Friday, June 06, 2008

Marriage Supper

Having recently just eaten a wedding supper and shared some great fellowship with believers I just met, I was reminded that the one-flesh union is not the only aspect of marriage that points to Christ and the church:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Why I'd Rather Watch the Masters Than the World Series, Any Day...

1. The Masters is actually a world tournament, without the pretentiousness of the title, unlike the World Series, in which only U.S. teams can play.
2. In the Masters, your team (or player) has a chance to win every year. Every Masters includes the entire field of the best players in the world, so every viewer has a player for whom to cheer. What will all those Braves or Yankees fans do when the Royals are playing the Phillies in the Series? They'll watch, but it won't be really interesting except for fans of those teams.
3. I'm still living in a dream world where no golfers use steroids, at least not that we hear about...
4. I'm from Georgia.
5. You're guaranteed Sunday afternoon drama; in the WS, it could be over in 4, 5, 6, or 7 games, you never know.
6. I don't care what they say, it's harder to putt at Augusta on Sunday with $1 million on the line than to hit a Major League fastball.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Biblical Theology at Easter

I was struck today by the end of Luke 24. The scene begins with two men walking down the street, discussing all of the wild events of the previous few days. It was Easter, but these two men didn't know it yet. Imagine getting a lesson in preaching Christ from the Old Testament from Christ! Jesus was walking with them and explaining himself from the Old Testament! Luke 24 goes on to record that, once they finally realized who they had been talking with, they remembered that “[their] hearts burned within [them]” when he “opened to [them] the Scriptures.” Not to mention the hermeneutical implications of this passage, which are many and powerful, at the very least, we can say that Jesus preached himself from the Old Testament to these men, and it made sens,e and it moved their emotions. When I read a proverb from the wisdom books, I pray that the Lord would make my heart “burn within” me at the majesty of the One Wise Man into whose image I am being conformed, and who exemplified all of the wisdom of Solomon. I pray that I will feel the weight of the law crushing me with its demands and that I will feel the lightness of the yolk of the One who became the curse of the law for me. May I eagerly anticipate the return of Him through whom everything was created, and who will recreate and redeem it. I pray the Lord would make me know and feel the depths of Biblical Theology.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

According to Mr. Lewis,

my grubby, happy hands in
mud, and my insistence
that the pies perpetually be
plopped on the grass,
sloppy and with no straw in them,
and especially my muddy smile there

(beyond the rocks
the tide rushes in
tickles a million multi-colored toes, laughing
just out of earshot)

Friday, February 29, 2008

Exodus 2:23-25

In these three verses, Israel “groans” under the heavy burden of slavery in Egypt and cries out to God. Having read Exodus before and knowing the story beforehand in some ways has blinded me to some of the force of some passages (like this one) in this very familiar section in a very familiar book. God hears the groans of the enslaved and oppressed Israelites and decides to act. However, his action is not motivated by his impression of their extraordinary piety or intense suffering while enslaved there, though he is compassionate to them. He acts because he “remembers his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” One of the most unbelievable parts of the story of redemption is that God has condescended to bind himself to a people in covenant. On what grounds did Israel approach God with their grievances about their situation? On the grounds of a possibly little-remembered (except by God) covenant that God had made with their distant ancestors about whom they heard wonderful stories. Ultimately, this covenant is the way that we too approach God. God still listens to the groans of his sinful, helpless people because of his covenant-faithfulness to the True Israel, the One who deserves God’s faithfulness, and in whom we gain access to the blessings of the covenant by which Israel (now and then) is redeemed from her slavery.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Just Another Day at the Office

I work part-time as an English tutor with a supplemental education company, and every week, I see 15-20 grade-school aged children to help them with reading problems, standardized test preparation, or homework and study skills. Often, because of the many Catholic private schools in the area, I am in the position of helping a Middle School student study for his or her required “Religion” class. A few of these children are from Catholic families, but most are from nominally Christian homes and rarely attend church or mass. I often am able to share the gospel in considerable depth in this environment because the students are generally interested to know that, though I am in seminary and have some specialized knowledge in the field of “religion,” I am not Catholic and I even have a wife! Often, differences between the beliefs of the Protestant and Roman Catholic branches of Christianity are the jumping-off points for conversations about the gospel. Following is one of the more interesting conversations of the past few weeks...
"Andy" is one of my regular students, a sixth-grader. Our normal focus is on his writing skills and grammar, but last Friday we had a conversation during which I was able to clearly explain the gospel and clear up some of the misconceptions he had about God and his relationship to people. Andy was required to memorize the Decalogue for his Religion course, and he asked me to help him create a memory aid for the task. I couldn’t teach him the one I learned in Sunday School because the version he was required to learn was modified slightly. When he found out that I knew them already, he remembered that I had told him that I was in Seminary studying to be a minister, and asked, “If you’re going to be a priest, how can you be married?”
“Well,” I said, “I’m not actually going to be a priest. I’m going to be a pastor, and that’s a different thing than a priest.” Andy is usually one of the more rebellious of my students, even for his age, but he seemed attentive at this point, so, since part of his religion test was to know some of the differences between Catholicism and “Fundamentalism,” as the false dichotomy was stated in his textbook, I took the opportunity to advance the conversation.
“What’s the difference? Do you not believe in God or something?” he asked.
“No, no, no. I believe in God,” I said. “I’m just not Catholic. I’m what’s called a Protestant. We’re Christians, too, we just hold a few different beliefs than Catholics do.”
He had heard of Christians who weren’t Catholic, but he said, “My teacher said that Fundamentalists believe every word of the Bible literally. Is that you?” I told him that I did believe that the Bible was literally true and that it was God’s way of speaking to us about how we can come to know Him. Then, he asked the obvious next question.
“What does it say, that we’re all going to Hell?”
“It says that, since people all sin, or do things that are against God’s law, yes, we all deserve to go to Hell. But that’s not all it says. It also says that, since the very first person, Adam, sinned, God has had a plan to fix the world from the mess we made of it. He made a way that, even though we deserve Hell, we don’t have to go there when we die. He made a way for us to be with Him instead, as if we hadn’t done anything wrong.”
“Is that why we go to confession?” he asked, “Because I haven’t been since last year. I always forget all the stuff I’ve done.”
“Well,” I said, “you really don’t need a priest to confess your sins to God for you. You can do it yourself. Because Jesus took the punishment for our sin – that’s why he died – we can speak directly to God about our sin, and he will forgive us if we believe and trust Jesus.”
“Do you have to confess every single thing?”
“Of course, you can never specifically confess every single thing you’ve ever done, and God doesn’t expect you to. Jesus didn’t just die; he also lived a perfect life and, after he died, he was raised from the dead – that’s why we celebrate Easter. If you believe, God will make a trade with you. He will give you credit for all the good that Jesus did and blame Jesus for all the bad you’ve done. Since we can obviously never confess all of our sins, and since we can never become perfect and never earn our way to heaven by being good (because only perfect is good enough), we have to believe and trust that God will make that trade when we ask him to have mercy on us.”
He still seemed interested, and he asked me if that meant that we then had to be perfect for the rest of our lives. I explained to him about repentance and that the “trade” was done once and for all, and that when God does that to us, He also gives us new ways of thinking and acting. We want to please him and become more like Jesus. He nodded his head in approval but said that it all sounded “pretty weird.” When I asked him after our tutoring session if he wanted to know more about what we had talked about, he said that he would “think about it.” He seemed uncomfortable with talking any more, and his mother was waiting in the parking lot.
I see Andy every Wednesday and Friday, so I plan to find ways to raise the subject in subsequent sessions that will be faithful both to my desire for him to know the Lord and to my responsibility to use the time his parents bought to tutor him in Reading and Writing. He is my last student on Wednesdays, so I’m praying for other opportunities to follow up on our conversation in the time after our session.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Q: Theology or Biblical Studies?

Before I got to seminary (or before I began reading for seminary), I thought that Theology and Biblical Studies were the same thing. I was mistaken. There seems to be a difference between the two that I'm not sure I understand. For example, my Greek professor (a "Biblical Scholar") also teaches New Testament Surveys and Exegesis Courses, both of which discuss the theology of the New Testament in varying degrees of intensity. However, he doesn't teach Theology courses, and the same guys that teach the Exegesis courses don't teach the Hermeneutics courses. Those are taught by the "Theologians," not to be confused with the aforementioned "Biblical Scholars." Of course, Systematic Theology is taught by the Theology guys, not the Biblical Studies guys. So, guess who teaches the course called "New Testament Theology": it's not the "Theologians," but the "Biblical Scholars." (My head is spinning.) So, who would teach a course on Biblical Theology?

In all seriousness, is a distinction between "Biblical Studies" and "Theology" helpful? Where did it come from?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Question #7

Given our doctrine of scripture, are we saying that Paul's theology when he died (that is, when it was most mature) was perfect? If not, how does this affect NT scholarship that tries to establish a "Pauline Theology" (meaning Paul's personal theology)? Can we assume that his personal theology as a whole was as perfect as that presented in his letters? For example, were all of his sermons without error? (We know Peter erred, at least in application.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Spring '08

It's crazy right now, but here are the classes I'm taking this Spring:

Greek Syntax and Exegesis- Dr. Pennington
Contemporary Theology- Dr. Wellum
Intro to Biblical Counseling- Dr. Scott
Personal Spiritual Disciplines- Dr. Whitney