, tradition, and legend) and the Pauline letters (content, context, authenticity, theology, and reception) continue to capture the fascination of scholars, students, religious communities, and even the media. A number of journals geared toward New Testament studies in general often contain a disproportionate number of articles dedicated to the study of the Pauline corpus. There is a never-ending avalanche of Ph.D. theses written about Paul and about the countless approaches and methods used to analyze the Pauline materials. Indeed, the study of Paul and the Pauline letters appears to be an almost inexhaustible field of investigation. Therefore, we think it time that Pauline research should have its own dedicated journal as a specific conduit for Pauline research as it is broadly practiced. In light of these considerations, it is my pleasure to present to you the Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters (JSPL).

The JSPL will present cutting-edge research for scholars, teachers, postgraduate students, and advanced undergraduates related specifically to study of the Apostle Paul and cognate areas. It is proposed that the many and diverse aspects of Pauline studies be represented and promoted by the journal (see below, "Contribute"). The purpose of the journal is to advance discussion on these areas of Pauline research. As such we invite submissions on the above mentioned topics that make a significant and original contribution to the field of Pauline studies.

The inaugural issue of JSPL includes a contribution by one of its editorial board members, Dr. Susan Eastman of Duke Divinity School (USA) on “Philippians 2:6–11: Incarnation as Mimetic Participation.” Delving into the Christ-Hymn, Eastman argues for a close link between imitation and participation in Paul’s explication of his gospel to the Philippian audience. The first regular issue of JSPL will include studies such as Paul Foster, “Eschatology in the Thessalonian Correspondence”; Michael Gorman, “Justification and Justice”; Richard Bell, “Paul’s Theology of Mind”; and a review of Douglas A. Campbell’s The Deliverance of God by Christopher Tilling and Michael Gorman, with a further response from Douglas Campbell.

You can get a sample issue here

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Since I can't type, I'll quote :)

Here's an interesting note from Jesus Creed:

C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

Along that same note, Roger Olson pushes back against some who claim that God never intended the redistribution of wealth:

I believe Old Testament regulations about land and wealth are not binding on Christians, but I also believe they reveal something about the will of God for his people and everyone.

The “Year of Jubilee” may never have been practiced by ancient Israel, but that God commanded it reveals that God is not IN PRINCIPLE against redistribution of wealth. In fact, if may reveal that God is IN PRINCIPLE for it. Was the Year of Jubilee intended to be voluntary–a matter of charity? I doubt that. Every 50 years debts were to be forgiven and land returned to the family that originally owned it. That certainly amounts to redistribution of wealth–taking from the rich and giving to the poor has to be the intended goal of that law. Surely it cannot be legitimately interpreted as God’s command “If you want to do it.” That’s nonsense. It was meant to be enforced.

On a somewhat different note, Andy LePeau has some thoughts on the common good:

Seeking the common good takes our agenda outside the realm of politics. Our goal is not to “win.” Rather we acknowledge that we are part of a world and culture that is greater than us, and we seek what will benefit all—even sacrificing for the sake of others.

Seeking the common good suppresses but doesn’t entirely eliminate the tendencies of elitism toward exclusion, pride and deception.

Seeking the common good means taking the long view and not being caught up in short-term gains. It means seeking the good of institutions over generations as well as of individuals.

<idle musing>
Please, go read the full article on all 3 of them; it will do your mind good :)

OK. Did you read them? What do you think?
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


I wanted to put up some selections from some books I've been reading this week, but my typing is painfully slow. Basically, my right hand has one functioning finger for typing, and I am hitting more than one key at a time because of the bandage; there are far more "m"s and ","s than necessary :( Hopefully I'll get better at one finger typing and put something up aoon.

Meanwhile, check out Eisenbrauns new 10-day sale here

Monday, November 08, 2010

Green house musings

Last weekend, I modified the green house (actually hoop house). I got sick of the wind knocking it down, so I did a number of things.

First, I created a real door:

Second, I created a real venting window:

I created them with 2 x 2 lumber and drywall screws. The plastic is held in place with firring strips. It definitely adds to the stability :)

Third, I ordered reinforcing clamps from Creative Shelters. I haven't actually installed them yet. I was going to do that yesterday, but...well one hand isn't working so well right now...

If you want to make a hoop house, do it right from the start. I've been trying to do it on the cheap and it keeps costing me more than if I had done it right from the first. It still is very reasonable, but if you do it, make ends like I have here, buy the fabric clamps from here. Be sure to glue the PVC and tie down the corners with machine screws. You'll thank me in the end...

Don't try this at home

I ran an unintentional experiment this weekend. When human flesh meets steel, steel wins. I have two broken fingers and a missing fingernail to prove it. I actually came out on the good side; it could have been much worse.

Now, roll your eyes at my stupidity. OK? As I've mentioned, we have a new lawn tractor. Well, the leaf vacuum attaches differently on it, right on top of the blades, not on the outside. Yep, you see it coming, don't you? Some pine needles had plugged the vacuum; on the Cub Cadet, that was easy to fix, since the input was well away from the blades...not so here. I lost a fingernail and broke two fingers; for my stupidity I should have lost more, but for whatever reason, God saw fit to spare me of more.

I have a huge bandage on my right hand, middle finger; it makes typing a bit difficult :(

I should create a new category: Stupid mistakes

Friday, November 05, 2010

Something to think about over the weekend

Before I left town on Monday, I received an e-mail from Smyth & Helwys, a Baptist publisher. They were promoting their book of the month, Stand with Christ. I usually find their selected books to be thought provoking, and this was no exception. Here are a couple of excerpts from the featured chapter, but do read the whole thing.

As a child at Vacation Bible School, I pledged allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag, and the Bible—in that order. From an early age I was taught to cherish each of those, and I still love and respect what each of them represents. As I grew older, however, I learned to make distinctions and weigh values and the ordering of my allegiances shifted.

Today, my allegiance to Christ always comes first.

When I was a teenager growing up in an independent, fundamentalist Baptist church, we often sang a chorus I first learned as a child in VBS: “The B-I-B-L-E, Yes, that’s the book for me, I’ll stand alone on the word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.” More often than that, I heard preachers pound on the pulpit and lift their Bibles high and forcefully thunder out rhetoric such as: “All we know about Jesus is in this book. If the Bible is not infallible and inerrant, then nobody, nobody, nobody can tell us how to get to God for sure.”1 At that time, it seemed clear to me that if you did not believe the Bible, you could not be saved. The Bible’s inerrancy served to “guarantee” that the Christian faith was true. Without it you could not be sure of your salvation. In essence, you had to pledge allegiance to the Bible before you could pledge allegiance to Christ. As I grew older and my faith and my thinking matured, however, the ordering of my allegiances shifted.

Today, my allegiance to Christ always comes first.

And, a bit further on

The developing sophistication of idolatry did not end in biblical times. Throughout the history of the church it has continued, in varying forms, to the present day. Its most recent modern form is the elevation of the Bible over Jesus.

Like the Ark of the Covenant, the Temple, and the Law, the role of the Bible in the drama of divine redemption is vital. But reverence for the Bible and its authority must never divert attention from the central and preeminent place Christ holds in the drama of redemption and revelation. There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5). Jesus alone is the ground and foundation for our faith.

<idle musing>
Amen! This chapter sums up much of my problem with inerrancy and Bible worship. The elevation of the biblical text above Christ might not be intentional—and I suspect it isn't!—but God will allow nothing to come before Him—not even the Bible.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thought for today

"When the church recognizes that God never intended for the spiritual leader to be all things to all people and when the spiritual leaders become secure enough in their gift that they are not threatened by others who can supplement their ministry and succeed in areas where they are weak, then the church will once again grow strong and healthy."—Jamie Buckingham

An important vote

Quick! Go vote for your favorite ANE mug! Chip Hardy has a poll going on right now. He is comparing our way cool 'Ilu Mug with the Oriental Institute's Writing Exhibit mug.

I admit, theirs is nice, but ours is better :)

Vote early, vote often, but only for the 'Ilu mug!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Thought for the day

"I am not a healer, although I have seen people healed. I am not a miracle worker. But I have seen miracles. Many of them. But it no longer bothers me when I pray for someone to be healed, and they are not. The older I grow, the less I know. But I love Him. And I am available. The results—and the glory—belong to Him.

"All God requires is that I become a seed that falls into the ground and dies."—Jamie Buckingham

This week

This week finds me in Santa Fe NM attending a conference. I will be here until Thursday morning. Yesterday was consumed with traveling—always a fun thing... Anyway, we left yesterday afternoon at 1:30 EDT and arrived here at about 10 MDT. The only exciting thing was that there wasn't any exciting thing :)

The altitude here is 7,000 feet, but I was surprised that I didn't notice it much. As some of you know, I judge a hotel by the workout facilities. This one has Precor stuff, which is good stuff; there are 2 treadmills, 2 ellipticals, and a stationary bike. Unfortunately, it is an upright, but it worked fine. I did notice the altitude on the more strenuous parts of the workout, and the heart rate monitor went nuts (as usual).

Hopefully I will be able to play the tourist a bit today. I brought the camera, so maybe I will be able to post some pictures.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Final thoughts

This is the final extract from The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me:

Who was running the Church in the book of Acts?

Not some committee or ecclesiastical hierarchy, but Jesus. The believers were put into action at His command; they were told to go, and they went. They knew what it meant to be a Christian, to become simply the suit of clothes that Jesus wears, so that the results would have only one possible explanation: Christ enthroned within the heart of every forgiven sinner.— The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me, page 162

In declaring that He, as Man, could do nothing without the Father (John 5:19), Christ demonstrated the truth that has always been true—that we as human beings can do nothing without Him. In the same way that the Father, as God, was indispensable to Christ as Man in His life on earth, Christ as God is now indispensable to us as human beings in our lives.— The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me, pages 168-169

<idle musing>
I hope you have been encouraged/convicted by this series of excerpts. I know I was. I might have a final reflection early next week—we'll see what the weekend holds :)
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Serving tea?

"When you are sent and you go, you are put where Christ puts you, and nothing will frighten you.

"That is why these early believers earned the reputation of being incorrigibly happy, utterly unafraid, and nearly always in trouble."— The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me, page 158

<idle musing>
I read, I believe it was in Elton Trueblood, that an Anglican bishop was reflecting that everywhere Paul went there was a riot or a revival, but everywhere he went they served tea. I know that N.T. Wright has used the saying, but I first read it back in the early 1970's, so it predates him.

Nevertheless, isn't that an accurate statement of the early church? What has happened?! — Lord! Deliver us from mediocrity and apathy!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Live the life

"The true Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you—your personality, your willpower, your gifts, your talents, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything—then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it."— The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me, pages 151-152

<idle musing>
Ain't it the truth...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Slave labor

Another reason I don't shop at Wal-mart. Read the whole thing here:

The 2500 workers at the Anowara Apparels factory in Bangladesh spend all day sewing jeans, primarily for the Faded Glory brand of clothes sold at Walmart. They are 90% young women, some with families to support and others trying to simply scrape a living together. The women make between 11 and 17 cents an hour sewing jeans, and they're expected to produce at least ten pairs an hour. That means they make less than two pennies for each pair of jeans they sew. Recognizing the gross underpayment of these workers, the Bangladeshi government has suggested raising the minimum wage to 35 cents an hour. Walmart has responded by lobbying against Bangladesh's efforts to fairly compensate workers and decided to keep their staff living in abject poverty.

<idle musing>
I'm reminded of the passage in the book of James (5:4-6):

Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self–indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

</idle musing>


More Christ in you

"You must act on what you have come to know and believe before it will ever become real in your experience, before you realize by personal experience that Jesus is alive not just in heaven but in you every moment of every day, as the Father was alive in Him. Then our actions will be the activity of faith."— The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me, page 134

<idle musing>
This is no "pie-in-the-sky" stuff we're talking about. This is real life, here and now!
</idle musing>

Monday, October 25, 2010

Honest question

Seriously, this is an honest question:

Why is socialism considered a dirty word?

<idle musing>
I've heard people spit it out of their mouth like it is a nasty four-letter profane word. I'm really curious why it is considered so terrible...

Please keep your answers civil; I'm not looking for a fight—really! I honestly don't understand and am seeking to learn.
</idle musing>

Christ in you

To many pragmatic minds, this total repudiation of self-effort is abhorrent. The thought of it can result in a hostility borne of self-justification. Such people often are very dedicated in their desire to serve God, but they are baffled by the whole concept of a Christian life which is nothing more nor less than Jesus Christ Himself in action.— The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me, page 128

<idle musing>
It is called the Christian life, after all...
</idle musing>

Friday, October 22, 2010

You've got to be kidding

No, they aren't!

As you know, I do a bit of cheese making. Consequently, one of the RSS feeds I subscribe to is a cheese making supply house. They post different recipes periodically. Today, they posted a recipe for—hold onto your hats—Velveeta™! Is nothing sacred? They don't even try to defend it:

Are you serious?

We are. Our official policy is that there is no law against consenting adults making Velveeta in the privacy of their own homes.

Yes, it's embarrassing, but the truth is that sometimes you want macaroni made with Velveeta, the way your mother made it. You're not alone and we're here to help you.

<idle musing>
Don't expect me to be making it any time soon!
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 21, 2010

No problem!

"You may be thinking, “if such a life is totally of Him, though Him, and to Him, then where do I come in?” You do not. That is just where you go out! This is what Paul meant when he said, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).

"Here was Paul dying to self [in II Corinthians], and this dying to self allowed him to hand the whole situation over to the One indwelling him, Jesus Christ, the God of resurrection power.

"Dying to self is a wonderful position to be in, because dead people cannot die, and dead people do not have problems."— The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me, pages 120-121

<idle musing>
I love it: "dead people cannot die, and dead people do not have problems." That sums up our position in Christ! Of course, we can choose to wallow in our self-pity and problems, but that isn't who we really are in Christ.
</idle musing>

5 years

Yep, five years ago today I started blogging; 1829 posts later, I'm still here. A lot of the people I was interacting with aren't blogging anymore, or sporadically at best. Some have moved about 4-5 times since then, falling prey to the evil Wordpress disease and abandoning the true faith :)

Anyway, I was looking back over some of the early posts today. I had just received my new road bike and was gushing forth about it. Five years later, I still love it and have put over 1300 miles on it. I've also burned out one bike commuting in the winter and am on the second year of another one. This one will probably last longer; the frame and wheels are aluminum, so they won't rust. The cables still need to be replaced each year, but $25.00/year is a lot cheaper than driving a car 11 miles a day to work!

The other thing that was preoccupying me was conference preparation. We have made great progress in that area. In fact, we had a meeting earlier this week and were commenting on how much less stress there is now than then. Basically, we just took all the tasks and spread them out over a few months so that no one month gets overwhelmed—usually! This year has a bit of a push to it with a catalog and a new mug, plus new bags, but its still a lot less stressful (others might disagree...).

I still am reading books and putting excerpts up on the blog. The nature of the books hasn't changed much, either. Does that mean I'm stable, or does it just mean I'm in a rut? Just an
<idle musing>

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Get out of the way!

Suppose you were digging a hole, and I offered to give you a rest. How would I do it?

While you continued shoveling, I could call down a suggestion to you, such as, “Try tossing the dirt over your left shoulder instead of your right.” I could sing a song about digging, or discuss all the latest philosophical thinking that might relate to it.

Would any of that give you rest? No, it would more likely give you a heart attack!

Yet those approaches are very much like what today's Christianity tries to do to bring rest to struggling believers, all in vain.

How could I truly give you rest if you were in that hole digging? Obviously there is only one way: You must get out and let me get in. You must drop the spade and let me pick it up. You must quit and let me take over. You must vacate that hole in the ground so that I can occupy it.— The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me, pages 95-96

<idle musing>
So simple, yet so difficult, isn't it? Just get out of the way and let God take over. But, we want to prove to God that we can do it! Don't bother; he already knows we will fail...
</idle musing>