August 31, 2009

:::Forwarded Invoice From SEA::


The Maker of all human beings (GOD) is recalling all units manufactured, regardless of make or year, due to a serious defect in the primary and central component of the heart.

This is due to a malfunction in the original prototype units code named Adam and Eve, resulting in the reproduction of the same defect in all subsequent units. This defect has been technically termed "Sub-sequential Internal Non-Morality," or more commonly known as S.I.N., as it is primarily expressed.

Some of the symptoms include:
1. Loss of direction
2. Foul vocal emissions
3. Amnesia of origin
4. Lack of peace and joy
5. Selfish or violent behavior
6. Depression or confusion in the mental component
7. Fearfulness
8. Idolatry
9. Rebellion

The Manufacturer, who is neither liable nor at fault for this defect, is providing factory-authorized repair and service free of charge to correct this defect.

The Repair Technician, JESUS, has most generously offered to bear the entire burden of the staggering cost of these repairs. There is no additional fee required.

The number to call for repair in all areas is: P-R-A-Y-E-R.
Once connected, please upload your burden of SIN through the REPENTANCE procedure. Next, download ATONEMENT from the Repair Technician, Jesus, into the heart component.

No matter how big or small the SIN defect is, Jesus will replace it with:
1. Love
2. Joy
3. Peace
4. Patience
5. Kindness
6. Goodness
7. Faithfulness
8. Gentleness
9. Self control

Please see the operating manual, the B.I.B.L.E. (Believers' Instructions Before Leaving Earth) for further details on the use of these fixes.

WARNING: Continuing to operate the human being unit without correction voids any manufacturer warranties, exposing the unit to dangers and problems too numerous to list and will result in the human unit being permanently impounded. For free emergency service, call on Jesus.

DANGER: The human being units not responding to this recall action will have to be scrapped in the furnace. The SIN defect will not be permitted to enter Heaven so as to prevent contamination of that facility. Thank you for your attention!


P.S. Please assist where possible by notifying others of this important recall notice, and you may contact the Father any time by 'Knee mail'.

(Picked this up from a SEA member)

August 29, 2009

Ephesians 1:18-19; A Devotional

...having your mind's eye1 enlightened in order to perceive2 what is the hope of His invitation3, what is the glorious wealth of His inheritance in the saints and what is the surpassing greatness of His power4 into us, the believing, according to the work of His mighty4 strength4...
These verse piggyback on what Paul says in the verse before, about God giving us a spirit of revelation. These two verse begin to describe what that is to be revealing: God's power. Mind you, this is not merely speaking of God's power in general, for it is predicated on Christ's resurrection in the following verses. However, in the meantime, let us consider what this is saying about God's power.

First, we are to perceive the hope of His call. This same language is used again is 4:4. Hope here refers not to the emotion of hope, but to the object of hope: that which is hoped for. This hope is our eschatological hope: eternal life. Furthermore this is a hope to which God invited us. The Greek word can also mean "call", but it is also the word which is used to mean invitation, like to a feast for instance. I believe it is in this sense that it is being used here: We are invited to the marriage feast of the lamb.

Second we are to perceive the glorious wealth of His inheritance. Again, the concept of inheritance is eschatological, and has been a major aspect of discussion within the past few verses. This inheritance is what we have received in Christ, and here Paul is praying that we understand the full depths of that. Our inheritance isn't just eternal life, but is also the subordinate power and authority that we have through Christ. We should not underestimate this.

Finally, we are to perceive surpassing greatness of His power into us. God's power is not some abstract concept that we try to understand, nor is it restricted to what God does in the big picture of things. God's power is exacted onto us, the believing. Because we will believe, God will do the same mighty act that He did on His Son: resurrecting us from the dead and seating us in power over creation.

Since Paul prays for us to understand these things, that it is good for us to seek and understanding of these things. There must be something practically beneficial to it. I would say that it is this: if we understand what God has done for us, then we understand the kind of privilege that we have. This will give us the confidence to live out the authority that He has given us on earth, humility in understanding that this is a gift given by God, but, more importantly, it will keep in our mind a conceptual view of our relationship to God and others.

Remember that Ephesians is a book primarily about unity in the Church. This is the aim. I would say that Paul prays for us to understand these things so that we understand that we are all (both Jew and Gentile) positioned in the same place in relation to God, and should therefore be united. There should be a bond to forms between us as peers of power.

When we look at a brethren, even the one's that we disagree with about certain issues, we should see him/her as a fellow heir in the things of God, and an equal partner is the place of power. Let us, therefore, treat one another with love, dignity, and respect motivated by the mutual understanding we have about God and Christ.

Translation notes

1Literally "eyes of your heart". 'Mind's eye' is a common colloquial expression that means the same thing though. The ancient concept of the heart wasn't so much one's emotional faculties, but where one's person was.

2The Greek is actually the simple word for 'know' ('oida'). I chose to use perceive instead to coincide with the enlighenment metaphor (literally, shine light onto something so that the eyes of your "mind" can see it better).

3 The word 'klesis''s most basic meaning is that of a vocal call: calling out to someone else. However, this is also the common word in the Greek for an invitation. To decide whether to translate it as 'call' or 'invitation' is determined mostly on context. Though I think that 'invitation' is a better translation here, I am aware that this may be bias on my part (though I don't think it is) and accept that criticism.

4'Dunamis', 'kratos', and 'ischus' are all synonyms relating to strength. 'Dunamis' is related the concept of ability, while 'kratos' can also refer to authority. 'Ischus' simply means strength. As such, my only real attempt is to do my best to also use three English metaphors, since this seems to be Paul's rhetoric.

August 23, 2009

Ephesians 1:17; A Devotional

...that the God of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Glorious Father, may give you the spirit1 of wisdom and of revelation on the knowledge of Him...
This verse is a verse about the Father, and, I believe, describes the relationship He has to both the Son and the Spirit. What is more important here is that the context of this passage is prayer for the Ephesians.

In the last couple of verses, Paul said that he has been praying for the Ephesians constantly. Here, he says what he is praying. He does not pray for wealth, prestige, or more numbers. Instead, he prays that they have wisdom and understanding.

I think this is a very good pastoral lesson. Often pastors are motivated by the wrong goals. They try and teach the congregation how to live more comfortably, or what are the right doctrines to have, etc... Instead, Paul's pastoral heart calls for them to be like Solomon: wise in the ways of God.

The bible teaches that being a follower of Christ, in part, means that you have an entirely different way of viewing the world than the rest of the world. I don't really like the notion of adapting our understanding of God to the trends of the world because our perspective is supposed to be different (this does not mean that just because our understanding is different we therefore believe what is right). This does mean that when pastors are shepherding their congregations, one of their goals is to train them in the ways that they should think.

Think about yourself at the moment. Does the cross reshape your reality? Does it define the way you view all aspects of life? Does it affect how you do your work? How you vote? How you play? What you watch? What you say? Does it define how you see yourself? The cross interrupts life as it normally is, and it is important that we seek that interruption, because it is there that we find the true impetus for life itself.

Translation notes

1 There were three ways to render 'pneuma' in this text: 'the spirit', 'a spirit', 'the Spirit'. There is no definite article in the Greek, so the use of 'the' is not required, but it is also not impossible. The lack of a definite article does not demand indefiniteness in Greek. The option of 'Spirit' is always tricky in general because, though the Spirit is definately referred to in personnal terms in other texts, He does not really have a formal name and, like 'pater', it is not always obvious when it is referring to the person of the Spirit. Personally, i think that it is, but one shouldn't push one's point of view in translation.In the end, I used 'the spirit' since it allows all three understandings possible.

August 15, 2009

Ephesians 1:15-16; A Devotional

Because1 of this, and2 because I heard about your faith in Lord Jesus and about your love toward all the saints, I've not stopped praying for you, recalling you to mind3 in my prayers.
The thrust of this passage is about prayer. At first it hits us as a bit of a surprise. This first section in Ephesians is so full of high theology that one hardly expects the sudden intrusion of something practical. But I think this points out an important feature of Christianity.

Many times Christianity is described as a reflective faith. We have a deep history of serious theological and philosophical reflection. However, as much of American evangelicalism has aptly demonstrated, it can also be a very practical faith, and can exist and act separately from high level theology.

The truth of the matter is that Christianity in its purest form takes abstract theological concepts and makes them practical. Christianity is more than something to make us feel better, or something to motivate us, or a hobby to muse over when there's nothing on TV. Instead Christianity is a robust and provocative way of viewing the world which is grounded in the reality of life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and as such every theological thought reaches in and affects the way in which we interact with the world.

For instance, in prayer Paul cites two impetuses for his prayer for the Ephesians. One is the witness of their love and faithfulness to Christ and His church. This as an impetus for prayer is relevant because it sets as an example the level of commitment we are supposed to have for our fellow Christians. Often we forget this.

The other impetus is all the theological stuff Paul has been saying so far, especially what he just said in verses 13-14. Because the Gentiles are now included within the inheritance that was the Jews, they are now brothers and as such Paul loves them as his own people. The prayer that Nehemiah prayed about the ruin of Jerusalem and the corporate love of his people has, for Paul, now extended to the Gentiles.

Therefore we see that the theological idea of the Gentiles' inclusion into the promises of God had direct influence on Paul's prayer. Now I wonder how much it has on ours. Do we pray for the saints as brothers? Do we reach out to those loyal in Christ in our prayers? Do we hold them up? I think we should.

Translation notes

1 The Greek reads 'Dia touto' which literally means 'through this' or 'by this'. 'This' is referring back to what Paul has just been saying. The English words 'because', 'therefore', etc... serve the same purpose. I chose 'because' so I could distribute it through the 'and'.

2 I wrestled a bit with the 'kai' in this passage, which is usually translated as 'and' or 'also', depending on context. It is a very common word, and I never really expected to have trouble with it. However, I found it difficult to discern exactly what was being joined in the sentence with the word. One option was to consider the Ephesians as something else that Paul is giving thanks to, but that doesn't seem to work with 'kai''s position in the sentence. I also found little help in the translations. The NIV uses 'ever since', which I don't see at all. The ESV just crops it out.
The KJV and its descendants translates it as 'also' which doesn't work contextually. This would either mean that Paul also heard this (though Paul hasn't mentioned hearing anything) or that Paul also heard the gospel as the Ephesians heard it (which seems to contradict the sentence).
However, I think what makes the most sense is to see the subordinate clause as something else "through" which Paul is not ceasing his prayer. Thus, it is connecting the subordinate clause with 'touto' in connection to the preposition 'dia'. I attempted to demonstrate this by distributing the 'because' through the 'and'.

3 'Mneian poioumanos' literally translates 'making memory' or 'doing memory'. The word picture is literally forming the memory in your mind in order to act on it. I felt that 'remember' was too soft and 'making mention' was too inaccurate. Therefore I used an synonymous expression in English that uses the same word picture: 'recalling to mind'.

August 8, 2009

Ephesians 1:13-14; A Devotional

In whom you also have heard the word of truth: the gospel of your salvation by which, having believed, you were sealed by the promised Holy Spirit who is the down payment of our allotment, toward the portion's redemption, to the praise of His glory.

It is important to note how this passage relates to what proceeds it. The switch from speaking in the first person plural ('we') to the second person plural here ('you') emphasizes that before this point Paul was not talking about the Ephesians. Thus, all of the glorious inheritance that was being talked about before this only belonged to Paul and some group that he is a member of. Based on the rest of the context, this can be shown to be the Jews.

As such, what Paul has essentially been saying is that God as given the Jews this glorious inheritance. However, in this passage he adds that now we (i.e. the Gentiles) have now been added to this inheritance because we heard the gospel, and believed it.


The most beautiful part of the passage, to me, is the description of the Holy Spirit as our down payment. Our inheritance is being completely redeemed, but for now, we have first received the Holy Spirit which proves that our inheritance is coming, and He is also part of that inheritance: the first part.

What is most wonderful about this is that on this side of heaven we have a taste of eternity. The Spirit brings a bit of the eternal into our hearts and minds and now, right now, we beginning living out our eternal blessing.

It is bad theology to believe that we just try to make it through this life to experience the joys of God in the next. As Christians we do not to experience what God has to offer. Sure, we do not receive the fullness of it here, but we do receive it in part, and what we receive we can rejoice in and live in it.

Therefore, pursue the things of God. The riches of the kingdom of heaven are at our disposal by the presence of His Spirit. Let's take advantage of that!

August 7, 2009

Part V: Sheltered

Too Political

The last post in this series was very difficult for me to write, but this one... not so much. The concept of 'being sheltered' means that we are "out of touch with reality". Well, I don't see this as so much of a bad thing. It isn't that I think being sheltered is OK, but I don't mind being thought of that way.

As Christians we are supposed to have a dramatically different way of viewing reality as the rest of the world. This means that we are going to act differently, and we are going to abstain from things the world thinks are good. Naturally, the world will view this as being sheltered. However, the term applies to a variety of different ideas, some which we need to work on, and some which we don't:


There is a certain portion of Christianity that has become anti-intellectual. They avoid education and deeper understanding of their own faith and the world. They reject science completely, and push their own agenda, which is often nothing more than a grand parroting act. It is little wonder that so much of the world sees us as ignorant fools.


There exists a belief in many that Christians don't really know what real life is like. The reason why a lot of upper-class and middle-class youth look up to lower-class role models is because they believe the roughness of the lower-class life is more real than their own. It is similar to the story of The Prince and The Pauper: someone seeing danger and need as exciting, and, too some degree, more real than the life that he is living.

Christians, on the other hand, are very much the complete opposite. They don't seem to have as many hardships; they don't seem as worried; they abstain from the things that the world says brings fulfillment in life. To some degree, it seems like we live in a bubble.

This isn't entirely bad, since it is nothing negative to show that God takes care of His own. What's bad is that often we stay in our bubble, and we don't go out into the world to take care of the despondent. I'm reminded of St. Francis who was a rich man that gave up all of his possessions to live among the poor and minister to them.

The Good Life

Not only does the appearance of the good life makes us look naïve, it also makes people who are experiencing pain feel disconnected. They believe that we cannot possibly understand what they are going through. Therefore, how can we help them?

Of course, much of this isn't true. Many Christians came out of the very kinds of lives that these people are living in. We can help them because we are not offering our own experience, but we are instead offering the person of Christ, who can speak into any situation.


By disinterested, I mean disinterested in the real problem. This is something that many of us are absolutely guilty of. Many times we try and develop formulas about how to handle certain problems. The problem is that formulas are, by nature, impersonal, and what these people really need is for you to invest into their person lives. Let them know that you are concerned with them: with who they really are. We need to treat their problems on an individual level, instead of treating it as an obstacle for our real goal.

Final Thoughts

This is only a brief sample. I'm sure I could come up wit more if I tried. There are always two extremes when it comes to this question. The first, we care so much about connecting with those in the world, that we become just like them and are left with nothing to offer. The second, we care so much about doing things properly that we isolate ourselves from the world entirely. It is good to be seen is something different, but it is not good to be seen as something unapproachable. It's about balance.

August 3, 2009

Making God A Liar?

This was a question that came into SEA, and I thought it would be a good idea to share my thoughts on the subject more publicly. The question is as follows:
  1. If human beings have libertarian free will, it is within their power to make God a liar.
  2. It is not within their power to make God a liar.
  3. Therefore, human beings do not have free will.
The troublesome premise is probably the first one, so I'll explain what I mean. Imagine a scenario where God makes a promise to one person which requires for its fulfillment the cooperation of another person who is free in the libertarian sense (I take freedom in the libertarian sense to mean that in any circumstance, a person's choice is free if he has two options to choose from [acting or refraining from acting, for example] and his choice isn't coerced, and so on).

Let's say God promises to the first person S that he will have a child with the second person S* before the end of the year. The fulfillment of this promise clearly would involve S*'s cooperation: she could just turn S down every night and never have the child. But then God's promise goes unfulfilled and God is a liar--which is not possible. Therefore, S* cannot have free will.
The person then went on to list several possible responses, which to me shows that the person was trying to be fair, and I respect that. Some of them I'll mention, but what follows are my own thoughts:

  1. God not being a liar is a relational and moral quality, not an essential one. This is a confusion of categories. God is not a liar because he would not promise something that He would not fulfill. Thus, the initial premise is based upon a situation that God Himself would never enter into, for He would not promise that which He would not come through on.

    For instance, if I promise my nephew that my wife would let him have ice cream, and then she doesn't, she did not make me a liar. I made myself a liar by promising something which is beyond my own will. Therefore, it was not caused by the power of my own wife, but from my own hubris in this case. It is my own relational failing, something which God would never

  2. Due to God's omniscience, God knows every event which will transpire. God's sovereignty would mean that the error that I made in the above example an impossibility anyway since He would know whether or not she would let him have ice cream.

    This is one of the possible objections that the original author mentioned, and gave a possible response to it:
    Even if God knows what S* will do in certain circumstances (however that works), it is still within her power to make God a liar. Imagine if, on the last night before the New Year, God knows that she will not turn down S and will get pregnant--in order for her choice to be free in the libertarian sense I outlined above, it still has to be within her power, all things being the same, to deny S. Therefore, it is still within her power, even if it were never actualized, to make God a liar. But God cannot be a liar. So S* cannot have free will.
    However, I don't think this response is valid. This is because of the points 1 and 6 here, but it is also because you cannot claim that someone has the power to accomplish something that they'll never be able to accomplish. That's not really having the power. Making someone a liar is, by nature, an opportunistic ability and, as such, if the opportunity will never exist, then there really is not power there to begin with.

  3. The vast majority of God's promises made in Scripture are conditional. This is important in connection to the above point. God always maintains His integrity by only promising contingent things in light of the appropriate conditions for those things. The only times His promises are unconditional is when the event is predestined.

  4. God is sovereign which means that He is in control of the situations around a person. If He ordains that a particular end will come to pass, He has the authority and the means to arrange it to come to pass through a variety of circumstances that He can adjust (in His eternal plan of course) in the event of people resisting His will.

  5. The person is working with a false sense of free will. Free will does not mean that the will makes decisions perfectly autonomously all the time. Only that the capacity to make autonomous decisions exists, is frequent, and God has decreed that certain events, such as one's personal salvation, shall be contingent upon such a decision. But God still possesses the power and the right to overcome that free will if He deems it necessary to achieve that which He has decreed would happen, such as the eventual hardening of Pharaoh's heart, or the tortuous spirit sent to Saul. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with God arranging things to get a women pregnant if it is indeed something important enough that God would make such a promise (though I personally would question the morality of it in that particular case). However, I would hold that God rarely overrides the will and when He does, it is for something far greater than making sure someone doesn't make Him a liar.

  6. The issue of free will is not really an issue of power. The person is casting the notion of free will into Calvinist paradigms. Free will is not a power that human beings naturally possess, but a provision given by God for His own purposes. That purpose, as Arminians understand it, is to create real relationships with His people. It is false to believe that God doesn't force people to do things because He can't, as if free will possesses some kind of quality that surpasses the might of God. He doesn't do it because He doesn't want to. His desire for us is as a father to children and as such He wants us to make our own choices, grow, and mature. Free will exists because of His father's heart.

August 1, 2009

Ephesians 1:11-12; A Devotional

Furthermore, in Him we have been chosen by lot1 (being predetermined according to the plan2 by which all things are worked out3 and according to the purpose2 of His will)4 to be who we are,5 for the praising of His glory; we who first hoped in Christ.
The more I read Paul, the more amazed I am of how much he can fit into one sentence. It is really remarkable.


The common thread in this sentence is the concept of God's plan. The subject that Paul is talking about here that was preplanned by God, and it is important to note the kind of power there is in that. What God preplanned comes to pass, always. This is known as predestination, and it is not an exclusively Calvinist concept. No Arminian denies that God predestines, though we do disagree with Calvinists in what He predestines, but that is for another time. For now, it is important to understand the power of God's predestination in what Paul is saying. But it is also important to be aware what the subject actually is.

The subject is "our" inclusion within all things that are being unified in Christ from verse 10. Being chosen by lot implies the process of the distribution of an inheritance, and as such, "we", being chosen by lot, are being given a particular portion of what Christ has been given. You may wonder why I am saying "our" and "we". Well, this is not a reference to a Calvinist view of election here, for that isn't how casting lots work, nor is the context here broad enough to consider the election of each individual believer. Therefore, I, personally, am not really included in this context, nor do are you, the ones reading this post. Instead it is referring to the particular inheritance that has been given to the Jews.

"The Jews? Where are the Jews mentioned here?" Well, it is important to note that contextually, the first person plural ("we") that is being used can't refer to all believers. This is evident in that it is contrasted with the second person plural ("you") in verse 13, and thus the Ephesians themselves are not even being considered.

The reason why I conclude that the 'us' is referring to Jews is two-fold. First, the unity of the Jews with the Gentiles in Christ is going to be the greater context of the next two chapters, so considering that subject to start here is very natural. Second, and I think more importantly, is the phrase "the first to hope in Christ." This can either mean the first converts to the faith, who would be the Jews, or those who were waiting for the Christ before the birth of Jesus, who... would also be the Jews. I prefer the second understanding, since I believe it is more in-line with the rest of the context of the two chapters, but in either case, we are dealing with the Jews.

Yes, this is a bit more exegesis than I usually include in these, but in this case it is fairly necessary. In order to properly interpret this verse, and thus apply it, one needs to know that Paul is talking about the Jews and I believe the "lot" that Paul was talking about was actually ancient Israel, referring to the casting of lots at the end of Joshua. (Joshua 18-19) Now I don't think he's talking about the actual distribution of land, but was referring to it metaphorically as the covenantal inheritance of the Jews. Therefore when the text is talking about God's plans and purposes and predestination, it is referring the nation of Israel and the Jewish people.


In terms of reflection (which is what devotionals are all about), it is important to consider the wonder of God's eternal plan. The establishment of the people of Israel and the eventual coming of the Messiah is part of God's plan, all of which is a demonstration of His ultimate glory and thus deserving of praise. God is not content to leave humanity as it is but has a plan, and is working out that plan, for the redemption of the human race. Our God is active!

Many times we look at the world and wonder why things are so bad, or have trouble maintaining our hope. But when we think about God's eternal plan which is perfect and already accomplished by the work of Christ, then we can hope, not in an abstract sense, but in full understanding of the divine purposes of our God.

Therefore, remain assured and confident in all that you do. You have a God that has everything under control and is more than competent in His sovereignty. Therefore, join arms with the rest of the saints and continue to work out His holy plan. It will be accomplished.

Translation notes

1 'eklerothemen' literally means "selection by lot". The reason why many translations render it "obtained an inheritance" is because lots was the principle way of distributing inheritance, as well as distributing inheritance being the primary use of lots. However, I don't like the inheritance rendering because it is interpreting the text rather than translating. Additionally, there is another way to understand the text: that we were choosen to be part of Christ's inheritance. The "obtained an inheritance" rendering solves this tension, and I don't like that, though I agree with the interpretation.

2 'Prothesis' and 'boule' are synonyms, in that they can both refer to a purpose or plan. However, they are slightly different in nuance. 'Prothesis' refers to "setting something out". It can mean purpose as in "what I set out to do", and can mean plan in that a plan is displayed before hand. However, the principle meaning is to set something out, or to display it.
'Boule' refers directly to decision, and refers to what someone wants to do. It can also mean purpose or plan, but in the sense of desire rather than in the sense of it being preestablished. This is why the word is connected directly to the word 'will'.

3 The phrase 'tou ta panta energountos' was extremely difficult to decipher. It would transliterate as "the the all working" (where the first 'the' and 'working' is in the genitive and the second 'the' and 'all' are in the accusiative, thus the concept of 'working' grammatically envelopes the concept of 'all'). I don't really recognize the significance of this grammatical contruct, and couldn't find it in the grammars. Therefore, I kind of submitted to what every single translation interprets it as: "the working out of all things". Other possible renderings include:
  • "according to the plan/purpose of all actions",

  • "according to the plan of working out all things"

  • "according to the plan of all thing which are being worked out"
4 The word 'eis' (which usually means 'into' but can also simply mean 'in' or 'to') is used twice here. One is connected to the word being, literally "into being us"; the second is connected to the word praise, literally "into the praising of His glory". This makes both words 'being' and 'praising' indirect objects to a verb, but which verb? The options include choosing by lot, or predestined. I think it makes the best grammatical sense to connect these to the verb "choosing by lot", so I added the paratheses since this would make that section an aside. However, in doing so, I am deviated from what most translations are doing, so i am willing to be corrected.

5 The phrase'eis to einai umas' literally translates into "into the being us". Again, I diviated from the standard here in that I don't see how rendering it "that we should be" makes any sense with the word 'into' there. It seems instead that either the predestion of God or the selection process of the lots is forming who we are, which is why I have rendered it as such.