Posted by: Curtis W. Lindsey | March 5, 2012

“The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller

MeaningofmarriageMarriage is not easy. In Timothy Keller’s latest book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (New York: Dutton, 2011), he—along with his wife, Kathy—write about the difficulties that arise when marriage is sometimes harder than we expect. For the married readers, this book “is for those spouses who have discovered how challenging day-to-day marriage is and who are searching for practical resources to survive the sometimes overwhelming ‘fiery trials’ of matrimony and to grow through them,” (pp. 10–11). Keller, Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, also writes for singles who need “a brutally realistic yet glorious vision of what marriage is and can be,” (p. 12). The book started out as a sermon series preached in 1991 which, Keller says on p. 11, has become the “most listened-to set of sermons or talks the church has ever produced.”

Summary of content

The book is divided into eight chapters that build upon one another as they discuss what it means to be married. Chapter one describes how the “secret of marriage” involves giving up of ourselves, as Christ did for the church. The power to do this can only come from the Holy Spirit, the topic of chapter two. In chapter three, Keller outlines the covenantal essence of marriage. In four, Keller seems to answer the primary question of the book as he outlines the “mission” of marriage: to help our spouses grow in their relationship with God. As Keller puts it, “[Marriage] is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us,” (p. 120).

Chapter five discusses how to love the “stranger,” that is, the person your spouse becomes after you marry them. Men and women are different, Kathy Keller says in chapter six, and we must understand these differences. Chapter seven is devoted entirely to singles—whether looking for marriage or not—and encourages everyone to give priority to a relationship with Christ above a marriage relationship. Finally, chapter eight deals with the mysterious union created with sex, how that impacts marriage, and how to avoid sexual sin.

Review: a book full of wisdom

There are seemingly hundreds of marriage books available, all jockeying for position on book shelves. The Meaning of Marriage stands out among the rest. It presents a well-balanced, thoughtful, and foundational view of marriage that serves as a reminder that God uses the challenges of marriage to refine us. As a “foundational” book, you won’t find too many “practical” lessons dished out on a silver platter, although some chapters have some great sections of practical advice, including the chapters on singleness and sex. Occasionally, the book seemed to “wander” a bit in the midst of several chapters and I felt myself losing focus on the direction Keller was going.

This is a book worth reading carefully and digesting. I found myself taking quite a few notes in each chapter, underlining a lot, and writing down many helpful words of godly wisdom. It presents a theological picture of what marriage can be through its discussion of Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5. To its stated goals, The Meaning of Marriage does a wonderful job of encouraging us to face the everyday challenges of marriage by reorienting their focus not on our spouse, or even on ourself, but on the Lord. The book doesn’t excel at being practical, but could provide good discussion for a couple through encouraging self-reflection and study on God’s design for marriage. I can seek this book being useful for a married small group, an individual couple, and perhaps even a couple in pre-marital counseling or a singles group.

I was challenged, humbled, and encouraged by this book, and I’m sure you will be too.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted by: Curtis W. Lindsey | March 1, 2012

Everybody Is Never Doing Anything

In preparing for my sermon this week, I was doing some thinking on the pressure felt by students to cheat because they feel like everyone is cheating. The rationale: everyone is cheating, so I must cheat as well to stay on pace. And then it hit me:

Everyone is never doing anything.

Well that sounds weird and grammatically difficult to understand. What I mean is that it is never true that every single person is engaged in any one particular activity, whether good or bad. Never. For example:

  • everyone is not cheating at school
  • everyone is not having sex with their boyfriends and girlfriends
  • everyone is not getting a car for their 16th birthday
  • everyone is not going to this or that particular party
  • everyone is not drinking alcohol
  • everyone is not bringing a Ninja Turtles lunchbox to school

Okay I think you get the point.

It might be true that many people are cheating, having sex, drinking, going to parties, being gifted with ridiculously expensive cars on their birthday, or secretly watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it is not true that everyone is doing this. In an adolescent world exploding with hormones and peer pressure, this is such an important truth.

So when you’re tempted to do something because you think “everyone” is doing it, or even when you’re tempted to think “everyone” is doing something, ask yourself this question:

How can I trust God in this situation?

How can I trust God to help me study, prepare, and do well in school without cheating?

How can I trust God to help me stay sexually pure?

How can I trust God when it seems like all my friends have something I don’t?

How can I trust God for good friends without sacrificing my Christian witness through parties or drinking?

Jesus said a few things about “staying salty” (Matthew 5:13), and I’m sure this applies even when most people are engaged in something that is not honoring of God. But don’t worry, everyone is not doing it. Trust God for help.

Question: what do you find most difficult to avoid because it seems like “everyone” else is doing it?

Posted by: Curtis W. Lindsey | February 20, 2012

Can God Be Tempted? [Updated]

Yesterday in our Sunday morning small groups, I sat in with our senior guys as they started studying the book of James. As we were reading and discussing, we came along to James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one (ESV).

One of our guys made a great observation about this verse and asked an even better question. He noticed James is clear by saying “God cannot be tempted with evil,” but then asked, “what does that mean for Jesus being tempted in the wilderness?” I love questions like this because it demonstrates that we are actually thinking about the Bible and its message. If we want to take the Bible seriously, we must be okay with questions like this… and seek to find the answer! The question sparked a lively discussion about the nature of “temptation” in our group. Here, I want to offer a few conclusions on the subject.

The relevant passages

Let’s briefly scan the relevant passages and get them out on the table. We’ll start with an extended quotation of James, look back at the temptation narratives in the Gospels, and end up in Hebrews.

James 1:12–15

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Luke 4:1–2, 12–13

1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry…
12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

See also Matthew 1:3–3a; Mark 1:12–13a.

Hebrews 4:14–15

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Observations from these passages

As we mentioned above, James makes it clear God cannot be tempted. However, Jesus (who is God) was tempted in the wilderness. The Hebrews passage gives us two important pieces of information: (1) Jesus was “tempted as we are,” and (2) that being tempted is not the same as sin. (For this, see also Romans 7:16–17; James 1:15.) How should we understand these passages?

A closer look at being tempted

The word used throughout all these passages, and all over the New Testament, is a common word that is translated “to test” or “tempt.” However, there are a few shades of meaning within this simple definition.

First, it can mean “to endeavor to discover the nature or character of something by testing,” and can be translated “try,” “make trial of,” or “put to the test.” This is where the Hebrews 4 passage fits. Jesus’ experiences revealed his true character, but this experience did not cause him to sin. We can think about Jesus’ willingness in the Garden of Gethsemane to “drink the cup” even knowing the coming pain (Mark 14:36). It is this kind of testing James has in mind in James 1:2–4 when he writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” This kind of testing is a positive experience, because through this kind of test we gain patience and are perfected in Christ.

Second, the word can mean “to entice to improper behavior” and be translated also as “tempt.” This definition is probably the meaning of the word in the temptation narratives above. Satan tried to entire Jesus into improper behavior, that is, to entice him into becoming independent from God through “taking matters into his own hands,” as it were. This is also the meaning in James 1:13. James says two things: (1) God cannot be enticed into improper behavior (sorry Satan you’re out of luck), and (2) God does not entice us into improper behavior. God reveals character by trials, but he does not encourage us to sin.

Conclusions

We should note the tight connection between James 1:12 and 1:13. In essence, James says “blessed is the man who remains steadfast when trials come his way” (v. 12), and “when trials come your way, do not think God is trying to bring you to sin” (v. 13). On, this Douglas Moo writes,

[James'] concern… is to help his readers resist the temptation that comes along with the trial. For every trial brings temptation. Financial difficulty can tempt us to question God’s providence in our lives. The death of a loved one can tempt us to question God’s love for us. The suffering of the righteous poor and the ease of the wicked rich can tempt us to question God’s justice, or even his existence. Thus testing almost always included temptation… But while God may test or prove his servants in order to strengthen their faith, he never seeks to induce sin and destroy their faith. (Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, Pillar New Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000], 72–73)

So to conclude regarding the original question: God cannot be enticed to sin (for what desire could God have to sin?), although the true character of Jesus was revealed through his ministry, death, and resurrection. In the same way, our character is revealed and refined through trials of various kinds, with the result that we would lack nothing (James 1:4).

Updated: I learned this morning (via George) that the ESV text in Logos has been updated to the 2011 text edition as well.

Posted by: Curtis W. Lindsey | February 15, 2012

The ESV 2011 Update

You might not have seen, but the English Standard Version (ESV) was updated back in 2011. The last revision came in 2006 (and the ESV was published first in 2001). Crossway seems to have settled on a five-year refresh cycle for the text, which is probably good practice to ensure the text stays within its objectives as the English language slowly ebbs and flows.

On the FAQ page for the ESV Bible, you can read a short letter from Crossway’s president, Lane T. Dennis, about the changes. Dennis notes that only about 500 words (out of 750,000) were changed (coming in about 275 verses). Dennis continues,

Most changes to the ESV text were made to correct grammar, improve consistency, or increase precision in meaning. In making these changes, the Committee was deeply conscious of the enormous responsibility entrusted to it—to translate the very words of God, with the greatest possible accuracy and precision, depth of meaning, and literary excellence.

For those interested in studying the changes in-depth, Crossway has provided an interactive webpage with a full list of the changes, in context, between the 2006 and 2011 text editions. I have not studying the list thoroughly, but I wanted to comment on a few of the changes that were of special interest to me. I noticed these examples primarily because of previous study I have done in the passages in question.

Jonah 1:3

(2006) But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish… So he paid the fair and went on board.
(2011) But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish… So he paid the fair and went down into it.

The 2011 change moves back to a more literal reading and emphasizes the repetition of Jonah’s movement “down to Joppa” (1:3), “down into [the boat]” (1:3), and “down into the inner part of the ship” (1:5). Contrasted with God’s call to “arise,” (1:1), it heightens Jonah’s ironic attempt to “flee… from the presence of the LORD,” (1:3).

Matthew 21:5

(2006) “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”
(2011) “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

The 2011 text dropped the “and” before “on a colt.” This passage (a quotation of Zechariah 9:9) can be difficult because Matthew (in the 2006 text) seems to indicate Jesus rode into Jerusalem on two animals (that would have been something to see). Mark and Luke only mention one animal. So was there a second animal, perhaps that came with the animal upon which Jesus rode? Maybe, but not necessarily. The word “and” (kai) is present in Matthew 21:5. However, the ESV 2011 text has left the “and” out to make the parallelism in the quotation a bit easier to understand. We could say “mounted on a donkey, even a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” This interpretation is grammatically sound, and when compared to Mark and Luke, make it a likely option for understanding Matthew 21:5. The parallelism in Zechariah 9:9 is a bit clearer. The 2011 text helps the reader in this regard. (See also the NIV 1984 and the NKJV; the NIV 2011 included the “and.”)

Mark 8:24

(2006) And [the blind man] looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.”
(2011) And [the blind man] looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.

This type of change tends to be presented as evidence by those who like to condemn modern translations as “gender-neutral.” To be clear, I am not advocating a widespread gender-neutral translation philosophy. However, this change is not an example of the ESV moving in this direction (although it might get “flagged” in a “statistical” analysis used by those wanted to condemn the ESV). Clearly, the blind man doesn’t mean that he sees “males, walking.” He simply sees “people” who look like trees. The generic word anthropos is used here, and it often refers to “a person of either sex, with focus on participation in the human race, a human being” or “a member of the human race” as defined by BDAG (the standard Greek dictionary). As just one example, see Mark 1:17, where Jesus says “I will make you fishers of anthropos.” Surely Jesus has in mind men and women.

Romans 1:13

(2006) I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended…
(2011) I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended…

The 2011 text is more difficult to read because of the double negative “not want… unaware.” However, this move (along with Romans 11:25) picks up on the theme of “ignorant” or “unaware” passages throughout Romans (see also 2:4; 6:3; 7:1; 10:3). The double negative is present in the original as well.

First Corinthians 7:21–23

The 2011 text changes four instances of “slave” to “bondservant” in this passage, and several more times throughout the New Testament. You can see the Committee in action on this issue in an earlier post. The new preface to the ESV actually mentions the discussion surrounding this move. (You can read this portion of the preface on Justin Taylor’s blog as well.) I agree with their conclusions and reasoning behind the move to “bondservant,” although I doubt many listeners/readers intuitively can define a “bondservant.” However, having to study a little harder, or a preacher having to be a bit clearer in his sermon, is rarely a bad thing.

Galatians 5:25

(2006) If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
(2011) If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

The 2006 text interpreted the metaphor for the reader, whereas in the 2011 edition the translators decided to leave the text a bit more literal. Deciding when to do this is tough, but here I like the move. Having taught this passage before, I feel listeners can “picture” the image of “keeping in step” with the Spirit. In fact, I taught this passage once to a group of junior high students and brought one young lady up on stage with me to “keep in step” with me as I walked around. It provided a good visual object lesson.

Ephesians 1:17

(2006) …the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
(2011) …the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

I’ve written about this particular issue before. You can see my introduction to the issue and my conclusions. Even after reading my own comments again, I’m still cannot say with great certainty which decision I prefer. One thing the ESV 2011 has going for it now in v. 17 is the repeated Trinitarian emphasis (which is displayed prominently in Ephesians 1:3–14).

Conclusions

So should you go out and purchase a new 2011 ESV Bible, if that’s your translation of choice? Perhaps, especially if you use study software such as Accordance, BibleWorks, or Logos, as these programs have likely upgraded their texts to reflect the latest edition. (As an Accordance user, I currently have the 2011 text on my machine, although I cannot check BibleWorks or Logos.) If you want to avoid confusing yourself in study (moving between the hard copy and electronic editions), then maybe you need to pick one up. Be sure to look at the copyright page before you buy to ensure it says “ESV Text Edition: 2011.” Alternatively, if your pew Bibles are the 2006 edition, then maybe you just make the very occasional note of it in your personal Bible when a change occurs.

And oh yeah, the New International Version (NIV) got an update in 2011 as well.

Posted by: Curtis W. Lindsey | February 6, 2012

Don’t Hire that Worship Leader

Looking to hire a “worship leader” anytime soon? Perhaps you should think again. Instead of just someone to “lead music,” perhaps you should be looking for what Constance M. Cherry calls, a “pastoral musician.” In her book The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), she defines a “pastoral musician” as “a leader with developed skill and God-given responsibility for selecting and employing music in worship that will serve the actions of the liturgy, while reflecting on theological, contextual, and cultural considerations, all for the ultimate purpose of glorifying God,” (p. 80).

Furthermore, she gives quite a few responsibilities of a pastoral musician. They are:

  • embraces and lives the Christian faith;
  • has a developed spiritual maturity;
  • has a sense of vocational call to worship ministry;
  • has primary responsibilities in worship and music ministry;
  • understands the relationship between music and liturgy;
  • understands that music is a servant of the text;
  • is accountable to God and to others for excellence;
  • views his/her duties holistically, with sensitivity to the larger purposes of worship, the Christian year, orthodox praxis, etc.;
  • understands the community of faith and the special nature of music’s role within that community
  • selects and employs music not for music’s sake, but for a greater purpose;
  • considers the Christian community and its need to both proclaim the truth and respond to the truth through music;
  • is not primarily interested in music that is passively received, but in music that engages all worshipers;
  • seeks to move worshipers from the role of audience to the role of active participants;
  • is interested in breadth of song—not only stylistically, but in tone;
  • understands that the gospel invites a variety of emotions, from gladness to sorrow, from that which comforts to that which convicts;
  • is theologically discriminating
  • helps the worshiping community to sing the whole story of God, from creation to eschaton

Many of these responsibilities echo themes throughout the book. So we’re talking about more than just someone who can play guitar, likes to drink coffee, and has a cool haircut. The role of a pastoral musician is to lead (think: pastor, or shepherd, both verbs) a congregation to receive revelation from God and to respond accordingly. That’s not a responsibility to be taken lightly.

I would recommend reading her entire book The Worship Architect. It is not just for “worship leaders” (or hopefully “pastoral musicians”). It is a resource for anyone involved in the holistic picture of a worship service, from the preacher and musicians to the Scripture readers, technology personnel, and even greeters. She provides a helpful picture of a how to “design” God-glorifying services that engages participants to worship in an active manner (beyond merely singing). It is practical without being too specific or easily “dated.” (For example, there are no instructions on “how long should the cross-fade should be between lyric slides.”) There is, however, plenty of guidance for those of us involved in crafting meaningful services that honor God.

What do you think about about these responsibilities? Would you add or take away from the list?

Posted by: Curtis W. Lindsey | January 29, 2012

“Real Marriage” by Mark and Grace Driscoll

Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. Along with his regular preaching duties, he is the co-founder of the church-planting organization called the Acts 29 Network and has founded the Resurgence, an organization that seeks to serve leaders through books, blogs, and conferences. Mark is the author of fifteen books, and his latest, co-authored with his wife Grace is entitled Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).

This book was born through the Driscoll’s pastoral experience of speaking at marriage conferences, counseling couples at their church, and fielding a variety of “taboo” or difficult questions related to issues of marriage and sex. It is a deeply personal book that does not shy away from the realities and difficulties of marriage, especially for the Driscolls themselves. They share openly about their marriage—the good and the bad—while teaching and encouraging the reader to pursue God’s best for their own marriage.

Book Summary

Part one of the book deals with marriage. In the first chapter, New Marriage, Same Spouse the Driscolls tell their own personal story, both before and after marriage. The second chapter, Friend with Benefits speaks about the importance of a husband and wife developing a deep friendship before and during their marriage. They write, “All the talk about spending time and doing life together, making memories, being a good listener, growing old and taking care of each other, being honest, having the long view of things, repenting and forgiving can be summed up in one word—friendship,” (p. 23, italics original).

Chapter three is on Men and Marriage and offers husbands a frank, stern, and needed discussion on their role as leaders of the family and the necessity of assuming this responsibility. In chapter four, The Respectful Wife, Grace instructs wives to embrace the need for respect within a marriage and the role respect (defined correctly) plays for their husband. Part one closes in chapter five, entitle Taking out the Trash, with a plea for couples to appropriately handle conflict and sin.

Part two of the book is about Sex, but its scope is actually a little broader. Chapter six argues for the biblical understanding of sex as a gift from God, and not something to be made its own god or denigrated as “gross” (Sex: God, Gross, or Gift?). Chapter seven, Disgrace and Grace is a very personal chapter where Grace writes about her own experience of being sexually abused and how we can start to recognize and deal with abuse happening around us. Mark writes in chapter eight about the dangerous consequences of The Porn Path and about how we must avoid this pitfall to build healthy marriages and spiritual lives. Chapter nine is entitled Selfish Lovers and Servant Lovers and speaks to the ways husbands and wives can serve each other in their marriage both in and out of the bedroom. Finally, in chapter ten the Driscolls ask and answer a variety of sexual questions in a chapter called Can We ________? If you’re thinking “do they talk about that?” the answer is probably “yes.” The book concludes in part three on The Last Day with a chapter called Reverse-Engineering your Life and Marriage. This chapter encourages couples to think about the end of their lives and build a system of goals in which they desire their marriage to attain.

Book Review

Real Marriage has drawn criticism from the wider Evangelical world for what it does, and does not, contain. (You can read several of the negative reviews here, here, and here.) Many of these reviews are disappointed with the Driscolls lack of reflection on how aChristian marriage between a man and a woman reflect the union of Christ and the church. They also point out several biblical interpretations what seem errant (bad biblical exegesis). And they all seem to blush at the explicit discussion in chapter ten, Can We ________?

After reading these reviews before I read the book, and having read the book, and having reread the reviews, I must agree with with many of these fellow reviewers. Real Marriage does seem to falter at a few points such as little reference to Christ and the church from Ephesians 5, the tricky nature of sex as a “need,” and the “unashamed” nature of Can We ________? Also like most, I found some of their conclusions in this chapter less-than helpful.

That said, let me speak to a few of the areas in which I found the book helpful. First, I believe the tone of the book speaks volumes both to the current (younger) culture reading these books and the Driscolls themselves. At least once while reading the book, I thought Mark’s level of self-disclosure made him look like a poor pastor. I believe, that is the point. They are very honest throughout the book, and I believe that tone communicates just as much as the content to younger readers. Second, I thought the chapters on husbands and the pornography were very helpful. As the chapter on husbands begins, Mark notes his tone will be honest; as a man talking to a man should be at times. He calls men to step up and leave their lifestyle of “indefinite adolescence.” This is a call that needs to be answers. The chapter on pornography likewise gives a stern call away from the sin wrapped up, not just in the multi-billion dollar pornography industry, but also in the more suble forms you can find in music videos and video games. Third, I must commend the Driscolls for approaching such a “silent” topic as they do in the chapter on sexual issues, Can We ________? I do not agree with all of their conclusions, but I do agree on their premise: “The questions today are different, and if people don’t get answers from pastors and parents, they will find them in dark, depraved places,” (p. 177). We should be talking about these issues, and using a biblical worldview to find answers. For the answer are out there… and people will get them from us (the Christian community) or somewhere else.

Conclusions on Real Marriage

I believe the Driscolls have made a contribution to Christian publishing on marriage that is a mixed bag. This is a book for a new generation of couples, and I think they will find it a unique read. However, I do wish they read it with caution, noting where the book falters at times and seeking additional guidance elsewhere. I also hope we all have the discernment to take that which is helpful and leave that which is not. I needed to do just that with this book. I am personally thankful, that even on areas in which I disagree, it has sparked helpful conversation between my wife and I. I would not recommend it as a “first read” on marriage or sex, but I do believe, with proper wisdom, it can provide guidance for those who are ready or looking for it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted by: Curtis W. Lindsey | October 30, 2011

“The Sacredness of Questioning Everything” by David Dark

David dark sacredness of questioning everything

In a continuing effort to expand my thinking, I’ve taken to reading books that help me understand other people and their perspectives. Thus, by recommendation of one of my interns, I picked up a copy of David Dark’s latest book, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009).

It is not an easy book to read, for several reasons. First, Dark’s prose ambles on at a sustained, yet gentle pace. I might compare it to a small stream wandering through the mountains adjacent to your chosen hiking trail. Because the stream never changes, you almost forget it’s there until you reach a dramatic shift such as a waterfall. Because you’ve been “lulled” into the steady movement and sound of the water, you’ve forgotten that there was anything actually going on while you were walking. For you, there was only the beginning of the stream and the waterfall. I do not mean this in a negative way towards Sacredness. It’s very well written, and perhaps the skill of the writer leads to this stead pace of movement.

Second, Dark’s affinity for art (in its widest possible form) leads him to often reference, allude, or simply mention in passing a dizzying number of movies, books, people, artists, and other such intriguing figures. This certainly adds to his work, but if, like me, you are unfamiliar with many of his references, you might, like me, find yourself feeling on the “outside” of his argument. (Although I despise “endnotes,” I am impressed Dark takes the time to cite sources and give credit where credit is due.) I imagine that you will instantly connect with a few of his references, a connection that will undoubtably provide moments of unexpected joy.

Finally, this book is difficult to read because it, well, questions everything. Dark writes about questioning God, religion, our offendedness, our passions, media, language, interpretations, history, governments, and the future. There is an equal opportunity for you to be upset, challenged, or perhaps sharpened(?) by his musings in one page or another. But it is a book that for me, was a necessary read. It helped me wrestle with a fact that I see every day as I work with teenagers: questions must be given their necessary space. I try my best, each week as I teach our students, to exemplify an attitude of humility and grace as I interpret the Scriptures and attempt to apply that to life. This means, for one, at least admitting that I don’t have it all figured out (hence I need to ask questions, especially of myself) and at most admitting that I just don’t know. Second, this means doing all I can to encourage teenagers in their own journey of faith, even when—perhaps especially when—they ask difficult questions. As the current motto of Dallas Theological Seminary reads, we must “teach truth,” while we “love well.”

Be prepared for what you will find in this book. It seems to me that Sacredness demonstrates the best and worst of what I understand postmodernism to be. On one hand, Dark offers a weighty but needed critique of our passions, fundamentals, and dogmas of living. Perhaps the things which are not open for questioning are just the areas in which we need to experience growth through the very questions we refuse to ask. But on the other hand, I am weary of the “ask questions but don’t ever expect final answers” manner of living. The oft-quoted response of Pilate to Jesus, “what is truth?” from John 18:38 in many ways captures the feelings of today’s disenfranchised culture. But there is danger here because at the end of our journey, there is truth to be found. There must be. If we fool ourselves into thinking that there is nothing to be found, why search or ask questions? Perhaps it is intentional that in the same Gospel that would ask “what is truth” can be found the absolute statement where Jesus claims that he is the “way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and that only through faith in him can we approach God.

I’m sure I need to read it again to really appreciate Dark’s words, but in the meantime, I’ll keep trying to learn, and question myself, along the way.

Posted by: Curtis W. Lindsey | October 16, 2011

A Glimpse Inside the World of Bible Translation

As a preacher of the Bible, I cringe when I hear other preachers say phrases like “this particular word is better translated _______.” The reality is that there may be good reason for the preacher to disagree with a particular word choice, but what seems to be communicated with the above statement is “you can’t trust your Bible.” As a preacher of the Bible, the last thing I want to communicate is that you can’t trust your Bible, or that you need a fancy degree to understand the word of God. As I need to remind myself all the time, “letters” behind my name (from a degree) aren’t everything.

The reality is that many Bible translations, and probably the ones you prefer and use, are the result of a committee of men and women who have dedicated their lives to studying, teaching, and translating the Scriptures. They read, write, and live the world of ancient languages and customs, long-dead civilizations, and complex background issues. Furthermore, they must be adept at modern culture as they seek to communicate the ancient truth of words written thousands of years ago to a contemporary audience.

Therefore I was delighted to see the following video. I first learned about it from Denny Burk’s blog. About the video, Denny wrote,

Last year the ESV translation committee met at Tyndale House in Cambridge, England to discuss revisions to the ESV. The BBC filmed a portion of their deliberations, and the video above includes their discussion about how to translate doulos in 1 Corinthians 7. The video gives fascinating insight into how translation committees do their work and deal with disagreements over translation. In the end, the committee votes 9-3 to change four instances of “slave” to “bondservant” in 1 Corinthians 7.

Among those participating in the discussion are Peter Williams, Gordon Wenham, Jack Collins, Wayne Grudem and Paul House. Lane Dennis is there as well as Justin Taylor, Bruce Winter, Clint Arnold, and J. I. Packer.

As you can see, each of the scholars presenting opinions have prepared their own individual conclusions on the matter (think research paper), and then after all the “papers” have been shared, the committee votes on the changes. This kind of revision is done periodically with all major translations, otherwise the language quickly becomes unhelpful in communicating to the culture.

Enjoy the video.

This is the passage in question, with the current ESV text of 1 Corinthians 7:20–23:

Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

Posted by: Curtis W. Lindsey | September 23, 2011

A Year Later: iWork v. Office

A little over a year ago, I was able to make the switch from PC to Mac. I have never looked back. However, a switch in the hardware didn’t mean I had to make a switch in the software. After all, Microsoft has made a great effort to stay relevant in the Mac world with their Office suites, the latest released late last year. Even Mac users have to be able to open Word documents.

Soon after making the switch to Mac, I was able to purchase iWork to use alongside Office for Mac. Now, a year later, I’d like to share my opinions regarding which productivity software I prefer.

IWork v Office

I use both iWork and Office on my machine. But before we begin, here are a few notes. First, I understand that my opinions are many times the product of my unique needs in using this software. For example, I know most users won’t need to type Hebrew, so my opinions on this subject won’t matter at all. (I’ve tried to include a few screenshots to demonstrate my specific needs.) Second, I understand that some of my negative comments regarding a particular software might be the result of my lack of knowledge about how to do something. Forgive me if this is the case.

Pages v. Word: Slight Advantage to Pages

Pages v Word

Word has always been the work horse of productivity software; I doubt there’s anyone who regularly uses computers who hasn’t used it on some level. Word for Mac is a good piece of software that allows users to easily create documents. However, I have to give a slight advantage to iWork’s Pages. Pages is a robust software built for more than simple word processing. For me, it has proven easier in Pages to create colorful newsletters or brochures. The built in templates are designed to easily accept your own media to create personal, semi-professional documents. Pages is not perfect. Certain tasks, like columns within a document, require additional preparation than Word. Neither Word or Pages handles right-to-left text (such as Hebrew well), but Pages struggles more than Word.

Example of Bible Notes 1

Example of NewsletterExample of Bible Notes 2

Because of its greater flexibility in creating documents, its ease of use for a majority of functions, and its easy integration into the wider Mac OS (like iPhoto, etc.), I give a slight advantage to Pages and I use Pages for almost all of my word processing.

Numbers v. Excel: Good Advantage to Excel

Numbers v Excel

Whereas Pages and Word are somewhat similar, Apple’s spreadsheet software, Numbers, is designed pretty different from Microsoft Excel. Excel is designed to be a blank spreadsheet first that demands you manage with the “production value” of the document (i.e. printing, adding graphics, etc.) second. Numbers is designed to let you think about the “production value” of the document from the beginning. Thus, when you open a new Numbers document, you don’t get a single screen of cells, you get a blank document with a small “table” in which you can manipulate around the page as desired. In Numbers, the tables are free floating and act much like a picture would in a word processing document. Because of this functionality, you can easily create some very sharp looking pages with a combination of tables (like a normal spreadsheet), pictures, call outs, or other details. It would take you much longer in Office.

However for me, this functionality also created the biggest obstacle. Numbers almost lets you do too much. It seemed difficult to navigate around and use, especially when I had a bunch of data or multiple worksheets. I used Numbers for a while, but ultimately went back to Excel and now use Excel for almost, if not all, of my spreadsheet needs.

Example of Event Budget

Example of Intern TimesheetExample of Lindsey Library

However, if you are planning on creating a one-page spreadsheet, for say a trip itinerary or budget, a recipe, or small calendar, and would like to “spice” it up easily with graphics, text boxes, or other “production” type items, then Numbers is the way to go.

Keynote v. Powerpoint: Major Advantage to Keynote

Keynote v Powerpoint

The primary reason I wanted to get iWork was because I had seen people use Keynote in the past and was impressed with their product. I have not been disappointed. Everything Powerpoint can do, Keynote can do better, faster, and easier. Keynote’s pre-made templates are stunning, and it is easy to create your own templates for multiple uses. Although Keynote suffers from one particular problem that Powerpoint suffers from, the abundance of useless in-and-out animations (please don’t use animations like “fly in” when you make presentations!), many of Keynote’s slide transitions are useable and look nice. It’s easy to export your slides to JPEGs for use in other software like ProPresenter (with a new JPEG for each “stage” of the animations within a single slide).

Example of Joseph Slide

Example of Teaching Slide

 

 

 

 

I am being serious, unless you’re having to collaborate with a colleague who only has Powerpoint, then Keynote is the way to go. It’s designed to help you quickly design professional and appealing presentations.

Conclusions: A Mixed Bag
I made a decision to try and get away from Office when I transitioned to the Mac. However, it will be tough, if not impossible, for this to become a reality. There are simply too many Office users out there. This, along with the fear that comes from learning new software, keeps many people forever “tied down” to Office. My encouragement is to give iWork a try (especially Pages and definitely Keynote). It’s relatively inexpensive and each program can be purchased separately in the App Store for $19.99 a piece. If nothing else, jump ship to Keynote if possible. Your classrooms and board rooms with thank you.

Posted by: Curtis W. Lindsey | August 29, 2011

“Simple Student Ministry” by Eric Geiger and Jeff Borton

Simple student ministry2

Several years ago I was introduced to a book called Simple Church by Tom Rainer and Eric Geiger.  I was instantly drawn to their research-based conclusions about how to effectively institute a discipleship program in church instead of a confusing mix of events and unrelated, time-consuming programs.  It was a book that changed the way I view church.

And then I found Simple Student Ministry.

The junior high pastor and I have both read Simple Student Ministry: A Clear Process for Strategic Youth Discipleship (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2009).  We joke that if we ever meet Eric Geiger we’re going to do two things: (1) punch him in the face, and (2) help him up and give him a big hug.

Confusing?  Drastic?  Let me explain.

Reading this book brought a flurried mix of emotions.  The comments and suggestions were so on-par that I was at one moment upset because they hit a little too close to home (hence the punch in the face).  And in the next, the material was so helpful that I was left with hope that my program could be as helpful for students as Geiger suggested (hence the hug).

There are a lot of good youth ministry resources available.  But only a few provide a balance of church-specific guidance (no youth ministry programs are exactly alike) and overly general “nuggets of wisdom” or less-than specific principles.  This book does not outline the “perfect” way to do youth ministry.  It doesn’t deal with the latest trends, fads, or cultural “home runs” for today’s students.  It doesn’t even mandate a specific model of discipleship (with specific terminology).  Simple Student Ministry does outline key ideas to help leaders implement a clear discipleship program.

Specifically, Geiger and Borton advocate student ministry leaders should develop a program that demonstrates these four foundations:

  1. Clarity: a discipleship program should be a clearly defined process instead of a mixture of unrelated events.
  2. Movement: the leadership should encourage students to move through the process as one means of spiritual growth.
  3. Alignment: whole ministries from pastors to volunteers should be headed in the same direction towards a common goal and be willing to evaluate their programs and decisions.
  4. Focus: leaders must keep a unified program and be willing to cut that which doesn’t help students grow.

As a ministry, we have begun speaking the language of Simple Student Ministry are are excited about the clarity it will bring our process.  We have adopted this method of thinking about discipleship and have walked our volunteer leaders through the method.

I highly recommend this resource and am prayerful it will be beneficial for our students.  All youth ministers want their students to grow spiritually; this is a book that has helped up plan how this will happen.

As for Geiger… watch out!

 

 

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