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Friday, May 26

The Gulf of Aqaba

We have just landed on the Gulf of Aqaba this afternoon. It is a nice solace from what we did this morning. We got up at 1:30am, hopped on a bus, hopped on a camel, rode up 2/3 the way up Mt Sinai (aka Mt Horeb), hiked up the rest of the way, and watched the sun rise over the mountains. Spectacular.

This Sinai peninsula is beautiful. When we think of Israel wandering through the wilderness, you should think of dry rocks. It’s not exactly what you would think of as “desert” (although it could be classified as that) and it’s not exactly mountains...morph the two and you get “wilderness.” It makes it even more amazing that the Israelites shoes did not where out and they did not cease to have bread and water. Have 100 degree weather beating on you and sustenance takes a whole new meaning.

We also went to St Katherine’s Monastery, a Greek Orthodox monastery which housed the Codex Sinaiticus. It was removed from there and taken to Russia, not to be returned.

Sunday, May 21

Alive and Well...in Jordan

That's right, I am in the country of Jordan and the call to prayer has just sounded. I didn't think it was possible to take so many pictures. And I loathe the fact that I am not a good photographer like van.diesel. We just rode about 6 hours from Syria into Jordan. We stayed in the beautiful city of Palmyra last night (I believe it was my favorite place on the trip so far).

We were in Damascus. And while it is touted to be the "oldest continuously inhabited city in the world" by locals, I found out that Antioch makes the same claim! In any case, I wish I would have more money to buy all the things that I am seeing. We went to Crak de Chevallierres, which is a castle constructed by the Crusaders in the 11th and 12th centuries. It is amazing. Although I took tons of pics, I also got hit with some kind of 24-hour virus and was not able to enjoy it to the full. I was laid up for pretty much the whole day. I made myself get out of the bus for my childhood love of castles. I used to spend hours drawing them and planning secret passageways and elaborate drawbridges.

I can't wait to post pics. I did not bring my computer as I figured it would be more of a hastle. And, the program is keeping us pretty busy. At the border today, the patrol officer invited me to sit in his office and chat while we waited for our passports to get stamped. Very friendly fellow. After some small talk, I asked him what the people of Jordan thought of North Americans. I was grateful for his honesty. I am starting to understand a little of what other countries see when they see our government and way of doing things. I will write more on this later - as I have time to develop thoughts and articulate them a little more. For the time being, I am even more convinced that there are many sides to a story.

In case you're wondering, the currency here is the dinar (1 US = .7 Jordanian dinar).

Correction: The above city should read “Aleppo” and not “Antioch”.

Monday, May 15

Happy and Sad

Some of you are aware of this already, but I wanted to let others know that I am on my way to the Middle East to travel with what is called the Middle East Travel Seminar (METS). It is a three week trip where I will travel with seminarians from other schools to travel throughout the Middle East, visiting archaeological sites and exchanging ideas regarding the church, the Bible, and Christianity. I feel extremely blessed to be able to be on this trip and plan on blogging about my time over the next few weeks. I don't think I'll be able to post pictures, but if I can, I will.

We leave tonight for Damascus - one of the oldest cities in the world. Rich with biblical significance, this will be an opportunity to see and smell the city.

My prayer is that I will grow in my understanding the biblical story so as to help the people God entrusts to my care as a pastor. Please pray for my wife and me as we will be apart for these three weeks. We thought we got all our crying out on Friday night, but found we had more tears on Saturday morning when I flew out to ATL for briefing time. Please pray we would love Jesus more, trust him more, and grow stronger in our marriage and devotion to God.

One thought I want to share already is the fact that although it is beneficial to visit the biblical sites, the New Covenant floors us with the truth that the temple of God dwells in those who have built there life on the chief cornerstone - Jesus Christ. He holds us together by the word of his power. While I will definitely be blessed with my time with others and seeing the sites, as a Christian pilgrimmage is no longer "necessary" in the sense that it is a discipline we must complete. This is the beauty of the fact that Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us - "tabernacling" among us. We rejoice in the fact that the Temple is now the people of God. Wherever they go, they take the sweet fragrance of Christ with them. Pilgrimmage is not a spiritual discipline. Yes, it is a blessing to visit. But tranfers of grace do not accumulate in my storehouse of faith. I may touch the Wailing Wall, and may even pray there. But God will not hear my prayers any better there than he did this morning when I was eating breakfast in the hotel.

Friday, May 12

On Second Thought...

After further reading of the below web site, I have decided to tell everyone to stay away from John Clark’s teaching. He denies the Trinity (go to April 20, 2004 conversation). He denies that the Holy Spirit is a person. Here is a brief survey over the past 5 minutes:

- You can lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5.3)
- You can resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7.51)
- The Holy Spirit comforts (Acts 9.31)
- The Spirit speaks (Jn 16.13; Acts 10.19; 20.22)
- How does one explain the presence of all three distinct persons of the Trinity at Jesus' baptism (Mt 3.16-17)?
- How does one explain being baptized in three distinct names (Mt 28.18-20)?

Clark falls into a serious error by trying to make up his own interpretation of the Scriptures and passing them off as what the Bible teaches. Heresies start this way, and this is another example of this.

Granted, the Holy Spirit is spoken of in abstract, "spiritual" ways. But he is a person. To say that he is only the Spirit of God fails to take into account the whole teaching of Scripture!

It is not just that he denies the Trinity, it is his entire foundation for his denomination. He claims to strip away all the past interpretations and find the true religion of Jesus. Dangerous! While I think his intention is good, in the end it will ruin many. How can anyone be sure they have interpreted something right until they pass it by John Clark to see if that is what was really meant in the Bible. If one doesn’t have to double-check one’s own interpretation, then everyone can do what they see fit in their own eyes (remind you of Judges?).

Hermeneutical Principle:
In a good desire to put things together in our minds, we oftentimes make words very technical. For example, Clark says that the Spirit is only a spirit and not a person. This is setting up a false dichotomy. Indeed, it drives a wedge between spirit and person. This is a serious fault. Don't try to scour through the Bible and see a word and impute to that word the same meaning you understood from another context. That is, when you see the word "righteous" it does not always mean "finally justified" before God. It can mean "good" "pure" "just" etc. But don't make words so technical. Words must be read in their context!

Does anyone else have thoughts out there after perusing his web site?

Be Careful With Your Words...Christian

A friend of mine sent me a link to a rather disturbing web site. They call themselves non-Christian followers of Jesus. While I understand what they are trying to get at, I think it is confusing and the wrong antidote.

The Problem
John Clark sees the problem to be religion (which is a dirty word for him). Indeed, he cites the Roman Catholic church as the purest form of religion. He teaches: “Jesus showed me that He didn't come to start "Christianity" at all. He came to set men free from sin, sickness, and death. The vibrant faith depicted in the book of Acts is not a record of the beginning of Christianity. Christianity is that religion which came later and perverted the spiritual life which is depicted in the book of Acts.”

I would be interested to hear what he thinks the book of Acts teaches!

The Solution?
I see a growing trend for CHRISTIANS (call yourself what you will) to shake the skin that they were born in. Jesus came to set men free. He did so by demonstrating his power as a testimony to who he is. More than this, he taught doctrine. He wasn’t some relational Dr Phil for the Middle East. He is God in the flesh and he taught what one must believe to be saved. It is not enough to say, “Jesus is Lord.” You must define who “Jesus” is and what “Lord” and what “is” is (for my Catholic and Lutheran friends out there).

This is merely a preliminary rant on the ridiculousness of many CHRISTIANS to try and say, “I just follow the Jesus of the Bible.” This is short-sighted and egotistical. Let’s face it, hardly anyone has an original thought in his head. We stand on the shoulders of great ancestors who laid down doctrines. I wonder if John Clark would affirm the Apostle’s Creed. If not, then what does he believe. The moment he tries to answer that question, he should see that he can’t open his mouth without uttering doctrine!

Thursday, May 11

Some Thoughts on Hebrews 1

I am starting a college Bible study tonight (we actually started last week, but spent the time on how to properly read the Bible) on the book of Hebrews and wanted to share a couple tidbits I found interesting.

I just got done translating the passage and found an interesting link between vv. 2, 4, and 14. In each of these verses the word for “inherit” (or a cognate) is present.

1. The Son is the “heir” of all things. A reference to Psa 2 will be made later that explicates this some more. For the time being, the Son is the heir of all things. He does not inherit some things. Nor does he inherit many things. All things belong to him. They are rightfully his.

2. How does this happen? Jesus is given a name that is far superior to that of the angels (v. 4). He was given his rightful seat of power at the right hand of the Almighty because he “inherited” the name given him by the Father (see Phil 2.9). From eternity past, God the Father had ordained that the Son, who created all things, receive all things.

3. By virtue of the Son receiving all things, he has also inherited men. Not only this, but those who recognize the sovereignty that the Son has are being groomed to “inherit” salvation. This gives new light to the Doxology: Praise God from whom all blessings flow...The Father has given to the Son what is rightfully his and we have been given what is rightfully...HIS.

Did I just totally mess up my parallelism I saw in the text? Not really. You see, that is the shocker. The essence of salvation is that we were saved from something and for something. That means that there was nothing that we could do to inherit salvation. It was won by the finished work of Christ...He sat down and received all things. We receive all things from his hand.

There is a nasty rumor going around that part of being saved is earning salvation by our obedience. The problem is that it misses the point of what salvation is. If we could earn this gift, then how can it possibly be salvation. The picture in the Bible is painted by a dark brush, indeed, when it comes to the plight of man. If man could prove his worth to God, then saving would be superfluous. The very nature of salvation points to the reality of dire straits...hopelessness...and inability.

The works we are meant to walk in are the result of this faith...more on this later.

Wednesday, May 10

Movin' On Up

While at the T4G Conference, I was able to meet a couple of fellows that I had only known via the blogosphere. They have both moved from blogs I read to friends.

Kevin Cawley is studying for a ThM at Regent College in Vancouver. He is working on Barth’s theology as the underpinning for ecclesiology. (If that’s not right, Kevin, let me know...that’s all I could remember). He wants to pastor once he’s finished with his degree and has a heart for reaching the culture in its own language without leaving out the fiber of good theology.

Joe Thorn has planted a church in a community outside Chicago. He has a vision for reaching the culture with the Gospel without compromising. He has an eye for photography...his writing is somewhat devotional and thought-provoking.

Tuesday, May 9

Reinvinting Jesus: What the DaVinci Code and Other Novel Speculations Don't Tell You

The Theology Program: Converse with the Scholars offers this resource for June 9. I just found this podcast on my recent surfing expeditions. It looks like a great resource. The web site I am going to link to has a slew of theological resources (John Frame, Mark Noll, JP Moreland, etc) Check it out. The Theology Program

DaVinci Debate

Tomorrow night (5.10) at 8pm (CDT) there will be an open, live debate on the Total Living Network regarding the DaVinci Code. Check it out.

[HT: JesusCreed]

Monday, May 8


Okay. Some folks are probably tired of hearing about DaVinci Code stuff. But for those who would like to hear a great podcast on DaVinci I want to highly recommend you download this audio file from Nuclearity. Hugh Duncan gives his first installment. Check it out:

Fact! The DaVinci Code Part 1

Saturday, May 6

You're Are Serious About The Word "Every," Aren't You?

Yet more reflections:

8) Genealogies solidify the fact that people are important in the work of God. Rather than life being a mere transcendental chess match, the Bible tediously draws out the fact that God is involved in people’s lives. Can you imagine living your life and people forgetting about you the next day? The fact is that man has been endowed with the image of God and has been given the responsibility and joy of being God’s representatives on earth.

9) People are important to know because it will affect how you read all of the Scriptures. Imagine skipping over what’s called the Table of Nations in Gen 10. You would never have seen that each one of the children of Noah will be brought back at the Last Day when God gathers all peoples together. As seen in Isaiah 66.18-21, people from Put, Lud, Javan, etc will be brought back to the mountain of the Lord to worship before him (fulfilled in the Revelation to John). Each one of the sons has representatives at the throne of God because of God’s activity to unite all peoples under him! Of course, that would have been missed if tedious passages are relegated to scholars only.

10) Working through “boring” texts also builds the discipline of perseverance. Yes, it is tedious to read that so-and-so was the son of so-and-so and he had so-and-so and lived so many years. But going to work at 8 in the morning and staying until 5 in the evening and feeling like you didn’t accomplish a single thing is tedious too. Discipline in the Scriptures produce discipline in living. Life is full of mundane things...but it is when you press through the mundane that the glorious seem that much more spectacular.

My hope is that these ten reasons have been food for thought and encouragement to press through what seems to be merely nominal. The Scriptures will, in fact, make you wise - not only in their teaching, but in the discipline they require.

Friday, May 5

Really...Every Single Word??

Here are three more reasons why every word is profitable...

5) There is also another caution that should be heeded when reading the OT law, census, genealogies. I have read through a Bible reading plan for the past few years and found that my nourishment in the Scriptures waned when I was working through such texts. I toyed around with not reading them at all...but decided that I needed to work through these hard texts because they were in there for a reason. I will say, read the census materials, but meditate on an epistle even longer. This is not a contradiction because you need to know (at least to some degree) whose son David is and whose son Samson is. But, by virtue of progressive revelation, these important concepts are put together by the prophets of the OT, the Gospel accounts, and the epistles.
6) Gems are found in the mundane. It may be a little late for this, but look at the genealogy in 1Chron 4. Tucked away in that is the life of Jabez. If you had decided to skip over the genealogies, then you would have missed it. Maybe you did skip it and missed your chance at a bestseller (bracelets, journals, student study kits, and all!).
7) And yes, I still hold that large portions of Scripture should be read in corporate services - even genealogies. It builds within people patience that pop culture and Best Buy certainly doesn’t foster. It affirms the fact that the Scriptures can and will make you wise. Rather than only reading the “good parts” while blah-blah-blahing the minutia, working through the difficult presses home that we need to be submitted to the Word of God. We should not dictate what is profitable and what deserves out time.

Is Every Word Inspired and Useful?

I could be trite and say, “Yes, because the Bible says so.” However, I want to come at this question from another perspective. While the proposed answer wouldn’t be wrong, practically we need to seriously consider whether we believe that the words in the Bible are for our benefit.

Sure, we can speak in the abstract all day, but do we really believe that Number 26 is a chapter that we should read?After all, it is a census of the new generation entering the land of promise. How spiritually upbuilding can that be? At the risk of being called a Fundamentalist nut-job (which probably wouldn’t be the first time!) I am going to explain why we should read every page of the Bible. Someone implied that reading levitical law codes and censuses from the OT would be ridiculous. Here is my attempt to reply:

1) Genealogies in the OT benefit the Christian by showing its historical reliability. Rather, as people are shown to be in a line of descendants, their historical veracity is secured.
2) Related to the above: Unlike other religious books, stories in the Bible are not based in some ambiguous setting. If you read the Bhagavad Gita, you will see that there is no solid grounding in years and historical figures. However, we know that in the year that King Uzziah died (~739 BC) Isaiah saw the Lord. King Uzziah was a real man who lived in our physical world.
3) “Boring” genealogies also strengthen the fact that the accounts are not embellishments of reality. Sure, there are certain genres of biblical literature that seem grandiose (i.e. apocalyptic), but this does not preclude their truthfulness.
4) Levitical laws should be read privately and publicly. HOWEVER, I understand my reader’s sensitivity to this. When they are read, they must never be pulled from their immediate context. Nor should they be read without history in mind. The Christian reads the OT through the lens of Jesus fulfilling the law and the prophets. Leviticus is a very devotional book that has been relegated, too many times, to “I don’t need to read that! I live in the 21st century under the New Covenant.” While the latter is true, the former implication is not. Actually it heightens the necessity of reading the OT! In order to understand where you are, you need to know where others have been. What’s more, in order to understand the magnificence of Christ accomplished on our behalf, we must know what he fulfilled in his life. Thus, reading about clean/unclean laws should humble us that we do not live in such a time. Instead of crying out, “Unclean! Unclean!” in the streets and being forsaken by our family, Christ was forsaken (Mt 27.46) and he was made sin for us (2Cor 5.21). The beauty of the work of Christ on behalf of God-haters is magnified in light of the OT requirements.

Wednesday, May 3

Challies Reviews Misquoting Jesus

Check it out.

Tuesday, May 2

An Old Exhortation to the Post-Modern

When it is once admitted that a body of facts lies at the basis of the Christian religion, the efforts which past generations have made toward the classification of the facts will have to be treated with respect. In no branch of science would there be any real advance if every generation started fresh with no dependence upon what past generations have achieved. Yet in theology, vituperation of the past seems to be thought essential to progress. And upon what base slanders the vituperation is based! After listening to modern tirades against the great creeds of the Church, one receives rather a shock when one turns to the Westminster Confession, for example, or to that tenderest and most theological of books, the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ of John Bunyan, and discovers that in doing so one has turned from shallow modern phrases to a ‘dead orthodoxy’ that is pulsating with life in every word. In such orthodoxy there is life enough to set the whole world aglow with Christian love. [J.G. Machen, Christianity & Liberalism]
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