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Friday, December 30, 2011

Throw Them All Out

Yesterday I finished reading the book with the title of this post. I find it more than disheartening that our leaders both in the business and political spheres are in business and public office more to enrich themselves than they are to serve the public. I urge you to read the book before the next election.

The author, Peter, Schweizer, describes ways that national political leaders use their insider knowledge to enrich themselves. This includes stock purchases, land deals, and more. This involves both parties, and several administrations back. It's not a Right vs. Left or Republican vs. Democrat issue. It's about politicians who are enriching themselves in ways that you or I would go to jail for. It's about them feeding at the public trough and helping their business friends get rich and avoid the consequences of their poor actions.

These politicians and business leaders are responsible for creating the economic climate that has created our current financial crisis. But we, the voting public are to blame as well. We vote by party, or because our "guy in DC" has influence or gives us goodies. Well, the time has come to end all of this.

So what's to do?
Schweizer elaborates:
  • trading on insider, nonpublic information must be illegal for everyone, including government officials and their aids.
  • members of Congress must not be allowed to trade stocks in companies in areas where they are involved in committee work
  • whistleblower laws must apply to Congress
  • earmarks that Congressional members receive any benefit for must end
  • no campaign contributions must be allowed when Congress is in session
  • the federal government must not make loans or give grants. The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers.
His end paragraph is telling:
"The problems we face today are not the result of the individual failings of a few leaders. What we face is a system that is compromised by the perception that U.S. public policy is a marketable commodity. It's time to fix it. Let's relegate the Government Rich to the ashbin of history. If you want to get rich, do it the legitimate way. Go out and produce a useful good or service that you have a right to sell." (176, see Amazon.com link above for the reference)

So, my opinion is to vote against everyone in Congress and the White House and start over. Send them a warning that we will not, we CANNOT continue with things as usual. Otherwise there won't be much of a country left to pass along to our children and grandchildren.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bonsai as spiritual lesson

Last Saturday my wife, daughter, and I visited the Denver Botanical Gardens to see the Bonsai show that the local Bonsai Society holds every Father's Day weekend. There were many beautiful and interesting trees on display.

At one point we watched a demonstration. One of the society members had previously purchased a pyrocanthus bush. It had an interesting central trunk, but the remainder of the three foot high bush was full of small branches growing in all directions.

As we watched, the gentleman explained how and why he pruned the branches away until about an hour later what was left resembled a small tree. As he worked, what came to my mind was John 15.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you
, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Now, I know that Jesus was speaking of grape vines not bonsai trees! Nevertheless, I think that their is a significant lesson to be learned. I also know that there are other

ways of obtaining bonsai materials such as growing materials from seed. Ignoring these, here's what I learned.

When the bonsai artist finds a wild specimen or a nursery item, he takes what is already there, twisted, gnarled, more or less growing as it wills. Then he looks at that specimen to find a tree that he can form. Each specimen is different, even material from the same species and area. So the bonsai artist cu
ts off what doesn't match what he thinks is best for that tree, and when he's done, he has the beginnings of a tree. Then comes the trimming of the roots, and then the longest part - training the tree so that the parts are in proportion and the tree is beautiful. The trimming and pruning may take a few hours initially. The training may take years.

So too, God takes us as we are, wild, gnarled, damaged, growing our own way. Then, he cuts. And cuts and cuts, and trims so that we begin to fit the form that he has in mind for us. Each of us is different. None of us will be identical. Some need more trimmin
g, some more training. When he's done, he has a human shaped as he wills, unique, a master piece of his working with our imperfections and sins. And the artist receives the praise.

Now the cutting, trimming, and training is not pleasant. While plants do not feel pain, I can imagine that if they could they would be protesting the entire pruning, trimming of roots and the boredom of the training.

But the end product is a tree of great beauty, a tribute to the artist.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Keep Your Greek, chapters 9, 10, supplemental material

Chapter nine
What if your Greek is rusty and slipping or even partly gone? Chapter nine tells you how to get your Greek back if it's gone or going. Having relearned Greek two or three times, I agree with Campbell when he says that it's easier the second or third time. It's a matter of gaining the courage to retrace the ground that you've lost.

Chapter ten
Putting it together. Campbell tell us how he puts these tips together in his schedule to keep up not just his Greek but other languages as well.

Supplemental material
Appendix: Campbell mostly address students here, stressing the importance of getting it right the first time. If you have a good foundation it's harder to lose, easier to maintain, and easier to regain if needed.

Resources for all sorts of Greek. Worth checking out.

In summary:
For $10, this book is a good buy. The hints and suggestions are well worth the price. Of course whether or not you or I follow is up to us, but the author has laid a good foundation for how to keep up your Greek (the suggestions would also work for Hebrew) after leaving seminary or for getting it back if it's slipping. I would recommend the book for those about to leave seminary, or those who have graduated and feel that they need to regain their slipping skills.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Keep Your Greek, chapters 6, 7, 8

Chapter six: Read fast

Chapter seven: Read slow

Contradictory? No. Just as in English I may skim an article quickly for the main points, so too it is useful to be able to skim a Greek passage for the main points. When we can do this, we can quickly read to see what the author was speaking about. When you can skim well, then you know that you are more at home with the language. Again, read the blog hints at the ends of the chapters. On the other hand, at times you need to read slowly, with great care, paying attention to every detail and knowing every part and the function of every part.

At times you need to read fast, at others, you need to read quickly.

Chapter eight: Use your senses Read aloud, listen to tapes of vocabulary and others reading the text. Some people are singing Greek. I remember Dr. Owens at Colorado College singing Classical Greek according to the accents. Apparently there exist songs for verb and noun endings. I wish they had been around when I was teaching Greek! Lastly, writing out paradigms shows that we really know them.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Wrong Metaphor

In a post yesterday by Albert Mohler, Mohler responds to McLaren's criticisms of Mohler that Mohler had made of Bell.

Mohler quotes McLaren:

If a human father decided to throw his child in a fireplace for just ten seconds as punishment for disobedience, we wouldn’t fault the father simply for being unsentimental: we would say such behavior was unholy, an act of torture in violation of our most fundamental sense of justice. Any definition of justice and holiness that involves being unsatisfied unless the imperfect are suffering eternal agony seems to many of us as unworthy of a human being and if so, how much more unworthy of God whose justice must be better than our own.

And this is so true. But this is the wrong way to look the situation between God and humanity. We are not God's children by creation, we are rebelling citizens. And kings (and presidents) deal harshly with rebelling citizens. It is their right (and responsibility) to do so. Jesus related several parables where God as the king punishes his enemies severely and tells others that there will be great punishment for those who rebel against God. These include Matthew 8:5-13, 13:40-42, 21:33-44, 22:1-14.

Now, I realize that these passage don't settle whether hell will eventually be emptied, but they do speak to a God who is justified in punishing those who rebel against him and who sin against him. These passages speak to a Jesus who believes and teaches exactly those same things.

In RC Sproul's book, The Prayer of the Lord, he discusses the idea of the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man.

I think Harnack was wrong in his analysis of the essence of Christianity. I don't think these two propositions are at the core of the Christian faith. In fact, I don't think they're even a part of the Christian faith. I think these propositions are actually antithetical to the Christian faith. (22)
I think that RC is exactly correct, and that McLaren has bought into Harnack's error. The fatherhood of God is for those who are believers in Jesus Christ, and no others. That God has a creatorial love for his creation is true, but that does not mean that he loves all humanity in the same way. Challenge: is RC correct? Is there anywhere in the Bible that refers to God as the father of all humanity?

So, as we discuss the relationship between God and humanity we must be careful to use the correct metaphor for the correct relationship. For believers in Jesus Christ, he is Father. For all humanity, he is the king and creator to whom all owe allegiance and obedience. Those who will not give obedience and allegiance will be treated at some point as the rebels that they are.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Keep Your Greek, chapters 3 & 4 & 5

Just as an interlinear can be a crutch, so too can be Bible software. Those wonderful programs that allow the pastor and scholar to search and find new patterns can also substitute for the knowledge that allows us to read well and comfortably in another language. How to avoid this crutch? Don't have any native language Bible open when you are reading Greek for reading practice. Campbell gives other tips as well, but you'll need to read the book.

Chapter 4 deals with the need to know vocabulary. I have a confession to make. I like languages; it's fun to learn the ins and outs of the language (grammar) and just enough vocabulary to understand how the language works. That's the fun part for me. Then the hard work begins. That's learning vocabulary, enough vocabulary to become fluent. That takes time and patience and practice. This chapter gives hints and tools on how to learn vocabulary so that it really sticks. The blog excerpts are especially helpful.

Chapter 5 deals with parsing. I used to love parsing, but I hardly get to do it any more! Parsing is very important to the meaning of how verbs and nouns are used. But it's also important to remember accurately what those different labels mean. Anyway, review the paradigms for verbs and nouns. Write them out once a year, a few a month or something. But keep up with them. And I would add, go over the irregular ones that are common so that their principal parts are easily recognized.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Keep Your Greek, chapters 1 & 2

Chapter one - read every day! In Greek, of course. It's like becoming good at any other skill such as music or athletics. A little bit a day will go a long way to keeping up one's skills. Even though it is important to go through verb conjugations and noun declensions, reading will help keep all that fresh.

Chapter two - get rid of the interlinear! OK, Constantine actually tells us to burn it or give it away. The reason is that it is a crutch and we need to develop the habit of reading without the English vocabulary under our eyes. The interlinear also makes it too easy to avoid wrestling with Greek syntax. So, get rid of it! If you need help with the vocabulary, I would suggest instead A Reader's Greek New Testament, nicely bound in leather with the low frequency words at the bottom of the page. It won't do for serious text critical studies or word studies, but for reading it is great.

More later on the other chapters!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Keeping one's Greek after seminary

Here's a topic I'm interested in, and guilty of as well. When I was at Denver Seminary I taught beginning Koine Greek for two summers to fellow students. While I was at Trinity, I taught it for two years as well. However, since I finished my doctoral work and am teaching in a different field, I have let it slide.

So the book, Keep Your Greek by Constantine Campbell is both a challenge and a resource for keeping or regaining one's Greek skills. Given that seminaries require a great deal of time, effort, study, and money to raise the skills of their students to a certain level, it is worth students putting effort into keeping these skills after they finish their seminary studies.

However, it is not always easy to do so. When I finished seminary (twice) I ended up back in education in a different field, and even when I taught Bible and related subjects, a knowledge of Greek was not really required. So too, I imagine, for many pastors. The demands of their vocation allows them to not use their language skills, and so over several years, their skills deteriorate.

Campbell's book is available both at Zondervan and through Amazon in both paperback and kindle editions. This or a similar book should be required reading for those who are in the final stages of their seminary studies.

The book is fairly short. Each chapter is dedicated to one topic, ending with excerpts from Campbell's blog on the topic. There are ten chapters, plus an introduction, appendix, and a list of resources at the end. The blog mentioned is http://readbetterpreachbetter.wordpress.com/ which has other resources for teaching and preaching. I'll be checking it out as well.

In posts to come, I'll post more about the contents of the book.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

First genealogy blog post - John Bradley

Most of my posts have been about theology or politics. My other interest for most of my life has been genealogy. So here goes.

My father got me interested in genealogy. We have a family Bible that is probably from the 1840s, and the handwritten records in it date to the time of the Revolutionary War. My father's interest over the years has been that family. Mine has been broader, but I have one family in particular that I find very interesting, and one that I would love to know more about.

John Bradley is the earliest person on this line of my mother's. According to town histories from New Hampshire, he was a schoolmaster in the 1790s. His widow remarried in 1801, so he was dead by then. According to the histories, he was an Englishman from Bermuda. I have not found any record of his birth in Bermuda; he was probably born in England. He was a schoolmaster in Stratford and Lancaster, and in Guildhall, a small town in Vermont just across the border. James Curtis of Stratford married August 30, 1801, Sarah Bradley, widow of Stratford's first school teacher, known as "Master Bradley." She was born Oct. 29, 1758. She married John Bradley in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in August 1790. Her name was recorded as Mrs. Sarah Buckley.

They had only one child, apparently. From the town records of Stratford, a Seth Hayes Bradley is recorded along with the Curtis family. Seth served in the War of 1812 (I have all the records that I have been able to find) and had several children. In the 1830s they left for Rochester, New York. He died in 1846. His widow, Ruth M. ???? survived him and lived until at least 1860. She lived with two of her children in Seneca and Tompkins Counties in New York in 1850 and later in 1860 with her daughter, Adelia Read in Chemung County.

Seth's son, Joseph Atwell Bradley served in the Mexican War, and then vanishes after an 1859 Rochester, Springfield Co., Ohio city directory entry. Seth's other son, Sylvester, was my ancestor. He married Martha Emaline Miner, who was descended from many old New England families. They moved to Jackson, Michigan where they lived out their lives. Sylvester joined the Union army (my father recently found a letter that he wrote as he was enlisting) and later died of illnesses he acquired during the war.

So questions:
1. Where do I go for more clues on John's origins?
2. Was Sarah Buckley married before? She was 32 when she married John. She was Mrs. Is there a significance to that?
3. Seth and Ruth were married around 1813. I've searched all the New Hampshire records that I can find online and through the LDS church for a marriage record. No luck. Any suggestions? Could they have been married in another state?

any other suggestions welcomed.

And all the best on your brick walls as well!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

God is not ashamed

Yesterday I read section 51 in John Piper's book, Taste and See. A year ago I was teaching Hebrews in my Sunday School class at our church in Thornton, Colorado. Hebrews 11 is a famous chapter, full of ordinary people who failed in so many ways, yet who are remembered as examples of faith and faithfulness to God. In that chapter, verse 16 gives us an important clue as to why these people are in that chapter.

I find it comforting to read about all these people. They are commended for their faith, and yet their lives are marked by significant sin and doubts. Where is the faith when Abraham lied about who Sarah was? Or about whether he would have a child by her, and instead brought Hagar into the picture? Or Gideon who doubted God? What about Samson's continuous womanizing? How can they be examples that we are to follow?

Again - verse 16 contains the clue. They desired a better country, a heavenly one. They desired a city that God built and prepared for them. So in spite of the difficulties of their lives, and their failings and sins, they persisted in believing God and in wanting him more than the life of this world that was around them.

Piper points out the foundation of God's pleasure in the people of Hebrews 11 is that he has prepared a city for them. These people desired what God prepared for them - even though as the author states later they did not actually see it.

The reward for these people's desire (and for us as well) is that God "was not ashamed." This appears to be an understatement meaning that in fact God was proud of these people. Imagine. God actually being proud of these people with their weaknesses and failings.

I won't belabor the obvious applications. First, do we desire the city of this world (to use St. Augustine's image) or the city of God? Do we want the world's approval, or God's pride in us in spite of our own sins and weaknesses? Second, are you encouraged to desire God in spite of your knowledge of your failures? If you do, then you too can expect his pride in you. What greater motivation is there?