Sunday, July 17, 2005

Loose Ends

Some times I lie awake a night pondering the deep questions of life. Questions like: "Are those green fuzzy things on apokalupto's title bar leaves or what?" and "Why didn't I add another perspective to that post?" Well, today those loose ends get tied up--partly because I need to get them out of my head and partly because I'm heading south for campmeeting today and don't have time to do a "Sermon Summary". Well...I guess I could do a little summary.

Here's my one paragraph sermon summary--1,2,3,go! When King David got Abigail for a wife (1 Sam 25) he trusted in God to provide his needs and didn't take revenge on Nabal. When David took Bathsheba for a wife (2 Sam 11,12) he sinned because he didn't trust God to provide for him and committed murder to get what he wanted. Psalm 51 shows why David was a man after God's own heart because as soon as something came between him and God he confessed it and asked God to get rid of it.

On Thursday's post I said that if I had a rocket launcher and a helicopter was attacking a refugee camp, I'd probably use it, but I didn't really explain why. I believe non-violence is the best way to solve problems, and therefore I don't own firearms and will not carry them with intent to harm others. (I'm not opposed to using rifles or bows to hunt animals, but I'm a vegetarian so I don't own them.) However, I also believe that one must also protect human life, I believe this to be a corollary to the command "Thou shalt not murder" (Ex 20:13). Therefore, in the unlikely event that the was a rocket launcher at hand, I would use it. However, I would not walk into the situation carrying one.

In my lengthy post on the New Living Translation (NLT) I did a fair bit of "source criticism", if you will, on the Today's New International Version of the Bible, and almost none on the NLT. The NLT was originally conceived as an update to the accuracy of the Living Bible (LB), a paraphrase by recently deceased Ken Taylor. At some point the translation committee decided they wanted to start over from the Greek and Hebrew texts, but still keep the style of English of the LB . The result was the NLT. Here's a comparison of the LB and NLT and "A Critical Review" of the NLT.

I'm going to be gone to campmeeting until August, so apokalupto will lie dormant until then. Cheers.

The painting of Bathsheba showing David her seductive ankles is by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Bible Studies: 3 The Source

I wasn't able to post a study last Friday becuase I was very sick, but here it is today. This is part of a series of studies I'm writing on the 27 (now 28) Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. You can find the previous study here. You can look up Bible references here. And the answeres are at the bottom of the post. As always, I welcome comments and constructive criticism. Enjoy!

Study 3: God the Father

1. The Father is the s_____ of everything. (1 Cor. 8:6, Gen. 1:1)

2. The creation r_______ the Creator. (Ps 19:1,2)

3. The Father manifests the love of God through j_______. (Rom. 1:18-20)

4. The Father’s justice always comes with m_____. (Luke 6:35-36)

5. The Source of everything, g_____ us everything He had. (John 3:16,17)

6. Because the Father is God-a_____-us, he sent the Son for us truly know Him. (John 1:18)

7. The Father sent the S______ so that we can be His children. (Gal 4:4-7)

8. What are the blessings and limitations of learning about God through nature?

9. What does being a child of the Father mean to you?

1: Source. 2: Reveals. 3: Justice. 4: Mercy. 5: Gives. 6: Above. 7: Spirit

Thursday, July 14, 2005

If I Had a Rocket Launcher

No, this isn't a post where I explore my deepest male fantasies. It's the title of a song by Bruce Cockburn (pronounced "co-burn"). I first heard it on a CKUA profile of the Christian musician. He apparently wrote it after witnessing a military helicopter strafing a Guatemalan refugee camp in Southern Mexico.

"If I Had a Rocket Launcher" by Bruce Cockburn:

Here comes the helicopter -- second time today
Everybody scatters and hopes it goes away
How many kids they've murdered only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher...I'd make somebody pay

I don't believe in guarded borders and I don't believe in hate
I don't believe in generals or their stinking torture states
And when I talk with the survivors of things too sickening to relate
If I had a rocket launcher...I would retaliate

On the Rio Lacantun, one hundred thousand wait
To fall down from starvation -- or some less humane fate
Cry for Guatemala, with a corpse in every gate
If I had a rocket launcher...I would not hesitate

I want to raise every voice -- at least I've got to try
Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes.
Situation desperate, echoes of the victims cry
If I had a rocket launcher...Some s** of a b**** would die


Here's some comment by Cockburn on the Christian reaction to the song:
"Some of them got a little nervous when I started talking about politics," he adds, "because you're not supposed to do that if you're a certain type of Christian -- especially if you're a songwriter. I got a lot of letters from people, especially after the album 'Stealing Fire,' and there were a lot of people in the Christian scene who found 'If I had a Rocket Launcher' very difficult. Because they weren't used to thinking about those things. "There were a lot of Christians who did understand it, the more liberal, for want of a better word, turn of mind," he points out. Nonetheless, "A lot of people wrote letters urging me, exhorting me, not to lose the way. At no point was I threatened with excommunication, but there was definitely a kind of standing back and going, 'What is this?' on the part of a lot of people." (from cockburnproject.net)
While I don't subscribe to "liberation theology" intellectually, this song drives straight to that place in your heart that wants rise up with the proletariat. While the Gospel does proclaim freedom, I think Gandhi proved that there is a more moral way to induce change. And my Adventist heritage is very much in line with that approach. Still, if I had a rocket launcher and the refugees were under attack, I have to say I'd probably use it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hockey This Year!

If America heard a collective cheer coming from the North today, it's because National Hockey League is back in business, almost. According to Fox Sports: "The NHL and the players' association reached an agreement in principle Wednesday on a six-year labor deal, ending a lockout that wiped out last season."

Canucks can all breathe a sigh of reLeaf now that the Avalanche of professional hockey Stars on TV will keep us from getting the Blues. It simply drives Canadiens Wild to get thier hockey fix by putting on their Blue Jackets and actually playing the game with those nasty Bruins at the rink. I'll take my chesterfield, Don Cherry, and some Wings over legal Sharks negotiating for Kings anyday.

For those of you who haven't kept up with the NHL's expansion click here. "Yes, Virginia, the Jets did move to Phoenix."

New Living Translation

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, New Living Translation)
Since my second year in college I've almost exclusively used a New American Standard Bible with study notes and full marginal references for personal study and public presentations. But while it looks good in the pulpit and works well in study ("Most literal from the Greek," a professor told me.), I feel uncomfortable bringing that big, black book with its difficult English into the home or hospital room of someone who needs comfort and encouragement. So I decided to get a pocket sized modern translation that reads well in English and looks non-threatening.

My wife bought me a pocket sized NIV, but I was looking for a more modern (radical) translation. Plus, she liked the NIV so much that she kept it for herself. I eventually narrowed my choice down to either a TNIV (Today's New International Version) or a NLT (New Living Translation). In the end, I chose the NLT.

The NLT makes a better go at smoothing out and modernizing the English of its translation. The TNIV is essentially a NIV with "gender accurate translation" and other updates. Although it tries to soften some of the rough edges, it is basically a word for word or "formally equivalent" translation. And I already have two versions that are doing a better job of that (the NRSV and NASB).

The NLT on the other hand does thought for thought or "dynamically equivalent" translation. What this really means is that the translator (or in this case translating committee) has done the basic interpretation or exegesis of the text for you. Here is an example from the NLT's "Introduction":
"So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David." (1 Kings 2:10, King James Version)
"So David rested with his fathers and was buried in the City of David." (1 Kings 2:10, New International Version)
"Then David died and was buried in the City of David." (1 Kings 2:10, New Living Translation)
Here you can clearly see how the NLT translates the thoughts (died) into English rather than the original words (slept) as the KJV does and how the NIV tries to strike a balance (rested). You can also see that while the NLT makes a very readable devotional Bible, I wouldn't use it for a study on the "state of the dead". The drawback of the thought for thought method is that it makes it easier to read our own thoughts into the Bible (eisegesis).

So why did I choose the NLT? (1) I like the easy flow of its narrative passages and they way it "smoothes out" some difficult passages. (2) I like they way it handles "dear old" passages that we all memorized from the KVJ. (3) But what really sealed the deal for me was hearing some of my church members responding to its simple and easy language.

Here's a few more examples of passages in the New Living Translation. Some are of specific interest to Adventists:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface. Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3)

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one may do any kind of work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, you male and female servants, you livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; then he rested on the seventh day. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

The LORD is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.(Psalm 23:1-3)

The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. (Ecclesiastes 9:5)

Yet it was our weakness that he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the guilt and sins of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be honored.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done here on earth,
just as it is in heaven. (Matthew 7:9,10)

In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn't make. (John 1:1-3)

And in any event, you should desire the most helpful gifts. First, however, let me tell you about something else that is better than any of them! If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn't love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 12:31,13:1)

For he took blood into that Most Holy Place, but not the blood of goats and calves. He took his own blood, and with it he secured our salvation forever. (Hebrews 9:12)

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God--for God is love. (1 John 4:7,8)

And I saw another angel flying though the heavens, carrying the everlasting Good News to preach to the people who belong to this world--to every nation, tribe, language, and people. "Fear God," he shouted. "Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge. Worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all the springs of water" (Revelation 14:6,7)
To read the New Living Translation and most other versions of the Bible go to bible.crosswalk.com.

To read the Today's New International Version go to tniv.info.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Spanglish

Spanglish is one of those movies you finally get around to seeing and then want to watch three times in order to actually comprehend the depth of its meaning. And that's a complement, coming from me, who hates seeing even my favorite movies more than once a year. Its uncanny blend of levity and profundity, banality and drama, love and loathing had me intrigued and captivated from the start.

The the opening scene of Spanglish is indicative of the rest of the film
(not the introductory scene, but the next one where we actually meet the characters). In this scene a Mexican mother's husband has just his wife and daughter. So many elements in this scene are just plain goofy--the front door of her house looks like a kitschy Mexican restaurant; her overacted attempts to stop crying look like a comedy routine; not to mention the stunning Paz Vega, a Spanish actress best known for her NC-17 rated Sex and Lucia, portraying a dirt poor mother. Yet, somehow, the scene has poignancy, so that you don't know whether to laugh or cry. Watching Spanglish is a experience in cognitive dissonance, and, somehow, that's a good thing.

The writer/director/producer(/dictator) of the film is James L. Brooks, whose previous work on "The Simpsons" and As Good As It Gets I greatly admire. But don't expect the in your face humor of "The Simpsons" from Spanglish. The jokes in this movie are more in line with the subtler stuff of that animated sitcom, so watch carefully and you'll get some great laughs

Adam Sandler's character is the exact opposite of Homer or Melvin. He's a laid back chef--his greatest fear is a 4-star rating--whose wife hires Vega to be their housekeeper. Tea Leoni, who plays Sandler's wife, deserves special mention. The woman is all the worst stereotypes of 'soccer mom' rolled into one pitiable character. Sometimes after watching her in action you want to shout: "Die spawn of Satan!" Other times you just feel sorry for the poor lady and whatever made her get that way. Kudos to Leoni for doing such an impossible character convincingly.

The kids in the film were also brilliant (Shelbie Bruce, Sarah Steele, and Ian Hyland), which brings me to what I liked most about Spanglish. The kids in this film have real struggles and crises that can't be solved with sitcom platitudes, and the parents actually care about what's best for their kids. Not only do they care about them, but they are even willing to take a harder path to do what's right by their kids and families. I like a movie that preaches without preaching, and this film shows a sermon on committed parenting that most Christians would do well to take to heart.

I'd need to watch the movie three more times and really get it in order to tell you what I don't like about it. But at the risk of putting my foot in my mouth: I felt the portrayal of immigrants in this movie lacked realism and was patronizing. Having said that, I don't mean to imply that the relationship between Vaga and her daughter was cheapened, just that white guys from Jersey have trouble getting Mexicans in California. I also felt that the upper-middle class suburban stereotype was over the top.

Spanglish is a rich and complex film that has some important things to say about family and relationships. I recommend it to anybody. (Note: there is one freaky clothes-on sex scene, and one or two f-bombs; so it's not for the kiddies.) Watch it when you're in the mood for an emotionally savvy treat.

For the definition of "spanglish" click here.

For the critics take of Spanglish click here.

Balancing the GC

In my last post on the General Conference Session I listed some web based sources of news and comment on the session. In retrospect, the list is biased towards the 'progressive' or 'liberal' take on the proceedings (which, if you haven't guessed yet, is my bias). In the interest of balance, here's a more 'conservative' or 'traditional' web site with comment on the Session:

GreatControversy.org

Although I don't agree with everything they have to say, it is not my intent to disparage the website by the way I categorize it. Their voice of 'security' provides an important balance to voices in our church that could move us too far to the 'freedom' side. But, that's a topic for another blog, and I need my beauty rest...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Sermon Summary 7-9

The Holy Spirit has been telling me that we Christians need to be spending more time with the Bible. Too often our time with the Scriptures gets set aside for other things, often to the point where we no longer even pretend to have a commitment to regular Bible study. This sermon is the result of that confession:

I believe that my biggest problem in Bible Study was that I didn't understand what the Word of God is. Originally the "Word of the LORD came" to the prophets "saying". Their prophecies gave the people a connection to God and answers to the deepest questions of life. The result of their prophecies is the Bible we have today (2 Pet. 1:19-21), a reliable source of information about God and answers only He can give.

So the Bible is the Word of God, but there's more to it than that, because the Bible says the Word of God is something beyond itself. The Bible says that the fullest expression of the Word of God is actually Jesus Christ (John 1:1-4,14), the Living Word (Heb. 4:12), who shows us exactly who God is. The Bible, the Written Word, is the Word of God to the extent that we find Jesus Christ in it (John 5:39,40), and if we presume otherwise, we practice the Biblidolatry (replacing God with the Bible) of the Pharisees.

Jesus claimed to be the way, truth and life (John 14:6).
I think that the most important implication of this claim is this: If the Word of God is a person than God is a person, not a phenomenon, and truth is relational, not objective or subjective. That's why the Bible is a book of stories, not a philosophy text. And Jesus is revealed through it from beginning to end. If our study of the Bible does not lead us to encounter God through the God-man Jesus, we have not gained anything; but if we experience the Living Word each time we open the Written Word; there will be life changing power in our lives.

If Bible study has become a boring chore for you, give it another shot. As you read ask yourself three questions: (1) How does this bring me closer to God? (2) How does this show me what love is? And (3) How does this power my life? Let the Word of God live in you.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Road (Take Three)


At the end of a hard day, the simple lyrics to one of my favorite Take Three songs:

"The Road" by Lauren Smith
All my tears behind me,
I'm walkin' down the road
To that land of endless glory
Where I'm gonna make my home.
I'm off of the devil's highway,
His land no more to roam, 'cause
Jesus is in my life toady
And I know He's here to stay,
'Cause I know I've never
Felt this sure before,
Now I've opened up the door,
And I know I'll never be alone anymore.

And now with dusty shoes,
And nowhere to lay my head.
I'm walkin' this empty road
From the valley of the dead.
And I praise the Lord my weary soul
I livin' now instead, 'cause

Jesus is in my life toady
And I know He's here to stay,
'Cause I know I've never
Felt this sure before,
Now I've opened up the door,
And I know I'll never be alone anymore.
And I know I'll never be alone anymore...anymore...anymore.

Take Three was an Adventist folk music trio who performed and recorded during the seventies. To buy both their albums on one CD, you can contact:

Steven Wallace Revival Ministries
5454 Rabe Road
Columbia Falls, MT 59912
USA

phone: +1 406 387 4848
fax: +1 406 387 4074

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Holy Spirit Experience

My mother recently directed me to an excelent article in the Adventist Review. It actually inspried me to fire off an email to the editors. Click the link to read the article. Don't skip it; you really should read it first. Now, here's my letter:
Editor:

In "No Going Back" Pastor Russell addressed a major weakness in our denomination when he wrote: "As a church, We are most comfortable in teaching the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and not the experience of the Holy Spirit." Amen! But we need more than one article on this important subject.

Pastor Russell, don't be a tease. We need to learn what the baptism of the Holy Spirit is and isn't. We need to know whether the gift of prophecy is limited to Ellen White, and how to test prophets if that isn't the case. And we need more articles in the Review that describe the experience of the Holy Spirit, not just the theory.

"No Going Back" has driven me back to my Bible for answers. I hope I'm not going to be the only one studying And I hope the editors of the
Review will bring us more wise guidance on this topic.
Two experiences have piqued my interest in the work of the Holy Spirit. At the anneversary celebration of a Menonite church my town, one of the pastors related how a member had recieved a "vision" of land they were supposed to purchase. When they found land that matched what she saw, the church bought the property and have thrived on it. It reminded me of the Adventist church's experiences with Ellen White.

At a another celebration, this time a building dedication at a Pentecostal church, there was a guest speaker who did faith healings through "words of knowledge" during prayer time (e.g. "I feel a pain in my lower back.") I had read earlier about an Adventist pastor who spoke of having the same spiritual gifts, but I had never seen it in action. As I sat with my head bowed I prayed, "Lord, help me to know if this is from you."

I am indeed in need of wise guidance on this topic. I plan to do a study on the tests of a prophet and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But what we need more than individual study is to come together and share what we've learned from our study and experienced as a result. I believe that when we come together in submission to the Holy Spirit and learn from Him through a study of the Word, we can experience revival.

Monday, July 04, 2005

General Conference

The General Conference (GC) Session for Seventh-day Adventists is happening right now in St. Louis, Missouri. It's basically a business session and get together for the world church that happens every five years. "Session" has been underway since Thursday, June 30, so there's a few noteworthy items worth writing about.

From what I've heard there's not expected to be many hot topics like women's ordination or marriage and divorce coming up in this session. President Jan Paulson
(pronounced "yahn") has been re-elected. Word has it that the nominating committee debated long and hard between him and the more conservative GC Vice President Ted Wilson. Paulsen squeezed through the nominating committee vote, 98 to 91, and received a unanimous floor vote from the delegates. The first female GC vice president was also elected yesterday.

A new fundamental belief is supposed to be approved this session. It is called "Growing in Christ" and deals with Christ's power over demons, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the spiritual walk. But a new procedure was voted today for processing such requests. I'm not sure whether it affects the proposed new belief or not.

For day to day reports on the session check out these websites:

Adventist News Network - Comprehensive and just-the-facts reporting

Adventist Review Online
- The flagship Adventist journal is tasked with publishing daily reports of the session.

Spectrum/AAF Online - Commentary from a liberal, academic slant

Adventist Today - Commentary from the editors a progressive, anti-"fundamentalist magazine--the voice of the Adventist 'left'

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Sermon Summary (July, 2 2005)

This week we had communion service (or Lord's supper), so I gave 0.5 of a sermon. In the Adventist church we do a footwashing service (John 13) as well as the partaking of the bread and (sweet) wine, which adds about 25 extra minutes to the service. Therefore, everything else gets shortened a bit, and my sermon becomes a sermonette.

In the gospel of John the Last Supper is not recorded as such; John focused on the footwashing instead. But we do find the bread and wine mentioned in John 6 where Jesus tells his followers that they have no life in them unless they eat His flesh and drink his blood. The Jews then ask how Jesus can expect to feed them His flesh?

This is the ultimate question. Without a connection with God, we have no life in us, and that connection was severed when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and lost access to the tree of life. We became zombies--alive physically but dead spiritually.

Jesus' cross was our second tree of life, but in order for his sacrifice to do any good we must internalize (eat) it. This is the essence of "communion", the restoration of our relationship with God, an abiding relationship where He lives
in and through us. That's what the communion that the service symbolizes.

"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him." John 6:56

Friday, July 01, 2005

Bible Studies: 2 God

Here's the second instalment in my Bible studies that I'll be posting on Fridays. I should probably now take the time to say that these studies don't necessairly represent any official teaching of my church. They are however, not intended to contradict said teachings, but rather support them. Ultimately, they are the product of my interaction with the Bible in the context of Adventist doctrine and my theological education ("B.A. in Religious Studies"--full disclosure). Preparing these studies has led me to a deeper faith, and I hope you will gain some benefit from them as well (so give me some feedback). Again, the 'answers' are at the bottom.

Study 2: God

1. The question is not what is God, but rather w___ is God. (Ex. 4:13,14).

2. For Christians, God is first and foremost the F_______ o__ o___ L____ J_____ C_____. (1 Peter 1:3, John 14:9)

3. The essence of God is l_____. (1 John 4:8)

4. God’s g_______ never changes. (James 1:17)

5. God’s first act of love to us was c_______. (Gen 1:26-30)

6. God is completely u______. (Deut. 6:4,5)

7. God is the only person who is inherently h____. (Rev. 15:3,4)

8. God’s other great act of love is our s_________. (Ex. 20:11, Deut. 5:15)

9. The t_______ is best understood in terms of how God works to save us (Matt. 28:19, 2 Cor. 13:14).

1. Who 2. Father of our Lord Jesus Christ 3. Love 4. Goodness 5. Creation 6. Unique 7. Holiness 8. Salvation 9. Trinity