Month: November 2011

Got purity? (Psalm 119:9)

How can young people keep their way pure?
By guarding it according to your word (Psa. 119:9 NRSV).

Yeah, but do young people want to keep their way pure?  Perhaps not, but if they did, the word of God would help them.

Two, milestones today.  First, we’ve moved into the second section of Psalm 119, the eight verses that all begin with the Hebrew letter Bet.   Only 168 verses to go.  Second, my blog went over 10,000 hits (that’s total since I started last spring, not daily).  Thanks for viewing.

While in the Aleph section, a variety of different words (all starting with Aleph) were used at the beginning of a verse, seven of the eight verses of this Bet section all begin with the Hebrew preposition (basically just the consonant Bet) that gets attached to the beginning of a noun (often translated as “with” or “in”; the “How” here is literally “In what”).  So, the psalmist isn’t as creative in this section as the last.  We’ll see if that pattern continues through the rest of the psalm.

So, how does God’s word help that rare young person who wants to keep their way pure?  It shows them how to live–love God, love your neighbor, that’s how Jesus summed it up.  And God’s word ultimately pushes us back into relationship with the author of those laws, God himself.

What do you keep your way pure? 

Whirlwind update

I didn’t blog while traveling.  I know, organized bloggers plan ahead, write posts in advance and publish them on the road.  Organized bloggers do that.  I don’t.  I didn’t even bring my computer (and I have a dumb phone).

If you were praying for me, I really appreciated it.  (If you weren’t, why not?)

First, Shannon and I spoke on “God Behaving Badly in Jesus’ Parables” for a group of about 100 students from my seminary.  I thought I gave a good talk Friday evening (Nov. 18) on “God the Naive Vineyard Owner” (Luke 20), but the next morning, Shannon’s talk on “God the Loser of Precious Things” (Luke 15) moved me to tears.  Afterwards, my older son Nathan said, “I think Mom one-uped you, Dad.”  Story of my life.

Saturday afternoon I ditched my wife and flew to San Francisco, arriving about 10 pm local time, then drove over the mountains on wild Highway 17, in the dark, in the rain, in an unfamiliar rental car (“Where are the wipers?”  “Where are the lights?”), in a body that thought it was 2:00 am.  Got to sleep about midnight (3:00 am ET).

I preached three times (9, 11, 7) on Sunday (Nov. 20) at Vintage Faith church in Santa Cruz, where Dan Kimball is the pastor.  I had a great time there.  It was delightful to see God at work there.  The church ordered 48 copies of God Behaving Badly and they sold out between the 1st and 2nd service.  (In the afternoon, I napped in my rental car.)  After the evening session, we had a Q and A discussion in their uber-cool coffee shop from 8:30-9:45 pm.

I left Santa Cruz about 10:00, drove back up Highway 17 to San Francisco International where I dropped off my rental and then took BART to SF for the Society of Biblical Literature conference, arriving at my hotel a little after midnight to wake up my friend and roommate Paul Joyce (a professor of Old Testament at Oxford).

Monday I breakfasted with old friends from Penn InterVarsity (JD Atkins, Stephen Russell), then hung out with contacts at IVP.  I found out that IVP sold out their copies of GBB on the first day and had to say no to “No” to NT Wright who was looking for a copy of my book.  He was probably jealous of my book sales.

Tuesday, I traveled down to Palo Alto where I hung out with Alex and Susan Van Riesen and their 3 wonderful children.  I lead a discussion on a few problematic passages from the OT with about 20 leaders from their church in the evening.

Wednesday, I flew back, Shannon picked me up and we arrived at home about midnight.

On Thursday, I thanked God for a great trip.  On Friday, I refrained from shopping.

I Love Them All

Does it ever seem like there are too many translations of the Bible?  My software program BibleWorks has over 40 English translations.  Since I teach Old Testament, people ask me which translation I prefer.  I like to say, “I love them all.”

In reality I use some translations more than others, often the more literal ones (NRSV, ESV, NAS), but I’m careful to speak graciously about all translations.  Although it’s tempting, I try not to criticize translations that I don’t use.

Unfortunately, criticism sometimes characterizes how Christian denominations view other denominations.  One of the values of the Missional movement is a desire to value Christians of other faith traditions, which is sometimes called “Generous Orthodoxy.”  In the spirit of Generous Orthodoxy, I want to mention what I love about two translations that I don’t normally use, a very old one and a brand new one.

The King James Version (KJV) is celebrating its 400 anniversary this year (1611).  The KJV is unique among English versions since it distinguishes between second person pronouns, between the singular (thou, thy) and the plural (you, your).  From our Western individualistic mindset, when we read a “you” or “your” in the text we assume it’s singular, even in letters to communities.  We read Jeremiah 29:11 as God’s plans for “me” personally (my welfare, my future, my hope), when it’s meant to be understood corporately (our welfare, our future, our hope).  When the serpent interacts with the woman in Genesis 3 all of the 2nd person pronouns he uses are plural.  In Jeremiah 29 and Genesis 3 only the KJV tells us the “you”s are plural.  For these plurals, I think translations should just say, “you all” (or even better, “youse guys”).

The Common English Bible (CEB) just came out in 2011.  We’ll see how popular the CEB becomes, but one thing I love about it already is that is uses contractions for dialogue.  When people speak today, they use contractions, so the CEB captures normal speaking patterns.  For example, this is how Jesus sounds in the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear.  Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes?” (Matt. 6:25 CEB).  It’s good advice either way, but “Do not worry” is not as relaxing as “Don’t worry.”

Why pray?

This weekend I’ll be giving a talk on the parable of the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8) as a part of a conference that Shannon and I are doing together on “God Behaving Badly in Jesus’ Parables.”  At the beginning of the talk I’m going to ask them “Why pray?”  How would you answer that question (in one sentence)?  I’d love to get some comments so that I can use some of your answers this weekend.  (Neither the dog or the boy are related to me–just a Google image capture.  I know the dog has his eyes closed, but God would probably be more open to responding to a canine prayer if he could get his paws in the proper position.)

Why pray?