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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.