Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Making Christians, Making Christians, La La La

The title of this posted is warmly adapted from the song "Making Christmas" from "The Nightmare Before Christmas." This change has been made without permission from the original creators. I apologize if this gets anyone mad.

After watching the movie "Nightmare Before Christmas" back in October, I was struck with the desire to write a well thought-out and edifying blog post about it with some reflections. However, the study of the Hebrew language laid seige to my schedule and made several demands upon me so that I was unable to put out the post as I originally intended. (Note: And I got engaged over Christmas break, so don't hate) But here at last is the blog post, but I can't guarantee that it will be well thought-out or edifying.

I intend to use the film "The Nightmare Before Christmas" as an original illustration to make an un-original point. To summarize the movie quickly: There is Halloweentown, where monsters, vampires, goblins, and skeletons live and move and have their being. All they know and live for is Halloween. However, Jack the Pumpkin King is tired of Halloween, and he wants something else/new/more. He goes on a strange journey where he ends up in Christmas Town, where he sees and experiences the joys of Christmas. He returns to Halloweentown, intent on bringing Christmas to everyone in Halloweentown.

Then this is where I started to think and smile. To continue summarizing: Jack returns from his 'conversion experience' to Christmas, determined to celebrate Christmas in Halloweentown. He begins his process of 'Christmasization' by explaining to the Halloweentown folk what Christmas looks like (decorations, lights), what is done during Christmas (singing carols, giving presents), and other generic bits of Christmas faith and practice. And the town goes out to orchestrate their first Christmas.

But, as you can remember, Jack's Christmas fails miserably. In fact, their version of Christmas is really just Halloween but wrapped up in boxes with bows. All the presents are monsters that frighten and attack the children; same with the decorations. There are bats, spiders and skeletons in the decorations. This isn't Christmas!

Enough summary, time for my reflections. This movie made me think about the nature and content of contemporary Christian evangelism.* As Christians, we try to explain God and the gospel to others, much like Jack tried to explain Christmas to Halloweentowners. Yet, people have such a limited/skewed/nonexistent understanding of God and the Bible that they take our message and interpret it through their cultured preunderstanding (the $2 phrase of the day). The Halloweentown folk heard Jack's message of Christmas and by it simply reproduced Halloween because Halloween is all that they knew.

What the movie encouraged me to do is to work harder at giving a wider Christian worldview when sharing the gospel. Having come out of the "Grace-Man-God-Christ-Faith" style of evangelism, I want a full view of the Bible to drive my evangelism. That way I hope I would not only be able to share the gospel, but to re-orient the hearer's understanding of biblical truths and concepts.

Okay, I've said too much for one post, but not for just one post. I'll try to start a series of posts of my reflections. Pray for me.

*Confession: Whenever I see the phrase 'contemporary Christian _______' (or other similar forms) on a blog, I cringe. I do that because oftentimes the blog writer will follow that phrase with a series of unqualified and uncalled-for attacks/critiques that do more harm than good. I don't want to be like that. I don't want this post/possible series to be me taking my guns to my home team. Just because I'm in seminary to get a bigger debt doesn't mean I get a bigger mouth.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Notice from the Management

I promise at least 2 new posts after finals are over and before the next semester begins.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

So relax already!

"Indeed the kingdom of heaven is not servants' wages but sons' inheritance [Eph. 1:18], which only those who have been adopted as sons by the Lord will obtain; and for no other reason than this adoption."

Calvin Institutes, 1536 ed., pg 40

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Precautionary Measures When Critiquing or Criticizing; Or, Hunting Lessons

When hunting down a sacred cow or two, know the gun that you will be using. A shotgun kills the cow faster, but you may unnecessarily/unintentionally wound some other cows. Precise aim is essential for hitting the target you want without bothering the other cows. Some targets require more and bigger ammo and that's fine, but the more bullets you start zipping around may either 1) result in innocent casualities or 2) make you look like a bloodthirsty sadist. Of course, if the cows keep on multiplying and you don't take stock and see which ones may need to be taken out, you'll be left with a field full of cow poop.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bible War

So the ESVSB has landed, and what a ruckus it has caused. On one hand it is quite exciting, on another hand it can cause rebellious types like me to roll their eyes a little bit. Do we need an extra 700 pages of Bible? Do we need glossy reconstructions of the Jerusalem temple? So, with stone-faced determination I went and employed my "less is more" ethic. I went and bought a Bible.

That's what I'm talking about.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I am a voice crying out in the suburbs

Since I can no longer stand being "that blog" that just takes up space on your blogroll, I will post!

I am still here at Trinity. Alive: yes; sane: barely. [Takes a break to wipe the dust off my desk]. I don't know how to properly express my happiness with being here without sounding like I'm recruiting or fundraising for Trinity, so I'll try to be more reflective.

First of all, I love being here. Okay, now that I got that out of the way:

It's impossible not to compare this place with Biola. They both have Bible departments, outstanding faculty, chapel services, financial aid offices (oy vay!), and on-campus housing. Oh, and students. So the similarities go on and on. So is Trinity just a colder version of Biola?

After thinking about the differences between Biola and Trinity, undergraduate and graduate schooling, one big difference came to mind. Now, understand first of all that this distinction I will make is a highly subjective, gross generalization and may be very false. Okay? Here goes: After thinking over undergraduate education, I started to see it as a one-way transaction. It goes like this: teacher-->knowledge-->student. The student is a bucket, and he/she is to catch as much knowledge as they can (or as much as they want). Full stop. End of transaction. Now hear me on this: I don't think schools set out to deal with this one-way transaction of knowledge to students. This education model I just gave is grotesque, and I doubt any reasonable educator would affirm that college academics seek to fulfill this plan. So why did I give this model in the first place? Because I think the students are the ones who see undergraduate education this way, and that makes all the difference. Students see college as: "I go to college, I learn, and I leave." End of transaction. Again, I am not saying that every college student ever was like this, but it sometimes seemed to be the general air being carried around the undergraduate world.

And so, turning attention to Trinity, I see something different in the way education is portrayed here. Now, just like Noah's ark, generalizations best come in pairs, so generalize I will. Because of Trinity being a seminary (*ah hem*, a 'divinity school'), a training ground for future ministers, there is an ethos of service and urgency. The students here (beware: generalization approaching) have a sense of calling and purpose to be here, so any talk of getting smart just to get smart is near blasphemy. And, let's be honest, who'd want to pay this much just to get smart?

I could go on, but I really need to study Hebrew. Maybe I'll post again in another month. Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I've been rather silent on this blog since I've arrived here at Trinity, so I plead forgiveness for my aloofness. Unfortunately, this post will do little to inform you regarding my thoughts and experiences thus far. I've been busy with Orientation as well as getting oriented in this place. All I can promise is Soon; Soon I will make a post full of fun bits of my past week. For now, all I have to say is that this Wednesday at 7:30 I will sit in my first seminary class, Biblical Theology and Interpretation, under the esteemed D.A. Carson. And, dear reader, I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I spy with my little eye something that looks like...


I'm here! It's weird! It feels and looks like L.A., except there are toll roads. More news to follow.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bible colleges are in big trouble

How's this for an OT/NT survey class?

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Wheels on Mario's Kart Go...

Red shells--check. Bananas--word up. Tropical islands, castles, haunted mansions, and battle modes--fo' sho'. All the joys of Mario Kart for Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, and Gamecube have been faithfully transported over to the Wii. This time, however, you get to use a steering wheel.

The game (I think) comes with two plastic steering wheel cases that you connect the Wii controller to, which helps to bring this animated and imaginary racing experience to life (or..closer to life). I found that sometimes the steering could be overly sensitive or sluggish, but you'll be too engrossed in trying to blast Wario's face off with three red shells to care.

The big change that came with the Gamecube version of Mario Kart and that carries over to this edition is the amount of intensity in the racing experience. There is almost never a time when you aren't shooting someone/being shot at, making quick turns to avoid a pit or getting a chance box, or laughing (probably all three simultaneously). The game is gracious to you when you fall behind in a race (giving you the best weapons/boosts to help you catch up), and the race leader is never safe (the spiny shell is back, a favorite of those in 11th and 12th place).

The tracks themselves are always a pleasure to look at and race on. There are never too many challenging turns or pitfalls in a track--that would make it too much like a racing game and there would be no need for weapons. Yet, there are always enough track surprises (jumps, changing environments from lap to lap, Goombas in the middle of the road) that force you to race smart or face coming in last. A few tracks are brought back from the Nintendo 64 days, so those who are a little behind the times (me) can still fight on familiar ground.

I don't own a Wii. I only played this game for about 30 minutes. But I liked it, and I recommend it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hebrews 11:24-27

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter,
25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

Right now this is the most fascinating section in the Bible to me. What does it all mean?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Love Books...

...because I am a sinner.

I love them because they impress people when they see how many I have.
I love them because they give me information I can use to impress others.
I love them because when I read them I can assert my knowledge and opinions above the author and even rebuke him for his weaknesses.
I love them because I can take the information I want and ignore the wisdom and insight that confronts my sins and shortcomings.
I love books because they can take me away from God.

*Note: This post was not written to attack or convict others who like books. This post is pure autobiographical reflection, intended to display the sins of my heart in one specific area (books). I am also not saying that books are inherently evil; it would be pure, undiluted foolishness to say that--and I don't believe that anyway.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Church and 'Authenticity'

Not to be rude, but the Apostle Peter* and I are pretty similar: It takes both of us the longest time to finally 'get it.'

*For those of you who either don't know or who have forgotten who the Apostle Peter is, this quote is his crowning achievement: Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.)

End tangent

What I have taken so long to understand is how people in the church ought to get along and care for one another.

A friend was sharing with me her observations concerning how open and 'authentic' people are at one church versus people at another church. Church A has people who give no second thought to sharing their struggles, failings, or prayer needs in a given conversation. Church B seems to be a dry campus where everything and everyone is Fine. How was your week? 'Fine.' How is your family? 'Fine.' How is your uncle--the one with liver cancer? 'Fine.'

Not only does this 'Fine'-ing make for painful conversation, it fosters a social and spiritual stagnation that has no place among God's people. Sure, open insurrection and strife in a church body is bad, but what about a bunch of mutes milling around, trying to keep the cards in their hand from showing. Who knows if anyone has a quasi-spiritual thought buzzing around in their head after 45 minutes of singing and reading the Word and having it explained to them? What if someone is strongly considering leaving the faith? Is anyone sick? Any marriages on the rocks? No one knows.

Grace. It is God's God-given remedy. It is God's great equalizer. It fuels the life of 'authentic' Christianity; it makes us view ourselves and others as we really are: fallen and redeemed creatures who bear God's image.

Grace breaks down our own pride. We can see the needs of others above our own.
Grace allows us to forgive. When we hear of sins people have committed (wheter against us or not), we will not demand just recompense. We also can share or sins or difficulties with others and hope they too can forgive us and show grace to us in our own time of need (which is all the time).
Grace forces us to seek God. It originated with God, and it continues with him forever.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nice Product Placement

I have figured that if I can't teach professionally, then I'd like to give advice professionally. And if I can't give advice, then I'd like to recommend things. In order to practice, I'm going to recommend something that I have enjoyed that I think others would enjoy as well. Today I recommend the IVP Reference Collection. This is a collection of the fantastic dictionaries and commentaries that IVP has put out over the years (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology [my favorite] etc.), all available on a single CD-ROM. While I have only had this collection for a few days now, I have already lost a few hours of sleep by scanning the contents of these wonderful reference works. A personal bonus for me was that I could read Dr. Jonathan Lunde's article on Heaven and Hell in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels! Okay, I'm going to stop blabbing so that you can go out and order your own copy today. 17 amazing reference works for $120!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My Deep Thought for the Day

Jesus is the only one who can truly tell us to "rise and shine."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sum_thin' Bibluh-kal

18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.

Deuteronomy 17:18-20

I find this portion of Deuteronomy to be worth reflecting on because it is a strong reminder of the purpose of Bible study. While I am not in a position to speak about the devotional life of contemporary Christianity (nor do I want to), I will be bold to say that this pericope could prove to be a fitting corrective for many who take the devotional life seriously (even I could learn something from it).

Once brought into office, the king was to write out the law. Whether this means Deuteronomy or the whole Pentateuch, I don't know, but the point remains: the law of God defines your kingly office; The word of God is above you and has authority over you. And not only will the king note the law, but he will know the law as well (wow, this sounds like a sermon outline). Day after day, the king will burn this law into his retinas. And for what?? Simply put: revere God, be obedient, and be humble. What blows the mind is that these three effects can not be separated from one another. How can a person grow in reverance to God and not be obedient or show humility to others? James condemns that idea. Or can one accurately be humble toward others while actively slandering God by their actions? This type of Bible study was to result in obedience to the two greatest commandments: love for God and for others. The king of Israel was to act out the law perfectly by having God's transforming word continually in his view, so that he could echo the praises of God in Psalm 119--

12 Praise be to you, O LORD;teach me your decrees. 13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

If I may, I would like to single out one aspect of my own experience that fits in well with this topic. I was engaged in an intense study of Numbers for a class on the Old Testament. Throughout the book of Numbers, Israel bats 1.000 when it comes to blowing it with God: rebellion, complaining, apostasy, idolatry, etc. And time after time God brings in the big stick of wrath and punishes the evildoers. Now, having grown up in the church, stories of God's wrath weren't unusual to me. Yet, reading over these stories for myself made me pause. These stories are depressing! After some time and time, I came to two conclusions about these stories: 1) God was having some major mood swings, so He frequently overreacted. So He may have judged a lot, but He apologized soon afterwards; or 2) Sin is terribly evil and offensive to God, and Israel were getting what they deserved. As much as I didn't like it, option #2 rang true. However, it wasn't until a few weeks later that the truth of God's hatred for sin came home to me. I saw myself deserving only fire from heaven and for the earth to open and swallow me. I finally saw that I was no better than the wicked, faithless people of Israel. And there I was, laying in bed, being given breath after breath, and not being utterly destroyed by God's righteous wrath. If God's boot would have come down on me at that moment, or any other moment in my Godless existence, God would have been right to do so. It is in those moments of surrender, of a damned felon who begs with a dead heart for life, that the cross creates a new being, a new goal, a new conception of the world. God is supreme, and everything of Him is worth giving one's life for. Loving one's neighbor is effortless because the greatest effort was given on my behalf. Obedience is a joy because perfect obedience was carried out with joy--even to death.

Monday, June 9, 2008

With Knowledge Comes...

Before I start to complain, I need to say something first. I love(d) being a Bible major. I never really had any interest in anything before I became one. Except pogs and USC football, but their glory faded quickly. I didn't really think that God was that great until I became one, despite being a Christian since I was five years old. I didn't really think about big or important things until I was a Bible major. God used Biola to wake me up, and for that I am grateful.

Okay, on to the point of the post.

75 units of Bible have messed me up. That's a big statement, and the rest of this post will qualify it and make it more palatable.

Church is a struggle for me. I love it. I love the people. I love the word. I love God. Woot church. However, everything I hear at church, every sermon and worship song, has to pass through this dense jungle called KNOWLEDGE. This jungle grows and feeds off of the 75 units of Bible classes, the 8,000+ pages of reading, and an incalculable amount of blog posts and Bible-themed discussions that have accumulated in my head over these three years. This 'jungle' makes it difficult for biblical truths or words of praise to penetrate my inner being because the truth must fight for its life and prove its worth to me. All my other collected thoughts surround the incoming truth and pummel it until it displays some true grit and is then admitted into my Spiritual Truth Receptacle Zone (STRZ). Allow me to illustrate an instance or two of what happens every ten seconds on a Sunday morning:

The worship band is playing a nice mid-tempo rocker that was probably written around 1990-1991. Sounds innocent enough. A line in the song describes Jesus as the "Lamb of God." That line catches my eye. "Uh oh," I mutter, "here we go again." [What follows is what goes on in my head]

"Ok, 'Lamb of God.' That comes from John 1 and Revelation 5. Typical of John's style, he isn't literally saying Jesus is a lamb, but Jesus' significance is tied up in how the lamb functioned in Jewish society, especially in the religioius sphere. It probably relates to the sacrifical lamb...what's that fancy name for it. Oh, the paschal lamb. It relates to Jesus being the sacrifice for sins. Cool. [Goes back to singing the worship song] But wait, what is the background for John the Baptist calling Jesus "the lamb that takes away the sin of the world" ? Did he know Jesus was going to die on the cross? I don't think so. I know Carson lists 9 different options as the background to this title. What were they? Maybe he's a conquering lamb that will judge the wicked. That fits with John's expectation of the Messiah as seen in the Synoptics. Or...what if the Gospel of John isn't historical? What if John made this story up just to make Jesus look cooler than he is? Everyone thinks John was written late, so maybe I'm being naive in thinking John is accurate. Dang it. [Goes back to singing, although with a tinge of hesitation] Okay, wait, chill out dude. What would Carson say? How would I know??!! Maybe if I read that book on John by Richard Bauckham, then I'd know. But I must know. Well, everyone knows John couldn't have been written in the 2nd century because of that one papyrus, and no one thinks it was influenced by Gnosticism. So Bultmann and Baur are dismissed. Okay, but what if John was written in stages, and different layers were added to make Jesus more miraculous? Does that mean the Jesus Seminar was right? Am I only singing to the Christ of Faith, not the Christ of History? Then God can't exist, but he has to! The Kalam Cosmological Argument proved it! But that also depends on one's idea of causality, and in an open metaphysic I have to take more things into account. I knew I should've studied philosophy. Oh, the song is over. Time to sit down. [Takes seat, wipes brow, and prays] End.

In this example 'the jungle' was the winner. It is a miracle that I ever learn anything at church, much less pay attention to what is going on during the service. I don't have any deep reflections or conclusions on this strange phenomenon, but it is something to think over and examine more.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Thoughts on the Love of God

1 John 4:8 is the religious trump card. Regardless of one's degree of religiosity, appealing to this verse elevates the card player's speaking to ex cathedra-l status, thereby promptly ending the discussion and leaving the loser physically and theologically tongue-tied.

After a few months of iterative thought regarding this verse, I felt like I should try to clarify my thinking on this topic and maybe provide some responses to illegitimate use of this verse which has led to a falsely-constructed theological system (which I shall refer to as hyperagapism for now on). This is by no means comprehensive, and sometimes it will be for my own sheer ejoyment. But I hope most of all that my comments will be edifying and that a fuller view of God and His character may be attained.

First of all, I must point away from myself before I get ahead of myself. I am in debt to A.W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy and D.A. Carson's The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God for first bringing these issues to light for me. Read them and become just like me (the latter comment is false).

Looks like we're out of time. Stay tuned for more.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fourteen More Units

Introduction to the Old Testament--4 units
Elementary Hebrew I (is it really 'elementary'?)--3 units
Formation Group--0 units
Apologetics--2 units
Introduction to Counseling Ministries--2 units
Foundations of Christian Missions--2 units
Personal Assessment and Ministry--1 unit

So this is what my first semester at Trinity looks like.

It is almost embarassing to try to express to people how excited I am about doing more school. Especially when I realize that my mountain of joy and excitement is soon to be rivaled by my chasm of monetary debt.

I have this annoying character trait that needs correction. I have a God-trust issue. What I mean by that is I don't feel comfortable speaking about things/events that I want to happen. Example: I still speak of going to grad school as a possibility. When asked about me going there and if I'm excited, I usually answer with a hesitant "well, I am really excited if I get to go." And I don't know if I'm okay with that. Is that just false humility? A lack of trust?

Update--I added another class, so now I have 14 units. Sick!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Looks like I'm going to have to jump...

Every first blog post needs an awkward "well-here-I-am-looks-like-I-need-to-see-what-this-blog-thing-is-all-about" introduction. So here's mine.

I do not yet have a real aim/purpose for this blog thing. Maybe some collected thoughts here and there, maybe some pictures (if you're lucky), maybe some rants on music/God/Bible/culture/movie stars. Who knows. I can't guarantee anything will be pertinent, interesting, funny, or even spelled correctly. But by God's grace and a little determination I'll see what'll happen.