Friday, September 07, 2012

I've Moved

No, I haven’t moved away from Karlstad, MN, but I have moved my blog from to (apparently the plain old “wadholm” link was already reserved for someone else) .  WordPress offers a far more user-friendly interface for both bloggers and commenters.  As I already blog at two other wordpress blogs, I figured this was the logical move (thanks Brian Fulthorp for the push to just make the move :-) ).  So make sure to change your RSS and email feeds to my new location…or not (if you are done following my blogging adventures and this is your chance for a clean break).

So long blogger...its been a fun (?) 7 years with you.

Leviticus: A Literary Structure

What follows is a brief literary outline of the Book of Leviticus as I understand it:

A. Sacrifices/Offerings (ch.1-7)
    B. Priestly Ordination (ch.8-10)
        C. Clean/Unclean in daily life (ch.11-15)
             D. Day of Atonement (ch.16) [1]
        C'. Holiness in daily life (ch.17-20)
    B'. Holy Orders (ch.21-22)
A'. Holy Observances (ch.23-25)

Conclusion: Blessings-Curses and Dedication (ch.26-27) [2]

I think the book offers a chiastic literary structure that demonstrates a literary unity overall and that places the Day of Atonement at the center.[3] Many refer to this book as being about “holiness”[4] (which it is), but holiness toward what end? 

Toward the blessing of Yahweh's presence with His people. As I stated in my earlier post, I believe that the intimate presence of Yahweh in relationship with His people is the point of Leviticus. Holiness is the means by which this is accomplished, but the aim is nearness in relationship. This is further clarified by the last two chapters which delineate the associated blessings-curses with faithfulness to Yahweh and the voluntary dedication of persons and properties to Yahweh. While all that precedes is commanded of Israel in their relationship with Yahweh, the final chapter speaks to what is voluntary in that relationship. The promised blessing in that relations was: I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” (Lev. 26:11-12 NIV)

[1] Leviticus 16 as the literary “center” of the book is also argued by Joel N. Lohr, “The Book of Leviticus” in A Theological Introduction to the Pentateuch: Interpreting the Torah as Christian Scripture (Eds., Richard S. Briggs and Joel N. Lohr; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 87; and cited in that volume is the work of Wilfried Warning, Literary Artistry in Leviticus, Biblical Interpretation Series 35 (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 178.
[2] Admittedly, many scholars consider chapter 27 to be a sort of appendix. I have included it as part of the conclusion because of its voluntary nature for a people who have already covenanted relationship with their God, Yahweh.
[3] For several alternate and more complex chiastic proposals that do not describe the whole book, see Nobuyoshi Kiuchi, “Leviticus, Book of” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Eds., T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 524.
[4] Critical scholars even go so far as to refer to chapters 17-26 as a so-called “Holiness Code” which was codified at some other time than the book it has been included in and only later attached because of the emphasis throughout the whole work on “holiness."  One of the commentaries I am using is notably called "Holiness to the LORD: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus" by Allen P. Ross (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic 2002).  It is because "holiness" is considered the watchword of this book of Scripture (which certainly seems pertinent), but I believe my point remains: holiness to what end?

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Heart of Leviticus

The enigmatic book of Leviticus is not a first choice for the Church to read or study, yet I've been taking my congregation through it (verse-by-verse...believe it or not) for our Wednesday Bible study.  Last night we covered its theological center (or heart) which can be found in chapter 16.  Lev. 16 concerns itself with the holiest day in Judaism: the Day of Atonement (in our day referred to as Yom Kippur).  As we discussed this amazing chapter last night, we conversed about the point of this fasting day for atonement in light of everything leading up to this chapter (the sacrifices, the ordination of priests and a high priest, what is "clean/unclean and holy/common").

So what is the point?  The point can be found in a commonly used term in the sixteenth chapter (Lev.16:7, 16, 17, 20, 23, 33; and many other places elsewhere in the Torah): the tent of meeting (Heb. אֹהֶל מוֹעֵֽד).  This "tent of meeting" (or "tabernacle") was intended for one purpose: to be the place where Yahweh, the God of Israel, met with Israel.  The presence of Yahweh was always the point.  This is emphatically stated in the first verse of chapter sixteen which reads: "The LORD said to Moses: 'Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.'" (NIV)  Yahweh made a way for His presence to remain and for the revelation of His presence in the midst of His people (without them simply being destroyed by the need to be "clean" and "holy").

We quickly become lost in the regulations about purity and sacrifices.  We tend to think that such matters were primarily (or even only) concerned with sin.  Not so.  That was not so.  The point was presence and relationship.  Yahweh longs for relationship and makes a way back for a people of His choosing who will do what is necessary to live in His presence.

This is also the point of the gospel.  The point is not about overcoming sins or being forgiven of sins.  That is only initiatory to being received into God's having God with us (e.g., Immanuel) and even in us.  God desires a people to Himself (Rev.21:3) and has made the way to have such immediacy even in the face of His absolute otherness.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the fresh and living way that he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, because we have had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. (Heb.10:19-23 NET)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Sacramental Pentecostals?

I'm delighted to announce that Chris Green (newly dubbed "Dr." for the completion of his PhD) has just published his (long awaited and anticipated in my opinion) dissertation: Toward a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord's Supper: Foretasting the Kingdom (CPT 2012).  This is a continuing trend among Pentecostals to view the Lord's Supper in more sacramental terms.  His dissertation is not the first move in this direction (by any stretch), but is another helpful volume clarifying that Pentecostal tradition and practice is already sacramental in many ways (see Dan Tomberlin's Pentecostal Sacraments: Encountering God at the Altar, Center for Pentecostal Leadership and Care 2010). 

One of the reasons I bring this all up is because I received an update in my blog feeder that Renovatus (a well-known church in Charlotte, NC) just announced their move to a weekly Lord's Supper as part of their move toward a greater sense of community.  Pastor Jonathan Martin had some tremendous thoughts in this regard and in relation specifically to being Pentecostal and sacramental.  It marks a turn toward the table as offering "the real presence" (something the Reformer's -- aside from those called "radical reformers"-- held strongly to). 

This may seem a strange move for Pentecostals, but in actuality our doctrine and practice of the gifts of the Spirit are themselves offer a sacramental perspective (particularly as we affirm something akin to "the real presence").  I do know of other Pentecostal works (including Assemblies) which share in communion every week as a part of their corporate worship experience.  It seems quite fascinating that we act like we MUST sing X number of songs, have announcements, etc. every week, but don't practice the Eucharist that often because we usually say we don't want it to become less meaningful.  Is that what we think we've done with our singing?  Why don't we sing choruses and hymns just once a month?  Or the reading of Scripture?  When it is all said and done, this is just the kind of thing that the church needs as a reminder to confession, forgiveness, reconciliation and mission.  This is why I regularly equate the Lord's Table with our modernist "altar call".  I believe it is the call to the saints to embrace the life of Christ even as we work and live toward His coming again.  There is something which our Lord works in our presence as we participate in His life.

What are your thoughts on the sacramental nature of the Lord's Supper? 

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Mark of the Beast Revealed!

We live in a time where there is extreme fascination with things found in the book of the Revelation (though this has really always been the case). You know…that book at the end of your Bible with all of those psychedelic visions of creatures doing bizarre things, angels trumpeting or pouring out destruction on the earth. This is a book that has held the attention of generations, but as many have bought into the notion that the Mayan’s were onto something about the end of the world in 2012, the thirst for seeking out such concerns has only grown.

What is the point of this last book of the Bible anyways? Does it reveal who the Antichrist is? Is it to guarantee we don’t receive some micro-chip implantation as the “mark of the beast”? Or perhaps to give us a timeline to Armageddon? All of these things have been proposed ad nauseum with charts, graphs and research to demonstrate the authority of their interpretation of the meaning of the Revelation. But is this really the point?

The answer is simple: No! The point of the Revelation is to reveal the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact the actual name of this final book is not “Revelations” (as if to be about revelations of all sorts of things), but “The Revelation”. The fuller name is even “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”. This book is about the one who knows and holds his own and will both reward and punish according to their faithfulness to him (Rev.2-3).

This book is about God’s final justice demonstrated in the reaction of the world to the revelation of Jesus. This world will not bend the knee to Jesus willfully, but reject him to the last (though multitudes from every people group will indeed place their trust and obedience in him). This world will offer its own “christ” and its own kingdom, but at the last these will all be destroyed. It is, in the end, about the glory of Jesus the Christ as sovereign over every power and authority, including death and the grave. And about those who overcome all opposition to faithfully give testimony to Jesus as Lord and Savior. He is the one who gives life (and is life) and he is the light of the world. He is the only one worthy of praise and glory and honor. And he is coming soon. Even so…come quickly Lord Jesus!

[This was an article I had published in the North Star News - Thursday, August 23, 2012]

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pentecost In North West Minnesota

I was given the following brief account (written by Mrs. Anna Vagle in 1958) of some of the occurrences in 1905-6 in north-western Minnesota when the "winds of the Spirit" began to blow with "Pentecostal power".  It is a marvelous thing to read what God has done in the past...and it makes me long to see what more God will do in the present.  While not every phenomenon is to be treated equally it is still a wonderful piece of Pentecostal history that I thought should be shared with a wider audience.  And so I'm posting it here for your reading pleasure.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Seattle Here I Come

I received word today that my paper proposal has been accepted for the annual Society for Pentecostal Studies meeting in Seattle in March 21-23, 2013 hosted by Seattle Pacific University.  I truly enjoy these meetings -- the papers, the discussions, the friendships.

If anyone is interested, my paper is titled "Emerging Homiletics: A Pentecostal Response."  In this paper, I interact primarily with the homiletical proposals of Doug Pagitt (pastor of Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis, MN) who is a leading voice in the Emergent Church and has written Preaching Re-Imagined: The Role of the Sermon in Communities of Faith (Zondervan 2005).  From my perspective, I appropriate what I believe is right about Pagitt's approach and lay out how I believe Pentecostal preaching actually engages the criticisms he raises against "speaching" (Pagitt's term for contemporary models of preaching). 

So, I'm looking forward to another eventful time at SPS this coming year!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Ezekiel and The Message

Eugene Peterson's The Message offers a fresh reading of Scripture that is intended not for study, but for hearing Scripture in a way intended to be comparable to those originally hearing it.*  In many ways he has done a marvelous job of this.  He is a remarkable scholar and author (one of my favorites) and I am often delighted by his perspective on things. 

However, recently I received a newsletter that quoted from Ezekiel and I was struck by the alteration to the Hebrew text.  The most recurring statement...indeed THE theme of the revelation of YHWH as YHWH (Israel's God).  This is signified in every translation I've seen (with the strangely lacking use ANYWHERE in the Amplified version) and well conveys the intent of the message to and through Ezekiel for Israel (Judah) and the nations. 

The Message, instead, states that they (Israel, nations) will "know that I am God."  While the referent is still the God of Israel whose intent is to reveal that indeed He is God...this falls short of conveying the original hearing which emphasized the Name (with all its connections to the revelation and covenant with Abraham and Israel at Sinai).  I was sorely disappointed by this reading, because it seems to me to diminish the very center of Ezekiel's theology.

* It was NOT intended for preaching or study, which sadly it has been used for by far too many a preacher.  It is important we understand original intent...including that of a translation.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

PhD Programs for Pentecostals

So I've been in the process of applying for PhD programs over the last couple of years as I was finishing my M.Div.Honours at Providence Theological Seminary.  In my researching, I discovered there are a few schools offering PhD programs which are particularly pentecostally friendly (and all of them are somewhat new programs): Assembly of God Theological Seminary (Springfield, MO), Regent University (Virginia Beach, VA), Bangor University (Wales, UK), University of Birmingham (Birmingham, UK), and the Hollenweger Center (Amsterdam, The Netherlands).  All of these programs are interestingly enough distance programs...which may (in part) be due to the Pentecostal ethos of pragmatics (though this is just an assumption on my part) since they allow for continuing ministry while pursuing academics.

AGTS's program is the newest (starting 2011) and offers the more traditional American track for PhD work which involves fairly extensive course requirements accomplished twice a year (for a two week stint on-campus) prior to dissertation writing.  This program is still in its infancy and hopefully will move toward more rigorous application requirements (beyond the VERY minimal language requirements in particular -- one year of Greek and Hebrew).  There are four tracks available: Biblical Theology, OT Studies, NT Studies, and Systematic Theology.  One of the difficulties with this program at present is also that there are simply not a great number of faculty to supervise students.

Regent University's program similarly offers coursework prior to official dissertation work.  The requirements for entrance are more stringent as are the requirements for maintaining status as a student.  Technically, this program is NOT a Pentecostal is a "Renewal Studies" program offering tracks in Biblical Studies (OT or NT specialization), History of Global Christianity, and Christian Theology.  The distinction should not be dismissed lightly.  The "Renewal" nature of this program means it is more concerned with generalized understandings of the Spirit's work rather than functioning within a Pentecostally constructed framework (such as one finds in Classical Pentecostalism).  This program requires on-site studies for two week stints three times a year.  The faculty of Regent are top-notch Renewal/Pentecostal/Charismatic scholars in their field (Amos Yong, Estrelda Alexander, Stanley Burgess, Dale Coulter, and Vinson Synan), but sadly the OT focus (which is mine) is the weakest of all the programs for faculty qualifications. 

Bangor University's program follows the British model for PhD work which is entirely research/writing as opposed to the coursework of a U.S. program.  While the U.S. programs prepare a student for future studies in a broader preparation, the British program offers the self-motivated student the opportunity to jump right into the research they are intending for their final project.  Bangor's program is in conjunction with Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN; via John Christopher Thomas - Clarence J. Abbott Professor of Biblical Studies).  This program facilitates the Pentecostal scholar to write from an explicitly Pentecostal perspective (see the works of Ken Archer, Chris Thomas and Lee Roy Martin for examples).  The program functions somewhat in conjunction with the Centre for Pentecostal Theology.  The student is only required to attend discussions/critiques of their current dissertation writing twice a year (for a two day stint each time) at the CPT location in Cleveland, TN (along with monthly supervisions via Skype)...and then to defend their final work onsite at Bangor (the viva).

Birmingham also (naturally) follows the British model of research/writing.  They require one two-week stint onsite per year and then attendance for the viva.  The Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies (at Birmingham) offers consider resources for such research and writing and offers several notable faculty (Walter Hollenweger was one of these).

The Hollenweger Center is based in Amsterdam and is a part of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.   There is no requirement to know or learn Dutch as a part of this program, but one must regularly visit and research onsite over the four year period intended for the dissertation (see requirements HERE).  There are no specific course requirements, but any given number of seminars should be taken to aid the student in their research and studies.

If I've missed any I would love to know so that I could add them to this post.  I would welcome any comments or questions about these programs as I've done the application work for all of them (plus others) [I did not apply to either Birmingham or The Hollenweger Center], but determined Bangor was the best fit for me.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Today's Encouraging Word

This morning for our message, we were encouraged by the following words of Jesus:
So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34 NET)
So don't worry about has plenty of its own troubles.  Now that's a comforting word! ;-)

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Beauty of the Book of Job

Ah...the beauty of the poetics of Job at last have been discovered and boiled down to the following helpful equation (courtesy of Robert Polzin, Biblical Structuralism, Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977, p.75):   Fx(a) : Fy(b) ≅ Fx(b) : Fa - 1(y) 

Aren't you overwhelmed by the clear structure of the theodicy of Job?  Does it not amaze you that the ancient writer could wrestle with the ultimate questions of justice and come to such mind-blowing formula? I figured someone else might enjoy this bit of literary humor besides myself.  At least this is not the normal for a "literary reading" (though I can't see any way around such in structuralism). :-)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Love Iran

Many of you may not yet know about one of the loves of my life: Iran.  I have been passionate about its land and people since I was sixteen.  One of my greatest hopes is to someday live in Iran and live and work among her many peoples.  I'm sure many may think I'm bonkers...especially in the heated political and military climate of our day.  I've heard often enough from folks in our country that they would like us to just nuke Iran and be done with them.  I am quick to confront such ignorance  outright stupidity whenever I encounter it.  The Iran we caricature is not the Iran of reality.  It is a land of beauty and ruggedness, welcoming home to more refugees than nearly any other nation on the planet.  It is one of the most educated nations and has one of the largest populations.

So I thought I might share with you a little more about this great land and its people.  With my passion for all things Iranian (despite its faulty linguistic referent according to many) in mind, HERE is an AMAZING set of 51 pictures of the land of Iran.  I doubt you will think of the land the same ever again.  You can find some incredible information on the MANY people groups in Iran HERE by selecting "Iran" for the country pull-down menu. 

With this in mind, please join me in praying for the peace of God in Iran.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Future Reading Plans

While this may be a bit of a stretch, much of it will actually be read by the end of summer and into the fall season.  Many folks have asked what I'm doing now with all my "free time" since I graduated from Seminary.  Well...I'm doing lots of reading as well as will be doing some teaching at several schools in the region (colleges and seminary) over the next year.  Some of the following reading is for the courses I will be teaching, some is for my church and some is just for fun:
John E. Hartley, Leviticus (WBC 1992); Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus: A Book of Ritual and Ethics (CC 2004); Mark F. Rooker, Leviticus (NAC 2000); Allan Ross, Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus (2006); Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (NICOT 1979).
Walter Brueggemann, Deuteronomy (AOTC 2001); Duane Christensen, Deuteronomy (WBC 2 vols. 1991, 1999); Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy (NICOT 1976); J. G. McConville, Deuteronomy (AOT 2002).
Former Prophets (Joshua-2 Kings)
Robert B. Chisholm, Interpreting the Historical Books: An Exegetical Handbook (2006); Terence E. Fretheim, Deuteronomic History (1983); Victor P. Hamilton, Handbook on the Historical Books (2008); L. Thomas Holdcroft, The Historical Books (2000); David M. Howard Jr., An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (2007); Martin Noth, The Deuteronomistic History (JSOTSup 2nd ed.1991); Marvin E. Tate, From Promise to Exile: The Former Prophets (1999).
Derek Kidner, Psalms (TOTC 2vols. 1981); John Goldingay, Psalms (BECOT 3vols. 2008).
D. A. Carson, Matthew (EBC 1984); R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT 2005); Grant Osborne, Matthew (ZEC 2010); David Turner, Matthew (BECNT 2008).
Marcus J. Borg and N. T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (2000).

Of course, none of this includes the volumes of Barth and Bonhoeffer which I continually am wading through, but it gives a brief look at my reading schedule for the next few months.  I am thoroughly excited about reading these volumes and all the treasurers to be uncovered in the intensive study of Scripture and theology.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Spirit in the World

Today is Pentecost Sunday and I was asked to cover the adult Sunday School class since our normal teacher was gone.  I, of course, knew what the content would cover and did not really prepare as I usually do.  Instead, we discussed the passages from the lesson (Acts 8, 10-11, 19) and what it means for the Spirit to be poured out on the Samaritans who had professed faith in Christ, the Gentiles who were "God-fearers" and were only afterward baptized into the name of Christ, and the Ephesian disciples of John the baptizer who received the baptism of the Spirit at the hands of the apostle Paul.

As we discussed these passages, I was struck by the presence and work of the Spirit throughout the world among all people.  We discussed that it was God's Spirit no longer remaining with the antediluvians in the days of Noah, and God's indwelling Spirit which sanctified David.  It was also God's Spirit in the unborn John son of Zacharias and Elizabeth that gave testimony to Mary the mother of our Lord.  That same Spirit was present and at work even as the teachers of the Law accused Jesus of casting out unclean spirits by the power of the evil one. 

Through this conversation, I confessed to my congregation that indeed we are simply partners with the Spirit who is present and always has been.  It is about our relationship (read: yielded, obedient, etc.) with the Spirit that affects in what manner we speak of the Spirit being present.  We join the Spirit's already ongoing work.  This is why I can affirm that any of us are ever drawn to salvation, because the Spirit is at work even while and where the Church is not.  However, at the feast of Pentecost, the Church discovers this new-found relationship to the Spirit that drives them to live as the Spirit those who carry the good news of Christ Jesus come into the world by the Father, crucified, died, buried...raised to life and ascended to the right hand of God.  It is a new day for the disciples of Jesus who have now discovered in the Spirit another "advocate" (a term notably difficult to translate from the Greek) who is like Jesus and reveals Jesus in and through them to a waiting world...a world where the Spirit is already at work to redeem and restore.  This is the Spirit in the world (to be fair...I probably should check out Karl Rahner's book by the same name).

So I was wondering what your thoughts on the presence and activity of the Spirit in the world might be?  Or is the Spirit only present in the Church in your way of reading the Scripture?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Another Blog Is Born

With all my new-found free-time (read with sarcasm) since graduation...I have started a new blogging venture with several fellow pastors.  The blog is titled: "Blue Chip Pastors" (you'll have to check out the blog to discover the reason for the name) and it promises to offer pastoral discussions and insight into God's work in the pastorate being enjoined by those simple enough to believe in the mass-market mentality of the pastoral office that we must practice this holy calling with great care and faithfulness (and not seek "branding" or salesmanship).  I know I'm looking forward to the posting of my fellow bloggers and will hopefully have a lot something to contribute to this important conversation.  You can check it out HERE and don't forget to add it to your RSS feeder. :-)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

God Is Not Safe

God is not safe!

Or so I have come more and more to confess.  It was C. S. Lewis writing of the deific character Aslan that he was not "safe," but he was "good."  Being honest, I have tended to meditate on Scriptures like Psalm 121 that speak of our God always keeping watch over us and never letting us falter, or Psalm 91:1 and its opening line: "You who live in the secret place of Elyon, spend your nights in the shelter of Shaddai" (NJB).  I have camped upon the promises of provision and protection (which one encounters throughout Scripture), but I have been driven from my claim to shelter by the words of Job. 

The story of "patient Job" is one that reminds me that the God we serve is not safe.  We can certainly trust Him (and must), but we cannot assume that my doing right = my receiving immediate blessing.  The LORD is God...I am not.  He can raise up and put down.  He exalts and humbles...and without mathematical precision.  We rest in His grace and depend on Him always.  We can never presume upon His grace though (or else it would not be truly grace).  God speaks in the whirlwind and declares Himself to be God and us to be his creation. 

So...I worship trembling before the God of all...who is not safe as I would have him be, but is still "my rock and my fortress" though all else fails me...though life itself seem darkened by death and despair..the light of His glory shines eternal!  I will cast myself again and again at His mercy...for He will eventually answer!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The Theological Meaning and Significance of Yom in Genesis 1

I have just uploaded my Master's thesis to Scribd for anyone interested in reading it.  Also, I've got a link to it on my "Writings" tab under "Theology" which can be found HERE (along with some of my other writing).  Any feedback is appreciated as I continue to reflect on this topic that I have spent the last number of years working through. 

I have been truly fortunate to study with a fine and godly OT scholar like Dr. August Konkel over these last years.  He was invaluable to the development and direction of my thesis and I pray that my work is representative of his tremendous investment into me.  I was greatly benefited also by the careful reading of all things SBL-standards related by Joel Banman (who cannot in any way be held accountable for any remaining mistakes which I may have additionally created) and the library staff of Providence Theological Seminary (thanks to Terry Kennedy and her wonderful staff).  And also I must thank Tremper Longman for his overly kind comments on my draft of this thesis and his recommendations for several key areas.

The short of it all is that it turns out "day" means and signifies far more than I had initially anticipated when I first set upon writing this thesis.  I truly do hope at some point to contribute further in a positive way to the ongoing discussion of this crucial text of Scripture and trust my thesis might serve as a launch toward that direction.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

To Write or Not To Write

I have officially finished my final edits for my Master's thesis (unless of course I suddenly find some more mistakes).  And so...I will finally be printing off my copies this week for the LONG process of signatures, cataloging and binding.  Perhaps I'll see it again by early Fall (Lord willing!).  Anyways, if you ever wonder, "What is the point of writing a Master's thesis?" (which I have asked more times than I care to remember over the last several years while I worked on mine) I just happened upon a great blog post by Dr. John Stackhouse of Regent College that answers that question in a harsh, but honestly helpful manner.  So what are your thoughts on a Master's thesis?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Another Bonhoeffer Volume Is Published

IT'S HERE!!!  The eleventh volume of the sixteen volume Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works in English: Ecumenical, Academic and Pastoral Work: 1931-1932.  I was overjoyed to find my copy on my front doorstep this afternoon.  There now remains only one more volume (number 14) to be published before the series is complete.

Volume 11 in the sixteen-volume Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works English Edition, Ecumenical, Academic, and Pastoral Work: 1931-1932, provides a comprehensive translation of Bonhoeffer’s important writings from 1931 to 1932, with extensive commentary about their historical context and theological significance. This volume covers the significant period of Bonhoeffer's entry into the international ecumenical world and the final months before the beginning of the National Socialist dictatorship. It begins with Bonhoeffer's return to Berlin in June 1931 after his year of study in the United States. In the crucial period that followed, Bonhoeffer continued his preparations for the ministry, began teaching at Berlin University, and became active at international ecumenical meetings. His letters and lectures, however, also document the economic and political turbulence on the European and world stage, and Bonhoeffer directly addresses the growing threat of the Nazi movement and what it portends not only for Germany, but for the world. Several of the documents in this volume, particularly the student notes of his university lecture on "The Nature of the Church" and his lectures on Christian ethics, give important insights into his theology at this point. His ecumenical lectures and reports are significant documents for understanding the ecumenical debates of this period. 
I did note that Fortress Press is now offering all of the published volumes as a set for only $400 (which is a STEAL).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Valedictory Address 2012

(The following was my valedictory address for the graduates of Providence Theological Seminary 2012):

Graduates, faculty, administration and friends of Providence Theological Seminary, I am humbled by the opportunity to speak to you today.  This has been a long endeavour and I appreciate the confidence to address this great gathering. 

As I consider my time at Providence, I would like to share some reflections with you which are very dear to my heart.

It was five years ago that I set upon the Master of Divinity Honours here at Providence.  This journey has offered more challenges than I had initially imagined.  No one quite knows the cost of committing to such things, even as the costs are carefully laid out prior to admission. 

During my time at Providence, my wife and I have suffered the loss of two unborn children and been blessed with the birth of our fourth child whose name fittingly means “life.”  We have attended the funerals of nearly all of our grandparents and several uncles and aunts.  But we have also welcomed nearly a dozen nephews and nieces into the world. 

I have witnessed friends graduate and move into more expansive roles of ministry where it has thrilled me to see the Lord’s leading in their lives.  I have also shared the burden of two dear seminary friends who went to be with our Lord, even while they committed themselves to training for such wider service.  This is to say that my time in seminary has not been removed from life, but fully participating in life with all of its joys and sorrows.

This is life…lived obedience to the gracious vivifying call of the Spirit of God in Christ…participation in His life in the midst of this world.  A world yet marred by sin while still reflecting (though dimly at times) the glory of its Creator and Redeemer. 

What I have discovered--and rediscovered--over the course of my studies is that such a life of faithfulness to God’s gracious call demands prayerful and careful attention to the voice of the Spirit even as it is God’s Spirit which works that call in and through us.  As our Lord Jesus declared through his servant John, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”  These words echo in my ears again and again.  These words both haunt me in my strength and enliven me in my weakness.

Am I listening?  Are we listening?  Do we hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church?  An ever attentive ear is imperative if we are ever to love the LORD our God with our whole being.

The voice of the Spirit has much to say to us that we are not yet ready to hear and at times do not seem desirous to hear.  He has words of consolation and encouragement, words of hope and joy.  He also has words of rebuke and censure, of sorrow and repentance.  It is the 'Yes' of God to us and for us, even as it must also be the 'No' of God to all that diminishes His glory.  The Spirit is speaking, the Spirit of the Lord and Saviour...our Lord and Saviour and even this world's.  Are we listening?

He calls us from this place to a new place in the wider world where we might declare the glory of God in corners long lost and bound in darkness…places where many wait for a message of God’s radiant presence come near.  Places which beg for the light of His kingdom come.  Places where that same Spirit goes before us even now preparing the harvest just as the harvesters themselves are prepared.

Are we listening?  Are we so shining that the goodness of our God is evident to all.  Are we ready for the good works our God has prepared for us and has prepared us for?  Will we step from this place in faith-filled, Spirit-empowered obedience to follow the narrow and difficult path of God which has been laid for us...where the voice of our Lord speaks and we answer simply, “Here I am” and “Where you lead, I will follow”?

Do we hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church today and will we not be content only with what has been spoken in the past as if that word is not the living and active Word of God?  Will we follow when we do not see far ahead?  When a faithless world and a pseudo-church reject all that the Spirit is saying?  Will we still love God as at the first, when the love of most has been twisted inward or surrendered altogether?  Will we remain clean and pure in a world mired in sin?  Will we cling to the teaching of the Prophets and Apostles who have themselves traveled similar paths enduring to the end?  Will we trust in the only sufficient provision for life...the One who Himself is Life?  Will we hear what the Spirit is saying and so join the great company of those overcoming and victorious saints throughout all of the ages, as they sing, “To Him who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb, be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever”?

I tell you today, “As for me and my house...” we will listen.  And listen again.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Measure of a City

I encountered a statement about the proper manner by which we might measure the success or failure of our cities:

"Too often men are apt to measure a city's significance by its business, professions, and industry, its buildings, its wealth, its art and culture.  Zechariah [8:4-5] suggests that we measure the significance of our cities by their effect upon two groups easily overlooked--the old and the young." -- T. C. Speers, Zechariah (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1956), 1085.

Sadly, we do not understand the power of this image, but for those who live in a world of fear, lack and destruction such images are profound and may seem far-fetched.  The poignant passage to which Speers was speaking dramatically portrays the blessing of the young and old alike in the idyllic eschatological age:

"This is what the LORD of Heaven's Armies says: Once again old men and women will walk Jerusalem's streets with their canes and will sit together in the city squares. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play." (Zech. 8:4-5 NLT)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Points of Interest

I thought today I would just post about a couple of things which interested me:

(1) Apparently Hendrickson Publishers has just released the fascicle of Biblia Hebraica Quinta: Judges.  I still need to start ordering my copies of BHQ, but it seems each volume is taking longer to publish.  It will certainly be a tremendous contribution to Hebrew Bible studies once it is completed.

(2) Renowned Greek scholar and linguist, Dr. Stanley E. Porter (President of McMaster Divinity School) has begun blogging about McMaster, Seminary education, Koine Greek and the New Testament.  I've already added it to my about you?

(3) My two alma-maters have each just announced new presidents: Trinity Bible College will be receiving Dr. Paul Alexander (currently Principal of Mattersey Hall in the U.K.) and I trust this will prove a positive academic direction for TBC.  In other news, I discovered that Dr. David Johnson (Professor of NT, Executive Vice-President and Provost of PTS) has been accepted as the interim president of Providence Theological Seminary.  Congrats to Dr. Johnson on the new opportunity!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thomas Nelson Publishers and Pastoral Resources

So I was recently approved to start receiving materials from Thomas Nelson Publishers for review...and thus they sent me a "welcome" box full of assorted resources for pastors.  I thought I'd start with just introducing these materials and a short comment or two about them in posts to come.
Bibles (and Studies):
Women & God: Stuck Studies: The Places We Get Stuck & the God Who Sets Us Free (sample chapter)
Jesus Calling Devotional Bible: Enjoying Peace in His Presence (sample chapter with NKJV)
The Voice New Testament: Step Into the Story of Scripture
The Take Action Bible (NKJV)
The [Expanded] Bible
Reel to Real: An Interactive Drama-Based Study "It's You.  Is it Possible to Build Real and Lasting Friendships?" (DVD with Participants Guide)
The Open Table: An Invitation to Know God (DVD with Leader's Guide)
Nelson's Children's Minister's Manual
Nelson's Youth Minister's Manual

A couple of initial comments can be made right away:
(1) I am not particularly a fan of the King James tradition being maintained for contemporary usage.  This is my biggest gripe with Thomas Nelson.  I do enjoy many of their Word Biblical Commentary volumes (which were sadly not included in the welcome package), but most of their material belongs to the KJV tradition of translations. 
(2) Of the two videos I received the "Real to Reel" was fairly well produced, but comes across as rather corny in my opinion.  It states that it will take our teens deeper than other materials, but I found the content to be very surface based.  "The Open Table" on the other hand was excellent (which is to be expected since it is the work of Donald Miller of "Blue Like Jazz" fame).  I would highly recommend this video for introducing a small group to discussions about faith and God.
(3) The [Expanded] Bible and The Voice NT both offer intriguing notions for translational formats.  The former has inserted variant readings and translational options right into the text using brackets.  This is immediately helpful for understanding nuances of clauses and phrases but becomes nearly intolerable for readability of the text.  The Voice NT uses the notion of drama in the formatting of the text and tries to capture a more dramatic retelling through this format.  I wonder how helpful this proves in the long run for being helpful or simply a distraction.  I will certainly look further through both volumes and have more comments in the future about them.