Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"By their fruit you shall know them"

Scot McKnight has had an ongoing series of posts on the Sermon on the Mount. The most recent one is called Follower or fraud and discusses how you will know a false prophet. We were just talking about that on Sunday. Miracles and things like that don't prove that someone is from God. The scripture is very clear that you will know them by their fruit. As Scot says, "It may take time; and we may find ourselves committed to them and listening to them and learning [from] them but, eventually so it seems, character will win out and we will see them for who they are by the way they behave."

First new Eisenbrauns title of the year

Just arrived yesterday afternoon, fresh from Israel (it's a co-publication with Magnes Press). We were told it would be here at the end of January, and you can't get much closer than the 30th :)

Biblical Hebrew in Its Northwest Semitic Setting

Biblical Hebrew in Its Northwest Semitic Setting
Typological and Historical Perspectives
Edited by Steven E. Fassberg and Avi Hurvitz
324 pages, English
ISBN: 1575061163
Your Price: $45.00

Here's a list of what's in it:

Moshe Bar-Asher The Qal Passive Participle of Geminate Verbs in Biblical Hebrew
Joshua Blau Problems of Noun Inflection in Arabic: Reflections on the Diptore Declension
John A. Emerton 'The Kingdoms of Judah and Israel and Ancient Hebrew History Writing
Steven E. Fassberg Sequences of Positive Commands in Biblical Hebrew
W. Randall Garr The Paragogic run in Rhetorical Perspective
Edward L. Greenstein Forms and Functions of the Finite Verb in Ugaritic Narrative Verse
John Huchnergard On the Etymology of the Hebrew Relative
Avi Hurvitz Continuity and Change in Biblical Hebrew: The Linguistic History of a Formulaic Idiom from the Realm of the Royal Court
Jan Joosten The Disappearance of Iterative WEQATAL in the Biblical Hebrew Verbal System
Menahem Zevi Kaddari Homonymy and Polysemy in the New Modern Hebrew Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible
Geoffrey Khan Some Aspects of the Copula in North West Semitic
André Lemaire Hebrew and Aramaic in the First Millennium BCE in the Light of Epigraphic Evidence (Socio-Historical Aspects)
André Lemaire and Ada Yardeni New Hebrew Ostraca from the Shephelah
Mordechay Mishor On the Language and Text of Exodus 18
Adina Moshavi The Discourse Functions of Object / Adverbial-Fronting in Biblical Hebrew
Alviero Niccacci The Biblical Hebrew Verbal System in Poetry
M. O'Connor The Human Characters' Names in the Ugaritic Poems: Onomastic Eccentricity in Bronze-Age West Semitic and the Name Daniel in Particular
Frank H. Polak Linguistic and Stylistic Aspects of Epic Formulae in Ancient Semitic Poetry and Biblical Narrative
Elisha Qimron The Pausal Patah in Biblical Hebrew
Gary A. Rendsburg Israelian Hebrew in the Song of Songs
List of Contributors

Monday, January 30, 2006

Idle musings about a different Sunday

Yesterday morning (Sunday) we woke up with a leaking roof. Consequently, we were late to our house church gathering, showing up in time for the meal following. As we sat around the table, church happened. One person offered a can of roofing patch, another person, who had worked in roofing, offered to come and help me find the leak if I couldn't. All that is neat, but what really was nice is that they had delayed having communion until we got there. After the noon meal and some time talking and discussing various and sundry subjects, everyone (including the children, of which there are many) gathered again. It was observed that the early church celebrated communion during the love feast and that the modern church during the "worship service," but it seemed especially appropriate that communion should happen in the midst of our normal daily doings. After all, communion is celebrating Christ and what He did for us, and that happens right in the middle of life.

Late afternoon, we headed home. I made pita bread for supper, which we enjoyed with tomatoes, broccoli sprouts and colby cheese, and then proceeded to locate the leak, I think... On the whole, a most enjoyable, but different day.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Earlier this week our church had a prayer meeting and during the meeting one of the men felt God was convicting him that he had to seek forgiveness from his ex-wife. They had been divorced for over 16 years and he had let the unforgiveness go, thinking time would make it go away. While I was thinking inside myself, "How can anyone let unforgiveness fester that long?" God "hit me up the side of the head" as they say around here. I needed to seek forgiveness from a co-worker for something that I had done in November. I knew it, but had been putting it off. Talk about an object lesson in the Sermon on the Mount and the speck versus the log!

I confessed my sin to the group in letting unforgiveness go. But, now the tough part, asking the person to forgive me. I put it off until today, and was on my way home when I felt that nudge. I turned around and went back. But, did I do it? NO! I got distracted by some other things, talked to the person and left. Totally forgot why I had come back. As I was walking across the parking lot, I felt that nudge again. "I'll look like a fool if I go back now," I said to myself. Well, the option was a weekend of misery because of disobedience. I turned around again and walked back. This time I did it, I managed to ask forgiveness. And the other person lit up and forgave me. They knew I needed to do it, I knew I needed to do it and they were more than willing to forgive.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


I just ran across this post on a recent sermon by Tony Compolo:

"What should you buy for someone who has everything? Nothing!" Dr. Campolo said in the keynote address at St. Andrew Presbytery's "Tapestry" training event. "But we just came through Christmas, and you didn't have the guts to pull it off, did you?"

"A whole generation is being seduced by consumerism into a lifestyle diametrically opposed to Christian values," he said, lamenting that even education is sold as a way to make more money to buy more consumer goods.

"No!" he thundered, invoking Paul's admonition to Timothy. "An education is 'to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

Campolo challenged audience members to aim for doing the most good, not having the most comfortable life...

Campolo said some critics have labeled the Christianity he preaches - that eschews war and supports the poor and demands a life sacrificed to the service of others - "dangerous."

"When did Christianity cease being dangerous?" he asked. "That's when it ceased being Christianity."

<idle musing>
Yes! What more can be said? Let the flames commence :)
</idle musing>

Training of the Twelve

I have had this book for about 27 years, Debbie gave it to me on my first birthday after we got married. I started it at the time and got to page 200; there was still a calendar bookmark for the year 1979 there. I don't remember why I stopped there, it is over 500 pages.

Anyway, I have always heard this book praised as a good read. Well, I have managed to get to page 70 in about a week. I find it to be overly wordy and stating the obvious. Perhaps its just me. I will continue to wade through it, but won't be surprised if I give up again—probably at about page 200 :)

Has anyone else read the book? If so, what were your reactions? It is considered a classic, and has been reprinted many times by different publishers.

Monday, January 23, 2006

No fear in love

Jim West's new blog has a decidedly pastoral slant to it, as opposed to the more academic slant of his previous one. He had a good post on Friday on I John 4:18. Here's a portion of it:

"...those who know the love of God know that everything that happens has to receive God's permission first. And if God permits it, he knows what he's doing and that "all things work together for good to those who love God" as Paul reminds his Roman readers. Indeed, for such persons, terror is a toothless dog. It barks, it growls, it may even bite- but it's bite is ineffective; nothing more than a shadow of a jest.

"Perfect love casts fear aside because fear is the absence of love, and trust. Leave fear to those who do not trust God. It's their territory. Let them have it since it's a desert anyway that no one in their right mind would want to inhabit."

<idle musing>
As I commented on his site:
"Excellent observation. This text has been coming to my mind many times lately with the avian flu scare and the terrorist scare and the price of gasoline and natural gas rising and... One could go on and on. But, with God in control, there need be no fear. It ties in very nicely with Matthew 6 about the birds and flowers--we need a heavenly perspective."
</idle musing>

Saturday, January 21, 2006

What is an adult?

Just ran across this post over at A Place for the God-Hungry about what it means to be an adult (thanks to Scot McKnight for pointing it out).

Here is his list:

So what does it mean to be an adult?

* An adult is learning to take responsibility for her life. An adult learns to say, "I did it" or "I was mistaken" or "I was wrong." An adult is not forever blaming people for where she is in life. An adult does not spend the workday whining about this and that. An adult learns to take responsiblitiy for what she has control over and move on.

* An adult does not use people to prop up his sagging ego. An adult can focus on another person, compliment and affirm without always turning the conversation to himself. Even the person who is always denigrating himself may be doing that in an effort to keep the attention focused on himself.

* An adult considers the implications of his behavior on other people. "If I don't come through with my part of the project, how will that impact the other team members?" An adult considers the schedules of others instead of being consistently and regularly late (which communicates to others "I care more about what I am doing than causing you to always have to wait on me."

* An adult follows through. "I'll give you a call." "I'll put you in my prayers." "I'll bring this book right back." Do you follow through? Do people know that when you say you will call that you will call? Do they know that when you say, "Let's have lunch" that you are serious? Or do they know that you rarely follow through on what you say? I was visiting with a friend the other day. He told me of a mutual friend who one day said to him, "Let's all get together for dinner soon." My friend said, "I knew that would be the last I would ever hear of that unless I took the initiative to make it happen. That guy is always saying such things but doesn't follow through."

<idle musing>
I hope he grades on a curve :)
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Just arrived at Eisenbrauns, Enuma Elish

I love my job, it gives me the chance to drool over all the new books as they arrive. This one has been asked for by many people for a long time and it just arrived. Of course, if you don't read French, it won't help you much. But, French is a whole lot easier than Akkadian! Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project does very good work.

The Standard Babylonian Creation Myth

The Standard Babylonian Creation Myth
Enuma Elish
State Archives of Assyria Cuneiform Texts - SAACT
Edited by Philippe Talon
Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project - NATCP, 2005
xx + 138 pages, English and French
Paper , 175 x 250 mm ,
ISBN: 9521013281
Your Price: $34.00

Luke 12

"13 One of the multitude said to him, “Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (RSV)

I read yesterday that 40% of those who have credit cards are within 5% of their credit limit. Scary thought. Interesting that I saw on Scot McKnight's blog that he had a post from Matthew 6 entitled "Master Mammon." Ties in very nicely with Luke 12.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

How do we make moral decisions?

That is the question Scot McKnight is raising on his blog today. Here is an excerpt:

"Let me suggest at this point that there are five elements, and each interacts with one another rather than being a simplistic conveyor belt series of actions:

1. Biblical statement (and interpretation)
2. Church tradition (shaped by denomination or “brand of Christian”) and resolution
3. Cultural context and the legal system (don’t deny it)
4. Experience and individual conscience
5. Reason: penetrating, at some level, everything above."

<idle musing>
Of course number 1, right? But, numbers 2-5, even though we don't acknowledge it, are probably just as strong. In fact, numbers 3 & 4 are probably stronger than any of the other ones, unless we consciously exclude them. Personally, seeing some of the decisions being made, I doubt that 5 has much say in a lot of people's lives :(
</idle musing>

History and Theology

Lawson Stone who is in Israel right now has a good post on the interplay between history and theology, here is a paragraph from it:

"For me, the connection between history and faith mirrors the integration of life and faith. I never made a very good dualist, separating the concrete world of time, space, politics, economics, appetites, ambitions, hopes,and dreams, from "the faith." So history and faith are possibly just facets of one reality. In an era when more and more theologians, even evangelical biblical theologians, are claiming that "theological" interpretation should break away from reading the Bible in its historical setting, this becomes a vital issue. I wish I had a definitive way of stating and resolving these hard questions. An awful lot of awfully easy answers are out there, often masquerading as the latest in epistemological and philosophical insight. But even though I can't give a quick-and-dirty, sound-bite friendly answer, I believe more than ever that to read the Bible detached from the human, flesh-and-blood, incarnational realities that gave it birth, opens up not a door of hope, but of illusion, for biblical theology. Historical work is hard work. I don't blame theologians for their loss of nerve. Many times I've wanted to give it up myself. But again and again, I remember that St. John did not say "the word became text" or "the word became story" but "the word became flesh and dwelt among us" which means...God deigned to enter history, to become history, and so if we are to be able to proclaim God's historically incarnated word across cultures, we must first listen to this word across cultures. Indeed, historical study is the first step in genuine cross-cultural communication of the biblical message."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Tozer on Worship and Entertainment

Tozer is one of my favorite authors. He never fails to stimulate my thoughts and convict me. This book is a bit different from other ones by him, it is a collection of excerpts from other books and sermons by him on the theme of worship and entertainment. Here is a nice snippet:

"If you do not know the presence of God in your office, your factory, your home, then God is not in the church when you attend."

<idle musing>
There is a tendency among Christians to divide the world into secular and sacred realms. There is no biblical basis for this, but we do it anyway. What Tozer is reminding us of is that all the world is a temple to worship God in. There is nothing that a Christian does that is not meant to be worship. Nothing is secular anymore, because we have God indwelling us in the form of the Holy Spirit.
</idle musing>

Monday, January 16, 2006

Affordable at last!

Continuum/T & T Clark has finally released the long promised paperback version of The Tel Dan Inscription: A Reappraisal and a New Introduction by George Athas.

The Tel Dan Inscription
A Reappraisal and a New Introduction
Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series- JSOTS 360
Edited by George Athas
T & T Clark, 2005
352 pages, English
Paper ISBN: 0567040437
List Price: $49.95
Your Price: $34.92

Things that make you go "hmmm"

Over at Jesus Creed, Scot has posted this:

"Town May Make Carrying Condoms Mandatory

By SERGIO DE LEON (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press
January 11, 2006 5:34 PM EST
BOGOTA, Colombia - A western Colombian city councilman wants to require everyone in town 14 or older to carry a condom to prevent pregnancy and disease, outraging local priests."

Go see it for the details...

Amusing Ourselves to Death

I finished reading Amusing Ourselves to Death over the weekend. If you haven't read it, you should. Here is a quote from the chapter entitled "Shuffle Off to Bethlehem:"

"The executive director of the National Religious Broadcasters Association sums up what he calls the unwritten law of all television preachers: 'You can get your share of the audience only by offering people something they want.'

"You will note , I am sure, that this is an unusual relitious credo. There is no great religious leader—from Buddha to Moses to Jesus to Mohammed to Luther—who offered people what they want. Only what they need. But television is not well suited to offering people what they need. It is 'user friendly.' It is too easy to turn off. It is at its most alluring when it speaks the language of dynamic visual imagery. It does not accommodate complex language or stringent demands. As a consequence, what is preached on television is not anything like the Sermon on the Mount. Religious programs are filled with good cheer. They celebrate affluence. Their featured players become celebrities. Though their messages are trivial, the shows have high ratings, or rather, because their messages are trivial, the shows have high ratings.

"I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another religion altogether.

"...I think it both fair and obvious to say that on television, God is a vague and subordinate character. Though His name is invoked repeatedly, the concreteness and persistence of the image of the preacher carries the clear message that it is he, not He, who must be worshipped..."

<idle musing>
Wow, Pretty heavy statements. There are many other observations in the book related to how television has shaped the way we view reality. The scary thing is that this book was written in 1985. Think how much worse it is 20 years later, an entire generation has been raised since then who have been put in front of the tube as a babysitter.
</idle musing>

Friday, January 13, 2006

Eisenshirt day

Eisenbrauns bought all of its employees embroidered shirts recently. We could choose what shirt we wanted, and Eisenbrauns bought it and put the logo on it. They arrived on Tuesday and we decided to celebrate Friday the thirteenth as "Eisenshirt" day. We have various other "Eisen" days, the favorites being Eisentreat and Eisenbrownie day (food!!!). Anyway, Amy (accounting) and Marti (customer service) ended up getting shirts that matched their Eisenmugs. We just had to take a picture. In the background is "Rex the Ibex" and a bookcase of Eisenbrauns publications. Marti is on the left, Amy on the right.

New commentary series

Baker/Brazos Press has come out with a new commentary series. I know what you're thinking, "Not another set of commentaries, there are already too many."
Well, this one has a different focus. It is a theological commentary, and the first volume is done by Pelikan, so it isn't going to be the average run of the mill commentary.

From the prospectus:

"Jaroslav Pelikan initiates this forty-volume commentary series with his work on Acts. This commentary, like each in the series, is designed to serve the church--through aid in preaching, teaching, study groups, and so forth--and demonstrate the continuing intellectual and practical viability of theological interpretation of the Bible.

"Pastors and leaders of the classical church--such as Augustine, Calvin, Luther, and Wesley--interpreted the Bible theologically, believing Scripture as a whole witnessed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Modern interpreters of the Bible questioned this premise. But in recent decades, a critical mass of theologians and biblical scholars has begun to reassert the priority of a theological reading of Scripture."

So, what do you think? Give me your feedback (ok, I confess, I bought deep on this title...did I make a mistake?).

Here's the bibliographical stuff:

Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible - BTCB
by Jaroslav Pelikan
Brazos Press,
320 pages, English
ISBN: 1587430940
List Price: $29.99
Your Price: $20.96

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Amusing Ourselves to Death

I am finally reading Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. I have been looking for it for a while now and found it on clearance two weeks ago. There is a newer edition that just came out, so they were dumping the old one. Well, since Postman died last year, I suspect it is just a new cover. No, I see that it has a new introduction by Andrew Postman. Oh well.

Anyway, the introduction starts right in, "Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy...the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right."

<idle musing>
I, for one, am convinced that Huxley was right, as is Postman. But, I have always like Postman's stuff, going all the way back to The Soft Revolution
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Quote of the day

I received this from Jim Eisenbraun, who got it from Infoworld.

"Never take customers for granted. That’s it. If you adopt that as a mantra, you’ll either succeed and stay successful or you’ll go out of business because you say it but don’t really believe it." -- Tom Yager

<idle musing>
I would like to think that is what we believe here at Eisenbrauns. For over 30 years we have been doing it successfully enough to still be here :) But, nevertheless, we don't take any of our customers for granted, especially with the competition these days. Think about it, how often do you hear from a live person at some of the other booksellers?
</idle musing>


The Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Narnia book arrived! It is very nicely done, clean binding, nice layout of pages. I haven't had a chance to read much of it yet, but it looks good as an introduction to the theological background of Narnia. It does seem a bit high for the page count, but you will have to decide that for yourself.

A Theological Journey into Narnia

A Theological Journey into Narnia
An analysis of the message beneath the text of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.
by Markus Muehling
Translated by Susan Draper
Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2005
126 pages, English
ISBN: 3525604238
Your Price: $19.50

"Markus Mühling takes the reader on an adventure through Narnia. He opens the door onto this fantasy world, in a manner that is accessible and applicable to all readers, uncovering some key aspects of Christian theology and Western philosophy that lie beneath the surface of C.S. Lewis’ well-known story. Mühling offers an explanation of the underlying message in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, providing answers to some fundamental questions that readers or film audiences may have. Travelling further into Narnia, Mühling compares different interpretations of Jesus’ death on the cross. He links this with the implications that the Christian message has on everyday life. By presenting various models explaining Christian theology and western philosophical thought, this book guides the reader through the jungle that is different interpretations of life and death, sin and redemption, good and evil thus allowing the reader to form their own opinion."

Monday, January 09, 2006

More from Yoder

Yoder, in the chapter "Revolutionary Subordination" makes an interesting observation. He compares Christian social ethic with Stoic, and makes this observation (italics his):

"Here begins the revolutionary innovation in the early Christian style of ethical thinking for which there is no explanation in borrowing from other contemporary cultural sources. The subordinate person in the social order is addressed as a moral agent. She is called upon to take responsibility for the acceptance of her position in society as meaningful before God. It is not assumed, as it was in both Jewish and Hellenistic thought, that the wife will have the faith of her husband, or that the slave will be part of the religious unity of the master's househould. Here we have a faith that assigns personal moral responsibility to those who had no legal or moral status in their culture, and makes of them decision makers. It give them responsibility for viewing their status in society not as a simple meaningless decree of fate but as their own meaningful witnesss and ministry, as an issue about which they can make a moral choice."

He goes on to talk about about "subjection, which carries a connotation of being thrown down and run over," "submission, with is connotation of passivity" and his preferred translation "Subordination," which he defines as "a willing acceptance, meaningfully motivated." He fills it out for a few pages.

<idle musing>
I like his definitions. Perhaps more time should be spent in some circles on mutual subordination and less time on "submission."
</idle musing>

Friday, January 06, 2006

Friday funnies

I was cleaning out my old e-mails and ran across this gem from last August. I thought I would pass it along on the first Friday of the year. Enjoy, or not?

I planted some bird seed. A bird came up. Now I don't know what to feed it.

I had amnesia once -- or was it twice?

I went to San Francisco. I found someone's heart. Now what?

Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.

All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy.

If the world was a logical place, men would ride horses side-saddle.

What is a "free" gift? Aren't all gifts free?

They told me I was gullible ... and I believed them.

Teach a child to be polite and courteous in the home and, when he grows up,
he'll never be able to merge his car onto a freeway.

Two can live as cheaply as one, for half as long.

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

One nice thing about egotists: They don't talk about other people.

My weight is perfect for my height -- which varies.

I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.

The cost of living hasn't affected its popularity.

How can there be self-help "groups"?

The speed of time is one-second per second.

Is it possible to be totally partial?

Is Marx's tomb a communist plot?

If swimming is so good for your figure, how do you explain whales?

Show me a man with both feet firmly on the ground, and I'll show you a man
who can't get his pants off.

It's not an optical illusion. It just looks like one.

Is it my imagination, or do buffalo wings taste like chicken?

No explanations

Lawson Stone is in Israel for "j-term" as they call it at Asbury Seminary. He was visiting the Church of All Nations and saw a sign saying, "No explanations inside the church." He muses (italics his):
"this sign powerfully expressed the attitude of the church at large as many of us experience it. So often it seems that we play one kind of biblical knowledge, historical-cultural-geographical, against another kind, namely, devotional and theological. Some contemporary trends in biblical theology almost distort the concept of reading the Bible “canonically” (an excellent thing) into reading the Bible “on the flat” with no depth dimension of historical and cultural insight (a poor thing). It’s almost like using ignorance as a method!"

<idle musing>
Too true!
</idle musing>

House church musings

There is a provocative post over at Simple Church blog about "organic" church life. I quote from the third paragraph:

"Quite frankly their are many house churches that are dead as dead can be for lack of understanding God's organics. The bottom line to this is that the same principles of living life in the Spirit that lead to new works, Simple Churches and in some cases house church equally apply to enhancing the effectiveness and fruitfulness of modern & conventional congregations. All it takes is a willingness to being filled, being taught, and being commissioned by the Holy Spirit. Without this all forms, models or approaches to any kind of Church activity is all froth, all smoke, wood hay & stubble, and in the end illusionary."

<idle musing>
Form does not guarantee substance. I have been to house churches that are dead and I have been to mega-churches that are alive. If God is honored, he will be there. That said, I believe that certain forms tend to foster a more communal experiencing of God's presence. And the form that I prefer is the smaller house church/home gathering/Bible Study/Prayer group/whatever you want to call it this week environment. I know that scares some people off, but that is where I tend to encounter God the most. Not dissing any other form, God can, has, and does use them.
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The perfect cup of tea

Both Joe Cathey and Jim West are arguing about how to make a perfect cup of tea. As a longtime tea drinker, I must disagree with Jim. If you follow his advice, you end up with a cup of tea that tastes like old coffee! Maybe minimalists like it that way :)

On the other hand, if you do it Joe's way, you end up with a tea that is too smooth. Tea is supposed to have a bite to it. No way on the milk. For that matter, no way on the honey or sugar, either.

The correct way is to take either an individually sealed tea bag (I like Bigelow teas) or loose tea, add it to a French Press—1 tablespoon per cup & one for the pot, if using loose. Boil your water—preferably reverse osmosis filtered—add it to your French Press. Let it steep for a few minutes before pouring your first cup. It stays hot for at least half an hour in the press, longer if you put something over the press.

Now that is civilized tea. The bookseller way :) But, Joe, I will take you up on that cup of tea in D.C. next year!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Jastrow edition from Hendrickson

We've been waiting for about 3 years for this to appear—the new edition of Jastrow's Dictionary of the Targumim. Anyone who has been forced to use the miniscule print one volume version from Judaica knows what I'm talking about. Judaica Press came out with a little bit larger print edition last year, but it is still "dirty" and hard on my eyes.

The Hendrickson one was supposed to be retypeset and clean, we all could hardly wait. Well, the wait is over. It arrived today.

So what is the verdict? Well, it has not been retypeset. It is obviously several generations removed from the original. But, it is larger than the large Judaica one, in fact I can read it comfortably. So, if you are still using the tiny one from Judaica and your eyes are like mine, it is worth the money. But, if you have the newer Judaica one, don't bother getting this one. The print isn't that much bigger to justify another copy. Unless of course you are need a copy for home and office...

Politics of Jesus by Yoder

This is one of those books that I have been meaning to read for about 30 years. Originally published in 1975, I have the second edition, copyright 1994. It could have been written yesterday, it is destined to become a classic. I quote from chapter 6 (italics his):

"Because Jesus' particular way of rejecting the sword and at the same time condemning those who weilded it was politically relevant, both the Sanhedrin and the Procurator had to deny him the right to live, in the name of both of their forms of political responsibility. His alternative was so relevant, so much a threat, that Pilate could afford to free, in exchange for Jesus, the ordinary Guevara-type insurrectionist Barabbas. Jesus' way is not less but more relevant to the question of how society moves than is the struggle for possession of the levers of command; to this Pilate and Caiaphas testify by their judgment on him."

<idle musing>
Pretty powerful statement. Before pacifism is rejected, Jesus needs to be taken seriously. Not the sanitized Jesus of popular Christianity, but the Jesus of the New Testament. Not the Jesus of the scholar, conveniently reinterpreted in the scholar's own image (as Schweitzer showed us 100 years ago--but we still do it), but the raw Jesus of the Gospels. Not the politically correct Jesus of the Republicans or Democrats, but the Jesus on the Mount who calls us to radical discipleship in a new kingdom that is breaking through right now. That Jesus is not safe or easily put into a box.

Frankly, I prefer the one that we have sanitized; he doesn't upset my lifestyle. But, I am not called by the comfortable Jesus, but rather by the radical Jesus who demands of me kingdom living in an anti-kingdom world. An impossible task, but one made possible by the indwelling power of the Spirit of God!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sometimes life is messy...

"After some days Paul said to Barnabas, 'Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.' Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches." Acts 15:36-41 NRSV

We have been involved in house churches off and on for almost 30 years now. A house church is not for the faint hearted. You can't hide in the pew, you're in each others faces too much for that. It can be very rewarding, and at times it can be very messy. Our current housechurch had a messy time a while ago. There were some disagreements and 3 families left. It was to be a temporary leaving, but it has become permanent.

How to handle it? Last night those of us remaining got together to bring closure to it. We prayed and blessed them in absentia. It was very healing, hurts were released as we blessed them in prayer and asked God to prosper them. We sincerely wish the best for them and still love them.

The thing I noticed about the Acts passage is that there was no attempt to hide the fact that it was messy, nor was there an attempt to say who was right. All the church did was commend both parties to the grace of God and go on. We want the same to be true with our mess. No blame, no hiding the fact it was messy, just commend them to the grace of God and go on. It was a very healing way to start the new year.