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.