We had to write a lament for class the other night about America. Anyway, when we got to class, Dr. Loken asked for us to read them to the class. I’m pretty comfortable getting in front of people and preaching or doing music or whatever, but for some reason, I wasn’t very comfortable with this. Anyway, I just told myself, to get over it and do what needed to be done. Some of the other people had really good ones, which made me even more nervous, but I just jumped up and did it anyway.
Here’s what I read:
Once soaring across the sky,
It’s wings now clipped, the bald eagle cries.
Once flying in freedom and majesty,
Now grounded by sin. What a tragedy.
The American dream, it doesn’t make sense.
Two and a half kids and a white picket fence.
Is that all we want? All we imagine and desire?
What about God? Aren’t His dreams much higher?
We sing “Land of the free and home of the brave,”
We fought for freedom to worship, but use it to misbehave.
I don’t see bravery at all anymore,
Except when it’s sin that we’re standing for.
We have an American idol who’ll be famous and rich,
But he’s not what our forefathers dreamed of as they sailed from the Brits.
We celebrate independence on the fourth of July.
But what of dependence on God that we deny?
On all of our money it says “In God we trust”
But it’s for money itself that our citizens lust.
We’re proud of our government – the world’s largest democracy,
But it’s turned out to be nothing but hypocrisy.
America the beautiful, that’s what they say,
But that beauty will fade, when God we betray.
Our wings have been clipped by our sin with a sting.
But if we wait on the Lord, we’ll rise up on Eagle’s wings.
In the end, I’d say it went pretty well. Don’t know if it’s really something I’d say I was real proud of, but it was certainly a beginning for me.
Dr Loken was sick last week and so we watched the movie “Solomon” for class. I hate it when we do that. I can watch a movie at home. Dr. Loken’s teachings are much better.
There are some movies that can be life-changing. Movies can challenge your thinking and make you see things differently, but in general the “Christian” ones aren’t as good. It’s horrible to say, but it’s true. It seems like these days the church is almost always behind when it comes to the arts, but in years past the church was the center of it all. There has always been something about the “mystery” of God that inspires artists to try to express that which can’t be defined. I guess somewhere along the line the church decided that they had God figured out so art/mystery lost out.
Anyway, it seems to me that in the area of music, the church has gained some of the ground lost in catching up to the rest of culture. But in almost every other area – movies/film, writing, dramatic arts, painting/sculpting – we still seem to be way behind the rest of culture. The truth is that we as Christians have more truth to express to the world than any other people group. We should be setting the bar for every other artist in the world! What happened? How do we encourage people to express themselves to the Lord? We ask them to sing and pray in church, but what happened to these other expressions? How can we “worship” with our lives? our talents? our abilities? What would the rest of the world gain if we were each to take these ideas seriously? What could I offer the world as an expression of my heart to the Lord? What will I offer to Him?
It’s interesting that the movie Solomon is the one that sparked all these thoughts in me. I mean Solomon was the guy who organized all the most creative artists in the world at that time to build the temple. Solomon was an art supporter, and yet the movie/artform that portrayed him was lacking in that area. Weird.
Evidently in the class I missed a couple of weeks ago, my professor gave an assignment for our journals. Here’s the assignment: If God gave you one wish, what would it be and why?
Of course my first response is “more wishes,” but I’m sure that’s not gonna qualify for a “good” answer. The truth is that this is really a tough question. I think that as humans, our initial reactions would be those selfish sorts of things like: wealth, fame, mansions, trips, health, etc. But then I think about what I should desire as a Christian and I come to more unselfish things like: for no hunger or pain in the world, or maybe I should wish for world peace, or for everyone to know Jesus. I also think about some specific people with specific problems that I’d like to make wishes for. I might even wish for some things for my beautiful bride. Another thought I have when I think about this question is “What would Jesus do?” or “Is there a Biblical example I should follow here?” I don’t know about what Jesus would do, but Solomon is a pretty good example and he asked for wisdom. God rewarded him for it too. Hmm. . . . .what about me though. . . . . .It’s really tough to decide on one thing. I have a few regrets in my life that I wish I could “do over” but nothing that would warrant a wish – I mean, I’ve really learned from those things and they help make me who I am today.
Man this is hard. There’s a part of me that would wish for a family of my own one day. I’d also wish to be a part of a starting a new church someday in the future. I would love to be able to study and teach the Bible for the rest of my life. And eat Blue Bell ice cream every day. I’d also love to have the ability to write songs like my friend Jon, or maybe a voice like Briscoe’s. I wanna travel the world and especially go back to Israel again. I wanna scuba dive the great barrier reef, and snow ski the swiss alps. I wanna see Hawaii & Australia, and I wanna visit my compassion international child, Yigremachew, in Ethiopia. I wanna do mission work for a minimum of about 6 months somewhere and if I had to choose right now, It’d be Africa – maybe with the “Mercy Ships” folks.
OK – I finally got to my real answer: If I could have one wish from God, it’d be that I could stay in the center of His will for me for the rest of my life. I don’t get there very often, but the few times that I’ve really been in step with Him have been amazing. Even if I wasn’t getting to do some of the things I dreamed about, those steps with Him were always incredible!
I wish I could say I’d give up all those other dreams, to be in step with Him, but the truth is that even if He gave me my wish, I’d probably still be wishing for something else – of course it wouldn’t be a “Godly” wish but I’m not very good at those kinds of things anyway. It’s sad, but also very true that I’m much better at selfish wishes.
How ’bout the rest of you guys – what would you wish be?
In class last night Dr. Loken asked us each to spend about 10 minutes and write our own 10 commandments around each of these 10 topics listed. It’s a good exercise; I’d encourage you to do it too. Here’s what I came up with:
1. Priorities – I will keep my personal relationship with God above my job.
2. Worship – I will worship outside the church.
3. Reverence – I will pay attention to the little things God has done. (Is there such a thing as a “little” thing?)
4. Time – I will faithfully continue my devotional time with Miranda.
5. Authority – I will respect the people God has placed above me, even if I disagree with them.
6. Life – When I have them someday, I will raise my children to know true life – that which only God can give.
7. Purity – When my thought life is tempted, I will seek the “way out” described by 1 Cor 10:13. “But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
8. Property – I will sacrifice my own stuff/desires so others can have more.
9. Tongue – I will speak what is right, true, noble, pure, uplifting/encouraging, and honoring to God.
10. Contentment – I will enjoy all that I have in spite of what the world tells me I need.
Wow! I really love going to class on Tuesday nights. Right now I’m in "Special Issues in the Old Testament – Historical Literature." Anyway, last night, Dr. Loken gave us an overview of Genesis. There are lots of things he covered which I knew, but quite a bit that I learned too. Check out some of the stuff that was new to me:
Here’s the first:
There was a 6 day war between Israel and the Arab states of Jordan, Egypt, and Syria in 1967. Israel was attacked on three different fronts simultaneously. Israel had a secret operative who had worked his way into the ranks of the Syrian army and on their battle front, it was very hot and there were lots of mosquitoes. The secret operative explained that if they would plant eucalyptus trees they’d have shade and the mosquitoes would stay away. The Syrian army purchased these trees and planted them near their bases. The secret agent contacted the Israeli bombers who then proceeded to bomb the trees. They didn’t need coordinates, ’cause they could so clearly see these trees which were so out of place in the desert. Pretty funny!!!! Syria loses the battle ’cause they couldn’t stand the mosquitoes or the heat.
By the way, Israel not only won the war on every front, but they also gained quite a bit of land from each of their attackers. On the map, the light tan is what they occupied at first and the green area are what they gained afterwards.
In Genesis 17:9-14, God institutes the sign of the covenant – circumcision. Since the covenant was about Abraham’s seed/offspring it was very fitting that every time a male went to procreate, he would see himself and be reminded of the promise regarding his seed/offspring. It is also very interesting to note that there were many other cultures which circumcised men, but it was not common in Ur where Abraham was from and it was completely unique that Israel circumcised babies. Another miraculous thing is that the Lord instructs them to circumcise babies on the 8th day after birth. Doctors today have discovered that Vitamin K (which helps in clotting) spikes in men on the 8th day of life and then never reaches that level again. Without modern Vitamin K injections, doctors recommend the 8th day for circumcision even now because it’s the safest day in a man’s life for such a thing. Interesting that God instructed the people for their own safety even when their knowledge of medicine was lacking. Clearly this was not revealed to them by other men, but only by God.
Another sidenote to the circumcision thing: Joshua 5 records that after they had crossed the Jordan river and before they attacked Jericho, Israel rededicated themselves to the Lord and each man was circumcised. This would have debilitated them and left them virtually helpless in case of attack. They were incredibly vulnerable sitting debilitated between the Jordan river and Jericho. This was an incredible act of faith on the Israelites part. It is because of this act of faith that God takes away the disgrace of their Egyptian captivity, and they become a nation which others fear.
Here’s the last thing I’m gonna write about today:
First read the Scriptures about Jacob and Esau’s birth:
Genesis 25:21 – Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, "Why is this happening to me?" So she went to inquire of the LORD.
23 The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger."
24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. [e]26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.
OK – now here’s what I learned. Dr. Loken said that he had a student who was also a pre-med student one time who explained this phenomenon called (I forget but I’ll guess) "Twin twin transfusion" where the stronger twin dominates the mothers blood supply and when he is born he is stronger and usually red colored. The weaker is pale. Kind of the "runt" of the litter so to speak. By the way, the word/name "Jacob" was a wrestling term used when someone grabbed another’s heel and tripped him up throwing him to the ground.
Anyway, this explains why Rebekah, the mother, loved Jacob more. It’s kind of a mother’s role to care and nurture the weaker of the two. It also explains why Isaac like Easu – he was a man’s man – the kind of guy you’d want as an heir. Also – after what God said in verse 23, when you look at chapter 27:27-29 (knowing that Isaac thought he was talking to Esau), you realize that Isaac was trying to reverse the curse – going against what God had said. Check it out:
26 Then his father Isaac said to him, "Come here, my son, and kiss me."
27 So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, "Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed.
28 May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness— an abundance of grain and new wine.
29 May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed."
This was just something I had never thought about – cool stuff.
Last night was a crazy night. We were getting all kinds of warnings about the weather and the news people were saying not to get out in it all. It was supposed to freeze, and schools were shutting down. But I had class. I really have enjoyed the classes I’ve been taking and so even with all the warnings and an hour and a half drive, I decided to go anyway. I called ahead to make sure we were going to have class before I left, and they said they were so I headed out.
As I drove, I listened to a couple of sermons by Rob Bell. (That has kinda become my habit on the way to school. I get Rob’s latest teaching every week that way.) The roads weren’t too bad. Certainly not as bad as I had expected after all the hype the news people were making – I didn’t see any ice at all. When I got to school, I heard that we were having class, but that Dr Loken wasn’t there and we’d be watching a movie. I was dramatically disappointed. (Wow that’s a nice alliteration – “dramatically disappointed” – Can you say A.D.D.? Sorry.)
We sat for two and a half hours and watched “Abraham” with Richard Harris. Every time he spoke I couldn’t help but hear Caesar from the movie “Gladiator.” It was a pretty good movie. There were lots of parts that they had to write in and guess about how things might have been, but it still followed the Biblical text for the most part. The scene at the end of the movie where Abraham is tested and is asked to sacrifice his son Issac was interesting – Issac is portrayed as understanding what Abraham is going to do and even tells him to tie him up tighter. I never imagined it quite like that. I always figured that Abraham had to wrestle his son to the ground to tie him up. Maybe the sense of honoring your parents that they instilled in their children was greater than what we see today – wait, I’m sure it was – but I’m just not sure about how much more ti was. Could Isaac have offered himself to his dad and ultimately to the Lord like that?
I did take special note of what Abraham said to his servants as I watched last night. They accurately portrayed him as saying that he and the boy would go up the mountain to worship and then they’d both return, but Abraham spoke these things with a fearful and trembling tone – it almost seemed as if He didn’t believe they’d both return. I’m sure it would be normal to be fearful about the whole situation, but this is the moment of faith that He is commended for in Hebrews, and He believed in God’s promise (that He’d make a great nation of him) so much that He thought Isaac would be raised from the dead.
It’s interesting to me that both faith and doubt were so clearly co-existing in this situation, but Abraham chose to act on the faith. In this moment, even though the Jewish faith doesn’t yet exist, Abraham is half Jewish (faithful) and half Gentile (doubtful) on the outside, but is still completely Jewish on the inside – in His heart, He remains faithful.
The truth is that, for me, faith and doubt co-exist more often than not. Even in my best, most faithful moments, when I put on my game face and act on faith, my insides are twisting and turning, trembling and fearful. It’s in those moments when I put fear aside and trust in God – it’s in those moments when my faith is stretched, and doubt is defeated. If I imagine myself like Abraham – everything in my life culminating to one moment of choosing faith or doubt. What would I do? Can I put fear aside? Would I act on faith? It’s one thing to act in faith in a normal everyday sort of situation, but what about when my whole life’s journey is at stake? Would I stake my life on Christ? Would I stake my son’s life on Christ?
Prayer: Lord, I don’t know much. I know that You are all that I need. I know that You have provided for me over and over in my life. I know that You love me. I know that without You, I would never have any faith at all. I know that doubt consumes me when I’m on my own. I know that there’s a battle within me between doubt and faith. I’m grateful for the battle, because I know that means You’re in me. I also know that sometimes I let the doubt to win out in my life. Sometimes I even encourage it. Lord, change that part of me. I mean, I know You’re gonna win – there’s no battle that isn’t Yours for the taking. Lord, win in me. I trust that in the momnts where I must choose, You will show me Your way of faith. Lord, nudge me – No, push me – push me hard – throw me to the ground if You must – but make me go Your way – Let me walk in faith no matter what the cost. In those testing moments, I want to honor You. In every moment, I want to honor You. I want to honor You.
Dr Loken taught us last night about how to read the Bible as literature. It also seems to me that this is one of his favorite subjects. His dissertation involved these very same concepts as they applied to the Book of Nehemiah. His focus tonight was on the narrative form which makes up most of the Bible.
The basic idea seems to be about analyzing the 5 elements of narrative literature (setting, characters, plot, point of view, style) in order to gain more understanding of the author’s intended meaning. The five rules that he laid out for us are:
1. Investigate every detail of setting that the author includes.
2. Analyze each character and determine how he contributes to the message of the story.
3. Be aware of how scenes work together to form the plot.
4. Determine what the narrator is trying to communicate to the reader.
5. Explore whether or not the structure of the story offers any clues to the author’s intended meaning.
He also gave us a few examples of how these types of questions can lead to a better interpretation and understanding of the Scriptures. Here are a few that I wrote down:
1. Setting – By investigating the setting of the Nativity story, you discover that Nazareth was a “branch” city of Bethlehem. The name “Nazareth” actually means “branch” and it was named this because there had been many people of the line of David who left Bethlehem and settled there. This also means that when Joseph left for Bethlehem with Mary, he probably had many relatives including his parents, his brothers, sisters, and lots of other folks who traveled with them to Bethlehem. In reading the Biblical text, we only see Mary and Joseph mentioned, but the original readers would have already known and understood that Nazareth was full of people in the line of David who would have been traveling with them. Also, in studying the setting, we see that Bethlehem is at most a 3-day trip from Nazareth. Sometimes we have thought of it as a longer more difficult journey – not to make light of Mary being on a donkey for 3 days.
2. Setting – The Philistines were a constant threat to Israel because they lived in the plains near the Mediterranean Sea and knew how to smelt iron. They had iron chariots which Israel could never defeat down in the plains where they lived, but the Philistines could never really take Israel either cause those same iron chariots didn’t do so well in the foothills of the mountains where the Israelites lived. Once Israel learned how to smelt iron (under Saul) they wipe out the Philistines and you never really hear about them again in the Scriptures.
3. Character and Setting – Why was Abraham so quick to be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac? This has to do with setting – he had cone from the land of Ur where it was very common practice to sacrifice children to their god. We look at those verses and are shocked at Abraham’s willingness, but in that culture, it was normal. In some strange way, it didn’t take much faith for him to be willing to sacrifice his son ’cause everyone was doing that. If you’ll notice in Hebrews, (This is the character part) Abraham isn’t commended for having faith enough to sacrifice his son, he is commended for the faith he exercised in believing God’s original promise to make of him a great nation through his son Isaac. In the Genesis account Abraham fully believes God’s promise believes that if God made that promise and wanted him to kill his son, then He must be planning on raising him from the dead too. This was an original thought. No one had ever risen from the dead! Abraham is commended for faith that God would raise his son from the dead in order to fulfill the promise that He had made to him! Cool stuff!
4. Structure/Style – Look at 1 Samuel 24-26. (24 and 26 are almost identical – so what’s in the middle of them must be important – 25 is a little strange until you figure out the symbolism in it.)
Anyway, it was a good class last night.
Lord, thank you for these classes. Thank you for you Word. Thank you for this supernatural hunger that you’ve given me for it all lately. Thank you for the ability to attend – for providing the money and the time for me to come. You are amazing and I can only stand in awe of You! You’ve certainly given me more than I deserve – I deserve nothing but death, but this life you’ve given me is incredible! Thank you for my beautiful bride and her support, and for our families, our friends, and our church. I am overwhelmed by all You’ve done, but even more so by who You are. All that You have done flows out of who You are – it’s just an expression of Your character. You are more than I can imagine and I love You! AMEN.
In class this week, Dr. Loken talked about the different versions of the Bible. Quite a bit of it was stuff I had already picked up on in all my years of ministry, but there was definitely a part of it which was new to me. I’ve been teaching a series with the youth for our Wednesday Night Bible study lately that has been lots of fun, but I’m questioning it now. The series is called the “Paraphrase Project” and the idea is to teach the students about a certain Biblical text and then have them rewrite it in their own words. I’ve encouraged them to rewrite each phrase so they can understand it. It’s been a really good way to help them interact with the Scriptures and they’ve had a good time learning to express themselves like this. Anyway, after my class, I feel like I have a better grasp on the details of what it means to really translate the Scriptures. It’s a huge undertaking (probably not something for a student – we’re not really distributing ours though – it’s just to help us interact with the Scriptures.) ’cause one little detail could undermine the whole text.
Anyway, he showed us how the TNIV and the NRSV have tried to become “gender inclusive” and how it has totally changed the Scriptures. For example:
In Hebrews 2 the NIV says, 6But there is a place where someone has
“What is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of
man that you care for him? 7You made
him a little
lower than the angels;
you crowned him with glory and honor
8and put everything under his
putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet
at present we do not see everything subject to him.
These verses are clearly talking about Jesus and his Sovereignty with everything under His feet.
Now look at the same verse from the “gender inclusive” TNIV: 6 But there is a place where someone has
“What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them? 7 You made them a little lower
than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor 8 and put everything under their
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to
at present we do not see everything subject to them.
What?!?!?!? Humans now have sovereignty over all things?? It’s really scary to me that people could actually believe in being “politically correct” so much that they’d be willing to change the whole meaning of Scripture. Wouldn’t want to offend a woman and call Jesus a man.
Sorry ladies, but just so you know – JESUS WAS A MAN!! What kind of man would change the scriptures like this? He must have gotten beat up by a lot of girls to be that afraid of women. I guess he’s more afraid of women than he is of God.
Last night I took a final exam for my Theology class. The whole thing was really scary for me since it’s been 15 years or more since I was even in school. I’m a bit out of the habit of homework, studying, and test-taking. Anyway, I was also really pretty nervous about it all ’cause Dr. Loken gave us a quiz 2 weeks ago with 20 questions. Out of the 20, I think I got about 8 of them right. So I studied by typing up and reading through the questions that we had for our homework, and it paid off.
When Dr. Loken passed out the test and I started taking it, I was relieved ’cause I felt like I knew every answer. I also felt like I was kinda rushing through the whole thing with some sort of nervous energy. (It’s a bit strange that I can stand in front of hundreds of people and not be nervous, but sitting alone at a table with a test in front of me. . . . .) I literally laughed at some of the questions and even enjoyed the test as I was taking it. (One of the questions asked which of the 4 sins listed was not included in the 10 commandments, and the correct answer was “being a Dallas Cowboys fan.) We had an hour to take the test and about 20 minutes into it, I was finished. I looked around the room and no one else had finished, but I didn’t want to go back through and start second guessing myself so I just turned it in.
Later, when we graded it, I realized I had missed one question. I got 99 out of 100 right! I guess being old and going to school at my age isn’t such a bad idea. As a matter of fact, I feel like I’m really enjoying the process this time around. I still don’t like all the homework and I’m not sure how I’m gonna be able to keep up with it all and still work my more-than-full-time job. But I guess one day at a time is all I can do.
Prayer: Thank you Lord, for being with me yesterday in the midst of the test and for my beautiful bride and the patience she’s had with me in regards to these classes. Lead us as we figure out how to build our relationship with all my new school related responsibilities. Thank you for Dr. Loken who has taught me and helped me prepare for the test. Thank you for the guys who wrote the books we’ve been studying and for the way that You have moved throughout history to bring each of these men to a place that they would become your servants. As they have served You, I have been served too. Allow me Lord to take these things I have learned and serve You with them as those who have gone before me have done.
Gosh! What are the Jehovah’s Witnesses gonna do now? Do I have your attention now?
No, I haven’t given up my faith. I’m not saying God doesn’t exist. I just learned something new in my Theology class last night. The word “Jehovah” was actually never intended to be used to refer to God. Here’s how it all happened: The Hebrew word YHWH (“Yahweh” which means “I am”) was used of God regularly in the Old Testament scriptures – as a matter of fact, God even calls Himself “YHWH.” (Exodus 3). Another word used of God was “Adonai” which meant “my Lord.”
Anyway, the name YHWH (Yahweh) was considered too holy to speak and so when the writers of the Bible wrote it they wanted to give the reader a “heads up” or a hint that the word was coming up so that they wouldn’t accidentally say it outloud. They took the vowels from the word “adonai” and placed them into the word YHWH – which would have made it look something like this “YaHoWaH.” The Hebrew reader would come across this word and would have known that it wasn’t a real word. This would have forced him to stop and think about what he was reading, and thus would avoid accidentally speaking the Sacred Name aloud. Unfortunately, when the German translators came along hundreds of years later, they didn’t understand what had happened, so they simply translated it as “Jehovah.” (The Hebrew “Y” sounds like a “J” in German and the “W” sounds like a “V”) We’ve been reading it that way ever since ’cause the English translators used the German translations as guides.
So the name “Jehovah” doesn’t exist. It is basically a translation error and was never used by the Jews – including Jesus.