Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ron Artest - Genius

Sporty today

Ron Artest was recently traded to the Houston Rockets. Yao Ming had an interesting reaction: "Hopefully, he's not fighting anymore and going after a guy in the stands," Yao said, according to the Chronicle.

Ron Artest at first reacted against the mischaracterization by saying that Yao had bought into all the propaganda about him. Then, he completely justified Yao’s thoughts:

“I understand what Yao said, but I'm still ghetto," Artest said, according to the report. "That's not going to change. I'm never going to change my culture. Yao has played with a lot of black players, but I don't think he's ever played with a black player that really represents his culture as much as I represent my culture. If you go back to the brawl, that's a culture issue right there," Artest added, according to the report. "Somebody was disrespecting me, so he's got to understand where I'm coming from. People that know me know that Ron Artest never changed."

So Ron was representing his culture, letting the people he grew up with that he hasn’t changed. Seriously, if that is your culture, why do you seek something better? Why don’t you seek to be a real agent of change and example to your culture? The majority of the people in that “culture”, who begin a brawl when they feel disrespected, are going nowhere. Ron was blessed with great athletic ability and worked hard to get where he is. Why doesn’t he show that side, the hard working athlete who seeks to improve himself and bring his culture along?

See the story in ESPN

Sports Notes

Should the Packers trade Brett Favre within the division? Absolutely. If they could get a high draft pick or perhaps two like the Dolphins received for Jason Taylor (a 2nd and a 5th) then you do it. You'll face Favre for one, maybe two years. He may burn you or he may melt down. Either way, you don't want him on your team so try to fleece the Bears or Vikings and reap the rewards of good draft picks. High risk, but I think it is very sorry to try to buy him off. They are offering him $2 mil a year for 10 years to stay retired. Get the draft picks, weather the storm and go on building your team.

The Yankees traded for Ivan Rodriguez yesterday (I won't call him "Pudge", that was Carlton Fisk's nickname first). He was traded straight up for Kyle Farnsworth. Good deal for both teams, the Tigers are having bullpen issues and Rodriguez was not happy in Detroit these days. My comment is on the prospects they traded in the last few weeks for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady from the Pirates. Every year they trade prospects to some sad sack team and get a player of decent quality back. I wish I had access (and the desire) to look at all of the prospects that the Yankees have traded in the Brian Cashman era and see how many pan out. I can't recall very few. I may need to send an email to one of the best baseball writers (and bloggers) Joe Posnanski. If you like the Royals (yawn) or just love the game, Posnanski's blog is a must read.

I was extremely pleased with Chris Carpenter last night. Hasn't thrown a major league pitch since opening day of '07. Went 4 innings, struck out two, walked two, five hits, but only one run. You saw his competitiveness in that for the first three innings he was in trouble, but battled back and gave up only the single run. If you go back and look at the statistics, he very well may have been the best (or at least second best) pitcher in the major leagues for the '04-06 seasons. Welcome back! Nowif the Cards can get their other ace back (Wainwright)...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Some More on Timothy

Paul calls Timothy his son in several places in his letters (1 Cor. 4.17, Phil. 2.22, 1 Tim. 1.2). He calls Timothy his fellow worker (Rom. 16.21; 1 Thes. 3.2; 1 Cor. 16.10 [literally says that Timothy is carrying out the work of the Lord, just as Paul was]).

He was a frequent collaborator and was named as a co-sender of several of Paul’s letters: 1 and 2 Thessalonians; 2 Corinthians; Colossians; Philemon and Philippians.l

Here is what I find remarkable. Look at all of the assignments Paul gave Timothy. He sent Timothy to Thessalonica to strengthen and encourage the church there (1 Thes. 3.1-2). He sent him to Corinth to remind his church of his ways and to warn them from falling victim to false teaching (1 Cor. 4.16-17; 16.10). He sent him to Philippi to help with dissension and to give them a report of Paul’s well being (Phil 2.19-24). And of course he sent him to Ephesus to teach the true gospel in the face of the spread of false teaching (1 Tim. 1.3).

Basically, if Paul needed to be somewhere and couldn’t make it himself then he sent Timothy, his right hand man, his trusted collaborator, his fellow worker and his true son in the faith.

Timothy must have been a man of true courage, impeccable integrity and a man worthy of his calling an ambassador of Christ.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Timothy the Man

I have been doing a series on Sunday nights at my church on 1 Timothy. We began by looking at the background issues surrounding the letter, like authorship (Paul the Apostle), to whom it was written (Timothy) and where Timothy was when he received it (Ephesus).

I began to look at how Timothy began to travel with Paul. The account is found in Acts 16, when Paul came to a city in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) named Lystra. Timothy is described as a disciple who was half Jewish. The leaders of the church (that Paul founded) spoke well of him and Paul wanted to take him along, thus Timothy began a relationship with Paul that would prove fruitful to Paul and to several of the churches that Paul started. I wanted to back up and look at Paul’s first visit to Lystra to get a sense of what Timothy knew of Paul

Paul and Barnabas visited Lystra on Paul’s first missionary journey. They healed a man who had never walked and the people thought they were gods sent to earth. Paul showed great humility and deflected the praise and glory to his God. His success there prompted opposition from zealous Jews (like he had been). They stoned him and left him for dead outside of the city. It makes me wonder, what kind of impression did Paul leave on Timothy for him to leave with Paul? The last time he saw Paul, someone was trying to kill him and the next swing through town and Paul wants to take Timothy along. This passage speaks to me in two ways. One, what kind of impression did Paul leave on Timothy that he would want to follow him? All he knows is that to follow Paul may result in someone trying to assassinate me. Paul must have been seen as a type superhero for Timothy to follow him. Two, Timothy must have had incredible courage to follow Paul. He knew the potential danger and hardship that may accompany a trip with Paul.

It makes me wonder what kind of impression that I am leaving on those around me. As a leader, do I inspire people to take risks to follow me? Am I willing to do things that may result in hardship for me but will result in the glory of God? I will post again on some clues we can find about what kind of man Timothy of Lystra, true son of Paul in the faith, was.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

I go to about one movie a year in the theater and this was it. I had to go by myself (wife out of town and I still don't have a lot of close friends yet in Columbia).

The Dark Knight is a stunning and disturbing film filled with moral dilemmas. Who would you kill in order for another person (or other persons) survive? What if those persons were immoral versus innocent? Who deserves to live and who deserves to die? If you had to turn a morally ambiguous person over to be killed in order for an innocent person to survive, would you? Those are the choices that Heath Ledger’s “The Joker” puts the people of Gotham City. He does this first with the hope of unmasking Batman, and then his goal shifts to turn a seemingly moral, upstanding and righteous man into a man of hatred and revenge.

The movie is not flawless and can get a little confusing with all of the action going on at times. Of course you have to suspend belief when you begin to think how the Joker was able to pull off a lot of the “stunts” he pulls. But the story line is entertaining with some unexpected twists and surprises.

All of the hype about Ledger’s “Joker” is well deserved. He made Jack Nicholson’s character seem like a buffoonish cartoon character. Ledger’s “Joker” is a psychopath. And yet you will find a few little nuances that make you chuckle without losing your fear of him. There should be no doubt that Ledger deserves a Supporting Oscar nomination.

Christian Bale gets the short end of the stick here as he is left to do little other than action scenes in his Bat suit. He really could have been anybody. In fact, at the end, I found his Batman voice to sound very similar to a professional wrestler’s.

There are some real twists and surprises that I won’t give up here. Aaron Eckhart was great as Harvey Dent, Gotham’s more conventional White Knight who initially does things the right way. I am glad that I am not as familiar with the Batman saga as other fans of the comic.

Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon is allowed to be fleshed out here and gives his character great strength in the face of some serious moral dilemmas. His character is given a speech that sums up the dilemma those who fight crime in the conventional way have with the concept of the “Batman”:
Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now...and so we'll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he's not a hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector...a dark knight.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Two Thought Provoking Articles

I am posting links to two very thought provoking online articles.

About the atrocities in Darfur - a truly disturbing and heartbreaking eyewitness account. Here

Michael Novak on the problem of evil and suffering and the existence of God. Here

Of Interest Perhaps Only To Me

I am looking forward to this site going on-line, but I am a geek about such things.
Codex Sinaiticus
The discovery of this Bible in the late 1800s is far more important than most Christians know. This is the oldest complete New Testament that we have. It is one of the reasons why there are differences in translations like the King James Version versus some of the more modern translations like the NIV or The NAS.

Here is a story on this Bible.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Worship as Liturgy?

Our term “liturgy” comes from the Greek term leitourgeo. In non-biblical Greek this term carries the connotation of that of service rendered toward the city as a good citizen or as service to the deity in religious contexts. In the Old Testament, it mostly refers to the activities of the priests in connection with service at the temple or in carrying out religious duties.

In the New Testament, it is used very similarly as referring to the priestly ministry of the OT. Paul even connects the immanent end of his life to “priestly” language in Phil. 2.17 – “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service (leitourgia) coming from your faith…” There is also the sense of an act of service like giving to the collection for the saints (Rom. 15.25; 2 Cor. 9.12) as “service” (or the noun form of leitourgeo). There is a further movement toward internal spiritual acts as seen in Acts 13.2 – “While they were worshiping (participial form of leitourgeo) the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said…”

The infrequent use of the term in the NT is connected partly with the OT. The end of the OT religious system due to the work of Christ means that the terms connected with the priestly, “official” system are not relevant to the priesthood of all believers.

When comparing the "official" Christian ministry with that of the OT priests opens the door for a more specific use of the term connected to the ministry of overseers or bishops (see the writing of the Apostolic Father Clement, 1 Clement 40ff.) In this way the term finally came to be used of Christian religious practices, especially communion, as they were overseen by an “officiant”, giving us the common meaning of “liturgy.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Compared to Hinduism

Picked up a book at the library and I wish I had known about it when I taught Acts at Southwest Baptist University. It is called Thirty Years that Changed the World: The Book of Acts for Today. I was thinking of working some material I had into something similar. Now I found this book and I don’t know if what I want to do is necessary. We’ll see…

The author, Michael Green, writes about the pasts of people he has known who have come to faith in Christ from different religious backgrounds. He tells the story of a former Hindu who was grateful of his Hindu past but wanted to make it very plain that in Jesus he found three things of which he never dreamed in Hinduism:

He found God as Father, a Father who cared about him personally. He found forgiveness of sins for which he had gratitude to Jesus. This was in contrast to the process of karma where there is no forgiveness: you have to pay your debts. And he found the Spirit of Jesus coming to indwell his life and start transforming him from the inside, supplying power and a joy to which he had been a total stranger. There was nothing in Hindu meditation, in which he had engaged, to begin to compare with that (page 39).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Random Thoughts

If you think I'm done with my "worship" series, you are mistaken. I haven't done leitougia or a look at worship in Revelation. But here I post some random thoughts.

Great article on combating AIDS in Uganda as well as combating political agendas -

Tim Chester (author of Total Church) wrote recently on evangelism in a pluralistic culture and had this observation about absolute truth

But if you take truth away you are left with pure coercion. If there is no right and wrong then there is only strong and weak. A feminist anthropologist was working in West Africa. When she challenged the mistreatment of women in traditional African societies, she was told by tribal leaders she had no right to impose her Western worldview on them. It was a line of argument perfectly in tune with her own postmodern views. She found herself forced to choose between her relativism and her feminism. If there is no truth then there is no basis to say the mistreatment of women is right or wrong. She chose her feminism. If there is no truth then you can’t challenge injustice.
Full post here - Tim Chester's blog

Ranking coffee in Columbia
On the basis of just the coffee alone:
The Coffee Zone – house blend (Rocket Fuel). Not only great coffee, but on my most recent visit they played the new Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin cd and followed that with "In Rainbows" and "OK Computer" by Radiohead.
Starbucks – anything brewed bold
Lakota – fair trade
Kaldi’s/Cherry Street Artisan – I think they both brew Kaldi’s coffee, which I find bitter and kind of weak. Twice I had Artisan coffee and it was lukewarm.

I have not tried Café Berlin yet. Need to make it over there, but it reminds me of Café Brazil in Dallas and I did not like their coffee very much (weak).

Kind of blah on the new Beck release, need to give it another listen, but Gamma Ray is fantastic. Download it for free on Spiral Frog, you can’t burn a disc or put in on most mp3 players, but you can sample the whole thing and see if you want to buy it. (You can do the same with Coldplay’s new release as well).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Worship as Sacrifice

In Hebrews chapter 9, the writer is discussing the sacrificial system of the first covenant. There were regulations for worship. The tabernacle was prepared according to specifications including a description of the Holy of Holies (the place where the Mercy Seat was, the place where the atoning blood was taken). In English, this discussion of the sacrifice is translated as “worship” (verses 1, 6, 9) from the Greek word latreia. We see this again in Romans 9.4 when Paul is referring to the institutions of Israel, the covenant, the Law and the “temple service” (NAS) or “temple worship” (NIV). The word temple is implied by both translations. The word again is latreia. The noun form of this word is found 5 times in the New Testament. In John 16.2 it refers to offering service to God in the form of members of the synagogue killing converts to Christianity. This service can be seen as an act of allegiance and worship to God.

The term latreia has the sense of service or duty to God. Three of the five instances of this term refer to the sacrificial ministry of the first covenant (OT). In the LXX (Greek OT), the term has a sacrificial connotation (Joshua 22.27; the rite of the ritual slaying of the lamb for Passover, Ex. 12.25).

With this in mind we look to Rom. 12.1. Paul encourages believers to offer their bodies as living sacrifices (zosan thusian) as an act of worship or service (latreian). Once again there is the connection of worship with the sacrificial system. Instead of offering animals as sacrifices, believers are exhorted to become the sacrifice. This is manifested as a “living sacrifice of inner life and outer conduct that constitutes…a service of God…” (TDNT).

How is this manifest in the life of the believer? I believe that our living sacrifice is best seen as acts of obedience. As Samuel told Saul, God desires our obedience above our sacrifice (or acts of worship; see 1 Samuel 15.22). A lifestyle that is characterized by true worship is one that sacrifices (worships) in spirit and truth. This is the self denial (and cross bearing) that Christ speaks of in Luke 9.23. You cannot separate worship from obedience.

A succinct summary of this concept from Deut. 10.12-13:

And now, Israel, what does the lord your God require from you, but to fear (revere) the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and his statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Trying to Wrap Up proskunesai

It may be helpful to take a glance into other usages of the word proskunesai in Matthew to get a fuller picture of how it this term is used. (See previous posts).

Matt. 8.2 – a man with leprosy comes to Jesus and kneels before him (proskunesai). The man knows that only Jesus can do what he needs in order to be clean so he bows as a subordinate asking a king to grant him a request.

This is very similar to the synagogue ruler (Matt. 9.2) who asks Jesus to raise his daughter. He asks an important man a seemingly impossible request. With no other hope, he bows before the one who can give him what he needs.

In Matthew 15, a Canaanite woman kneels before Jesus (proskunesai), begging him to answer her plea. Her answer to Jesus’ question shows she has put her faith in the one who can give her what she needs.

All three of these episodes (although not translated as worship) show supplicants beseeching the Lord as subjects might ask a request from a king. Their faith in Him is not misguided as the one who ushers in the Kingdom is mighty to save (and heal) and is worthy of respect and the humility (worship) they show before him.

Monday, July 7, 2008

More Worship in the Gopspel of Matthew

There are two incidents I want to cover here that English translations translate the word proskunesai with worship.

Matt. 22-33 – The disciples are out on the lake by themselves. A storm arises and frightens them. Jesus walks on the water to them. Peter also begins to walk but is distracted by the storm and sinks. Jesus rescues Peter and they climb into the boat. Those who were in the boat “worshiped” (proskunesai) him. This time they added the exclamation “Truly you are son of God.” It is important to note in the OT, it is Yahweh alone who controls the raging storms of the sea (cf. Jonah 1-2; Ps. 104.7; 107.23-32).

The worship of the disciples was in amazement over Jesus’ power of the natural (and supernatural). They bowed before him because of what they say he could do and in recognition that he was not an ordinary mortal. He was superior in essence and was worthy of them bowing down before him.

Matt. 28.9, 17 – This chapter records the post resurrection appearances of Jesus. First, when Jesus appears before the women, they clasped his feet and worshiped him. Later, when he appears before the disciples, they worshiped him (both times, forms of the word proskunesai). This could be the only response to the man who conquered the grave and came back as he said he would. This response would be to fall down before him, kneel, bow low or fall at his feet. The response is to pledge allegiance to their King and to their God. Proper worship is to bow before one’s God and pledge undying loyalty because he is worthy.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Worship in the NT part 2

John 4.4-42 (especially verses 20-24)
In this passage I am dealing with Jesus and his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. After perceiving that Jesus was some kind of prophet, the woman begins to discuss the proper place for worship.

The physical focus of Samaritan worship was on Mount Gerizim, close to the ancient town of Shechem. This is where the “faithful” Samaritans offered sacrifices. Of course there would have been direct tension with Jews of the period who believed the only proper place for sacrifice was Jerusalem. Even though the same word for worship is used as was in the previous post (proskunesai), one cannot disconnect in this passage the proper place with the proper worship. On both Mount Gerizim and on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the place of worship is where sacrifice is offered. I don’t think it is illegitimate in this passage to interchange the words for sacrifice and worship in this passage and do any harm to the meaning and intent of the passage. Tell me what you think:

Our fathers “sacrificed” on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to “sacrifice.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you “sacrifice” to the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when those offering true sacrifice will sacrifice to the Father in spirit and truth.

Jesus had asserted that the "place" of Jewish worship (the temple) was not going to be around much longer (see Matt. 24.2 and Luke 21.6). Thus, true worship would take place in spirit and truth. The temple's reason for being was the sacrificial system. If, because of the work of Jesus, the sacrificial system was no longer needed, then the temple as a place of worship would no longer be needed.

In this passage, when talking about the place, it is sacrifice and when talking about the attitude, it is worship, which is bowing down and offering allegiance and praise.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Worship in the New Testament

I’ve written on this before, but I have decided to write a series of posts on worship in the New Testament. I am constantly being taught “true” worship by song leaders. Most of this has to do with my attitude while I am singing or offering praise. While I think that singing and praise can be incorporated into worship, worship is much more than the 20-30 minutes of a church service that leads up to the message. In fact, as I encounter the English words worship in the New Testament, there is very little (if any) singing involved.

Matthew 2.2, 11 - 2“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.”

11And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

The magi arrived from the east, being led by a star, looking for the King of the Jews. The term used by Matthew to describe worship in verse 2 is proskunesai, which means to fall down, to do obeisance to (or to kneel or curtsy before), to prostrate oneself before a person. This was done before kings as an act of total loyalty and as sign of acknowledging someone’s utter superiority in rank and in essence. This would often be accompanied by prostrating oneself before a person, kissing his feet, the hem of his garment, the ground, and so forth.

In verse 11, the verb is coupled with another verb pesontes which means “to fall down”. Thus, the worship that the magi offered showed their respect, honor and humility before this “king of the Jews.” It also signified their obedience as willing subjects at the call of their master. The magi did this before they had received all of the information about who Jesus was and what he was going to do, they acknowledged his greatness and the pledged themselves to him.

Worship, in this sense, then can be seen as completely humbling oneself before Jesus and acknowledging his status as King and pledging oneself in total obedience to his will.