QOTD: Moisés Silva on learning the biblical languages

Quite possibly the most significant benefit of acquiring a knowledge of the biblical languages is intangible. Most of us are conditioned to think that nothing is truly valuable that does not have an immediate and concrete payoff, but a little reflection dispels that illusion. Consider the teaching we all received from birth. Has most of it been immediately rewarding? We are simply not conscious of how deeply we have been molded by countless experiences that affect our perspective, our thinking, our decisions. Similarly, a measure of proficiency in the biblical languages provides the framework that promotes responsibility in the handling of the text. Continued exposure to the original text expands our horizon and furnishes us with a fresh and more authentic perspective than that which we bring from our modern, English-speaking situation.

Moisés Silva, God, Language and Scripture, page 278.

I come from a faith tradition that is in desperate need to get this deeply rooted into their understanding.  In my tradition, its not the biblical languages they want to know but the language of the Spirit (I’ve never heard anyone actually say this but it is the gist of it).  Its a false dichotomy really.  Many pastors just do not see the value of learning Greek or Hebrew.  They say they are too busy or they do not see the relevance of it for their ministry.  My concern is how can they not?  I say a good pastor to teaches the Bible in some capacity in the church should at the very least know how to use the tools, if not as one of my professors in seminary encouraged his students “know what you need to know so you can know what you need to know.” Would it be great if the average pastor could sight read from the Greek and Hebrew? Well, yeah!  Sure!  Will it happen, I doubt it.  But is it unrealistic to think the average pastor could have some degree of humility to at least “have a measure of proficiency” in the languages?  No, I don’t think that is an unrealistic expectation.

Food for thought: you can learn just about anything you want in 15 minutes a day….

Here is one place to get a “dose of Greek” a day (2 minutes, just 2 stinkin minutes..”

an update

This week I’ve started my third Unit of CPE – our focus?  The On Purpose Chaplain: Intentional Professionalism.  We’ll be reading through Kevin McCarthy’s The On-Purpose Person: Making Your Life Make Sense and using that to guide us through parts of the Unit.  Yes, it’s more of a business book, but we’ll be using it to give direction as we learn about being intentional in our personal and ministerial formation as Chaplains.  That’s the most I know about it at the moment.

OnPurposePersonSo.. this means I am halfway through my residency and while I’ve learned much about myself in the process (and especially how I need to see and refer to myself in positive terms and not negatively) and hopefully have grown in ministry (I have long ways to go still) (CPE focuses on Pastoral Identity, Authority, and Formation as it relates to Pastoral Functioning), my understanding is we’ll be upping the ante and engaging in some even more courageous conversation particularly in areas of personal growth and change.  What are some of our weaknesses?  Are we willing to acknowledge those and will we be willing to make necessary changes to help ourselves grow?  Increasing in self awareness has to be an intentional act.  We have to be willing to “go there.”  While many people tend to avoid growing in self awareness (“it’s all psycho babble!”), it often keeps people in lower levels of functioning in their lives.  Growth and maturity in our personal lives comes when we allow ourselves to be open and known to others, and even to ourselves (no, many do not know themselves too well; many tend to live in a mythological world (or they put up a front or a facade) – they only present that part of themselves they have made up or want people to think is the real them when it’s not.  Part of the CPE process is learning to venture into places of our own self awareness that needs exploring so we can see those things in us and about ourselves that can prevent true ministry from taking place.

Well, like I said, I’ll be learning more.  I’ll try to share more too.

O, The Blood of Jesus!

Been reading through Hebrews lately.  Thankful for the work of Christ on the Cross and his resurrection!  Consider Hebrews 9:

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here,[a] he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands,that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining[b] eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifersprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,[c] so that we may serve the living God!

15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

16 In the case of a will,[d] it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it,17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”[e] 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

I know I am waiting…. are you?

Book Review: Questioning your Doubts

question doubtsIt is with thanks to author Christina Powell for the opportunity to review her book Questioning Your Doubts: A Harvard PhD Explores Challenges to Faith (IVP 2014). A little information about Dr. Powell from the Amazon site:

Christina M. H. Powell (PhD, Virology, Harvard) is a biomedical research scientist who conducted research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. She has been a research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and a research associate at Boston University. She is also an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God and a frequent writer and speaker on bioethics and issues of science and faith.
The core message of the book is that while doubts will arise over the course of our lives, it is possible to resolve those doubts by prayerfully and thoughtfully working our way through them.  It is important we not allow doubt to derail our faith life and sense of calling but rather to allow them to challenge us toward greater faith and sense of the calling God has on our lives as Christians.   In writing the book, Powell seeks to equip Christians with effective means to question their doubts.
She writes in the introduction:
Whether you are experiencing potentially faith crippling doubt about the existence or the goodness of God, a doubt about your life direction, or a doubt about your own ability to accomplish a certain task, this book will help you think through your doubts, understand the various resources of doubts and work towards resolving those doubts (10).
This was a very appealing book for me.  I am a thinker, to a fault.  But Powell did well to help me think through some of the doubts that I deal with. For me those are not faith harming but have more to do with my sense of personal identity and life calling/direction.  I am at a pivotal time in my life right now as to what direction I need to go in regards to vocation.  Her book is helping me, a thinker, think my way through this.  Some people are feelers and others are thinkers. This book will be great for the thinkers and especially those thinkers who tend to be crippled by their thinking.
Powell actually confronts this issue of thinking.  It’s perfectly okay.  Our minds and ability to think are integral parts of how God made us – he made us to be thinkers.  I highlight this because I (as well as Powell) come from a faith tradition that tends to eschew thinking for faith as though they are mutually exclusive.   They are not and even Jesus said thinking is one way we love God (You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength).  Too often we downplay the life of the mind.
Faith, facts, and personal experience come together when a person embraces Christianity.  Knowledge of the historical facts of Christianity combines with a person’s experience of peace and joy to form a reasonable basis for belief.  Yet belief in the provision of eternal life to those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior remains a matter of faith.  Knowledge without trust is meaningless for salvation although trust flows from knowledge (46).
I share this quote because for me I found it hit at the heart of the author and the wisdom she desires to share.  It is thoughtful, informed, and pastoral. Powell doesn’t just write and tell you to have faith and stop doubting (like a lot of people do in a misapplication of something Jesus said) but she truly desires to help people work through doubts in their lives and to grow in their faith and relationship the Lord.  She does this in a very wise, gentle, humble, and pastoral way – this book could be used in a discipleship situation where a few people read it together and talk about it – or even could be used as a means of spiritual direction.
I greatly appreciated reading this book and receiving pastoral care from the author.  It was and is faith building.  Now I don’t want to sound too glowing, I know not all people read a book the same way nor do they read it and react the same way – we all respond to things differently.  If you have an allergy to the thinking life and instead prefer faith and such, well you could hate this book or you might learn from it and be freed from the shackles of the un-thinking life.  I report, you decide.

one of whom the world was not worthy

Kayla Mueller, the American humanitarian and born again Christian was killed in a recent attack on ISIS by Jordanian armies in retaliation for the burning of one of their own.  She was one of whom the book of Hebrews speaks about “the world was not worthy of them.”

She wrote in a letter to her parents:

‘I will always seek God. Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love;

I find God in suffering.

I’ve known for some time what my life’s work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering.’ ‘I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you.’”

She also wrote:

I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else…. + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another.

She had a strong sense of purpose and she knew how and where to live out that purpose – where it mattered most – in the midst of suffering.  Even in light of the unfortunate circumstances, was was indeed one “of whom the world was not worthy.”  You can read one of her letters here.

Amos 2 and ISIS

from Dave Black’s Blog:

In Amos 2, God condemns Moab because it violated the corpse of the king of Edom by burning it to cinders. ISIS is now the target of concerted bombing by both Lebanon and the Saudis because of its desecration of one of their coalition pilots. What goes around comes around — or, as we used to say in balmy Hawaii, “Never spit into the wind.” Washington knows full well it helped to create ISIS. Now we are paying the piper.

That’s serious stuff…