Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Can't We At Least Start There?"

Dave Black wrote something on his blog yesterday that I want to chime in on:
"Occasionally I will be in a church where a pastor-teacher will conclude the service by saying, 'Before we leave, does anyone have a word?' Can't we at least start there? 'Teach me. I am teachable.' Is that your leaders' attitude? It can be. It must be. Some day, praise God, the church will indeed become the community that the New Covenant promises (see Heb. 8), marked by fraternal instruction. Each one will know the Lord directly, 'from the smallest to the greatest' among us. The old, obsolete forms of Judaism will be replaced by new wineskins. This, I argue, is why Paul is so insistent in 1 Cor. 14 that our gatherings be highly participatory. It also explains why he spends so much time instructing us about 'body life.'"
I've been invited to speak at churches that do something rather interesting, too. Discovery Bible Church, for example, in High Point, North Carolina asks whoever teaches from the Word on Sunday in the main gathering to stick around for 30 minutes to an hour to field some questions and allow everyone in the Body an opportunity to speak as the Lord leads them. They can agree, disagree, ask for clarification, ask for specific application, etc.

At Apex Baptist Church, our Life Group (not the main service) would easily yield to the Spirit's leading on any given Sunday. The Spirit could have been leading someone to call for prayer or the brothers and sisters would all raise certain prayer requests during the beginning of our time together, and this would lead the leaders of the group to yield. They'd say, "I think it's really clear what we need to do this morning. The Lord is redirecting us. We need to pray." Occasionally, the same group would start a lesson and before too long someone else was teaching the group. No one felt pressured to control the group or force getting through a PowerPoint. The Spirit was leading the group. It doesn't mean anyone would teach, although anyone potentially could given they were walking in obedience to the Lord (which involves staying in God's Word, not getting a weekly dose of it).

I think it is a place to start. "Before we leave, does anyone have a word?" You can have a word or a message and it not be prophecy. I'm a cessationist. I don't believe the revelatory and sign gifts are exercised in the life of the Body today. And guess what? I still believe that believers can have messages for the greater body at large. I believe that instruction and exhortation are not limited to the pastor who teaches. I think we have to remember that first and foremost "one is your teacher" (Matt. 23:8) and that any abiding believer in Christ who is being taught by the Holy Spirit through studying the Word of God (1 John 2:27; John 17:17) can bring a message to the Body. It doesn't mean that everyone should bring a message every single time the Body gathers. There should be a real sense of surrender and obedience in pursuing this part of the service. It shouldn't be done because the mic or floor is open. It should flow out of the Spirit's leading and direction.

What about doing what Discovery Bible Church does?

What about having a Life Group like we experienced at Apex Baptist Church?

What about asking, "Before we leave, does anyone have a word?"

What do you think?

A Really Fun Day Downtown

My brother came up to visit us this weekend. That's always a great excuse to scoot downtown and take in some sights. I'm not sure how far we walked today, but my legs tell me if I ever want to do it again, I need to be giving them a little more training and fair warning. We went to the building where Lincoln held his second inaugural ball (which is now home to the National Portrait Museum), Baptist Alley (where Booth fled Ford's Theater after shooting Lincoln), the Surratt town home (where the Lincoln conspirators held their meetings), the White House, the fountain across from the National Art Museum, the Jefferson Memorial (where we paddled), etc., etc., etc. What a fun day!!!! I had a blast.

There is a young man that works at the parking garage where I always park my car. He's from Ethiopia. Do me a favor, and be praying for this guy with me. I get to share my faith with him when I see him, and I've been inviting him to dinner or even just to grab a coffee. I'm thinking he doesn't think I'm serious. Pray he'll give me a call and I'll get to spend some more time with him.

What would a day like today be without pictures? We'll never know. Here they are!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Great Commission Or Bust

I just read this snippet from an article by R. Ferris and R. Enlow Jr.
"Commitment to training for Great Commission vocations does not deny that some Bible college graduates may serve God as lay person. The issue is not so much from whom Bible college graduates receive their paychecks as it is from whom they receive their orders and around which biblical mandate ('Creation' or 'Great Commission') they orient their lives. If Bible colleges survive, but fail to enroll, equip, and invigorate a new generation of men and women with a Great Commission calling, urgency, and orientation, then we will have failed miserably."
I really detest the lingo "lay person," but I understand that it's not going away. I also understand that people really want to have a way to identify people who are not pastors or paid Church staff employees. I get it. Still, I shiver when I read it. With that said, I really appreciate the last sentence. We have to make the Great Commission the most important thing when it comes to Christian education. It's a calling everyone in Christ receives. We should all see the urgency in training the nations, near and abroad; after all, people do go to hell if we don't share the gospel . . . Fact. And we ought to view every single one of our classes as Great Commission classes. Our content, disposition, and outcomes should all reflect how our class furthers and deepens our work in the Great Commission.

I found a paragraph or two that I "hear" but I'm just not "feeling," if that makes any sense. Should Bible colleges be geared to only "vocational Christian service?" The authors say expanding the reach of Bible colleges, beyond that of vocational service, is bad
"if such curricular diffusion is grounded upon a definition of ministry which includes every honest human vocation. If we fail to distinguish between callings which support directly the Great Commission mandate ('go and make disciples . . .') and those which serve the creation mandate ('exercise dominion over . . .'), we fail to distinguish ourselves from Christian liberal arts colleges."
So, it's got me thinking. What distinguishes a Bible college from a Christian liberal arts college? I think the answer really flows from (1) what students want from each and (2) where a school is on its historical timeline. First, if students just want the Bible and the school can keep itself sustainable based on the level of student interest (which turns into enrollment), then Bible, Bible, Bible, all day long. Now that doesn't mean the focus has to be on just preparing those who will be serving "full-time" in local churches in the future. I think of Word of Life as one example. A lot of students who go there do end up serving on staffs at local churches. But a lot of them go there (or are sent there) because they need a solid foundation on the Word of God. They then go on to earn degrees at universities and colleges in areas Ferris and Enlow would categorize as "creation" jobs. (Just typing that makes the hair on my arm stand up.) Second, if a school wants to extend the impact it can have on the world with the gospel, I think it will probably consider offering additional programs. It'll transform in healthy ways over time. It'll grow over time. Over time, my guess is, lots of Bible colleges have grown beyond (not out of) just being a Bible school because of the Great Commission.

I don't find it helpful to think about work/ministry using the dichotomy "creation mandate" and "Great-Commission mandate." I think everything you do, if you are a Christian, is supposed to be Great-Commission work. Whatever the job, whatever the field, whatever the industry, whatever the geographical location, whatever the role, whatever the status, whatever it is, that is where we live for the Great Commission.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Thought On Lexical Analysis

I'm reviewing a book on lexical analysis. Just finished typing up my review in fact. Here's one of the tidbits I included:
"Every step in the exegetical process has certain parameters within which students of God’s Word must operate. Dangerous conclusions, well-dressed misinterpretations of Scripture, and 'guaranteed-to-wow-the-crowds' nuggets of lexical pyrite—all of these are impediments to the faithful exposition of biblical texts."
Do you use lexical pyrite?????????

One Of My Favorite Days On The West Coast

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Course Syllabi And Course Worksheets Nearly Complete

I've been working super hard at completing my course syllabi and worksheets for the Fall semester. I'll be teaching BIB515 Introduction to Greek Language Study and BIB539 The New Testament Use of the Old Testament. You read that last one right! That's going to be an exciting course. Both of them will. But you might not know that the latter class is not really a course that's typically offered in seminaries. Sure the topic is covered in New Testament courses at the masters and doctoral levels, but we get to offer a course entirely devoted to this single topic. I can't wait. How have I structured the course? Well, it runs for six weeks. Here's how I've broken down the weeks:
  1. The New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Different Approaches
  2. The New Testament Use of the Old Testament in the Gospels and Acts
  3. The New Testament Use of the Old Testament in the Non-Pauline Letters
  4. The New Testament Use of the Old Testament in the Pauline Letters
  5. The New Testament Use of the Old Testament in the Pauline Letters (Cont'd)
  6. The New Testament Use of the Old Testament in Revelation
Needless to say, I am really excited about this course. Our students are going to wrestle with different passages in the New Testament, and they'll get a nice picture of the major Old Testament passages utilized within. 

By the way, during which week will Hebrews be discussed? Week 5. I think we miss a lot by not viewing Paul as its author. And since the internal and external evidence is strongly in favor of Paul as the letter's author, we will not be swooshing it off to the land of the "unknown." No, no. We'll be discussing it when we discuss all of Paul's other letters.

Oh yeah, and we will be giving due consideration to a view that seems to not be really discussed in the scholarly literature. I'm referring to Robert L. Thomas' "Inspired sensus plenior Application" view. Here's an approach that you can't really ignore. It's got lots of strengths.

Wonder where I land my plane on the whole issue? 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Arlington House And One Visitor's Experience

The disdain for Robert E. Lee during the War of Northern Aggression is hard to miss. One need look no further than his home. I'd go so far as to say that Lee Mansion is the single most important and most valuable spoil from the North's war against the South. I read this quote tonight from a Brit who visited the beautiful home that overlooked all of the District:
"It is a queer, old-fashioned place, with heavy columns and flights of steps, strangely like what is being now turned into–a mausoleum. The doors were all wide open, and we walked in unquestioned by the soldiers who were lounging about the entrance. . . . To see the home of Robert Lee sacked and made into a cemetery, and to fancy the thoughts that would fill that great heart . . . were so strange to me, and in their strangeness so painful, that I doubt whether I ever had a sadder walk than that visit to the heights of Arlington." (Mrs. Robert E. Lee, 276)
The commanding officer on top of the hill was adamant that the house be surrounded with the graves of fallen Union soldiers, a way he thought would ultimately disgrace the one he considered the biggest traitor at that time in his history (if not all of America's history). He hated the fact that the fallen were buried further away. And he took measures to ensure that subsequent burials would take place around the home, and especially in Mary's garden. Whether it was Atlanta or Arlington, there was little respect for personal property. War had shattered whatever there was.

Was Arlington ever returned to the Lee family? It was. In fact, a lawsuit had to make its way all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1882 the family land was deeded back, although no part of the Lee family would ever return to call it home. Robert E. Lee had already gone home to be with the Lord and from what I can tell never made an effort to regain his property. His wife only once visited it before her death, and she was greatly disturbed at the condition of the property. She didn't even get out of her buggy. It was Lee's son who petitioned the government for payment for the property. His son sold the land back to the federal government for $150,000. The federal government, after losing the Supreme Court case, had to either relocate the bodies of the fallen soldiers, totaling some 17,000, or pay an agreed upon price for the land they had occupied and later confiscated.

Alright, enough history for tonight. Back to work!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Matthew And Luke Wrote First: A "Clever" Proposal

I was reading Jimmy Akin's post over at Catholic Answers called "Some Thoughts on Q." In the comments section, Roger Loucks asked Jimmy the following question:
"[A]round a month ago or so Karl Keating posted an article by a scholar who advanced the idea that Matthew and Luke were written first and that Peter read portions from each text which were recorded by Mark. Do you happen to know if this theory (which I find quite clever) is accepted by scholars?"
Markan priority is championed just about everywhere I go. That Matthew and Luke depended on a source or sources that have not been preserved is just about treated as fact. Q, L, M . . . . Can you believe that there are even commentaries on Q. Wild, right?

Well, I think more and more people are going to call into question literary dependence on–not to mention the existence of–such proposed literary works. Doesn't it seem more likely that Peter deliberately limited his treatment of Jesus' life and ministry? We can explain the similarities between the Synoptics by seeing the Gospel of Mark (i.e. Peter's account) as the common thread, albeit condensed for reasons explained by the external evidence. The external evidence helps us accurately understand the origins of the Gospels. Matthew wrote first. Luke, through his close association with Paul, worked hard to produce a Gospel that would be helpful in training Gentile believers who were embracing the Lord Jesus Christ. Mark assisted Peter in recording his messages in Rome.

I appreciated Roger's parenthetical comment. It is a "clever" proposal. I'd encourage you, if you are wondering about how we got the Gospels, pick up a copy of Why Four Gospels: The Historical Origins of the Gospels. You can't beat the price. I've read it more than once, and I don't know of any explanation of the Gospels that can better explain the evidence. My students who are in my Gospel of Mark course right now have read the book. In fact, they are taking quizzes on it as we speak.

We aren't many in number, that is those of us who believe Matthew wrote first, Luke second, Mark third, and John fourth. But will the tide turn? My magic eight ball says, "Signs point to yes." Of course, that things been wrong before. But I'm hoping. I think it will greatly impact Gospel studies in a positive way.

Happy Anniversary, Part III

Happy Anniversary, Part II

What a day!!!! Couldn't have been better. Lesly and I just hung out and enjoyed each other's company all day long. One of the highlights is where we ate lunch. Lesly and I agreed that we should go somewhere we've never eaten before. So, we found a Portuguese-South African restaurant nearby and tried it out. It did not disappoint. The mango chicken was delicious!!!!

I'm a blessed guy, fellas. No question about it!

Happy Anniversary!

On July 30th each year two men are honored by the Episcopal Church. William Wilberforce is one of them. The 7th Earl of Shaftesbury is the other, a Mr. Anthony Ashley-Cooper. It is the latter that has grabbed my attention tonight. Thirteen years before he died, on his wedding anniversary (June 10th, 1872), the Earl wrote this in his diary:
"To-day my wedding day! Forty-one years ago was I united to that dear, beautiful, true, and affectionate darling, my blessed Minny. What a faithful, devoted, simple-hearted, and captivating wife she has been, and is, to me! And what a mother! Ah, Lord, give me grace to thank Thee evermore, and rejoice in Thy goodness. Send forth Thy Holy Spirit on us, and lead us yet in the way of service, obedience, and of love! But still she is absent! God, in Thy mercy, bring her home speedily and safely, and with her, my poor, precious, suffering Conty!" 
Reading the words of another husband to his companion, lover, and best friend makes me wonder about this beautiful treasure that is marriage. What a beautiful description the Earl shared about his wife: faithful, devoted, captivating, affectionate, beautiful, dear, true. I love that!

What's going on with me? What's all this talk about Shaftesbury and Minny? Well, today is my anniversary. My faithful, devoted, captivating, affectionate, beautiful, dear, true Lesly is married to me! And I can't believe it. I'm so thankful to the Lord. Lesly is my best friend, my most faithful co-laborer in the work of the gospel. She is my buddy, my pal, my gal, my love. Eight years ago I never would have imagined that I would meet my best friend when I went to Honduras. Six years ago, though, I knew I was marrying my best friend. I love you, Lesly.

The first blog post I ever wrote was on a godly wife. At the very end I wrote these words to my wife. Then, still, always–they are true.
"You are precious and beautiful. Perhaps only your mother, father, and sister have known what I have come to know about you. I am so thankful to our Lord who has saved you from your sins, made you alive together with Jesus, raised you up with Him, and seated you together with Him in the heavenly places. I am so thankful for the gentle and quiet spirit that God has developed in you. I am so thankful that you have such a powerful testimony before me that your life lived for the gospel speaks much louder than words. I hope that those things that are of eternal significance will always be more valuable to you than anything this world can tease us with. You are an amazing encouragement (so much like your mother who is a great witness for our Lord Jesus Christ). I love you so much. And I pray that there will not be one young man that I disciple now or in the future that will ever settle for a woman who does not have such an imperishable quality that is precious in God's sight."
Happy anniversary, babe!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Andy Smith's Post "Text Driving Exposition"

Andy Smith over at Shepherds Theological Seminary in Cary, NC has a post called "Text Driving Exposition" that's worth the read. I really appreciate this sentiment up :
"The goal of studying biblical Greek or Hebrew is to understand and interpret language and not merely translate it word by word."
The goal is not to merely exchange lexeme for lexeme. Nevertheless, a lot of Greek courses are geared towards rote memorization and translation. They do not teach people how to use Greek in ministry. I myself am learning how to do this more and more. I imagine I'll be tweaking my Greek courses for the rest of my life, constantly in pursuit of whatever structure and schema will afford my students the maximum benefit from the amount of time that I have them. I personally think that tools and grammar go hand in hand.

One thing Andy mentions is "after-the-fact use" of Hebrew and Greek. He says "[this] is not exegesis, but window dressing." There's one caution that I want to throw out for us to chew on. We need to encourage people to use Greek in ministry. I think it's possible for our students to go from "after the fact" to "before the fact," and we need to encourage this transition. The danger in my opinion, though, is telling people that it is an immediate switch. Going "cold turkey" on "after-the-fact" use of the biblical languages might have the effect we as instructors are not looking for. We are telling people that they need to use Greek, but then we tell them that using it even a little is unacceptable and super dangerous. I agree we need to wean people off of their dependence on commentaries and other resources. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening cold turkey. I think we need to stress reading the Scriptures for themselves, first and foremost. I think we need to emphasize reading the Scriptures with the Spirit's leading and direction in our lives. And I think we need to encourage students to use biblical language resources to the best of their ability, the goal being that they can start with the Greek and work to the English. But they need to be the managers of their own time and stewardship. What I'm going to be encouraging them to do is use Greek every day from day one, knowing that they will grow in their efficiency and accuracy. I agree with the statement, "If the Word of God can't be handled accurately, it shouldn't be handled at all." But I don't think master-proficiency or master-expertise is synonymous with handling the Word accurately.

Last Night's Info Session In Greenbelt

Last night we held another information session for interested persons to gather and hear more about the programs we offer at Lancaster Bible College and Capital Seminary and Graduate School. There was a lot of energy in the room. I loved it. It's great to get to meet prospective students. You get to hear about where they are serving in their local churches, what they are interested in when it comes to biblical studies, and what directions they sense the Lord is leading them long term. Last night did not disappoint, not in the least.

I had the opportunity to meet with all the students interested in our Master of Arts in Biblical Studies (or, MABS) program. The common theme around the room was, "I just want to be better equipped to study and teach God's Word." As I reminded the individuals with whom I met, seminary is not designed to give you everything you need for life and godliness. You'll grow in your knowledge of God's Word, I guarantee that. But you won't finish your program and go "Okay, so I know all I need to know about God's Word." I used Home Depot as an illustration. No one expects to go to Home Depot and walk out with a finished project. Imagine you're building a deck. If you go to Home Depot, you can get what you need to build that deck, but you will not walk out of Home Depot with a deck. What's Home Depot got if it ain't got decks? It's got the tools and materials you need to build a deck. It's got experienced and knowledgable individuals who can guide and assist you along the way. Inside a Home Depot you'll find books on how to build a deck. You'll find nail guns, saws, measuring tools, shovels, concrete for the footers, etc. And if you're standing on one of the aisles looking aimlessly trying to find what you need, what happens? Someone in one of those orange aprons will walk over and say, "How are you doing? Need some help?" And their employees will get you on the right path, get you where you need to be, answer any technical questions, help you troubleshoot the specific project you are working on, etc. Everyone I met last night really appreciated the illustration. One of them said, "Exactly, that's what I'm looking for in a seminary!" Well, Capital does a splendid job of coming alongside its students and being part of a student's life and preparation to better serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

I had a blast. I always enjoy the info sessions. Easily, the info sessions are ranked in the top five list of things I enjoy most at Capital. Our faculty and staff work so very hard to maximize the time that each prospective student stewards to us. Time is valuable. And we understand that. If you're interested in one of our programs, definitely consider coming to an information session. It might just be the first step in a journey that results in (1) you having more opportunities to serve our Lord, (2) you having a deeper and enriched ministry where you serve, and (3) you radically growing in your love of Jesus Christ and your desire to make him know everywhere you are, all the time, to everyone!