Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Friday, January 10, 2003

"A language," he said. "It is a world. My poems are written for the people of a world I have lost. To read them I think you must have lived in my world - my language - since childhood, and grown up in it."

The above quote is from John Crowley's The Translator, which I am hoping to review sometime next week. The quote is from a Russian defector, and the setting is a large university in the Midwest, 1962. It defines well the task of a pastor.

A pastor must engage in time travel with no technology except books, his mind, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit (who was in fact there for it all). He must breathe life into what he reads from a dead language, Koine' Greek or Biblical Hebrew, so that he takes his listeners with him on his journey. In fact, it is more than a one way journey, for he must come back to the modern day for application, and stir his listeners so that they realize that what is from 2000 years ago works just as well today as ever. That is how you change lives - by time travel.

It is not a job for the lazy or faint-hearted. You must be decisive, visionary, and elephant-skinned. There will be detractors, skeptics, second-guessers, and you must be prepared for them by the work that you do. Many pastors learn the rudiments of translation skills in seminary or Bible college and eagerly forget them, anxious to get on with what they define as ministry, thinking translation too hard to sustain. Others get distracted along the way, and the skills leak away slowly, along with their algebra and history and whatever else they have learned, until they are flat and along the side of the highway of ministry, abandoned to perpetuating the myth of their own relevance.

Our seminaries and Bible colleges have bought into the deadly deception, and now concern themselves with counseling and mentoring, and "real" ministry, by which they mean spiritual first aid, which in good churches is a matter for almost anyone who has spiritual momentum. There is so little leadership, and good seminaries from even a decade ago lie in ruin, having disabled their departments of time travel.

Pray for leadership, pray for integrity in our nation's Bible schools, so that they do what is right even if it costs them. Pray for their return to rigorous preparation of men for the Bible ministry, which would give hope for our nation.

Courage and Faith.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Every once in while, you just have to get out of the way and let someone else's words speak. Some excerpts from Florida Governor Jeb Bush's inaugural address given yesterday:

Faith is grounded in humility, gratitude, and generosity; an acknowledgement that through life we have been given a gift that is wholly unearned and never fully understood. It requires the difficult acceptance that we are loved, despite our flaws, just as we should love others, despite theirs. In our darkest hours, it is what sustains us. In our final darkness, it will bring us light...


...Consider the mathematics of the tragedy: Each year in Florida, eighty thousand children are born without a father in the home. Each year, there are eighty-five thousand abortions. And each year, eighty thousand marriages are dissolved. Sadly, today, almost fifty thousand children are in the custody of the state, and hundreds of thousands more aren't receiving the child support they are due. The numbers are so staggering, the implications so bleak, that we can become numb to the human toll they exact.

In the past, our response has been to raise more taxes, grow more government, and embrace the thin fiction that if only we can hire one more social worker or complete one more form then we can somehow reverse these corrosive trends and salvage these lives. But while these intentions may be noble these methods are folly. Government will never fill the hollowness of the human heart. It can only be filled by a like kind substance. It can only be filled by another human heart.

So in the end, while I am the one who takes this oath today, when we leave this place your responsibility is as sacred as mine: Through our example and our deeds we should strive to shape our society through kindness and caring. In our businesses, we should give moms and dads time to be parents with their children. In our hectic daily lives, we should fiercely guard a time for selflessly helping the most vulnerable and needy. In our most private moments alone, we should reflect on our unearned gifts and rededicate our lives to those around us. In a thousand ways we can be more accepting, more giving, more compassionate.

And if we are, we can embed in society a sense of caring that makes government less necessary. There would be no greater tribute to our maturity as a society than if we can make these buildings around us empty of workers; silent monuments to the time when government played a larger role than it deserved or could adequately fill.

Here is the link to the entire address.

Courage and Faith

Monday, January 06, 2003

For our 2 Peter Bible class this week I am teaching Matthew 24. I know that sounds terribly confusing, but 2 Peter 3:4 and Matthew 24 have much in common. They both instruct concerning the believer's preparation for and attitude toward the return of Jesus Christ. Matthew 24's parable of the fig tree has suffered terrible abuse at the hands of interpreters for the past 55 years. It seems that the re-establishment of the state of Israel caused a number of interpreters to flock to their Bibles in search of any hint of prediction of such a momentous event. Many were excited about Christ's use of the fig tree as metaphor, and proclaimed that He would in fact return within a generation... Matthew 24:32-34, "32 Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place."

Then a generation passed away, and it was 1968, and it sure was mighty quiet on the 2nd Advent front.

As a consequence a new proclamation pealed forth from the fig tree lovers: that indeed a biblical generation is 40 years, and that Christ was indicating His return would take place no later than 1988. I'm thinking in retrospect that the 2nd Advent at that time was quite stealthy because truly I missed it. But now, of course, we should be in the millennium, and all is well and peaceful (and I believe there are some Republicans who just might make overtures along these lines after last November's elections).

Or not.

I guess the biblical generation thing is a lot longer than the Figgers figured. Now it's what? More than 50 years. Why not call it 120 just to be safe? Or...

Look at the passage again, and see that Christ only meant the fig tree to illustrate imminency according to all the signs of the chapter, and not a symbol of Israel. Isn't that after all exactly what He said? "All these things..."

I'll give the full explanation in Bible class this week.

Courage and Faith.

This afternoon I'm working on a clean-up rewrite of our doctrinal statement. I hope to clarify and streamline the language, and update the Bible references in preparation for our annual meeting. We have a significant agenda this year because we are reworking and updating many issues in our constitution. We hope to provide a written agenda two weeks before the meeting, so that you all might be prepared for discussion and voting.
News Flash!!!

I am planning on updating this Blog each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon. That way, regular readers (all three of you) will have a dependable time in which to look for updates.