Thursday, August 21, 2014

Just Finished Writing A Foreword

I just finished writing a foreword for Esteban Polo's book on giving and the Christian life. You know what I love about this book? It's written by a native Spanish speaker, born and raised in Peru! Yep! You don't have to be born in the USA to make a contribution to churches around the world. No way! The former is definitely not a condition for the latter. And you don't have to hold degrees from an American seminary! In fact, you don't even have to be seminary trained.

There are lots of solid Christian resources written in English, and I believe that translating them in some cases is a worthy task. (There is also a lot of trash that's written in English, and translated into Spanish; I'm thinking, for example, of books like Buenos Días, Espíritu Santo. Geez.) If you ask me, I think that the best books that are going to impact Latin America are those written by native Spanish-speaking Christians. And they need to be made available digitally and free-of-charge (or at least really, really, cheap).

Here's the bibliographic information for Esteban's resource:
Polo, Esteban. Tinaja y Vasija: Un Estudio sobre las Instrucciones Bíblicas respecto a Ofrendas y Diezmos by Esteban Polo. Apex, NC: Editorial Los Otros Nueve, 2014.
By the way, it was Esteban's daughter who assisted Lesly and me on the translation of David Alan Black's Learn to Read New Testament Greek. And it was Fiorella who recently completed the translation of MamaB's autobiography. The title of the Spanish edition is: La Historia de Mi Vida: Un Testimonio de la Gracia y Fidelidad de Dios. What an awesome title!!!!!!! I interviewed Fiorella not too long ago. You can check out the interview here.

David Croteau's Interview On Tithing After The Cross

My friend Dave Croteau sent me an email yesterday to let me know that his interview on the Janet Mefferd Show was now available online. I haven't had a moment to listen to it yet, but I plan on it. I've already emailed the link to some of my Spanish-speaking friends. This is a huge issue, one that Christians really don't give very much attention to. That's really sad. Adopting the tithe as the norm for a New Covenant believer is really lazy theology, if you ask me. It's easier to just say, "Give your ten percent." "Tithe." "I tithe every week." Etc. It's much more complicated when you ask the question, "What responsibilities do New Covenant believers have to obey and keep the laws given to Israel after being rescued out of Egypt?" Do we keep the Law? Do we keep any part of the Law? I think we really have to do better at teaching people what Jesus actually accomplished on the cross. There is similarity between the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant, simply because the God who made them both is the same. However, his expectations for believers are not identical from one covenant to the next. One of the worst things that ever happened with regard to the covenants is the view that the Mosaic Covenant had three parts. No one would have ever thought that, not at Sinai or in Jesus' day. But with the view that there are three divisions in the Mosaic Covenant came the idea that Jesus put an end to part of the covenant, while allowing another part to extend its influence and governance into the future with God's secret portion of his Kingdom–the Church. That's dangerous stuff.

Can I encourage you to get a copy of Dave's book? It's called Tithing after the Cross: A Refutation of the Top Arguments for Tithing and New Paradigm for Giving. Great book. I actually think his dissertation at Southeastern is one of the best ever. I'd put his right up there with Matthew McDill's, who wrote on the concept of elders.

Here's a little info you might not know. Dave and I actually served together at the same local church in Apex, North Carolina. That's how we got to know each other.

I Can't Wait For Saturday!!!!

Lesly's trip is nearing its end. She'll be coming home Saturday. I am ecstatic! Last night she got to spend some time with her sister and two friends that live across the street from her house. She sent me a bunch of pictures. They all went to have dinner at the Honduras Maya, a place that is very special to me. When I am in Honduras I go swimming at the Maya on a regular basis. I built some really strong relationships with some of the staff members there. I really love Honduras. I love Tegucigalpa in particular. Hondurans are some of the most hospitable, kind, and loving people I've ever been around.

I can't wait to see her! She gets here on Saturday, but I might just go and wait at the airport starting tomorrow (hahaha).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lunch With A Student, Then Back To The Office

Luke, thanks so much for asking me to join you for lunch this afternoon. I had a splendid time of fellowship, and I loved the food. Korean food is hard to beat, brother!

When I got back to the office, my hard copy of the new Echo magazine was waiting for me. Have you read it yet?

What A Thoughtful Present!

I got a special present in the mail today from someone. You know who you are. Thanks so much. It means a lot!

Faculty Meeting

Here are a couple of pictures from our faculty meeting yesterday. Lots of fun, and we learned a lot too!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Really–And I Mean Really–Living For Jesus Christ

All of our faculty gathered together in Lancaster, PA today for our annual faculty workshop. It was wonderful! Dr. Rebecca (Becky) Kammer from FlipIt Consulting was our guest and facilitator for the morning and afternoon instruction. Becky, thanks so much for coming!

In addition to everything going on, it was great to catch up with the rest of the "team." But the highlight of my day was eating lunch with some of the college students. Some of the guys were eating lunch, having just finished up tryouts for Lancaster's soccer team. I asked them if I could join them, and they graciously agreed. What did we talk about? Well, we talked about the only thing that matters (Phil. 1:27). I had the opportunity to share a little about my testimony and what the Lord has really impressed on my life from the Scriptures as far as what really matters in life. It was a great lunch! A couple of the guys were tuned out (but they were probably still listening; might've just been trying to look 'cool'). But the rest of the guys were locked in. They were there with me, and I could tell God was using me. You know those opportunities where you tell from the moment you start talking that this is one of those things we call a divine appointment? One of the young men told me after we ate, "Hey, thanks for sitting with us and sharing what you did."

After the guys got up, there were a couple of young ladies still hanging back. Once the guys were out of sight, one of the girls, sitting about four chairs away, said, "I think it was a major God thing that you were here this afternoon. Out of all the people you could have sat down with, you sat down with them. I couldn't help but hear your conversation with them. I really, really, really hope God uses it in their lives." I do too. I really do. I hope God keeps using that same message in my life. And I told the girls I hope he uses it in their lives. I have to keep reminding myself that this isn't a message for someone else. It's a message for us all. And it's not a message that can only be uttered or preached from a pulpit. It can manifest itself primarily in words. But it shouldn't. The message I'm talking about has real life sacrifice and love that you can point to. Real, tangible, life-changing moments. Writing the message of the cross on someone's life by intentionally serving them and loving them is as critical for the message as the message itself. What would the gospel be if God just told it generation after generation through the prophets until eventually the end came? Don't you see? The gospel isn't the gospel unless the nails hit Jesus' wrists and feet. The gospel isn't the gospel unless all our sins actually fall on his shoulders. The gospel isn't the gospel unless it costs him his blood, his life. The reality of the gospel is not caught up in words alone. And it shouldn't be that way with us either. The message of the gospel has to have those real moments in our lives when we let God magnify his cross love through our feeble, broken, humble, lowly bodies.

There's nothing worth more than living a life that is willing to lose everything to gain one single thing. As I shared with these college students today at lunch, if you are living for anything other than the Great Commission, you are not living the life the Lord wants from someone he has given his life for, put his Spirit in, and made a resident of his kingdom. Of course, living for the Great Commission is something we really have to redefine, isn't it? It's more than inviting people to your local church. It's more than praying for them. It's more than going on a mission trip or writing a check so someone else can go on one. It's more than making sure Somalis have potable water. It's more than putting flags of nations in your local church's sanctuary. It's more.

The life Christ expects of us demands our obedience. You can be saved by someone else's vicarious death. In fact, that's the only way you can be saved, and it's by none other than Jesus Christ's. But you can't live the Christian life vicariously through another believer's. The Christian life is so much more. It's lived intertwined with other believers, sure. But it's a life that you have to live. Your walk with him has a cost. You can't count someone else's cost. You can't sell someone else's possessions. You can't write someone else's checks.  You can't live through someone else's website and testimonies. Me either. The Lord calls to me too: "Thomas, what's that I've given you, that you've opted to use for your own self-interest? What's that over there that really belongs to me, but you resolved to use it as you see fit?" Discipleship costs. And  if I'm honest with myself, I'll surrender and confess that it costs me too–more than words. If I want to honor and please the Lord with my life, the cost is everything. Everything in exchange for one single thing.

Incidentally, I read Dave Black's blog today and found a post that really I hope everyone reads. I can't link to it, but I'm going to reproduce it here. It just might be one of my favorite posts ever on Here it is:
9:36 AM Well, I'm off to a terrible start this morning. There I was, sipping my first cup of coffee and enjoying the view from the back porch when NPR ruins my day. It ran a story about the Fields Medal, a prestigious mathematics prize that is given every four years to the nation's top mathematician under 40 years of age. This year the award went to an Iranian scientist working at Stanford. But that's beside the point. The story posed a different sort of question: What happens to these recipients after they receive their prizes? Do they become more productive in their future work, or less? With whom are they being compared? you ask. Well, you have to remember that the prize is given only every four years, so the study involved 37 year-old mathematicians who lost. Who was more productive: those who received the award, or those who lost out? And the answer is ... 
The award winners were less productive than their prize-losing counterparts. Now, it's important to keep in mind that the whole purpose of the award is to encourage productivity in that mathematician's particular field of research. What the study showed, however, is that once a person receives the award, they tend to lose interest in the subject that got them the award in the first place. In a word: They lose their single-mindedness.
Now stop what you're doing and listen to the story over at NPR. 
The reason this story ruined my day is because I wasn't planning on blogging much this morning. Too much work to do on Philippians. But how can't I blog after such an interesting report? Let's see if I can't weave this it into my work on Philippians, okay? 
In Phil. 1:27, Paul begins the hortatory part of the letter (i.e., the section in which he begins to show us how to live as Christians) with a single Greek word monon: "Only!" Since the word is a neuter adjective, we might translate Paul's meaning as: "[The] only [thing that matters]!" Paul says there's something in life that we can be absolutely sold out to. It's the only thing that matters in life. Now I'd called that single-mindedness, wouldn't you? Jesus spoke about this subject in Matt. 13:44-46. Remember? He said that the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure in a field. It's there but it's hidden. Then it's accidentally found. The finder is ecstatic. He sells everything he has to buy that field. No, he doesn't care about the field. He cares only about the treasure.
Let's say you were to visit my farm and you notice a big sign out front: "For Sale: 123 Acre Farm with Two Houses.' Not only that, but when you pull up the long gravel driveway you see a "For Sale" sign on my Honda Odyssey. You'd say, "What's up with Dave? What in the world is he doing? Looks like he's selling out. For what?" 
Now let's ask the apostle Paul the same question: "What is the 'only' thing in your life, Paul? And what will it cost you to acquire it? Will it cost you a beating? A shipwreck? Going without food or water? Your finances?" Paul's answer might go something like this: "Yes, I had it all. I used to be a pure-bred American. No immigrant, me. Had a Harvard Ph.D. to boot. I had everything, man. But then I caught a glimpse of that treasure in the field. Since then, everything else seems like ______ (untranslatable). No, I don't have it all figured out yet. But I'm working on it. My goal is now very simple: I want to know Him and to make Him known. At whatever personal cost. Even if it costs me my life." 
So let's go back to Phil. 1:27. For Paul, living as a good citizen of heaven in a manner required by the Gospel was the only thing that mattered to him. Now, just how you and I flesh this out is between us and the Holy Spirit. There's no magic formula that says "do A-B-C." You'll notice that I haven't literally sold my farm and car. 
I might.
Bonhoeffer put it this way (Letters and Papers from Prison, p. 211): 
'The Church is the Church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it would give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The Church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.' 
Listen. Our time is limited. Yours and mine. Our days are numbered (by the Lord). Our resources are limited. Our money is limited. Have you found that treasure yet, Dave? What will it cost you? What is your "only" thing in life? Being a native son of America? Having a Basel degree? Enjoying a reputation as a "scholar" (whatever that means)? Well, I'll tell you: I don't have it all figured out. But I'm working on it. I want to have the same single-mindedness that Paul had. "This one thing I do" -- not "these 50 things I dabble in." 
Coach Vince Lombardi once said, "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing." Now that's single-mindedness. And that's precisely what the award-winning mathematicians lost. 
Little wonder I stopped sipping coffee and started blogging.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Complutense Update

It's been a little while since I gave an update on everything with Spain. So, I thought it'd be nice to do so tonight before heading to the bed. Perhaps the biggest news is Lesly and I are going to be traveling to Madrid in October for a conference at the Universidad de Alcalá (UAH), located right outside of Madrid. Dr. Antonio Piñero will be speaking about the Complutensian Polyglot, which happens to be the topic of my research for the doctorate at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. I'll also get the opportunity to visit the University and meet all the people with whom I have been in communication via telephone and emails, including Dr. Piñero.

In addition to traveling to Spain, I've been making some progress on my research. I've been working on a collation of the Gospel of Matthew using the Complutensian Greek New Testament, the Textus Receptus, and the Nestle-Aland. Am I finding anything? Yep. But I won't bore you to death. Truth is, I'm just gathering data right now. I'm seeing some really interesting features in the Polyglot's New Testament volume, but I'll wait to see where the data from the collation leads me once I've completed it. Here's a sneak peak, in case you're curious to see how I'm working through everything:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Some Thoughts On Galatians 2:11-14

Antonio Piñero posted an entry on his blog today discussing πρὸ τοῦ γὰρ ἐλθεῖν τινας ἀπὸ Ἰακώβου in Galatians 2:12. The post is called, "¿Abolición divina de la distinción social entre hombres y mujeres, judíos y gentiles, esclavos y libres?" There is a syntactical-historical issue here that you have to consider if you're studying this section of Galatians. Is the clause a temporal marker, or does it function in a cause-and-effect sort of way, explaining the reason for why Peter deserted from indiscriminate table fellowship?

Peter had received a vision deeming all people's clean (thrice, in fact!), and he still didn't get what the Lord was trying to tell him. In fact, in wasn't until the next day that it really clicked (Acts 10:23, 34). And when he got it, he really got it: "“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to him." Peter watched the Holy Spirit descend on these Gentile believers just as he had witnessed it descend on him and others earlier in Acts. Even the Jewish believers who were with him were whapped across their heads, figuratively speaking. You can imagine them saying, "No way. I can't believe this! What in the world is going on? My, my, my. It definitely just happened, but I can't believe it. Whoa! This is big. This is huge!!!!!" Not only does Peter preach the gospel to them, it is Peter who puts the apostolic seal of approval on everything that's gone on. And, different than the Ethiopian eunuch, who says, "“Hey, look! Water! What's keeping me from being baptized?" (Acts 8:36), the Gentile believers in Acts 10 don't even get a chance to ask such a question. Peter isn't going to let anything–anyone!–prevent this group from being immersed in water. Why'd Peter have to order them to be baptized? Who knows really? Maybe that's just Peter's personality. Maybe the amazement experienced by the Jewish believers with Peter had started to make those Gentile believers a little uneasy. Whatever the reason, Peter was convinced–there was no more distinction between Jew and Gentile, as far as salvation and the New Covenant were concerned. And don't forget Peter's addition to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:
"Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, exactly the same way He also did to us; and He made absolutely no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?"
That leads me to Galatians 2. You know, it's pretty amazing that Peter participates in all of these things, and then we see him reverting from hanging out with Gentile believers. In fact, Peter believed that the proclamation wasn't really his decision; it wasn't accidental; it wasn't coincidental. He believed the decision was God's. And then there's Galatians 2.

What's it tell us if the clause πρὸ τοῦ γὰρ ἐλθεῖν τινας ἀπὸ Ἰακώβου is just a temporal marker? Well, it would definitely make reading Acts 15 a lot easier. If, however, these men are emissaries sent from Jerusalem at James' behest, and their message results in Peter's condemnable actions, it causes everyone to question what in the world James and the council even said back in Acts 15.

There is a third option, as well. Paul could have used the reference to James in Gal. 2:12 as a geographical marker. From where did they come? –from James. And where was James? –Jerusalem. Now, I don't think that's the reason. If he wanted to just say that, Paul would've said Jerusalem. He doesn't.

Concerning the men sent from James, could the the cause for  concern actually stemmed from James' statement in Acts 15:20, specifically the first in his list of prohibitions in the letter concerning Gentiles and the gospel ("abstain from things contaminated by idols")? Somehow, word reached Jerusalem that Peter was "all in" with the Gentiles. When Peter said, "God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him," he wasn't kidding. The group sent from James might have been fringe believers. I don't think they were probably the best emissaries that could have been selected by the apostle. The details surrounding their selection and deputation we are not privy to. But when they showed up and saw Peter eating with the Gentiles–and eating their food–they probably couldn't contain themselves. It probably sent them over the edge. Honestly, I find it really, really hard to believe that James would have sent men from Jerusalem to be so divisive and stop Gentile-Jewish table fellowship.

Paul's problem with Peter was how he just abandoned the Gentiles. It was so destructive to the work of the gospel. You have to remember what sort of clout Peter had in the early church. Remember, when Cornelius, a Gentile, met him for the first time, what did he do? Acts 10:25 says he fell down and worshiped. So, when Peter stopped eating with his fellow believers, Gentiles, it was dangerous to all that God was doing. When Peter changed, all the other Jews folded up their napkins and excused themselves from the table as well, so to speak. Even Barnabas!

The men from Jerusalem came to check things out. From James' and Paul's perspectives it could have been a very innocent visit. All Paul says is some men from James came to where they were. That's a lot nicer than the tag he gives to a certain group in Jerusalem during the events described in Acts 15, namely "false brothers" (ψευδαδέλφους, Gal. 2:4). (The reference to "those of the circumcision" in Gal. 2:12 could just be a reference to them being Jewish, and not an indication that they were promoting circumcision. Then again, they could have been really committed to the Law, having not really adopted all that Peter and James originally concluded in Acts 15. Under this perspective, we'd have to just view these people as infiltrators like those mentioned in Gal. 2:4. Even then they had "slipped in unnoticed" [παρεισῆλθον, Gal. 2:4] [well, almost; Paul had spotted them]. Paul could have left the "false brothers" tag off in Gal. 2:12 so that no one thought that James actually sent people pushing this sort of crazy Law plus Jesus gospel, especially after Acts 15.) It really could be that the presence of these men from Jerusalem, sent by James, just shook Peter up. Peter knew what decision they had reached in Acts 15: "Don't eat food contaminated by idols." And here he's been eating what–food that he either knows was sacrificed to idols, or food that he can't really say from where it came. That tough Galilean fisherman started shaking in his Birkenstocks.

I've got a question for you. How do we reconcile the first prohibition in Acts 15 with what Paul teaches concerning food sacrificed to idols, for example, in 1 Corinthians 8?
"Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do."
 I'd love to hear what you think.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Philippians Syllabus Completed

This evening I completed my syllabus for Greek Exegesis of Philippians, which I will teaching in January and February in Peru. Want to see some snippets? Too bad! Here it is anyway:

Can You Forgive Him?

I never knew who this person was that I–well–disliked. At least, I didn't know his name. But now I know his name. And, even more, he's asking for my forgiveness . . . and yours. What say you, folks? Can we forgive him? As for me and my house, he's forgiven!!! Although I wish The Blaze would tone down their use of this terribly annoying feature of Internet madness.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Roadtrip To Los Angeles Pics

Did you know I've driven across the country? Yep. Not just once either, but twice! I thought I could share with you some pics from the first cross-country trip.

One Of My Favorite Pictures

When A T-Shirt Is So Valuable

When I lived in Honduras, Lesly and I worked with an orphanage for handicapped children. A family in North Carolina worked with a number of different families and helped us get some clothing and toys (NOT PS3 or XBOX!) for some of the most beautiful children I've ever met. There's something about being around them that would just melt your heart. I'll never forget seeing Lesly hand a white t-shirt to this one kid. His reaction just broke my heart. 



We are so rich compared to the rest of the world. So many resources, y'all. We dispose of things because the newest fashions are out. The rest of the world disposes of things because for diminished utility. When a little boy embraces a cheap t-shirt like a young boy or girl in the United States only embraces a new iPhone, the latest Abercrombie collection, or a Playstation 8, you know you're in a place that has great need. Look at the smile on his face. 

The Beauty In Relationships

Real loss "only occurs when you love something more than yourself." –Robin Williams' character in Good Will Hunting
Pretty wise words. The same could be said of real gain too, that it only really occurs when you love something more than yourself. And not be to be one of those persons that one ups another, but couldn't it be said that real loss and real gain really occur when you're loved by someone who considers you as more important than themselves. That's the real beauty in relationships. Valuing others. Esteeming others. Making yourself decrease, and intentionally letting others increase. I for one find myself to be the great beneficiary in a number of relationships. I'm greatly loved by a few people that know who and what I really am and, yet, they love me more than they love themselves. Nothing humbles you more than thinking about something like that. Am I right? 

Instituto De Expositores Now Offering Blended Courses

I just received the following update from TMS:
"The Instituto de Expositores Josiah Grauman (M.Div '07) directs the Instituto de Expositores (IDEX) which is dedicated to training Spanish-speaking pastors and lay-leaders. All courses are taught in Spanish by graduates of The Master's Seminary on the campus of Grace Community Church. In addition to the night classes offered to Southern California residents, IDEX has recently lauched a hybrid program for those who live abroad which mixes online classes with intensive modular courses on campus. On Saturday, September 6th, a workshop will be held entitled: How to use Greek Biblically. The purpose of the workshop is to train Spanish-speaking pastors and teachers how to utilize Spanish tools to understand the original languages while avoiding fallacies."
I am really happy to see that they are going to offer classes in a blended format!