Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Great Night in Photos

And finally, one that says it all...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Grandad

'You are good and do good...' -- Psalm 119.68

At about 5.00pm last night my Lord saw fit to take my Grandfather from this earth. I continue to sway between having to 'not think about it' to thanking the Lord for the years he gave me with Grandad, to crying out of sheer sadness.

I can't describe the ways I loved Grandad; and to be honest I'm still processing it all.

He was a man who never had to say he loved me for me to know it. He was strong to the core, but always gentle with his grandchildren. He was kind and generous.

I was about one year old when my parents divorced, and my mom and my brother and I moved in with my grandparents. Though he had worked practically every day for his whole life, never slacking off for a moment, he cheerfully shared all that he had with our little family so that my brother and I could be raised in a nice home, surrounded by family who loved us.

I lived with Grandad for 17 years (and ask anyone who knew me, I was a brat for those years), but he never once made me feel unwelcome in his home.

On top of that Grandad and Nana would take us to the cottage every summer growing up for all of July and August. I have countless memories of boat rides, euchre games, badminton matches, cottage-painting, lawn-mowing and boat-making together with Grandad in what seemed like endless hours of cottage fun.

I owe who I am in large part to him, his example of hard work, and his endless kindness to me.

He was a good man.

But he was a man, and that meant his day would come. It seemed good to the Lord that his day should be yesterday. I cannot question my God. His wisdom is unsearchable, his grace immeasurable. But I sure miss my Grandad.

'The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. ... Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?'

'Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?'

Humans were not made to ever say goodbye.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I Love Christians!

I've been doing a lot of reading lately for several of my courses about textual criticism of the New Testament Greek texts. It's been really interesting, to say the least, and I've been learning lots.

One of the greatest things I learned was this. In the first century AD the copying of manuscripts was a highly developed profession. It would typically take place in what was called a Scriptorium. There an author would dictate (or, if they were making copies, then someone would read aloud from the original manuscript) and a whole crew of thoroughly trained men (usually slaves) would record the words being read. In this ways dozens of copies of books could be made in quite a short period of time, and quite inexpensively as well. It is remarkable to read about the procedures for training these men and for checking the manuscripts for accuracy as well.

But if that's the case, you ask, then why are there so many variant readings and wordings in hundreds of places in the New Testament? Shouldn't it be more uniform?

Well... here's the thing. If the New Testament were produced only for the rich aristocrats, it probably would have. But the average Christian was either a slave with no expendable income, or else just too poor, and couldn't afford to have a New Testament done like this.

But they were unwilling to live without a copy of the Scriptures. That's what I love about Christians. No matter how poor, no matter their circumstances, they depend on the Bibles as their very spiritual food.

So, they took to making copies. They made their own copies, had copies done by less than professionals, and found any way they could to get more copies distributed. Of course, since these are non-professionals doing it now, you've got all kinds of manuscript errors creeping in, which is unfortunate, but I can hardly blame them.

As an interesting side note, many scholars have conjectured that it was Christians who invented the codex (or, 'book') format of manuscripts, rather than the scroll, which was always used at this point in history. Why? So that they could each have their own copy of the Scriptures, so that they'd be able to carry it with them, and so that they could look passages up much more quickly. Can you ask for better motivation than that?

Their love for the Bible changed the way humans formatted books.

And most of us have about 15 translations sitting on our bookshelves in various formats, with all kinds of different study notes. Most of them are collecting dust.

I'm glad it was the early Christians who got the Bible first. They may not have copied it with all the accuracy we would've liked, but at least they loved it, copied it, made it their own.

What have I done with my Bible?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Chronological Listing of the New Testament Books

Today I thought I'd do a google search for a chart giving a chronological listing of the New Testament books, according to the date authored. Maybe I'm just a really bad googler or something, but I had a hard time finding something that was (a) easy to read, and, (b) worth looking at.

While there is much debate over the precise dating of several of the NT books, it can be quite helpful, I find, to think through the writing of the NT canonical books in their historical order. Since I couldn't find anything good online, I thought I'd put one up on our church website (you can view the chart here). I have found it quite an interesting and insightful study... hopefully it helps you grow in your understanding of the New Testament as well!

A chart of the New Testament Books in Chronological Order, according to Date Authored

A Far Green Country...: Join a Church Youngin'

A Far Green Country...: Join a Church, Youngin'

David Rainer has some excellent words of wisdom from the Scriptures on the church. Definitely worth the read!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Tertullian and Contemporary Biblical Ethics

Tertullian lived ca.150-ca.225 AD. He was born in Carthage, which is in North Africa (so he was probably a little darker than the picture would suggest). He was a man brilliantly gifted by God for writing. He wrote extensively on things like apologetics and ethics and often wrote polemically against the heretics of his day (eg. Marcion and Praxeas). He ably defended both Scriptures and the Trinity. In his writings--which are easily dated from the end of the second and early third centuries--Tertullian quotes from the New Testament, plainly citing it as being on par with Old Testament Scriptures, thus indicating an already accepted Canon, long before Nicaea.

All that said, Tertullian was not perfect (as no saint has ever been). Tertullian was associated with a movement in his day known as Montanism. Based on the teachings of a 'Prophet' named Montanus, this group believed that the age in which they lived was the dispensation of the Holy Spirit (the Old Testament was the dispensation of the Father, the Gospels were the dispensation of the Son). Since this was the age of the Holy Spirit, they relied heavily on prophecies and other miraculous revelatory gifts for their doctrine and ecclesiastical practice.

Citing John 16.12-13, Tertullian and the Montanists claimed that the ethics Jesus declared were not finally absolute, nor fully developed, but that they were all that the disciples were able to handle at that point in redemptive history. The Holy Spirit, who was to come, would then have the ministry of revealing a heightened ethic to Jesus' followers in the days and years to come.

It is absolutely essential to notice, however, to what end Tertullian and friends used this position. They argued for the insufficiency of Scriptural ethics in several areas: namely, marriage / remarriage, and flight from persecution. Whereas Jesus had made allowances for both of these, the Holy Spirit was now teaching them to advance beyond what Scripture had revealed to a higher ethic.

Why in the world would they choose these areas? Because that's what their culture demanded. Asceticism was the philosophical milk Tertullian had been raised on, and persecution had become the norm for Christians of their day. For Christianity to be consistent, relevant, and morally / ethically contemporary with the philosophical ideals of the day it needed to be advanced from what Scripture had revealed.

The irony, of course, is that looking back from about 1800 years later it seems absurd to us (in a completely removed culture) to suppose the Holy Spirit would counsel against marriage (or even remarriage after one's spouse dies) or that he would specifically command that Christians not flee, but rather, seek persecution.

Since we don't breathe that air, it smells real funny to us.

But here's the thing: People today insist on making the same mistake as Tertullian and the Montanists. No, not with the marriage / remarriage thing or the persecution thing (in fact, we're tempted to loosen the biblical commands here rather than tighten them), but rather, with the ordination of women to the position of elder, or to accept some forms of homosexuality as legitimate lifestyle alternatives.

People argue now, like Tertullian argued then, that the Bible's ethics are unfinished; they merely establish a trajectory that we must follow, and by the guidance of the Spirit (and by finding the 'spirit of the text') we can ultimately determine a better ethic than the one laid out in Scripture.

But it's all hoogly! I would be willing to bet--if any of us could be around--that 1800 years from now people will look back on our times and wonder why in the world we would think the Scriptures were insufficient in these areas.

Just like we look back on Tertullian and see him reading Scriptures and conforming Christianity to his culture, so we must see that we ourselves are always being tempted to do the same. The simple fact is that we live in a profoundly feminist, pro-gay culture. The pressure we face is always to accept these things. We have been raised and educated, indoctrinated from our youth to accept these things. The 'highest' of ethics in our culture is an accepting one that does not place boundaries on other people, especially when it comes to gender or 'sexual preference.'

Those are our 'hot-button issues', just like Tertullian's were asceticism and persecution. We must not be like him. We must stand firm and stick to the Scriptures. It is them alone which are able to make us wise for salvation, and them alone which equip us for every good work.

The real questions we must ask are not about whether women should be ordained as elders or homosexuality should be accepted; we already have the answers to those questions!

The real question that needs to be asked is this: Am I willing to stand on the authority of the word of God alone? Do I have enough faith in God to base my ethics on it, even when it makes me appear 'morally backward' in a culture of acceptance? Is God's word enough?


For a fuller treatment of 'Trajectory ethics', see here.
For another post on the influence of asceticism on Christianity, see here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Augustine's Love for God

My love of you, O Lord, is not some vague feeling: it is positive and certain. Your word struck into my heart and from that moment I loved you. Besides this, all about me, heaven and earth and all that they contain proclaim that I should love you, and their message never ceases to sound in the ears of all mankind, so that there is no excuse for any not to love you. But, more than all this, you will show pity on those whom you pity; you will show mercy where you are merciful;[1] for if it were not for your mercy, heaven and earth would cry your praises to deaf ears.

But what do I love when I love my God? Not material beauty or beauty of a temporal order; not the brilliance of earthly light, so welcome to our eyes; not the sweet melody of harmony and song; not the fragrance of flowers, perfumes, and spices; not manna or honey; not limbs such as the body delights to embrace. It is not these that I love when I love my God. And yet, when I love him, it is true that I love a light of a certain kind, a voice, a perfume, a food, an embrace; but they are of the kind that I love in my inner self, when my soul is bathed in light that is not bound by space; when it listens to sound that never dies away; when it breathes fragrance that is not borne away on the wind; when it tastes food that is never consumed by the eating; when it clings to an embrace from which it is not severed by fulfilment of desire. This is what I love when I love my God.[2]

[1] Ro 9.14

[2] Aurelius Augustine, Confessions (translated by R.S. Pine-Coffin, © Penguin Books, 1961), 211-212.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Mozambique Christian Book Ministry Fund

It hasn't really hit me until recently just how much of an incredible blessing it is to have access to books. It's something that both as a student, and as a pastoral assistant I take for granted.

Being able to read good books is something that is absolutely essential if we are to safeguard sound doctrine. God only knows what havoc I would wreak on the church if I was left to my own best guesses about what biblical texts mean, without ever having been able to read good books.

But now imagine that you're in Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world, and you couldn't afford a book if one was available. You speak Portugese; a language in which not many great theological treatises have been published. But even if there were good books in Portugese, there is no Chapters-Indigo or Amazon.ca to simply order from. There's simply no way to get books, and no way to pay for them.

Imagine the pressure of having to teach God's people week-in and week-out with no books, no resources, no education, no theological training. That is the reality for the pastors of Mozambique.

But there is hope! At Grace Fellowship Church we've been raising money this year for the Mozambique Christian Book Ministry Fund. You can read all about it at the kerux's blog.

If you don't think you can afford to give anything, check out this horrendously convicting post, and then think through your life. What better way to take even a little bit of money and make a huge impact for the gospel efforts in Mozambique? For each book we get into the hands of a pastor, dozens, if not hundreds of people will be blessed for generations!

For more info (including details on how to give to the cause) see kerux noemata: The Mozambique Christian Book Ministry Fund

Monday, February 05, 2007

Doctrine and Love

This morning I was blessed in my reading of 1 Timothy. I was quite refreshed to read Paul's words to Timothy:

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
When Scripture records for us Paul's letter to this young pastor (the first generation of non-apostolic church leaders), and gives us the apostle's commission for the ministry, I think it is wise (to say the least!) to heed his words.

Paul has told Timothy already that he is to stay at the church in Ephesus and minister there. And what is the aim of that ministry? Love. Paul does not need to go on any more about love... Timothy has been with Paul long enough to know what an essential role love plays in the thought of Paul, and the life of the church.

For example, 1 Corinthians 13, the passage everyone likes to cite about love, comes right in between chapters 12 and 14, which are all about church life. What is it that is to be the governing rule in the life of a church? Love.

Why love? Because love is the fulfilling of the law. Love for God, first and foremost, and then out of that love flows love for brothers and sisters in Christ, and then love for the rest of the world. This all, of course, comes as no real surprise to us.

What I did find interesting today, however, was to ask myself as I was reading, 'How is it that Timothy is to fulfill his charge, so as to bring about love in the life of the local church where he ministers?'

The answer is not what we would expect.

Timothy is to fulfill his charge to stir his people up to love by protecting sound doctrine.

In our day, in our part of the world, you don't hear that kind of thing very much. Either you get the loosey-goosey kind of theology where we're told 'doctrine divides', so we shouldn't think about it, or else you might get trendy 're-invent, re-think, revise' camp that is more interested in asking questions and pointing out errors than getting answers.

This is not the logic of man, but the logic of God from his inspired word. The verses immediately preceding Paul's statement quoted above insist that Timothy charge people not to teach false doctrines or to focus on side issues, but to stick to the gospel as it had been taught.

Throughout the rest of the book of 1 Timothy (and then again and again in 2 Timothy as well), Paul exhorts Timothy to protect doctrine, to guard the deposit, to rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine, to always preach, always teach the word, always protect the gospel that Paul had taught him.

Why? Why must he protect doctrine? The goal of all that he does is love in his people. There are no fewer than 3 major lessons I need to learn from that.
  1. I need to stand fast against all false doctrine.
  2. I need to make love the end goal of all ministry.
  3. If love is not the result of the doctrine, then either the teaching, the teacher, or those being taught are in the wrong, because the goal of gospel teaching is always love.
In contrast to whatever the pop church culture of our day tells us, it is correct doctrine that will unite God's church, and correct doctrine that will stir Christ's bride up to love in increasing measure. It is only in the true gospel that true love is shown, and only when the true gospel is preached with conviction, and believed on with resolution will men come to love God and love one another from a pure heart.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

What's up with that?

For those of you who subscribe to the rss for this site (yes, I know there are at least three of you), you've probably been wondering why it's been going haywire with old articles over the past few days.

I've recently been investing the allotted 'blogging' time from my schedule to bringing over old posts that I wrote on my old blog site into this one. I've also been trying to take advantage of this new blogger software, which allows for posts with labels, so that things can be a tad more organized.

If you scroll down a little bit, you'll see on the sidebar on the right, I now have a section there titled: 'Things I've written about' or something like that. I've never had stuff sorted into categories before, and it has been somewhat tedious and laborious (although it was quite funny to see how the posts from a couple years ago are remarkably different than the ones I'm posting now...), so hopefully it ends up being helpful to someone someday.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Hockey Post

It's not often I post about sports, but I couldn't resist this time. I came across an article by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports on the topic of Gary Bettman's 15th anniversary as commissioner of the National Hockey League.

In this article, he said everything I've thought about Bettman and the job that he has done better than I ever could. If you're a hockey fan (or even if you're a Sabres fan), this is an important read.

If online petitions were good for anything other than wasting time and filling up people's inboxes with spam, I'd definitely start one to get Bettman out. That guy stinks at his job, and everyone seems to know it except the NHL Board of Governers. What's up with that?